We sat down with Claudia Kelly- Nuzest Ambassador, Nuzest Athlete Scholarship 2020 Winner, Junior Black Fins Captain and current Junior Iron Woman Champion for Surf Lifesaving, to chat about her life as a New Zealand athlete.
What does surf lifesaving mean to you?
Surf Lifesaving is everything to me. I love the beach so much and I love being out in the water, having the sand and the ocean all around me. I think surf lifesaving is also super cool because we also get to help the community. To be able to compete, we have to volunteer lifeguard as well, it's pretty fun as we just get to spend time down the beach. I've grown up with Surf Lifesaving and it's a key part of my life.
How did you start Surf Lifesaving?
I'm quite fortunate that I've always lived by the beach in New Plymouth. So, my family's been right into being safe around the water and having fun in the water since I was little.
When my older brother and sister started surf lifesaving in the nippers, I started in the nip nips, which is the four- to six-year-olds. Ever since then, I've been in love with it, and I've been a lifeguard since I was 14.
What beaches do you patrol?
In New Plymouth, at East End Surf Lifesaving Club and I've been there since I was about four or five. Last season I helped at Mount Maunganui as well. And then when I'm in Australia I patrol at North Cliff.
What are you studying:
I was doing first year health science this year (2021). Next year I will be doing a Biomed degree, majoring in infection and immunity, with a Neuroscience minor. Then i'm hoping to do post-grad Medicine after that to become a Doctor.
What's the next big goal for you?
Next year Surf New Zealand has decided that we're taking a team to the world champs in Italy. I'm trying to make my first open Black Fins team for that. It's quite scary because it's a huge competition and it's a tough selection process, plus super competitive.
Who are your heroes?
Growing up, my biggest hero was Harriet brown. She's an Iron Woman in Australia. As a kid I was lanky and tall with nothing on me. I looked like a little giraffe, I actually got the nickname Harold, because I looked like a baby giraffe. I really struggled to get power off the starting lines and could only hold one speed the whole race, and not get that extra power. Harriet brown was talking about that on one of her blog posts one day. I was like, “oh my goodness, it's amazing”, this Nutri-Grain Iron Woman, World Champion is talking about the same problems that I have! Over the last few years, I've come to idolise Devon Halligan, she's one of the greats from New Zealand Surf Lifesaving and I think she is just awesome. I went to a camp and Australia with her, and she gave me so much knowledge, even though I was just this young girl, and she didn't need to help me at all.
What would you say that the hardest moment in your career was?
Probably breaking my foot for the first time. I was on the top of my game, and I was feeling great going into nationals. I had just won some big results in Australia as well. Then getting told that I'm not allowed to compete for the rest of the season when nationals isn't for three months, that was really hard for me.
I've been unfortunate with injuries; I’ve had three stress fractures. When I was younger, I definitely wasn’t a standout athlete and really disliked competing. I rarely made finals and struggled with that because I always felt like I had more in the tank. Then one season I'd been training, super hard, and I was feeling great for nationals. Then three weeks before nationals I dislocated my knee and couldn't compete, it was awful. That was my first injury I'd had and that was the moment where I realized that I really want to do this.
Working so hard over the summer then having that injury made me hungry to come back and be able to win. I won my first national medal the next summer.
I've had more stress fractures over the last few years, which was hard, but each time I’d come back stronger, and I have to work on different things.
I never used to be very good at Ski Paddling, I wasn’t big enough. Then when I broke my foot, Ski Paddling was all I could do for a couple months. The next season I got silver in the Ski Race at Nationals. So, having heaps of injuries has made me a bit more resilient and work harder.
What is your training schedule look like?
Through winter I do lots of swimming, usually about six swims a week, plus a couple ski paddles, one board session and then two gym sessions a week. Through winter I have 11 - 15 sessions a week. The extra ones are running sessions when my feet are up to it. I'm training two to three times a day, every day. And then a rest day on Sundays.
How do you maintain your peak performance?
I have to make sure that I'm getting my nutrition and my sleep schedule down packed. I cannot survive without sleep, and I've had issues in the past under fuelling and not getting the nutrients I need, so these days I put a really big emphasis on getting my recovery and my nutrition.
What do you do to recover?
Usually, I just roll out and do stretching before training. Then recovery I made sure I eat within half an hour after training, usually a Clean Lean Protein shake or Clean Lean Protein Bar. Then later I have a good protein fuelled meal. I make sure I'm getting 8-9 hours of sleep every night, which means I go to bed very early when I’m waking up at 4.45am.
On Sundays I try and do very little, get out in the sunshine because I find that really good for mental recovery and being out in nature without having to push yourself to the limit.
How does Nuzest help with your training and recovery?
I've found Nuzest amazing, especially this year because I've been in halls (University dining), so the nutrition hasn't been amazing. I have the Clean Lean Protein Bars before training, so I get long-lasting energy to keep me going through the session. Then after the gym or after a hard session, I always have a Clean Lean Protein shake to make sure that my protein is getting up there.
This year I’ve been focussing on keeping healthy and nailing my recovery. The Nuzest Good Green Vitality has been key in keeping my immune system strong through the winter months, and I’ve managed to keep healthy and training hard with the nutrition side of things being sorted
How do you fit in your study around your training?
This year has been interesting. I've had to drop a few trainings which was difficult at the start because I hate dropping trainings. Over the summer I have to make sure that I'm an absolute potato when I'm not working or training, so that I’m ready to go for the university year. I make sure that I have set times to study and set times to relax each day, so that I don’t end up watching Netflix for hours.
Outside of Surf Lifesaving, what do you love to do?
I love reading. I try and get outside or go to the beach to read and keep my brain engaged. I love kneeboard surfing and moving movie nights with my friends. But other than that, I'm a bit of a Nana, indoors with a hot chocolate is my go-to.
Any advice for up-and-coming athletes?
Everyone gets hit with hard times, especially in sport. You're hit with losses or not getting the results that you want. Make sure you push through those and accept that if you work hard, your day will come.
I think that's the most important thing for younger athletes to know. I could have used a bit of that when I was younger, having heaps of injuries. I'm so thankful to my younger self that I just used to grind 24/7.