As its International Women’s Day we thought we would share Gemma’s Story…
This July Gemma Dobson will be returning to Pembrokeshire to compete in her third Long Course Weekend just 8 months after giving birth to her first beautiful baby! We contacted Gemma to share her inspirational story and to get some advice for all the new Mum’s considering the sport.
Q – So Gemma, you are competing in Long Course Weekend, do you live locally or will you be travelling to the event?
We live in Guildford, so we are travelling up on Friday in the time for the swim, and return home on Monday.
Q – Have you competed in triathlons before?
Yes, I started competing 5 years ago with Sprint triathlons and have built up to Long Course Weekend and iron-distance. I prefer the longer distances…they hurt less!
Q – What inspired you to start competing?
My husband. He’s a sailor and competes at quite a high level, when I met him I was keeping fit by going to the gym. Watching him compete made me miss the training and racing I used to do when I was younger as part of the school swimming and gymnastics teams. My husband helped me choose my first bike, he took me out cycling and encouraged me to go to Parkrun. And so it began…that was the start of my triathlon journey!!
Q – What has been your biggest challenge so far?
Starting back to exercise after giving birth in November has been a massive challenge. I ran throughout my pregnancy, right up to 37 weeks and my little boy arrived on time shortly after. I decided to take all of November and December off to recover after the birth. Like all Mum’s I was hoping for a straight forward birth and I was even planning a home birth. Unfortunately, my little boy had the umbilical cord stuck around his neck so we were transferred to the local hospital for assistance, where I also had to undergo surgery due to complications with the placenta.
Starting training again in January was really hard, not only had I recently given birth, but the added surgery meant that I had also lost an awful lot of blood. In the beginning I could only manage a 1 mile run before I was exhausted! It has taken a lot of motivation and support to get back into the swing of things, both mentally and physically managing my time.
Breastfeeding and training has been particularly challenging – sports bras aren’t made for this at all!!! It took me several weeks to find a suitable sports bra to cope with the new demands, but also timing training in between feeds makes you grab every chance. I’ve found that I must be in my sports kit and ready to cycle or run as soon as the feed has finished, otherwise I will miss my very small window of opportunity. Sometimes I’ll be ready to go but my little one might be having an off day, so I have to forego the session, but that’s okay!
Q – Do you have any other advice for other new Mums thinking of competing? Advice on training on training schedules and how to balance family and sport?
I would absolutely recommend new Mums sign up. You don’t have to do the full distance but being part of an event, pinning on that race number and lacing up your trainers on race day, gives you your sense of self back…something to focus on and work towards. There’s something so rewarding about achieving the little milestones in training, especially knowing that in July, your baby will be there cheering you on!
Most importantly…Listen to your body. You will know whether you feel recovered enough to start training. It is vital that you don’t rush back too soon, and remember that every Mum’s experience is different and everyone’s body, recovers at their own pace. When you do start training again, build up gradually remembering that your joints and pelvic floor are still slightly weak from your hormones and the weight of the baby, so be careful! Set yourself little goals…mine was to run to the end of the road, less than a mile!
Getting support is also equally important. We don’t have any family nearby, which means my husband and I have to be very realistic with training commitments. My husband is great at kicking me out to run as soon as he gets home from work. He also bought me a second-hand treadmill for a birthday/Christmas gift, which means I can jump on as soon as the baby sleeps in the morning. I also make sure I nap with him in the afternoons, which I love!!
Q – So are you looking forward to LCW?
I have completed LCW twice before, this is one of my favourite events and I just can’t resist coming back!
Gemma is not only a committed competitor and full time Mum, but she is also a tri coach and has her pre and post-natal exercise qualifications…..a true inspiration! We can’t wait to welcome her and the family back to LCW.