My Olympics: day 11, triathlon (again)

August 7, 2012

In this blog series, I take inspiration from one of the day’s Olympic events. Today: triathlon.

Sort of! You see, I haven’t said anything about it on the blog but I’ve got a photoshoot tomorrow, so today I’m doing depletion workouts and playing around with carbohydrates and all that kind of thing. Plus, I have a lot of work to do (I do actually do paid work as well as blog and bodybuild, crazy as it might seem… !)

So, today’s blog post is less active and more informative. 😉

I know I’ve already covered triathlon (when the women’s race was on) but today, inspired by the men’s race (go Brownlee! and go Brownlee!) I thought I’d do a fun little jargon-buster, so those of you who are watching the race feel a bit more at home with some of the commentary.

The world of triathlon is full of confusing words, shiny kit and new jargon. Let this handy guide help you tell your transitions from your turbo sessions…

Olympic-distance: not just because it’s the one they’re doing in the Olympic Games. Olympic-distance is the name for the standard distance of triathlon (as opposed to Sprint, middle distance, long-distance at al). What is it? 1500m swim, 40km bike, 10km run.

Ironman: Chrissie Wellington is in the commentary box at the Beeb today. She’s an Ironman champion. Have you ever told people you’re doing a marathon, only to be asked “how long is that?” Ironman is a bit like that: Ironman is a brand which owns some long-distance triathlon races, but you can do an ‘ironman-distance race’ without taking part in an actual Ironman race.

Transition: the part of a triathlon race between the swim and bike, or bike and run. Used for changing kit, getting your bike (or putting it away again), grabbing a drink.

Racking: bikes are usually held on ‘racks’ in transition. Racking means putting your bike in transition before the race and is part of registration

Turbo sessions: a turbo trainer is like a treadmill for your bike. It holds your bike steady so that you can carry out bike training sessions in your garage (or front room!) if the weather’s bad or you want to do an intense session

Open water: triathlons always start with the swim, but some are held in a pool (pool-swims) and some in open water (open water, or OW swims). Open water can mean rivers, lakes, the sea or man-made bodies of water.

Buoyancy: the degree of extra floatation a good triathlon wetsuit will give you.

Zip cord: the long tie attached to your zip, which you grab in order to start undoing your wetsuit

Drafting: the technique of tucking yourself in behind someone else on the bike (can also be done on the swim) in order to conserve energy and therefore go faster. Pro triathletes are allowed to draft o the bike. Us mortals are not and it’s punishable by time-penalties or disqualification.

Aero: aero bars, aero position… what the what? Aero means getting into a tucked, aerodynamic position on the bike so you go faster. Aero bars (or tri bars) – the sticky outy bits on the front of the handlebars – help achieve this. Aero helmets help too. As does a good aero position.

I’m sure I’ve forgotten loads of bits of triathlon jargon! If anything is confusing you as you watch, ask and I’ll try to answer 🙂

How have the London 2012 Olympic Games inspired you today?

My Olympics: day 11, triathlon (again) is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

My Olympics: day eight, triathlon

August 4, 2012

In this blog series, I take inspiration from one of the day’s Olympic events. Today: triathlon.

It had to be done, really. I used to do triathlon (surely there’s a more eloquent way of putting it… “I used to compete in triathlons at amateur level), coach triathlon (the open-water swim part of it), write about triathlon (mainly for 220 Triathlon magazine and Triathlete’s World magazine, but also for British Triathlon‘s Tri News and other industry/trade publications) and have even been interviewed on BBC Radio about triathlon. Oh, and I wrote the non-newsy content for British Triathlon’s media site.

So, yeah, after following the progress of Helen Jenkins, Vicky Holland and Lucy Hall on TVs and radios as I went about my day, it was clear that today’s blog post had to be “triathlon”.

However, I have neither the energy nor the resources to actually do an entire triathlon today! The bike and run bits are easy (in that you can ride and run from anywhere and use your own house as “transition”). But for the swim, you need a body of open-water. I don’t have one. So, I decided to do a (very!) short bike/run “brick” (the official name for a training session which runs two of the triathlon disciplines together – a swim/bike brick or the more common bike/run brick).

I even put on a tri-suit. Yes, to cycle round local roads and to run round the block. See how dedicated I am to this blog!

Here are two videos, of me talking you through T1 and T2 – the transitions between swim-to-bike and then bike-to-run. If you watched the Olympic triathlon today you’ll have noticed how quickly the athletes transition from each bit of the race. That’s the key: get your transition area set up and organised, know what needs to be done and then practice endlessly until you’ve got it down to a fine art. Transition is often called the “4th discipline” of triathlon because it can make or break your race, just as the swim, bike or run can.

