Interview: Victoria Pendleton talks tech

The London 2012 Olympics may still be almost two years away, but for World track cyclist champion Victoria Pendleton it feels a lot closer. The British Olympian takes some time out from her busy schedule to talk training tech, fitness apps and whether she prefers Facebook or Twitter.

So Victoria, how did you first become involved as an EA Active ambassador?

They (EA) approached me when the first fitness game project came out and I just thought it was a really great idea, especially considering they are blaming the video gaming industry for causing obesity and unhealthy kids generally. They have come up with something that is quite interactive, you can work out in the comfort of your own home which is a great idea, and the fact you can tailor it to your own needs anybody of any ability can use it. It’s a really great product to be promoting.

Are there any exercises or games on EA Sports Active 2 that you particularly enjoy?

The mountain biking is quite fun. I actually really enjoy doing the resistance exercises, all those kind of things. There’s a lot of core exercises that are quite challenging, they are actually quite difficult to do and therefore I enjoy doing them because I’m a bit weird like that!

Do you think that games like this is slowly changing people’s view of gaming?

Yes, well the technology that’s available now like the motion sensors and the heart rate monitors opens up a whole new world of training in your living room, getting feedback and knowing that you are working out. You can’t cut corners and take shortcuts. It’s all up there and it’s giving you feedback on your movement and you really know if you’re doing the exercise fully or trying to sneak off with some cheating manoeuvre you can’t do it, there’s no escaping it. I think that's a great thing.

It also opens up so many new ideas about different activities the smarter the technology becomes. I think for people who don’t have a lot of time, or they live in a place where it is difficult to get to the gym maybe it’s not a great area and they don’t want to go out when it's dark or they don't want to go for a run in the rain, it’s great for things like that, and you can do it in the comfort of your own home. You can also trawl all your friends to have a go, it can be quite competitive and quite fun if you like the kind of thing.

Turning our attention to training, are there any particular gadgets that you use to help you train?

Not really. I mean everything I train with is gadgety to be honest. Everything’s all carbon-fibred fancy Mclaren technology. I’ve got this data recording system that records all the power output SRMs (Schoberer Rad Messtechnik power training system) and we go into a lab and and collect all the data and I always have power outputs and cadences. So I guess there is a lot of gadgety stuff in the day to day life.

Even on the track we’ve got timing systems and we’ve got barcodes on our bikes, so we know who's times set off individuals when we are on there at the same time which picks up individual timing. There is a lot of gadgety stuff, none that I really own. Apart from that, not much more than an iPod to be honest.

So is there a lot of data analysis that goes on?

A lot of data and analysis, everyday I am bombarded with numbers, graphs and feedback. After I’ve done one race I get like a three page report with numbers and graphs and about my changeover speeds and reaction times, so it’s very sort of number orientated. It’s very scientific.

What is the last stage before a race you would use this data analysis technology?

I sometimes race with SRMs to get race data, so electronic timing is used every time we get on the boards. So all the time, everyday.

Are there any smartphone apps you use for training?

I haven’t got many training apps actually. I thought Mi Coach was quite exciting. I had some involvement in that and I thought that was good. My fiance actually trained for a 10K run and he used the mi Coach and he was really into it. I did think that was a really good idea.

The GPS aspect to is a really great idea. I think collecting that data from your training really gives you a really firm idea of where you are at and you can really plot your progress. I think if you can see progress in what you are doing, you are more likely to be committed to it rather than just blindly ambling along thinking, am I getting any better? How am I getting better? Where can I focus my sort of future training sessions to get the best out if it? I think that is a fundamental part of training, having that data, that kind of responsibility.

So in terms of keeping in staying in contact with your fans, is it Twitter or Facebook?

Yes, Twitter. I’m just starting Twitter. I had to apologise because I had to spend four days tweeting and then I lost a bit of my Twitter confidence. You kind of of log it in and then go, what can I write? And you're like, no one wants to know about that, Is that a bit embarrassing? I kind of lost my confidence, and thought what can I put? And then I switch it off and go oh no, like I am being a bit of a wimp. I’m a bit behind with getting on with it. I just never thought that anybody would be that interested. People were like yeah, yeah do it, and I was like really? Also there’s someone posing as me already on there, so it wasn’t something that I was totally into,  but I can see it’s quite fun.

Some other sports to discourage use of Twitter. Does that come up at all?

No, no, no. I think they appreciate we are going to be responsible and that we are going to say things that’s appropriate. We are not silly!

Turning our attention to the London Olympics 2010, are you already feeling the weight of expectation having to live up to the of emulating Chris Hoy by winning three gold medals?

I think obviously he has set a standard now and a very high one at that. It’s a bit daunting because people think that’s almost the norm, forgetting what a remarkable achievement it is to win just the one, he’s put the three on it, thanks Chris, thanks for that one.

It is going to be a lot of pressure, and having a home Olympics and having had such a successful team in Beijing we’ve brought it upon ourselves, people are going to expect to see good things in London and they are carrying a lot of weight as it is. I think it’s going to be one of the hardest things we are going to have to do, but you know, it’s not going anywhere, you’ve got to face it.

You’ve been focusing a little more on the Kerin recently know that i's set to become an Olympic event. Has your training had to change in anyway?

Oh no, I’ve competed in the Kerin and I've ctually been a World Champion in previous years, I’ve got two silver World medals and a gold. I’ve always taken it quite little light-heartedly. I think oh I’ve done my event, the sprints are over and usually it’s the next day usually in the programme and I think I’ll see how I can do, and in training I’ve been quite light-hearted about it. I’ve had some good results, but I think it’s been down to, well not luck, but more good fortune than it was necessary my skill in the event.

So that means half the time I’m gambling, half the time I’m doing well, half the time I’m not, so it’s something I am really going to have to focus now. It’s never been an Olympic event in the past, so I never thought I would spend that much time trying to sort these tactics out in my head. You know, it’s all very well sometimes you get on the track and it goes a bit wrong, you don’t know what to do. You’ve only get once chance, so that is something I definitely need to focus on.

So you’ve got an iPod, is there any song that you find very motivating?

There’s loads! At the moment I am really liking ‘This is War’ by 30 Seconds to Mars.

Do you have any pet hates about technology?

I’m not a big fan of Facebook I don’t think.

What don’t you like about it?

Just because you get a lot of people sucking up to you who were really nasty about you at school. What are you doing? No way! There’s a sense of power saying, 'Declned!’ See I wasn't that popular at school, I’m the first to admit that. Nobody liked the competitive girl, so why are you asking me for something now? So people sucking up to you on Facebook.

Any of your team mates gadget lovers?

They're all car people really, they all like fancy cars at the moment. There’s loads of nerdy gadgety people in cycling. There’s too many. Seriously, most of the people I work with are nerdy gadgety people. There's no one in particular I can pin point, most are nerdy.

Victoria Pendleton is an EA Active ambassador and was speaking to T3 at the launch of EA SPORTS Active 2, the total body tracking fitness game that now includes a heart rate monitor.

You can see how EA SPORTS Active 2 works by checking the official video below


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