In October 2019, following successful applications, Stafford Triathlon Club were awarded a ‘Women for Tri’ grant from the IRONMAN Foundation and a Staffordshire County Council community fund to encourage and support local women to get active through multisport.
The club are using the current lockdown to focus on aspects of training that are often forgotten in event season. The grant has funded a series of coached swimming sessions, as well as funding several bike maintenance workshops and cycling technique sessions.
These sessions took place before lockdown, encouraging participants to swim in a supportive environment alongside like-minded women, with the bike workshops giving confidence to over 20 participants, helping them fix punctures and manage unexpected incidents during rides.
The current lockdown may have halted some of the club’s progress with certain initiatives, however, they have adapted to the current crisis, hosting online coaching sessions that focus on strength and conditioning as well as mental wellbeing.
The club’s women’s ambassador, Catherine East, said: “We set up a support group with external coach Sarah Paskin and gave the group weekly challenges to do, just simple things that keep us active, like doing ten squats every time we go to the toilet.”
As many club members are now working from home, it can be difficult to train in the same capacity and the new club sessions aim to help with this transition.
East said: “It’s very easy for life to get in the way, so we’re using this as an opportunity to go back to basics, take a step back, and assess what’s important.”
With many of the goals for the year being events that are now postponed or cancelled, it’s important for members to establish new goals and many of them are now focusing their attention on different parts of training.
“For us, what’s really important is changing people’s mindset,” East commented. “Making sure that people know that not only can we still stay fit, but we can come out stronger. We’ve really shifted focus onto ourselves and our personal wellbeing.”
The support from the club has had a profound impact on member Maxine, saying: “I started triathlon training to help with depression and anxiety. I met a wonderful group of ladies who have been so supportive.”
Maxine struggled with the lifestyle change that lockdown had brought, saying: “Overnight, my crutch, the training sessions with the ladies, were gone and a double whammy, my events which I’ve trained so hard for, cancelled too. I found it hard to cope with.”
“Then the Stafford Tri ladies’ group, with coach Sarah, came to the rescue with wonderful online sessions and challenges that I can actually fit in around my three children and work during isolation. It’s been a lifesaver.”
The club have also hosted sessions that focus on menopause and the menstrual cycle and training. East said: “These are the kind of things that we don’t normally talk about and are often neglected because of a busy race season.”
“There are times when women feel pain or discomfort when training and just brush it off but having whole group sessions helps people share their experience.”
These sessions have allowed for the women to take a step back and understand their bodies and how to adapt their training to suit their personal situations.
Club member, Susan, said: “I was very privileged to be able to attend the recent meeting about food, exercise and the menopause. Although I haven’t yet reached that stage in my life, I feel like I am now aware of the many symptoms and how I can manage them.
East believes the social aspect of the sessions to be just as important as staying physically fit, saying: “It’s been really helpful and it’s so important to keep people engaged and pick people up through chatting, through encouragement and support.”
One member, Gemma, lives alone and the support of the club has been invaluable, saying:
“I really can’t explain how this group has helped me both physically, getting active again, but also mentally keeping me connected. I honestly believe I will come out of this current situation fitter and better mentally than when isolation began.”
It’s clear that the sessions have been a hit with the ladies in the club and they show no sign of slowing.
“It’s really nice, after a few weeks of not seeing anybody, to be able to see people on the screen and give virtual hugs,” East said. “It’s so important that we stay well and be there for each other”.