Overcoming the Most Common Triathlon Fears with Jodie Swallow-Cunnama

It’s no secret that choosing to participate in a triathlon is a major undertaking. From the long hours of training to the unpredictable weather, there are a number of factors that keep people from signing up for their first race.

To help combat some of the most common fears associated with the sport, we’ve enlisted the help of Olympian, IRONMAN 70.3 World Champion and ITU Long Distance Triathlon World Champion Jodie Swallow Cunnama. Read on below for her take on how to overcome your nerves and tackle your first tri.

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the World 70.3 Champs are coming to South Africa and it is a BIG deal. It was always a huge target for me to get back to racing and qualify for the pro race after Jack's birth but injury has made it unrealistic. @jamescunnama is in though and will be racing and it will be spectacular to show off our corner of the World to the all comers searching World Champ glory on September 1/2 We love where we live for all its culture, it's vibrancy, it's quirks and most of all it's natural beauty #tia This Is Africa and it is awesome ? #IM703WCNelsonmandelabay #lovenelsonmandelabay #alifeinsport #womeninsport #ifollowtheswallow #cunnamacomeback #cunnamacoaching #triathletes #athleticmummas #bahrainendurance13 #TYRSport #cervelo #fe226 #beiron #irideENVE #schwalbetyres #rotor #ceramicspeed

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Fear: The Open Water

Jodie’s take:  Open water can feel daunting, even for a part-time fish like me. There are many different reasons why you may fear diving into the deep blue. For some it’s the invisibility of the water and the unknown sea life, while for others it’s the lack of pool walls. In these situations it is best to keep task oriented. Focus on buoy-to-buoy swimming, and don’t let your imagination get the better of you. If you can concentrate on a small set or your stroke cadence you will divert your attention long enough to avoid obsessing over the uncontrollables. Then before you know it, you’re onto the bike!

Fear: The Elements

Jodie’s take: For many triathletes a closeness to nature is one of this sport’s greatest appeals. Moving through open water and mountainous terrain can feel very primal, much like an adventure sport. If you’re an adrenaline junky, this is a total win. However, for the more measured athlete or pool swimmer, the open elements can seem both hazardous and uncomfortable. From unpredictable rain to choppy waves caused by wind, the challenging irregularity of the elements is at the heart of this sport.

With that said, it is important to remember that races are never held in unsafe or un-swimmable conditions. Safety precautions are taken very seriously, and there are always resources available for athletes throughout the course.  Let this fact be a comfort when heading out for your first race. 

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and just like that …I enter a race ! ….excited #EzRepost @bahrainendurance13 with @repostigapp ? #Cunnamacomeback update. . @jodiestar has been back in the pool and on her bike for months now but still working through a sciatic issue. . Good news ? she has started running again after some tough treatment. . It has been a really hard road back, but we’re in awe of this lady for her resilience and commitment to return. ?? . We’re hoping to see her back soon. ✨ . . #BahrainEndurance13 #BE13strong #Protriathlonteam #Champions #Endurance #Triathlon #Ironman #swimbikerun #TriLife #Lifestyle #Pathways #Gold_Only #Leaders #Bahrain #BurningforKona ?#WTS #TriMixedRelay #TripleCrown

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Fear: The “Pack”

Jodie’s take: While pool swimmers are used to having their own lane to train and swim in, triathlons are designed much differently. With thousands of people moving with no particular form of separation, the result can be very unfamiliar. At the start of the race movement is often tight and hectic, and although everyone is moving in the same direction there are usually swimmers of every level.

Don’t tap out just yet, though! By thinking strategically, you can find your own space in even the most hectic of races. To start, remain realistic about your personal speed. The more you train, the more comfortable you will be with your movement. Practicing swimming in a straight line is also a great guide to get you going. The more confident you are in your swim ability the less other peoples’ presence will bother you – a knock or a kick can easily be accelerated away from. Eventually, swimming with others will make you faster. Like a pod of dolphins, there is security and speed in group swimming. It takes some experience to come to grips with, but soon you will be craving company and competition around you.

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empty pool ! careful what you wish for …I hate swimming on my own and since 6.30am is Jack's wake up time I miss out on my perfect @matiesswimming swim squad morning. I join them as much as I can in the afternoons but inevitably I end up swimming alone lots more. when I do have to swim alone I don't swim more than 5km and I add in loads of multi strokes to break up the boredom …there is no need to trudge in the pool and any reps over 400m or all freestyle sets make me trudge. today main set was 10 x 100 f/s on 1.20, 20 x 100 on 1.30 as 5 with 25 fly/ 5 with 25 back/5 with 25 fly /5 with 25 back and swam 5km in total multi strokes teach or remind us how to use the water in balancing, in rolling and in rythym. just ask some young swimmers to do 10 x 400 and watch their faces sink with boredom – that's who I am and where I come from ! #TYRSport #bahrainendurance13 #cunnamacoaching #alifeinsport #athleticmummas

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Fear: The Gear

Jodie’s take: One attraction of the sport of triathlon is the variety it provides athletes.  With three distinct disciplines triathletes can not only balance their training regimen but also find a variety of areas to excel in.  For swimmers & runners, the big addition in triathlon is not the training itself. After all, most athletes already have great discipline. Instead, it is the preparation and maintenance of equipment that feels foreign. So when it comes to gear, just take things slow. You know all the nouns that you need to race already – wetsuit, race suit, bike, shoes.  No bike or wheel-set can take the place of a well-trained body or steely determination. So, invest in additional equipment when and if you decide to get more serious.  

Fear: The Distance

Jodie’s take: Triathlon is an endurance event – even an Olympic distance race typically lasts over two hours.  That can seem really long to an athlete used to classifying endurance events as four minutes long (400m in the pool, 1500m on the track).  While there is some carry-through of fatigue over the disciplines, it is not as significant as you may think.  If you can complete each segment individually, it is probable you will be successful at combining them in a race. Concentrate on each discipline separately and don’t think too far ahead of yourself.  If you can focus on executing the moment perfectly, the minutes will string together into hours and the finish line will creep up quickly.

Fear: The Body

Jodie’s take: Triathlon really is an all-inclusive sport that celebrates different physiques and skills.  In addition, the mental challenge it presents to participants helps to attract a broad range of personality types and backgrounds. Embracing your body shape and celebrating the joy of a healthy body is what triathlon is all about.  So, have faith in yourself and remember to just have fun. 

Plus, triathlon is an arena that enthusiastically celebrates female participation, and that’s an awesome thing! 

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Thank you @austrimag for publishing the best tri mag out there and shining the light on women in triathlon in your PINK editions. #tyrsport #BahrainEndurance13 #womeninsport #Repost @austrimag with @repostapp ・・・ We are so proud to produce the ONLY fully dedicated women's triathlon mag – The PINK Edition. Number 12 is about to hit shelves next week featuring the amazing @jodiestar on the cover. Jodie opens up about her long time struggle with Bulimia in the earlier stages of her career & life on the other side. Last weekend Jodie married her main man @jamescunnama so it's fitting we share this beauty with you all today. Stunning cover [email protected] Grab a copy on newsstands from the 13th Dec or at our website NOW!

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