Here’s transition in a nutshell. This assumes that you’ve already “walked it through”, noting where you come into transition from the swim and how you’ll find your bike from there, where the bike exit is, where the bike “in” is and where you’ll find your (empty) bike racking space from there, then where “run out” is. It also assumes you’ve set your transition area up however you need it to be so you can lay your hands on everything just as you need them without getting flustered or losing time.

Transition one
– Finish the swim
– Wetsuit off (unzip, arms out, down to the waist) as you run into transition.
– Find your bike, wetsuit fully off, swimcap and goggles off
– Bike helmet on and done up (do this now before you even touch your bike to avoid getting penalised)
– Sunnies on, race belt on, bike shoes on (unless you have them clipped to your bike and opt to get into them whilst on the go – yes this can be done, not by me though!)
– Grab your bike, head for “bike out”
– Get on at the “mount” line, start pedalling (you will, of course, have racked your bike in a low gear so you’ll be able to get going easily)

Transition two
– Dismount your bike at the dismount line
– Run into transition, find your racking area, rack the bike
– Helmet off, bike shoes off, run shoes on (elastic laces and lace locks make this very quick to do)
– Grab any energy gels/visor/hat etc and get running
– Run through “run out” and go for Gold

Transition two in particular is lightening fast, often taking the Pros just a matter of seconds! Amazing to watch.

There you have it. Did you watch the Olympic triathlon today? Did you notice the speed and efficiency of the transitions? If you watch the men’s race on Tuesday, look out for the bits between the swim/bike and bike/run – and get prepared to be amazed!

How have the London 2012 Olympic Games inspired you today?

My Olympics: day eight, triathlon is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

The Conditioning Chronicles: Barnes Fitness

August 2, 2012

With 6 weeks to go until my first bodybuilding competition of the year, it’s time to step up the conditioning and get shredded! I’ve called in various favours and asked some people in the biz to blast me, beast me and generally put me through my paces.

Today’s installment of the Conditioning Chronicles needs a bit of background.

I used to be a swimmer. I wasn’t much of a speed-demon in the pool but I could grit it out through hell and high water – and did, swimming the English Channel twice (and the length of Windermere once, and round the Channel island of Jersey) with all the long, long training such swims demand.

So, when I approached my good friend Ellie Barnes of Barnes Fitness with the familiar plea of “get me lean!” (the battle-cry of every Conditioning Chronicle), I did so with a heavy feeling in the pit of my stomach (nothing to do with my fibre supplements). Because I knew that Ellie would either put me on a turbo trainer, make me sprint round a track or – worst of all – pop me in a pool.

Ellie is a Personal Trainer at Reading-based Barnes Fitness, and a very accomplished athlete in her own right. In fact, she has been selected to represent Great Britain as an age-grouper at this year’s World triathlon championships in New Zealand. You can support her here, and I urge you to do so if you can.

I met Ellie at a local pool (outdoors – lovely!) and I’m not joking when I say I was really apprehensive. It was a fear and dread which ran much deeper than “this is going to hurt” or “I’m not sure I can even do this sport”. In fact quite the opposite – I know I can do it, and I know because I’ve done so, so much of it. Hours and hours of training in the cold sea (I’m talking 7 hours on Saturdays and then 6 hours on Sundays) does build up a kind of trepidation on a cellular level. It wasn’t just my brain which was nervous. It was my body. Don’t get me wrong, I love swimming and will always adore it. We just have a tempestuous history and needed a bit of time apart. We haven’t spoken for a while and it was going to be… awkward.

I also had no idea if I could even swim any more. I haven’t done it in ages. I sometimes have anxiety dreams where I’m swimming through glue, or can’t lift my hands out of the water for the recovery phase of the stroke.

Hopefully by now you have some idea of the frame of mind I was in before today’s conditioning session! 😉

Ellie is a great coach and a good friend and put me at ease in no time. We did some mobility work before I lowered myself into the water and set off on a 200m freestyle warm up. My arms worked! My hands didn’t get stuck in the water! I was actually moving. This was OK. I could even tumbleturn still (well, sometimes).

After that I did:
– 100m for time (more on that later)
– 1x200m (this was meant to be 4x200m but I wasn’t feeling the love and asked if we could do shorter intervals instead) – 3:38. We did this using paddles and fins (flippers) to work on power.
– 4x50m – 44s, 47s, 50s (oops), 47s
– a kick set (100m with fins/flippers, 50m without)
– 100m backstroke cool down (ahhhh)

For the amazing, earth-shattering, flabbergasting total of… 1150m. Haha!

