We spoke to our triathlon expert Amy Kilpin and asked her to share her tips, advice and opinions on nutrition, training and sportswear. Amy has had an incredible journey herself – going from being unable to swim front crawl to becoming a triathlete, competing for GBR at age group level. She is an inspiration to all aspiring triathletes who want to start training and taking part in their first swim, bike and run event.
You must have to be strict with your nutrition to get through triathlon training! What do you eat before you train to get you through it?
Fuelling correctly before, during and after training sessions is crucial to performance and recovery. I generally eat oats for breakfast, usually with nuts, and large salads with extra protein for lunch and something like eggs and green vegetables for dinner. I have a habit of snacking on peanut butter and coffee! It’s good to teach the body to use its own resources as fuel so I don’t over-consume products during training sessions – I usually reserve fuelling for long rides only, where I eat Get Buzzing bars.
Do you have a favourite recovery food or shake?
At the moment I am using My Performance recovery shakes which seem to be working well, and they taste delicious! I usually add a sachet of Cherry Active to these as it helps with recovery and is an immune system booster too.
What’s your opinion on the state of nutrition advice available to women?
I think nutrition advice in the sporting world is widely available, and as a woman the requirements don’t differ hugely. On a more general level in the mainstream media, the nutrition advice is pretty terrible! I hate fad diets with a passion and these should never ever be endorsed to women. I think the most important thing is to eat as natural foods as possible and foods which contain a good balance of macro and micronutrients.
Tips For Beginner Triathletes
What motivated you to get into competitive triathlons?
I was only ever a box-ticker, and after running a few marathons I was looking for the next challenge. My first triathlon was in 2012 in London and I swam the swim breast stroke with my head above the water. I couldn’t swim front crawl at all so had to go back to basics and learn! Gradually, as I went through the distances, I decided to complete an Ironman. The idea was that I would give up triathlons after that and move onto the next thing, but I got bitten by the bug and in 2014, started racing competitively as I saw my results improve!
How did you feel before your first triathlon? Were you nervous about competing?
I was unbelievably nervous! I couldn’t swim front crawl and didn’t like to put my face in the water of the London Docklands! My bike was a second hand old road bike which I bought for £100 off eBay, so I definitely wasn’t expecting great things! To this day I still get extremely nervous before competing. This doesn’t change as it’s all relative – there is more pressure for me to perform now!
Can you recommend any good clubs or studios to train at in the UK?
Because I am based in rural Hertfordshire and have always had a coach, I have found it difficult to combine any of my training with classes or planned sessions at a gym, but I am very lucky to be supported by my local gym network, Sportspace, where I have access to their swimming pools and gyms in three local towns.
Your training must be pretty varied. Is there a typical week for you?
Triathlon, in my opinion, is one of the best sports out there as the training never gets dull! Because you are training for three disciplines and all three of them can vary greatly in duration, intensity, and can be indoors or outdoors, there is always something different happening. There’s not really a typical week in triathlon training as during the Winter the training is all around building base endurance, so tends to be longer, steadier sessions, and as you head into race season the training increases in intensity but the duration tends to decrease. I usually swim 5-6 times per week, cycle 4 times per week and run 3 times per week with 1-3 strength and conditioning sessions depending on whether I have a race coming up or not.
Does training for one discipline improve your performance in the other two?
Well they say that bike fitness is transferable to the run but it doesn’t work the other way round! However, I would never rely on hard work on the bike to save effort on my run training. I invest so much time and energy into my training to see my performances improve, and I want this effort to be translated into consistent performance gains across all three disciplines. There are no shortcuts, it involves hard work across swim, bike and run alike.
How do you keep on training when motivation is low?
I very rarely suffer from low motivation! I am always motivated because I want to improve. Sure, there are days when I don’t feel like training so much but nearly 100% of the time I have a good session anyway and feel great afterwards. I think over time you learn so much about your body and indeed your mind, and training is just so rewarding for me that I never really miss sessions or dislike it. It is bred by passion for the sport and desire to perform!
Sportswear for women has definitely become more fashion-conscious over the last few years. Are you glad this is the case?
I think triathlon is almost its own entity here in that most of the sportswear is built for performance rather than fashion. If you look fast, you feel fast and that’s what it’s all about in this sport! But I think increased awareness of sporty females and athletic female role models is fantastic. If fashion helps encourage more women into active lifestyles then this is a brilliant thing, and one which we should be recognising and rewarding.
What are your favourite pieces, accessories and footwear to train in and to wear at the weekends?
For training and racing I have performance clothing produced by my kit sponsors, V02 Sportswear, and it looks and feels great. When I am enjoying downtime in between training sessions or recovery days I wear casual clothing from Bonk, one of my sponsors, which produce really cool triathlon-related casual wear. I also wear my compression tights from 2XU which are pretty fundamental to my recovery! I have far too many pairs of trainers but my favourite running ones are Brooks Ghost. These have got me through many a tough marathon!
Do you train to music and if so, what’s in your playlist?
I’m going to sound a bit boring here but generally, no! The reason for this is that during a triathlon race, any form of personal music device is forbidden. For this reason I don’t like to rely on music to get me through training sessions. You have to become accustomed to boredom and become very familiar with your own thoughts! It can be great thinking time though! Occasionally I listen to some music on a long training run or an indoor turbo session, and this is generally dance music such as Avicii or Calvin Harris.