If you’re into triathlon you’ll probably recognise Heather Fell, one half of the Global Triathlon Network (GTN) presenting team. A Modern Pentathlon Olympic silver medallist and former world number one, Heather retired from elite sport in 2014 and now fronts GTN, bringing us tip-filled videos about swim-bike-run. Oh, and last year she completed an Ironman triathlon, in Kona no less.
Here, Heather runs through what a typical day working for GTN includes. Hint: It’s not all riding bikes…
The GTN team is made up of myself and Mark, my co-presenter, and two creators which work pretty much solely for us. We’re now the biggest triathlon channel which is pretty cool.
I work fulltime from 9am to 5.30pm if we’re in the office. Often we’re out filming though, and if we’re abroad on shoots, we work daylight to daylight hours – i.e. from early morning into the night. In Majorca last summer, we were on the beach at 6am in the morning and were still filming at 9pm one evening. I prefer the winter hours when we start at 7.30am, haha.
Early Morning: Run, walk the dog and breakfast
This is the first January that I’ve ever had a fulltime job (as opposed to being freelance) and I’m finding it quite hard to train in the dark. At the moment I’m trying to get up around 6.30am. Training varies from either a gym session (spinning, because I’m trying to keep my cycling up a bit) or a run, anywhere from 30-45 minutes. Sometimes it’s an easy run, sometimes it will be some sort of strength and endurance. I’m trying to do more hills; something more meaty that I can complete in a short period.
Afterwards, I normally dash back and take the dog for a walk (I have a puppy) while my boyfriend makes me breakfast, shower and then speed-walk to work. I leave the house at 8.45am which is quite nice, as the GTN office is only a ten-minute walk away.
9am: Brainstorming and writing scripts
The building where I work is a big open-plan office – two floors and about 90 employees. It’s not just for GTN but for the whole company which includes six channels from the Play Sports Network.
Quite often in the morning we have a brainstorming meeting for about an hour, just the four of us plus the social media guy, to work out what’s doing well and what scripts we need to focus on for our next shoot. We look back at things that have gone well and the feedback from viewers – ideas can come from people we meet, comments on the videos, and from social media.
Next, it’s back to our desk to focus on whatever we’re currently working on, whether that’s liaising with brands and making sure we have the right kit, to working out what we need for a shoot or writing scripts and getting them ready for filming the next day.
I’m still learning as I’m writing the scripts and researching – more on the cycling side of things. If we’re focusing on something more technical, Mark might do that because he has more cycling experience than I have, whereas I’ve got more experience on the health side due to my degree in Physiotherapy.
The element I most enjoy about my job is sharing information that I wish I’d known when I started triathlon, and helping people with that. Helping people to overcome a fear of ‘I’m not ready to do one’, because I think that as long as you’re fit enough to complete each phase, you’re ready to do your first triathlon.
Lunchtime: Yoga, food and fresh air
When we’re in the office we get a lunch break, so I’ve been doing yoga. I have a small, manageable goal to once a week do something that’s conditioning but not strength-related – so pilates, yoga… even foam rolling because I’m very lazy at that! Tomorrow, I’m going for a walk with my friend, or I might go home and take my dog for a walk. I do rely on my lunch break but I have to be flexible – often we’re out on shoots and we don’t necessarily get one.
Food for lunch is always leftovers that I’ve brought in. Today I had roast chicken, cabbage, cauliflower and kale (I’m not carb-free but I ate all the potato yesterday!) I’m trying to wean myself off sugar mid-afternoon but I’m still eating up my Christmas cake, so I had a slice.
Afternoon: Filming or more brainstorming
It’s an unusual day if it doesn’t involve filming. Personally, by far my favourite thing is to go out on location. It’s a great job, but it’s harder to keep fit on it than it might look! My first shoot was in Majorca last year, and that was three months before my Ironman in Hawaii. It was a ten-day shoot so we were away for 11 days and my coach kept on asking me how much time I would have to train… I only got to ride my bike on two days!
Although we’re often on a bike, filming doesn’t mean we’re riding everywhere. Last week we were out all day filming and it was absolutely freezing. We were on the bike all day in loads of different places but because we drove from place to place, got the bike out, sat on it, got the lighting right, took our jackets off, and read our script, I genuinely only cycled 20 metres. When we have a moto behind us filming we do get to ride some miles, and when it’s summer we can sometimes ride from location to location, but filming comes first.
If we’re not out filming, afternoons really are a mixture of writing scripts, coming up with ideas, collaborating with brands we have and making content that suits them. We’re always brainstorming and have a blank canvas when it comes to ideas – if we come up with a script that will work then we do have that freedom. We’re very lucky that we have a great team; we’re not a one-man band.
Life as a retired athlete
Being a retired athlete means no afternoon naps! That’s what I miss the most. I was a very good napper. One thing I have noticed is that I’m no longer as tired. When I was training for Kona and didn’t have a fulltime job, I just wanted to sleep. Wherever I was, I just wanted to sleep. It was awful. But now I feel lethargic because it’s winter, but I’m not actually tired.
I massively miss competing. I loved having a purpose to every day and a goal. I still compete in a way, but on a smaller scale. This year I want to do more fun events. I was going to do a cross-country duathlon, just a small event that’s just a personal challenge, but now I’m going to be away filming. I need mini goals – that’s how I work.
As an athlete, I never once worried about getting in my local swimming pool, going to the gym for a session, or going for a run. I never cared what I looked like. But as soon as I finished sport, that changed. It was that thing of not having a purpose, suddenly worrying that people were thinking, ‘What’s that girl doing randomly lifting weights in the gym?’ – it gave me perspective on what barriers there are for women in sport.
I enjoy bringing in the personal bits to the videos where I can because it makes people realise they can do it. It’s about helping people to no longer be embarrassed or scared of judgement.
Evening: Socialise (with a little activity thrown in) and bed
After work I’m very social so you’ll always find me doing something. Quite often it’s something active, so catching up with a friend at the gym or going for a bike ride with someone. A lot of my socialising is around sport, especially at the moment as I’m exercising not training.
I used to struggle to plan far ahead when I was freelance because a job might come up and I’d be on the road, but now I can plan ahead to see people which is amazing and a bit of a novelty almost
These days I’ll go to bed around 11pm. As an athlete I always wanted to go to bed earlier, but I’m not good at getting myself to bed. I’m often more constructive in the evening – I love a to-do list and getting things done.
Currently this is the most routine I’ve ever had. As a professional athlete I was still writing freelance articles so I often worked until 1am. Or the opposite – I’d set my alarm clock for 4.30am to write and then go out and do training. I do love my sleep though and I struggle without it. When I was training, I’d be in bed as soon as I got home, sometimes around 9.30pm!
You can follow Heather via social media at www.instagram.com/fellsfoodandfitness and www.twitter.com/heatherfellnews. Global Triathlon Network can be found via www.twitter.com/gtntweet and their YouTube channel as well as www.globaltrinetwork.com.