I really enjoy reading posts on the many triathlon, running, cycling pages I follow on Facebook, not only because I find so many people that share my passion for sport and in turn come across very similar successes and setbacks, but also because of the number of people looking to get involved, setting themselves high goals, such as completing a marathon or an Ironman. The pride and sense of achievement that comes along with this is something I can directly relate to.
See I, like everybody else, was a beginner at one point. Even though some of my friends like to joke that I came running or cycling out of the womb, this very much isn’t the case. Up until my final year of college, I was your very stereotypical couch potato. Never one to miss an episode of any of the 50 TV shows I was watching, it’s safe to say my fitness levels were somewhat non-existent, and in parallel my belly very much existent.
Due to my energetic nature, with a need to always be doing something, it is hardly surprising I eventually discovered the world of triathlon. A combination of family pressure, growing up and joining air cadets, where fitness became more un-optional, led me on a mission to get fit. As I needed to be able to run a decent mile at cadets, it made sense to me to start my new journey off running.
I remember the days where I would have to drag myself out of the door to complete yet another walk, run session. Running for more than 30 seconds felt like I was dying and at times I wondered whether it would ever get easier. But one thing I loved about the beginning, was how quickly improvements were made.
I have met so many people that think the best way to get into running is by just going out cold turkey and running for 30 minutes, only to come back saying running is too hard, and often give up. Not only is this a sure and fire route to injury, especially if you do no other sports, but it is much harder to see progress. Not to mention that calf ache you will get for weeks after.
Run walk intervals begin to make you aware of your body and are much easier to mentally get through. By knowing you can have a break in 30 seconds, or a minute, you can push yourself much harder. In addition, your legs will feel so much fresher, resulting in the running time being much more efficient. The reward that finally comes when you can run straight for half an hour, and not feel like death 3 minutes in is second to none, and if you stick at it, you just progress from there. I remember vividly the pleasure at finally completing a sub 30-minute 5k, I mean I think that definitely made me a runner.
Now swimming has been a very much love hate relationship for me over the years. Alike many other children I advanced through the swimming lessons, gaining lots of badges until the stage where there was no more progression. Due to family circumstances at the time, I ended up getting involved in the City of Southampton Swimming Club. This Is where I got my first pair of drag pants that were all the rage back in the day. Quite funny now, as in theory they make the swimming harder, I just thought they were a fashion item. My speciality in those days was butterfly and this was the stroke I swam at many galas, something I wouldn’t even consider these days.
My relationship with swimming came to a stark end while I was at junior school, as mum refused to take me to the 5am training sessions, and if I am being completely honest, I wasn’t sad to see the back of them.
Ironically the one I picked up last, but by far my favourite of the three. Now I, like many others, will remember learning to ride a bike, which was then likely followed by summer family bike rides of about 3 miles long and a picnic somewhere in the sun. The bikes then hibernating for the winter, among the spiders in the shed. But these rides were crucial for gaining confidence on two wheels while I was young and carefree.
I remember getting my first road bike and moving away from what I once knew as cycling, to this new world where I had complete control of a bike. The bike moved with me, and I was the engine. The more effort I put in the faster I went, and I can honestly say there is no better feeling than being able to chase & beat countless guys up the local hills. Cycling for me is a proper escape, a different escape to running, as somehow it also relaxes my whole body.
I was lucky in a way, as before I properly started riding, I had a reasonable level of fitness from running, my love of spin classes, and other equally exhausting activities. It didn’t take me long to start ticking off the distances, and a highlight less than a year after I bought my bike, I completed the 143-mile dragon ride in Wales. Which goes to show that determination can get you everywhere.
A few years later and I now have a family of bikes, granted some of which I probably need to look at selling, and my beautiful specialized Amira that I completed IRONMAN Wales on this year.
Putting the Sports Together
Having ridden with a lot of cyclists over the years, the phrase ‘why be rubbish at 3 sports, when you can be good at 1’ is one I have heard many times. I personally view this as a load of rubbish, and I think what mainly got me into triathlon was the challenge of being good at 3 completely different sports. There is no lap over between the sports, and just because you are a good runner, by no means you will be good in the pool. I won’t lie, my speed on the bike has fallen over the last year, but I guess that’s what happens when you suddenly cut your mileage from 200 to 100 miles a week, but also start swimming & running three times a week as well. Add in a few gym sessions and work, and if you aren’t careful fatigue can easily set in.
Now I have to say while I have made many developments this year, lots of work still needs to be done with regards to my nutrition, getting enough sleep and staying off my feet. As my body gets used to long distance triathlon training I look forward to the gains I can make in the sport.
I personally view sport/ triathlon as a journey to a better me.
So, when anyone asks, how do I get into triathlon? Have you got any tips? My honest answer is just get started. Training plans and coaches are all fantastic ideas, and I have utilised a few training plans in my early years, but you need the basic fitness first. Goals are fantastic motivators as they give you something to drive towards and provide the motivation for dragging yourself out of bed in the morning. Even I find this a challenge some mornings, especially in the winter months.
The secret for me is finding something that you can not only enjoy, but that can also fit in with your lifestyle. No point in deciding to become a track cyclist if the closest cycling track is 4 hours away.
And remember to look after yourself, you have a long life ahead of you and sometimes you have to suffer a short-term loss for a longer term gain, something I have come to properly realise over the last year, and had to listen to myself over the last week with my decision not to run Snowdonia marathon.
As always thanks for reading,
Pocket Rocket Rach