What are the earliest memories you have of being an athlete and what sport was your favorite as a little girl?
I grew up on the Northern Beaches of Sydney and my family was always active. I was learning to swim before I could walk or talk and progressed from there to competitive training. At the same time I was also competing in “Little Athletics”, which is basically a track and field program held all over Australia for kids up to 14 years of age. I was competing at a National Junior level in both swimming and athletics – so in hindsight not a bad preparation for Triathlon. I did not do my first Triathlon until I was 19 and was looking for a new challenge and you could say that things snowballed from there.
My earliest memories are really moving from event to event on a Saturday morning at Little Athletics and looking up to the bigger kids and pushing to keep up as part of the elite Carlile Swim Club. I was used to being competitive and exposed to competition from an early age.
Can you share with me and your fans what “picks you up” when things don’t go well? How do you talk to yourself when things aren’t going well? How do you talk to yourself when you are down or hurt? Training? Or racing?
You soon come to realize as a professional athlete that there are going to be more down times than uptimes (whether that is not getting the result you want, fatigue in training, injury etc) – and on the flip side you do learn to savor success. Family is hugely important to me and I always know I can rely on them when things are not going to plan. But it also not hard to look at the big picture and know that ultimately, while being a Triathlete gives us an outlet and often the opportunity to do good things for others, it is still just a sport and I am incredibly lucky to do this as a profession.
Give us a peek into how you think……..
I am reserved and stubborn at the same time…..and I thrive on a challenge
As a woman athlete were there any barriers that you felt you had to break through?
Triathlon (and endurance sport generally) has to be one of the most accessible sports for women, and I think that is becoming more apparent with the participation numbers. The profile of female Triathletes is high and I am proud if in any way I can be an inspiration for girls (of any age) to get out there and give sport a go. Growing up I was always encouraged to enjoy and compete in sport and I think in general in Australia, womens sport is held in high regard. I grew up with two brothers (I’m in the middle) and around various sports clubs and in no way did I ever feel that as a girl I was either less able or had fewer opportunities than any of the boys.
Cultural expectations …… were there any cultural norms or expectations that you felt you had to break through?
No not really, it’s more the cultural expectation in Australia for female athletes to win on the world stage! The only expectations I have ever felt I have had to perform to or exceed have been my own.
Who were your mentors growing up? Who are they currently?
I really do take inspiration from such a broad range of people from all walks of life and pursuits. Growing up, it was always looking at some of the older athletes I was training with and definitely my family. As important as being successful for me athletically is, it is more important for me to be successful as a person.
What was the turning point for you when you knew that triathlon was for you?
I had what you could call an unorthodox introduction to the sport, having been talent identified by the Australian Institute of Sport and having a professional license after about four races. But really the turning point for me was being offered a contract to race the Australian F1 Triathlon Series in my first year in the sport. Lining up against some of the great names of Australian and World Triathlon and realizing that this was the sport for me.
Do you have any favorite hobbies?
Good food, cooking, eating out, cook books….you get the idea
What adversities have you been through that have modeled and sculpted who you are?
Within the sport, definitely (and like most athletes) I have had those inopportune injuries that certainly challenge your resolve but more importantly strengthen it when you do get back on the start line. Other than that I would say that I have always been supported and provided opportunities and while I may have faced challenges they are nothing compared to what others are facing every day around the world.
How realistic is it to expect to get all of your nutritional needs from food alone?
Sometimes I think that people take a multivitamin, plus other supplements as an excuse to eat poorly or to not pay attention to what they eat. Everyone is pushed for time and it seems as though nutrition and food quality comes last on the list of ‘things to do’. What you eat is integral to health as well as supporting any sort of athletic activity. For thousands of years we managed OK by eating food. What has changed is that we now get so much of our energy (calories) from nutrient poor food – highly processed foods and very little variety – rather than eating actual foods (vegetables, fruits, herbs, meats etc). Of course if you eat a typical western diet then you will likely not meet nutritional needs. If you eat well though then you should be just fine. A low dose multi might serve as an ‘insurance’ in times of increased stress and hard training and of course there are times when you may need to take additional supplements at the direction of a doctor who has detected a particular deficiency (which can occur despite a great diet) but supplementation should not, and need not, be a general course of action.
re: Nutrition for Masters 40plus athletes
Masters athletes are generally not too different from their younger counterparts. However the main difference is that they can not ‘get away’ as easily with having a poor nutritional intake. There is less room for error or ‘junk food’. As we age our metabolism slows, muscle mass decreases and our ability to recover is also reduced. This means that we need to pay attention to not only what we eat, but how much and when.
As always nutrition is a key in enabling quality training and this becomes even more so after the “bullet-proof” teenage and early 20’s years where you may be able to get away with short cuts in the diet every now and then. It is not that there are significantly different nutritional requirements, rather that we need to be more diligent in applying good practice the older we get if we want to maintain good physical shape and performance. Some key areas to pay attention to follow:
Nutrient dense, healthy foods are required for both performance and health. As we age caloric needs can decrease slightly so it is even more important that the calories consumed are from functional sources rather than empty calories to avoid nutritional deficiencies and to maximize lean body mass. Get plenty of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and quality proteins. Recommended calcium intakes are slightly higher to maintain bone health which is also assisted by weight and weight bearing training (1200mg per day for 51 years plus as opposed to 1000mg for 19-50 and may be even higher for menopausal athletes – 3-4 servings of dairy/day (or calcium fortified foods) should meet these needs). Vitamins D and B12 needs can also be elevated due to decreased absorption.
While it should be possible if eating well to obtain all micronutrients in sufficient quantity, if caloric needs are reduced (as they can be with age) then a multi-vitamin could be an insurance option, however be aware that consuming vitamins in large concentrations can be toxic and even more detrimental to health.
Recovery from intense effort slows as we age so maximize training adaptations, optimize recovery and help maintain muscle mass by fuelling up with carbohydrates and protein immediately post-training session. Eating smaller and more frequently may also assist in consuming these foods around training.
Total body water as well as thirst sensation decreases with age making hydration and fluid replacement even more important not only for health but also optimal performance for masters. You may need to be more disciplined in drinking to a ‘plan’ rather than just being guided by thirst alone. As for every athlete, replace fluid lost during training/racing with 1.5 times that amount as soon as possible. Acclimatizing to very hot conditions may also be harder for older athletes and have more pronounced detrimental effects on performance. Listen to your head (or that of your doctor, spouse, children (!?)) when exercising in the heat.
Gastric emptying is also slowed with age so developing an individual pre-race and pre-training meal plan that is comfortable is advisable to limit GIT distress – this may mean eating a smaller meal, relying more on liquids or eating earlier. For daily diet – ensure sufficient fiber intake for continued gut health.
Find more about Pip Taylor on her website here