Women find confidence and camaraderie through training program
Delray Beach, FL is heating up — and it’s not just because it’s in the sunshine state. Home to the Boca Raton Triathletes — one of only 27 clubs nationwide to receive a grant from IRONMAN’s Women For Tri, the club has set out to increase women’s involvement in triathlons.
“Fear of the unknown is the biggest factor when it comes to women and triathlon,” explains 48-year-old club member June Kobayashi. “When women think of triathlon, most think that means doing an IRONMAN which is a daunting endeavor. While it can be a grueling experience, it’s not really about the race. It’s about self discovery.” Kobayashi breaks the training down to smaller, more manageable questions. “Can I swim? No. Then why don’t I try to learn? Can I ride a bike? Maybe, but I haven’t done it since I was a child. Wasn’t it fun then? Yes, then try it again. And the run? Well if you can’t do that, you can walk.”
This systematic approach to multisport has helped Kobayashi and the club design “So you want to do a Tri” a six-month training program tailored to the needs of-first time female triathletes. While the program features clinics on multisport basics like race distances, nutrition and injury prevention, it’s managed in real-time to adapt to the specific needs of the group. “We’ve made some adjustments based on the unique abilities within our group, and the need to balance our efforts around everyone’s commitments,” explains Kobayashi. The latter is a testament to one of the toughest things women face in triathlon training: that of work/life balance. “The ability to be flexible with your mind and accept what comes your way is one of the best pieces of advice for triathletes. Just be prepared like only a mom can be!” Kobayashi states.
For some women, triathlon seems too big to approach because of its association with marquee events like IRONMAN. “Looking at triathlon as an outsider, it appears very intimidating because many folks are IRONMAN-level athletes and you tend to forget that they had to start somewhere,” 35-year-old Leigh Kamens says.
The Colorado native is a new member to the Boca Raton Triathletes, joining just a year ago as a self-proclaimed runner. “I did all three sports, but never in combination. I didn’t consider myself a triathlete yet. After moving to Florida, I wanted more variety in my exercise routine, but it was only with the introduction of the Women For Tri initiative that I had the motivation to step out and commit to participating in this new event.”
For her, being part of the Boca Raton Triathletes has given her a new perspective on triathlon, one where intimidation has been replaced by curiosity to soak up the many valuable tips now at her disposal. “You realize that everyone started at the same point…unsure of what to do, where to go, or what resources are required to do this. There’s a community of folks who have been in your shoes and are excited about helping you figure it out. One thing I’ve learned is that each triathlete wants there to be more triathletes! It’s not a sport restricted for a select few.” In fact, it’s a sport that Kobayashi believes can enrich anyone’s life. “I work with a woman who is a veteran with PTSD, and another who is in her 50s and has always wanted to learn to swim.” Both women are participating in the “So you want to Tri” program.
Club president Kristy Breslaw prides her group on making new triathletes feel welcome and successful. “We offer a variety of groups for athletes on all levels, we have monthly social events, and we have new member ambassadors that people can contact with any questions. I think our open, fun and social atmosphere is what people love best about our club.”
The connectedness between women reaching out for the same new goal at the same time makes anything seem possible. “This program has taught me to be comfortable in admitting that I have questions, and that I’m unsure about what’s required and that it’s okay to turn to other people as resources,” Kamens admits. “I had basically talked myself out of the possibility of ever doing a triathlon because I didn’t think I’d have the resources to train and be successful. These feelings have changed since joining the program and seeing the variety of women that are interested. It no longer seems like a huge challenge.”
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