Give yourself realistic timeframes to train

Having a goal is great because it drives you when times get tough during training, and it keeps you focussed through the training period. The time it takes for you to achieve your goal will vary depending on what that goal is. Sometimes I have seen people set goals with time frames which are too short.

When I completed my Ironman in Switzerland, I gave myself 1 year to prepare for the race. I worked with several coaches. Having 12 months gave me to time to learn and to get it right. I needed the time – because I was working – to fit in skill sessions, such as learning how to swim correctly, and to find the equipment I needed to race. I did get injured in the early stages of my training because my body was adapting to 6 days a week training. Having 12 months to train for the race allowed time for my body to recover from its injuries and to get back to full fitness to train again.

When the time to train before a race is too short there is greater risk of failure. I have had a client wanted to race the ‘Marathon de Sables’ in 2 years’ time, and to do an Ironman in 1 year’s time – and she had no background in endurance training; she also had an existing ankle injury. Setting goals like these is unrealistic; if you talk to a coach he will put a true time frame in for each event you want to complete. Personally I think it is better to leave more rather than less time to complete endurance events.

Remember, talk to your physiotherapist, coach or personal trainer when you want to set a new goal – to make your time frames realistic and to avoid injury at the same time.

What does Chrissie Wellington, four times world champion, say about her journey so far in Ironman?

Physical Edge attended a TCR exhibition (triathlon, cycling, running) to hear Chrissie Wellington speak about her life in triathlon, and where she is heading with her career. Chrissie recently released her latest book called ‘Life Without Limits – a World Champion’s Journey’ and Physical Edge was able to purchase an autographed copy. Chrissie presented for one hour and spoke on topics such as pressure; achieving new highs in ironman sport; and her early days of racing. She also gave an analysis of herself and why she was successful as a world ironman champion four times over.

It was interesting to see the psychology behind Chrissie’s success. She suffered bulimia as a teenager and was never a successful athlete until 5 years ago, when she entered an ironman contest. She does not come from a family of successful athletes, and only came to the sport of ironman after a coach saw her potential.

Chrissie may not have had the normal athletic childhood that other world champions have, but what she does have is an internal drive which is relentless. She has always wanted to be the best that she could be in everything that she does. She works hard and never gives up. She achieved high academic honours in high school and university, and achieved the highest score ever in her university for a degree of economic geography. She was a civil servant before coming to ironman, when a coach saw her and asked to her to try out for triathlon. Within a 5 -10 month period she became the world ironman champion.

Chrissie finds it very difficult to relax. She is someone who is on the go 100% of the time; this characteristic has helped her achieve great things in her life so far. She says that the key to her success is being able to better manage this incredibly insatiable hunger for self improvement. Chrissie has had 2 very different types of coaches – one coach who took control of her training and another who empowered her. She has benefitted from both these types of coaching, and recognises the importance as well of friends and family – along with other ironman athletes who are non-professionals – as major sources of inspiration and emotional support.

Chrissie describes herself with ‘a mind like a bullet’ – unable to rest, constantly analysing herself, and very self critical. In her book she describes how she has managed her natural tendancy for self control; her first coach said she would only be a success in ironman if she chopped her head off.

In the last 5 years Chrissie has achieved the most that you could achieve as an ironman athlete. She is a 4 times world champion, has set the fastest world record and broken this herself. There are very few men that can beat her in the ironman distance. Triathlon has been the axis of her life so far: this year she has decided to take a year out of competing to find balance in her life. She has completed this book, is doing work for charity and will be involved in the Olympics in some commentary form. She reports she could not continue ironman and find balance in her life because this would mean compromising her training and racing – and she was not prepared to do this. She does intend to return to ironman in a year’s time, and who knows how good she will be at this point?

The advice Chrissie has for ironman athletes is to redefine perfection:’There is no such thing as perfection – you can only be the best that you can be: learn from the bad races, as this is where you learn how to improve yourself: avoid linking all your emotional well being to your performance (in other words, just be the best you can be on the day).’ She is a great believer in overcoming fear; in fact she confronts it face on and says ‘jump through the fear’!

Her final tips on the mental side of training and pain are: visualisation; associating music with landmarks in your race (going to the race course in advance and playing the music at those points, so that you become familiar with it on race day); creating positive self images of you crossing the line, having food at the end, friends around you etc; having a positive mantra (hers is ‘never give up’); and breaking the race into chunks so that mentally it is not so daunting.

