CLUB PRO­FILE Just Tri It, Saska­toon 56

Triathlon Magazine Canada - - DEPARTMENT - BY HE­LEN POW­ERS

TAK­ING THE TRY-A-TRI con­cept to a whole new level, Saska­toon’s Just Tri It pro­gram of­fers eight weeks of maybe the most sup­port­ive train­ing a new­bie has ever seen. The pro­gram fo­cuses ex­clu­sively on women and pro­vides a great model for in­tro­duc­ing the thrill of triathlon to those who want to try.

Just Tri It (JTI) was launched in 2001 by three women who took on their first triathlon the year be­fore. They had no prior race knowl­edge but learned a lot and wanted to share so other women would be in­spired and con­fi­dent to com­plete a triathlon too.

On the pro­gram’s first reg­is­tra­tion day, over 120 women showed up. Clearly there was an ea­ger au­di­ence in Saska­toon and that con­tin­ues to­day. The pro­gram’s 85 spa­ces typ­i­cally sell out be­fore kick­off day and, year af­ter year, 75 per cent of the par­tic­i­pants are new. There are an es­ti­mated 1,500 pro­gram alumni and many re­turn to vol­un­teer, con­tin­u­ally adding strength to this com­mu­nity.

“The un­der­ly­ing suc­cess of JTI is lead­er­ship by ex­am­ple,” ex­plains Liz Hoff­man, one of the pro­gram co­or­di­na­tors. “Our vol­un­teers have all par­tic­i­pated in the pro­gram and pro­vide sto­ries of suc­cess and in­spi­ra­tion. They have over­come chal­lenges and bal­ance an ac­tive life­style with lots of other com­mit­ments in­clud­ing fam­ily and work.”

Ev­ery year, over 40 vol­un­teers help to keep par­tic­i­pants safe and en­gaged through­out the eight weeks.

JTI runs an­nu­ally from mid-March to mid-May as a branch pro­gram of the Saska­toon Triathlon Club. Each par­tic­i­pant com­pletes one of two sprint-dis­tance triathlons in the Makin’ It Hap­pen Triathlon, a Mother’s Day event named in mem­ory of Mar­lene An­to­niuk, a com­mit­ted JTI vol­un­teer who passed away in 2010.

“We pro­vide a safe and wel­com­ing en­vi­ron­ment with lots of hand­son at­ten­tion, en­cour­age­ment, and mo­ti­va­tion,” ex­plains Hoff­man who, along with Su­san Hamil­ton, an­other co­or­di­na­tor, sched­ules coaches, vol­un­teers, speak­ers and in­for­ma­tion ses­sions. “We are there to ex­plain what is hap­pen­ing, to in­spire the par­tic­i­pants and to as­sist the coaches in what­ever way nec­es­sary.”

In ad­di­tion to cer­ti­fied coaches, par­tic­i­pants ben­e­fit from part­ner­ships with lo­cal ex­perts and re­tail part­ners who bring a wealth of knowl­edge to weekly in­for­ma­tion ses­sions. They also have ac­cess to the YWCA for the pro­gram du­ra­tion so any­one who misses a train­ing ses­sion can make that up on their own time.

“Women of all shapes, sizes, phys­i­cal abil­i­ties and eth­nic­ity are en­cour­aged to par­tic­i­pate,” says Hoff­man, adding that most have never put all three sports to­gether be­fore. Al­though some bring ex­pe­ri­ence in marathons or speed swim­ming, oth­ers haven’t done any­thing ath­letic for years, in­clud­ing rid­ing a bike.

Some JTI par­tic­i­pants have never learned to swim. “In­ex­pe­ri­enced swim­mers are given the op­por­tu­nity to use what­ever works for them dur­ing the fi­nal race,” ex­plains Hoff­man, “Flut­ter board, life jacket, flota­tion belt, or pool noo­dle. We once had a lady who walked as far as she could touch the bot­tom of the pool and then turned around, for 200 me­tres.”

Hoff­man thinks the best part is less about com­pe­ti­tion and more about just com­plet­ing that first triathlon and meet­ing new friends and sup­port­ers.

“Be­ing around this group of women gives you con­fi­dence to get through all the hur­dles,” she says. “There’s a great at­mos­phere and we add in lots of prizes and shop­ping nights with wine and cheese!”

New this year, with the help of two lo­cal busi­nesses, Brain­sport and Bike Doc­tor, train­ing and equip­ment will be given to two women in the care of the YWCA’s Turn­ing Points, a tran­si­tional hous­ing pro­gram for those ready to change their lives. This seems a per­fect match as they will not only gain new skill sets but also friends and a sup­port­ive com­mu­nity.

Sup­port is the theme that swims, bikes and runs all the way through JTI. And like the 75-year-old woman who signed up to com­plete her first triathlon last year, these women in­spire each other, year af­ter year, by stretch­ing their bound­aries to try some­thing new and amaz­ing.

He­len Pow­ers is a free­lance jour­nal­ist from Dun­das, Ont.

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