Interview with exercise physiologist & AG athlete Emily Jevons

As part of our International Women’s Day mini-series, we spoke with inspiring women across all levels of triathlon and cycling.

Emily Jevons is one such athlete. Competing for GB as an age-group athlete, she is also an endurance swimmer and a PhD researcher in Exercise Physiology. We caught up with Emily to discuss her journey into triathlon, exercising to keep sane, the importance of knowing your own body and her training plans leading up to Dragon Ride and the Royal Windsor Triathlon.

Please note this article was published before Government restrictions and guidelines surrounding COVID-19. 

How did you get into triathlon?

Throughout my childhood I swam. For one reason and another, I quit around 16 and then didn’t do much sport at all until I started my PhD. I had moved in with my partner and didn’t know many people in the area so I signed up to my local triathlon club as a way to meet people.

I am now three years in the sport. There has been so much to learn! The first year I stuck to triathlons that had pool swims as I was fearful of open water – despite my swimming background. I did my first sprint triathlon in 2017.

What advice would you give to other swimmers looking to overcome their fear of the open water?

I have my dad to thank for helping me overcome my open water fears. He would swim with me by my side, just gradually building the distance. It wasn’t a quick process but eventually the familiarity helped me feel comfortable so I could get back to focussing on the swim itself! I have come a long way from my pool only days – at the end of 2019, I swam a 10,000m event in Wales and I am looking to go further in 2020.

My advice to others would be to first find someone to swim with you – whether a friend or a local group. Then take it slowly. You will get there with practice and you are definitely not alone!

What keeps you in the sport? What does it mean for you?

Mentally it keeps me sane. I am finishing off my PhD and also working so my training is my ‘me time’. Without my training, I doubt I would have been able to get as far as I have with my studies and work – it really is my mental saviour.

Favourite discipline?

It varies! I used to hate running but I think that is because I was new to it and frequently dealing with niggles. At the moment, I am really enjoying the bike. Last year my bike was stolen – which seemed like such a negative but it actually helped me improve my run as I had to focus more on that. It is nice to have a bike again though and I can’t wait to take on those Welsh hills at this year’s Dragon Ride!

What did you learn in 2019 that you will be carrying through to your 2020 season?

Last year, one of the main things I learnt was managing my event schedule. This year I have tried to be more sensible and not have intense events back to back. My events are better spread out in terms of dates and distance. This gives me enough time to train – and more importantly, adequate recovery. I’m particularly looking forward to the Dragon Ride and my first Olympic distance, Windsor Tri in June.

What does an average week’s training look like?

In general, my training has 3 sessions of each discipline per week, plus strength and core work. I usually add in aerial fitness classes which help with strength, balance and posture – and give me a mental break from triathlon. Plus, it’s social and great fun!

I must admit, it definitely helped me to get a coach. It is not for everyone and it is an investment, but it helps me get the most out of the time that I have. Before I had a coach, I was bordering on overtraining and so now I feel more likely to reach my potential without damaging my health or taking away from the other areas in my life.

Do you have any advice for newbies taking on a triathlon or sportive for the first time?

My key piece of advice would be to know the event. Read the race pack and speak to people when you get there. It will help take the edge of your nerves and you will pick up useful pieces of information. Triathletes and cyclists are usually very friendly!

You are also working as a PhD researcher in Exercise Physiology. What are your tricks for fitting everything in and making sure you get enough recovery?

I am strict on a routine. My bedtime is 10pm and it is very rare that I miss this. I try to stick to 7-8 hours of sleep. This seems a good amount for me but others I know must hit 9 hours so I recommend working out what works for you. Interestingly, I used to suffer from insomnia but now I train regularly the quality of my sleep is a lot better – probably because I have tired myself out!

On a day-to-day basis, I shuffle my training around to fit it in. With work and studying, I am never quite sure how much time I will have to train, so working in some flexibility into my training schedule really helps.

My swim squad is about halfway to work so in some ways this saves me time as I beat a lot of the traffic going in that early! I incorporate some of my run sessions into my lunch breaks. Sometimes I’ll watch a TV series and combine with an active recovery session on the turbo. Essentially, it is a lot of bag packing and juggling, but you can make it work!

Are there areas of your research that cross over into your own training?

My studies and research have given me a deep grounding in knowing my own body and being conscious of what I eat to ensure I eat enough to fuel my training and recovery. I am also a UK Anti-Doping Advisor and so keep up with the current research there. Whether you are new to the sport, or it’s part of your day job, read and watch as much as you can, always do your own research and make your own decisions, don’t just follow the crowd. There will never be a one-size-fits all approach to sport with regards to nutrition, training and sleep. Be wary of silver bullet advice and work out what works well for you.

Feeling inspired? Ready to join Emily at the start line of the Royal Windsor Triathlon? Register your interest for 2021 – we can’t wait to see you there!

To learn more about Emily’s swim journey, read her recent SIS blog Diving into endurance swimming – the start of a long journey… If you have any questions for Emily, she regularly checks her Instagram messages on @emilyj.tri