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By West Norwood Therapies Team, Jun 24 2019 08:09AM

Sports massage therapist Tessa Glover interviews one of her traithlete client from WNT's partner Windrush triathlon club, Alicja Furmanczyk, about her training and motivaion



Why did you choose triathlon? Why not just swimming, cycling or running?


Triathlon was just something different to what I had done before, and an opportunity to do all three sports at once. I still do ‘one sport only’ events but with triathlon I find I’m under less pressure to match the pace of competitors around me - apart from the swim everyone starts at different times and goes about at a different pace.


Which sport do you find the most challenging and why?


It’s by far swimming. I’m a runner first and foremost, I love cycling but as much as I love swimming I’m just not a good swimmer, no matter how hard I try to improve my technique. I’m probably not patient enough. With swimming you always need to plan what time to go to the pool to get the most of your swim - it’s not as flexible as running or cycling which I can do anytime.


I know you work full time so how many hours training do you do a week for each sport?


It varies. Currently I’m training more than I have ever done. It’s typically up to 15 hours a week, occasionally a bit more if I do a very long cycle, a bit less when I’m having an easy tapering week. I also count my Pilates or strength & conditioning exercise into my training schedule. It all takes time after all.


How do you find the motivation to get up and go for a 7am swim in cold water instead of staying in bed with a cup of tea?


It’s definitely easier to train in the summer when it’s bright in the morning, and I wake up naturally at about 6am anyway... but I don’t always train in the morning and have days off when I have a ‘lie in’ - get up at 7.30am! With my job I often finish late, so mornings are more practical: it’s done and I’m set for the day. Motivation wise, I thrive on accomplishing goals so I think that’s part of it too - mentally I just tick off something on my to do list. And there are the endorphins afterwards. No matter how hard it is to start, when I finish I’m just full of positive energy!


Does belonging to a triathlon club push you to enter more challenging competitions than you would probably do left to your own devices?


Definitely. I don’t think I would have signed up for a full Ironman race if I hadn’t done the middle distance (equivalent to half Ironman) with Windrush last year. I wouldn’t have signed up for the middle distance if I hadn’t been encouraged by the club. So it’s all a chain reaction!


Are you competitive?


I’d love to say no but I know I am... but not in a bad way! It’s mostly about being competitive with myself and accomplishing my own goals rather than goals set up by someone else. I don’t think I would ever take up triathlon or any other sport competitively though (assuming I was very good at it!) - I would immediately lose interest and the joy of running, cycling and swimming, and that’s very important to me.


You mentioned that you are entering your first Iron Man triathlon this summer, how did you come to make that decision?


I did my first ever half middle distance last summer and when I finished I felt I still had some energy left... so I thought I should sign up for an even longer race... I also wanted to do something that will push me out of my comfort zone and be the ultimate event I would ever aspire to, which I believe Ironman to be!


What impact does this amount of training have on your mental state and social life?


A tricky one. Training overall makes me happy but with all honestly, at times, the amount of training and the fact I have to stick to a plan can be taxing. I do make sure I have proper rest. I do struggle sometimes with maneuvering my need to train (and rest & recovery time) with ‘normal life’ but also with some deeply ingrained societal expectations of what I should be really doing and focusing on (whether it’s my parents asking about grandchildren that they do not have or my friends questioning why I don’t want to go out as much). But I also keep trying to find ways of incorporating my friends into my training life, e.g. when going for a long run or cycle and visiting them afterwards, eating their food!


How do you look after your body to make sure you are in peak condition and injury free?


I never sacrifice a good night’s sleep. I also try to listen to my body, even if that means missing out on a training session... if my body tells me I need rest, then that’s what I do. I would definitely prioritise being injury free over my race performance. I am terrified of getting injured so I do a lot of ‘pre-hab’: strength and conditioning exercises, stretching, Pilates and I use foam roller and a massage ball on a regular basis. In fact, I go as far as to bring the ball to work sometimes (time is precious!). I also try to have a sport massage once a month and time it well before or after my races. Fingers crossed I’m doing the right things!


How much has sports massage helped you during your training as a triathlete?


A lot. A couple of years ago I had an injury whilst training for a marathon, and I strongly believe that part of the problem was that I didn’t have a sports massage on a regular basis, no trusted professional to tell me about my muscle imbalances and weaknesses, and how to work on those. I now treat sport massage as part of my routine and a treat too!


Bonus question:

What is the most common question that you are asked about triathlon? Have I asked it?


Yes! Why do I do it to myself






By West Norwood Therapies Team, Nov 21 2018 09:00AM

Sports massage therapist Tessa Glover shares the second in her series of blogs about her brave adventure towards the Windrush Aquathon 2019 - Go Tessa!!


