From redundancy & rock bottom to loving 5am training sessions & triathlon

From redundancy & rock bottom to loving 5am training sessions and triathlon

It started with a redundancy. Now Liane Dowling is living a very different life.

In just 15 months, Liane Dowling has hit the glass ceiling, fallen to rock bottom, and bounced back up to train and complete her first Olympic Triathlon.

Made redundant from her role in advertising in May 2020, having only been in Australia at that point a little over a year, she found herself questioning everything she knew about her career and what she’d do next, particularly with COVID-19 pandemic in full swing.

So she decided to do two things:

  1. To leave the advertising industry
  2. To sign up for an Olympic Triathlon — having never spent much time running, biking or swimming outdoors.

It may have been a “millennial midlife crisis”, as she puts it, but it’s a transition that’s seen her learning to live with and love 5am training sessions, and a network of women in the sport who have changed her life.

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I spoke to Liane as she was preparing to go for her afternoon swim — she had already been on the bike that morning. She’s now training for the full Ironman next March: which involves a 3.8 kilometers swim, a 180km bike ride and a full marathon run.

Pursuing these distances is a massive shift for Liane, given that prior to May 2020 she had always refused to run outside. While she did go to the gym for strength training, she hadn’t been on a proper bike since she was a kid and the only swimming she’d been doing was whatever water she could find warm enough to wade in on holidays.

Now, outdoor running, cycling and even ocean swimming is a big part of her life and has enabled her to widen her network into a group of people who come from all walks of life with their own reasons for putting hours into training.

The one thing that hasn’t shifted is that Liane still works in advertising, although now in a very different way and while finding a new form of satisfaction and achievement in sport. She freelances and goes from one contract to the next, giving her the flexibility to pursue the work in her own time rather than working long hours every day. And she’s upfront about the issues she sees in the industry, notably that senior positions are still dominated by men, despite women controlling the good majority of the consumer dollar spend.

“I’ve always valued goal-orientated things,” she says, on looking for such goals in her career. Now she finds these goals elsewhere. “I value achieving and I value team and I get that out of the triathlon.”

She says the personal transformation she has experienced is one that’s enabled her to see how great sport is for women — not only physically and mentally, but also in bridging gender divides.

She especially loves the team she’s found.

“I swim, cycle, and run with strong women nearly every day, all of whom hold their own and make amateur triathlon an equal playing field,” she says.

“Not only is this inspiring, but it creates a sense of community where women can be competitive and supportive of each other. A narrative no commonly represented in the mainstream media.

And her story highlights just how possible it is to move past the imposter syndrome and go and chase a goal or an idea — despite having little to no experience with whatever you are chasing, in the past.

Liane also describes the inspiration that came to support her transition into the sport through the “fake it till you make it” mantra, and particularly what she learned from Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk of the same title, back in 2012.

She says when a crisis hits, she has a tendency to run in the opposite direction — which is why training for a triathlon without experience in running, swimming or cycling made sense.

She told herself she could do it, with a little bit of the “fake it” running in her head — she went to the gym, she’d played netball, so she could make it work!

Along with power poses, the “fake it” idea certainly helped Liane get started. But she says it doesn’t go so far when it comes to endurance, something you can’t actually fake. Still, it delivered on what she describes as the “mindset I needed to jump in the deep end, hit the saddle and run across the finish line.”

And that’s what she did. In October, just months after she started training, Liane completed the triathlon in two hours and 50 minutes, finishing the 1.5km swim, the 40km bike ride, and 10km run. Not only that, she came second in the 35 to 40 age group. In February this year, she completed her first half Ironman race.

Now, Liane wants more women to hear her story — to see how far the “fake it” mantra can take you, even if just gives you the kickstart you need. She believes that sending out positivity and encouragement to other women is vital.

“I went from zero to getting up at 5am six times a week — running, cycling, and getting into swimming,” she says. “We absolutely have the capacity to push ourselves into new things and new areas we never may have thought possible.”

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