Preparing yourself to achieve goals is something everyone talks about but what does it actually mean? We chatted to Great Britain runner @ellienatashabarker about what it’s like to live the life of an athlete and finding that work life balance. So, let’s talk about it.
MF – Tell us a bit about yourself, who are you, what’s your background, and how did you get into fitness
My name is Ellie Baker and I run the 800m and 1500m for Great Britain which is my profession. As well as that I have been partnered with MuscleFood since 2018 now who have been a massive part of my nutritional journey.
I do a lot of racing in the summer months and then the winter months are more like building a base with a lot more endurance and load, getting ready for the summer. So right now I am in the middle of my racing period and my training is all about speed.
Depending on the time of year my food will alter because my training is different; I have to eat more in the winter to fuel the longer sessions and then in the summer I reduce it a little bit but I don’t go crazy.
With running, there definitely is a stigma that you’ve got to be a certain race weight but for me, I know what race weight I should be but I don’t obsess over it because I think it just becomes unhealthy and if I want a treat I will have a treat as long as I don’t go overboard.
MF – What does a typical day look like for you?
A typical day... I train twice a day everyday, with Fridays off. Each day can be different, so three times a week I will have a track session in the morning and then I’ll have my gym session in the afternoon. Then two days a week I’ll have either two runs or a run and a bike, on Sundays I do a long run and then Fridays are my rest days.
MF – With your training being so important and training twice a day, how do you fit everything else around that?
I am quite regimented. I’ll wake up and have the same breakfast (either Weetabix, Porridge or peanut butter on toast, It’s always one of the three) just to start the day and then I am out the door to training.
I also use the MuscleFood prepped pots after training, as I can drive home, pop a prepped pot into the microwave and then once I’m finished, I’ll head out again to the gym. II don't have to sit there and cook a meal to fuel myself for the gym, it's literally a few minutes in the microwave and I’m off again.
At the moment I am racing a lot, so I can be catching early morning flights at around 8am or on the bus for 5am with no breakfast. I always take some granola pots with me, so then I can just eat them on the bus. Little things like this have been super helpful for quickness and making sure I’m getting the fuel I need even if things aren’t exactly going to plan.
Once I have finished a hard day of training, I will have a source of protein, carbs and veg, that’s usually what my dinners are based around but I will switch up my dinners every night just so I don’t get bored.
MF – How would you prepare for the week to ensure you are reaching your goals
On a Sunday I have an accountability meeting with my brother to make sure I am on top of everything. So that could be like have I taken all of my supplements this week? How has training gone this week? Is there anything I could do to for me to be better in training next week? Something we spoke about a few weeks back was the nutritional side of things so for example if I have a more endurance focused week then we will alter my food because I might need more carbs. Then if I’m going into more of a speed focused week then we would bring the carb load down.
I definitely think having those accountability meetings helps to prepare you for the following week. I even have this ring which tracks all of my sleep so we can look back and think what did I do well? Was I running well? How was a sleeping and what impact did this have on my training? So we have all of the data for years, to see how I improve.
MF – What difference does meal prepping and meal planning make for you as opposed to if you didn’t have a plan?
They say as soon as you finish a session you need to get your nutrition in within 20 minutes in order to have your best recovery. So I tend to have a protein shake at the track within the first 20 minutes after a session so that my body is getting the nutrients it needs before it’s even had a chance to break down from the session. This is something I will always keep in mind to help prevent any injuries or things like that.
Then when I get home, I will pop a prepped pot in the microwave like I said, to ensure I am fuelling my body to then go into the gym. Sometimes you might find that you don’t have time to go and cook a meal with all the nutrients in that you need, so having things I can rely on to save me that time and make sure I’m getting the right nutrients in without having to faff around and be in a rush.
MF – Say you didn’t plan on a Sunday and you didn’t have your prepped pots or granola what do you think your week would look like?
I think it would be chaotic as i'd be rushing around trying to make and eat what I need. Even in the evenings, I tend to bulk cook a dinner and then have that for the next few days, so then for a couple of days I don’t really have to do anything. Even little things like doing the washing up after you’ve finished cooking adds up; I can use this time for more recovery time or fitting in an evening circuit instead. It's just freeing up time: If you can plan and prepare your meal through the week then you’re saving yourself so much time.
MF – Do you have any set times where you know you’re going to be off plan for example eating out?
