For French long-distance runner, Mathilde Sénéchal, her schedule is a balancing act of law school commitments and high-level athletic training. She relies on organization and planning to work towards accomplishing her professional and performance goals. The 2023 Valencia Marathon is a stepping stone in her journey towards qualifying for a spot on the 2024 Paris Olympic team.
Watch Used: COROS PACE 3
Balancing Law School and Being a High-Level Athlete
Mathilde spends at least 16 hours per week focusing on her school and work commitments. However, her athletic training consumes the majority of her time- dedicating at least 20 to 25 hours to her training a week. While being a high-level athlete is important to her, she also values maintaining a balanced life that includes school, practicums, and work, rather than being solely focused on being a full-time athlete.
There's nothing I've stopped because of sports. The only thing I can miss is not spending much time with my family. I've been living in Lyon for 3 years - I did my master's degree & my training group is in Lyon - and my family comes from Blois which is about a 5h-5h30 drive. It's not easy to go back home often but it's part of my balance.
She has been able to take the discipline that she has learned as an athlete and apply it back to her everyday life. Being organized and planning ahead has been really helpful for Mathilde to stay on track. There are some days that her schedule is so tight that she has to make the most of every hour and can not afford to procrastinate. Mathilde applies these skills not only to excel in running but also to achieve her academic goals.
I had much less time than my girlfriends to revise and I knew that in the evening, if I only had 2 hours after training, that was 2 hours during which I had to be really efficient. When I had homework to hand in, I'd do the same kind of planning as with training: I've got so many days, what's the plan to achieve the goal?
A typical training week for Mathilde this Fall.
The high demands from both school and athletic training can put a lot of stress and fatigue on Mathilde's body. To ensure that she avoids the risk of overtraining, Mathilde's primary focus is tracking her Training Load through her COROS Training Hub. During every workout, she closely monitors her heart rate and average pace. Afterward, she will look at her level of form and recovery. With her coach, they can use the different metrics from COROS to make sure that she's meeting the required training load to properly build and achieve her goals.
Weekly Training Load for the past 3 months, including a 4-week training camp this Fall.
COROS Education: Training Load is a universal metric that quantifies how hard each workout is. Training Load is often a better tool compared to weekly mileage or pace distribution to montitor your training over time leading up to race day.
Mental Side of Training and Performance
As athletes, we often push ourselves hard to perform our best on race day. We invest a lot of time on the road, track, and in the gym to physically prepare our bodies, but we don't always pay enough attention to the mental aspects of training. Mathilde learned this the hard way during one of her earlier race experiences.
When I was younger, at the cross-country French championships in the cadet category, I'd had a good season and was aiming for at least a podium finish. I wasn't used to running with other people and it took my legs away, it took my breath away. There was more than half the course left and I couldn't keep going. Just 200 metres from the finish, I collapsed. A teammate came to help me and I finished 168th. It's hard when you're 17, part of a team and feel like you're letting people down.
During this race, her mind convinced her that it was okay to give up when she was suddenly no longer leading the pack to the finish line. From that moment on, Mathilde knew that she had to do something to prevent this from happening again if she wanted to continue competing as a high-level athlete. In addition to her running coach, she started to see a mental trainer working through her mental obstacles.
Thanks to this work, I understood how I functioned, why I reacted the way I did, and two years later, I won the French cross-country championships. This made the victory even more beautiful, because I knew the whole course beforehand and all the obstacles I'd encountered. It helped me get to know myself. I still see this mental trainer and I'm still learning.
It can become quite overwhelming as a professional athlete to actively participate in other important aspects of life, and therefore leading to unecessary stress.
We asked Mathilde, "what did being an athlete teach you to become a better student, and vice versa?"
Training at a high level has also taught me how to deal with stress. Quite a few times, while my girlfriends were over-stressed for mid-term exams, I was on the starting line for the European championships the week before, so I was able to put the mid-term exams into perspective. It gives you a sense of perspective, in one area as in the other. It helps to keep a good balance.
Of course, I also have a competitive spirit. I like to win competitively and I also like to get good grades. It also motivates me at school.
Goal Going into the Valencia Marathon
With just a few weeks left before the Valencia Marathon, Mathilde is feeling confident that her training has prepared her to achieve her goal of finishing as close to 2 hours and 30 minutes as possible. She has built a strong Base Fitness over the past few months and we can see it now gradually decrease in preparation for the race to ensure she will be at her best come race day.
Mathilde's Base Fitness from August to November 2023.
COROS Education: Base Fitness is a rolling 42-day average of your training load. It provides useful feedback on how much you are training and how your fitness is progressing or regressing throughout the year.
Although Mathilde has other races in mind next year, she is putting all of her focus on Valencia Marathon to be able to perform well and move forward as a professional athlete.
The COROS team wishes Mathilde good luck in the final weeks leading up to the 2023 Valencia Marathon. We look forward to following her performance as she works towards her Olympic dream!