Last week I sat down with Andrea Whitcombe, Silver Medallist at the 1998 Commonwealth Games and our very own Triathlon Coach. She gave us an insight into her competitive training past and some helpful advice to any competitive and beginner triathletes out there. With a long history of representing Wales at the Commonwealth Games and Team GB at the World Triathlon Championships, she is eager to help other triathletes hit their goals and achieve their dreams.
When she is not training herself, you can find her coaching our Swim4Tri classes on Mondays 18:30-20:00, Wednesdays 20:00-21:00 and Thursdays 13:00-13:45. If you are looking for advice on your next race, the best power foods to add to your diet or just some help on your swimming technique then try out a class this week.
N: How did you get into sport and triathlon in particular?
A: I’ve always been very keen on sport since school. Any sport. I swam, ran, played netball, tried a bit of badminton, I was a very competitive child. I realised at school that I was a decent runner so I joined a club and started to train and race regularly. In 1998 I won silver in the 5000m Commonwealth Games and then competed in the Sydney Olympic Games 2000. After the Olympics I decided to quit my job and go to Australia to train for triathlon as I had been a county swimmer as a teenager. A year later I represented Great Britain in the World Triathlon Championships.
N: Who was your biggest inspiration or idol when training for triathlon?
A: It all happened so quickly really that I can’t say that I really had an idol. Of course I admired some athletes that I was competing against but I had to believe that they were beatable. The Australians at the time were a strong force and all pretty impressive. I only took up triathlon when I was 30 so perhaps I was too old for idols?! My running idol was Michael Johnson.
“However if I had a group to swim with as fun as my Swim4Tri group I would swim much more regularly!”
N: What was your typical session when training for the commonwealth games?
A: I was lucky to have a great coach Bob Parker and training partners to help pace me for sessions. A typical track session would be 12-15 x 400m with 100m jog recovery at faster than 5k pace.
N: Can you remember the toughest training session you did?
A: The toughest mentally for triathlon was always a long bike ride, as I can’t say I was fond of spending hours on the bike. Once on a GB training camp in Spain just before Christmas I had to ride for over 5 hours and it wasn’t pleasant!
N: What kept you going through the most grueling training sessions? And what was your motivation?
A: I knew that I had to do some sessions that I didn’t like in order to improve. It was my job and as with any job there are days when you don’t want to do something but you can’t just stop and go home.
N: What would you say was your biggest sporting achievement?
A: When I was an athlete and went to the Commonwealths and Olympics, I had a full time job of which I had to take unpaid unpaid leave for the Olympics. It was a great achievement to train twice a day around a job and run at such a level. Another achievement i’m proud of is switching sport at 30 years old and making the World Championships in Triathlon within less than a year. I had only swam a little since I was 16, so it proves that technique is crucial as you never lose it!
N: What was your favourite discipline out of running, swimming and cycling?
A: Running for definite as it was my strongest discipline. I still try to run every day now and it’s the easiest to fit in around a young family. However if I had a group to swim with as fun as my Swim4Tri group I would swim much more regularly!
N: Why do you think people should get involved in swimming and group exercise classes like Swim4Tri?
A: Swimming is great for all round body fitness. It is non weight bearing so there’s less chance of getting injured. We are so lucky in Swansea to have the Wales National Pool with superb facilities, both a 25m and a 50m pool is a real luxury. Training in a 50m pool is superb for triathletes and swimmers looking to improve their endurance. Group classes such as Swim4Tri are great for meeting new friends, having training partners, getting expert coaching advice and having fun. You’ll be surprised at how much more you can do when training in a group.
N: Finally, what does sport and fitness mean to you?
A: I love sport and fitness. It is so important to stay fit and healthy. I have had children quite late in life so I really appreciate that I need to stay fit to keep up with them. I love coaching my Swim4Tri group. Seeing them improve and enjoying the sport keeps me happy.
Thinking about trying out Swim4Tri?
Check out our Swim4Tri page with all the information on the different sessions we offer and what’s included here – https://www.walesnationalpoolswansea.co.uk/aqua-school/fitness-classes/swim-4-tri/
You can pre-book Andrea’s Swim4Tri class at the main reception desk or by calling 01792 513513.