Athlete Profile - Louise Shanahan | Sport at Cambridge skip to content

Athlete Profile - Louise Shanahan

Name: Louise Shanahan

College: Trinity

Studying: PhD, Physics

School: Bruce College, Cork

Previous Universities: University College Cork, University of California, Berkeley


When and how did you get into sport?

“My dad is a former irish international athlete and national endurance coach so I have always grown up with sport. In fact, I was only 6 days old when I went to my first race! I joined my local athletic club, Leevale AC, when I was 9 years old. I had just missed out on making my primary school running team and I was so annoyed that I insisted my parents let me join Leevale so that I could make the team the year after (I did!). With Leevale, I did whatever training my friends were doing - mostly sprinting, long jump and a bit of cross country in the winter. I also played several other sports, my favourites being hockey, sailing and Irish dancing. As I got older I began to prioritise running over other sports and I focused more on middle distance training. I continued to play hockey until I moved school when I was 17.”


What are your top sporting achievements?

“My top sporting achievement is becoming the European Youth Olympic 800m Champion in 2013. I was also a Youth Olympic finalist in 2014. More recently I became the 2020 Irish National Senior Indoor 1500m Champion (my dad won the mens title in 1988 and 1989 and we are the first father-daughter pair to achieve this which is really cool!) and I won the 800m at the 2020 BUCS Indoor Championships. I was also part of the Cambridge team which won the cross country varsity match in December.”


What is your advice for balancing sport and academia?

“For me the key things are good time management and keeping a routine. As a PhD student, I have a bit more flexibility. I know when my sessions are and I know what work I need to get done so its just a matter of putting my head down. Taking care of myself and getting my nutrition, sleep and recovery right is also really important as if I'm tired or run down then both training and study suffers.”


What has the support from UCAPP meant to you?

“This year has been a big change for me with a new training group, coach and university but UCAPP has helped make this a very smooth transition. Through UCAPP I have access to motivated and invested specialists in strength and conditioning, nutrition, sports psycology, physiotheraphy and lifestyle support. In particular, the S&C support and gym access has allowed me to become a much stronger athlete and it was a key factor in this year being my most successful indoor yet!”


What are your tips for training within the current restrictions?

“Due to the current restrictions, a lot of people are currently unable to train for their own sports and as a result have turned to running. Over the past few weeks I've had a couple of people ask me how I keep myself motivated and I thought I might share my advice here. The first thing is consistency - doing a little bit throughout the lockdown is much better than doing lots the first week (or month) and then giving up. Keep yourself accountable - I like to keep a training diary (glorified Excel sheet) but a virtual training partner who will call you out if you start to get distracted also works! Change it up - you don't need to only do long runs, switch it up by doing reps like 8 x (90 sec hard, 60 sec walk/jog) or if you can find a hill 3 x (60sec, 30sec, 10 sec) is a personal favourite. And finally, set goals - this can be tricky without races but I've been enjoying running PBs over distances I have never raced before and Cambridge University Hare and Hounds have been keeping it interesting with a Virtual Varsity and a Virtual College League!”