Helen Jenkins is our best female triathlete. We can all learn from her training, motivation and nutrition tricks
British triathlete Helen Jenkins is the 2008 and 2011 ITU World Champion and competed in a thrilling triathlon at the London 2012 Olympics, despite a serious knee injury.
She fought through and eventually finished a creditable fifth - the best performance by a British female triathlete.
Helen, who is an ambassador for sports performance brand ASICS, is currently training for the Commonwealth Games in 2014 and has her sights set on the Rio 2016 Olympics. She took some time out to talk to us about overcoming setbacks, her training schedule and future goals.
Q: We all loved watching the triathlon events in the Olympics – such a shame you were hampered by injury, but it was a thrilling race to watch. How do you cope psychologically with entering a race knowing you are not on top form?
Helen Jenkins: 'It was very hard ! But it was a home Games, a unique opportunity, so there was no question that I wouldn’t race. And so it was all about using every possible psychological trick to be on the start line in as positive frame of mind as possible. Like every race I’m in, I was determined to do the best I could, even with a dodgy knee!' Q: How did you get involved in the sport of triathlon?
Helen: 'I was a swimmer first and then one of my friends' Dad was a Welsh triathlon coach and took a Talent ID session that I went along to and really enjoyed it, so it went from there.' Q: Where do you train and how often? Do you prefer to train alone or with a partner?
Helen: 'I train at home in Bridgend. I swim with the local club, ride with friends and on my own, and sometimes with the local running club. Marc, my husband and coach, also joins me depending on his health and fitness and I reckon I train approx. 30 hours a week.' Q: What does a typical training day involve?
Helen: 'At the moment I’m doing a lot of rehab to get my body back working to its best, so I haven’t really got a typical week at the moment. But when I’m in full training I do 5 swims, 5 bikes, 7 runs, 2 strength+conditioning sessions and a few walks with Barney our dog.'
Triathlon training programme for womenQ: What do you eat to fuel your training? How about when you're not training? Any tips on what to eat/avoid to stay in tiptop shape?
Helen: 'It’s a very standard answer of a well balanced diet. Yes, I do eat chocolate, but in moderation and a treat for me is to have a Chinese takeaway. When I’m training I utilise the wide range of SIS products depending on what kind of session I’m doing, so it might be a gel or bar during a session and I always recover with REGO.' Q: Any beauty tips or favourite products you swear by?Helen: 'Sea air on Ogmore beach! Plus Clinique moisturiser, and leave-in conditioner.' Q: How long do you think you'll be competing for? Any plans for when you eventually retire?
Helen: 'I’m taking it one week at a time as I work back to full fitness ! I’m keen to race for Wales at the CWG and then onto Rio. We’ll have a chat then and see how my body is holding up. We’d like to have a family at some point.'
Helen Jenkins' top 5 triathlon training tips Q: Which are your favourite triathlon races?
Helen: 'I prefer a race with a more difficult bike course as that makes it an honest triathlon, also would rather do a non-wetsuit swim. At the moment, courses like Madrid are where I would rather race.' Q: What do you like/dislike most out of the triathlon disciplines?
Helen: 'Best is running because of the freedom, and swimming is the worst – I’ve seen enough of the black line at the bottom of the pool.'
How to crack open water swimmingQ: Do you have days when you just don't fancy training? How do you motivate yourself under those circumstances?
Helen: 'For sure there are days when you are a bit tired or it's wet and cold, but the session is never as bad as you think it will be, you just have to get out the door.'
The 1-2-3 of motivation Q: What’s your best advice to readers who have recently suffered from injury?
Helen: 'Be patient – but it’s easier said than done! The new ASICS Journey of Improvement video is all about encouraging fellow sportspeople to learn from their setbacks and especially overcoming injury.
'I experienced a painful Achilles injury in 2006, which meant that I couldn’t compete at a professional level for a year and a half. However, I tried to use this experience to become a better athlete and come back stronger. With this in mind, I hope the video inspires everyday athletes to achieve their goals and ‘better your best’.' Q: So how did you learn from your recent setback - what made you return stronger?
Helen: 'It’s meant I have had to look at the areas I am weak in and remedy them. If I hadn’t got injured then, I would have at some point; it was just bad timing it happened when it did. The injury means I have to correct a number of things I am doing wrong and when I’m back training hopefully it will mean I am less likely to get injured.
'I also know how good I can be when I am fit, for example in San Diego, and even when I am completely injured as I was at the London Games, how close I came to the best athletes in the world with the worst prep imaginable.' Q: How do you relax?Helen: 'Taking Barney for a walk, or watching a film.' Q: What's your dream holiday?
Helen: 'Not sure I have a dream holiday, I enjoy life in general and being at home with Marc and Barney. We spent New Year in Vegas and that was fantastic watching a few concerts and the UFC, then went to San Diego training for a few weeks after that. It wasn’t a holiday but work – we know we’re pretty lucky that we go to great places with sport.'
Helen Jenkins is an ambassador for sports performance brand ASICS. Watch her in the Journey of Improvement video , or if you would like to ‘Better Your Best’ with the new MY ASICS app, visit app.myasics.com
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