After 18 months sidelined with injury, two-time world champion Helen Jenkins has returned to full fitness and elite competition. She will compete for her native Wales at the Commonwealth Games this summer and spoke to us before heading off to Glasgow
How is everything fitness wise?
Really good thanks! I have been training really consistently over the winter, I haven’t been able to hit the same volume of training over the winter – I’ve been cautious due to my long lay off with injury. I am now getting into a good rhythm of racing and training and I’m enjoying it!
18 months is an incredibly long time to be out injured, can you talk us through the different stages of rehabilitation?
There were a lot of steps of rehab, I did a huge amount of gym work and strengthening before my injury was even diagnosed properly so that probably helped at first. I then had back surgery when we found out that it was a small bulging disc. After the surgery it was back to training but a really small volume, about 45 minutes running a week, two hours swimming and about two hours riding. I have built up training really gradually since last July, keeping all the gym work in. It was just steady training to begin with and then we built the intensity into the training program from January.
What was being back in the World Champs in Auckland like – Cathartic? Excited? Nervous?
I did a sprint race in New Plymouth two weeks before Auckland and I wasn’t too nervous for that, but at Auckland it was definitely nerves! I think it was the fact it was such a tough course and the whole World Champs Series infrastructure is so professional looking, so when I got down into transition on the blue carpet the nerves did hit me! But at the same time the overwhelming feeling was just happiness!
Can we assume you’re pretty happy with your opening two ITU World Champs races?
Yes, it was unexpected to do so well off the training I have done. I thought I would have needed to have done a bit more prep work but I have come out racing in better form than I thought.
Looking ahead to Glasgow, you must be getting excited? Did you prioritise it over the ITU series or can you fully apply yourself to both?
I didn’t have any plans to prioritise either, I’d like to do well in both. I have planned my season so that hopefully I can do both well. I really would love to do well in the Commonwealth Games though as I have been so well supported by the staff at the Sports Council for Wales. I am in there a few times a week for gym and physio treatment, it would be great to give something back for the support.
Do you still have an affiliation with Scotland even though you left when you were quite young?
I was born in Scotland as my dad was in the RAF, we moved to Germany when I was one and then to Wales when I was three. I have lived in Wales ever since, I have always raced for Wales, Welsh Schools or Welsh Counties and before I was UK Lottery funded I was supported by the Welsh system Elite Cymru. But that said, I have always enjoyed visiting Scotland, my uncle lives near Loch Lomond and I have always had great support when racing there. So competitively my affiliation is to Wales, I’m British and Welsh through and through, but I have a fondness for Scotland.
What nutrition products are you using for training now it’s race season? Is there an emphasis on recovery products?
I use a lot of the SiS Go Hydro tablets, just to maintain hydration through the day. There is a lot of emphasis on recovery – I take SiS Rego Rapid Recovery after my tough sessions. As I have been doing a lot more gym work than I used to I have been taking the SiS Rego Protein after these sessions. I find it helps my overall fatigue levels, If I don’t have any Rego during the week I am a lot more tired by the end of the weeks training. I always carry SiS Go gels and bars on the bike, just in case!
What nutrition will you be packing for the Commonwealth Games?
I race with SiS Go+ Caffeine Gels Cola, SiS Go Electrolyte in my bottles and I use the SiS Go+ Nitrate gels pre-race.
Any nutrition tips for triathlon newbies trying their first triathlon early on this season?
Practice with your nutrition before the race, it sounds like a strange thing to do, but when you’re pushing your body hard you don’t want to introduce something new. So practice taking drinks and gels while cycling and running.
We’re also speaking to Non Stanford for this issue – what do you make of her rapid progression?
Non is a really talented girl and a hard worker, that usually results in success! She has done really well and I’m sure will bounce back from her injury quickly.
And there is Jodie Stimpson as well – do you see yourself with extra responsibility to help guide the younger girls?
I’m not sure how much help they need from me, but I’m always willing to help if I can! I did a weekend camp with some junior girls back in March and that was great fun, they had some really good questions for me and we trained hard.
Have you thought about how much longer you will carry on competing? How much are you thinking about Rio?
Rio is definitely on the radar, I want to go to another Games, our British women’s team is so strong at the moment so it will be a tough one, after Rio I’m not sure, I want to keep racing if I can!
Your twitter page has lots of baking, are you any good? Got any favourites?
I do love baking! As an endurance athlete I can eat a lot of food but I probably shouldn’t be eating cake every day, which I like for a treat. My favourite is probably blueberry muffins or lemon cake. My friend gave me a Mary Berry Baking book for Christmas so I’m trying to work my way through it!
Thanks Helen and good luck for the rest of the year!