Triathlon for beginners: one woman’s story

As she prepares for the Ironman World Championship, Aileen Flynn gives some triathlon tips

I couldn’t swim starting out, and needed to borrow a bike for my first race, but the reward and sense of personal achievement on crossing the line for my first race was special. Photograph: iStock

I couldn’t swim starting out, and needed to borrow a bike for my first race, but the reward and sense of personal achievement on crossing the line for my first race was special. Photograph: iStock

 

Training for triathlon gives me such a buzz. I discovered this sport of swimming, cycling and running in 2008 and haven’t looked back. I work full time as a charted physiotherapist in Beacon Hospital, Dublin and have treated a myriad of sporting injuries over the years. I know first-hand the challenges placed on our bodies through exercise and training and how best to prevent and manage the body when things don’t go according to plan.

I first dipped my toe into the world of triathlon in my 30s. I had played hockey and team sports previously, so the challenge of an individual pursuit was a change for me. I couldn’t swim starting out and needed to borrow a bike for my first race but the reward and sense of personal achievement on crossing the line for my first race was special. I was hooked.

I am now in the throes of preparing to compete in the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii in October. This will be a long, hot humid day consisting of a 3.8km swim, 180km cycle and then a marathon…and I can’t wait!

Aileen Flynn is a clinical specialist physiotherapist in musculoskeletal care at Beacon Hospital
Aileen Flynn is a clinical specialist physiotherapist in musculoskeletal care at Beacon Hospital.

People ask me what advice I can give to people who are new to triathlon and I always recommend joining a club. I’m a member of Piranha Triathlon Club and it has been a great experience training and racing with them over the years. Initially when I started out I was too intimidated to train with a club as I didn’t feel like a triathlete - more like a “wannabe triathlete”. As it turned out, there was no need to worry. I soon discovered that sports clubs are generally very inclusive, catering for all levels and abilities. They’re a great way of meeting people and having a support network for training and racing, not to mention the laughs.

So, what do you need to get started in triathlon? A desire to exercise and the anticipation of achieving a goal is a good place to start.

Equipment:

  • A triathlon-specific wetsuit (surf wetsuits are very thick and are difficult to swim in) is top of the list. For expert wetsuit fitting and advice, I would recommend visiting Base2Race in Ballymount, Co Dublin. They have a pool where you can try out the wetsuit for fit and comfort.
  • A bike. If you’re starting out, I would start by borrowing one. You can see how you get on and take it from there.
  • Proper fitting runners are so important. Getting the correct advice is key and going to a specialist foot store will help you choose the correct shoe for your foot type and running style.

The benefits

  • The overall health benefits of training for a triathlon include getting a stronger and fitter body. Increased levels of fitness have been shown to lower cholesterol and blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease and some cancers.
  • In addition, the mental benefits of partaking in regular exercise are not to be underestimated. Exercise promotes the release of endorphins that give you a natural high that should keep you coming back for more.

Over the coming weeks in The Irish Times, I will be sharing with you my knowledge on triathlon, injury prevention and optimising performance.

  • Aileen Flynn is a clinical specialist physiotherapist in musculoskeletal care at Beacon Hospital and a triathlete. She is competing in the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii on October 14th
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