Q) What tips would you offer to runners wanting to move into triathlons?
A) It’s good to link up with a triathlon club if you’re starting from nowhere, then you’ve got a few swim and bike sessions to go to and you'll get used to training with people who’ll be able to give you a few pointers. Public swimming in the UK is not always brilliant so actually having time to go through it is a really valuable thing to do. It can be quite hard to know how to divide up the training when you first start but there are a few online training plans you can get and if you pick a race you want to do then you can break down the training week. You want to spend time on the areas that you are weaker at.
Q) Is there a discipline you find the hardest?
A) When I first started it was the bike. I wasn’t naturally very strong and it was always the one I avoided as I didn’t enjoy it so much so I had to put the effort it and improve on it.
Q) Was there a particular discipline which started your triathlon career?
A) It was swimming initially. I was in a swimming club but I wasn’t really improving anymore and the opportunity to do a triathlon came along and I started doing a lot better at triathlon and really enjoyed it. I’d never really done much running up until the age of 15 or 16, except for the usual school cross-country, so it was really great to have these new experiences. That’s why running is now probably my favourite of the three disciplines.
Q) What injury problems have you had to deal with over your career?
A) I’ve had a number of injuries. I had one in 2006 (an achilles tendon problem) which took me out for a year and a half, so the focus at the time was to try to get to the Olympics in Beijing. And last year I had a the knee problem two months before the Olympics which really limited my training.
Q) Can you tell us a little more about your 2012 Olympics experience?
A) After the training I’d done I didn’t think I’d do what I did. But in front of so many people there was no option to back off and that had a huge impact on it. I think the adrenaline kicked in so I didn’t really feel it (the injury) then. It was just a hard race and there is only so far you can go when you haven’t had the training you need and for me I think that was 8.5K into the run - if the run had been 8.5K, that would have been perfect!
Q) Looking back, how do you feel about the Olympics experience?
A) It takes a while to get over. It had been a huge focus for so long; part of my life for so long. It was all I was thinking about, it takes while to get over and just accept what happened. In sport people have massive highs and massive lows. I’ve been a two-times World Champion and it’s those highs that keep you motivated. You do get over it. It just takes a bit of time. It’s like for anyone, you put a lot of time and effort into it and it’s very disappointing but there’s always another goal and something to motivate you again.
Q) What are your goals for 2013?
A) The Commonwealth Games next year, but the main focus is the Olympics again in Rio 2016 - it’s always there. I’m just not happy with what happened last year, it’s not really finished. There has got to be a lot of focus. The last few months have been about getting my rehab right. But it’s definitely improving now and I’m really trying to do it all right and take my time and do it slowly, which is hard as you always want to rush back. But I’m really aware that if I want to make the next four years and go to Rio then I need to get it right now.
Q) Who or what has been your inspiration?
A) People like Paula Radcliffe when I was younger and Kelly Holmes - they have both had massive injury. In the build up to the Games when things weren’t going well, it would have been so much easier to stop and not do it, but I had so many people supporting me and helping me that I think it was the people who got me through it and they’re the people who I wanted to race for.
Q) Do you have a specific race day routine or ritual?
A) I stick to the same routine. Sometimes the races are mornings and sometimes afternoons, so you kind of have a routine for each different race, but I try to stick to the same things like eating at the right time before and trying to get the right kinds of foods. I get the kit bag and bike ready the night before and do a few checks to limit the amount of things I have to do on race day. Because it’s a routine for me it’s less stressful now and I think for anyone who is doing a race there is the stress of the event and different things that can throw you off but if you try to stick to the same routine it calms the nerves.
Q) Tell us a bit about the role of nutrition in your training.
A) I use Science in Sport for my nutrition. I think before the race it’s really important to keep hydrated. I’ve had a few races where I‘ve really suffered in the heat because I haven’t had enough electrolytes before the race, so keeping my electrolytes up before the race is essential. I use caffeine gels during the race and before the race, and I do a carbohydrate electrolyte drink when I’m racing. After racing it’s so important to get the recovery in, so I have a protein powder. Protein powder is something to do all the time when you’re training hard so you are always ready to do the next hard session.
Q) Do you have a favourite treat to reward yourself with after racing?
A) I’m pretty good and I really try to keep to a healthy diet and make sure I get the right fuel in, but every few weeks I might have a take-away with friends or go out for coffee and cake, so I allow myself a little treat. After a race it’s really nice - once your stomach settles - to go and have some nice food. I normally go for pizza or something get the carbohydrates in.
Q) Can you tell us a bit about the Asics Journey of Improvement campaign?
A) I’ve been an Asics ambassador for a number of years now so it’s really exciting to take part in the campaign. It's all about every athletes' journey of improvement. For me, it's about the injury set backs I’ve had and getting past that and carrying on improving. That’s really exciting. We are trying to relate it to everyone out there, not just elites; everyone gets injuries and setbacks.
Q) What do you think is in store for the future of triathlon as a sport?
A) The Olympics has been the focus for so long. It was obviously a successful time for triathlons. The boys getting the medals (Alistair and Jonny Brownlee won Gold and Bronze respectively in London last July) was an amazing experience; I was down there for that, watching them get gold and bronze. I think especially with the Commonwealth Games coming up, it’s definitely in the media eye. They are showing it on the BBC. It’s really unique getting so many people saying 'I’m doing a triathlon' when they’ve previously been runners or cyclists.
Q) If you weren’t a triathlete what would be your alternative career?
A) When I was in school I wasn’t sure what to do. I was going to do nursing but it was really hard to do with triathlon so I thought I’d give it a few years. My uncle actually trained as a nurse when he was 50. Being involved in sport for so long I’d like to stay involved. I started in triathlon by chance: the father of someone I used to train with was involved in triathlon and got involved through that. I think there must be people who are slipping through the net. I’d love to go out and meet young people and coach youngsters. I’ve been doing this for a while now and I‘ve got a lot of experience. I could coach and I’d like to share my experiences - it would be wasted otherwise.
British triathlete Helen Jenkins is an ambassador for sports performance brand ASICS. Click here to view the new ‘Journey of Improvement’ video featuring Helen.