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UCan Interview: A Day in the Life of Pro Triathlete Natasha Van der Merwe

It’s 6 AM on a Wednesday morning. My 2-year-old, Nadine, is still fast asleep, and I get ready to head out the door to my local gym for a strength session. My next race as a professional triathlete is 4 short weeks away, so I try to make the most of every quiet, early morning.

Outside of being a professional triathlete who trains 25-30 hours a week, I am also a wife and mom to a 2-year-old, I coach a number of triathletes remotely and I am fortunate enough to have the role as Director of Team Programs for Bicycle World’s six Texas stores.

Here is a full “day in the life” to give you a window into what my daily schedule looks like, and the fuel I take in to support this lifestyle.

A Day in the Life

6 AM: Wake Up

I always start the morning with a cup of coffee and a breakfast of oatmeal, fruit and almond butter stirred in. If am on the go, like I am on a Wednesday morning, I will just make up a shake with 2 scoops of the Chocolate Protein UCAN and drink it on the way to the gym.

6:30–7:30 AM: Strength Training Session

This is alternated with a swim session or an easy run in the mornings before Nadine wakes up.

8:00 AM: 2nd Breakfast and Family Time By 8 AM, my mom (who we are fortunate enough to have living with us and is a huge help with Nadine) has already gotten my daughter up and then we all spend the next hour having breakfast and playing with toys around the house before walking to school.

For breakfast after that first session, I will either eat a slice of oatmeal bake (mostly made up of oatmeal, bananas, and eggs) that I always have in the fridge or have some eggs on toast while my daughter eats her porridge.

9:30 AM–1 PM: Key Workouts

I plan to do most of my training and key cycling sessions while my daughter is at school. This goes for my weekly long ride as well, which I always do on a Friday morning, that way I keep the weekends open for shorter sessions and more family time.

Right before my rides, I will prepare my nutrition bottles for the duration of my ride and then take a few minutes to roll out and do some dynamic movements and muscle activation for my training session ahead.

My nutrition for a 3-hour session consists of drinking 2 bottles per hour:

One bottle has one scoop of Lemon or Cranberry-Raspberry UCAN Performance Energy (my two favorite flavors).The other bottle has 1-2 scoops of UCAN Hydrate to fulfill my electrolyte needs.For a 3-hour workout, I drink a total of 6 bottles to match my sweat rate on hot Texas days.

My Wednesday workout is usually a threshold workout on the bike with a progressive run-off. I may start with just 3 x 8’ at my current FTP Wattage and over the weeks I will increase it to 6 x 8’ at FTP. This would be one of my key cycling sessions weekly.

I then run off the bike with the goal of progressing to 10k pace (equivalent to my threshold run pace). I like to play a game to see how much ground I can cover over 30 minutes, with the goal of always trying to beat the mileage from the week before. It’s that or I slowly start to lengthen that run, while maintaining the speed I held for the shorter run the week before.

Post-workout Nutrition

I always have a shake right after the run as its 100 degrees in Texas during summer, and food doesn’t sound great right after a hard workout. I mix up Vanilla Protein UCAN, almond milk, some added BCAA’s and frozen fruit in a blender.

I will then eat lunch after picking up my daughter from school. A typical lunch is avocado and poached eggs on whole-grain toast or leftovers from the night before, which is usually steak (or some sort of protein), vegetables, a rice salad or a baked sweet potato.

2 PM: Nap Time

My daughter naps after school, thankfully, and the whole family takes this opportunity to do the same. I try to keep it to about 30-40min and use the rest of her naptime to check work emails or prepare for an upcoming presentation or training camp I am doing for Bicycle World.

4:30 PM: Afternoon Training Session

I do my 3rd and final session for the day at the gym. My daughter plays with other kids at our gym daycare as I swim for an hour to 90 min. I always fuel with a homemade latte to wake me up after my nap, along with a UCAN Chocolate Peanut Butter Energy Bar. I look forward to this treat which always fuels me perfectly for a 90 min swim. I also always have UCAN Hydrate on the swim deck and sip on that throughout.

Once I am done swimming, I will sip on another protein shake, as I am unable to eat real food right away, and then I pick my daughter up and take her to the kids pool where we splash around in the water for an hour before heading home for dinner, bath and bedtime.

7 PM: Toddler Bed Time/Work Time

Nadine usually goes to sleep around 7 PM. My husband and I then have dinner and spend some time together, after which I then get back to work on my computer checking athletes’ training sessions and notes from their day of training, along with answering any other work emails.

9:30 PM: Snack and Bedtime I always have a snack before bedtime as I am still pretty hungry from the day’s training. It is usually Greek yogurt with some homemade granola and berries sprinkled on top. I go to sleep around 9:30 PM, ready to do it all over again at 6 AM the next day!

About Natasha van der Merwe

Natasha Van Der Merwe is a pro triathlete from South Africa. She started as a pro tennis player before first trying triathlon at the age of 27. Since turning pro, she’s competed in 30+ Ironman events, with numerous top-10 finishes over her career. Natasha is also a triathlon coach and the Director of Team Programs for Bicycle World, a bike shop with 6 locations in Texas. She lives in Austin, TX with her husband Steve and their daughter Nadine.


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