Here’s me during the 200m with fins and paddles

And me barely moving during the bit of kickset where I wasn’t wearing fins! This was truly agony (I did a very heavy squat session yesterday).

Ellie said:

“When you asked me to help you with a conditioning session, I wondered whether you’d feel more comfortable with longer intervals of 3-4 minutes (aerobic) or shorter bursts which would call on your anaerobic energy system. I think we can see from today’s set that you find anaerobic efforts easier, hence cutting the planned 4×200 short and turning it into 50m repeats instead. This isn’t really surprising since your weights work is probably quite explosive and, even though you might do a lot of volume and several sets, you’ll be taking a recovery after every set. So you don’t often ask your body to work at a relatively high level for 4+ minutes.”

This is definitely true – even my longest weights set might only be 20 reps (even when I sometimes do a very high rep squat set of 40 reps, it certainly doesn’t take me 3 or 4 minutes to complete the set) so most of my “intervals” or work periods are short, with a recovery. Even when I head out for long cardio, on my road bike for instance, there are still long periods of recovery between efforts like hill climbs.

I was interested in the effects of a short swim session on “pump” so did a bit of posing (I have no shame, bodybuilding has seen to that!), here we go:

Verdict: tough during the intervals but I recovered quickly. Will be interested to see effect on metabolism (hunger?) later today…

Thank you, Ellie at Barnes Fitness! 🙂

The Conditioning Chronicles: Barnes Fitness is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

How do others see you? 8 year olds on sport and fitness.

July 1, 2012

We all influence other people. Perhaps your job puts you in a position of power, or maybe you’re in the public eye. It could simply be that one person sees you as an inspiration. Whatever the reason, each one of us influences those around us. Hopefully in a positive way!

Have you ever wondered how other people see you?

When my friend Katherine – who’s a school teacher – approached me recently to ask if I’d help out with a school project, I said sure! I didn’t know what she had in mind but I’m always keen to help out with anything which informs or inspires kids about sport, healthier eating and activity.

So, “year 3” (for the clueless – like me – this means boys and girls of eight and nine years old) sent me a load of questions about the sports I’ve done.

Hi Nicola,

We have learnt a bit about you today and some of the sports that you have done. We have some questions to ask you about the things that you have done, and Miss Palmer says you have very kindly agreed to answer them! We loved your photographs on your blog, you must work really hard when you are doing all your sports. Here are our questions:

Some of the questions were hilarious, some were cute and some really made me think. Here are just some of them:

Do you enjoy being an athlete?
Do you have to work hard to do your sports?
Have you ever coached anybody else in any sports?
What did you see when you swam in the sea? Did you see any animals?
Were you cold in the ocean?
Were you exhausted afterwards?
Why did you enter the triathlon?
Is bodybuilding easy?
How did you grow such big muscles?
What exercises do you have to do to be a bodybuilder?
Do you have to eat healthy food to make your muscles bigger?
Do you go on the treadmill? Do you go on the exercise bike?
Do you have to eat different sorts of food when you are bodybuilding to when you are channel swimming?

I love their curiosity and imagination! I also think it’s really interesting that the “top three” questions for Channel swimming (goosefat, sharks and water temperature) didn’t crop up at all, and nor did anything about tan for bodybuilding. I wonder why adults tend have such a limited range of questions to ask (at least at first) whereas these kids presumably either understood why we wear tan, or just thought it was too boring a thing to ask – a waste of a perfectly good question 😉

So, I answered all their questions, unsure of what the project was or what would be done with my replies. I felt quite a lot of pressure suddenly! For all I knew, this could be the first time some of these children had ever learned about or thought about nutrition, being active, body image. I didn’t want to patronise, but nor did I want to pitch it too high and risk them switching off or feeling overwhelmed. I really wanted to encourage them, to spark some interest, perhaps even to encourage a dream of their own. (As I told them, I was exactly their age when I first thought about swimming the Channel.) Here was a great opportunity to get these children to realise that they have the power to achieve anything they want to, and that dreams should be dreamed big! I didn’t want to mess it up!

A few days later, my inbox was full of the most wonderful pictures and stories. They are just about the best thing I’ve ever seen. I’ve printed them all out and will keep them in my kit bag. I can only hope that I inspired and motivated at least some of Year 3. They have certainly inspired me.

Thank you, Year 3!

Read on for some of the pictures they sent me, as well as a few choice quotes from the stories they wrote.

