I have come to realise the importance of recovery over the past 9 months. When trying to fit in 2/3 training sessions in every day, day after day your body needs to have recovered so you can train at your best. I now understand how important it is to get a good night’s sleep, so if that means going to bed at 9pm if I’ve got to be up at 4.30am the next day then so be it. To be honest I’m rarely up beyond 10pm anyway! Wild one!
Rest means rest. Not spending the time doing jobs around the house, going shopping, socialising, driving, sorting out emails or going to work! It’s sometimes hard for others to understand that. I don’t find it easy to take time off either, I always worry I should be doing more, thinking everyone else is out there getting in a hard bike session or big run set. I have easier days; don’t get me wrong, you can’t keep going day after day with hard sessions without a break. It’s when you rest that your body can recover and you make improvements. You have to listen to your body, when you have a little niggle, don’t ignore it – sort it out before it becomes anything more. Spend time stretching and strengthening before you get injured as a preventative measure, don’t wait until a problem develops and then start working on the important exercises. I am lucky to have a great osteopath, sports massage therapist and physio who between them keep my body in shape. I try to see them as often as I can as there is usually a little niggle for them to have a look at!
My nutritionist - Beverley Gibbs - has also been great at helping me out. I had never realised how important nutrition was in performance and recovery. Bev has been great at helping me sort out my deficiencies and look at easy ways of incorporating all the vitamins and minerals I need into my diet. I have grown to love pumpkin and sunflower seeds, cashew and almond butter, crispy kale, dates and all sorts of other foods that I had never really eaten before. I have always eaten a lot. I am always hungry and would happily sit and eat all day!
My family and boyfriend know too well what I’m like if I’ve not eaten - moody and grumpy would be a bit of an understatement! The quote “I’m sorry for what I said when I was hungry” applies only too well for me!! I’m under doctor’s orders to eat lots more steak…great news…as my iron levels are far too low…not so great. I’m hoping that if I can address this it could make a huge difference; I can’t wait to see what it’s like not being tired all the time!!
People always seem cautious when talking to female athletes about weight and nutrition and I can see why as we have lost so many good athletes from sport due to eating disorders. It’s pretty clear that the less you weigh the quicker you run and I have definitely found this to be the case, but it’s so important to be strong and healthy. I love my food and understand how important it is to fuel the body correctly so it can undergo the stresses of training and racing. I love cooking, baking and creating new recipes. Food is something I enjoy, I love going out to eat. Athletes eat and train, they don’t diet and exercise! Nutrition isn’t about eating healthily every now and again; it’s about having a healthy lifestyle and a balanced diet every day.
I am always making sure I have enough energy before training and so that I can recover quickly. Bev suggested Bounce Balls to me as I wasn’t getting enough protein for my recovery and I’m really grateful for their support and think the balls are brilliant. They have great flavours, natural ingredients and give me the protein and energy I need. I’m a bit of a fussy one when it comes to things like energy bars; I usually just like to stick to a peanut butter sandwich, banana or home-made flapjack ‘variation’! I’m not great at trying new things and I don’t really ‘do’ energy bars and gels, something which will probably have to change when I start racing Olympic distance, but I am really glad to have found something nutritious which I love. Even the coconut and macadamia ball is one of my favourites, which for someone who doesn’t really like coconut is pretty impressive!
I am also grateful to have support from Better You. I have been addressing a deficiency in magnesium which has had a big impact on my training and performance. I use magnesium flakes and oil which help my muscles recover quickly so I can get the consistency and back to back sessions required to compete at a high level. They have a great range of products, check them out! Magnesium is often regarded as the single most important mineral in sports nutrition. To be honest, I didn’t realise or know much about it until recently. Not only does it help to optimise performance, it also speeds up recovery from fatigue and injuries. Research has identified that even a marginal deficiency in magnesium can result in a significant reduction in exercise performance. It is required by the body for so much – optimal muscle contraction, bone strength and to help sustain the high oxygen consumption necessary for athletic performance. So make sure you’re eating all your magnesium rich foods – dark leafy greens, nuts and seeds, whole grains and fish!
I’m writing this blog on my way back from my last cross country race of the season. This was meant to be the Inter Counties Championship two weeks ago, but I was selected to run for the South of England (new vest for the collection!) at the Home Countries International XC in Nottingham which I definitely wasn’t going to turn down! So back to Wollaton Park in Nottingham it was. I was desperate to have a better run than at the Nationals in February. There were 4 of us making up the South Team in the Senior Women’s race which was on a spectator friendly course of 4 x 2k laps with plenty of hills and would you believe it no mud! So I don’t even need to clean my spikes, brilliant! It was a small field with under 30 runners from England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, South, North, Midlands and Combined Services so the pace was fast from the start. I finished strongly (must be the first time all season!) catching runners to finish 16th and 3rd athlete from the South, helping our South team to finish 3rd behind the England and the North team. It was a great event and definitely one I’d like to do again so I hope I can have another good xc season next year! I must thank my parents for driving me to and from all my cross country races this year and coming to support me, it makes a massive difference as I can relax on the way up, sleep on the way back and have my mum and dad shouting at me on the course! So that’s definitely cross country finished for the year now! Next stop Corby next weekend for the British Elite Duathlon Championships, whatever happens it won’t be as bad as my nightmare this week!
I am also pleased to announce that I will be a Brand Ambassador for Bonk for the 2014 season. It’s fantastic to be part of a team with such passion for endurance sport and bringing new energy into triathlon with their funky designs. Triathlon is not just a sport; it’s a way of life. Bonk is triathlon lifestyle. Keep an eye on their website for when the new range launches in May, get excited I can tell you it looks pretty fine :)