Doing a 2. 4-mile (3. 9K) swim , 112-mile (180K) bike , and a 26. 2-mile (42. 2K) run, in one trot, is what you’re working towards with an Ironman training strategy. It’s what makes up an Ironman triathlon, one of the hardest multisport endurance events around.
I’ve always known Ironman triathletes are hardcore and I love a challenge , so when a good invite to train with world champion Lucy Charles-Barclay came in I was first to put my hand up. There was just one problem: I don’t swim. ‘No problem, ’ Lucy’s team at Redbull (her sponsors) said. ‘Come down to ‘The Pain Cave’ where Lucy trains, and have a go in her bike, run and strength training sessions. ’ Next thing I know, I’m on a train in order to Essex to meet #TeamCharlesBarclay to see what training like an Ironman pro really looks like.
A bit of context for you: coming from a semi-pro background inside swimming (just narrowly missing the Team GB Olympics team in 2012), Lucy turned to triathlon events ‘for fun’ plus won the Ironman Globe Champion amateur group within 2015. That’s when going pro suddenly came into sight.
‘It quite quickly became my career, when it has been only really meant to be something for fun. Even though I’m competing from the highest level, I want to keep it fun. We think a person perform better if you’re enjoying exactly what you’re doing. So that’s what we always try to focus on, ’ she tells me. Sure enough, in 2021, she won the Ironman 70. 3 World Championships as an elite.
Lucy’s Ironman coaching program
- Monday morning: go swimming (around 4500-5000m). ‘Most sessions are at least 5000m. ’
- Mon afternoon: strength training . ‘It’s the slightly easier day, after generally a large volume associated with training with the weekend. ’
- Tuesday morning: high-intensity run; usually 4-5 km intervals on the particular treadmill or track, maybe continuously up to half marathon distance. Followed by an ‘easy cycle’ for around 60-90 minutes ‘to build upward base and endurance’.
- Tuesday evening: key swimming session, normally close to two hours with the club. ‘Tuesdays are quite a hard day because there’s a hard run and a hard swim so fueling is really important. ’
- Wednesday early morning: ‘Hard, chunky bike workout’, normally the minimum of two hrs and up in order to four, including intervals.
- Wednesday evening: easy operate, from 40 minutes to an hour.
- Thursday morning: swim followed simply by a short, high-intensity cycle or even run in the afternoon.
- Thurs evening: go swimming. ‘The morning swim will be quite easy, but the night swim is harder. I actually tend to find when you go again in the evening, you just feel more powerful in the water. ’
- Friday early morning: swim plus strength work.
- Friday afternoon: cycle or run, around 2-3 hours along with ‘a small block associated with work, say 20 minutes of intervals’.
- Saturday morning: ParkRun (5km run). ‘As the season progresses I might turn that into a long run if we run there and work back. ’
- Sunday afternoon: simpler cycle.
- Sunday: long bike ride – ‘a minimum of four hours and it can go up to five or six hours’.
Lucy gave me just a taster of this gruelling programme in our morning together. While I tried to keep up, she shared some golden insider tips. Here’s what I learned about bossing a good Ironman triathlon while I trained like one. See you at the start line?
1 . The bike is more technical than it seems
Most of Lucy’s cycling training is done indoors on her Wahoo – an indoor cycling teaching app. This means she may avoid traffic and stop-starts, and train at specific speeds, power and cadence (the number of revolutions your pedals make per minute as you ride) that will help push her gains on the bicycle. In her training space, aptly named The Pain Cave, there are two screens and two bikes set up therefore her husband Reece Barclay (also a pro Ironman triathlete and one of the girl coaches) joins her on most training classes. Coming from elite swimming, she says the particular bike is her weakest discipline thus there’s usually work in order to do.
‘When We first arrived to triathlon , I couldn’t get the heart rate up on the bike. I actually just didn’t have the particular strength to push enough power. It’s been years of hrs spent upon the bike and in the gym to develop the power and technique to push more power, ’ the girl tells me.
