VALA ambassador: Olivia French
Please join us in giving a warm welcome to Olivia French, who is the newest addition to the VALA ambassador crew. Having played tennis since the age of 9, Olivia was inspired to take up duathlon when COVID-19 forced the tennis courts to close, which was initially a placeholder for tennis to keep her fitness up. However, she quickly became hooked and took up the first opportunity to compete.
Since then, she has been invited to join the Skoda DSI Cycling Academy and has qualified for the World Championships in Australia 2022. 2021 looks like it’s going to be a great year!
Hey Olivia, can you tell us a bit about what inspired you to get into tennis and duathlon?
I started playing tennis when I was 9 years old because I played football next door to our local tennis club; it looked like a lot of fun so I decided to give it a go! I didn't start duathlon/cycling until the first lockdown in March 2020, when the tennis courts were shut and my dad persuaded me to go out on some training rides with him! Parkrun was also a big reason I started running more; I can't wait until it is allowed again.
How long have you been doing these sports for?
I've played tennis for almost 12 years and I've been cycling for just over a year. I only started specific training for it about six months ago and similarly for duathlon.
What’s your favourite thing about tennis and duathlon?
My favourite thing about tennis is the problem-solving aspect of the game.
My favourite thing about cycling/running is the freedom it gives, the new places I can explore and all the amazing people I've met.
Where’s your favourite place to train?
My home club Bramhall Lane Lawn Tennis Club! The people there are like a second family and have always been so supportive of me.
Cycling wise, I love riding round my home in the Peak District but my favourite rides have to be when I'm at uni in the pennines.
What keeps you motivated on days when it seems harder than usual?
The feeling of accomplishment I know I get after every training session and the health benefits.
Is there a specific athlete in your field that inspires you and what do you admire about them?
Emma Pooley really inspired me as she got into cycling around the same age as me, and studied the same subject as me initially at university. I also follow her on social media and her approach to training and attitude to cycling is exactly how I hope my relationship with the sport is.
Why do you enjoy using VALA?
The gels taste great so I look forward to fuelling up with them, whereas with other gels I would just consume them for the sake of not bonking!
What does ‘natural sports nutrition’ mean to you?
Trying to get most of my nutrition from whole food sources. VALA is perfect for this since they are convenient to have in a training session and are made completely from natural sources.
What are your top three tips for someone else to get the most out of their sport?
Find what you like most about the sport - whether that's competing or the social side - and really buy into that! If you're always having fun, you will want to train more and ultimately become the best athlete you can be.
Don't be afraid to ask questions
The more you talk to other athletes, the more you'll learn. I've definitely found this in my cycling club this year.
Get out of your comfort zone
Try new things! I can't imagine what my life would be like without sport, and especially my bike in the last year. Initially I was really wobbly and felt pretty anxious riding but I kept going and it's one of the best decisions I've made.