How two Commonwealth Games athletes are going for gold
We chatted to two of the incredible athletes gearing up for their events at the Commonwealth Games, held on the Gold Coast this April.
Eloise Wellings is a distance runner, who represented Australia at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, the 2010 edition in New Delhi and the 2014 edition in Glasgow, and the 2012 Summer Olympics. To make you feel even more intimidated, in 2016 at the Rio Olympics, she recorded the best ever Olympic result by an Australian in the women’s 10,000 final. Yep, she’s pretty incredible.
Jess Gallagher is Australian athlete who medaled at a summer and winter Paralympics for alpine skiing, track and field, and is also a tandem cyclist. She was diagnosed with a rare eye disease – cone dystrophy – when in Year 12 at high school, causing her to lose much of her eyesight. She is now classified as legally blind. It hasn’t stopped her becoming the first Australian to medal at both the summer and winter Paralympics (Olympic or Paralympic athlete!), and an Osteopath and Board Director at 2020 vision (in her spare time).
The girls walked us through their training regimes, the keys to athletic success, recovery protocols and everything in between. Here’s what they had to say.
Where to watch them
“I’m competing in the Tandem Match Sprint and the Tandem 1km Time Trial cycling events,” says Jess. “I’ll be competing in the 5000m and 10,000m athletics events,” Eloise tells us. We’ll be gunning for you, gals!
Jess has little wiggle room before the Commonwealth Games – in the lead up to GC2018, she’s also competing at the Paralympic Track Cycling World Championships from March 23–25 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. “It’s a very short turnaround between competitions, with just five days between landing in Brisbane and my first event at the Commonwealth Games. Recovery will be critical in enabling me to bounce back! In the lead-up, training is six days a week, 10-12 sessions in total, with a mix of track, ergo and gym work. There is a very specific focus when training this close to a big event,” Jess tells us.
Eloise runs 140km’s per week (casually), as well as fitting in three gym sessions, physio and ice baths and heaps of recovery work to hold her body together. “Recovery is so important to be able to maintain the level of training I do and that’s why I love 2XU – getting around in my 2XU compression tights and wearing them under my jeans when I’m out and about helps me so much and has enabled me to extend my career. I’ve made more of a point of recovery in the later years of my career than I did in the earlier years. Back then I was getting injured a lot but now I’m in my thirties I get so much more joy out of sport because I’m not getting injured as much and I really believe that’s because I have more focus on recovery and using compression,” Eloise explains.
The key to athletic success
For Eloise, it’s all about passion and going the extra mile (literally). “It’s all about passion for the sport and wanting to see how far I can go with my gift. I love seeing the limits my body can go to and how far I can push myself,” Eloise says.
“My ability to turn a challenge or obstacle into an opportunity. I’ve experienced some unique negatives in my sports career,” Jess adds, “In 2013 my main track and field event, long jump, was dropped from the Rio Paralympic Games. I had dreamt of becoming the first Australian athlete to medal at a summer and winter Paralympics or Olympics and I no longer had a summer event. It was heartbreaking. I decided I needed to find a new sport and so I took up track cycling. In my first year on the Australian cycling team my tandem pilot Maddie and I became world champions, broke a world record and won a Paralympic medal. My dream became a reality.”
As a legally blind athlete, Jess has quite a bit to think about. “It’s all about trust. Vision impaired athletes surrender a lot of control and vulnerability to the guides who lead them safely on the field of play. Yes, we use adaptive equipment – a tandem in track cycling, Bluetooth headsets inside our helmets for alpine skiing – but the simple reality is that if I can’t trust what my guide is saying to me and vice versa, there is no safety.”
Taking passion to profesh
“Set yourself a goal and go for it! It’s a hard journey and there will be people who doubt you, so surround yourself with people you trust and who believe in you. Use challenges and obstacles as building blocks to greater things and enjoy the process each and every day. Understand there will be highs and many lows, but you will learn far more from the lows than you ever will from the highs and that in itself makes for incredible personal growth. As a Para cyclist I have sometimes won two international events a year, which is a LOT of preparation time, so you have to love the day-to-day grind because 98% of my year is spent getting to that one moment I have to show the world what I’m capable of,” says Jess.
“One of the greatest benefits of competitive spirit is that you’re always willing to suffer and do whatever it takes to win. Having that is integral to your performance and to the end result, but you have to watch the distractive and destructive elements that come along with that like comparison and over-training. You have to learn what works for you and go with that,” says Eloise.
“Some of my best friends are my biggest competitors and definitely between the start line and the finish line we’re very fierce competitors. I want to win and as an athlete, you hope you want to win more than anyone else. There is a great old quote that you have to be prepared to suffer for 10 minutes longer than everyone else, and that is exactly what I go out to do
I definitely don’t line up in any race to come second. Once you step out onto the track you know how hard you’ve worked and you’ve got to want it. When it gets to that point of pain you can decide to suffer or you can decide to back down and if you don’t have that drive or that will before you start the race, or if you haven’t practiced that in training, then it becomes very difficult when you hit that peak level of pain to decide to keep pushing through it and ignore the pain despite how much you’re hurting.
I’m friends with most of the girls I race against, especially the Australian girls – we all spend a lot of time training together. I’m all about encouraging each other and building up the other girls to do their best as well. It actually helps me as an athlete and there’s definitely a sense that the level is lifting in female distance running. I was the only Australian in the 5000m and 10,000m events at the London Olympics and now at this year’s Commonwealth Games there are three of us in each event. There are definitely a lot of younger girls coming through and it’s great to see. It helps us get to another level because you’ve got to be ready for every race and make sure you’ve got the best chance of winning. I welcome the competition and try to encourage the other girls to be the best they can and just hope that I’m a little bit better on the day!
It’s funny because I see competitive spirit now in my little girl, who’s only four. She gets so fired up when she loses and she gets really angry about it,” Eloise laughs.
Post workout routines
“I’ll usually either smash a banana or a protein shake within 20 minutes of finishing a workout, then go home and have an ice bath and as soon as I get out of the ice bath I put on my 2XU compression tights. I’ll wear them for as long as I can to get the blood flow up after the ice bath, and it helps me to recover a lot quicker. It’s really a three-step process: the food for recovery, the ice bath to reduce inflammation and then compression to flush out the lactate and get the circulation going again. Nutrition is a really important part of my recovery and I take Ubiquinol to help me derive the most energy possible from the food I eat on a cellular level,” says Eloise.
Much like Eloise, Jess’s fave part of her recovery routine is throwing on a pair of 2XU compression tights or socks – which go everywhere with her. “Currently I’m loving and living in 2XU’s high-waisted compression tights. When I’m at my home base I’ll ride home to spin out the lactic acid, do some foam rolling/mobility work and of course ensure I have some good quality protein. I’m also a VERY big fan of naps. They’re the best! For an extra hit of total mind, body and soul recovery and a nice way for me to break up my daily ‘professional athlete recovery routine’, I really enjoy going for walks and infrared saunas. With my busy schedule, balancing training, work as a motivational speaker and work as an osteopath, recovery forms an integral part of my daily routine,” says Jess.