After the incredible success of becoming a double Commonwealth Games triathlon champion and two-time gold medallist in 2014, and later ITU World Cup Champion in 2016, it’s been a frustrating 12 months for elite GB triathlete, Jodie Stimpson, whose racing has been stop-start due to injury.
The end of last year saw big changes in Jodie’s training and life, seeing her part ways with her long-term coach and move back to the UK from Australia. Last month, Jodie took time out from training and injury rehab to talk triathlon training, power on the bike and her hopes for the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia.
Can you tell us about your sporting background – you started swimming competitively pretty early and soon you were doing triathlons, is that right?
Kind of. My dad taught me to swim when I was 4 and I was swimming with a small club called Oldbury Swimming Club, but my dad took me to my first triathlon when I was 8-years-old and that was it – I was in love with tris.
Have you always been competitively driven – is that what’s motivated you from a young age?
I always remember that first race when I was 8, I crossed the line not knowing how I’d got on. Seeing my dad so proud… finding out I had won was just a bonus then. But that was it, that feeling of making my dad proud and winning had got me.
Fast-forward to 2014 and you won an individual Commonwealth Games gold, and the mixed triathlon relay gold! Did you go into the events believing you could win?
I didn’t know how I’d get on in the Commonwealth Games individual race as 2 weeks before, in Hamburg, I’d been beaten by three athletes who were also racing again [that day]. So I didn’t have any expectations about getting on the podium, but I knew I’d had a fantastic lead up to the race with my coach Darren Smith and training partner Alieen Reid, who was also racing.
The race, in one way, was the same as my first race when I was 8 – my dad was right at the finish line along with my mum and sis, and some of my family, which made this race so special. The crowds were the best I’ve raced in front of and the memory of both races will continue to be my driving force!
2016 wasn’t a great year for you with injury. Are you fully recovered now?
Well, I’m coming back from a [stress fracture] injury that’s been a knock-on effect from the Achilles injury last year, but I’m recovering well and on my build back.
After missing out on Olympic selection, you said you cheered at the TV for a while and then went for a massive training ride. Do you find training is a good outlet for frustrations?
Yes, that’s true, it’s a good thing most of the time but can also be a very bad thing to do as well. So I need to make sure I put that frustration out in the right way.
The end of last year saw a lot of changes for you. Are you feeling in a good place right now with training?
Without me coming back from injury I would say yes, I really like working with Adam, my new coach, and the new group in Loughborough. Of course, it has its challenges as all changes do, but change is good.
You’ve been working with wattage and power on the bike for the first time. Have you seen a big difference?
Yes, this has made a massive change to my cycling – there’s no fluff in my cycling programme now and every ride has a reason. My overall bike fitness has improved by using power because there’s no wastage on the bike, but I’ve also improved all elements of my cycling by using the power. I would say it’s improved my endurance more so, however.
Do you follow a specific programme that tells you what power to cycle at and when?
My programme is set by my coach, so he tells me what power to cycle to when I’m doing a session – whether I’m doing a longer ride or easy spins, they’re all set to a power level to ride at. I get the power [reading] through the Garmin Vectors [pedals which measure power and sync to Garmin], then I upload the file and check it out in more detail when I’m finished.
You’ve now got a ‘proper’ gym programme’ – what does this involve?
At the minute [as I’m injured], I’m not going to lie, I’m spending more time in the gym than I would like – near enough been daily for the last 6-weeks while I’ve been trying to rehab. But my gym programme is a very specific programme which is always progressing and changing to make me stronger and more robust.
Do you have a specific strength training programme?
Yes, so it’s a mixture of a conditioning programme and weights, but this changes. The stuff I do in the gym is varied and targets my whole body – from pull-ups with a band, as I’ve not progressed yet [smiles], and core stuff like ‘stir the pot’ on the medicine ball, to calf raises, squats, straight-leg deadlifts and plyo work such as hop and holds. Just a few examples!
Earlier this year you came second in your first race in 7 months. This must have been a big confidence boost?
It was, yes. I had no idea going into the race how I’d do, so it was a massive confidence boost knowing things were going in the right direction. I’m hoping for the same thing when I get back to the start line.
Your winter training was delayed due to moving back to the UK from Australia– was it more of a struggle getting out in the UK winter?
To be honest, it wasn’t a bad winter at all and I think I was really lucky with the winter I had in the UK. I was only stuck on the turbo a few times due to the weather and I only remember a handful of snow runs.
You’ve said running is your favourite discipline – how has the injury affected your training?
This injury has made me focus on my swimming because for a period I wasn’t allowed to cycle or run, so as much as me not being able to run is so hard, it’s forced me to get a block in on my swimming.
What’s the split of your training look like across swim/bike/run?
I usually swim 5 days a week, cycle 5 days a week and run 6 days a week, but it’s different distances and intensities each day.
What kind of mileage do you typically notch up when running and cycling each week?
Running, it’s 80-100k when I’m up to a proper run programme. Cycling is 290k-310k and this is really dependant on where I go.
What’s a typical day in your life like?
Every day is so different, but I’ll give you a typical Wednesday. I’m an early riser so I get up about 5.00am and I’m in the water for a 6.00am swim start. The session finishes at 7.30am, then it’s back home and a 2-hour 30min/3-hour bike starting about 10.00am. Then I have a gym session from 3.00pm – 4.15pm. Then home – Wednesday is my no run day.
What does a week’s triathlon training look like?
Monday – Short drill swim or morning run, 2-3 hour bike session, gym.
Tuesday – Swim, maybe a light bike spin, evening track.
Wednesday – Swim, 2.5 hr-3 hr bike, gym.
Thursday – Run, bike, open water swim.
Friday – Run, swim.
Saturday – Run, long bike, gym.
Sunday – Long run, swim.
How do you fuel your events?
I have to keep things simple before events, so I usually have just oats and a banana before the race and then during I’ll have a Powerbar Electrolyte in my bottle – I try and get through as many as 2 bottles if possible – and I usually take 2 Powerbar Gels on the bike. Then, straight after the race, there’s a pre-made PowerBar Protein Powder drink, made up with water, usually, to help it go down.
What are your favourite pieces of kit for racing and training?
OOOOOOH that’s a hard one. My favourite piece of kit for racing is my Specialized Bike and also I now race with my Garmin [Edge 1000] and use the Vector Pedals to help not only look closer at the race, but then to put that into my training. Kit for training… I’m really lucky to have so much to choose from, I love all the swim toys from TYR that help me get the best of my sessions. It’s a love-hate relationship with the TYR ankle band.
Do you have sponsors who support you?
I have a great team of sponsors who I don’t know what I would do without:
What are your goals for this year and next?
My main goal this year was to qualify for the 2018 Commonwealth Games next year, and I’m still hoping for that, but at the minute it’s just getting back from injury and getting back on that start line.