This one is quite simply immense. The power! That triangle-me is owning that stage! I can only hope to be this large and in charge when I next compete 🙂

Crazy separation I’ve got going on there! As well as the most muscley shins I’ve ever seen. I think I need to work on my quads a bit more, though 😉

I’m so happy in this one! With good reason – I appear to be shoulder pressing two 80kg dumbbells overhead. I’m not sure what I’m wearing. I love that I am training outside on a beautiful sunny day, and also love that one of the podiums (?) says “well done” on it.

Just me and some crazy-cute seals hanging out together. Check out the whiskers on those seals! Adorable!

Hi! I’m swimming the Channel and there’s a really big tanker and I’m really happy about it all! 😀

Now for the words of wisdom. I should point out that these are not my words, they’re written by Year 3. They presumably read my replies to their initial questions and then let their imaginations go… Quite right, too. That’s the best way to write sometimes: just get going and start writing, then see what came out.

If you want sporting success, Musfirah tells us to “look insid, start being healthy!”

Imaan tells us that, to build muscle, you must “lift really heavy weights or small, digit number weights. Then you can enter the competition, but you will have to show off your muscals to the jujes.” He also reminds us of the importance of safety when cycling. “..she had to were a helmet for safety just in case she falls off.” What are you saying, Imaan? 😉

Jasmine has a few words to say about diet. “…lots of eggs, meat, fish and even kangoo – but it is meat, it keeps you fit. When you are a body builder you can’t eat cakes or choclett!”

Adeed has the impression that I am a “musly millionair”, love him. Perhaps he has had some sort of premonition? Fingers crossed. He chronicles my 2011 season by saying that “on her first day she won a trophy and she was proud of her self.” Well, yes, I suppose I was, and should be more often! “Eat meat, fresh eggs, kangaroos, healthy food and sports drink,” advises Adeed (as opposed to rotten eggs, I assume!)

Elliot keeps it real. “If you want to be a body builder, get to that gym!”

I’ll leave you with these simple truths from Haiden and Joshua W:

“Give it a go!”
“Always remmember, don’t give up.”

They said it!

What did you dream of doing when you were eight or nine years old? Have you done it yet?

How do others see you? 8 year olds on sport and fitness. is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

Story of a GB age-group triathlete: Ellie Barnes Q&A

April 17, 2012

Have you ever wondered what it would feel like to represent your country at your chosen sport? Or even at one you can’t do, but dream of being good at? Olympic athletes aren’t the only ones who get to pull on a GB vest. What does it take to compete at international level as an age-grouper? I asked my friend Ellie Barnes, a Personal Trainer, to tell us her story – just before she sets of to compete at the European Triathlon Championships this Saturday.

thefitwriter: Ellie, massive congrats on making the GB team for the Europeans. So exciting! Can you give readers some background on your own sporting journey and history?

Ellie Barnes: Sport has always been high on my agenda (not surprising with a mother as a PE Teacher and a father who cycled from London to Paris for fun!) I was a keen netballer but it wasn’t until I moved to Reading in 2006 that I started to get into competitive running. My first race was the Shinfield 10km. My partner at the time put money on me not completing it in under 60 minutes (tfw: Ha ha, I have a similar story behind my first running race!) Much to his wallet’s dismay, I finished in 43 minutes!

I then did the London Marathon in 2007, training with Reading Roadrunners and finishing in 3hrs 38minutes. Marathons became my mainstay for a few years with my PB a few years later in Amsterdam: 3hrs 07minutes. Whilst training for the London Marathon 2010 I got a stress fracture in my metatarsal, which taught my body a lesson about cross training and I mixed my running up with some cycling and swimming.

I was introduced to a competent triathlete and triathlon coach in 2010 (Jo Lewis of Tri50), who has nurtured me to become the GB Age-Group triathlete I am now!

tfw: For how long have you been doing triathlon?

EB: My very first triathlon was whilst marathon training was very much still my main focus so I really didn’t know what I was doing. So much so, that when I was in transition from swim to bike, I put my cycle helmet on first and then tried to get my t-shirt on over the top. Top tip: this doesn’t work!

My next encounter with triathlon was in May 2011 at Dorney Lake. I still didn’t really know what I was doing, swimming in open water with a wetsuit was rather an alien experience and trying to keep track of how many laps I had cycled proved a challenge! Much to my amazement, I actually was the first lady to cross this line, I really wasn’t expecting that at all! That success gave me the bug to learn more about triathlon and do more races.

tfw: When did you realise you might be good enough to challenge for a GB place?

