Penny Rother

Penny Rother: Triathlon Coach

Award-winning triathlon coach, Penny, is inspiring women to achieve their fitness goals.

Triathlon coach Penny Rother is a passionate advocate of coaching and a champion of women’s sport and fitness. Her own story serves as a glowing example to working mothers everywhere that there is an exciting life to be lived beyond the full-time roles of managing your career and ensuring the smooth running of your family unit.

She has balanced her career as a doctor – she has worked as a GP at the same Bonnyrigg practice, five miles south of Edinburgh, for 31 years – with bringing up two children, while still making time to compete in cross-country for Scotland and triathlon for Great Britain.

‘When I started triathlon, I had two young children, a career, a husband, a home to run and a life to live, and my coach gave me a training programme that helped me improve while ensuring I didn’t neglect my other roles,’ she says.

Penny says coaching her crop of predominantly middle-aged female triathletes, who are members of Edinburgh Road Club, gives her a wonderful sense of fulfilment and a great deal of pleasure. And she must be doing something right as, this month, she was crowned , which recognised her achievements in ‘widening access for working mums through her coaching’.

Penny is coaching’s most ardent supporter, enthusing: ‘I absolutely love being coached.’ When she competed in her first World Triathlon Championships in 2001, she was self-coached and finished fourth. She remembers thinking to herself: ‘I wonder what I could have done with a bit of coaching.’ She adds: ‘I was coached by professional coach Fiona Lothian – who is now Head of Performance at Triathlon Scotland – for eight years, and I loved it. She was fantastic at balancing work and family life with training. It’s a great example of what you can do with a bit of smart thinking around coaching. ‘I am now coached by Linda McLean, who is a Level 3 coach in Scotland, and I still get so much out of it. But I wanted to give something back. ‘I wanted to help busy mums like me to make exercise part of their life and help them fit it around their children.’

Her first steps into coaching came six years ago when she went along to the Great Scottish Swim at Strathclyde Country Park with three friends. Between them, they had 11 children, and afterwards, Penny asked them if they had ever thought about doing triathlon. ‘They were just swimmers and said they had never cycled on the road and would be too scared. So I promised to teach them.’ Weeks later, she had successfully recruited several more members to the Edinburgh Road Club, which is the biggest cycling club in Scotland, with around a quarter of the 600-plus members triathletes. The group has increased rapidly in numbers over the years, and there is no stipulation that you must train in all three triathlon disciplines. Some women have gone on to compete at the World Age Group Championships, and others have taken part in seven-hour half Ironman competitions, but if you want to just swim, or join in the running or cycling sessions, then there is no pressure put on you to ‘up the ante’.

A Level 3 triathlon coach, she coaches a weekly swim session at the club and arranges the rota for the other sessions, while taking a weekly bike session for the triathletes all year round (and a second one in the lighter evenings from April to September). ‘A lot of people think that if they are not good athletes themselves, they can’t coach, which is absolute rubbish,’ she says. ‘Taking a Level 1 or 2 course is not that onerous. Certainly, Level 1 is an achievable standard for most people. There is not a lot of academic input.’

Find out more about Penny on the Connected Coaches website.