Pete Vasey – ETC Chairman
Triathlon can really be a life changer, quite how it changes your life is very personal and up to you and your goals in life. I have seen a number of people join the club over the last couple of years and have watched with interest as they have changed both physically and mentally. It is not about being body conscious, it is not about how you look, it is about feeling better in yourself and about yourself.
Why did I take up triathlon? Basically I was fat and unfit. I had put on a lot of weight, in fairness it didn’t seem to ever register how big I was getting, even though trouser sizes were getting larger and larger. It is only when I look back at photos do I see how large I was; I have no real recollection of being that fat. (In our house we eat largely fresh, well balanced and home cooked food with very little processed food, my main issue is that I simply eat way too much of it.) I had a largely sedentary job and was either sat at work or sat in the car. Bev encouraged me to get a bike and to get riding to try and shift some of the bulk. I enjoyed the biking but didn’t shift that much weight. I had completed sportives and 100mile rides, but if I wanted to get better I had to either go faster or go longer, and when riding on my own, neither really appealed. I had been Moto Marshal for a good number of triathlon events and thought about giving it a go, that is when I joined the club.
Health Benefits – It was only when I joined the club that things really started to change for me. I discovered that not only was I fat, but I could not run or swim! I recall struggling to do my first run of 2.5km as a walk/run combo and coming along to a Tuesday night and having to take breaks on a 25m length. The support that came from the club and coaches in those early days was invaluable and it is something I will never forget. The support came from all angles and everyone was free in sharing experiences and advice, and now I can do middle distance races and I take great pride in that accomplishment. It is only when you take time to look back that you really realise just how far you have come. I would urge everyone to do that once in a while. I am not the best athlete but I enjoy training, races and the positive environment that comes from it as a result. I used to be out of breath walking up stairs. For me the real changes and weight loss came when I took on multiple disciplines. I now have more than enough energy to play with my son, I’m not fat dad any more. At my worst I was about 17.5 stone, I am now back to 13.
Mental Benefits – Now this is an interesting one. I would say, and I think Bev would agree, that I have become a far more positive person. I have reached a point that many talk of, where ‘not training’ is a genuine reason for being crabby and grumpy. I am more likely now than ever to stop working for an hour, head out the door and fit in a run. This has made me far more productive at both home and work. I feel more alert and more alive than in a long time. My biggest competition is me and only me. It is me I am pushing, I am not competing against others, and with races come medals, PBs, distance increases and those bring a real boost to morale. This positivity and morale boost does have a down side to it. There is an old joke How do you know if you are talking to a triathlete? – they’ll tell you! It’s true, it is difficult not to share with others what you were doing at the weekend, what lake you were in, how far you rode or what run you completed. I don’t think that it is something to be ashamed of… it may just need tempering occasionally.
Other Benefits – One of the side benefits that comes from all this is that Ben (my lad) now sees this lifestyle as normal. When asked ‘are you going to win daddy?’ a simple smile, laugh and a ‘nope’ has inadvertently set a level of expectation that just taking part and coming away with a PB is good enough for me. The competitive streak he sees is a personal one, and I am happy with that. He is growing up being around people who push themselves to be ‘better’, there are of course a few who are at the top of their game and age group, and that is lovely for him to see too but he is starting to understand the benefit of personal achievements too. He loves it when he sees an ETC member and friend on a podium, with a trophy or getting a gong at the end of the race. I am delighted that he is seeing that kind of positivity in physical activity.
I am happy, fitter than I have been since I was in my teens. For me triathlon has been a fantastically positive experience and one I hope will continue for many, many years to come. Accept help and advice, talk to coaches and make sure you have fun.