Lauren Steadman is a young Paralympian who has a number of incredible achievements under her belt. She competed at the Paralympic Games in Rio in 2016 and is now preparing for Tokyo 2020. I was fortunate enough to be able to interview her at an exclusive Garmin launch event, and she tells me about her inspirations, her motivations, and life as an elite athlete.
Your journey to becoming a triathlete started at a very young age, did you always know you wanted to be a triathlete?
I started when I was 11 as a swimmer, and competed at 2 paralympic games as a swimmer. After London 2012, I decided to make the transfer across to triathlon. At that time it wasn’t a paralympic sport so I trained hard for 3 years, then won the 2 World Titles and 4 European titles, then competed in Rio 2016. I never dreamt I’d be a triathlete, but I’ve always been a cross-trainer and good at all 3 sports, so it just all fell into place. And while there’s still a hell of a lot for me to improve on, it’s going alright so far!
You’ve accomplished some amazing things, what was your proudest moment?
Out of triathlon probably the first world title. I think the first time you qualify for the paralympic games and your first world champion medal is always the best. You can qualify again but it’ll never be your first one. All my family was there and I won by 3 and a half minutes so it was a really good win. It makes you more determined to win the title and work harder to stay ahead of the rest of the world.
What’s an unusual fact we might not know about you?
That I like to dance salsa; I’ve been doing it for about 4 years and I teach now as well. I got into it because my psychologist said that sport is no longer your hobby it’s your career, so you need something outside of that to enjoy. One day when I was walking home from uni I saw salsa dancing advertised every Wednesday, so I gave it a try and the rest is history! It’s a chance not to think about the stress of competing and to just enjoy dancing.
What piece of advice would you give your younger self?
I would probably say to get over my fear of open water. I really really don’t like open water, even in a lake I’m pretty damn sure there’s a great white! I’m confident in a pool, I’ve done it my whole life, so just to enjoy being in open water and get it done. If you get eaten, you get eaten!
Do you follow a specific nutrition plan? If so, what/when do you eat?
Because I’ve been an elite athlete since I was 11 it’s ingrained for me to eat healthily. I do watch what I eat but as a triathlete, I expend a vast amount of calories so I can enjoy eating lots. I have favourites, I love eggs, avocados, and I do love meat - I actually lived in South Africa when I was younger - so I love my meat.
What has been your toughest race?
Probably the toughest race was Rio, purely because I’ve never made a mistake as big as I made then. I was proud of how I came back from that but it was very tough to deal with the fact that I’d been as prepared as I could and something that I could’ve controlled went wrong. I was proud of my reaction to it, but it was tough to deal with the fact it had not gone how it was supposed to.
What are your goals now? What’s next on the horizon for you?
So this year was predominantly just to finish my masters, I want a distinction in it. I will race, Europeans and worlds are on the cards, but my main focus was getting my dissertation finished. I’ll give it my best shot, training hasn’t been optimal, but I’ve got 3 years to get back on track.
Can you talk me through your training regime?
I tend to work with my coach Sam Warriner, and we train in a 4-week split with 1 week swimming, 1 week cycling, 1 week running, then 1 week resting; when the intensity drops but the volume doesn’t. I also do 3 gym sessions a week. I have a good level of swimming from being a swimmer but I still swim 3 times a week and do a long bike ride every 2 weeks, which is anything up to 4 hours.
You’re studying for a master's in business, how do you balance training and a social life?
It was something that I had to learn; leading up to London 2012 I didn’t do it very well, I prioritised training but I now believe happy Lauren equals happy athlete. You have to make sacrifices but you have to be around people who understand and are supportive which I am.
What’s the ultimate goal for you?
Probably just to be happy. Just because so many things bring me happiness but I really want to feel a sense of achievement in myself. Maybe to regain titles that I let slip last year with my crash and swimming the wrong way, but mostly just happiness.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
Lots of people have inspired me at different stages in my career; when I was younger I was at a caravan park with my grandparents and I watched Dame Kelly Holmes win her two golds, and then last year when I got back from Rio, her and I were put together on a panel for a question and answer session and I was just like “wow, I watched you all those years ago in 2004 thinking I can be like that, I can be like her, and here I am sat here with you with an Olympic medal from Rio!”
What would you say to someone considering entering triathlon for the first time?
To enjoy it, to work on your weaknesses as well as your strengths, and to find a coach who you get on well with.
Why choose Garmin?
Garmin for me have always been the secure and safe option; they're reliable, their products have everything I need, and they sponsor triathlon so everything I need is in one place. My coach can see my stats all the way from New Zealand where she is based, and I like things to look nice and their latest watch looks great!