She Loves Tri, USA's Joella Baker conquering Lupus with the help of Triathlon
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For triathletes all across the world, competing is about more than just being involved in a sport. Triathlon becomes a lifestyle that promotes health, wellbeing, activity and community. For others, swimming, biking and running is a form of healing, both physically and mentally.
World Triathlete Joella Baker (USA) is one of those individuals, and attributes triathlon to helping her be able to live the lifestyle she wants. Baker started out in triathlon in 1989 when her sister invited her to compete in a race. She already had a background in swimming but was not actively training, so signing up was a good excuse to get back into the sport. For the bike portion, Baker had little experience other than she grew up riding horses and hoped that it would be similar, so she bought a bike just before the race.
Unfortunately, she finished almost last on that first occasion, but that didn’t matter to Baker. The enjoyment she got from competing meant she was instantly hooked on the sport, and she has been competing in triathlons ever since.
In 2000 Baker was diagnosed with the auto-immune disease Lupus. Joint pain is one of the major symptoms and, for Baker, training and competing in triathlons has been one of the key factors in helping to control the arthritis and discomfort in her joints and body, issues that someone living with Lupus has to deal with on a daily basis.
Another benefit of Triathlon has been with her overall wellness. Continuously training in the forms of swimming, biking and running allows Baker to stay active, maintain her weight and keep a healthy lifestyle, a lifestyle that she swears is the key to overcoming her illness.
“I think it is so important that people not give up. It is easy to stay in bed all day and not try to be active, but the more active you are the better you are going to feel,” said Baker. “I have Lupus, I have Celiac’s Disease and I have Vasculitis and Raynaud, so I have every excuse in the world to not get out and be active, but I encourage people to please be active. Find a doctor who supports what you are trying to do, who supports you and will find the right diagnosis for you.”
Baker also believes that Triathlon is a way for families to get healthy and stay active together. She founded the organisation called ‘Get Fit Families’, which started out as a group of new mums to begin working out again after giving birth. Today it serves as a foundation for families with kids of all ages to gather and enjoy activities together, including a triathlon training group that introduces children to the sport.
Baker is an inspirational figure for the sport and a huge dose of motivation and encouragement for anyone who feels like life’s obstacles can disable them from living the life that they desire. While physical and mental challenges are overwhelming, staying active and trying to live a healthy lifestyle can often be the best medicine.