Jodie Stimpson. 33. English. Triathlete since the age of 8. 2014 Double Commonwealth Games Gold Medalist. Lifelong learner. Legend.
We recently sat down for a chat with Jodie Stimpson and discussed her nutritional journey and ‘how to fuel again’.
4D: Jodie, when did nutrition become a tool in your toolbox?
JS: Nutrition started becoming a tool (sic) when I was a junior, and due to the coach that I had at the time. I knew it was a part of triathlon. Part of performance, but I just wasn't educated. To me, a skinnier, lighter athlete was a faster athlete. And yes, I did that - just because I wasn't educated, I did it totally the wrong way. Just under ate and undernutrition. I wasn't fueling or recovering from training correctly, but I always wanted to be a better athlete.
I just said I'm gonna do what I need to do. And that kind of lasted, to be honest, throughout my early career - until I joined Darren Smith. Darren taught me how to fuel properly and started to change all the negative things that I'd done in my early career. And I really had to learn how to fuel again and how to eat properly and recover not only just as an athlete, but as a person.
4D: Jodie, when did you join coach Darren Smith?
JS: 2012. I was 23, and to be honest, it's still a challenge for me not to fall back into those bad habits. And I suppose it's always gonna be with me just because of not being educated early on.
4D: Would feel open to sharing one of those bad habits that are easier to slide into than perhaps others? Is there one that's just like, oh, that's just the monster waiting behind the door?
JS: To be honest, it's under-fueling. Just not eating enough. And definitely a little bit of carb phobia as in ‘just not eating enough carbs’ and just not eating enough full stop. Claire's been stepping in and going, “you're still underfueling”, especially with getting away with it in my short course - but I'm paying the price now.
As a 33-year-old now trying to go long, I'm learning all over again. It's kind of another circle of learning on how to do this correctly, and learning actually how much my body needs, and how much I think it needs, are still off. I’m getting there with the help of Claire, but I need her to reinforce it - and say, “yes, this is the right way”. It's always like this with me, I need to have more rather than “no, you're eating too much”. There's so much to go into with nutrition, mind-boggling, isn't it?
4D: Do you ever feel like you've got the handle on nutrition or is it just constantly new learning?
JS: No, no, I definitely do not. Sometimes I think I got it, and I can be close to it sometimes, but no, it's always learning, especially now with going long course, it kind of feels like another sport. So no, it's having to relearn and realise, it's different from short course.
4D: Is there anything you would say to your younger self about nutrition?
JS: I think there are two points to it, really. I think the first point is to get advice from a professional and get yourself educated. I see so many young athletes still making that mistake. Just go to somebody who knows and learn from them. I’m quite passionate about it. And that's why I'm so open, is because I don't want young athletes, especially young female athletes, to make the mistakes that I've made to pay the price later on in their career. Because ultimately we want a long career.
I suppose secondly, understanding that nutrition is there to fuel us and to help our performance, but it's also there to be enjoyed. If we can teach that early on, then I think that a healthy relationship with food and fueling can be so much more enjoyable and part of the journey.