How Henshaws athletes train for triathlon success

Every week a dedicated team of athletes meet in the fitness studio at Henshaws Arts & Crafts Centre in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire. They are the Henshaws Tri Team, a group of Housing & Support service users, staff and volunteers and you'll find them working hard on the treadmill, exercise bike and cross trainer. They are here to improve their fitness and develop their skills for the running, cycling and swimming that makes up the triathlon discipline.

Training for athletes with a disability

The Tri Team athletes range in age from early 20s to late 40s, all have learning disabilities and most also have a visual impairment.  Together with the volunteers who support them the Henshaws Tri Team take part in triathlons across the UK.

For an athlete with a disability there may be a range of fears and learning barriers that need to be overcome in order for their training session to run smoothly. This may include making some adaptations to the environment, such as adjusting light or noise levels, or to the equipment, such as covering metal handles with rubber or providing gloves.

Fitness trainer Billy Oldaker explains, “It’s obviously important for individuals to be comfortable and in control when using the equipment. It should always be possible to find a solution to enable anyone with a disability to get involved in fitness training.”

Swim, cycle, run

Tri Team swimmers Nick and Ken are working hard on the cross trainers to improve their full body strength. As well as their gym sessions they also train in a local pool swimming 16 lengths or more at a time. To ensure they stay safe in the water a guide swims ahead of them, on their back and gives verbal instruction or taps the swimmer on the shoulder to let them know which direction to swim in.

Meanwhile, Shelley and Sam are covering about 20km during their 45 min session on the exercise bikes.  During the triathlon races they ride a tandem led by a sighted volunteer.

Skipton triathlon

“The triathlon is an opportunity to push ourselves and do things we didn’t think we could.”

Shelley, Henshaws Service User and Tri Team member

Luke volunteers in the café at Henshaws and also attends some of the Arts & Crafts workshops. He has just finished his training run outside and is working hard to beat his personal best time over 5k. “I like being part of the team, it keeps me fit and I get to know other people.” Visually impaired runners are guided by trained sighted guide runners.

Jenny is also one of the Tri Team runners.  Having been involved in athletics when younger she is pleased to be back out running. “I’m really proud of my running.  It’s helped me to feel fitter and being part of an encouraging team is amazing.”

“The athletes get a lot out of doing the triathlon such as self-esteem, self-worth, team spirit and motivation; this is also a fun way of keeping fit and healthy whilst doing something you love with friends with similar disabilities.”

Jessica Sullivan, Henshaws employee and Tri Team coordinator

Find out more about our Housing & Support Services and how Henshaws supports disabled people to live more independently on our website.

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