If something like a birthday crops up, I wouldn’t be like ‘oh I can’t eat out today because it’s not part of my plan’, I will just go out and then carry on with my structure after. I think the main thing is, is not feeling guilty if you’ve got something coming up because I think people will be like ‘oh I ate out that week’ and then go on a downward spiral because they’ve eaten bad for a day and then it gets into a bad routine. if you can just allow yourself that meal or evening out, but then get back on it the following day, that’s the key.
I would say Thursday night is the day I would probably eat more because I would have trained all day, so my body wants the calories anyway. But then if I feel a bit heavier the next day it doesn’t matter, because I have a rest day. Fridays are nice because they allow me to experiment with food more because I’m not rushing around like I am in the week so I might make something like pancakes for breakfast as I have more time.
MF – Do you find yourself using certain tips such as your protein, carbs and veg when you go out for meals?
Yeah, so I do like sweet stuff and unhealthy food but it never makes me feel good afterwards. When I go out, the meal that catches my attention is probably the worst meal on the menu but then I always feel so rubbish afterwards... so as I have got older, I have definitely changed my mindset a bit to know what I need nutrition wise and know what is going to make my body feel good after.
I would say that I do definitely look for a protein, carb and veg. Even in curries, they usually come with some sort of veg and then with some rice on the side. But even if it didn’t have it, it’s only one meal, I’m not going to freak out about it.
MF – Would you say you enjoy every training session?
I feel like everyone has bad days. Sometimes you wake up and your body doesn’t feel good and you just can’t hit the times you usually hit and sometimes there is no reason for it, sometimes you might just be a little bit tired. Whatever you do, you’re going to have bad days and some days you’re going to feel more motivated but it’s about not letting those bad days let you spiral out of control.
I feel like everything in life is more mental than physical and as long as you keep your head focused to the outlook that you might not be where you want to be today but if I do all the right things I definitely can be next week.
MF – How do you balance time between your training schedule and the time to enjoy life?
I’m a very family orientated person so I like to spend a lot of time with my family. Also, when you have close friends and family, they do understand the lifestyle you have to live to be an athlete. I have had to make a lot of sacrifices: for example when my niece was born I had to go straight off on a training camp.
So yeah there are little things that are quite brutal, but when I am home I try my best to be present and make time for my family. As long as I am ticking off all the boxes with my training in the morning, I will then make sure I spend the evenings doing something nice with my friends and family to ensure I am getting the best of both worlds. I feel like as well if I’m just training and don’t have any down time then that can get very mentally draining, so keep the enjoyment in what you’re doing; you need a good balance.
MF – Do you ever find that you have zero social battery if you’re going straight from training to seeing friends and family?
Yeah so I actually do get this a lot. If after sessions I get asked to see my friends I am a bit like ‘gosh, I am so tired I don’t even know if I can go’. A lot of my friends do understand that even to just socialise when you’re that tired, it is brain numbing to me. But my friends and family are very understanding and they definitely try their best to work around me and my training schedule.
I would say when I was at school, I missed out on a lot of socialising. I was training hard and trying to make age group championships and none of my friends could relate to be having to miss their parties or a social event. So when we all would come back to school on a Monday and everyone is talking about the weekend and what they all did together and I just felt very isolated.
I would say this is something I struggled with much more when I was younger but as I’ve got older, I think the friends that you do keep are a lot more mature and understand a lot more.
MF – What would be your top tips for people who are setting out to achieve a fitness or weight loss goal?
I feel like my biggest advice with anything is to never give up because anything that you put your mind to is possible.
If you really have a goal in mind, I feel like you need to keep motivational content on the go. If I find I’m ever having a bit of a dip, I will then watch some motivational content that will make me feel like ‘right, ok I can do this’. Just never give up and keep motivating yourself because it is really a mental battle more than it is anything else. Anyone can get to where they want to be, it’s just about keeping consistent.
MF – Do you think these principles apply to different goals so maybe your career or any personal achievements?
If you have a goal in mind, it could be anything like you might want to make the Olympics or hit a certain weight, I think it’s an exciting thing to have something to work towards and it gives you something to concentrate on. I think this works in all walks of life, to just keep motivated to achieve that and never give up.
LET’S TALK MORE
Want to join the conversation? If you’ve related to anything Ellie has said, we’d love to hear more about it. Come chat with us over on our social accounts.
Looking for more personal experiences, expert advice or healthy food inspiration? Check out some of our other blog posts for more.