Triathlon as a Lifesaver

author : mnatwood
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I woke up one morning and decided I would become a triathlete.

My “Decision” was not particularly interesting, aside from the fact that I was super fat. And slow. And tired. And angry.

And out of three of the sports that make up triathlon (swimming, biking and running), I had never done any real swimming, biking or running. Well, I would sometimes run to Dairy Queen. Does that count?

To add insult to fat injury, I was busy. Really busy. A mom of two kids under two years of age. Married. I worked full-time as a lawyer. I commuted twelve hours a week. But I was mostly busy being tired, fat, isolated and angry.

In light of the stuff I had going on in my life, my Decision to become a triathlete seemed fairly insane. I mean, where would I actually find the time? Even worse, the Decision was riddled with all sorts of odds against me, sizing concerns, and lots of fat jiggling this way and that. For years, I sat and wreaked havoc on myself by eating crap and drinking more crap. But one day—with my Decision—I decided that I would not continue to destroy myself.

Little by little, I started moving forward. I walked. I ran. I biked. I wore a bathing suit (horror!). I set goals. I chiseled away at workouts. I did some small races. I met people who believed in me. I met people who did not believe in me. But I started believing in myself, and I kept going.

And one year later, I crossed the finish line at a half Ironman triathlon. A race made up of 1.2 miles of swimming, followed by 56 miles of cycling, and topped off with a half marathon run of 13.1 miles. A total of 70.3 miles by sea, bike and foot. The race took me seven hours and fifteen minutes to complete. Arguably the best and worst seven hours of my life. I crossed the finish line wearing a size 10 running shoe and a 2XL triathlon suit. I was probably the biggest girl within a ten-mile radius that day. I may have been big in size, but I was huge in heart.

Since my Decision, I have finished over twenty triathlons and races ranging from sprint triathlons to half marathons. I recently finished my second half Ironman in September 2012, taking almost forty minutes off my first half Ironman time.

And why stop there? I’m taking on Ironman Coeur d’Alene in June.

Now, how in the world does a fat, tired and angry working mother of two go from a serious couch dweller to a bona fide triathlete...while juggling a life, a job and a family? 

I would say it’s virtually impossible when I look at the facts on paper.  But I have lived it, and I know it’s possible. And not only that—I believe triathlon saved my life. I don’t know where I would be if I hadn’t found it. Fatter? Angrier? More exhausted than I was?

With triathlon, I learned that taking care of myself was important. Yes, taking care of my family was important, but I had to make sure that I was happy, healthy and sane before I could tend to them. And with triathlon, I was able to set goals for myself and show my kids what a healthy life looks like.

With so much going does triathlon fit into your life? It does. Promise. I have experienced triathlon as a tired Every Woman, not as a super-fit, well-rested hottie mom. Not only that, but triathlon has made me unbelievably peaceful, happy and (semi)sane. I have not stopped life or taken time off from work or the daily grind to make triathlon part of my reality. I just tried to squeeze it in the rest of the chaos.

No matter who you are or where you are in life, I believe you can experience the joy of becoming a triathlete. However, it’s tough to know where to start! But with the right focus, tools and heart—you will do it. No matter how tired, chubby, lazy or indifferent you may be right in this moment, today is a new day, full of new opportunities...and things can be better for you. And I think the sport of triathlon is the path to better.

Triathlon teaches lessons that other sports don’t. Plus, triathlon is a sport that is easily adapted to busy schedules. If you have a stressful life, taking a small amount of time for yourself to swim, bike and run—and train for a race—actually creates the tiny miracle of “you time” that at one time seemed impossible. And that time becomes incredibly powerful.

So the first step on the road to becoming a triathlete starts out with a basic Decision. What is the Decision? It’s simple. You just decide to become a triathlete. Sounds stupid? Sounds embarrassing? Sounds impossible? Perfect. You are right where you need to be. But it truly is simple:

You can float/doggie paddle/swim.

You can ride a tricycle/bicycle/tandem/hand-cycle.

You can walk/jog/run/wheel.

You can do all three back-to-back in a little race called a triathlon. Even if you can’t do any of it right now. Even if you have disabilities and hurdles and major obstacles to overcome. You can do it. You will do this.

And that’s all you need to decide. Make the Decision that you will.

You will move forward. You will create your goals, and you will achieve. Slowly but surely, you will do it. As my coach says, Trust the process. Create your goals. Believe. And you will. 

                          -Excerpt and adapted from Triathlon for the Every Woman

About the Author:

Meredith Atwood, better known in the blog world as "Swim Bike Mom," is a writer and attorney. In just over a year, she went from super fat to the finish line of her first half Ironman triathlon. Since that time, she has finished several half marathons, triathlons and even a second half Ironman.

About the Book:
Triathlon for the Every Woman is a hilarious, fun and informative read--full of expert advice, training tips, and stories to turn a tired, busy woman into a tired, busy woman TRIATHLETE--no matter her size, age or place in life. 


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date: March 5, 2013



Meredith Atwood, an overweight and overworked wife, mother and attorney, went from the couch to the finish of a half Ironman triathlon in a little over a year. Her book, full of contributions from expert coaches, nutritionists and athletes, takes the reader through the disciplines of swimming, biking and running.



Meredith Atwood, an overweight and overworked wife, mother and attorney, went from the couch to the finish of a half Ironman triathlon in a little over a year. Her book, full of contributions from expert coaches, nutritionists and athletes, takes the reader through the disciplines of swimming, biking and running.

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