#OurAthletes: Nicole Sifuentes on how she trains

CBC News is pairing up with Canada's athletes competing in July's Pan Am and Parapan Am Games to give a behind-the-scenes look at the competition, training and day-to-day life of the athletes. Nicole Sifuentes, a 1,500m runner from Winnipeg, tells us about her training schedule.

'Most days, professional running isn't very glamorous,' writes Pan Am 1,500m runner from Winnipeg

Nicole Sifuentes, a 1,500m competitive runner originally from Winnipeg, says she runs at least twice a day, sometimes on the track and sometimes on roads and trails. (Submitted by Nicole Sifuentes)

Athletes from across Canada are gearing up to compete in July's Pan Am and Parapan Am Games in Toronto.

Using the #OurAthletes hashtag, CBC News is pairing up with competitors to give Canadians a behind-the-scenes look at the competition, training and day-to-day life of the athletes, both leading up to and during the games.

We're teaming up with Nicole Sifuentes, a 1,500-metre runner originally from Winnipeg.

Today, we ask Nicole about her schedule and how she balances training with life at home.

Don't forget to share Nicole's blog entries — you could win Pan Am Games merchandise from CBC!

My husband I and I just returned from 2½ weeks in Europe, where I raced in Ostrava in the Czech Republic and in Birmingham in the United Kingdom. Between the races, we were based in Prague — we could stay wherever we wanted, and we had heard many wonderful reviews the of city.

When we got home from the trip, our friends and family talked about how our life was so exciting, saying things like, "You're living the dream."

But although this career does afford a lot of travel opportunities, MOST days, professional running isn't very glamorous.

Different athletes thrive in a variety of lifestyles and schedules, and I'm at my best when I'm keeping life simple. After graduating from the University of Michigan with a degree in civil engineering, I worked part-time at an engineering firm while running professionally. I had a flexible work schedule and an understanding boss, but there was still a lot on my plate.

"I feel blessed to have a job that takes me outdoors every day," Sifuentes writes. "Every autumn run is a chance to soak up the fall colours." (Submitted by Nicole Sifuentes)
With my husband's full support, I quit my office job in March 2012 to put my full focus on making the Canadian Olympic team. In hindsight, I am sure that I would not be an Olympian today had I continued in the engineering firm. While some athletes are energized by activity and keeping busy, it was too much for me.

Since I'm my own boss, I'm able to arrange my schedule to maximize my time with my husband, Antonio. I like waking up early with him and seeing him off to work. I run every morning — two or three sessions a week are track workouts, and the other days I just run out my front door on the roads or trails.

I nap almost every afternoon, allowing myself to sleep until I'm rested, which is anywhere from a 20-minute catnap to two hours. When Antonio gets home from work, he'll often join me when I do a second run. 

My mileage ranges anywhere from 40 to 75 miles (65 to 120 kilometres) a week, depending on the time of year. I run the lower mileage during the summer racing season. During heavy training, my life gets really boring. It is literally just training, rest, and a 10 p.m. bedtime.

Disciplined but unhurried

In a nutshell, my daily life is disciplined but purposefully unhurried. I protect my schedule as much as possible.

Outside of training, I do not overextend myself but rather arrange to be at home for an afternoon nap and keep most evenings at home with no plans. I also plan at least one "home day" a week when I do not go to the track or do errands or meet up with anyone. I LOVE "home days."

My favourite thing about training is that I spend a LOT of time outside. I feel blessed to have a job that takes me outdoors every day. I love pounding the pavement on a cool spring morning, getting lost in my thoughts. I enjoy sweating it out in the blazing sun on the track. Every autumn run is a chance to soak up the fall colours. While travelling, I discover places and sights during runs that I would never see otherwise.

Of course, there are times, especially in winter, when this becomes my most hated part of training. That is why I spent eight weeks in Phoenix this past winter. Some summer days are so hot, I have to run my track session at 9:30 p.m. (and then I'm up waaaaaay past my bedtime).

But the bad days are the exceptions. And even on those days, getting out the door is well worth it when I'm done. Overall, the good far outweighs the bad, and I wouldn't have it any other way.


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