Monday, 24 May 2010

Race for Fitness


Whilst the majority of new mums battle with the time and energy to regain their figure, Jo Pavey has bounced back into fine form whilst embracing motherhood yet now faces a test against time to return to championship action this summer, Nicola Bamford writes.

Since the birth of baby Jacob last autumn, 36-year old Pavey and her husband and manager, Gavin have succeeded in their biggest challenge to date. As a couple, the Pavey’s have negotiated their way to the top of the national podium and into the mix on the international scene on numerous occasions in the past decade, but juggling training and competition with the new addition to their family has unquestionably been their toughest test.

Now the trio; who incidentally share their birthdays in the same week in September, are the epitome of organisation. Born in Devon and based in Teddington on the outskirts of London, Pavey explained how she combines her sport with motherhood:

“It’s really busy so I have to be really organised. It is a challenge; it’s tough not resting as much in between training but I’m getting used to it. But I’m enjoying the challenge; sorting Jacob out before I train in the morning, coming back for his lunch then we nap together, so that helps. Then I like to give him his bath-time and tea before I go training in the evening. It’s all busy-busy but good fun and he’s a really good laugh.”

Following a caesarean section, Pavey attempted to return to training a month after the birth but struggled; especially as the operation wound would shake during impact:

“The treadmill at home was helpful,” Pavey divulged, “Running on an incline didn’t jar it (the wound) as much and I didn’t aqua-jog like before Jacob, so I was mainly going on the bike and gradually increasing the running. It was very busy as I was still breastfeeding so I’d take my phone to the treadmill and sometimes Gav would phone me to get me to come back. I didn’t get much sleep to begin with but now he’s into a sleep routine. I didn’t have any definite plans; I just did what I could to get back fit again.”


After taking the whole of 2009 off through pregnancy, Pavey returned to competition in April; albeit a month ahead of schedule. After answering an SOS call from race organisers, the 2004 Olympic 5,000m fourth-placer endured somewhat of an adventure just to get to the start-line in Dublin for the BUPA Great Ireland Run, as Pavey revealed:

“I wasn’t planning to run in Dublin but I answered the call and thought it was a great opportunity. We left Kelly Holmes’ 40th party at 10:30pm and had to get a train because there were no flights, what with the volcanic ash then we were stuck on the motorway until 3:30am in our costumes – me as a medieval princess and Gavin as a knight.”

The 2007 World 10,000m fourth-placer continued: “On the M25, we were getting strange looks whilst getting snacks from the boot of the car. It was quite an adventure, really and when we finally got to the hotel, I only got a couple of hours’ sleep then had to get up for a four-hour train and a 3-hour ferry. I didn’t expect it to be such an escapade but it was fine and it was good to get back racing. I was pleased – it was good to blow the cobwebs and it was good to not have to worry and count down the days as it was suddenly there.”

One month on and Pavey - who now trains alone as Gavin is now charged with babysitting duties - returned to the roads to test her fitness against a top international field in the BUPA Great Manchester Run a fortnight ago.

A race in which she was victorious in 2007 and 2008, respectively, Pavey finished fifth and clocked 32:42; a time similar to her appearance in the Irish capital and almost a minute outside of her best from 2007 – evidently, there is still plenty of hard work to be done but the new mum is definitely heading in the right direction.


On her current level of fitness, Pavey; who won European cross-country bronze in 2004 and Commonwealth silver in 2006, seems content and realistic:

“I’ve put in some hard training recently. Mentally, I’ve come back happy, now running as a mum. They say having a child makes you stronger so I’ll have to see. I’m enjoying having him in my life – my life feels more complete, I’m so much happier in myself and that can only be good for my running.”

A prodigious youngster who broke the British under-15 1,500m record after only five-months of training, Pavey emphasised the importance of ignoring pressure to perform by listening to the body after childbirth:

“Initially, I wasn’t sure whether it would be possible for me to a spring marathon but in February, I realised the mileage wasn’t there so decided to take my time and do what I could do. When you’ve been running for so many years, you know when your body’s coping and when it’s not so I enjoyed the time with the new baby and made my way back into it.

I always made sure my heart-rate wasn’t above 140bpm and kept hydrated and well-nutritioned and really listened to my body. There were lots of things I couldn’t do like core exercises so we really read into it a lot, as of course the baby was always the priority. I kept running until four weeks before the birth then aqua-jogged to keep fit; it was such an exciting time, as I’ve always wanted a baby – I’m enjoying the challenge of both.”

Barcelona beckons?

With one major ambition already filled, Pavey’s attentions now turn to her athletics aspirations; namely qualifying for the European Championships in Barcelona this July, with a view to tackling her debut marathon in the autumn.

A five-time national 5,000m and two-time 10,000 champion, Pavey goes in search of the 10,000m qualifying time for the continental championships in Ostrava on Thursday, before pulling on a GB vest for the first time since the 2008 Beijing Olympics – where she finished 12th in a best time of 31:12.30 despite suffering from a stomach problem - in the European Team Cup in France over the same distance next month.

“There aren’t many track 10,000m opportunities available so it means I have to try to get the time in May or June,” Pavey explained.

“I need to crack on to achieve that then my thoughts can turn to trying for a marathon after the summer – but I’ve not decided exactly when yet. I’m not sure about the Commonwealth’s (in New Delhi in October) as it may clash with this aim. The big aim’s the marathon in 2012 so I’ll need the necessary training to target that; it’s an exciting challenge.”

And if anyone can return from childbirth quicker and happier than ever to achieve her goals, it will be this ‘super-mum’.

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