With the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo on the horizon, we spoke to the current ITU World and British champion Claire Cashmore to see how she's approaching her off season ahead of an exciting year.
As a swimmer, Claire won one gold medal, three silvers and four bronzes in the pool at previous Paralympic Games, and she has been tipped to add to her medal haul when heading into the triathlon event as one of the favourites next summer...
Hi Claire, not long to go until you potentially make your fifth appearance at a Paralympic Games. Will you focus on a particular discipline during this off season or is it a case of keeping all aspects of performance ticking over?
As you say, I'm leading into a season that includes the Paralympic Games in Tokyo, so it's key for me to focus on consistency and maintaining a well-balanced training routine, although there's a definite emphasis on my run volume and intensity.
Coming from a swim background means I'm not particularly experienced when it comes to the impact that running puts on the joints, so I've had to be very careful with the amount of running I do.
We're increasing my run load in very small increments, which gives my body time to adapt, helps prevent overloading and reduces the risk of injury.
My running form is affected by the loss of my left arm (I take a lot more load through my right side), so focusing on the technical aspects of running is key in helping my running style become more efficient.
So, how much training will you typically do during these off season months?
I'll train 16-20 hours a week on average and that's broken down into:
|3.00-4.00||Speed run (treadmill)|
|AM||Long ride - sometimes with a coffee stop ;)|
|4.00-5.30||Swim (Critical Swim Speed - CSS)|
|7.00-8.30||Swim (open water skills)|
|2.00-3.30||Swim (mixed pace)|
|Aerobic run (1 x hour)|
Brilliant, thanks Claire, it's good to get an insight into what the athletes at the very top of their sport will be doing during the coming months. Will you add any cross-training in to mix things up at all?
To be honest I find it hard enough to fit in swim, bike, run, reformer, drills and gym, let alone any cross-training!
Having said that, I'm going to start doing yoga in the next few weeks and I'm hoping to see a few benefits from that, including increased flexibility, breathing control, relaxation, and it will be nice to enjoy a change of stimulus.
It’s hot yoga, so although there will be no adaptation benefits, I think it’s great to experience the heat regularly in the lead-up to Tokyo.
With the heat of Tokyo in mind, do you have any plans to get away from the UK and enjoy a bit of winter sun on a training camp?
100%! I really struggle with my mood over the winter months and I'm definitely a 'solar-powered athlete'. The training camp is still to be confirmed but it’s looking like it will be south Spain.
I am not very good at chilling out, there's always a million-and-one jobs I need to do when I'm at home, so going away takes me away from all of those distractions and means I can really focus on training.
I'm hoping it will also mean I can put a bit of time into my Masters Degree in Leadership Management.
It will be good to get a solid block of training, particularly more mileage on the bike, as hopefully the weather won’t be such a limiting factor.
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14/09/2019 - 14/09/2016 same day 3 years apart! Crazy how much your life can change in 3 years. Standing on the podium in Rio after getting silver in the 100 breaststroke to exactly 3 years later winning the Silver at the ETU Europeans Championships just 2 weeks after being crowned World champion. From being a pretty unhappy girl who had lost all confidence in herself and felt completely worthless to a much more confident and happy individual. Big thanks to all the staff and athletes at @brittri for helping me on the this very exciting journey. If there is one key thing I have learnt it is to take that leap, step outside your comfort zone as that it where the exciting opportunities lie. P.s the second photo made me laugh as I was clearly mid way through dancing with my maraca (the medal jingles) and not at all ready for a photo.
Will you get much chance to see family and maybe enjoy a few 'treats' over Christmas?
My favourite part of the off season is that it gives me a little bit more time to spend with friends and family, although the speed at which I lose my fitness during this time isn't so good!
I'll enjoy a few treats over Christmas as I think it’s really important to not feel guilty about what you eat over the festive period. I find it's good to give yourself a set amount of time (for example 3/4/5 days) to enjoy whatever you want and get it out of your system, and then get back into a good routine with your eating and drinking.
And looking ahead to Tokyo, how does the previous experience you've gained from four previous appearances at the Paralympic games impact upon your mind-set, the goals and the inevitable pressure of the challenge ahead?
For me, 2020 is obviously a big year as I'm hoping to be selected for Tokyo, so even my 'off season' is still pretty focused.
The Paralympics only come around once every four years and is the pinnacle of my sporting career, so I think the previous experience I've gained from the Games will definitely help, but it doesn't make me immune to the pressure.
When you care about something and it means a lot to you the pressure will definitely be there. I think the key thing is how you use that pressure to make you a better athlete.
The biggest problem is putting too much pressure on the Paralympics and getting carried away with setting too many goals. It will be a case of tweaking and pushing my performances on from last year, rather than trying to make too many big changes.
When it’s such an important year it’s hard to not get really bogged down in the numbers. I found myself comparing times and tests to this time last year and getting disappointed that I wasn’t way ahead of where I was last year, but it’s refocusing that mind-set and understanding we are in December - it’s a long way to go before the Paralympics and it’s all about the steady improvements.
Having a clear process and goals that are not focusing on the outcome is definitely important. If you achieve all the process goals, that outcome will take care of itself.