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From Field Hockey to Triathlons: Nellie Poulin’s Journey to Confidence and Health

From Field Hockey to Triathlons: Nellie Poulin's Journey to Confidence and Health Run Tri Bike
Nellie Poulin
Year started: Field Hockey In High School
Next race: October 6, 2024 / Kiawah Island Triathlon / Kiawah, SC

Transitioning from field hockey to triathlons is no small feat, but Nellie Poulin’s story shows that can be done when we set achievable goals and push through challenges. As a former field hockey player, Nellie found running natural but had to face the daunting task of learning to swim and cycle alongside other competitors. Through determination, she is not only embracing these new sports but also discovered significant mental and physical health benefits along the way. Her journey can inspire others to overcome their fears and embark on their own triathlon adventures.

Starting Out: From Field Hockey to Running

Nellie Poulin’s athletic journey began on the field hockey pitch. “I started playing field hockey in high school,” she recalls. “Running was a part of our conditioning, and I always enjoyed it.” Unlike many athletes who view running as a punishment, Nellie saw it as an integral part of her training. “I was pretty good at it, and it felt more like a punishment to my teammates than to me,” she jokes.

During high school, Nellie also participated in various 5k races and eventually ventured into half marathons. However, it wasn’t until much later that she considered combining running with swimming and cycling. “The swimming and biking part of things are really new for me,” she explains. “I just started on that path about three months ago.”

The Catalyst for Change: Embracing Triathlons

Nellie decided to sign up for her first triathlon to add variety to her workouts and challenge her brain. “I was getting a little bit stuck and needed more variety in my training,” she says. “And as a chiropractor, I’m always looking at different research. One of the big things in dementia prevention is trying new things and learning new skills.”

The decision to start triathlon training was influenced by her professional background and personal experiences. Nellie’s partner’s grandmother had Alzheimer’s, and her mother works at an Alzheimer’s facility founded by a family member. These connections made her keenly aware of the importance of maintaining a healthy brain and nervous system. “Triathlon had always been in the back of my mind, but knowing that I’m not a great swimmer and not confident on a bike made it a significant challenge,” she admits.

Overcoming Challenges: Training and Confidence Building

One of the biggest hurdles Nellie faced was gaining confidence on the bike. “The riding on the roads was very frightening to me,” she says. “I had to push myself to get on the bike and ride with cars passing me. It was nerve-wracking at first.” To build her confidence, Nellie started riding on bike trails with other cyclists and pedestrians, navigating twisty paths and learning to maintain control at higher speeds.

Swimming also posed a challenge, but Nellie tackled it head-on by joining a swim club. “I’ve only done pool swims so far, but swimming with a group helps prepare me for being in the water with others,” she explains. She plans to transition to open water swims, as her triathlon will be ocean-based. “I know the wavy water will be a challenge, but I’m working on it.”


Professional Insights: Lessons from Sports and Chiropractic Practice

As a chiropractor, Nellie understands the importance of injury prevention and recovery. “Endurance sports can be hard on your body in a different way than team sports like field hockey,” she notes. “I’ve had to be more committed to my recovery, doing foam rolling, mobility exercises, and making sure my body is ready to go the next day.”

Her chiropractic background also influences her training philosophy. “I prescribe exercises to my patients, so I practice what I preach,” she says. “Keeping a healthy nervous system and staying physically active are top priorities for me.”

The Importance of Mental Health

Nellie emphasizes that mental health is just as crucial as physical conditioning in athletic pursuits. “Trying new activities like triathlons is beneficial for your brain,” she explains. “We can always form new neural pathways, and the more we have, the more resilient our brain is to neurodegenerative processes.”

She also believes that staying active helps keep her motivated and mentally sharp. “There are days when I don’t feel like training, but knowing I have a race in October keeps me going,” she says. “It’s about building confidence and overcoming the mental hurdles as much as the physical ones.”

Goal Setting and Community

Nellie finds joy in setting and achieving goals, a trait she developed through her sports experiences. “I started with the goal of just finishing my first triathlon, but now I’m looking at the times from last year’s race and thinking about how I can compete,” she admits. Her competitive spirit, honed from years of field hockey, drives her to improve each day.

The camaraderie in triathlon training also plays a significant role in her motivation. “Sharing this journey with others, whether it’s through a swim club or running with friends, makes the experience more enjoyable,” she says. “It’s not just about the race; it’s about the people you meet and the support you give each other.”

Insights and Advice for Aspiring Triathletes

Nellie’s journey offers valuable insights for anyone considering triathlons. Her advice is straightforward: “Just sign up for a race. If you don’t, you’ll keep finding excuses not to do it.” She stresses the importance of breaking down the training into manageable goals and focusing on incremental improvements.

For those worried about injury or confidence issues, she recommends seeking guidance from professionals, whether it’s a coach or a healthcare provider. “Recovery and injury prevention are crucial. Make sure you take care of your body and listen to it,” she advises.

Nellie Poulin’s transition from field hockey to triathlons is a story of courage, commitment, and personal growth. Her experience highlights the importance of setting goals, embracing new challenges, and prioritizing mental and physical health. For anyone looking to start their triathlon journey, Nellie’s story is a reminder that with the right mindset and support, anything is possible.