The women entered the pool deck quietly and sat on the bleachers. It was a cool, Saturday in April after a long, cold winter. Signing up for this women-only tri clinic seemed like a good idea a few weeks before, but now everyone’s doubts and fears were at the top of their minds. Fifteen women ranging in age from teens to “retired” were about to spend the day together swimming, biking, running, learning and competing in a very short triathlon, many for the first time, at the Team Multisport Performance Institute Women ONLY “TRI” Clinic in Iowa City, IA.
Female-only endurance clinics and camps are one of the best ways to bring more women into a sport. At our clinic, most of the women signed up precisely because it was a women-only activity. Limiting the camp by gender removed some of the fears of signing up; they registered believing that all personalities, triathlon skill levels, body sizes and ages would be fully welcome.
Bagels, coffee and introductions were first on the agenda and the smiles and laughter began. As women, the joys and the challenges of our life stories hold similarities that unite us in support of each other. But so much of the time we face those joys and challenges alone. On this day, the women would be together.
This was just one example of a women’s event that proved to inspire and empower females through sport. Many Chicago-area coaches, clubs and endurance stores are promoting activities for women. Bike shops, like Trek of Highland Park, are creating women-only bike maintenance clinics, seminars and rides. Running stores are hosting women’s Couch to 5k training groups. National Federations like USA Triathlon are directing grant money towards coaches and clubs who work to introduce women to the sport. (Our clinic was awarded one of these grants.) Women-only bike skills clinics, training camps, marathon training programs, half marathons and sprint triathlons fill up with enthusiastic participants. Most of these participants then take their new skills and confidence to the many co-ed races, camps and clinics available in endurance sports.
Before, during and after the swim, bike, run and transition sessions, our group discussed all possible triathlon topics including all that are very specific to the female experience and physiology. By the end of the day, each woman completed a triathlon, learned more about an endurance sport, felt comfortable asking all the difficult questions and shared similar joys and struggles that come from a life of caring, striving, fighting and loving. The chance to become skilled in a new sport, to gain strength from new friends and to laugh a lot – these are the priceless outcomes from a women’s only event.