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You are never too old to set and achieve fitness goals

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When it comes to setting fitness goals, there isn't an expiration date on when you can start. It doesn't matter if you are 21 or 81; you are never too old to decide that you want to set some fitness goals!

I witnessed that this past weekend at the USA Triathlon Federation's Duathlon National Championships held in Oro Valley, Ariz.

To get straight to the point of not being too old, I'm going to start with the awards ceremony. Out of the 600 competitors competing in either the standard distance event (5k run, 35k bike, 5k run) or the sprint distance (2.5k run, 17k bike, 2.5k run), when it came to applauding for those that were called to the podium, who do you think received the loudest applause? The eldest competitors: an 83-year-old man in the sprint event and an 88-year-old man in the standard event, who even ran to the stage and jump on the top podium.

They both brought the house down to a roaring standing ovation and whistles! I can honestly say I was in awe of these two men who moved like Mick Jagger as they took their well earned spot on the top podium step! How many people live to their eighties, let alone win races? Way to go guys!
Next, I'm going to share with you my never-too-old personal experience at these Duathlon National Championships and hopefully my story will motivate you to look at age differently.

For this year's championships I decided to test my speed mettle in the Sprint Distance.

In every event I enter, I set several personal goals. For this particular event, those goals were, 1) win my division, 2) post the fastest female overall bike split, 3) place in the top 10 of all women, regardless of age.

Yes, even at 55, I still compete against all the women, not just my age-group division. I love the challenge and I'm just practicing what I have been preaching for 30 years - age is just a number, not a limitation!
Usually, I keep my goals to myself, but this time, I spilled the beans in a prerace video interview by USAT that was posted on their website the day before the race

Not only did I share my goals, but also prerace preparations and my keys to success. Now my competitors know my strategy. That's OK though. As a fitness educator and coach, I'll take any opportunity to help people achieve their personal goals.

Fast forward to race day. As I'm doing my final mental and physical preparations for the high noon start (88 degrees and windy) several guys wished me luck and said, "I hope I don't get `chicked' by you."
I laughed and responded, "We'll see."

Standing on the start line waiting for the start horn to blow, I shook hands with several of the top women to wish them luck. The horn blew and off we went. I quickly got up to speed and prepared to endure the intensity of a 2.5K rolling run course. I settled into a 6:21-mile pace and began counting the women in front of me. I didn't panic as I approached the first transition in eighth place, for women. I passed three women in the transition area and mounted my bike to tackle the 17K rolling bike course. I put the hammer down and began motoring on the bike, averaging 22.3 mph, hitting a top speed of 40 mph. I counted the women I passed and once I passed the lead woman, it hit me; I might be able to win the whole race. As I approached the transition area to tackle the final 2.5K run, I was hoping I would have a big enough lead to hold off the women chasing me down.

On the final run, my legs felt like jelly, but I willed them to keep on running.
Anything can happen in a race, so it wasn't until I made the final turn down the home stretch and was running toward the championship tape across the finish line that I believed I would be crowned the USAT Female Overall Sprint Duathlon National Champion, at the age of 55.

So, the next time you think you are too old to get in shape, enter an event or try new physical challenges, think of me or those 80+-year-old men and say, "If they can do that, I can do anything also!" Moral of the column, "Age is just a number, not a limitation!" "see/believe/achieve!"

Patty Peoples is a fitness educator/coach/motivational speaker, who was crowned the 2012 Female USAT Sprint Duathlon National Champion, 2011 USAT Grandmaster Duathlete of the Year and World Duathlon Champion in her division. She can be reached at p2peakperformance@hotmail.com