In this revealing interview, two-time World Triathlon Champion Helen Jenkins delves into her journey in the world of triathlon, discussing challenges and triumphs alike. Helen kicks off the discussion by talking about major life changes she’s recently experienced, including motherhood and undergoing back surgery.
Helen speaks candidly about the training adaptations she had to make during and after her pregnancy and back surgery. She reveals that her back injury has been a constant hindrance since 2011, affecting both her lifestyle and performance.
Discussing her early career, Helen talks about her transition from swimming to triathlon and how her life took a turn when she trained in Australia with world-class athletes and coaches like Chris Jones and Leanda Cave. This experience helped her understand what it takes to be the best, leading her to world championship wins in 2008 and 2011. Helen singles out her performance in San Diego in 2011 as a career peak.
However, the journey wasn’t always smooth. Helen describes the injuries she suffered a week after her San Diego triumph and the struggles she faced leading up to the 2012 London Olympics. Despite not being able to train properly, Helen managed a remarkable fifth-place finish in London, a race she later reflects on as one of the proudest moments of her career.
Helen then talks about the long road to recovery and how she had to train smarter, not just harder, to sustain her performance. Maintaining a positive outlook became increasingly difficult as injuries continued to plague her.
When it comes to her relationship with her coach, who is also her husband, Helen shares that having an external support system has been crucial to their success. She concludes the interview by outlining her strategies for overcoming setbacks and hints at what the future might hold for her, including potentially moving into coaching or a performance lifestyle career.
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.
Follow Helen on Twitter
Follow us online
Subscribe to get high performance insights direct to your inbox.
If you want to get ahead in sports science, whether you’re a student or a professional, take a look at our online courses and community to help you thrive and develop your impact. Click below.