What’s the particular trick? ‘You want in order to focus on not only pushing down the pedals but pulling upward too. So you’re using your quads as a person push plus hamstrings as you pull. That way you’re getting more efficiency out of each pedal stroke. ’ Noted.
What about the gym – what strength work is good for cycling? ‘Single-leg unilateral exercises like lunges, single-leg press and hamstring curl leg extensions work better with regard to cycling. ’
We did the sequence associated with weighted lunges (light weight) with a press overhead, goblet squats and kettlebell swings , which served as a warm-up to strength work, because well since a mobility piece. The lunges (with the same foot heading forwards plus back) seemed easy plenty of, until Lucy told me not really to put my foot down in the middle. ‘That method it works your balance and core stability by having to keep your own hips straight and balanced. ’
2 . Brick runs are an essential part of Ironman training
For the particular non-triathletes, the brick workout (which unfortunately, is as hard as it sounds) is education two disciplines back-to-back; in this case, a bike workout followed immediately by a run.
It replicates the horrible lead-legs feeling you get transitioning from pedal in order to pavement on race day. Luckily, the more you teach this, the better you get at recovering from this and picking up the pace again.
We did just ten minutes around the treadmill – in our cycling onesies, no less – but it was a hard effort. Starting upon 12km/h speed (which I quickly had to drop down to 10km/h) we increased our velocity by 0. 5km every 0. 5km of range.
3. Swimming (and cycling) require the strong core
All of us all know a strong core can lead to better running posture plus running performance, but do you understand that swimming and cycling benefit, too? ‘We attempt to do balance work every single day to keep my primary strong. When you’re in that high cadence position within the bike, core stability is so important in order to keep you steady, especially when it’s windy, ’ Lucy says.
It matters within the drinking water, too. ’Even if you’re not a confident swimmer, a stronger primary will actually help you due to the fact you won’t be sinking down. If you’re lower down, it makes it harder to breathe. If you build up your core, you sit higher for the water so when you turn your head to breathe, you’re above the water already and not breathing in water. ’ Even as a non-swimmer that was an ah-ha moment.
The ab workout we did consisted of several exercises for one minute every, with 30 seconds rest in between. The sequence included: 2 types of abdominal roller (one was easier than the other), ball squeezes in a glute bridge (‘imagine you’re trying to break a watermelon’), banded alternate leg crunches, side plank , and flutter kicks (my fave). ‘We’ll do variations of things as we progress, or hold moves for longer, to keep building and developing, ’ Lucy informs me.
4. Strength training is key to energy
With the enormous training load Lucy puts her body through, gym sessions are usually a cornerstone to help her minimise the risk of injury. ‘With our background inside swimming, We don’t feel like I need to perform as much upper-body function, so a lot more of my work will be lower-body focused. If I actually neglect the upper-body entirely though, the swim does suffer, ’ she explains.
In our program we did a trio of fitness center exercises , back-to-back, for three sets: 10 x lat pull-down, ten x narrow-grip seated row, 5 x slam balls. ‘I find the power in the pool plus my stroke is so much better simply from performing these. Even if it’s only once a week, I really notice it when I don’t do them, ’ Lucy says.
5. More training isn’t always much better
‘ A triathlon is the biggest balancing act. You’ve got your swim, your period and your run, as well as all the power training to help you stay injury-free and solid. Then it’s about looking at your nutrition and obtaining enough calories in, and finding the time to recover so that will you may do those sessions well enough. It’s crazy, really, ’ Lucy tells WH .
What happens if you don’t get the balance, right? ‘You end up being too fatigued and even though you’ve done so much work, your body just is like, “No, I’m not really doing this. ” The result is not performing well, because you have overdone this.
‘You constantly think a person could be doing more but actually, you should probably just prioritise some rest and do the particular things if you’re doing nicely, rather than attempting to add in more plus more. Otherwise you obtain injured or even you get too tired to carry out it properly.
