Natalie Johnson


Balancing Triathlon Training with Being a MumOne of the questions we frequently hear at Trigirl is, ‘How can I train for triathlon with kids?’ The issues that anyone training for triathlon faces, where to find the time, the energy, the commitment, are certainly compounded by school runs, kid’s activities, let alone a full-time job… it’s easy to understand why the idea of training for not one, but three sports, is a little daunting!

Statistics show that the 35-44 age group is one of the fastest growing in triathlon, perhaps partly because of more mums and dads getting back into fitness (or deciding to finally get fit)  after having children. There are clearly parents out there finding the time and the commitment, but how?

In our latest Trigirl video, Coach Kristin chats with Trigirl ambassador, Natalie Johnson, and asks how she manages training for her latest challenge- a middle-distance triathlon- with three young daughters. According to Natalie, one of the things she’s had to give up is sleep. A self-confessed ‘not a morning person’, Natalie has found one of the best ways to fit in training time is in the morning before her girls are up.

Of course, Natalie is not the only one finding that the time issue is one of the biggest challenges when it comes to training for triathlon with kids. On her blog site, Mama Sweat, Kara Thom admits to ‘hyper-scheduling’ when training, and even then, she finds that life sometimes just gets in the way. When it does, the best thing is not to try to make up for missed workouts, but to recommit to your training plan and move on.

And Natalie is finding that her training is motivational for her girls, who are learning the values of exercise and a healthy body image, worth more to Natalie than sleeping in!

For more on Natalie balancing triathlon training, check out the video. Her answers may inspire you, even if you’re not a mum!

What’s your biggest triathlon fear?

triathlon fear of being lastI’ll take a guess that it isn’t getting a puncture. That doesn’t really enter your head. I bet it isn’t getting stuck in your wetsuit or falling off your bike on a tight turn, either? I’m sure for most people the real fear of triathlon, certainly if – like me – it is your first season, or if – like me – you aren’t a strong swimmer, the fear is that open water swim. The cold water. The dirty water. The mass start. And the gnawing fear that you know isn’t really likely to happen, but might do (because said fear is beginning to consume you!) the fear of being last out of the lake. It’s a big one. And it happened to me this weekend.

I’ve competed in two triathlons this (my first) season, the Eton Dorney SuperSprint and Blenheim Palace Sprint tri. Next week I’m competing in the Hever Castle Olympic distance tri. Slightly ambitious you might think? Very, I now realise.

Natalie without race support crowdHusband and I, plus two friends, entered the 2013 Blenheim Palace Triathlon, for a dare.  You may think this unremarkable; however I was a renowned couch potato and he hated running. We began to exercise, but as spring crept closer, we realised that we were going to have to practice doing a triathlon. Before the proper triathlon, if you see what I mean.

We entered the Human Race Super Sprint at Eton Dorney, simply to find out what it was going to be like. (And if I would drown in the lake).  Olympic venue, too – exciting.  Standing where the greats stood etc etc. That would be inspiring, I  thought.  Plus, I simply wasn’t prepared to panic or suffer overwhelm at Blenheim.  To practice properly I decided that no parents or children were allowed; we (husband and I) just wanted to get a feel for it and see how it all worked.

swimming in a lake
Soon enough the lake swim comes to all novice and aspiring triathletes. I’d avoided it for months. I left it as late as I possibly could: just one week before my first triathlon. If I could have left it until the day before I would have, truth be told.

I was terrified. I was terrified for many reasons, one being my struggles with swimming – in a pool. I did not have the confidence to head out of the relative safety (and warmth) of a pool to attempt to swim in a lake. Every pool swim, or delayed swim confounded my panicky preconceptions of how damn awful it would be. And of what a rubbish swimmer I am.

be prepared for triathlonLet’s talk about being prepared for triathlon: what you eat; what you wear; and how you train. I know it feels like a lot in one blog, and a bit rich coming from a novice triathlete! But as the triathlon season really gets underway this month, these are the things that I wish I had known earlier…

Get a triathlon kit.  It is not arrogant or showy-offy to get a triathlon kit. Good kit makes triathlon a little bit easier for you – and therefore more fun! I was sceptical but am now a convert. You don’t need to spend hundreds of pounds, either. Here are my top 3 tips for triathlon kit that have made a huge difference to me in training:

  1. I bought Look Keo pedals and some road racing shoes for the bike. They made such a difference. I had been riding in trainers with cages for so long; I thought I was doing OK. But what a leap forward in power! I kept up with the men for the first time ever. I wish I had bought them sooner. And I didn’t fall off at any junctions, which apart from looking silly, was my main worry!

Trigirl Swim AdviceSpring forward – into blind panic!

As the clocks went forward I felt a slight panic, as not only did that mean the kids were losing an hour of sleep, it was also the starting gun on the countdown to race day. It is not winter any more. We are not just running. We are now training. And it’s just 10 weeks until the Blenheim Triathlon. This slight panic quickly escalated, through all my rational thoughts, from slight; hurtling past deep concern; and headlong into full-on breakdown in a matter of one, hour-deprived, day! OH YES. NOW THIS REALLY IS PANIC.

I had big plans for this post. It was going to be helpful and inspirational. I was going to talk about the importance of rest in your routine. I was going to talk about believing in yourself and a positive mental attitude. But the wave of nausea is tidal and promises to consume me and all the good work I have already done. Instead, all I have for you is panic…

I’m over-the-moon and overwhelmed to have been chosen as a Trigirl brand ambassador for 2013.


When I heard the news I was delighted! Great company, great kit – recommended by my sister (a 2012 Blenheim finisher) – and, I confess, I shed a tear. This may seem overly emotional to you, but is quite a big deal for me.  I’m not very fit, you see. I don’t really do exercise.

Well, I didn’t use to do any. I do now. And it turns out I’m not as bad as I thought! This is a shame really, as I have spent my entire life avoiding being fit, or anything that might be construed as exercise. Being almost 6ft tall this came from a lifetime of, “You’re tall. You’re sporty. You can play/run/throw”. No. I’m just tall, you see. Now, at 36 years old, this seems a bit of a wasted opportunity. But – as they say – better late than never, so I’ve every intention on making up for my years of couch-dom by being an inspiration to my three daughters and a training partner for my husband and friends whose fault, I mean encouragement, got me to this fantastic point.