Friday, January 07, 2011

No pain, no gain - Chrissie Wellington - what the coach says

Coach Dave Scott describes Chrissie Wellington's fearsome regime

Chrissie's schedule is incredibly arduous. The build-up to an ironman race spans a seven- to eight-month period. It's ferocious, but she has an uncanny resilience and ability to recover.

Chrissie swims, bikes and runs every day. Typically she will swim up to 5.5km six days a week. She will also run each day and on the weekend do a longer distance, say 30-40km. One day a week she will do a long ride on the bike, which means four to five hours at a fairly fast pace. One or two days a week she will do a bike/run combination as if she is simulating a race. For example, she will do a three-hour bike ride of, say, 110-120km, including some hill training, and then follow this up with a run of around 8-12km, again at a stiff tempo. What makes this possible is that she has a phenomenal ability to tolerate discomfort, coupled with an incredible work ethic.

Chrissie is very diligent about doing strength training, which is an area triathletes have been recently gravitating towards because it is invaluable for injury prevention. Around three or four days a week she will do a session in the gym. This usually means anything between eight to 16 different exercises – a combination of weights and single-leg exercises.

With this enormous workload we need to be very careful that Chrissie is getting enough recovery time because everyone is vulnerable to getting sick and developing those minor, niggling injuries. She goes to sees a physiotherapist three times a week and gets a massage up to three times a week, too.

She also needs to pay lots of attention to her eating. She eats very well and healthily, but there's a fine line between eating well and weaving that in and around these intense workouts. Sometimes it's a matter of her day getting so congested with working out that it's hard to find time to fit in the eating.

In this sport we don't like to use the word pain. We prefer to describe it as a high level of discomfort. Discomfort is something you can control, and when you're a racehorse like Chrissie you can ratchet up the discomfort to extraordinarily high levels. When it becomes painful, that means you are out of control – and in an ironman, losing control is something you never, ever want to do.

Simon says: - Interesting stuff - I've been saying for a year or two now that the secret to a good Ironman is to "suffer" in training, another word I use a lot is "misery".

When I tell people this I almost always get a look of disbelief and I know they're thinking "That guy's got it so wrong, what's the point if you're almost always suffering and in misery when you're training".

I think they have a point but you have to then ask where are the wins - for some it's in the training, for me it's in the competing, whether in a race or against myself in training. Trust me though if you're not suffering or to put it another way "dealing with a high level of discomfort" in training then you're leaving time on the course in your key races.

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