Imagine the time and energy demands of competing at one sport at an elite level. Add four sports onto that and you get an insight into the life of Natalya Coyle, who is currently the world's number sixth-ranked modern pentathlete. A modern pentathlon event involves cross country running, swimming, fencing, pistol shooting and show-jumping. Coyle's training programme reflects the demands of one of the most gruelling Olympics sport. She trains six days a week. A typical day's training might involve rising at 6am for a run before a 9am swim session at the National Aquatic Centre, followed by a physio and gym session, before another running session in the afternoon. Natalya will typically consume 4,000 calories per training day.
With the Tokyo Olympics only 16 months away and Coyle and training partner Arthur Lannigan O'Keefe both being tipped as medal contenders, we thought it would be a good time to chat to Natalya to get a sense of her life in the gym and how she prepares her body for the demands of modern pentathlon.
For those of us unfamiliar with the training demands of modern pentathlon, can you give a sense of what your training week is like?
Training for Pentathlon is very varied day-to-day. We have to make sure we train enough but not overdo it, which can be easy with 5 events! On a general week I will do 6 runs, 4 swims, 2 gyms, 3 free-play fencing and 2 fencing lessons, 4 shoots and 1 horse-riding session. Somewhere in there I fit in physio and meeting with other team members like the nutritionist or sports physiologist.
How has your own training regime changed and evolved across your career?
Massively! When I look back to training I did before it's so different. There's no way I could withstand the load of training I do now when I started as it takes years to build up to. I am also a lot smarter with taking days off if I'm sick or dropping a session if I'm exhausted. Before I would have probably just battered on through which isn't a good idea.
Do you look to other sports or athletes for inspiration? If so, who?
Training out in the National Sports Campus you get to see so many different athletes and it is a real eye opener to see how everyone trains. There's so many women and men that are really incredible. I think Sanita Puspure is amazing. Last year we met at the RTÉ sports awards and both of us were exhausted from the heavy training we were doing (I think we ate all the mini-burgers on offer). It's really nice to know that even if someone’s in a different sport you're all in it together and you understand what the other person feels (generally they're very tired!).
What exercise/workout gives you the absolute fear? What lifts you?
I dread a hard swim as it’s a full body death by lactic acid. But there’s something nice at the end when you’ve survived and you know the next time will be better or that it will help in the long run. I also don’t like long runs! I like to break them up into different speeds to try and pass the time quicker. Really just seeing better results, even if they’re incremental, gives you a lift!
Do you train with music/headphones on? If so what do you listen to?
Sometimes on runs I train with music. I like listening to ever different type of music. I had Hoziers album on at my recent competition but I was very into Kanye Wests album at the last Olympics! So very varied!
Is there any advice or wisdom that you lean on when training feels like it’s getting too difficult or you're not making progress?
I think firstly you need a good coach so that even if training is really hard it’s possible and you can do it (even if you feel you sometimes can't). If you're at a standstill sometimes it's nice to take a little break and have a look at the training. Our bodies are so smart and often lack of progression just means we need a break physically and mentally.
To find out more about Natalya Coyle visit www.navyblue.ie