COVID reflections of an Age-Group triathlete

by Leanne James, Neuff Red Ambassador


It’s over a year now since the COVID pandemic started; and in the UK we are still in Lockdown 3.0.  While there is definitely more optimism with falling cases, the vaccination roll out, a roadmap to ease restrictions and a hint of Spring in the air, there is still a lot of uncertainty around the triathlon season, with many races being cancelled or postponed for the second time around, and travel restrictions still in place.

As an Age-Grouper; all the time I invest in training is because I love the excitement of racing, and I am keen to constantly improve.  Without races it has been tough at times to keep motivation levels high.  Here, I am sharing my experience of how I have kept motivated during the pandemic.  A lot of what I have learned will hopefully make me a stronger person and athlete going forward. 

Triathlon Training Tips

Triathlon Training Tips | COVID motivation for Age Group Triathletes
  • Setting goals. Over the course of the last year I have worked closely with my coach and have set training goals to keep me focused.  Some of these have been performance based – for example improving my FTP or 10k run time, but they have also been about improving habits such as better sleep or nutrition.  Having these goals have enabled me to continue to track progress and have something to work towards in the absence of races.

  • Plan ahead. For me personally, I have had to adapt how I train.  Home-schooling has meant I have had to split sessions into two, wake up much earlier, and also adapt to training in the evenings – something I have not been used to before.  Having a plan and some structure has helped me fit everything in whilst keeping me motivated to train.

Triathlon Training Tips | COVID motivation for Age Group Triathlete
  • Have a good team around you. For me this is my close family and friends who are super supportive of everything I do, as well as being part of the TriForce Endurance Team.  I am a member of a local Triathlon and Cycle Club.  I am also now super excited to be working with the Neuff Red team.  It’s so important to know I can reach out to the triathlon community for advice or support at any time.

  • The virtual world. It’s not for everyone but things like virtual meet ups on Zwift can be a great way to keep motivated and socialise with fellow athletes or team mates.  I have really enjoyed group VO2 sessions and social spins chatting on discord.  I have also taken part in a few virtual races which have been fun, but not something I would do regularly as I wouldn’t want it to impact on my overall training plan.

Triathlon Training Tips | COVID motivation for Age Group Triathlete
  • Remember the why. I often remind myself why I am training in the first place (a. because I enjoy it, and b.) I want to be a better athlete). I know if I keep being consistent, this will hopefully show when races return.

  • Learn something new. It’s important to keep things varied and interesting.  With the pools closed in England (not long now) – I decided to brave some cold water swimming.  I am fortunate enough to live close to the river but it gave me a different focus. 

Triathlon Training Tips | COVID motivation for Age Group Triathlete
  • Find a training buddy. Fortunately in Lockdown 2 and 3 we have still been allowed to exercise with one other.  This has been so important for me, especially during the winter months – just knowing that I have arranged to meet a buddy means I am less likely to miss the session.  This has been harder for me with the children at home; but when I have had the chance to train with a friend outdoors it has made me feel so good afterwards.

  • Recover well.  Sleep is hugely important not only for recovery but for performance too.  I have been really focussing on getting better quality sleep.  It makes such a difference not only to how I recover, but the decisions I make about nutrition and my overall mood.

Triathlon Training Tips | COVID motivation for Age Group Triathlete
  • Be kind to yourself. It has been a strange and unprecedented year for many reasons and it has impacted everybody in different ways.  It is so important to listen to your body and if you feel tired or stressed then ease off.  Whilst it is important to have a plan, flexibility is key to take into account any other external factors that may impact on training or recovery. 

  • Don’t compare. One thing I have become much better at is not comparing myself to others, especially on social media.  I used to worry so much that I wasn’t doing enough hours, not training hard enough and would constantly compare myself.  When actually – all our situations are so different and it’s so important to focus on what you can do and control within your own situation.

 Triathlon Training Tips | COVID motivation for Age Group Triathlete

I am definitely feeling more positive about this year and can’t wait for a packed second half of the season. 


About Leanne James, Age-Group Triathlete

Leanne spent many years working in the energy industry before taking a career break to focus on her two children as well as volunteering for Sport In Mind.  A member of Tri Force Endurance and coached by Billy Harriss, Leanne was a keen runner at school but lost fitness (as so many of us do!) when she started her career.  When her daughter had open-heart surgery at 2 1/2, Leanne started running again to raise money for charity and hasn't looked back.  She has since completed 10 x 70.3's, 1 Ironman, and has podiumed in a number of the 70.3's including 2nd at IM Weymouth 70.3, 3rd at Outlaw X and have raced the IM 70.3 World Championship in Nice.  She loves the training process, the sense of accomplishment and also meeting new people and the triathlon community as a whole.