Sport Spotlight: Triathlon Club in the Age of Lockdown
Triathlon Club Captain, Jess Clark, takes a look at how the club has been affected by COVID-19, their increase in membership, and the benefits of being part of a sport that cannot be locked-down.
In comparison to the big team sports, the triathlon club is smaller and quieter, but no less competitive and high-achieving. The club provides a unique team atmosphere for an individual sport, not just in competing at BUCS events, but even in everyday training. It is the friendships formed in training that allow us to improve as individual athletes. The element of three competing disciplines allows various individuals with different athletic backgrounds to come together, on top of attracting complete beginners simply looking for a way to get fit. So, how has COVID-19 impacted us?
Well, for starters, like every other competing athlete, training inside gyms and pools was one of the first things to stop during lockdown, but with the flexibility of three sports at our disposal, triathletes around the country became inventive with their training. EUTriC competed in virtual BUCS events hosted by the University of Birmingham, running our own circuits and cycling our own routes to accumulate university points over the first lockdown. It provided a sense of achievement in a time when care for both physical and mental health was incredibly important. It proved that sport and exercise kept many going in isolation.
Arguably, triathlon was one of the sports to benefit from the number of lockdowns experienced in the UK. All you really need to take part in triathlon is a set of trainers, a working bike, and perhaps a good set of goggles and you are good to go! The initial lockdown saw many dusting off their old bikes and getting out on the roads, and others dragging their trainers out from the back of their wardrobe. People started to find enjoyment in running as both a way of keeping fit and getting outside. EUTri therefore experienced one of our largest membership intakes during fresher’s week for a number of years. To have individuals completely new to the sport was not only amazing, but also showed triathlon to be one of the sports that could not be ‘locked down’. It also proved to many that the sports a triathlon consists of is not reserved for the athletic elite. People have found that they can jog after a cycle, and cycle after a swim. That’s the basic premise of a triathlon, and it is not always at the pace of the Olympians.
One thing that many have found unique about the club, not just at the university but as a sport in general, is the inclusivity and friendliness of the members. In principle, triathlon is an individual sport. It is down to the individual to build up their fitness levels, to focus on parts that are weak, and to get their own bodies from the start to the finish line. Because of this individual aspect, many believe the sport to be a lonely one, but that is so far from the truth. With a range of different athletic backgrounds, individuals share their experience and knowledge of the body with others. There is an unspoken understanding that people are working on themselves for themselves, and it is this aspect that brings people together and with it an element of respect and pride. This is one of the main reasons why the club train together – to share experiences and help each other work on themselves.
People decide to improve their physical fitness for different reasons, be it to change their appearance or to keep a healthy mindset. Regardless of the reasons, triathletes help each other out. The restrictions on training with others is the aspect of the club most affected by COVID-19. It isn’t the lack of gym equipment and facilities, it is this restriction of social interaction that is having the most impact on athletes. With the help of our amazing coach, we try to keep this element of socialisation by running online strength and turbo trainer sessions to keep people motivated by seeing others exercise. It’s not the same as meeting in person, but it is keeping people going.
By collaborating with other clubs at the university, such as EUCC, we ran inter-club competitions that people can complete individually but also count towards points. The increase of online presence through apps such as Strava also provides an element of social training, as people get competitive urges or simply feel motivated through the actions of others.
I, for one, desperately miss members of the club. Their spark and motivation are reasons I personally have been part of the club for three years. Thankfully, this hasn’t been cut off. Social media accounts allow us to keep in contact, sharing our lockdown experiences and ways of getting by. In this uncertain world, there is no point in criticising those above. Everyone is just doing their best with what they’ve got, and I’m lucky enough to be part of a sport where restrictions mean I just have to don the wetsuit and swim in nature’s own swimming pools rather than a heated one.
You can find the University of Exeter Triathlon Club on their social media: @EuTriClub