Jess Learmonth’s unique training method as she plots double glory at World Triathlon Leeds and Tokyo Olympics
Double Olympic medallist Jonny Brownlee had a conservatory built and stocked it with radiators, an exercise bike and a treadmill to prepare his body for the heat of Tokyo.
His elder brother and two-time champion, Alistair, had a small pool built in his garage to ensure he lost no time training during lockdown.
Jess Learmonth has gone to similar lengths as those raised by British triathlon’s standard bearers, by having a gym built in her back garden.
The 33-year-old from Leeds even takes her preparation as far as boiling the kettle with the lid open.
“It’s a good way to replicate the humidity that we’ll be racing in at the Olympics,” smiles Learmonth, mindful of the 35-degree heat the world’s best triathletes will be competing in at the end of July.
“I’ve started my heat prep’ early, I think it’s going to be different going from Leeds which will be 14 degrees water temperature to Japan which will be 32 degrees.
“And the humidity is going to be similar. That’s what’s going to make it difficult, swimming and competing in that heat.
“My partner, John, built a full gym in the garden. I’ve got it all set up with WiFi, treadmill, bikes and a squat rack. It’s made it so much easier; I go outside to do my session, then go inside to the house to recover.”
That Learmonth is able to focus solely on the Olympics is due to the fact that she secured her place in the three-strong British team for Tokyo last autumn.
It means next Sunday’s AJ Bell 2021 World Triathlon Leeds – the second stop on the World Championship Series – is not as crucial for Learmonth as it is for others.
Most of the 60-strong international field for the women’s race, plus Alistair Brownlee in the men’s race, will be competing to try and secure a place in their nation’s Olympic teams, with this event the last major qualifying race for the Games.
Qualification secured means Learmonth can enjoy her home race. “It’s a massive relief that I’ve got that Olympic spot secured, it means you can prepare for this race in isolation,” says Learmonth, of a race that, due to Covid restrictions, will be staged in Roundhay Park, as opposed to heading into the city centre.
“There’ll be athletes coming to Leeds needing to peak for this race whereas we don’t have to peak for another two months. Some athletes are going to have to peak twice.
“While we’re already getting ready for the heat of Tokyo, they might not be sure that they’re going. It’s just a lot more stress.People are more susceptible to injury thinking they need to perform to qualify.
“We’ve got all that stress taken away from us. British Triathlon have done that every time before an Olympics and it seems to have worked.”
So Learmonth and her fellow British qualifiers, Georgia Taylor-Brown and Vicky Holland, can use the race around territory they are familiar with to fine-tune their tactics and assess the strengths of their rivals for Tokyo gold.
The Roundhay course, while a lot more technical than the flatter Tokyo circuit, will also challenge their own levels of fitness. “It’s a hard, hard route through Roundhay; hilly, dead turns, a fast descent,” explains Learmonth, a bronze medallist at the last World Series Leeds triathlon two years ago.
“Out of transition into the bike there’s a massive hill up to the house, so it adds a bit of carnage. I messed that up last year. So it should be interesting.
“Roundhay is so close to where I grew up. Seeing all these people come in from other countries to Leeds is great. It’s also one of the best circuits for fans to watch on.”
Four thousand spectators are allowed to attend on Saturday (June 5) for the open-age races and then the first-ever para-series event in the afternoon, and then more amateur races Sunday (June 6) morning and the elite men’s and women’s races in the afternoon.
There will be no grandstands erected, but viewing areas will be dotted around the route.
Tickets are available for Saturday priced £5 for over-16s, free entry for under-16s. Spectators need to register beforehand at www.festivaloftriathlon.co.uk/enter-now/
After that, it’s on to Tokyo.
“I’m just going to perform to the best of my ability,” says Learmonth.
“I used to work full-time, I wasn’t always a triathlete. But, as an athlete, it’s the event you build around, trying to compete in an Olympics for your country.”
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