25 year old winger Frédérique Rajotte from Montreal, Quebec, started playing rugby when she was 16 years old, playing first in high school and then for the Concordia University Stingers. Through ups and downs with the program, Rajotte kept pushing and was rewarded with selection to the 2017 World Cup squad that finished 5th in Ireland. Looking ahead, Rajotte, who has now graduated University is finding her path off the pitch while being a full-time Communications Manager for Bell. We were lucky to be able to sit down and listen to how she was able to focus on getting stronger during her rugby career as well as within her new lifestyle. Rajotte offers her expertise and voice with commentary and coaching to the next generation of women as well:
Being fast is key when playing on the wing as you do, what kind of exercises do you do to maintain or improve your speed?
FR: I’m always looking for new and exciting exercises to improve my speed, I used to be very focused on gaining weight because it was ingrained in my mind that weight increases speed. However, with my build I’ve realized that regular speed training and resistance training are a good recipe for me. I like to incorporate speed and agility exercises that contain short bursts with a change of directions. I am a huge fan of interval training, so I tend to incorporate 200m, 400m, and 800m intervals where I can push myself and test out my maximum speed over longer distances.
How has your outlook on fitness changed throughout your career?
FR: That’s a great question because it has fluctuated so much over the years! I have always had a crazy metabolism, a regular person would be envious however this became my worst nightmare when I was centralized with the 7s program at 18. I relied on my cardiovascular endurance for my strength. I was used as a “rabbit” for girls that had weaker fitness levels because I could naturally pace myself. Fitness was my strength and I relied on it so much, but I realized that I had a lot to learn in terms of rugby skills and weightlifting. When you’re centralized, you live for training days and your training days are adjusted/personalized for you. I am now a full time Communications Manager for Bell so it was a big adjustment going from centralization, to university training, to real life adulting! It is now up to myself to go and train so my will power has definitely grown! Fitness is my release and my happy place. I run everyday for 40 minutes while picking up speed every 10 minutes. That’s my escape and my way to keep sane. I’ve slowed down on the heavy weightlifting but I still incorporate Olympic lifting in many of my workouts.
What do you think is the most important fitness element to a rugby player?
FR: I wouldn’t be able to choose one particular element because it obviously depends on the position and type of rugby. I would say it’s definitely important to be a well-rounded and well-balanced athlete with enough muscle mass to be able to go against your opponent and maintain enough fitness to last you a full 14/80 minute game.
What are some of your fitness goals?
FR: Getting back to my 4:50 mile! I would also love to run a half marathon. My big brother has just completed his first Ironman and that really motivated me to start trying new sports and incorporating new activities to better my fitness level. An 85 kg power clean would be nice too!
What type of nutrition habits do you have to maintain to meet your fitness goals?
FR: It’s all about balance. I used to wake up in the middle of the night to chug protein shakes to “stop my fat burning period.” I don’t miss those days… Now I worry more about drinking enough electrolytes during my workouts, eating a good snack within 30 minutes of physical activity, and eating more fibre and greens instead of gulping down a protein shake.
How do you manage mental fitness compared to physical fitness?
FR: Positivity! I don’t let things get to me. I brush things off. I also don’t take things too seriously, especially when it’s a tough, gritty session. It’s important to think of what the positive outcome will be and laugh it out. If my legs are hurting during a tough workout, I focus on something else, like my breathing. If I’m trying to catch my breath through a tough fitness workout, I think of lifting my knees up higher instead. It’s all about perspective.
Do you think there’s a difference in the way men vs. women have to train in the sport of rugby?
FR: I’ve always asked myself this question and my answer is no. Our bodies are doing the same type of motions/actions. I find it super beneficial to train and play against men. You get to test out your tackling strength and your accelerations! I think it’s the way we approach these sessions that are different. Women like to analyze more, and understand the “why” behind everything. We like having context. We ask more questions. I’ve been coaching the U16/U18 Québec team for the past year, and I’ve realized that young girls/women are just so keen to understand the entirety of the drill and always look for perfection. Guys on the other hand aren’t afraid to take risks and go for the trial and error. They don’t mind not knowing the background behind the drill. By training and playing with each other we understand and learn to appreciate our differences.
What is one piece of advice you use to get through low motivation days?
FR: Have your workout clothes ready to go, turn on your favourite go-to gym tune (Headstrong is mine), and visualize that post workout blissful feeling!
How important is recovery to your training?
FR: I am the worst at recovery, but I am no longer 18 years old and invincible so I stretch and do my own home yoga sessions. Spinning and low intensity running sessions are my go-to the day after hard sessions.
What inspired you to become a rugby commentator? What do you enjoy about being behind the mic that you don’t receive on the pitch?
FR: Since I was a kid, I was recording myself on the family camcorder and blabbing away about a made-up news report. I’ve always held a passion for public speaking so being able to combine my passion for sports and speaking non-stop is an incredible feeling. You’re not just standing on the sideline, but you’re getting this spectacular vantage point while disclosing actions, rules, and comments all at the same time. It’s a really rewarding experience for rugby and human IQ.
What do you like to do on your rest days?
FR: Clean, eat, and read with music always playing in the background!