Amy Gadd: How swim, bike, run helped my mental health


Swim, bike, run has had a huge impact on Amy Gadd since she came out as trans in her 30s, and Gadd has shared her story with British Triathlon as part of a wider discussion during LGBT+ History Month.

“I came out as trans in my 30s. I’d always been quite sporty, I used to swim when I was younger and I’d done martial arts for many years,” Gadd shared. “When I came out as trans, it was a really difficult time for me, worrying about how people would react and how it would affect my work.

“In the two or three years that followed, I didn’t engage with anything, I didn’t do any kind of sport, my mental health was not in a good place. So that’s the reason I took-up running to try and get myself out of that dark and difficult place mentally.

“It was hard at first, but I found I really loved it and I set myself a challenge of doing a half-marathon. I built up over time and completed the half-marathon. It really gave me a boost, it gave me something to aim for, a challenge and something I achieved.”

By this point, Gadd had also joined a cycling club following a recommendation from a friend and started to hear more about triathlon and combining her passion for bike and run with swimming, a sport she used to do.

“I was hearing more about triathlons, and I thought that combines some of the things I really enjoy doing as I used to love swimming when I was younger, so I thought I would give triathlon a go,” Gadd said.

“A few people at work were entering a triathlon and asked me if I wanted to come along with them so I signed-up having never done a triathlon before.

“On my first triathlon in York, I was on an old bike, and I was on the last lap of the bike stage and my seat fell off because the seat bolt had sheared off. So, I ended up having to cycle the last lap standing up”. However, that didn’t put Gadd off.

I didn’t do particularly well, but for me it was more about the taking part and I fell in love with it.

“Every time I did a couple of sprint triathlons, I then wanted to move onto the next so I would train a bit harder for the next one,” Gadd said. “After a few sprints I did a standard, the Olympic distance, in Leeds, again really loved that.

“It was something I got so into, I enjoyed all the running, swimming, and cycling I was doing. I’ve wanted to try and improve my ability at triathlons, but unfortunately, I’ve been plagued a bit by injuries over the last couple of years. I’m at the stage now where I’m starting to run again and build-up my strength and stamina so I can take part in a triathlon again this year, that’s my aim. My ambition is to do a half-Ironman, that’s where I want to get to.”

“I love the variety swim, bike, run gives and I love the fact that anyone can have a go. Having the different grades of triathlon, you can do from the GO TRI to super sprint to sprint to standard, it makes it a lot more accessible for having a first go, that is what encouraged me into it.

“The atmosphere at triathlon events is nothing I’ve experienced elsewhere. I have done lots of half-marathons, a marathon, and sportives on my bike and they’re nice atmospheres, but I find that everyone is really supportive, and the camaraderie is amazing at triathlons.”

Later this month, Gadd will be one of the panellists taking part in a discussion celebrating LGBT+ History Month which will be shared on British Triathlon’s digital platforms.

“I think it’s an important month of reflection,” Gadd commented. “It’s an important month to remind ourselves that there have been struggles and there still are struggles to make life more inclusive for LGBTQ people, particularly at the moment when Trans people in sport are often being unfairly questioned.

“We’re going through a difficult time as a trans community, we’re facing a lot of negativity through the press and the media, I think it’s a really good time to reflect and look at where we are now and how organisations and allies can support to make sport more inclusive, because sport should be there for everyone.”

Having experienced the benefits and enjoyment of swim, bike, run herself, Gadd has already encouraged more people to get involved.

“Getting involved in sport and taking part in triathlons, giving myself that challenge and overcoming my fears of taking part in a public event, I think it’s given me a lot of confidence,” Gadd reflected.

“Just to know that I can improve my health, I can improve my abilities, I can set myself challenges and I can achieve, that’s been really important.

“I’ve encouraged several friends to get involved in triathlons because that sense of achievement is amazing when you cross that finish line knowing that you’ve done all the hard work and you’ve got through it, but already you’re thinking of the next time and wanting to improve your time and get better. It gives you a massive boost, both mentally and physically.

“Being able to compete in triathlons has really helped me and made me feel part of something.”

Gadd will be one of the panellists taking part in a discussion celebrating LGBT+ History Month on British Triathlon’s digital platforms in March 2022. If you have a question you would like to ask Amy related to her experiences of swim, bike, run or LGBT+ History Month, questions can be submitted anonymously here.

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