GILLIAN SANDERS

MOTIVATION

What got you started

My parents were both athletes and represented South Africa. My sister and I thus grew up in a very active household in South Africa where we were always doing outdoorsy stuff. I excelled at swimming and running from a young age and made a natural progression into triathlon after my dad started doing it.

How do you set your goals?

I normally have some crazy things going on in my head and then I sit down with my coach before we start winter training to discuss things realistically. I'm a pretty optimistic 'shoot for the sun and you'll always land a star' type of person. I think you need to aim high as that's where there is more personal reward. My coach and I decided 18 months before the Olympics that I was going to try and qualify and we went out, worked our asses off and did it!

Do you have a word, mantra or motto that you live your life by?

'Great love and great achievements involve great risk' Delai Lama.

What is your biggest source of motivation?

Seeing how far I can take myself. What is my potential and how far does it extend, am I capable of better? These are the questions I'm constantly asking myself and that is all the motivation I need!

TRAINING

Favourite place to train and why?

At home in London. Everything is on my doorstep. I have a great coach and belong to a really awesome tri club with like minded people.My support team (husband, coach, club, friends, some family) are all here and I also feel safe training on my own sometimes when I need to. I also find that training in horrible UK weather gives you an edge over your competitors who might be following the sun the whole year.

Favourite training sessions?

Long, easy cake rides and summer lake swims.

Least favourite training sessions?

Weighted vest hill reps.

What exercise do you absolutely dislike but do anyways because you know it works?

Probably the weighted vest hill reps. You strap on a vest of about 8-10kg and do sprints up a hill in a group for an hour. It's brutal but I know it works because the first time I do it each year my bum is stiff for days and I can't walk properly.

Favourite song/s you workout to?

Anything upbeat. For turbo sessions at home I usually just blast the TV on a music channel playing the UK Chart Top 40 or something.

MIND MATTERS

What do you do to mentally train yourself?

A lot of the mental training happens in physical training - it works together really. Every day you're faced with a hard session of some sort that you know needs to be done to the best of your ability. If you train yourself to always give your best you will line up at a race knowing that you have done everything possible to give yourself the best opportunity of doing well.

What weaknesses have you overcome and how?

Getting my swimming back to it's pre lawyer/uni standards was quite a challenge. I swam competitively from a young age but a few years out the water was detrimental to my swim and I spent a lot of time getting it back to standard and to come out in the front pack at the Olympics. Many hours and tears in the pool, a lot of hard work and frustration and a very patient and incredible coach got me there in the end.

Do you have a word, mantra or motto that you live your life by?

'Great love and great achievements involve great risk.' Delai Lama.

What's your best advice for dealing with mental negativity? How do you get out of your own head?

I use a method created by Dr Steve Peters (psychiatrist to British Cycling & Team Sky) in his book 'The Chimp Paradox'. Basically, anything negative that comes into your head is classified as a 'threat' or getting 'hijacked by your chimp'. I will go through my 'threats' with my coach before each race and counter them. For eg. Perhaps a threat for me would be, 'what if I don't have my run legs when I jump off the bike?'. This would be countered with, 'that is just silly, you have been running really well in training/doing lots of brick sessions, there is no reason why this would happen.' So each and every threat gets countered and you can go into the race knowing that you've dealt with all those little voices.

RACING

What is your favourite race?

The Olympics in London but if we're talking annually, the World Triathlon Series in Yokohama. The people are so friendly, the food is amazing, they treat us athletes so well there and the city is impeccable and I love the course!

When you go into competition, what's going through your head?

In the few hours before I will try to have a clear head and focus on all the positives. If a threat pops into my head or the chimp tries to hijack me, I will counter it. I like to go into a race feeling excited but calm (not too nervous) so it's just a matter of quietening the mind and focussing on one thing like the swim start or something.

When are you the most nervous while you are competing?

Without a doubt the final hour or so before the race starts. As soon as the gun goes off, it disappears and you just do what you have to do.

Do you hear the crowd roaring when you're competing?

Yes, usually. At the Olympics it was deafening, I've never in my life heard such noise, I get goose bumps when I think back to it. There were 250 000 people watching our race on the course, it was amazing.

Best tip for race day?

All the work is done. Racing is the fun part, go out and enjoy it and just do your best!

What was the last piece of advice your coach said to you before you competed?

He usually tries to crack a joke to relax me and then will send me off with ‘good luck chick, just do your best.'

What is your ultimate goal as an athlete?

To reach my potential. I know I'm not there yet. I'm still not as consistent as what I'd like to be in the very high end of racing (the World Triathlon Series) and so to fulfil my potential, be more consistent and qualify for Rio 2016 would be great.

FUN STUFF

What is your worst habit?

My husband says I shovel my food. I'm hungry all the time so it can't be helped but that's probably my worst habit.

If your life was a movie what would be the title?

‘Round the world in a bathing suit'

If you were an animal what would you be and why?

A dog. Loyal, friendly, cheeky, love to sleep and eat and enjoy the simple things in life.

Who would you say is your biggest fan and why?

My hubby and my coach. They both almost eat, sleep and live triathlon through me. They see me at my best and my worst, they see the highs and the lows, the tears, the laughs, the frustrations. So when things go well or not so well they are both there as my biggest fans, win or lose.

What are the 5 things you cannot live without?

  • Food
  • Sleep
  • My phone
  • My hubby
  • My family

What is something about you that many people do not know?

I'm a lawyer and was appearing in court doing trials and things until not too long ago.

Finish this sentence: 10 years from now, I will be...

somewhere (not sure where!!!) but hopefully happy with my hubby and a family of my own doing something I love (be it triathlon related or simply bringing up my kids!)

What would you rather be doing right this second, rather than answering these questions?

Eating. It's lunchtime!

Gillian Sanders - Triathlon

FAST FACTS

Age 33
Location London, England
Sport Triathlon
Years in sport 4

MOTTO

"Great love and great achievements involve great risk" Delai Lama

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