Exercise as Medicine – Fighting Arthritis with Triathlon

By Debbie
February 24, 2014 on 4:56 pm | In Athlete Profile, Charity, Community, Giving Back | No Comments

This blog brought to you by Helgi Spencer Olafson, Amateur Triathlete and Arthritis Warrior with Ankylosing Spondylitis. Check out Helgi’s website, join his Race For a Cure team, donate and follow him on Twitter – @HelgiOlafson.

I often ask myself… “why do I keep adding more and more to my plate?”…and then I think to myself, “if only there were more hours in a day… yeah, that would be awesome!”

But this is reality!!

The earth will always turn at a pace which conducts time.  We have no control over time.  What we DO have is control over how we spend that time.  YOU have the power of CHOICE.

Is it selfish to take the time to maintain a healthy lifestyle? Or is it something that can be used as an example for others to follow with the hopes of getting this world out of the rut that we are in where everyone is searching for the magic pill?

The "Magic Pill"

Here is the bottom line:  EVERYONE suffers from hardship and challenges at one point or another in their lives.  Some people have it easy and some don’t.  It is likely that each of us can’t know exactly how it feels to be in another person’s shoes.  We are genetically different from one another and it’s just not the way genealogy works.

What is important is that we continue to use the lessons from our personal experiences and education, as well as the history recorded by countless visionaries over the many centuries that humans have roamed this earth.  Believe it or not, “Visionaries” are people just like you and me.  I have Ankylosing Spondylitis, and I AM a visionary for many.  For them I carry a torch, which also stays lit in my heart.  I will lead the way, while learning, teaching, growing, and respecting the knowledge that history and experience has provided.

Harness the thoughts that you produce in your mind.  They can move mountains!

Triathlon as Medicine for #Arthritis

Since competing as a runner for a relay team in my first ever triathlon, which was the 2012 Lavaman Waikoloa Olympic distance triathlon, I was hooked.  I knew that this was the answer.  I was tired of living my days with a back, bones, and joints that hurt because I wasn’t taking the best possible care of myself.  “But I have autoimmune arthritis, and it makes it hard for me!”  No, Helgi!! THAT is even MORE the reason why you should be held accountable for your health.  No more giving the jet plane regular unleaded for fuel. It was time to figure out how to manage my arthritis, and help others by leading the way.

I found that if I maintain a good combination of swimming, biking and running, as well as functional strength, core work, and a proper stretching routine to maintain flexibility, I am currently almost invulnerable, aside from the common daily creaks and cracks, to the autoimmune disease that may eventually cause my spine, hips and other joints to fuse together.  This fusion, or ankylosis, is caused by severe inflammation and pain.  The autoimmune arthritis I have is called Ankylosing Spondylitis, or AS.  40% of the world’s population will suffer from one or more of the over 200 types of arthritis at least once in their lifetime.

I Have Ankylosing Spondylitis

Triathlon is great for arthritis!  I am not a Rhuematologist, or even a doctor, but I am my own maker, and I know that triathlon training works for me.  It can also work for others, but those of us who have arthritis know that our bodies and bones don’t really react very well to sudden changes.  This is why it is important to ease into triathlon and be sure to use each discipline regularly to improve overall fitness and core strength, while maintaining a proper plan with the help of a coach that understands your personal limitations from arthritis.  A strong core helps maintain the integrity of my joints.

Of course it hurts!  I AM human…but I think I am on to something here.

I put my music on and run the trails of the lava fields, valley-laden coastline, or the rain forests of Hawai’i.  Give me a day cycling the hills in the Pacific Northwest, or the flats of Florida.  There is nothing like jumping into the water for a training swim at the pier in Kailua Kona, which also happens to be the start-line for the Ironman World Championship event that takes place each year to crown the best Ironman  triathletes in the world.

Talk about motivation all around me.  Here is the deal.  There is no “Magic Pill.”  There may never be a “Cure.”  What does exist is #Hope.  Raising awareness by word of mouth and through networking is a key element in reaching the extremely large number of arthritis patients, doctors and interested parties all over the world.

Spreading the word

If you support arthritis and exercise as medicine, and you would like to help this cause, please support our mission and consider a donation. Perhaps you would like to join our team and race with us in support of arthritis research and programs to help people with arthritis?  All levels welcome! You can learn more about our team here, and learn more about me here.

TriSports.com supports the Helgi Olafson Foundation…use coupon code HOF14 to donate 15% of your purchase directly to the Helgi Olafson Foundation. Code cannot be combined with any other offers. Sale items and items designated as non-discountable will not be included.

