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posted: 8/13/2014 5:17 PM

Downers Grove neighborhood kids prepare to take the Woodridge Mini-Tri by storm

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  • Thrive Fitness TRI Kids training for their swimKarin Warden

    Thrive Fitness TRI Kids training for their swimKarin Warden

Julie Devine

Driving by Karin Warden's house on any given day, you might wonder why there are 30 bikes lying across her front yard. That's because Warden, Personal Trainer and owners of Thrive Fitness in Downers Grove, is committed to more than just keeping herself and her clients healthy; she's also committed to inspiring kids to get active and stay active. Warden believes that fitness and fun can go hand-in-hand, and she's determined to help kids realize that as well.

This summer, Thrive Fitness is offering a kids' triathlon training group, in preparation for the Woodridge Rotary Club's annual mini-triathlon being held on Sunday, August 16th. This is the 15th year the Woodridge Rotary is offering the mini-triathlon, and the local event continues to grow in popularity each year. After the main event, there is a mini-triathlon for kids 12 & Under. The kids' triathlon consists of a 100 yard swim, a 5k bike ride, and a 1 mile run.

"Triathlons are intimidating to most people, but they don't have to be. All it takes is becoming familiar with what is going to happen on race day," says Warden. She cites the benefit of working with kids is the "fun" aspect. "Training for this triathlon has been FUN for thirty kids this summer! As they get older, they will associate exercise with fun & camaraderie instead of a grueling chore. "

After her own girls and their friends competed in the mini-triathlon for the past three years, Warden saw what a positive experience it has been for them all. Warden reached out to the local families in her neighborhood and offered to train any interested kids for this year's event. Thirty kids quickly took her up on her offer. Most of the young athletes are training for the Kids' Tri, but a few of the older kids are competing in the adult race.

Although there will be official triathlon clubs at this Sunday's race, the Thrive Fitness team is different. This is a group of neighborhood kids coming together for one race, inspired by each other and a trainer who believes in them. The kids range in age from 7 to 13 years old. They come from Kingsley, O'Neill, St. Joseph's, St. Mary's, and Avery Coonley schools in Downers Grove.

For six weeks leading up to this Sunday's race, the kids have practiced swimming, biking, running, and the transition from one to the next. Warden uses her in-ground pool for the kids to practice their swim training. They then jump on their bikes and follow the 3-mile bike loop Warden has set, and finish with a one-mile run. Safety monitors are stationed at corners to assist the kids in crossing the streets and deal with any issues that might arrive. The kids practice each leg of the triathlon so they are confident & conditioned on race day.

The lessons being learned in Thrive Fitness's Kids Triathlon training go beyond physical endurance. The kids are learning grit and not to give up; they are leaning to get back up and keep going if they hit a roadblock. They encourage each other, and they have fun challenging each other. Most importantly, the young athletes are having the time of their lives. They show up early to practice, with smiles on their faces, ready and eager to train with their friends.

Warden says, "Growing up and knowing they can complete a triathlon is something you can never take away from these kids. They can always say they have done a TRI. It's empowering; it builds confidence."