EB: Once I competed in the London Triathlon in August 2011, I realised I may have potential to go further. I finished 6th in my age group (25-30) at this event and really wasn’t that far behind the winning women. I actually had the fastest run time of the whole day. I spoke to my coach, Jo, about trying to qualify for the GB Age Group Squad and she suggested we look at last year’s results from the European Championships to see whether we thought it was realistic. We did, and I decided “why not?”

tfw: What was the process like? How did you have to qualify?

EB: There are three events per year which are “qualifying races” for the GB Age Group Squad, and there was only one left in the season, so I had no choice but to enter “Newbiggin-by-the-Sea Triathlon” on 11 September 2011. I had no idea where Newbiggin was before I entered it. Turns out it is 325 miles from Reading, yes, this is commitment! And the swim was in the North Sea in September. What was I thinking??

tfw: How did your training, nutrition, recovery and general preparation change once you knew you were going for qualification?

EB: Once I knew I was going for qualification I read up a lot about triathlon specific training and sought expert advice from Jo. I trained with the David Lloyd Triathlon Club that Jo coached as well as the Tri20 Club in Reading. I also learnt that I needed to work on my swimming to increase my chances of qualification, so this became my main focus for the next six weeks, swimming 4-5 times per week including a 6am session on a Friday morning!

tfw: Tell us about the qualifying race.

EB: Five hours in a car is not my idea of fun, however my Mum, Dad, brother and partner all came along for the ride. Arriving in Newbiggin-by-the-Sea was like walking back in time: a quintessentially British seaside town, with the traditional fish and chips shops and beach huts.. and what felt like Force 10 gale winds. Just walking through the car-park to registration was a challenge as the wind was howling. The sea was choppy with seven lifeboats on the course, the bike was a two-lap course with some great headwind sections as well as tailwinds downhill, so not all bad. Then the run, where I usually feel strongest, but not today. It was along the sea wall and back and I couldn’t feel my feet by this point. I actually had one of the quickest run times of the day, though.

When I crossed the line I didn’t know where I had finished in my age-group. I knew I had to finish in the top four and, by the time I went to get my results print-out it was confirmed, I had finished 3rd in my age group, and therefore I had qualified! Woohoo!

tfw: What then – how long between qualifier and GB event, and how did things change for you?

EB: Since that race, the date 21 April 2012 has been engraved on my brain! The remainder of 2011 was spent maintaining base level fitness and primarily working on swim technique. On 1 January 2012 it was time to start SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic & Timed) training – I could not have done this without the amazing guidance and support from coach Jo Lewis: our weekly meeting to review my progress from the previous week and look at the next few weeks training has been invaluable. I also sought expert nutrition advice from Janie Perry of Relax to Revive, Strength and Conditioning advice from Aynsley Fry of Gecko Fitness and regular Sports Massage from Diksha of FixMe.

Training became more intense with two sessions most days, six days a week. A lighter week was welcomed every five weeks. A very intense week training in Lanzarote was thrown in the mix as well as various races to test my fitness including the Green Park Triathlon (1st Lady), Oulton Park Duathlon (1st Lady) and monthly parkrun 5km run timetrials.

tfw: How does it feel to be racing with a GB vest? Is it a dream come true? Does it live up to expectations? Is it different to imagined?

EB: When I received my GB trisuit with BARNES, GBR emblazoned across it it seemed a little surreal. Is this really for me? Then when I put it on for the first time I was a little stunned… yes this is me, I have worked hard for this but need to keep focused on 21 April 2012 when the training will be really put to the test.

tfw: What’s next for you and how can readers look out for you/support you?

EB: Saturday 21 April 2012, 7am in Eilat, Israel, the ETU Triathlon European Championships (2hrs ahead of GMT). I will be updating my Facebook and Twitter, but you should also be able to find results here (select 25 – 29 Female AG Sprint).

tfw: Finally, what advice do you have for any amateur triathletes wanting to one day qualify for GB kit?

EB: Do it! Don’t think about it, get yourself entered and believe in yourself….look here for more info.

Best of luck, Ellie! Perhaps you’ll come back and tell us about the race?

Story of a GB age-group triathlete: Ellie Barnes Q&A is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

A cautionary tale (why runners and bikers should always carry emergency ID)

February 17, 2012

Just one day after he was merrily giving you his opinion on rye bread, my husband came off his bike on a busy town-centre roundabout.

He’s (relatively) OK and in one piece. We’re both shocked, he’s in huge amounts of pain, but the main thing is – of course – that he is still here to tell the tale. He has one dislocated shoulder and several torn ligaments, but things could have been so much worse.