A quote that Chrissie has taken from Lance Armstrong, which enabled her to get through times of great adversity is: “Quitting will last forever, but the pain will fade.”

If you are inspired to do an ironman contest contact Physical Edge at

Muscle tension easing and race pace training

This week has been harder in training with my coach, Fran, making me train at race pace. Some of the sessions were shorter in duration but harder because I maintained race pace for up to an hour on the bike, 45 mins on the run and 10 x 100 repeats in the pool.

I noticed I was a lot weaker on the bike up hills. I tried to stay with some road cyclists and they burnt me up the hills. Fran says we do hill training after my half Ironman on the 22 May 2010.

I ran for 1.5 hours at a slow pace over the week and I felt great in my legs will less Achilles pain and slight hamstring tightness. This is a significant change to previous long runs. I put this down to the increase in mineral supplements I am taking “greens” with PH booster and ion booster to alkalis the water I am drinking during the day.

My legs feel even better between sessions and at present I do not complain about them being so tight after the run and cycle sessions. I have stopped doing weight training now and this may reduce the muscle tightness.

I am starting my Acai berry antioxidant juice, Monavie, tomorrow. The research shows how this superfood can enter cells and reduce the damage or death of the cells from free radical attack. The free radicals are created by exercise, pollution, stress and many other daily loads we put on our body. We get an ache in our body after training because of inflammation and the body producing new cells to replace the dead ones. Monavie can help recovery by reducing inflammation and cell death. It even has anti ageing effects what a bonus.

The thought of the half Ironman is on my mind now. It is two weeks away. I am excited but also a little apprehensive as I have no idea how my body will respond to putting the swim, bike and run together. I have three friends coming down and I am really happy to have their support.

Focus for start of 7 months of training in 2010

Had a great meeting with Fran on Friday. I had a lot of questions as I was suddenly sensing the urgency of training. I have not training fully for the last three weeks and in the last week I was away in Israel and Fran said to rest completely.

I wanted to get some outcomes to aim for and get a better idea of what distances and what type of training I would be doing. I know when the day comes around if I have not put in the work now then it will no be enjoyable or as enjoyable as it could be. So far Fran has been giving me my weeks program on Sundays and I have followed it. He has adjusted for my injuries and how I am doing with work and fitting in the training. I like his approach because Fran has the experience to know what I must achieve but also giving me flexibility. Obviously I trust fully in his judgement and know he will get me there.

Coming back from holiday I wanted more information about my training and I pushed Fran into giving more guidance than he had so far. He explained the next 12 weeks is building volume with less emphasis on strength. I will be able to ride 5 hours, run 2.5 hours and swim 1.5 hours at the end of the 12 weeks. He told me the key focus now is getting my injuries better. My left foot and lower leg pain must be healed now so I can do the bigger mileage.

We looked at the course on the internet so I had an idea of where the hills are in the bike and what the swim and run course will involve. Fran has done the Switzerland Ironman before and showed me where he found the swim was hard and how half way through the swim we actually leave the water and run across an island about 20 meters before swimming again. I find this unusual but have to go with whatever happens on the day. Fran stayed in the Ascot hotel which is a walking distance to the start line and we decided this was a good plan for the night before and after the race.

I decided I would do the Barcelona Half Ironman with him if he was doing it as I would get practice at travelling with my bike and I can learn what he does. I am also travelling home in April for a wedding and I will take my bike home also to train. Fran said I must train on my bike otherwise it could lead to injuries. This event is getting more expensive. Fran stressed I must call the Airline to Switzerland to make sure I have my bike booked in storage. Another great piece of advice and that is why we all need coaches who have done it before to help.

I got home last night and went to the wiggle website. I have bought so much Ironman gear that I have a platinum status, what an achievement. I bought a hard case to take my bike on the plane. I was also complaining of saddle pain when I cycle so I also bought Chaffing cream and sun resistance glide blocks to reduce friction. While I was on the site I found fins to increase resistance when I swim so bought those as well to build my leg strength.

I get my program for the week today. I will post the workouts I do each week from this point on.  This week I must book my bike on flights to New Zealand and Switzerland and book the accommodation in the Ascot hotel.