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Caroline Bramwell - From Couch Potato to Triathlete

Caroline Bramwell diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis - A self-confessed couch potato - Her journey to becoming a triathlete!

Despite our best efforts, many of us are couch potatoes. At the end of a long day of work, few of us have the time, energy, resources, or motivation necessary to get up and head out on a run or to go lift weights at the gym.

Like many of us, Caroline Bramwell understands the draw of the couch potato lifestyle and just how difficult it is to shed that mould in exchange for a more active lifestyle.

Coming up, we’ll learn more about how Caroline went from being a businesswoman and mum to being an accomplished triathlete.

The Beginning

As a child, Caroline wasn’t exactly her school’s star athlete. While in school, she hated running so much that she always volunteered to be a goalkeeper so she didn’t have to run around a pitch. Throughout her school years and well into adulthood, Caroline avoided running and similar exercise, preferring to spend more time on her work instead.

A few years ago, however, Caroline signed up for a cycling event, despite the fact that she hadn’t been on a bike in decades. Her inspiration? A recent diagnosis of ulcerative colitis after a serious illness while she was pregnant with her second child.

An autoimmune disorder, ulcerative colitis is a condition where your body inadvertently attacks itself. When you have ulcerative colitis, you feel fatigued and generally ill because your body can’t absorb enough nutrients due to the ulcers in the large intestine.

Through her battle with ulcerative colitis, Caroline realised that she didn’t want to be the person who was bloated, on steroids, and constantly ill. After surgery to completely remove her large intestine and innumerable doctor’s appointments, Caroline dedicated herself to getting fit again, starting with cycling.

Growing Pains

Although surgery to completely remove one’s large intestine may seem like a major procedure, Caroline has taken it all in stride. Indeed, while the surgery may sound drastic, it’s really what’s allowed Caroline to move forward and restart her life as a mum, businesswoman, and triathlete.

As we all know, however, it’s difficult to become a triathlete overnight. So, Caroline decided to take it one step at a time. Her first challenge? A charity event cycle from London to Paris in 24 hours.

Despite her GP’s hesitations, Caroline got to work training for her event. Although learning to manage life without a large intestine while training for a huge cycling event might seem difficult, for Caroline, it was better than having to live a life in pain due to her illness. Just one year after her surgery, and after countless hours training in the saddle, Caroline cycled from London to Paris in just 24 hours, thus setting her on the fast track to a life as a triathlete.

Run, Bike, Swim

For Caroline, however, it’s not just about getting out and doing something, it’s about pushing oneself further and further than she ever thought possible. So, while cycling from London to Paris was a momentous achievement, it wasn’t the end of the story. Rather, that event simply set the bar higher for all of her future endeavours.

Of course, it wasn’t always easy. After the London to Paris event, Caroline felt herself slipping back into her daily routine. Indeed, after achieving her goal, Caroline had resigned herself to living a “normal” life until some of her friends encouraged her to get back in the saddle. Soon enough, Caroline found herself peddling from Newcastle to London in yet another long-distance cycling event.

For someone like Caroline, though, a 24-hour bike ride wasn’t enough of a challenge. After the Newcastle to London ride, Caroline decided that she needed a new project, so she set herself the goal of learning to swim – something that had eluded her for her entire childhood and adult life.

In 2014, Caroline started taking beginner’s swimming lessons and found that she actually quite enjoyed it. Eventually, she realised that she could combine running, biking, and swimming into one race and complete a triathlon. After joining her local triathlon club in 2014, Caroline quickly got to work at improving her skills, especially when it came to running.

Just one year after learning to swim, in 2015, Caroline completed her first triathlon. From there, the rest is history. After each successive triathlon, Caroline found herself setting a new goal for a bigger challenge.

From Beginner to Professional

Each new goal helps Caroline keep up to date with her training, despite the occasional desire to slip back into the couch potato lifestyle. By setting goals for herself and keeping up with her training, Caroline has cemented herself as a professional, sponsored triathlete in a highly competitive triathlon field.

Perhaps more importantly, however, is how Caroline’s story shows us all that we all have to start somewhere. Whether we loved sports as children or we’re living a very sedentary lifestyle, we can all push ourselves and face our fears, whether that’s learning to swim or encouraging ourselves to live a more active life.

If that wasn’t enough, Caroline’s story shows us that even in the face of seeming insurmountable health challenges, we can persevere to achieve our goals. Although many of us deal with a variety of health-related issues in our daily lives, Caroline has shown us that we can be bigger than our diagnosis and find ways to live our dreams, even if it requires some trial and error to get ourselves at the top of our physical game.

Interested in learning more about Caroline and her journey to become a triathlete?

Check out Caroline’s recent interview on the Tough Girl Podcast to hear more about how she went from an ulcerative colitis diagnosis and a fear of swimming to a top sponsored triathlete!


Listen to Caroline Now!

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