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Protecting my health as an athlete

Injuries are a fact of life for some athletes, especially within a professional athlete’s training programme. I’ve always considered myself lucky to not sit in this category. Where I do fall though, is with my health.

At the age of 11, wide-eyed and motivated by my role models on TV, I threw myself in to an elite swim programme. Before I knew it, I was swimming twice a day almost every day, with school between. Most days I would be leaving home at 4:30am, and not returning until 9:00pm. Granted, I did well as a swimmer, but it wasn’t long before my body begun to show its signs of wear. At the age of 16 I got Glandular Fever.

Coming back to the sport was hard, and that was when I ventured in to Triathlon. The variety and outdoors aspect really appealed to me. I quickly made it to the elite ranks and racing for Great Britain. Almost a little too quickly! Again, I was struck with illness. This has happened several times throughout my career now.

Health is hard to explain to your peers in comparison to injury. Too often I have ploughed on knowing that something probably isn’t right, but I don’t want to give in around my training partners or rivals. I’m not alone either, I know so many other athletes that have fallen in to the same trap.

This is where Forth has been a massive help for myself. Biomarker profiling from a simple blood test can easily identify problem areas before the onset of symptoms. As a healthy person, you can stay ahead of the game and away from illness. Any issues identified can be quickly passed on to your GP for further action.

I’m currently using Forth to track my Iron levels, after finding out that I have a hereditary condition causing my body to store iron. I’m training between 25-30hours a week, which is normally a cause for low iron, so it was quite a shock to find out that I had more than normal. If my iron levels get too high then it will not only impede my performance, but can also cause health issues. With Forth I will be checking my levels regularly throughout the year and tracking its progress. This puts me back on a level playing field with my competitors and able to compete to the highest level I can.

My biggest issue before was trying to get an appointment with my GP, and then trying to fit it in around my training and work schedule. Even then, I might have to come back again or go elsewhere to get a blood test. Forth simply send you a home-kit in the post. It couldn’t be easier; prick your finger, fill the tube, label it up, and send it back. All your results appear in your account on the Forth website.

I owe a big thanks to Forth for all their help so far.

This guest blog was written by Mark Threlfall (@markthrelfall), Professional Triathlete.

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