An Inspirational Q&A from English Paralympian, Claire Cashmore MBE

1. How would you describe yourself in one word?
Determined

2. What is the one thing you do after a good performance to celebrate / relax?
I’m a real foodie so it would have to be a nice meal and with a love curries, this would be my go-to. We tend to order a few different dishes but Sag Paneer is definitely my favourite!

3. How do you prepare / calm your nerves before you compete?
I think getting nervous the day of a race is good thing and shows you’re ready. I love racing and get really excited in the lead up to a race, which at times can stop me sleeping, so I find mindfulness and mediation really useful. They help me mentally prepare and regain focus. In terms of race preparation, I think knowing exactly what you’re going to be doing on the day is key, how many laps you will be doing, the aid and water station stops etc. It sounds silly but when all your energy and blood is being used by your muscles rather than your brain you can often become fatigued, and trying to remember these things can sometimes be difficult. It’s happened to me before where I haven’t prepared well enough or had the route nailed in my head and it’s caught me off guard, this is when mistakes happen.

4. What is your go-to meal to get you ready for a big competition?
I love my food but unfortunately for me, the food before a race is quite boring. The night before tends to be plain rice and plain chicken with no vegetables, if I’m lucky I might have a little sauce. Then the morning of the race is more or less the same, plain rice with a banana.

5. Where would your favourite place be to compete?
This is a tough one as I’ve competed in quite a few incredible places already. Competing in London and having your home crowd cheering you on, nothing will ever beat that. My recent race in Iseo, Italy where you’re surrounded by nothing but beautiful lakes and mountains, it is spectacular and you can become easily distracted, you actually need to pinch yourself and remember you’re in a competition. Finally Brazil, competing in Rio with the lively atmosphere and all the celebrations was so special, it will always hold a place in my heart!

6. Have you any favourite mantras / inspirational quotes?
‘Control the controllable’. I tend to be quite harsh on myself and need to remember to not judge myself on the medal I get or the position I come in, you can only do the best you can. Being kinder to yourself and knowing you have done all you can do on the day is what’s really important, what more can you ask for?

7. What image / song gets you ready to compete?
I used to listen to a lot of upbeat, heavy songs but now I like feel good, almost cheesy music, the type that makes you smile and genuinely happy. I love music and I think it can have a huge impact on your mood. I’m a big believer in a happy athlete is a fast athlete, and at the moment I’d say my favourite song is Rise up by Andra Day.

8. What does the physical preparation for a competition look like for you?
This is where I have noticed a big difference in triathlon compared to swimming, and I’m still learning to change and adapt my approach. The endurance of a distance race compared to the intensity of a sprint requires different preparation. In the run up to a triathlon, it is more useful to have 3 days of minimal activity in order to regenerate the body. Training would tend to be more low key and involve getting to the know the race course, perhaps 1hr max in the pool for the feel of the water or having sharp, short bursts on the bike. The day before, we would have a bike and swim recce, going around the course in order to fully familiarise yourself with it. Then race day itself I would do some glute exercises, perhaps a 15/20 min jog at the same speed and then some band exercises for my arms, swinging them out. The focus is more on getting the muscles ready without the risk of causing injury.

9. Have you any fitness tips you can share that you swear by, either pre or post competing?
In terms of fitness, it would be eat little and often, and make sure you eat enough to fuel the activity you are doing. There have been times that I’ve not eaten enough whilst on a long bike ride and completely bonked [cycling term] with a real loss of energy, it’s not fun. As well as being fatigued, you aren’t best prepared for the next session.

Then a general bit of advice would be don’t be scared to step outside your comfort zone and change things up, keep things fresh. If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you always got.

10. The number one piece of advice you can give to those wishing to be an athlete?
That failure is okay and you can learn from it. Being an athlete and competing is not all sunshine and rainbows, its hard work, you can’t just rock up and do it, but, if you’re willing and determined to put in the effort, anything is possible.

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