6. The particular tiredness is usually real
The exhaustion (and the hunger! ) I felt after our three-hour session with Lucy paled into insignificance once i heard regarding the daily fatigue the lady tackles. ‘There are plenty of days where I am so tired and it can so tough. Sometimes We don’t actually want in order to do it and that’s whenever I have to remember why I’m doing it and then pull myself out of it. ’
How does she manage this particular day-to-day? ‘I just concentrate on the one session Now i’m doing, get it done properly then have the rest. I actually try not to think “Oh, I’ve got that later, plus I’ve got that tomorrow, ” since that gets you in to a spiral like, “How am I ever going to manage all of this? ” We try to stay in the particular moment and never get as well caught up in what’s coming next. ’ The good lesson for life and fitness, IMO.
7. It’s OK to skip a set
Whenever the tiredness is banging on the door, being flexible with training counts. ‘It’s about being dynamic and listening to the body and not really feeling guilty if you need to miss a collection, ’ says Lucy. That’s right, you heard her.
‘Sometimes we look at the particular fatigue and the instruction load and if it’s really, really high, then I’m not going to lose fitness simply by not carrying out a part of it. In fact , doing it could tip me personally over the edge. So it’s, like I actually said, a real balancing act. ’
8. Sleep is your friend
Lucy is usually in bed by 9pm (any later plus she’s ‘a bit grumpy’) ahead of early morning go swimming sessions on 6am. With up in order to three exercising sessions a day, early starts are a must thus that she has enough recovery time in between periods.
‘It’s actually hard to get up and train at six o’clock in the particular morning. If you’ve had the terrible night’s sleep, in that case it might not be worth this, because recuperation is really essential. So I try to maximise getting at least eight hours a night, if not more. It is really, really key to performing the next day. ’
9. Injuries can lead to surprise comebacks
Earlier inside 2022, Lucy faced a stress fracture in her left hip, which can be the career-ending injuries. ‘When you hear that, you take it pretty seriously, ’ the girl says.
Whilst she made a miraculous recovery plus comeback – winning Silver at the Ironman World Championship in Kona Hawaii in October) – that surprised everyone which includes herself, the lady said the girl only goal after the diagnosis was in order to mend the injury and make sure it did not happen once again.
‘That was my only focus. I was therefore tunnel-visioned that will we managed to do the particular whole recovery way faster than I ever imagined. ’
She thanks the team around her for helping her achieve that: ‘It’s a testament to the team plus the hard work that everyone put within that I really got back and I won silver. Redbull was amazing. They flew me out to a rehab centre in Austria; We worked along with the experts plus we figured out exactly the reason why the damage happened. Without those experts it most likely would possess happened again and again. ’
Lucy addressed all aspects of her schooling – nourishment, biomechanics, the way she has been running , swimming and loading the girl body – and came back stronger than ever. Even though she missed out on that coveted gold medal, she stated it was arguably her ‘best performance to date – it was incredible.
10. Positive self-talk is everything
Turns out Lucy is just as human as the sleep of us and may be plagued by self-criticism too. ‘I’m very critical of personally. But saying “I could have done more, ” means I may not have recovered enough so actually, that’s worse. Last year I actually started in order to think, “I know I have done enough” and say “that’s enough” and I have had some of the best ever results. ’
What does her inner dialogue sound like now? ‘It’s a mantra I tell myself which i learnt through US triathlete Katie Zaferes, which is usually “I can do difficult things. ” It’s as simple as that and it’s easy to remember. I just repeat this whenever I am racing or in training also it gets tough. It’s all you need to tell yourself because as soon as you start thinking you can’t do it, it gets very negative, really fast. ’
Another positivity trick Lucy uses is to remember how she obtained through previous tough moments or races.
11. Carbs are essential
‘One of the particular biggest mistakes I’ve made [in the past] is definitely doing training sessions without carbs. I has been breaking our body down. The change I’ve made is now it doesn’t matter exactly how easy the workout is, I am just having carbohydrates. Using the volume of coaching I’m performing, I need it. ’
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Follow Yanar on @yanarfitness
Follow Lucy on @lucycharles