How I cope with epilepsy as a triathlete

Triathlete Annie Brooks was diagnosed with epilepsy 10 years ago. Now, she’s just launched a multisport clothing brand…

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Triathlete Annie Brooks was diagnosed with epilepsy 10 years ago. Now, she’s just launched a multisport clothing brand. Below, she opens up on her experiences and talks about how triathlon has become a big part of her life.

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The best way to describe my epilepsy is like a short circuit in the brain that disconnects every so often. Having an invisible disability is tough because I often ‘look’ fine, but it can be an absolute nightmare as I can’t communicate during a seizure. I can get a migraine after and feel very low, but I try my hardest to not let it impact my life and stay positive.

I wasn’t diagnosed as epileptic until I was 26 and found it extremely difficult to deal with. I got some great professional support, so in 2014 I decided to give back to an epilepsy charity with my first race at Blenheim Palace. My husband, Nick, was the main inspiration for choosing a triathlon, as he’s a triathlete and coach himself. After that race I was hooked.

One of my big triggers for epilepsy is lack of sleep and stress, so rest and recovery is a major priority. I never train outside alone, as I know from experience when I shouldn’t open-water swim or be out on a road bike. I just adapt my training. For example, I can work on my cycle fitness with my Echelon bike or add in a Pilates session for a bit of core work.

Thankfully, I haven’t experienced a seizure during a triathlon, but I have during a half marathon. I couldn’t move. All I remember was a long path in front of me, and I just sat on the floor right in the middle of Greenwich Park! I’m very proud to say I managed to centre myself and make it to the finish line! It’s an inspiration point for me now, that no matter how tough, I know I can push on.

I love the mental and physical challenge of triathlon. That personal challenge is my main love. It’s also a passion I can share both with my training partner husband and the epilepsy community, by showing them that life doesn’t have to stop after diagnosis.

Annie Brooks
(Credit: Annie Brooks)

Swimming is my first love, I’m a year-round swimmer (skins too!), so that’s always a fun part of training, swimming at Stoney Cove in Leicestershire with the dry-suited scuba divers in December!

I’ve always done sprints but this year I’m heading out to California to do Ironman 70.3 Indian Wells – La Quinta, which is a nerve-wracking step up. My triathlon journey has also inspired a brand new business. I’ve launched a multisport clothing brand called For Every Adventure, built around strong women, sustainability and recycled credentials. It’s super fun, features training, racing and après-racing kit, and is designed and manufactured in the UK.

It’s a great feeling to be encouraging people, especially women, into triathlon. It’s given me so much confidence, and was such a big part of realising that being diagnosed with a condition like epilepsy is not the end of the world. In fact, for me, it was really the start of a whole new adventure.

Check out Annie’s sustainable adventure wear at For Every Adventure and Follow Annie on Instagram here.

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Top image: For Every Adventure