Experts in women’s health in the sporting arena gathered last Saturday, 19th October for the inaugural Triathlon Ireland Women's Health & Wellbeing Conference. Held in Dublin’s Clayton Liffey Valley Hotel, the sold-out conference welcomed over eighty delegates for an informative, educational and fun day of speakers and workshops. I was delighted to MC the event, which had a fabulous friendly feel and relaxed atmosphere for learning, with lots of fun and engagement from the extremely engaged audience.
Triathlon Ireland President Lochlann Walsh welcomed the attendees and highlighted the importance of the event;
“We are now three years into our “Equally Inspiring” strategand have made great progress in bringing more women into leadership positions in triathlon. Today’s event concentrates on very specific women’s health issues in sport and the great turnout demonstrates the appetite for events like this. We’re also thrilled to be able to donate the income from ticket sales to the #Tri4Pieta campaign.”
Coach Jonathan Gibson from The Athlete Clinic was the day’s first keynote speaker and gave an informative and insightful presentation on “The Female Triad: Training with Your Menstrual Cycle and Menopause”, outlining important areas women should consider when planning their training.
After Lunch psychologist Niamh Fitzpatrick brought the group through a number of simple strategies aimed at managing day-to-day mental well-being and highlighted how success in terms of reaching wellness goals is directly related to your thinking and thought processes.
I was delighted to host the panel discussion as part of the event, the funny, honest, engaging and inspiring conversation of the athlete panel was a highlight of the day, with each athlete having overcome a level of adversity yet they all embraced their sport with postivity, gratitude and a can do attitude. The panelists cyclist Eve McCrystal, Nutritionist Fiona O’Donnell, West Cork Tri Club’s Bernadette Downey and current Middle Distance National Champion Hilary Hughes chatted about balancing life and sport, overcoming adversity and achieving goals.
Clonakilty based Bernadette Downey, who is currently undergoing treatment for breast cancer, spoke eloquently about the role of gratitude in overcoming adversity;
“A big thing that I would encourage people to look at is gratitude and the role of gratitude within our lives. I was grateful I was alive, I was grateful I was diagnosed. I was grateful I could be there for my children and watch them grow up. So, I would take what they would give me and be grateful that I had a fighting chance at fighting cancer and I really have approached it like that.”
This is a sentiment echoed by Dr. Hilary Hughes, having been diagnosed with a subarachnoid brain hemorrhage at the age of 20. “It makes you realise you’re not invincible, it really makes you appreciate when you are good and healthy what you can do, like you were saying. And it teaches you a lot. Similarly it made me go from being able to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted to lying in bed for a week not even able to lift my head and from there it was a year long recovery.”
PUTTING IT INTO PRACTICE
Three workshops were run throughout the day to provide participants with an opportunity to learn some new practical skills and ask experts advice on their training. Nutritionist Fiona O’Donnell from WestCorkFit taught the attendees how to eat correctly to fuel different types of training sessions and how to eat to balance hormonal health.Triathlete and Chartered Physiotherapist Aileen Flynn gave an insightful and practical workshop on injury prevention and running shoe choice. The group also had the chance to learn correct foam rolling technique and postural exercises. The third workshop was run by Lorraine Boyce from Down Below Physio, giving participants practical exercises to promote pelvic floor health and improve core strength.
Women’s Participation Lead for Triathlon Ireland Anna Grealish summarised the day;
“The Women’s Health & Wellbeing Conference could not have happened without the fantastic speakers and workshops we had. We had a great mix of thought provoking and specialist speakers and practical workshops which I think allowed everyone to learn something new and I hope everyone enjoyed. Our panel of athletes were four of the most inspirational women I have heard speak and for me, this was one of the day's highlights. The conference brought together women and men who wanted to learn more about health and wellbeing for sport and I hope this is something that will grow every year. Special thanks to Sport Ireland and the 20x20 campaign for their support with this conference”.
This really was a fantastic day of women and men supporting women in sport, providing the opportunity for a safe and friendly place for learning, networking and supporting each other. The panel interview for me was most definitely a highlight of the year to date and if anything has motivated me to take the 'in' out of the inconsistency in my own training this year and get back to a proper routine of swim, bike and run! The interview was recorded and it is hoped will be rereleased as a bonus podcast episode in the coming weeks so watch this space.