24th May 2016

FREYA RODGERS

 
 

My training’s going well: so this month I decided to buy some kit, get into an outdoor pool, and try a brick session.

Kit to fit
I’m larger than many women triathletes and, after browsing online, I realised I’d need some expert advice to find a trisuit and wetsuit to fit me. Luckily I found just that expertise at the 220 Triathlon Show and, after getting some tips from Ian, managed to get into and out of both a trisuit and a wetsuit. He even persuaded me to buy some mirrored googles so I’d ‘look the part’. I left the show clutching my new purchases, relieved I’d found kit to fit. Now I need to try it out in open water…

At the lido
My swim training has so far been in indoor pools. And I’ve been thinking about the open water swim for a while. I eventually plucked up courage and joined my local lido to start getting used to swimming outdoors. My first swim there was awful. I couldn’t get into a rhythm and struggled to swim one length. I started to worry all the training I’d done had left me and I’d never be ready. Then a friend pointed out the outdoor pool was 50m – twice the length I’d been swimming in the indoor pool and suddenly it made sense why I’d had such a bad session! My next dip in the pool went much better and I’ve continued to increase the distance I can swim without stopping. And I now know I can swim 800m, but I still want to try an open water swim before the triathlon. And I’ve discovered I prefer it to swimming indoors. Which is good news because as part of Freyathlon I’ll be doing a 10k marathon swim!

Bricking it
I can run 5km, cycle 20km and even swim 800m. I’m not particularly fast at any of them but knowing I can do each one has given me a real boost. 
And so I decided to find out what it’s like doing one after the other – welcome to brick sessions!

One Monday morning I left my trainers just inside the front door and cycled 12km to work. When I got home that evening, I changed my shoes and headed out to the local park.

I’d read about jelly legs but my legs felt heavy and almost seemed to have forgotten how to work. It reminded me of when I finished chemotherapy and had no strength to walk to the end of the street.

Before I’d even got to the park I’d had to stop trotting (the best description of how my legs were moving) and start walking. At the park gates I started trotting again and, as I continued past the children’s playground, I noticed how busy the park was – the warm weather had brought everyone to the park. As I trotted on round the park I was lapped by a few runners and wanted to explain to anyone who looked in my direction: ‘I’ve just cycled 12km, now I’m trying to run.’

I struck a deal with myself: if I could complete one loop of the park that would be enough for my first brick session. I managed it: 12km cycle, 10min run.

When I shared my first experience of a brick session on Twitter, my friend Adele (an experienced triathlete) told me what I’d done was about right for where I am in my training programme.

Now I just have to keep doing it and practice the swim/cycle brick session.

If you want to follow my progress and find out which Olympic sports I’ve completed, please take a look at my Freyathlon blog or follow me on Twitter or Facebook. And if you’d like to support me and help support people affected by cancer, please visit my fundraising page 

27th April 2016

I’ve been talking to a few people about triathlon training and everyone’s said the same thing: focus on the weakest element. For me, that’s swimming.

I learned to swim at primary school. Once a fortnight my primary school class would get on a bus with our bright orange swimming bags and travel six miles to the nearest swimming pool. I felt clumsy and awkward in my swimming costume and hated putting my head underwater. Somehow I managed to learn backstroke and breaststroke. And that’s been good enough for me for years.

Lessons
The first time I thought about getting some adult swimming classes was when I was living in Australia. But, in a country where everyone seemed to swim beautifully and effortlessly, I was embarrassed to admit I couldn’t and kept finding excuses not to do anything about my lack of swimming skills.

The second time I thought about adult swimming classes I did something about it. I booked myself on a course, which I was halfway through when I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Some people are able to exercise during treatment. I wasn’t. I had a PICC line in my arm and spent my time either in a hospital bed or on the sofa at home. The last thing I felt like doing was exercising and my consultant didn’t want me to go to any public places because of the risk of infection. So that was that.

The third time I thought about swimming lessons was when I started Freyathlon – my personal challenge to have a go at every Olympic sport open to women at Rio2016. I completed the breaststroke and backstroke (both 100m and 200m) without much trouble but had no idea how I’d manage the front crawl and butterfly – the individual and team events, and the 10k swim, and the triathlon.

