Find out more about our personal trainer and cross-triathlete coach Abby Boswell. From fuelling your workouts to pedaling up mountains and packing in brick sessions, this triathlete knows her stuff.
How did you find yourself in the world of fitness?
I've always been active and interested in fitness, but it was when I got involved in triathlon in 2011 that I really started to build up my physiology knowledge and training experience. In 2014 I decided to make my passion my career and I signed up for my triathlon coaching level 1 course and personal trainer qualification. I qualified as a trainer in spring 2015 and got my level 2 Coaching Triathlon certificate a year later. I love learning about physiology and putting theory into practice with fun and rewarding training sessions for my clients but equally the psychological side of coaching is fascinating as it is complex.
Tell us about sporting events you have taken part in or have coming up:
I've taken part in numerous triathlons including three middle-distance races in the last few years and in 2016 I decided I wanted to do something different and show my mountain bike some love, so I took up cross-triathlon. Cross triathlon typically the same sort of distances as normal Olympic-distance triathlon, but it can take twice as long as the bike leg is mountain biking and the run is always off road too. I represented my age-group in the ETU European Championships in Switzerland but bad conditions meant that the race didn't go my way, so I'm going to have another go at this next year. I'm also waiting to hear on the London Marathon 2017 ballot results - it's the only form of gambling I do!
Do you follow a specific diet?
I want to say no, because I'm sceptical of fad diets, however I've been a vegetarian since I was quite young and at 20, I developed an allergy to dairy and sensitivity to gluten which required me to see a dietician. With these restrictions in place, I've had to develop a good understanding of how to consume a balanced diet and to know the best non-animal sources of nutrients like vitamin B12, calcium, iron and Omega-3 oil to name a few, as well as being aware of my protein consumption. This really gave me a head-start when I studied nutrition as part of my personal trainer course. Nutrition is a vast subject so I'm still learning, and ahead of next season I'm planning to apply research into female-specific nutrition to ensure I get the most from my training and recovery.
What do you do to keep your clients motivated?
I make a point of finding out what makes my clients tick before I start working with them. A lot of people come to me and say they want to lose weight, but I try to find out why this is important to them to get an in-depth understanding of their motivations. From there I help clients set out some goals - a mix of big exciting goals and some more process based goals which are easier to focus on in the short-term. Every 6-8 weeks we'll review progress - sometimes not all the goals are met but there are always improvements and these tangible results are so rewarding for both my clients and for me. I ask for regular feedback from clients so I can anticipate and prevent a loss of mojo before it happens by changing things up to get them back on track.
Talk us through your training regime:
At the moment I'm in the 'off season' and taking a step back from structured triathlon training, but when I'm training I follow a periodised training programme of about 8-12 hours a week which is typically broken into 2 bike sessions, 2 runs, 3 swims, 1 brick (bike and run), 1 strength and if possible 1 yoga. Some of the coaching I do is physical, for example indoor cycling coaching, where I'll normally 'ride' with the group so I factor this into my training plan as it adds fatigue. Since the beginning of this year I've been working with another triathlon coach who plans my training so I don't have to think about it - even the best athletes need a coach or someone to be accountable to so I see having a coach myself as leading by example. It's also a great way to learn from someone more experienced.
How do you keep your fitness knowledge up to date?
As a REPs-certified personal trainer, I have to complete further training to maintain my membership, so that establishes the baseline, but I also undertake CPD courses as a triathlon coach which are not part of the REPs accreditation system. I also read journals such as Sports Performance, triathlon and cycling magazines plus I follow several prominent sports scientists and people working in the field on social media to ensure I hear about new research. I spend a lot of time on the PubMed website and digging out journal articles!
How do you balance work and a social life?
Having started my triathlon coaching in a club environment, being a part of the club is a big part of my social life. When you've trained with people several times a week for long time you get to know them pretty well! My club also prides itself on being friendly and fun. Outside of my triathlon buddies, I'm lucky to live in an area where being self-employed and working from home or flexible working is very common so I have a number of friends who are around at the same time as me. I try to keep weekend afternoons free for non-work, non-coaching engagements and long weekend rides are also a great way to catch up with my cycling friends and family!
What are your top 3 trainer tips?
- Do more easy sessions! Especially if you're into endurance sports, it's easy to underestimate how much 'easy' work you should be doing or overestimate how hard your threshold-pace workouts should be. My long runs this year have been slower than I've run in years, but I got personal bests in my half marathon and 10K times with this approach.
- Work backwards - instead of putting training first and for recovery and adaptation to be an afterthought, think first about what adaptations you want, fit the training in around the necessary recovery periods
- Fuel according to your specific needs - different people burn energy differently and women in particular tend to need more carbohydrates than men to avoid cortisol levels going through the roof. Do plenty of research and get expert help if you can.
If you could only give your clients one exercise, what would it be?
Ooh, tough one! I'm going to have to go with the classic, burpees, as there are endless adaptations, they can be done in the tiniest of spaces with zero equipment and they work the whole body and multiple aspects of fitness.
What are your training aspirations?
In the long term I think almost anything is possible, so this could read as more of a bucket list then set goals, but I think it's good to have different sorts of goals with different timeframes so here are a few, I'm not sure what order they will happen in! I'd like to have at least a mid-pack finish in a Cross Triathlon Age-Group championship, I'd like run a marathon without an injury and see what I'm truly capable of. I'd like to complete a long-distance swim such as the Bridge-to-Bridge or Dart 10K. And to do a season or two of bike racing, either road/crits or cyclocross. On a more micro-scale, there are also some yoga poses I've been wanting to crack for ages and I'd like to improve my shoulder flexibility so I can do overhead squats.
Why work with Sundried?
Sundried captured my attention as soon as Daniel first contacted me to tell me about the business. I've been trying to choose ethically made clothes for years but since my daily wardrobe priorities are now more about being lightweight, sweat wicking, anti-chafe, comfortable and unrestrictive, I was finding it difficult to stick to my beliefs. When I found out how Sundried audits its supply chain, takes every opportunity to reduce its carbon footprint and supports charities on the back of high-performance sportswear, I felt like it had been created with me in mind! Working with personal trainers and coaches also makes Sundried feel more connected with its customers, which I'm sure will help the brand to develop great products as the company evolves.