Jenny is a Team GB Age Group triathlete. She talks to Sundried about how she got into the sport and gives her top tips for those just starting out.
Tell us about your sporting background.
I’ve was always very active as a child and did after school activities most days. I’d give anything a go from dancing and gymnastics to swimming. At that age, it was all about having fun and spending time with my friends, which was great. When I got to about 16 I started to take things more seriously and was swimming for my local club and beginning to run with my dad on a regular basis. The hard work (although it still seemed fun to me) started to pay off and I found that running was my thing. By my late teens, I had a handful of county and national titles to my name and was representing England at the world mountain running championships.
Do you feel that training for the three disciplines of triathlon has improved your fitness over when you were just running?
Yes, definitely! The thing with running is that it puts so much pressure on your body, pounding the roads day in and day out isn’t good for anyone, and there is a limit to how many hard miles your body can cope with. Swimming and cycling are a little more forgiving and allow you to put the hard work in without wrecking your body. I’ve found that I can get away with doing far less hard (damaging) run miles and get the same benefits from adding in some bike and swim sets. This means that injury risk is much lower and I’m running faster than ever!
You’ve been competing in triathlons for 2 years now, how has your training changed?
Before I started triathlon I was getting pretty downhearted about running. Going out twice a day was getting lonely and I was slowly falling out of love with the sport. I'd always swam as a teenager and enjoyed the club sessions so I thought I’d give triathlon a go to try and spice things up a bit! Training is so much more varied now. I still train two or three times a day, but it's not all running which is so refreshing. I also do more strength and conditioning work to compliment the three sports, as I'm using more muscles now than when I was just running. It's sometimes harder to fit the tri training in as you have to build in time to get the pool or plan your ride around the next rain storm, but it's definitely worth it!
Do you have any tips for those training to do a triathlon?
I think my main tip is to enjoy it! It's not easy but doing it with a smile makes all the difference and you’ll achieve so much more than you ever thought you would if you’re having fun.
What gets you motivated?
Working towards something might take years of hard work, but the thought of one day achieving a World Championship medal is worth all the sacrifices.
What does a typical week’s training look like for you?
I have to fit my training around shift work and uni so it does vary from week to week, but I try to get my main sessions in each week and then fit the recovery sets in around what else I have going on.
Monday: 30-45 min easy spin on the bike and a track or hill run session with my running group.
Tuesday: Recovery day, so I just spin on the bike or go for a gentle run (sometimes both depending on how the legs feel!).
Wednesday: Easy 30-45 min run or bike and track or hill session with my running group.
Thursday: Bike session, normally on the Watt bike and swim set with swimming club.
Friday: Easy/rest day, I might go to the gym and do some light stretching and core work to keep loose.
Saturday: A faster paced run (tempo or progression) up to 8 miles total distance.
Sunday: Long off road run, easy pace of up to 90 minutes and a swimming set with my swimming club.
I try and do core and strength work 3 days of the week too.
How often do you participate in triathlons?
I'm still new to the triathlon game and getting used to the race scene. Qualifying races tend to be early season, so I try to do 2 or 3 of them and then wait until the end of the season for the internationals. Triathlon races can be expensive so you have to plan carefully. To make sure I keep my race fitness, I will compete in swimming and running races all year round.
How do you find the motivation to carry on training when you have setbacks / get injured?
I used to find it really hard to keep positive when I was injured; it's hard when you can’t do what you love to stay motivated. Seeing other people racing and doing well whilst you're sat on the sidelines isn't easy. But in the last year or so I have had a change of mindset and realised that being upset isn't going to speed up the recovery process, being stressed can slow it down if anything as your body isn't 100% focused on repairing itself! It's more important to take the rest you need, and do what you can. Concentrate on the discipline you can do or work on your transition skills or strength. That way you have the confidence you are doing everything you can do so that when you are injury-free you can crack on and get back to fitness again.
What do you focus on as you’re competing?
It depends on how the race is going. When you are having a good day, you are so in the zone, it feels easy and you are just focusing on pushing hard and keeping a rhythm. On bad days it's a different story, and it's on these days when mental strength is key! When I'm running I count my steps or say the alphabet over and over in my head...just anything to distract me from the pain and to get me to the finish line. I also get a lot of strength knowing that there are so many people who have helped me get to the start line and not finishing would be letting them down, so it isn't an option!
What’s your next challenge?
I had a nasty bike accident last summer, so at the moment the biggest challenge is to get back to race fitness! I’m enjoying the process but it can be hard to sit on the side lines. I’m hoping to get a late season race in this year and then come back next season with some big aims. My ultimate goal is an international medal, something I think I am capable of, but also something I’m going to have to work very hard to get.
How do you find the time to balance training and a social life?
Choosing to train and race at a high level is a lifestyle and something I do because I enjoy it. I still see friends and go out, but I make sure I’ve trained beforehand and don’t stay out too late, so I’m up and ready to go again the next morning. It sounds cliche but training becomes your social life, I have met some of my very best friends through sport and they’re one of the things I’ll take away from it when the time comes to hang up my trainers.
Why did you choose to work with Sundried?
When I first heard about Sundried it was so refreshing to find a brand that not only wanted to produce great kit but also has an ethical outlook on how it was produced. It’s so common these days for brands to just want to keep up with their rivals and produce the “next big thing”. It's easy to forget about the bigger picture, but Sundried manage to do both! As a sportsperson, I can honestly say it is the best kit I have worn; I don't like taking it off at the end of a session because it’s so comfortable. As someone who cares about the environment and poorer communities, I can wear my kit knowing it is ethical and doing good. In my opinion that's a win-win situation and you don’t get better than that.