So, today’s blog post is a short but serious one. If you run, or ride a road or mountain bike, whether it’s every day to and from work like my husband or whether it’s once in a blue moon, my question to you is:

Do you wear some kind of emergency ID?

Happily, my husband was still conscious and just about with it enough to remember our phone number. And the person in the car behind him, who stopped to help, was a qualified First Aider. And he was (ironically) just moments from his work building. What if all of this hadn’t have been the case?

Who would emergency services – or that good Samaritan – call, if you slipped or were knocked down whilst biking or running? How would they know who to call?

Please, get some kind of ID tag which carries emergency contact details and other important information. It’s easy. Just click here for Road ID, or here for Cram Alert. Make it your Friday Thing To Do.

Happily, sandwiches can be eaten one-handed, so I think my husband will survive this latest scrape. But next time he gets on that bike, he’ll be wearing emergency ID. I’ll insist on it.

A cautionary tale (why runners and bikers should always carry emergency ID) is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

Story of a first-time triathlete: Auntie Rose’s race report

August 31, 2011

Remember my Auntie Rose’s foray into triathlon (and her training update post?) She did it! And I’m very proud of her. Here’s her recap of her first triathlon – the Dextro Energy London Triathlon earlier this month:

Race day dawned (it couldn’t come soon enough!) At last, all the training was to be put to the test. Hyde Park was ready for us… and us for it! Since this race was being used as a try-out for the London 2012 Olympic triathlon, we were surrounded by all levels of athleticism, and a massive crowd, too. It was quite daunting really, but what a buzz! I felt so honoured to be part of it all.

As we were not due to start until 16.30, we had a nerve-wracking couple of hours marvelling at the super-fit youngsters and going over the race in our heads. We were all very calm, given the size of the event. Bikes racked, cycling and running gear laid out, we were all ready.

As the water temperature was 21*C, the option of wetsuits was ours. I opted to keep mine on, concerned that today was not the day to try without (all our training had been done in wetsuits). I was glad I did as the Serpentine was cold and pretty murky.

The swim was a pontoon start and turned out not to be the washing-machine I’d anticipated. I made the dubious choice to try and support my two friends, neither of whom were confident in the water. That turned out to be a mistake, and I eventually had to leave them to support one another. I swam the second 400m way faster than the first, but felt really mixed emotions as I glanced back to see Sue and Nikki’s furrowed brows as they got further and further behind.

T1 was immensely long and by the time I reached my bike I felt like I had already run the 5k. In fact it took me a whopping 7 minutes from swim to bike, way longer than I wanted it to be.

The cycle was exhilarating and I actually found myself passing quite a few people. My trusty little Giant did me proud and was a joy to ride.

Three loops later I was back at T2 for my very least favourite part: the run. As it turned out, the training we had put in paid off as I didn’t feel as leaden-limbed as I anticipated starting the run.

It was very heartening to be cheered on by friends and family, and the supporters of my four fellow “triathloonies”, too. It seemed that no more that five minutes would pass before someone would spur me on by name.

All too soon I was approaching the blue finishing strip, but not before I was passed by several of next year’s Olympic hopefuls vying for selection for the Aquathon event. They were gazelles as they breezed passed me as I lumbered along for my final kilometre. I admit to having a chuckle at my own expense as I compared my performance to theirs. But the overriding thought I had was pride in myself at having actually finished.

My finish time? I managed 2 hours exactly, and know that when I do my next Sprint Triathlon, I will definitely be faster. I know I can do the swim faster, I’m sure I can negotiate T1 way faster, I think I can knock at least five minutes off the cycle, and shave 3 minutes or so off the swim. So my next target is sub 2 hours, and I can’t wait to do it all again!

Mid life crisis? Maybe. But if being fit and cheerful means pushing yourself to succeed, does age matter?

Story of a first-time triathlete: Auntie Rose tells all is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

thefitwriter on BBC Radio 4

August 17, 2011

Hi all! Just a very quick one – remember when I was interviewed by the BBC about triathlon, whilst coaching open-water swimming down at Dorney?

The interview finally aired last night as part of BBC Radio 4’s World Tonight show. You can listen again here I believe. (Tuesday 16th August) I think it’s towards the end of the programme – I haven’t had a chance to listen yet myself!

Here’s the relevant section of the show

thefitwriter on BBC Radio 4 is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

Story of a first-time triathlete: my Auntie Rose tells all

July 20, 2011

Remember back in February, I told you how my Auntie Rose was about to embark on an adventure? Well, here we are just a few weeks away from her very first triathlon.

