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Journey to becoming a Professional Triathlete

In the past when I heard about athletes turning professional or racing at the top of their game it seemed like a linear process – if you were talented enough, trained hard enough and were dedicated enough, you would make it. Yes this may have been naïve but I believed it as well.

However, what you do not see or hear about is the other side of the coin; the injuries, the setbacks and the wrong choices, that together despite the frustration, tears and costs, made those athletes persevere and never give up until they found what they needed to challenge on a world stage.

“Setback upon setback over the last two years forced me to learn and challenge my existing beliefs, approaches, and lifestyle to once again perform at my best.”

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My journey to becoming a professional triathlete was exactly this. Setback upon setback over the last two years forced me to learn and challenge my existing beliefs, approaches, and lifestyle to once again perform at my best and ultimately gain my professional licence in July 2017.

One of the main areas I was forced to accept, understand and apply was the power of nutrition in not only gaining health but also performance – and yes I learnt the hard way. I was told 18 months ago, when diagnosed with a sacral stress fracture, that the damage of poor nutrition as a teenager may have ruined my chances of ever competing again, let alone turning professional. This is because at the age of 13 the need and drive to perform, push harder and achieve top results in sport led me to a four year battle with anorexia as I convinced myself the only way to success was becoming lighter. This drive for excellence ironically did quite the opposite, however I do believe it led me to where I am now as I had to relearn to eat not only for health but also for performance. Without this wake up call I may not have seen the need to seek nutritional advice and apply the facts, not fads, to my training. Through trial and error I have come to understand the requirements my body needs to perform and recover whilst also operating as a healthy 24-year-old girl. These simple changes have made me a much stronger and faster athlete than any forced weight loss had. The continual support from Science in Sport has enabled me to use products that not only benefit my performance but also ones I believe in due to the science and evidence behind them.

“Training to become the best athlete you can be is about consistency over a long period of time, there really is no shortcut.”

In addition, the process of learning what about my personal requirements as an athlete has led to a greater self-awareness and confidence in listening to my body and responding accordingly. This confidence in trusting my ability and feelings led me to change up my coaching set-up a year ago and to become confident in voicing how my body is reacting both positively and negatively, no feeling is weak, it’s information.

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Training to become the best athlete you can be is about consistency over a long period of time, there really is no shortcut. There will be some highs and some lows but it is the average that counts and the ability to keep going. I have learnt to understand that no one session will make an athlete, however, it could break one. Yes it is frustrating when those times arise and your body just says no, but the power of accepting these moments whilst resisting the urge to fight your body creates a stronger athlete in the long term. Before I would have beaten my body up further as I believed I was just being weak and needed to hurt to be able to become stronger, however I soon learnt this was anything from the truth – my body is no machine and I must respect that. This awareness has ultimately led me to become more prepared for racing as I know longer worry what the other athletes are doing or not doing, I just focus on what I have to do to execute the best performance necessary. Furthermore, this greater trust in myself and team around me has created the full understanding I need to be 100% committed to my training, fuelling and competing to become the best athlete I can be for the long run. I am not going to sacrifice a small win now for the greater picture – as an athlete I have fought too hard to let myself down again through poor and naïve choices.

Thanks to the support of my team around me and of course to Science in Sport I am excited and ready to step up and race alongside the best in the world in 2018, I am truly grateful for this opportunity and the chance to be that strong, successful athlete once more.

Ben Samuels
Written By

Ben Samuels

Ben is a Performance Nutritionist at Science in Sport