6-5-1 @ SPARTA: interview with Annabel Luxford

Welcome to our latest instalment of 6-5-1 @ SPARTA – our monthly feature where we chat with someone who has achieved success in their chosen sport to get a bit of an insight about what motivates them & what has contributed to their success.

If you’ve been injured, you will relate to the story of Annabel Luxford.

Bella is an Aussie professional triathlete currently racing on the international circuit.

She is a former Triathlon Under23 World Champion (2004), winner of 4 World Cups on the ITU circuit & over 16 World Cup medals. Out of the sport for the last 12 months due to injury, she is on her way back to top level competition with a strong showing in the ITU race held in Sydney in April this year.

She is currently training in southern France (where a medieval internet connection threatened to delay this interview!) & has her eyes on a spot on the Australian team for the London Olympics in 2012.

In her spare time (!), Bella is studying for a Masters of Applied Law at the University of Queensland.

Without further delay, welcome to SPARTA Annabel –

1/. What is the biggest challenge to your motivation & how do you overcome that?

I’ve always been self motivated, even from a young age. I don’t remember Mum ever waking me up for early morning swim training. As a seven year old I demanded that she let me compete in 5km fun run with her. I presume she thought I would get bored with it pretty quickly, but running took [hold] and I have loved training and racing ever since.

The biggest challenge to my motivation is my struggle to stay injury free. It’s hard at times to watch other athletes cruise through, with barely a niggle. I seem to do all the right things including strength and core programs, and regular maintenance with physiotherapists, yet it seems I am just not as sturdy as some other athletes.

I have had to learn to train smart, trust my instincts and surround myself with a positive group of people. In most injuries or setbacks, there is always a positive if you look hard enough. I guess at times, I struggle with the idea that I may never be able to do the amount of running training required to be as competitive as I would like to be; however, I try and not dwell on that thought. At the end of the day, my support network and I just have to think outside the box and look for other ways to get around the hurdle.

2/. Aside from training for the 3 disciplines, what other training do you do (eg, strength, stretching, core etc) and how important is it to your performance?

Strength and core are key components of my training. Their main purpose is to help me achieve good form and technique and ultimately stay injury free. I rarely use machines or heavy weights, however I focus a lot on single leg stability exercises and calf raises. I also do running drills once or twice a week. I try and stay away from a lot of stretching as I am naturally quite flexible and I find that too much stretching can detract from muscle activation. I walk a fair bit with my Jack Russell Daisy as this is a good low impact way of building leg strength.

3/. You’ve suffered a lot of injuries over the years. What inspires you to return to top level competition when you suffer from a big setback or injury that puts you out of the sport for a while?

Although I have had many injuries and setbacks, having spent at times 12 months out of the sport, I am motivated to keep pursuing triathlon as I feel I have not yet got the best out of myself as an athlete. I plan to give ITU racing a good crack for the next year and see if I can make the Australian team for London 2012. After that I will try my hand at the non drafting Olympic distance and 70.3 racing.

4/. Who is the person (or people) who have had the most influence on your sporting success?

My mum Margie has been a huge influence on my sporting career. She is undoubtedly my biggest supporter and is always there to listen, tell me a few home truths if I need to hear them, and most importantly she is always encouraging. My first running coach Pat Clohessy is also one of the wisest people I know and he has taught me the virtue of patience, persistence and self-belief.

5/. You are currently studying graduate law at the University of Queensland. How do you balance the training vs study workload and what is it about law that appeals to you?

I enjoy combining study and training together. If I’m not studying I sometimes have this uneasy feeling that I’m not doing enough with my time. There are times however, especially when I am overseas where it is almost impossible to combine the two. I find that the balance between training and study can stop me from overthinking triathlon, and I really enjoy the mental stimulation. I particularly enjoy law as it is thought provoking and teaches you a way of thinking, and an ability to look at things from different perspectives.

In addition I enjoy policy discussions, and there is a part of me as well that wants to be able to do something good for society and help those who suffer injustice. Whether I practice law or not, I think it will be a great platform for my career when I hang up my racing shoes.

6/. If you could go back in time & give one piece of advice to yourself when you were 18, what advice would that be?

I would tell myself to do lots and lots of calf raises, and that you can’t please everyone.

Thanks for your time Bella!

You can follow Annabel Luxford’s Adventures and Misadventures in Triathlon here.