Maintaining a consistent level of success across three sports at each and every race is the athlete’s holy grail, regardless of your level or ability. Yet there are a few things we can all do to at least ensure we have the best shot at racing strong for as long as possible.
For GB’s Vicky Holland, an unusual calf injury at the start of 2017 put a temporary stopper on what had been up until then a run of consistent top-10 results since 2014, which had culminated in a bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
“But once I’d rehabbed the injury and was back into training, things started to turn fairly quickly for me,” Holland told 220 a few days before this year’s Montreal WTS race, which she would go on to win. This to add to 2018 victories in Edmonton and Leeds, and that could see her crowned world champion in three weeks’ time at the Grand Final on the Gold Coast.
So how has she stayed at the top of the sport? And what can us age-groupers glean from her elite training? Here are her top-five train smart/race strong tips…
Consistency in training can’t be beaten
I don’t try and do hero weeks. I just layer one week on top of the next and I keep doing it again and again and again. And a key element with that is being patient that this will achieve the results you want. If you can put together three months of consistent training then you’re doing a lot better than most of your competitors are. So that’s a big one for me. And I still firmly believe in the approach that I take, which is a high-volume approach, which doesn’t necessarily work for everyone, but for me, it’s brought me my best results. There’s no denying that I’ve become a better runner off the bike since I’ve changed that element of my training. So the takeaway there is don’t shy away from riding your bike a lot!
On the whole I’ve not had many injuries, but when I have been injured they’ve taken me out for quite a long time. A big factor in minimising those risks is gym work – I do more gym work than I probably ever have done. And I believe in it more than I ever have done as well. It doesn’t take that long to put together a good general conditioning programme that helps with injury prevention and that helps with strength. Those two factors are really important for performance. I also know what my warning signs are now, and across my body. So it’s just about keeping on top of everything.
Enjoy what you do
The moment you lose that enjoyment it translates into your results. It’s a hard sport, it’s a tough sport that we do, it takes up a lot of time. It can be gruelling and horrible in the winter but it gives me, and a lot of people, a lot back. And you have to bear that in mind, even on the days when maybe it’s not quite as much fun. But loving what I do has enabled me to keep on improving as I’ve got older.
Diet is not the most important thing!
For me, diet is part of the extra little 1%ers that you can add on the end. Obsessing too much about anything is bad. I believe that everything in moderation is fine. And as a whole my diet is pretty consistent all year round. I eat balanced meals, I like healthy meals but I also like hearty meals and I don’t believe you should ever cut out a main food group unless you’ve got a medical reason. The best and happiest you can be as an athlete is to enjoy what you eat and have a healthy attitude towards it.
I do sleep a lot, most elite athletes do! I tend to get around eight, maybe up to nine hours’ sleep a night. That’s pretty normal for me. If I did get less than that I would try to top that up throughout the day. That said, I nap quite a lot during the day. Some days it’s not possible, just because of the training schedule but I go on feel more than anything. It depends on the training load you’re in. Just listen to your body and you can’t go too far wrong.