Helen Jenkins is a two time World Triathlon Champion. In this interview Helen begins by discussing motherhood, her early career and the importance of early career influences such as the legendary coach Chris Jones and world champion Leanda Cave. We delve into her peak performance in San Diego, where Helen produced one of the most dominant triathlon performances in the last few decades, crushing a truly world class field. It is here where she shares the exhilaration of winning the ITU World Triathlon Series in 2008 and 2011. But then things started to unravel as she experienced knee and most significantly, a back injury in the lead up to London 2012. Managing this, Helen explores how she was thinking before, during and after the 2012 attempt that ultimately didn’t go her way. It was truly uplifting to hear how Helen reconciled this, to make sense of her amazing achievements and to think about her bigger purpose in life.
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Show Notes
4:40 – Helen starts by reflecting over the last 12 months. She has experienced some gargantuan changes – having a baby and back surgery in the same year.

6:50 – Steve and Helen explore how Helen made adaptations to training during and after her pregnancy. Shortly after pregnancy, Helen had to make further adaptations after back surgery.

9:30 – Helen’s back injury has been her major limiting factor since 2011. This has resulted in challenges to lifestyle and performance.

14:30 – Helen discusses her early career experiences in swimming, important influences, the transition she made into triathlon and early successes.

19:50 – A big turning point in Helen’s career was training in Australia with the likes of Chris Jones, Leanda Cave and other world class athletes. Finding out what it takes to be the best. World level success soon followed.

22:43 – Helen discusses the components of her success, finding consistency and her peak performances in 2011 to 2012. Notably, becoming world champion in 2008 and 2011.

24:00 – San Diego in 2011 was one of Helen’s best performances across her career.

25:30 – A week after her peak performance in San Diego, injuries to the knee and back surfaced and the fight to get to London 2012 began.

28:25 – Helen didn’t train for 2-3 weeks prior to London 2012 and was amazed she was able to stand at the start line. The day before the race she could not run.

30:50 – Helen finished 5th at London 2012 in an incredible achievement. She found this tough to deal with initially but after reflecting on the experience, this is the race she is most proud of in her career.

32:00 – Helen had a large period off to recover, reflect and explore the issues surrounding her back injury with specialists. Helen dug deep to reflect and refocus.

38:30 – The difficulty Helen has in having to train less but smarter in order to achieve performance.

40:15 – Helen found it tough to be upbeat for herself and her stakeholders when the injuries have taken its toll on her.

43:55 – Steve and Helen discuss how the coach-athlete/husband-wife relationship has worked successfully for Helen. An external support system has been key to its success.

47:10 – Having a flexible plan, following process and knowing that you have given 100% are Helen’s key messages for dealing with set-backs.

52:00 – What is next for Helen?  Her goal is to get back competing and try to think some more about a potential career in performance lifestyle and/or coaching.

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Dr Steve Ingham is one of the UK’s leading figures in sport and one of the world’s leading performance scientists. He is steeped in high performance and has been integral to the development of Britain into an Olympic superpower. He has provided support to over 1000 athletes, of which over 200 have achieved World or Olympic medal success, including some of the world’s greatest athletes such as Jessica Ennis-Hill, Sir Steve Redgrave and Sir Matthew Pinsent. Steve has coached Kelly Sotherton's running for heptathlon and to 4x400m Olympic medal winning success. Steve has worked at the English Sports Council British Olympic Association, English Institute of Sport, where Steve was the Director of Science and Technical Development, leading a team of 200 scientists in support of Team GB and Paralympics GB. Ingham holds a BSc, PhD and is a Fellow of the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences. Steve is author of the best selling ‘How to Support a Champion: The art of applying science to the elite athlete’, discussing and inspiring the importance of learning and adapting to reach our maximum potential. Steve established Supporting Champions with the ambition of helping ambitious people to find a better way of creating high-performance. Steve hosts the Supporting Champions Podcast on sharing his pursuit of understanding and exploration in performance.

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