Where will you ‘goal’ on your summer vacation?

Published 7:00 pm Wednesday, April 25, 2012

(ARA) – Competitive events flourish during the summer. If you run, mountain bike, water ski, swim, rock climb or otherwise enjoy outdoor activities, you have the opportunity to do something bold this season. Why not plan your summer vacation around a goal instead of a destination?

Michelle Jezycki, owner of Tri the World, an endurance and multisport travel agency based in Washington, D.C., helps people do just that. She’s seen her business grow in the last six years as, she says, “more and more people add marathons and triathlons to their bucket lists.”

Considering the way the sport of triathlon has grown over the last 10 years – from less than 20,000 USA Triathlon annual memberships in 2000 to a record high of more than 150,000 in 2011 – many people have added finishing a triathlon to their bucket list and are returning to the outdoor fun they had in their youth by swimming, biking and running during their summer vacation. John Martin, spokesperson for USA Triathlon, says that 2011 annual membership peaked in the summer with the highest numbers recorded in June, July, August and September.

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After four consecutive years volunteering for the Life Time Minneapolis Triathlon, Christine Strohmeyer, 44, of Shakopee, Minn., decided she wanted to do more than assist triathletes; she wanted to become one. “I was inspired by all the different athletes over the years,” she says. In years past her summer activity included jogging a few miles several times a week and biking with her kids to the park. Last year she bumped up her activity and finished her first triathlon.

“Going from outdoor play to triathlon start line isn’t too much of a stretch,” says Troy Jacobson, head multisport coach for Life Time Fitness, The Healthy Way of Life Company. “Anyone can finish a sprint triathlon with minimal training.”He says would-be triathletes can prepare for a sprint race in as little as six to eight weeks, training in each sport two to three times each week. This translates to anywhere from six to 10 hours of activity a week.

Strohmeyer felt so emboldened after finishing her first triathlon that she went on to finish another. “Even after both tris, I participated in a trail run and 5K,” she says. “Definitely a highlight of the summer.”

Jacobson added that preparing for an athletic event doesn’t need to take over your life. “Training doesn’t have to be super intense and uncomfortable,” he says, adding that athletes can maintain an aerobic intensity, or a level of exertion in which you can still hold a conversation. “You can enjoy the social aspects of training without suffering,” he comments.

The social aspects of training with others who have similar goals adds another layer of fun to summer. So does including your family in the pursuit of your goals.

“Getting the entire family involved in exercising and then attending a race to watch Mom or Dad do their thing or join them in competition is a great bonding experience,” Jacobson says.

Mark and Sharon Fowler who moved from Chicago to Charlotte, N.C., use the summers to set goals together as well as separately. “We’ve got great weather here nine months out of the year, but we still have the Chicago mentality of being locked up till spring time. In summer we’re definitely more active.”

Last summer, Mark, 50, set a goal to climb Mt. Rainier. He spent several months training – many hours on a stair climber with a 40 pound weighted vest – before flying to Washington state that June. “I got to say, I climbed the tallest mountain in the United States, what did you do?” he proudly states.

What will you do over the summer? If you’re looking for inspiration, check out one of Life Time Athletic Events, which offers finisher’s medals at more than 60 events in locations across the country from mountain bike races to triathlons. And as Mark Fowler points out, bragging rights are pretty satisfying too.