This week we've been lucky enough to speak to boobydooer Sophie Neal! Sophie has just competed in her third triathlon and has previously managed to come 1st in her age group category of 17-24 (and 20th overall) in the London marathon - with a time of 2hours 23mins! Have you ever thought about competing in a triathlon? Read about Sophie's experiences and tips below, you can also follow Sophie on Instagram & twitter at @nealsoph ...
Sophie's top triathlon tips:
1) Learn to love the sport! As I said previously, my commitment to training runs from a passion and love of the sport and without that you will struggle to get up in the morning, or put your trainers on after work. If you enjoy your training, you won’t see it as a chore but as a pleasure and your motivation will ride high.
2) Don’t worry about getting specialist triathlon gear! The essentials for your training are very basic – wetsuit, road bike and trainers. I did make sure I wore a well-fitted sports bra, which I thank Charly at boobydoo for!
3) Practice in open water as well as in the pool to boost your water confidence. While the pool is great for intervals and fitness, it doesn’t prepare you for the open water experience where you are in a large group of people trying to get to the same point.
4) Train the disciplines separately. If you’re training for full distance, you don’t need to do all three distances together. Train them separately – so do the 1.5km swim, the 40 km bike and a 10 km run with rest in between. Once you’ve done all of that individually you can gauge your effort so you can finish all three in a good time on race day.
5) Eat well. Being disciplined with your diet is very important for triathlon. Your nutrition should focus on two parts – fuel and recovery. Your fuel is what you use in the race and the recovery is after training or racing. One of my favourite snacks is almond butter spread on top of a banana with raisins on top!
I am a self-proclaimed fitness freak. It hasn’t always been the way but in the last year or so I have made a really a big change to my life in the way of exercise and health!
Growing up, I was always the sporty girl involved in many types of physical activity, taking naturally to most of them – County Level Hockey, First Team School Netball and Club Netball, Club Athletics, Grade 6 Ballet and Tap dancing, University Club Rowing.
However, having experienced all these sports, never had any of them given me the same joy and satisfaction as completing my first ever Olympic distance triathlon. It is a feeling I will never forget, and the reason I train as hard and as much as I do. The commitment runs from a passion and love of the sport and without that you will struggle to get up in the morning, or put your trainers on after work.
It all began in my third year of university, when, I had a lot of free time, and was also spending hours upon hours sat stationary in the library with my face in a book or fingers tapping away on my laptop. Me and my fellow Sport Scientist course mate, Kate began gym-ing as stress relief from work and as a way to get us moving after sitting on our bums all day. We both got so much out of it that we started going more and more, doing not only cardio but carrying out strength training as well. In line with that popular phrase being thrown around – strong not skinny. My brother, Harry then mentioned that he wanted to challenge himself and take part in London triathlon in August 2014. Both being road bike owners and run lovers, Kate and I thought we would hop on the band wagon and commit to taking part in the triathlon as well – myself being slightly keener out of the two of us due to my love of swimming and my fierce competitive nature.
So began my ‘triathlon training’. There were hundreds of training plans out there however I didn’t stick to a regimented plan as such, and they all seemed so confusing talking about training zones etc. I just did what I enjoyed in the gym, ensuring I carried out a pretty much equal amount of training for each discipline every week. This included a lot of spin classes, where being surrounded by others and having loud music blaring helps with motivation if you are one who struggles. I also tried to get out on my road bike as much as possible, but in the midst of dissertation write up and exams I couldn’t afford the time it took to for long rides. Running training varied from on the treadmill doing short speed intervals as well as hill climbing intervals, to outside running longer distances along roads or through parks. Favourite of all for me was, and still is the swimming training. While I was training at University I swam in the pool every day. I swam at least 30 lengths after my gym sessions, and others would swim only, allowing me to push for longer. As the swim section of the triathlon was open water I wanted to experience what this was like before race day. When I moved back home I seeked out local open water swimming, to find it was available in Lake at a nearby farm. There is nothing more invigorating than waking up on a Saturday morning, donning your wetsuit and joining around 30 other individuals in an open water swim.
In terms of triathlons, I have only taken part in three. So please do not take my word as gospel, I am merely sharing my experiences in a hope to motivate others to give a sport they had never considered before a go and see how they like it!
The triathlon lingo is one to be aware of. Firstly, the distances - the standard triathlon length is that of ‘Olympic distance’: 1500m swim, 40km bike and a 10km run. This is what the Brownlee brothers excel in and as the name suggests is the distances the athletes carry out at the Olympics. There is also the shorter ‘Sprint distance’: 750m swim, 20km bike and 5km run. This is a sprint rather than an endurance test, it is short and sharp. ‘Super Sprints’ are even shorter and generally carried out by younger individuals: 400m swim, 10km bike and 2.5km run. Following the standard distance we get into the big boy territory. The ‘middle distance’ or ’70.3’ triathlon: 1.93km swim, 90km bike and 21.09km run. And finally there is the Ultra Distance known as the Ironman triathlon: 3.86km swim, 180km bike and 42.2km run (a full marathon!) In my eyes, an Ironman is something that should only carry out once in a lifetime. It is a gruelling and relentless race that pushes the body to its limits for 16 hours of exercise, something that I think can’t possibly be good for anyone!
Since graduating from University and moving back home, I made the decision to apply to join the forces. With the intention of joining as an officer and going to training at Sandhurst I see keeping fit as essential for that as well as my triathlons. This in particular helped me stay active during winter when the triathlon season died down and I had no races to aim for.
In the meantime, while the long application is ongoing I got a job as a gardener, which luckily for me, is great hours so I can fit my training in around it as well as being an active outdoorsy job rather than sitting behind a desk or in a boxed up room – not something I at all fancy!