Kate Allenby, 27, was one of Great Britain's Olympic heroines in Sydney last year, winning bronze in the modern pentathlon. One of the more diverse sports, modern pentathlon's five disciplines – shooting, fencing, swimming, riding and running – are completed on the same day, and demand excellent all-round physical and mental fitness. Along with her England compatriots, Allenby is competing in the World Modern Pentathlon Championships in Somerset this week.
Are you concerned about what you eat?
I avoid high-fat and high-cholesterol foods. My training diet is lots of fruit, vegetables and pasta, and I tend to eat about five times a day, but snack size rather than big meals. During competition it is different, and I take all my carbohydrates in fluid form because they get absorbed more quickly. Because we get up at 4.30am on competition day it is important to eat during the fencing, or else you end up starving for the rest of the day and knackered by the run at the end.
Does specialising in a multi-disciplined event mean different training for each?
Yes, but there are some basics. I do a lot of upper-body weights and stomach work – "abs and stabs" – because all activity is improved by good core stability. Naturally the different events require differing skills and training. Shooting requires a relaxed and calm mind, whereas running or swimming are faster and more adrenaline-based. Sometimes I practise shooting with no pellets, closing my eyes and trying to regulate the rhythm of my breathing.
Do you have a standard training day?
We train less in the summer because that is the competition season, but a day in the winter can start at 8am with a shooting lesson for an hour, a one-to-one fencing lesson and then a four-kilometre swim. Lunch, then a one-hour riding lesson, one-hour running session and finishing off with a fencing lesson in the evening between 7 and 10pm.
You suffered an injury before the 2000 Olympics. How did you compete with it and then cure it?
I tore a rotator cuff in my left shoulder last July. I survived on injections for the Games, but afterwards I had to have lots of physio and hard work because I couldn't lift my arm above the horizontal. I used a dynaband [a long elastic training band] every day for five months to build up strength slowly before going back into the gym. Basically my arms became like pipe cleaners, and to build them up without further damage I swam 1,000 metres' breaststroke every day in January and added 100 metres of front crawl in February. Finally in April I was up to 2,500 metres' swimming a day, and with the weights programme my arms were starting to get stronger.
What is the hardest discipline, fitness-wise?
They all demand different things. Shooting is more about concentration than running, and riding involves a completely new thing – a horse – so they are all hard. With the horses you don't have your own but get paired up with one by a lottery-type draw. You then have 15 minutes to get acquainted and practise before having to compete. I've ridden since I was six, so I have a good empathy with horses, but those 15 minutes can be vital. That is the great thing about the sport – it isn't just strength or speed, it takes a whole lot of things to win.
The Modern Pentathlon Championships: from tomorrow until 22 July, Millfield School, Street, Somerset. All run and ride events are free; entrance to indoor events is free on non-medal days; 01458 445 482. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; www.mpwc.co.ukReuse content