Who are YOU Tri-ing for?

By Debbie
January 21, 2014 on 4:03 pm | In CAF, Charity, Community, Giving Back, Random Musings | No Comments

Races use to be just that…races. But training for races is a lot of hard work, and quite some time back, some one (not sure when, not sure who) came up with the idea that as long as people are training, why not train for a cause? In my mind, Team-in-Training was the one that really put this kind of racing on the map and, since it was founded in 1988, they and untold other charities have benefited from people racing for dollars. What has been amazing are the people from all walks of life who are brought together for a cause, people who may never have even run a 5K, let alone a marathon; never done a sprint triathlon, let alone an Ironman, yet they are willing to toe the line to raise money for research to beat down the disease that took their brother, their mother, their daughter, their best friend. The causes are numerous, but the goal the same…raise as much as possible for the cause that speaks to you.

The popularity of racing for a cause has skyrocketed

I have done this before, raising money for the Challenged Athletes Foundation, an organization that does amazing things for people with disabilities – they give them the freedom to get out and participate in athletics by providing prosthetics, training, travel and more. I did my first event with them in 2003 and have participated most years since then (a fire in SD, a couple of pregnancies and our store grand opening had me miss a few), and I don’t even know at this point how much money we’ve raised for them doing their San Diego Triathlon Challenge, Million Dollar Challenge and Race For a Reason over the years. I’ve made great friends and memories to last a lifetime!  I’ll always continue to race for CAF because I truly believe in what they do, and the people who run it are amazing!

Top Corporate Challenge fundraisers for CAF back in 2004

We have become involved with another amazing organization, this one local to our Tucson community, called Tu Nidito (means “Your Little Nest”).  Over 19 years ago, some incredible people saw a hole in the support system for children who had been diagnosed with a serious medical condition (and the adults who care for them) or who had suffered the loss of a loved one, and so they created Tu Nidito to fill that hole. Today, Tu Nidito serves around 900 children and their families, providing ongoing support for grieving children, and helping families who have a seriously ill child all the way from diagnosis to either recovery or the bleak alternative. Just visiting and touring the facility brings tears to my eyes. The staff there is so strong to face these families and the losses they suffer on a daily basis. They do all of this at absolutely no cost to the families, and so fundraising is super important for them. They have had their “Ride for a Child” program for years, pairing a cyclist competing in El Tour de Tucson with a child. The cyclist rides for that child and raises funds for Tu Nidito.  This year, they are launching their “Tri for a Child” program, and have partnered with us to try to help get the word out. They have spots for sold out IRONMAN Boulder, as well as the challenging IRONMAN Lake Tahoe. Sure, you could go get an entry for Tahoe at regular price, but by racing for Tu Nidito, you’ll get so much more, and I’m not talking about the tangibles, though those are pretty cool (ever heard of Jimmy Riccitello? He’ll be your coach). You don’t need to be a local Tucsonan to believe in what they do, so check it out, and consider racing for them…there are many children who will be very glad that you did!

Projects at Tu Nidito

The Hardest Race Ever Run

By Debbie
December 13, 2013 on 12:06 pm | In Charity, Community | No Comments

This blog brought to you by TriSports Champion Jake Greenwood. As we approach the anniversary of this very tragic event, we thought Jake’s blog (written earlier this year) was the perfect one to share. We all hope that the people of Sandy Hook are finding joy this holiday season in the memories of those lost to them. Follow Jake on Twitter – gwoodjcg.

This blog is not about Leadville or Kona.  This blog is about a 5K.  That’s right, 3.1 miles.  Most of you wouldn’t even enter a 5K race.  Recently I participated in a 5K that was far more grueling than any other endurance event I’ve encountered in my life.

I live a mere 12 miles from Sandy Hook Elementary School and have seen my community and my schools changed forever.  The innocence my children once had hopping on the school bus each morning has been stripped from them.  In return we have been given fear, frustration, and a deep, deep hole in our souls.

On March 23rd I participated in the Sandy Hook Run for the Families in Hartford, Connecticut.  Along with 12,000 other participants, I ran the 3.1-mile loop through Bushnell Park to raise money for the families.

Sandy Hook Run for the Families

Again, most of you wouldn’t even enter a 5K race.  Your countless hours of training have fine-tuned your bodies to view a 5K as a warm up to the next 20 miles you’ll run.  But make no mistake; this was a grueling 3.1 miles.  Far more grueling than the hours you will spend on the road this weekend.

