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Triathlon star Carolyn Hayes on training for the Olympics, Confidence And Going for It

Irish triathlon star Carolyn Hayes talks work/life balance and training for the Olympics.

She's a star of the sport now, but Carolyn Hayes was a late bloomer when it came to triathlon.

Currently, training for the Olympics in Tokyo, the Renault ambassador spoke to Irish Tatler, about trying to balance her sporting life with her career as a doctor and the advice she would give to young girls who need a confidence boost. 

Why did you decide to get involved in the triathlon game?

I can’t say I grew up with a desire to be a triathlete because I only really got to know about the sport in 2012 after the success of the Brownlee Brothers in the London 2012 Olympics. As a kid - and thanks to having three big brothers - I was always involved in sport of some form. While studying Physiology in Trinity I took up Waterpolo in my 2nd year, going on to captain the team in my 3rd year.

Triathlon started for me when I entered my second year of Medicine at the University of Limerick (UL). It was a case of being in the right place at the right time and having access to the world-class facilities in UL as well as a fantastic local Triathlon Club that really got me involved.

I was hooked instantly.

You’re currently training for the Olympics, can you describe what it’s like to be training at this level?

Training for the Olympics is hard but again it’s something I’m incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to do. If it was easy there would be no challenge. Training for triathlon requires an enormous time commitment- you have to swim five times a week, you have to bike 4-5 times a week and then fit in running sessions plus gym work. I have to keep on top of my nutrition and sleep to ensure I can meet the demands of training.

Most days I love the sessions, but not every day is easy and mentally it can be tough. 

Sometimes no matter how hard you try you don’t get the desired outcome.

My coaches are amazing and I’m very lucky to have Gavin Noble and Eanna McGrath keeping me on my toes and getting the best out of me in both training and races. They are as committed as I am to the goal.

Finding balance

How do you balance your sporting life with your career as a doctor?

It is very hard but I have always managed to make it work. I would be known as a morning lark so I’d often be up at 4am to get a swim or run in before starting Ward rounds at 7am in St James’s.

I’d always manage my time to the minute when I was working full-time and it meant missing out on a lot of social events to ensure I was able to get some training done. I worked as a clinical tutor in anaesthesiology up until the end of July this year as well as locuming as a Senior House Officer.

With the Olympics less than 10months away I have decided to take a mini career break- something I’m incredibly fortunate to be able to do (something I couldnt do without the help and support of my sponsors and, of course, family). I knew the training demands of Olympic level triathlon (20-30hrs/week) would be too much to be able to be both a good athlete and a good doctor to my patients.

I like to give 100% to everything I do.

Do you think it’s possible for women and particularly women in sport to really have a work/life balance?

I definitely think it is possible for women in sport to have a work life balance. Women are exceptional at multi-tasking! You don’t have to look very far to see that there are outstanding women who are at the top of their professional fields and competing in sport. The best role model I can think of right now would be Anne O’Leary, Vodafone CEO.

Yes, being women we have more time demands – men can squeeze training into their lunch hour and we have to think of hair/make-up and getting back to the office in a respectable manner – but it’s doable.

No regrets 

 What advice would you give to other young women who want to get into sports but lack confidence?

I would say just go for it. The hardest part is always starting- arriving to a new training venue/training group can be very intimidating but once you go and get through that first session you realise that all the worry was wasted. There is a sport out there for EVERYONE and all levels.

You should never let a lack of confidence stand in the way of trying something new. 


You will only regret the things you didn't do. 

Knowing what you know now, is there anything you would change about your sports or career journeys so far?

Nothing. I am happy with how I did it.

I’m glad I got my studies and qualifications out of the way before deciding to commit to sport. I worry a lot about younger athletes who go straight from school into top-level competition because there is a finite lifespan on it –  when it ends they are at a bit of a loss with what to do because sport is all they’ve known.

My advice to young women would be to balance sport with your education and make that work for as long as you can.

What’s the one thing in your life that makes a hectic day a little less stressful?

Having the support and belief of Renault Ireland behind me definitely makes my day and life in general easier. To be able to drive my Captur allows me to be independent and mobile and make the work/life balance work. Renault has been behind me since 2015 - they got me through my hospital placements as a student and they are getting me around the world on the Journey to Tokyo.