The beautiful summer has come and gone and I have to admit I have not been swimming as much as I planned to. I had hoped to swim 2-3 times per week before starting on the Windrush Beginners Swimming course but this did not happen. I was fortunate to have a trip to Italy in October but unfortunate in that I am not a member of this yacht club in Civitavecchia (Porto Turistico Riva Di Traiano) and had to just gaze admiringly at the pool from the terrace.


In reality I had only managed 3 or 4 swims in the two months before the first lesson and was totally unprepared. I felt out of my depth (pun intended) as 11 or 12 30-something males and only 3 women (plus me at the age of 50+) gathered on the side of the pool.


The lads set off like a shoal of hungry piranha while I splashed about like an aimless flounder. Thankfully the coaches, Audrey* and Becky*, were great and very patient with me. After seeing how much I struggled just trying to do a few lengths without stopping, Audrey suggested I wore my fins (flippers) all the time which helped me to keep up with the others in my lane.


The lesson concentrated on breathing and was incredibly informative. I had no idea that you could relax and breathe out under water at the same time but as the hour ticked on I came to learn that when you’re tired, breathing bilaterally without swallowing water is impossible so by the end I felt as if I’d drunk about 2 litres. At one point my heart felt as if it was about to beat out of my chest or was I about to have a heart attack? (Alarmingly, it occurred to me, I am at the age where that sort of thing could potentially happen).


I was shocked at how difficult it was to do so many lengths in one hour and came away from the lesson feeling incredibly despondent. I even asked if I should bother to come to the next session but Becky encouraged me to continue. I asked if she would give me some much needed 1-2-1 lessons and thankfully she agreed. She obviously loves a challenge!


The following week I had two lessons with Becky. She was fantastic. She broke down each element of the breathing. I used the bubble bubble breathe technique but she noticed that I turn my head too far out of the water and gasped for breath rather than rotating my whole body from the hips and turning my head quickly to the side to breathe. So she suggested Bubble Bubble Stretch, this way I was reminded to reach out my arm even further forward as I took my breath.


At this point I was exhausted and getting out of breath very quickly. Firstly because I am aerobically unfit and secondly because Becky noticed that I was breathing from my chest rather than from the diaphragm, meaning I was running out of air quicker and, as a result, panicking. We had a break from the swimming and she suggested that I practice some ‘sink downs’ to help me relax. Sink downs involve trying to expel as much air from your lungs as possible as you sink down to sit on the bottom of the pool. If you keep too much air in your lungs while doing the front crawl, your chest may be too buoyant which will make you swim at an angle with your legs sinking down. I found it almost impossible to stay under and kept bobbing to the surface again. With practice it’s getting better and Becky suggested I look at these Swim Smooth forum posts on the subject.


http://www.swimsmoothforum.com/viewtopic.php?t=2961


As for body positioning, she showed me how to torpedo off from the wall using my feet to start off. This makes sure your body stay long in the water for a good 5 metres before beginning your strokes and encourages you to stay that way for the duration of the length.


The evening of my second lesson, I sat in the car outside the swimming pool wondering why I had come back. I almost persuaded myself to go home but I remembered my promise to my colleague to do the Aquathlon and dragged myself into the changing room.


Their were fewer people this week and it seemed a lot calmer. I didn’t try to keep up with everyone else so didn’t get as out of breath. I kept my flippers on and concentrated on the drills. More breathing, head positioning and swimming on our sides this week. I felt a little better about my lack of ability!


10 minutes before the third lesson and again I was hesitant to go in. This week for some reason was even worse than the first lesson. My breathing was even shallower, I got out of breath during every length. To my horror, Audrey posted a video up of the session and there I was shaking my head and not doing crawl at all. I felt miserable looking at it.


This morning I arrived in the changing room to find I’d brought the bag containing items for the charity shop instead of my swimming stuff! I made myself go home and get the right back and do my swim. There’s dedication for you. As well as breathing, I practised swimming on my side with my head resting on my arm for body positioning improvement, sink downs and even did a few lengths without stopping… wonders will never cease.


Thursdays’s 1-2-1 lesson with Becky we worked on ‘sculling’. I always assumed sculling meant using cupped hands to empty water out of a sinking boat. However, there are many definitions but this one is the closest.


(of an aquatic animal) propel itself with fins or flippers.”the limbs were modified into efficient paddles, perfectly adapted for sculling through the water”


We worked on getting a feel for the water with the hands, cupping and moving in and out as if stroking a cat’s head back and forth (or turning on taps). We then moved on to shoulder, elbow and wrist position in combination with the cupping.


Finally here was something I could manage! All those years of being a cat owner have paid off….


Next time: the last two Windrush lessons and my first attempt at a Parkrun after 6 years…


*Rebecca Goodwin https://windrushtri.co.uk/coaches/ Twitter: @beckykyky


*Audrey Livingston http://www.alphafitness.me.uk/audrey.html




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