Amanda has just returned from an Athlete Immersion Day with Tahnee Seagrave, who has opened up about how her crash has changed her outlook and future plans.
I have just spent a day with Tahnee Seagrave in her home town of Welshpool. The event, hosted by Red Bull, was designed to show myself and a select few ‘Instagram Influencers’ what goes in to a typical day for an athlete, while also clearing up any misconceptions we may have had about the drink itself… And, while you’ll never convince me to pick up an energy drink over a coffee and a glass of orange juice, I did take away from the day a better understanding of just how much work goes into becoming a World Cup racer.
We started our day at Great Escape & Fitness gym where Tahnee trains with Chris Kilmurray. We had a taster session, covering various stretches to warm up, weighted work, aerobics and even some movements specifically designed to help you get less injured when you crash. It became clear that the gym is very much a part of the job, and though most of us can decide we don’t feel like going, Tahnee can’t do that.
Tahnee explained how she uses Red Bull to fuel her workout. She starts the day with a coffee, and on the days she is training pours half a can into her water… she is very sensitive to sugar, so can’t manage a full can. On days when she also rides, she tends to take a can out with her. There’s no way of knowing if this is a choice she would make if she wasn’t sponsored by them, but there’s no denying this girl needs a serious amount of energy, and clearly uses that energy wisely. There was a Red Bull fridge in the gym, conveniently.
Following on from lunch and a brief Q&A session, we headed to Revolution Bike Park. This was a really chilled approach to riding with an athlete – there was no pressure to ride anything we didn’t want to, it wasn’t all about the photos, we just had a good few laps with the park to ourselves. An opportunity I am extremely grateful for. The roving Red Bull fridge made an appearance here, too.
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Health, Fitness and Recovery
Singletrack: Do you have any advice for people that can’t commit the time or the money to train to the ideal level?
Tahnee: “It’s hard for me to suggest to people what to do because my time is dedicated to that, so I don’t have to make time, it just takes over. I’m trying to find time to not do that!
What I can suggest is more self care, so, if you think of it as taking care of your body you will make that time because it’s something very personal and it’s for yourself. So if you have that in mind first, you’re doing it for yourself and the reasons are right, then I think that will automatically make you make time for yourself. So an hour a day, half in the morning, half at night, full hour in the morning, whatever. At home, yoga mat, foam roller, that’s all you need.
In the off season I don’t go to the gym at all, but obviously I want to keep my fitness up. I think of it as top to toe, so I start with my upper body, I look on line (at) like YouTube videos. Yoga is a good one, it seems daunting and a lot of people don’t like the thought of yoga but it gets everything active, all your muscles. It’s more than just a breathing exercise, it really gets into your core, it gets everything opening up, and I think people will see the results more with that than anything else to begin with.”
What’s your biggest weakness or area for improvement in the gym?
“I’m not the biggest of girls, I don’t have much muscle mass, my legs just stay stick thin for some reason! They just don’t want to get any stronger so we try and lift real heavy and try to put on muscle mass, which for me is very difficult. I don’t know why, I think it’s my morphology, the way I am, but that’s something we try and work on. Every year we try to improve it and it doesn’t really change that much. I maybe see the tiniest bit of change but it takes time, you just have to keep pushing through. It’s hard. It’s just as hard as the racing is, I have to put my head down and graft through, it’s just a lot less exciting. I find the gym extremely boring, so I have to make up little games for myself, little goals, talk to myself in the corner!”
Sleep is obviously really important for recovery and performance. When you’re nervous before a race, can you get to sleep easily?
“Yes! I love sleep so much! I think sleep is so powerful and it’s helping me towards my race, so, anything I do the day before a race is helping me towards the race run. Sleeping, eating, recovering, training, it’s all just a part of the process. The way I think of it in my head seems to help – it all goes toward the same goal.”
Do you do anything to train your mind to work better for racing? Like having trained yourself to stop nerves keeping you from sleeping?
“Racing bikes is 95% mental. The other 5% is how you get down the hill, so it’s how you look at things that will change your nerves and how your body reacts to keep you calmer. Breathing is one, it calms your nervous system and resets your brain. So if you’re struggling to sleep because of nerves, just lie in bed and do five deep breaths to reset your body and mind, you’ll be a lot calmer and you’ll eventually fall asleep. If it doesn’t work after five, do ten! And keep going. Because you’re focusing on something else, you’re focusing on your breathing it will drift your mind away from whatever you’re thinking about without you realising.”
