My first impression of Nancy Kummen was how vivacious, energetic and in shape she appears to be. I was shocked when she told me that she used to consider “exercise” to be a short jog to the market for junk food.

But things changed back in 1979 when she happened to chance upon the first Ironman Triathlon while living in Hawaii. She shared that she was overweight and depressed and but just happened to go out for a walk with her dog.  Not realizing it, she discovered she was standing on the last mile of the Ironman Race Course located near Diamond Head and lead into the park where the finish line was. It was there that she saw the last finisher desperately trying to make it up a nearby hill.  While watching cross the finish line she realized this was something she had to do. After training for only 7 months, she entered her first Ironman triathlon in spite of having fractured both Tibia prior to 1979.  

In the past 30 years the inspirational 64 year old athlete has become a world class champion competing for international honors as part of the U.S. Triathlon Team. Nancy has completed 9 Ironman distances over 500 triathlons; running, cycling and swimming events, more than 26 marathons and countless miles and miles over the last 30+ years. She continues to inspire and hopes to motivate people at any age to help them know that if she can, they can do it even if they do not possess all the athletic abilities and skills.

When asked what people in her life have inspired her the most, she mentions her parents and their challenging background and experiences.  Nancy was born in Toronto to Norwegian parents who had emigrated there.  In 1942, her father Hjomund Kummen father escaped the Nazi’s in Norway by skiing through Norway, Sweden, Denmark and finally got on a freighter to India. Her mother Charlotte had been raised in an alcoholic and depressing family but managed to take that experience to become a positive, encouraging and motivational human being.

In addition to her parents, Nancy credits her sister Rondi and brother-in-law Dr. Ralph Martin as her inspiration for having overcome her own struggles with depression, health and weight issues. She openly discusses dealing with her PTSD issues in the past with medication, therapy and counseling which taught her to use the obstacles and challenges in her life in a positive way. Becoming involved in racing helped her sort out personal issues such as we all face. Competing has helped her confidence and self-esteem as well as enabling her to have many new friends, energy and the ability to set goals.

Nancy is so gracious and unassuming when she shares her experiences but wants to make it clear that she knows her story isn’t about her triumphs but about her ability to overcome the challenges and obstacles she faced. This has given her the determination to help others …in fact, she’s made that her life mission. She has the gift of being able to see potential in her students and to that end, she has taken her life-long dream and invested in her new business Miss Mermaid’s Swim Lessons and Triathlon Training. She provides her service at her home in Gilbert and by installing a heated, saltwater pool where she has created a positive, supportive and caring atmosphere for the Group or Private lessons she offers to people of all ages..

Nancy also teaches low intensity water aerobics classes which happens to be a good medium for those with, osteoporosis, knee and back surgeries as well as those with dementia. One senior woman who studies with Nancy says she had very little strength or flexibility before her classes. She is now stronger and feels both physically and mentally better.

I was most impressed with Nancy’s humility and grace around her talents.  She wants nothing more than to give back and help others become more confident about their own athletic abilities, even if they can only exercise while sitting in a chair!  In addition to her parents, she wants it mentioned that she believes her God given determination and perseverance, along with her belief in Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me, makes this all possible.”

Nancy Kummen has her Certification from the American Red Cross and the USA Triathlon as a Coach. She will also be competing again in the Arizona Senior Olympics. If you are interested in information about classes or coaching from Nancy; please contact her at or check out her blog at

Editor’s Note: Article witten by Carol Chandler, Phoenix Senior Directory.