Competition
I watched a few videos online, read a few books, splashed around in the pool trying to remember what I’d been taught a few years earlier. It wasn’t working and I knew I needed help. I entered a competition to win some swimming lessons and entered the A J Bell London Triathlon to give me a goal. I won the competition and was lucky enough to get Michael as my swimming instructor. He watched me thrashing around in the pool and suggested I slow down my pace, he gave me a float and some kicking drills to get my legs higher in the water. He showed me how to extend my arm to get a good reach in the water. He told me to rest my head on my shoulder to take a breath. If you can already swim front crawl it probably sounds obvious but to me each suggestion was a revelation and things slowly started to fall into place.

Swimathon
At the beginning of this year I couldn’t swim a stroke of front crawl. In February, I swam 50m for the first time. In March, I joined three other novice swimmers to attempt to swim, together with our swimming instructors, 100 laps. I swam 12 laps – mostly front crawl. That’s 300m, almost half what I’ll need to swim in August.

"I can do it. "

If you want to follow my progress and find out which Olympic sports I’ve completed, please take a look at my Freyathlon blog or follow me on Twitter or Facebook.

And if you’d like to support me and help support people affected by cancer, please visit my fundraising page 

3rd March 2016

“I’ve beaten cancer. Now for triathlon.”

The AJ Bell London Triathlon will be my first ever triathlon. And I’m a little bit excited and a little bit nervous!

I decided to do the sprint distance because I love a challenge and it’ll be part of a bigger sporting challenge I’ve set for myself!

During Women’s Sport Week 2015 a lot of people were talking and writing about some barriers faced by women participating in sport, and I realised how much my life had changed when I was, and wasn’t, able to be active.

DIAGNOSIS

When I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2012, my world grew small and travel was mainly between home and hospital for tests, procedures, and appointments. And when I began chemotherapy, delivered as a hospital inpatient in an isolation room, my world became even smaller. In less than a month I went from cycling to and from work every day to lying in a hospital bed for days on end, trying to find enough concentration to watch TV series on my laptop, and relying on visitors for news of the outside world.

REMISSION

I had six months of grueling and exhausting chemotherapy and moved into remission, which is where I still am. You might think that would be a time to celebrate but anyone who’s been through cancer treatment will tell you reaching that point is like falling off a cliff. You finish treatment and it’s up to you to put your life back together – when your motivation and energy levels are low, your place in the world has changed, and the dark thoughts you’ve managed to contain for months burst through with a vengeance.

The discovery I couldn’t walk upstairs without sitting down on the top step to catch my breath was brutal. I decided my priority had to be rebuilding my health and fitness. I started by walking to the end of the street, gradually increasing the distance until I could walk to my local café then take a trip around the park. After a few months, I felt able to think about getting back on my bike but my confidence had been shaken so I joined a spin studio to make sure I had the strength and stamina to cycle back home once I did get my bike out of the shed.


One year after diagnosis and six months after finishing treatment I cycled 52 miles to raise money for Bloodwise. In May 2015 I paddled 35kms in Venice and two years after finishing treatment I took part in my first 10k run.

FREYATHLON

And then there was Freyathlon – my sporting challenge conceived during Women’s Sport Week 2015.

In Freyathlon I’ll be trying my hand at every sport open to women at the Olympics in Rio. That’s 41 sporting categories and more than 100 events, individual and team, to complete before the Olympics Closing Ceremony in August 2016. The only sport I won’t be attempting is Greco-Roman wrestling and I think we can all be grateful for that!

I’m not particularly fast but I know I can run and cycle so my training programme for the London Tri is focused on improving my swimming. At the beginning of 2016 I couldn’t swim a stroke of front crawl but, thanks to the support of my local leisure centre, I’ve learned the technique and I’m trying to get to the pool two or three times a week to practice and to improve my stamina.

If you want to follow my progress and find out which Olympic sports I’ve completed, please take a look at my Freyathlon blog or follow me on Twitter or Facebook. And please say hello if you spot me at the London Tri this August!


Wednesday 27th April - Update