I thought it might interest some readers to hear exactly how she’s found training for her first triathlon. What’s been toughest, and easiest? What were the highest highs… and the lowest lows? What are her hopes for the race, and will she do another?

Over to Auntie Rose!

December 31st 2010. It seemed a really good idea to challenge myself physically in 2011. I’d reached my mid 50s and – as ever – was conscious of how my own mother had died at age 63. Because of that, I’ve always been determined to keep fit and active. My latest decision, however, promised to take my activities to a higher level.

What was my starting point prior to triathlon training?

Throughout 2010, my weekly activity had included two swims (usually a mile each time), a trip to the gym, a couple of games of tennis, a twice daily dog walk and the odd cycle. So, although I was far from a couch potato, I was not exercising seriously. Just enough to keep my weight stable and feel fit.

So, when challenged by my exercise buddy Clare to make 2011 the year that I entered a triathlon (something she – at four years my junior – has done twice in the past four years), my resistance weakened. I can swim, I can cycle, I have two strong legs and therefore should be able to run. So, why not, I thought!

We entered the Dextro Hyde Park Sprint Triathlon (London, 6th August 2011) and started to train.

What does the race involve?

First of all, there’s a 750m swim in the Hyde Park Serpentine (“piece of cake”), then a 22km cycle round Hyde Park (“pips”), then a 5km run. Ah, the 5km run. Now we have a problem!

The last time I tried to run was not pretty. Hampered by boobs that risk giving me black eyes, and a feeling that my brain rattles around inside my head when I start to jog, running is something to avoid. Suddenly, however, it became something I had to improve.

I contacted my niece Nic, an accomplished endurance swimmer and triathlete, to ask her for advice, and she came up trumps. One visit to her house later and I was armed with wetsuits to try on, triathlon tips galore, diet advice as well as a swimming session to tweak my stroke. I felt ready to roll.

My husband proved very enthusiastic and lent me his lovely Boardman bike to train on. The only snag was that our heights are massively different (his 6ft to my 5′ 5”). I realised that the frame was too big and my back was taking the strain. So we researched and I got my own Giant Defy road bike.

I’d never ridden drop handlebars before but after 10 seconds I felt at home. We are blessed with living on the edge of the Romney Marsh in Kent, and can leave our house and immediately be on flat country lanes. I built speed and endurance without having to climb hills. That said, we do have some killer hills which I added in to the mix, surprising myself with how much my riding has improved – and with how much I am enjoying it.

Two become five – triathlon trendsetters!

By the end of January, we two became five. Our friends Philippa (62), Nikki (59) and Sue (51) decided that, if we could do it, so could they!

All of us had our strengths and weaknesses. Sue could run forever, but wasn’t a swimmer. Phil was a strong swimmer and keen recreational cyclist, but not keen on running (plagued by a knee problem). Nikki was a spinning fiend, but couldn’t run well, and is scared of “things in the water”!

In late February, whilst on holiday in France, I embarked upon the challenge of beating my running phobia. To my horror, when I did start to jog on the beach, I could do no more that 30 paces before fighting for breath, my chest feeling as though I’d been sat on by a very large beast.

On my return to the UK, I saw my GP who confirmed that I was suffering from asthma.

Two inhalers later and clear instructions on how to improve my lung function, I set about building up the distance I could run.

Sue and Clare were very supportive and before too long I was notching up longer and longer treadmill sessions, and eventually realised I CAN do it. This culminated in my taking part in a 5km run last month – and managing to do the whole thing without a single wheeze!

We all did an open water workshop at Leybourne lake with Mike Russell and Giovanna Richards in late June (, and it was thoroughly excellent. I would advise anyone undertaking a triathlon to do such a course, as it serves to dispel myths, but also makes you realise how different swimming in open water is from a pool.

I am learning to cope better with the restriction of swimming in a wetsuit , (even appreciating how weeing in it warms you up) and can get out of it without falling over and wetting myself. Yes, I’m not proud, I did do that the first time I tried! Fortunately that was at a private pool!

We have been practising transitions, feeling like beached whales in our wetsuits, blundering out of the water and running around to find our bikes, then cycling for 30 minutes before parking our bikes and then running on jelly-like legs. This is hard work!

One month to go: course recce

On July 6th, we all did a recce of the Hyde Park Course (exactly a month before the day!) and frightened ourselves silly at what we saw: goose poo worthy of a Great Dane, algae, steep inclines on the cycle course (steep when compared with Romney Marsh anyway).

