Almudena Abad Nosti is a fourth-year student in the dual Bachelor in Laws & International Relations at IE University. She was born in Mexico, but spent most of her childhood in Spain, alongside spells living in Ireland, Canada, and the US. Almudena is an immensely talented athlete, specializing in triathlons.
The recent situation with COVID-19 has been difficult for someone like Almudena who is active so much of the time. However, her life of training has helped prepare her mentally and, although she particularly misses the swimming pool, she sees this as an opportunity to learn and grow.
We interviewed Almudena to find out more about her story.
Tell us about your athletic background
Ever since I was a kid, I have been very active. I would spend all day playing soccer with my brother—who is currently a rugby player at IE University—or jumping in the pool. Neither of my parents had to force us to play sports. For us, it was always a pleasure to go for a bike ride or a run. During high school I particularly enjoyed cross-country running and swimming; two very different sports that complemented each other very well.
I am also a huge fan of watching sports on TV. I get especially excited when the Olympics is on, but I also enjoy watching world cups in athletics, swimming and soccer. One of my earliest memories is of waking up at four in the morning because of the time difference to watch the NBA playoffs with my father.
Are you part of any IEU Athletics team?
I’m not a part of a team per se. At the moment, I am the university’s only triathlete, but I do represent IE University as an athlete and I consider myself to be very lucky as part of the IE University team. Being part of the team makes it feel like you have someone else who counts on you and trusts you—that’s probably the main reason I decided to join.
So you both are and aren’t part of an IEU Athletics team. How did that happen?
I remember very well the day I met Juan Barrio, who is the IE University Student Relations & Athletics Director. When I first came to Madrid, I was a bit lost when it came to finding a team to join or simply people to train with. So, I reached out to Juan, hoping the university had some sort of swimming, athletics, or even biking team. I didn’t think it would be very likely, and I was right. But even so, since that day, I have been able to count on the IE University team’s help in many ways, and I’ve always felt encouraged and supported.
What has your experience with IEU Athletics been like?
I have been able to count on the IEU Athletics team many times, and it has always been an honor and a pleasure. My most memorable experiences were during the National University Championships (C.E.U., Campeonatos de España Universitarios), which are held annually in Spain. I have competed twice. The first time was in 2017 when I had just started my studies. It was very tough as I was up against the best triathletes in the country. I waited until 2019 to compete again, and it went much better this time. I managed to come in eleventh place, and I got many master’s offers from universities that saw my potential. This was just one example, but I have received support from IE University in many other races.
What does your training regimen look like?
I’m not going to lie—it’s not easy to do three sports in one. It’s physically impossible to improve in the three at the same time, so patience is key. When I did my exchange year in the US, I had to stop cycling for a while. But without the bike, I had a great opportunity to work on my swimming skills, backed by a very strong team.
When I go to Mexico during the summer, I meet up with my old track and field coach to work on my running. Personally, I feel running is my weakest sport. Last summer, I endured one of the toughest training sessions I can remember. It was on the track and consisted of running 500 meters 12 times, with a one-minute recovery. That kind of workout really takes it out of you.
A normal week for me includes four to five sessions in the pool, two or three runs, which combine a speed session and a long recovery one, two days on the bike—either indoor or outdoor, depending on the weather—and two short gym sessions.
Have you noticed any results?
I am very competitive and I love to track my personal improvements. Since coming to Madrid in 2016, I have been able to lower my 10k run time by almost four minutes. This allowed me to compete in the International San Silvestre Vallecana, which has a sub 45-minute prerequisite for women to enter. I have also seen improvements in road cycling and with swimming—where I am very proud to say I am always one of the first ten out of the water in every national championship.
However, I believe the biggest improvement I’ve noticed has been mental rather than physical. It’s become clear to me in the last two CEUs I competed in. In the first one, I let fear and panic affect me too much. And the result was disastrous—my swim was terrible, the bike ride utterly disorganized and I almost caused a group crash because of my nerves. As for the run, I ended up devastated by the result.
Two years later, I decided I wouldn’t allow the same thing to happen. I felt in control of the situation and managed to swim with the lead group, maintain my position throughout the hilly bike course, and finish with a strong run. I felt amazing when I reached the finish line.
How do you manage studying and training at the same time? What recommendations would you give to future student-athletes?
I am naturally very anxious and somewhat of a perfectionist. So, it’s hard for me to manage both aspects. Sometimes, in a fit of drama, I will declare to myself that I am quitting both university and training! But even during those episodes, I know deep down that I’m lying to myself and as soon as I calm down I will finish the essay and go for that run.
I find swimming therapeutic. When I have a minor breakdown, I often find that going for a swim is the solution. And when the weather is nice, a long, calm run does the job. There is no secret recipe, it’s about being willing to work a little harder in both aspects—and having good time management, which has been crucial for me!
Have you managed to stay in shape during the COVID-19 pandemic? What are your expectations for the near future and when do you expect to compete again?
I believe this situation is stressful enough without worrying about staying in good shape. I do sports because it’s what I enjoy the most. I try to do what I can, when I can, with what I have—it’s as simple as that. I was supposed to run Madrid’s half marathon in March, but for obvious reasons it got cancelled. At first I was disappointed because I had worked with my coach on very specific terms towards that goal. But then I reminded myself that it is completely out of my control and I became more positive.
There have been different times in my life where I’ve been unable to train for one reason or another. When I lived in Toronto, the weather stopped me from running or cycling outside, so I did a lot of swimming and indoor activities. Later, when I first came to Madrid, it seemed impossible to find a pool. So, I spent a couple of weeks trying to improve the other two sports. And when I moved to the US for my exchange program, I didn’t take my bike with me so I was unable to cycle. But I ended up in a very strong swimming team with a stunning pool.
I’ve learned a lot from these experiences, and so I’m taking this as another opportunity for personal growth. I do a lot of body-weight exercises that allow me to do both low- and high-intensity workouts. I also have access to a treadmill but using it too much causes injuries. The toughest aspect for me has been not having access to a pool. I have never gone so long without swimming and I’m without my “therapy,” which would be especially useful during these overwhelming times. But we have to be responsible and face these circumstances with the best possible mindset.
At IE University, one of the defining aspects of our dynamic community is the ability to confront challenges head on. Almudena is a shining example of this, overcoming every obstacle, whether physical or mental, to achieve her goals. Even though she is the university’s only triathlete, she is a firm member of our community and we can’t wait to see what she accomplishes going forward.