Have you ever wondered what it's like being an elite athlete? Is alcohol banned and what about diet? This week we go behind the scenes to chat to Seb Rodger, Team GB 400m hurdler, about a typical day.
In 2013, Seb won a silver medal at the European U23 Championships and reached the semifinals of the World Championships. He also represented Great Britain at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The sacrifices to get to the top
As exciting as the job is, there is also a very different side.
Don’t get me wrong - traveling the world, seeing amazing cities, meeting some incredible people and getting paid to do it doesn’t get boring. But behind every professional athlete there is a total different side, the hours of hard work, the sacrifices, the years of putting your body and mind through everything it throws at you. From the highs of being on the podium to potentially falling over a hurdle, or worse still, injury.
What most people don’t see or even think about is what goes on behind the scenes.
I will be at the track, on the grass or in the gym 6 days a week.
Being an athlete our normal routine can be very boring. We are creatures of habit.
I usually aim to get 8 hours sleep. Sleeping is so important for us to recover and be able to train at peak level. Sometimes I can struggle with sleep so I have my own sleep routine. I always listen to music, usually pretty chilled-out music to relax my mind and allow me to easily switch off. It sounds silly but I also sleep and travel with a small pillow, which has been all over the world with me. It allows me to have a little home comfort and familiar smell. Sleeping in different beds and hotels can really effect sleep patterns. I have some friends who are elite athletes who have prescribed sleeping tablets. On the rare occasion I’ve slept with the help of Melatonin, usually only when we have flown a long way and struggling with jet lag. This really is a last resort for me.
I start the day with 2 boiled eggs, a banana, green tea and a Vitamin C and Zinc drink. I don’t take many supplements but I like the idea that a little bit more Vitamin C can only help. Especially in the winter when we are training in cold, windy, wet conditions.
Most days I train at 10:30 in the morning, I make sure I finish breakfast a good hour before I get to training, it is essential for me to be hydrated and fuelled for my training session. Again I know this can very much vary between people, some of my training partners can’t stomach anything before training. Although I personally don’t agree with this. I can’t see how you’re meant to perform at your maximum ability on an empty stomach.
Morning training session
I train 6 days a week, with Sunday being my only full day off. This will of course change in the summer/competition season. We will tend to back off the training and do more quality speed sessions, making sure we are in the best refreshed shape leading into competitions.
Training can consist of many different elements depending on the day, but a normal track day, will start with a two lap slow jog, followed by some static stretches, walking drills, hurdle walk overs and then slowly building into some faster movements.
A typical speed endurance session could consist of 350m/300m/250m/300m.
This doesn’t sound like much but with short recovery and running at 85% this session can be awful. After we have peeled ourselves off the track, we will have a couple of laps warm down and stretch off.
Many coaches and athletes do all sorts of different things. This is just what works well for me.
I train 6 days a week, with Sunday being my only full day off.
I tend to want lunch quite quickly after my morning session, it’s a key time where nutrition can play a big part in recovery. I tend to eat a lot of chicken, pasta, salad, and vegetables.
A few dishes could be the following:
- Two salmon fillets, couscous, broccoli
- Bruschetta, brown bread, avocado, onion, tomato, bacon and a light bit of olive oil
- Steak, boiled potatoes, green salad
- Two large jacket potatoes with Tuna mayo and salad
- Scrambled egg on sour dough bread, avocado with cherry tomatoes.
Lunch is followed by a short nap
After lunch is where the real action begins, I will often have a 20 minute nap in the afternoon. I find 20 minutes is perfect any longer then I can wake up tired and a bit flat.
Afternoon training session
In the winter I tend to train twice a day twice a week. Usually on a Tuesday and Thursday. These sessions can consist of many different elements, depending on the time of the year or what we need to do. It could be sled pulls, blocks, acceleration runs, plyometrics. There are so many different things we do in training which ultimately keep me fit and keep my body healthy. It’s the small most tedious exercises which are often the most important.
Depending on the time of year, an afternoon training session focuses on sled pulls, blocks, acceleration runs or plyometrics.
For dinner I will again have a variety of different foods, steak, fish, always having a good balance. Typical dishes include:
- Spaghetti bolognese, sometimes I replace the mince with Quorn. Even though I do love meat I think sometimes it’s good to go the occasional day without meat.
- Vegetable and prawn stir fry
- Chickpea and spinach curry
- Prawn and asparagus pasta
- Roast chicken with sautéed potatoes and green salad
Chocolate and Guinness in moderation
I always feel it is key to enjoy what you eat, my weakness has always been chocolate, but sometimes I good healthy chocolate binge is needed!
I tend to stay hydrated with water throughout the day. I don’t tend to drink much alcohol unless I am heading out with friends for a rare night out. Although I do love a pint of Guinness... And it is high in zinc after all!
Going out and drinking is something most professional athletes can’t really do. Training hungover is certainly not good. Trust me - coaches will not be happy. More importantly why would we? We work so hard, commit so hard to get everything right, it would be a total waste to go out get tired, which could have a negative impact on training. Our bodies are so finally tuned and as I mentioned such creatures of habits that even a night out at the wrong time can really affect things.
Having said that, the occasional night out is needed. Letting loose at the occasional party keeps you grounded and helps you to feel more normal. Again, moderation is key. Otherwise we save the going out until the off season.
The occasional night out is needed. Letting loose at the occasional party keeps you grounded and helps you to feel more normal.
Whatever your goal, I believe the key is to keep enjoying yourself
Sport has given me so much, so much happiness, a lot of tears a lot of sacrifice but I wouldn’t change it for the world. It is where I truly feel free, focused and determined to be the best athlete and person I can be. Every time I step on the track or gym I am looking forward to learning something new about myself, digging deep and seeing how far I can push myself.
Ultimately, whatever your goal, the only thing that matters is to always enjoy yourself.