But we are now all really gearing up for what is likely to be the most challenging thing any of us have done in a long while. We are loving the camaraderie of sharing our training and loving seeing and sharing one another’s successes. We also love the endorphins that flow after a good run, cycle or swim.

Current training schedule

At the moment, our week consists of something every day for six days then a rest day. It has been a revelation to me that I can fit it in and run a business and a home, and still continue with singing in two choirs and play tennis. I just don’t often sit down. (“Or speak to my husband”, says my husband.)

Now all we have to do is put it all together on the day. Watch this space!

Thanks for letting us know how you’ve been getting on, Auntie Rose! I’ve been quietly watching your Facebook updates and helping out when I can. You have to let us know how you get on – will you do another guest post after the race?

Oh, and you never did answer my question about “will you do another triathlon”?

Please all wish Auntie Rose and her friends the very best of luck with her triathlon. She’s an inspiration to me and I’m so delighted she’s taken on this challenge – and risen to it so admirably. Joyce genes are tough stuff! 😉

Story of a first-time triathlete: Auntie Rose tells all is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

Coaching, cold water and the BBC

May 14, 2011

(I’ll wait to see if anyone Googles that exact combination of words!)

Phew, what a day. Lying in bed with my laptop on my knees and typing this is about all I can manage right now.

(Shortly after this was taken, clouds rolled in and wind picked up – brrrr!)

As long-time readers of the blog will remember, a few weekends a year I coach open-water swimming (I do this for triathlon coaching company in partnership with event organisers Human Race). Time rolls around quickly, and here we are at the start of the triathlon season again, so it was time for me to zip up my wetsuit, put on my coaching hat (it looks just like a swimming hat but contains top tips and handy hints) and step into that cold water.

And, maaan, was it cold. I mean, it actually was cold, but it felt even colder. Not surprising really since I’m probably sitting at anywhere between 5-10% less body fat now than I was last year. And, as any Channel swimmer knows, subcutaneous fat makes a big (gooood!) difference when it comes to feeling at home in cold water.

I was in a wetsuit, of course. A wetsuit which was so baggy the other coaches were laughing at me. Yes folks, heavy weight training will not make a woman bulky. The baggy wetsuit didn’t do much to protect me from the cold water. Brrr!

Despite the cold, it was a great day. I truly love coaching and feel it’s a real honour to take people through what is often their very first time in open-water. And I got to see my coaching buddies again, and chat with Bill Black, perhaps one of my favourite people in triathlon. (He always seems to find new ways to introduce us to our coachees: this year I was “that little fish…”)

Last year, I finished off my days coaching at Dorney with a 20+mile bike ride home, having also ridden there. Not this year (no such long cardio for me, certainly not with 7 weeks to go til my comp). Today had a rather unusual ending: being interviewed by the BBC! This is not something which happens to me frequently. Or, ever. But on Thursday I had a call from a nice young woman called Charlotte, a BBC news reporter who works for Radio 4. It seems the BBC are putting together a feature or series of features about the explosion in popularity of triathlon in this country. They found me online via this very blog, decided I’d be able to be vaguely useful to the feature and came along to interview me. Happily, I was decked out in triathlon kit, soaking wet from lake water and set against a backdrop of a supersprint race.

I don’t know where the clip will be used (Charlotte said it could be on Radio4, on TV and/or online) but as soon as I find out, I’ll let you know. I just hope I was useful to them – I was seriously so cold that I was having trouble speaking (you know when you want to say a word but your mouth won’t form the correct shape?!)

A few people have challenged me with the idea that bodybuilding is a vain sport, and others have suggested I’m vain for working towards a bodybuilding show. I can’t answer for the sport in its entirety, but I’m hoping my willingness to be filmed whilst wearing a wetsuit and woolly hat and without a scrap of makeup on my face (which is tinged blue and chapped from the wind) answers the second challenge. (And remember when I wrote that piece for the Observer book? My portrait photo for that one… yep, me in a swimming costume (!) standing in a lake. In April). Or perhaps bodybuilding allows me to indulge the small scrap of vanity I have left after Channel swimming and open-water triathlons have taken their toll?

Right, I must go. Richard of Richards TransRockies is here because he and my husband are doing some mega-long off road sportive tomorrow. And there’s Eurovision to watch. I hope you had a good Saturday. 🙂

Do you think bodybuilding is a vain pursuit? Do you think it’s possible to engage in a vain sport without being a vain person? Do you find that once you’ve typed “vain” several times you start to doubt that you’ve spelled it correctly?

Coaching, cold water and the BBC is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

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