Mental Health & Triathlon
Experts say we all have the potential to develop mental health problems, no matter how old we are, whether we are male or female, rich or poor, which ethnic group we belong to, or how physically fit we are. Despite the fact that we train a lot and exercise is good for the mind as well the body, Triathletes are not immune to mental health issues. We have members who have their own challenges and as a club we are keen to support our members, encourage participation and teamwork like any family should.
Below is an account written by a member of Derby Triathlon Club about their own mental health issues and the help this club, and sport in general, has provided.
“I’ve suffered with anxiety and depression for most of my life and for a long time without really knowing what it was, as there was no real awareness of mental health problems like there is today. I lacked confidence in social situations so avoided them and often felt pretty low.
Throughout most of my teens a lot of these issues were masked by playing sport, mainly football and I was good at it, so people would tell me, but even on the football pitch I lacked confidence at times and being a centre-forward this really didn’t help. Taking a penalty for example was an unpleasant experience and was easily overwhelmed by anxiety. Into my late teens and up to my mid-twenties it was football along with alcohol masking my issues. Though never excessive, drinking caused the anxiety and lack of confidence to fade so I did it more often, pretty much every weekend.
In my mid to late 20s I stopped playing football and stopped going out drinking as often due to starting a family and my priorities changed, but I still wasn’t taking care of myself properly and having no sport in my life things became more of a struggle.
Several years later I was diagnosed for the first time with anxiety and depression and following my first-time having CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) I slowly got back into sport. Massively overweight, out of shape and recovering from 2 slipped discs I firstly took up cycling (mountain biking initially before road cycling). Then a few years later I decided to start running as well, which in truth I hated at first, but like most people I eventually got the bug and started enjoying it. A lot.
In 2014 I watched a triathlon event whilst on holiday and it was almost life-changing. I’d never really had much of an interest in triathlon before this, but it was great to watch. Unfortunately I convinced myself I could never do a triathlon because I can’t swim, and swimming in the sea…..NO WAY…..the confidence thing once again…
In 2015 I went to the same place on holiday and watched the same event, but this time was different. My running was a lot better by now and so was my cycling, so I decided to go to the local leisure centre and try some swimming. It was awful… Really, really awful. I could barely swim 1 length of a 25m pool doing a mix of breast stroke and doggy paddle, but I didn’t give up and I went twice more whilst on holiday. Once I returned home from holiday, I joined my local leisure centre and decided to teach myself to swim front crawl/freestyle. I was determined to give triathlon a go at the age of 40! I went swimming 3 or 4 times a week from September to March 2016, I learned by watching other people and watching swimming videos online, slowly improving my technique and breathing. It wasn’t pretty but there was progress.
It was at the end of March 2016 when I was persuaded to join Derby Triathlon Club by a good friend, and that’s when I really started improving. I’d never have joined the club on my own because meeting loads of new people would have scared me, but as it turned out I really had nothing to fear.
The warm and welcoming feeling from people in the club was apparent right away and always has been since. The club has given me so much, it is like having a very large family. I’ve since gone on to complete triathlons at every distance, including a full Ironman, but without the unconditional support of this club and its members and getting help when I struggled the most with my issues, I wouldn’t be able to say any of this and I’m in a much better place now.”
As a club we’re very much aware of how mental health can affect so many people, but also how exercise can play a part in healing. If you are struggling with any mental health issue, please reach out to anyone in this club, we will do our very best to help you, but it’s important to seek professional help too. Also, try and speak to immediate family and close friends if you can. Never feel you have to suffer alone.
Please take a look at some of the many resources available out there, including some interesting articles or blogs that specifically look at mental health & triathlon.
Please note: The links below are not controlled by Derby Triathlon Club, but please Contact Us if any of the links are broken.