Olympic gold medalist, world, commonwealth & national champion & world record holder, Elinor Barker is no stranger to the grind.
Her cycling career started when she was just 10 years old. Since then she has become one of the most successful and inspirational women in the sport, not only by winning medals on the track but also backing charities such as Sporting Minds UK to raise awareness of positive mental health in young sports people. In 2016, Elinor was also awarded an MBE for her services to cycling and all of this at the age of just 25.
We know what you’re thinking ... Wow, how does she do it? Ye, that’s what we were thinking too. That's why we caught up with our new Powered by Porridge Athlete to find out what it takes to perform at such a high level, what’s kept her motivated this year and, of course, the most important question of all … how does she like her porridge in the morning.
“I started going to training sessions when I was 10 years old, and began racing not long after that. I never really “decided” to become a professional cyclist”, says Elinor, “My goals just gradually got bigger until eventually my goal was Olympic Gold.”
Elinor became an Olympic champion in Rio at the age of just 21, a moment she describes as the highlight of her career.“It was the most special time of my life, and getting to celebrate with my teammates and family afterwards was incredible.”
One form of track racing Elinor competes in is called the Madison and is known to be one of the most exciting races to watch mainly due to the intensity and exchange between team mates. The Madison is a race where each team must complete more laps than any of the other teams. While one member of the team races, their partner slowly circles the track above the blue line. When they meet, the racer passes their momentum to their partner via a push or “hand sling” before moving up to the blue line to recover for his/her next effort.
It’s no surprise this type of racing requires a lot of training and preparation. On average, Elinor trains around 20 hours per week, with a mix of road riding, gym and track sessions. As well as a gruelling training schedule, the world-class athlete puts her success down to her mindset and a mixture of competitiveness and passion.
“The things I love most about cycling are the two extremes. I love the feeling of riding at super high speeds in short, fast track sessions. But I also love long rides with friends where we can spend the whole day riding and exploring new places. For me the biggest motivation iswinning! I love the feeling and I’m always chasing it. The thrill of racing is great, but I always want to be on the top step.”
Nutrition also plays a huge role in Elinor’s career. The foods she eats not only fuel her performance but are key in her recovery process and a vital ingredient in her well-being and all-round happiness. “Nutrition is very important to me and I believe it can make a big difference. Over the years I’ve changed my focus from what “bad” foods I need to cut out, to paying more attention to how to fuel and recover better by including the right foods at the right time.”
So what does an athlete like Elinor eat when she's in training?
“Breakfast is almost always porridge, usually with fruit and yoghurt and a coffee. I snack during training, and then have eggs and avocado on toast or French toast for lunch (followed by more coffee and more snacks). Dinner is always a combination of meat, carbs and veg but I try to have as much variety in my dinners as possible. On race days, breakfast is the usual. If it’s an afternoon race then I’ll usually just have carbs for lunch and not worry about having too much veg or protein. Often this is pasta or rice with some sauce.”
As a self-confessed porridge-lover, we asked Elinor what she loves about the food and whether it’s more the functional aspect of the flavour that she looks for.“Both! When I’m nervous before races I find it hard to eat sometimes, so having good, balanced meals that taste good make it a lot easier. My favourite 3Bears flavour is the tropical fruits or apple and cinnamon. I’ll have it hot - I make my porridge in the microwave if I’m making it just for me, or in a saucepan if I’m making it for others too - with oat milk and bananas and chocolate chips on top."
Although, like many athletes, 2020 has not been how Elinor imagined with almost all races being cancelled and limited travel to training camps, she’s managed to stay focused and continue her training in preparation for the end of the year and looking ahead to 2021.“It’s been tricky, but I think trying to take it in smaller chunks rather than looking too far ahead has been really helpful. I’ve also tried to see it as an opportunity to train really hard without travel and racing to force rest, so I’m feeling a lot fitter and stronger than I was this time last year.”
You can follow Elinor on her Instagram to see how she gets on at her races coming up this year: the Poland GP and the European championships.“I’m feeling a little nervous, not just the usual nerves about racing, but the extra stress that comes with travelling in 2020. But on top of it allI’m just really excited, I’ve been waiting all year for this!”
A massive good luck to Elinor!! We’re sure that with her determination and a big bowl of 3Bears Porridge in the morning, she’ll smash it!!
Every adventure begins with a bowl of porridge. Share your adventures with us using #PorridgeStories and tagging @3Bears_uk. Gobble up and go get em.