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Fiona Bracegirdle Personal Trainer & Athlete Ambassador

by Alexandra Parren

personal trainer duathlon duathlete bike run

Fiona enjoyed a childhood growing up in athletics before becoming World Age Group Champion in duathlon in 2014. She talks to Sundried about her career in the fitness industry. 

Tell us about your journey to fitness? Where did it all start?

Since the age of 9, I have been a member of my local athletics club.  I was a shy kid and always kicked up a fuss about going to athletics training, but my parents would tell me "you'll enjoy it once you get there"...  Guess what?  They were right.

I love love loved athletics!  I grew in confidence through sports days and local competitions and soon my potential in the sport became apparent.  I would partake in almost anything, from 800m (my all time favourite!) to shot putt to high jump - yes, all 5 feet zero inches of me, and I wasn't that bad!

The sports alone were amazing - nerve-racking, exciting and, most of all, fun.  But there was also a social side.  Spending weekends with like-minded individuals, cheering each other on, the amazing team spirit - I enjoyed every second and it was one of the best experiences when I was growing up.  Feeling part of something is so special.

I did athletics and cross country for the best part of 9 years but eventually injury would mean an unexpected turn of events was just around the corner.

As part of my injury rehab, my physio recommended cycling and gym work for cross-training.  So, whilst studying Sports and Exercise Science at University, I decided to give them both a go and I fell in love with sport all over again.  It was in my final year of Uni that my duathlon and fitness careers began.  I entered a few races and did well, I actually qualified for the 2013 World Age Group Champs in Canada, and I went on went to achieve a bronze medal - I couldn't quite believe it!

I have since taken part in four more World AG Champs all across the globe, from Spain to Australia.  In 2014 I became World Age Group Champion!  That was my biggest achievement in the sport so far.  But in 2017 I competed in my first elite duathlon - British Championships.  I placed 11th and was overwhelmed by the whole experience.  However, I came away thinking "this is definitely for me".  So in March 2018 I competed at the same event, earning a top 10 placing of 8th and improving my bike and run times - onwards and upwards!

Whilst training and competing took up a fair amount of time, I was also working as a fitness instructor from 2013-2016.  I lead numerous small group exercise classes every week and it was great to see returning clients and how they enjoyed the classes (even if I was often "cruel" by adding in plenty burpees!), improved fitness and achieved their personal fitness goals.  I did, however, decide on a career change in 2014.  I began studying for Swedish massage and, once qualified, achieved my Sports and Remedial massage qualification.  I tried to work as an fitness instructor and massage therapist but unfortunately it wasn't practical or sustainable.  I chose to go down the massage route and have been building business as a self-employed therapist since 2016 to present.  What I enjoy most about my work is helping people.  And having the fitness/sporting background is a huge benefit as I can use this additional knowledge to help my clients with any rehab or preventative exercises and stretches that may be required.

Talk us through your training regime:

I tend to do some form of exercise every day, but being a competitive athlete and having a very physical job can be tiring.  So I plan 1-2 rest days per week and on these days will usually incorporate some strength and core work, unless I feel I need a complete rest 0 it is important to listen to your body.

Otherwise, I run 2-3 times a week and I try to keep it mixed with track, road and trail (off-road gives you so much freedom and is great for proprioception!).  I cycle 3-4 times a week and like to do this outside as much as possible, but during the winter I am usually restricted to my spare room using the indoor trainer - trains mental toughness!

I tend to prioritise cycling as it is my weaker sport of the two, plus cross-training/running less works for me to reduce the risk of injury.  This is also where S&C training is very important.  My main training goals are to improve my bike power output (keeping above 200watts for racing), improve my 5km time (break 17:30) and achieve one full bodyweight pull up!

Tell us one unusual fact we wouldn’t know about you:

I play the bagpipes.  As well as sport, music was a big part of my childhood, and I played a few instruments over the years - piano/keyboard, flute, briefly dabbled with the trumpet, and finally bagpipes.  I don't think I could feel much more proud to be Scottish than when playing the bagpipes.

What advice do you wish you'd been given when you first started out?

Be assertive.  I used to be shy and found mI wouldn't put myself first in a lot of instances, or standup for myself when something wasn't right.  However, I am now more confident, assertive and will easily and happily stand my ground.  I live life with a "no regrets" attitude and it works out pretty well.

Do you follow a specific nutrition plan? If so, what/when do you eat?

I do my best to keep healthy but allow myself treats when cravings set-in.  I believe being too strict can backfire quite significantly.  I eat throughout the day, I'm a bit of a grazer really, snacking on rice cakes with peanut butter (homemade) or fruit or jelly - an all time favourite of mine!  I do have some food intolerances so have to be a bit more selective when doing the weekly shop.  But it makes me think more about what I am eating and how I can adapt meals to be Fiona-friendly.

What do you do to keep your clients motivated? Do you have any top tips to keep motivated?

Sports massage therapy often requires a large amount of positivity to motivate clients who may be injured and are looking at a long period of rehab and recovery.  By explaining why such exercises or stretches are being prescribed, what is happening when a particular area is injured and when they may be fully recovered, helps people understand and be a part of the therapy they are receiving.

How do you keep your fitness knowledge up to date?

I follow a handful of personal trainers via social media and it is fascinating to see their take on things, the progress made by their clients and the research they do to answer client questions.  I now work as a Sports Massage therapist and find I am learning new things every week.  I work alongside physiotherapists and osteopaths and seeing how different professionals work is so interesting.  There are numerous treatment types/techniques, a huge range of rehab programmes/exercises and it is important to remember that every case is different.

What are your top 3 trainer tips?

  1. Set out realistic goals that are attainable and be accountable
  2. Find a routine (training and diet) that is sustainable long-term
  3. Enjoy what you do!

If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Peanut butter!

Why work with Sundried?

There are a few reasons:

a) I have seen Sundried's clothing via social media and I love the look of it

b) Promoting sport, exercise and a healthy lifestyle via REAL people makes the whole concept more relatable, approachable and interesting

c) (and this I would say is the biggy!) The promotion of recycling and reusing materials to make ethical clothing.  The things you see/read in the news, particularly about plastic pollution in our oceans, is so upsetting.  It is made even worse knowing that man is the problem, it is preventable yet we are destroying our own beautiful planet

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