Have you ever wondered what it takes to be a competitive athlete? Team GB Age Group triathlete Lucy Mapp talks us through a typical day of training and eating to show the dedication and time-management it takes to be an amateur athlete juggling work with sport.
A typical day for me starts around 5.20 am
When my alarm goes off, I jump out of bed, get dressed and grab my bag then it’s downstairs to the kitchen to have my pre-swim snack. As there isn’t much time in the morning between getting up and getting in the pool, this needs to be quick energy for me, but nothing too heavy or big as I don’t want it to cause any stomach problems when I’m swimming, or worse as I tumble turn at the end of each length.
I typically go for a smoothie with berries, melon, yogurt and milk for a good amount of quick carbohydrate that’s readily available, even more so by being in liquid form. If it’s not a smoothie (or if I want a bit more) then my go-to is cereal or homemade snack bars made from the cereal as they’re light on the stomach and have quick release carbs to fuel my session.
I’m in the pool around 6.30 am and my sessions vary throughout the week from longer endurance-based ones to shorter sessions with longer rests focusing on speed and power. If it’s a long session then I might take some energy drink in my bottle to top up the carbohydrate levels during the session and keep me going through to the end.
Afterwards, it’s milk or a milk-based drink for two reasons. Firstly, milk has been well researched as being a great recovery drink with the perfect ratio of carbs to protein, it’s easy to take with me and drink in the changing rooms after the session and it’s pretty cheap too. Secondly, because I often find I have a really dry mouth after swimming and no matter how much water I drink it doesn’t go away. Having milk is the only way I’ve found to re-coat and hydrate my mouth and get it feeling back to normal, so a double win for milk! Sometimes I add some flavouring in the form of milkshake mix or whey powder, but that will also depend on what else I have coming up in the day or next few days.
I have my proper breakfast when I get home (if I’m headed straight home - if not I’ll take a similar combination with me and have that when it suits). Breakfast is generally the same for me every day regardless of what I’ve done before, just with some variations in quantities and toppings. I have oats for slow release carbohydrate, some whey protein powder to help with the recovery, and some flavourings which can vary quite a bit. I love maca powder at the moment and a bit of vanilla, but sometimes I go for cacao with/without maca, plain vanilla, or cinnamon. I typically top my porridge with some natural yogurt, berries and some mixed seeds or nuts, but this can vary depending on the day and also what I feel like.
Mid morning it’s snack time – either something small if I’ve got another session coming up shortly just to top up those carb levels, or just something to tide me over until lunch if I’m not training again until later. This could be so some toast and jam or a flapjack bar and maybe a banana, or oatcakes and cottage cheese, hummus and pitta bread/rice cakes, some fruit and perhaps some milk or cheese for a little extra protein.
I tend to make sure I have a snack 1-1.5 hours before a session to keep the energy levels up and make sure I perform my best in the session, but also to ensure that I have enough time for it to be digested and not to cause any GI problems.
Lunch is one of a few options but generally some sort of variation on a tuna wrap, some salad and fruit. I also often have eggs on toast or beans, a thick homemade soup with lots of veg, lentils and sweet potato, or cous cous salad, but it will depend a bit on what I have coming up later in the day.
In the afternoon it’s a similar story for snack time as the morning, or I might have some homemade banana bread or something else I’ve made if I want something a bit sweeter and I don’t have a session in a couple of hours time.
Dinner is often similar as it makes life easier, at the moment I’m loving a bed of spinach and lettuce, some sort of grain – cous cous/quinoa/bulgar wheat – or potato and then a mixture of vegetables (leek, courgette, broccoli, green beans, peppers etc. depending what I have in) and a protein source (typically white fish, salmon, tuna or chicken) on top with low sugar ketchup and sriracha for some extra flavour drizzled over the top.
Other easy options I go for are fajitas, a quick Thai chicken curry and rice, varying stews or curries in the slow cooker (especially good in winter or when short of time), turkey mince made into a Bolognese-style dish, bean burgers, or a lentil and veg mix.
I often have a post-dinner/pre-bed snack too to keep those glycogen levels topped up to the fullest overnight ready for the next day and to help with the recovery process overnight. This can be anything from some more porridge, rice pudding and jam, banana and custard or a bowl of cereal. I also have a small addiction to hot chocolate and tend to have one (or two or three) in the evenings before bed with milk, or just a big mug of hot milk sometimes with some added flavour.
I tend to prefer to run or do my bike sessions in the afternoons so I’ve had a chance to recover from the morning swim and refuel adequately with breakfast, snacks and a bit of lunch so I’m raring to go again. Unfortunately that’s not always possible, or the session I have calls for a different time because of the nature of it and where I want to go and do it etc. You have to be a bit flexible and try to fit things in and make it work. One thing I always try to do though is plan my day the night before, and also look ahead several days so I can make a rough plan and timetable in my head.
When I know what I have coming up I can be prepared for it, make the best use of the days and ensure that my fuelling is adequate and appropriately timed around the sessions. One thing that I’ve learnt to be really important is planning ahead and knowing what the sessions are and how intense. It’s easier then to plan how you’re going to fuel them, both before, during (if needed) and afterwards so you can just get on with it and focus on the training, knowing that the fuelling and energy is there and already planned so you don’t have to worry.
During the day I love to wear my Sundried Solaro women's leggings as they’re super comfy and soft, and really stretchy – perfect for whatever I get up to in the day. They are also quite tight which gives that compression-feel to them which I love and without the need for full on compression wear. Using these leggings post training and races I’m sure has contributed to my recovery and helped my legs feel fresh and ready for the next session or day ahead.
It's not easy juggling everything in a day and getting the fuelling right around sessions and other daily demands. I started off doing my best on my own, using the knowledge I had and information from various resources, however more recently I’ve been working with a nutritionist (the 4th discipline) to help me get the most from my diet and perform at my best.
It is possible to do it on your own, and there’s loads of good advice and information out there if you know where too look, but sometimes it can also be too much information of what you should/shouldn’t do and when, and contradictory. Having struggled with stomach and food issues I wanted to make sure I gave my body the best chance to meet the demands of my sessions, allow me to improve and adapt with my training and to recover well which is why I chose to start working with a nutritionist, and what a difference it made!
About the author: Lucy Mapp is a Team GB Age Group triathlete and Sundried ambassador.