You’ve had a remarkable athletics career, what are your highlights?
European U23 800m Champion 2003
British 800m Champion 2006
European 800m Bronze Medallist 2006 (beaten by 2 Russians!?!) [Jamie's note - both of which were later found guilty of doping...]
Voted Britain's Female Athlete of the Year 2006
What was the journey you went on to reach those heights?
A very up and down one!
There was nothing to suggest I would become a professional athlete from my 18th place finish at my first race in the Sheffield Schools Cross Country as a smaller-than-average 9 year old. Fast forward 6 years having joined a club (Hallamshire Harriers) and experienced a growth spurt, I had a huge breakthrough to take me to my first junior international race at 1500m. It felt very surreal at the time but I was able to back it up with a consistent junior international career culminating in the European U23 800m title in 2003.
Up until then, injuries had always been a feature but they became more severe and frequent ensuing in a couple of frustrating years with a resulting dip in confidence and funding. 2006 was the worst yet training consistency-wise but it gave me a 'do or die' approach as I hammered away at the cross-training all winter. You could say I was pleasantly surprised by my fitness levels come the summer as I was competing shoulder to shoulder with the best in the world...!
My European medal afforded me the luxury of training as a fulltime athlete, but I soon realised that all that glitters ain't bronze! Uber keen for more success I over-trained and ran myself onto the operating table for an Achilles scraping. And sadly I never recovered sufficiently to don the spikes again. But I can't complain too much. I achieved far more than I ever thought I would, travelled the world and have the like of Paula Radcliffe, Kelly Holmes and Mo Farah in my phonebook. Plus I learned lots of valuable lessons along the way...
For anyone that is interested, I have a more detailed breakdown of my journey in this Prezi here - I am able to deliver the presentation to schools/clubs/organisations. Enquires can be made through my wesbite www.tryumphhealth.com
Could you describe a typical training week when you were performing at your best?
Monday - Weights + 30-40min run. Massage
Tuesday - Track session Winter e.g. 10 x 400m (1min rec) Summer e.g. 2 x 4 x 200m (10min, 30s rec)
Wednesday - Weights + 30-40min Run
Thursday - Drills + cross train (e.g. bike/stepper etc) or 20min tempo run
Friday - Rest. Massage
Saturday - Trail, fartlek or hill session Winter e.g. 5 x 1km, Summer e.g. 10min tempo 2 x 8 x 20s hill.
Sunday - Long run Winter 75min, Summer 45min
What do you attribute your successes to?
Running is always something I could just do. Particularly middle distance. So I guess I have my parents to thank for that! But success definitely wasn't handed to me on a plate...
I've always had a good work ethic and dug deep within the sessions themselves. Outside the sessions I've never been afraid to do what I want and, for me, that was to focus on my athletics, not to go out and party. That industrious streak also meant I was willing to do all the small things that make the difference: boring rehab exercises, eating a clean diet, going to bed early etc.
Something else I can thank my parents for is the independence they instilled in me from a young age. I often had to get public transport to training and apply for grants to cover my training costs. All fuel for the fire.
Interestingly, after reading 'Bounce' by Matthew Syed, I came to realise that my lack of early success was also a blessing, as I was able to gain momentum and confidence as I went, rather than stalling as many of my earlier-developed adversaries did.
You’ve now moved out of professional sport, what was that transition like?
In the end it came as a bit of a relief. I had been battling deflating injuries for 6 years in the hope of making it back for the 2012 Olympics, so I was ready to move on. But it was still quite a tough time having to make the adjustment and accepting that I would have to start at the bottom of the ladder. A particular low point was 'coaching' athletics to a load of sugar fuelled kids at a birthday party on a Sunday morning for minimum wage!
But I came to see all the crappy jobs I did as earning my stripes whilst testing the waters to see what direction I was most suited to go down. Oprah Winfrey has a great saying that 'Nothing is wasted' and indeed I have since stolen many an idea from those menial jobs in developing my current business.
How has your definition of success changed during this time?
Hugely! I can honestly say, the most depressed I have ever been was straight after my breakthrough 2006 season. After the finish line highs had subsided I felt empty and started to question all the sacrifices I'd made and all the abuse I'd given myself mentally and physically over the years to reach my pinnacle. I've no doubt that underpinned a lot of my subsequent injury struggles.
I can also say that the more money that I earned as an athlete, the more insecure I felt as it brought with it its own responsibilities - mortgages and the like.
Eckhart Tolle says that whilst ever we seek external circumstances to make us happy, we will never get there. And so now I strive more for a sense of inner contentment and that comes from living in alignment with my values and conscience whilst trying to help others with any skills I have along the way.
What are the biggest lessons you’ve learnt from your pro career?
Keep turning up and doing the work, however futile it might seem at the time.
Be patient. Build a solid base. Life is a marathon, not a sprint.
Be flexible. Do the best with what you've got, where you are. You can always do something.
'Comparison is the thief of joy'. Focus on yourself.
Surround yourself with a positive, supportive team that is on your wavelength.
Stay humble as you ride the ups and downs.
Everything happens for a reason and for the best.
If you follow your dreams, opportunities can mysteriously arise!
Any advice for others wanting to follow a similar path?
All the above! Plus more specific to athletics:
Wear spikes throughout the year to keep your feet and calves strong. Also try to wear minimalist shoes whenever possible for the same reason (but don't switch suddenly from bulky trainers).
Work on your technique.
Get your iron levels checked regularly.
Get treatment even when you're not injured.
Take your recovery seriously! A lot of top competitors are also the best at relaxing!
And finally, just because you might not be the most talented doesn't mean you can't go on to be the best. The key is to do your best. And to keep doing it.
You now run a business called Tryumph Health, can you tell us about that?
I was really keen to use my experiences as an athlete to help others. I was lucky enough to work with some of the world's top coaches, therapists, and scientists, picking up so many gems of information along the way. These covered the physical, nutritional and mental spheres of performance and health in general.
I now offer Running Groups, Conditioning Classes, Children's 'Wild Athletics' and Sporting Holiday Camps at various locations in the beautiful Peak District. I am also starting to branch out into delivering informational seminars and currently run a Secondary School Gifted and Talented Programme. I hope this will evolve and transfer over into Corporate Wellness Programmes.
Finally my latest project is to set up and promote a number of sports clubs at Baslow Sportsfield. We are aiming to have a succinct offering for all age groups covering a number of different sports. Watch this space!
- Favourite meal? Paella
- Favourite lift in the gym? The prowler
- Favourite workout music? Upbeat RnB and pop!
- Favourite trainers? Currently wear Pearl Izumi N2 for running...with aspirations of more minimalist models once my calves allow.
- Favourite day off activity? Cooking
You can find out more about Becky at her website here: https://tryumphhealth.com/ and you can follow on social media @TryumphHealth