Prior to the run, 26 bells were rung one at a time to symbolize the lost lives of the students and faculty of Sandy Hook Elementary School.  The sound of 12,000 silent people in the heart of one of the largest metropolitan cities in the U.S. was deafening.  As we wound through the course not a word was uttered.  All that could be heard was heavy breathing and the whimpers of adults fighting back tears.

With a heavy heart, I proudly pushed my 4 year old daughter and 1 year old daughter in the stroller while holding my 8 year old son’s hand through the course.  No course record was to be set.  No medals were given out.  No post race barbeques were held.  No tales of trials and triumph were shared.  The crowd simply ran the course and slowly, sadly made their way back to their cars and drove home.

Family run

When I wake up early and fill my water bottles for a long day of biking and running, I often think of that morning.  I can still see the pain in so many of the adult’s eyes and the lack of understanding in my children’s faces.  The pain I will feel as I embark on hour 4 in the tri-position is no match for the pain in all of our hearts over the recent tragic events of Sandy Hook and now Boston.

The Sandy Hook Run for the Families was not about running.  It was about life: honoring the memory of precious lives lost through tragedy and celebrating the gift of life.  It was about uniting in hope for the future.

Hope

Live.  That is what we must do.  Embrace new challenges.  Push your body beyond its limits. Spoil your family.  Because, in the end, life is finite and today will too soon be yesterday.

A Step at a Time

By Debbie
December 3, 2013 on 4:22 pm | In Charity, Community, Giving Back | No Comments

This blog brought to you by TriSports Champion Polly Jansen. Although this took place earlier this year, we thought it a good one to share during this time of thanks and giving. Check out her blog and follow her on Twitter – pjansen!

As a member of an athletic community, I have learned from some amazingly gifted people, but the thing I appreciate most in my friends and fellow competitors is their eager willingness to give back to the sport.  One such example recently popped up when I attended a training class for my new job.  As participants, we were asked to introduce and tell something about ourselves.  One of my new colleagues, Awolu, shared how he had come from a war-torn area of Ghana and never owned a pair of sneakers until he graduated from high school because his village didn’t have access to them.  Awolu went on to explain that he has been in the United States for nine years and periodically purchases used sneakers to ship back to his village in Ghana.  He is taking a trip there to work with a middle school in July and plans to send a shipment of shoes at the end of June.

Students in Ghana

Intrigued, I had to meet him afterwards.  “Awolu,” I said, “do you really PURCHASE the used sneakers?”  He assured me that he did, but confirmed that he would also take donations.  I said, “Don’t purchase anymore shoes right now.  You will have your whole shipment by mid-June!”

That evening I messaged Dan Gordon, founder of the Wissahickon Wanderers, a trail running club in Philadelphia that I have been a part of since 2004, and pitched the idea of collecting shoe donations from club members.  We decided that since the Wanderers are holding informal trail races each Thursday in May and also helping to put on the Wissahickon Trail Classic 10k on June 8, that we would encourage the runners and volunteers to bring their used shoes to go to the students in Ghana.

This past Thursday we collected our first round of donations and will continue to do so through June 8.  I really appreciate the support so far from the athletes in my community and it’s refreshing to see everyone come together when there is a need and they have the capacity to help.  It seems like such a small thing because everyone has used running shoes laying around, and we are so happy to be able to share something of ourselves that we often take for granted.  I thank Awolu for this opportunity and hope the students feel renewed energy as they lace up these kicks and put their best feet forward!

First box of donations

Charity

By Zachary
December 23, 2011 on 11:51 am | In Charity | No Comments

Challenged Athletes Foundation

Community. Family. Home. TriSports.com was built from a foundation of family and community contribution. It is part of who we are- and where we came from. We continue that legacy of giving back to our community and sport. From our involvement in the Challenged Athletes Foundation to volunteering at the Ronald McDonald house and even cleaning up our roadways with our Adopt A Road project.

TriSports.com also supports the local Junior El Tour Program to get kids on bikes, teach them good exercise and lifestyle habits and enable them to participate in events that reinforce goal setting and an active lifestyle.

Jr. El Tour

Each year our TriSports.com Deuces Wild Triathlon Festival donates 100% of its proceeds to a host of charities that include local organizations and the Challenged Athletes’ Foundation.

TriSports.com employees volunteer throughout the year in support of charity events and projects that continuously give back to our local- and national- community.

Being a part of our community is a part of who we are at TriSports.com, and that means giving back is a natural part of our business.

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