On land and in water

What do ethical issues in robotics have to do with a swimsuit? For Nadine Bender, quite a bit. Because both have a significant impact on her everyday life. While in her job as Senior Analyst of Social Impact of Robotics she investigates the psychosocial effects of robotics in more detail, in her private life she feels at home in the water, on the bike or on the running track. That’s because Bender is a triathlete and trains up to 20 hours a week.

Bender began her athletic career as a competitive swimmer as a child. In her swimming career, she competed in a total of 15 German championships and stood on the podium and in the finals at countless Swabian, Bavarian and Southern German championships. What else can you achieve? That’s what Bender wondered, and when she couldn’t find an answer, after 21 years in the water, the air was really out.

From water to land

Bender then found more sporting variety in triathlon. And already at one of her first attempts – the Allgäu Triathlon – she left a lasting impression. Because the team manager of the then Bavarian and regional league triathlon club Schongau wanted her on board. And that as a beginner. There was no sign of pressure or fear in Bender’s mind: “I just thought to myself: what the heck, this is something different.”

"If it goes smooth in the race, you know what you've been training for so hard." Picture source: Wolfgang Hackl

But instead of medals and a place on the podium, Bender suffered two torn ligaments and a torn capsular ligament apparatus in her first triathlon season in 2018. But things went all the better in 2019 and the KUKA athlete was able to take off with the Schongau women in the 2nd Bundesliga and finish her first season there directly in third place in the standings. There were big goals on the agenda for 2020, but like so many things the coronavirus thwarted them. Because of the pandemic, all competitions had to be canceled for the time being. “About every third day a cancellation came flooding in. Even though the measures against COVID-19 are important, it was demotivating at first. After all, you train for it for a long time,” Bender explained. She was all the happier that in August 2020 the premiere at the middle distance (1.9km swim, 90km bike and 21.1km run) worked out after all. With a very strong time of 4:55 hours, Bender even surprised her new coach, Frank Lauxtermann of TG Viktoria Augsburg.

Practice, practice, practice

In order to be able to get going again in 2021, Bender uses all possible time slots for preparation: directly after getting up, during the lunch break and at the end of the day. Skipping a training session is unthinkable: “For me, it’s like getting up and brushing my teeth.” To get all that under one hat, you need a plan, and Bender sticks to it meticulously. “It just doesn’t work without it. If only because of work and because our house construction has also kept us on our toes.”

"The transition from the pool to the open water in swimming is harder than you think." Picture Source: Marcel Hilger

When she talks about “us,” she means herself and her fiancé Chris. But what does he have to say about the time-consuming hobby? “We met through sports. Chris was my swim coach and at some point we just clicked.” Initially, he had also written the triathlon plans for his protégé. However, this model was not crowned with success. “At some point, I unfortunately had to dismiss him as a triathlon coach. That’s when we got into each other’s hair too often,” Bender recounted with a grin.

Time management is everything

Work, sports, household and house building: how does that leave time for other things? “I meet up with friends, of course. After all, there are also weeks when I train less.” Where most people have to be careful not to eat too many calories, Bender has the opposite problem – with all the training, the body also needs a corresponding amount of fuel. That also has to be accommodated in the daily schedule. All in all, however, the time stress is not a problem for Bender: “I don’t know it any other way. My days have always been very tightly scheduled. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t enjoy it. But for me, there’s no better feeling than really getting out there” – whether in the water or on land.

 

Picture Source Header Image: Marcel Hilger

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