Discover the new programme from British Triathlon that is inclusive for all ages and abilities
British Triathlon’s new Swim Bike Run programme is the perfect way for people of all ages and abilities to get involved in the three disciplines that make up the sport. Here, Demi Aspey, a complete triathlon novice, talks you through her first ever Swim Bike Run experience.
They said it would be a breezy couple of days. That was until they announced the mini (whisper it) duathlon. Over a beautifully prepared lunch of crisp veggies and protein, my stomach did start doing a few flips at my lack of athleticism. But hey, I'm no quitter! (Or at least I thought).
First Encounter: The Mighty M-Check
Before riding a bike, you need to do an M-check (monitor your bike's fitness - who knew?). It's a big deal. Like when you're prepping for a Zoom call and do a quick mirror check to ensure there is no spinach between your teeth. Yeah, it’s that serious!
As a kid, I was an avid bike rider and even did a stint of city cycling in Chicago recently. Even then, it never crossed my mind to check the health of my bike until the chain was hanging off or worse, I was falling off.
Biking - where size does matter!
The journey started with a bike slightly too big for a 5-foot-tall me. Don't worry; it was still incredibly safe to ride. The trick was learning to handle a mountain bike instead of a road bike.
Seemed easy enough at first (you can tell I was already a bit too cocky!). Riding a mountain bike uphill though? Now, that's a different ball game. Before I knew it I gasped for breath thinking, "is everyone else on a hidden motor or something?"
Nope. It's just a whole new experience. These bikes are equipped to take on all kinds of terrain, so they can be a bit of a shock to the system at first. It’s always good to give yourself a trial run before exploring the great expanse, even if you're an experienced rider.
The Swim Bike Run Team taught us how to manoeuvre our bikes, change gears according to the stage of our ride and even practice looking over our shoulders without falling off!
While all of these elements seem simple, you’d be surprised how difficult they can be to remember, or to do safely when on the move.
Learning the Transitions
Okay, here’s a fun fact: transitioning between cycling and running isn’t as easy as switching from treadmill to Peloton! Thankfully, I got schooled on the ins and outs, and I'm not saying I've become a pro, but I've got the basics down, including when to mount your bike between cycling and running, and the all-important "helmet first" before even touching your bike to begin with!
I know, I know, helmets don’t look cool, but they are way cooler than the potential results of not wearing one in a hazardous situation.
Run Forest, Run! Let’s talk about running outdoors. It's different, it's challenging, and you don’t get to control the terrain setting like on a treadmill. Until last month, I felt quite accomplished with my treadmill sprints, feeling like I was at peak fitness. Who was I kidding?
I started our outdoor run with bravado, but didn't think to pace myself. We were encouraged to go at our own pace, not feeling pressured to keep up with anyone else. It was hard to let my competitive side simmer down, but I took the advice because little can be achieved when fighting for breath.
I was doing okay until the transition to bike again. My body’s response? A flat-out "no thank you."
So, I’ll admit I didn’t complete the course, but I did give it a go. And if you’d told me a couple of months ago that I’d even attempt a mini duathlon, I’d have spat my coffee out. A personal victory in any form, no matter how small, is still a victory!
Thank goodness for support!
The Swim, Bike, Run Team? Angels in athletic clothing. They guide, they support, and they motivate newbies like yours truly. I've been working on improving my fitness over the course of the last six months. Like many people, I have a very on/off relationship with the gym or finding enjoyable fitness activities.
Being outdoors, exploring new places and taking part in new challenges with others by my side was incredibly motivating. Frankly, no one would chuck themselves into a mini-duathlon out of the blue, but I love a challenge and trying new things.
Swim, Bike, Run is a welcoming way to engage with all three disciplines with no unnecessary "thlon" goals. It's just about embracing fitness in a way that suits you.
Clubs & Buddies: The way forward
Working on my fitness with a group? Sign me up! The motivation you get when everyone cheers you on (or secretly hopes you don't pass out), is unbeatable.
And yes, I've sometimes felt like Phoebe from Friends while running, but that's what makes it fun, right? Trying new things out alone in a gym is an instant source of anxiety to me, and while I wasn't as physically fit as I'd have loved to have been, I felt confident to give everything a go.
The Final Lap
This entire experience was an adrenaline-filled, heart-racing, utterly thrilling ride. Here's the thing, if I, a desk-dwelling writer, can gain pace in Swim Bike Run, so can you! And who knows? Maybe I'll train for a triathlon one day. A girl can dream.
A big shout out to Team Swim, Bike, Run! I came, I saw, and I... well, tried.
To learn more about Swim Bike Run, how you can get involved or even host your own Swim Bike Run session, visit: BritishTriathlon.org/SwimBikeRun.
Images courtesy of Demi Aspey and British Triathlon