— By Nancy Hastings, head coach of Tri Chicks and Mommys and Babes in Motion
It has been 18 years now since I took that first, scary step — trying my first triathlon race. I really would not have made that first step to “try” without the nudge from a woman I met at the gym.
I went into the sport not knowing what triathlon was all about, so I was like a sponge — every bit of knowledge I gained and learned from experienced triathletes was exciting and I wanted to absorb it all. It was at times overwhelming. What do I wear for training and racing? What do I eat before and after a workout or race? What equipment do I absolutely need?
Being on a budget, I sought used equipment. Since triathlon has proven to me over time to be such a welcoming community, I was fortunate to find many people who helped me out in this department. My first bike was donated from a friend who used old bike pieces to make a bike; my first wetsuit was filled with rips and holes but, I thought I was really the coolest cat to be wearing a real triathlon wetsuit.
My positive experience coming into sport inspired me to get more ladies involved. As I sat on my spin bike at class one day, I looked around the room and thought it would be great to encourage other women to join me on my triathlon journey and try something new. When approached, some were apprehensive and questioned their abilities.
I have since become an NCCP-certified triathlon coach and have successfully founded three triathlon teams based in the Greater Toronto Area. Two of these are women’s only teams that encourage female athletes of all ages, abilities, shapes and sizes to come out and use triathlon as a way to build new friendships, gain courage and leave their comfort zones. It’s my passion and priority to provide proper guidance and design a program specific to the demands of the everyday woman. Everyone’s goals in the sport are different. Training sometimes needs to come after family demands, work schedules, kids’ sports schedules, but still needs to give the athlete a chance to see improvement and reach their race goals.
Since the launch of TriChicks and Mommys and Babes in Motion, I have seen some incredible transformations. Word has spread, our team keeps growing and we spread the love in our community to encourage other women to share this experience. Go to any race in Ontario and I can assure you a group of women, called TriChicks are cheering for you!
These women’s only teams have proven to be a safe and welcoming environment for women who are intrigued by the sport, want to try it out but are intimidated by the heavy demands of long course racing and need a beginner-friendly approach as they get started.
I believe our sport can become more inclusive for women with more of these types of programs. I see these courageous women standing taller, smiling more, developing self-confidence and feeling the security of having a place to train with support and without being judged. The sense of accomplishment on the face of a woman of any age when they finish their first triathlon, first long swim, first tough bike climb, first long run is so inspiring.
Nancy Hastings is a NCCP Certified Triathlon/Cycling Coach and Life Coach Practitioner in the Burlington, Oakville and Hamilton area