So, Red Bull. Taking the drink out of the equation, what support do they give you that you couldn’t imagine racing without?
“When I crash, as soon as I hit the deck there are already people hands on, ready to get me back running and back on my bike. They covered my whole process of recovery, I didn’t need to think about a single thing other than getting myself to where I needed to be. Which I think is incredible support. I never would have been able to do what I did this season without that. It’s put a lot of things in perspective for me, for sure, because they were there the whole way. They have surgeons, specialists for every bone, physios, people all over the world if you’re in a different country. They were my safety net for the entire year, and I’m forever grateful for what they’ve done to help me.”
How does the future look for Tahnee?
Has your recent injury had any influence on your plans for the future? Has it reset any goals?
“I think it’s just changed a lot in general. It was a very new experience for me, it was unknown territory so I had no idea what to expect. I’d never been injured in my race career and had to sit out a whole season so I just looked at things a lot differently I guess. It was just a weird experience, I live to race my bike and when that was taken from me I had a lot of thinking to do. It turns out racing bikes isn’t my whole life, that’s not why I’m here, but I do love it and that’s definitely something that it did show. So I guess I’d like to widen what I do, I don’t want to be fully focused on just racing World Cups. I’d like to be more accessible, and just be able to do more fun things around racing my bike because before I know it that’ll be over and I would have just raced my bike my whole life without actually taking a step back and enjoying it for what it is.”
Have you had any thought of what you might do outside of racing?
“Well, next year we’ve got a different schedule, we get two months off in the summer because of the Olympics so we have almost two seasons and a mini off season in between, so I really want to go an explore places that maybe I’ve been to for racing but I’ve never actually been able to enjoy the scenery, the other tracks or even the towns. So I’d love to have a normal mountain bike holiday! Go with a few friends and explore somewhere new. I’ve never really done that.”
(Tahnee took part in this year’s Red Bull Formation, the new freeride skills camp for women in Utah based on the old Rampage site, and the first opportunity for women to dig and ride the kind of lines we’ve seen for the past 18 years at Red Bull Rampage.)
How did you deal with the exposure?
“That was the scariest thing for sure, the exposure was something I’ve never quite witnessed before. It was terrifying. The way we dealt with it was… you just have to get used to it, you have to keep going on the ridges, keep walking around, keep making yourself do these things so your mind adapts and your body adapts, you don’t feel as stiff anymore. The more time spent there the less uneasy you were.”
What did you like about the format?
“I love the fact that obviously we were women and I was riding with other girls, but I also love the fact that our diggers were the boys that we trusted. That we had that safety net there with us, I think every girl had their diggers with them so as much as it was very female orientated we did have a background of guys which was nice. But they were so supportive of the whole thing, they were pushing us, they loved the Formation, they loved how it had been set up. I think that was the best thing, having those girls there with me when I was scared at the top and them understanding how I felt, rather than one of the boys being all ‘ahh it’s fine, just go for it’. That just doesn’t help! Whereas girls, they understand. It was nice to have someone there at the top, usually at the start of a race run you don’t know what the other girls are going through, and you don’t think about that, whereas here we supported each other, we talked to each other, and that was just something you don’t really get normally.”
Did you like the fact it’s not a competition, because that’s new for you?
“Yeah it was, really new! Well, competing takes up so much of my life that I just leave it for when I need it. I didn’t feel the need for it and it was so nice, we were just going top to bottom, everyone was spotting each other, everyone was telling each other how good they looked, you just don’t get that in racing. For me, that’s why this was such a good experience because eI haven’t actually been around that, at all.”
With Rampage being almost 20 years on, and it was such a smaller scale when it started, do you think there’s a pressure to go in and have something as close to that?
“I personally don’t think so. I think all great things take time, and like you just said Rampage started off real small, and it’s taken all those years to get to where it is today. I think just us going out there and having this Formation start, is the start of something that could potentially be one day something similar to Rampage. Whether it goes that way or not, I have no idea. I don’t think it’s a problem because I feel like it will eventually be something big, like I have no doubt that women will come out and slay it, and it will keep going in the direction that it’s going in.”
Unfortunately I ran out of time with Tahnee at this point. I had planned on fishing for information on who she’ll be riding for next year, having left Transition. (My money is on Trek, but I have no facts to back this up. What do you think?)
Singletrack Tahnee Seagrave FAQ
We’re not sure, but the most common rumour is Canyon…
Yes! She uses it to fuel her gym workouts, and for riding/racing. Read the article to find out how.
Great Escape & Fitness, Welshpool
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