Chrissie Wellington talks about her four training principles - Women's Running

Chrissie Wellington talks about her four training principles

Author: Women's Running Magazine

Read Time:   |  March 24, 2015


Four-time World Ironman Champion and World Record Holder Chrissie Wellington is one inspiring lady. Winning the gruelling World Championship event, which consists of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile cycle and 26.2-mile run, over three consecutive years, Chrissie Wellington’s unrivalled talent and incredible endurance levels are astonishing. As is her sense of drive. Her discipline and dedication is reflected in her successes before turning professional. A high achiever, Chrissie got her MA in international development, travelled the world and worked as a government adviser.

But whilst a total superwoman in all aspects of her life, Chrissie Wellington couldn’t be more down to earth. Having experienced juggling a 25-hour week training schedule with a full-time job, whilst training for the World Age Group Championships as an amateur athlete, Chrissie’s attitude towards endurance training couldn’t be more pragmatic.

Talking to Tim Heming in a Q & A about endurance training in light of her experiences as former World Ironman Champion, Chrissie spoke about the importance of setting realistic goals in the context of your life. She also talked about some of her key training principles: quality over quantity, natural nutrition and the importance of rest and recovery.


Quality over quantity and getting rid of the ‘junk’ miles

It’s surprising that a former World Champion in the ironman would be so steadfast on the futility of racking up the miles in training but for Chrissie, training is about quality not quantity.

‘There is this a common misconception in our sport that in order to do triathlon, one needs to have x amount of hours logged in a log book,’ she says. ‘We can’t all go from doing nothing into high quality intense training work….but once you have that [endurance base] there is no point in banging out miles and miles and hours and hours of work, it’s junk, absolute junk.’

Talking about when she first took on Brett Sutton as coach, Chrissie explained that she wasn’t nearly doing the same volume as athletes like Belinda Granger or Hilary Biscay. Instead of high volume training, Chrissie focused on quality strength and interval work. ‘My strength, endurance and speed increased when I reduced the volume of training I was doing but increased the intensity,’ she explained.

Juggling endurance training with a busy lifestyle

Such a focus on quality over quantity is a training principle Chrissie advises amateur athletes stick to. She recommends making the most out of your free time when you have it, advising that a quality 40 minute interval session in your lunch hour could well be more beneficial than a two hour long run. ‘You do the best in the context of your life and that’s what people forget,’ she so reassuring explained. Chrissie added:

‘I was a professional athlete and I saw training in a totally holistic sense. I could train four to six hours a day; I had 18 hours a day to rest, 18 hours! I could take care of myself in the entirety and amateur athletes don’t have that luxury.

‘You have to fit triathlon in the context of your life rather than fitting your life into the context of triathlon. You have to look at your lifestyle, you have to look at when you’re working, what your family commitments are and slot in your must-have sessions into the available slot.’

The importance of rest days

One of Chrissie’s biggest learnings, she explained, was the importance of rest and letting your body recover. Talking about when she first took on Brett Scott as trainer and his battle to change her psychology towards rest, she said:

‘To have a rest day was like saying I’d failed. If someone said to me “have you run today” and I said “no” I felt like a complete failure.

‘He said to me: “You have to be able to rest your mind and you have to be able to rest your body.”‘

Chrissie told us that you have to see rest as part of training and not a luxury. ‘It’s absolutely fundamental,’ she said. ‘Training breaks your body, that’s what it does. You train to stress your body so unless you rest, your body can never rebuild and never recover.’

Natural nutrition

When Tim asked Chrissie what she understands by good nutrition she explained that her ‘sports nutrition strategy is [her] daily diet.’ For Chrissie, a good diet is a healthy, natural and wholesome one, with very few supplements added. On this she explained:

‘People think about sports nutrition and they think about energy drinks, gels and a few cardboard type bars. Your sports nutrition for your race day performance is what you eat every day. So my daily diet is wholesome, natural, close to the source foods as possible.

‘I eat what I call complex carbs. I eat quite a lot of quinoa, wild rice and not a lot of white stuff, which is essentially carbohydrates with the good stuff taken out.’

Chrissie eats a natural, well-balanced diet. Alongside complex carbohydrates, she eats lean meat, fish and poultry along with seeds, nuts, fresh fruit and vegetables. ‘As an athlete I supplemented that with what was better known as sports nutrition products’, she stated carefully. ‘People think that professional athletes are sucking on energy drinks and gels every day. We’re not. In a race I used energy drinks and I used gels but I used them so sparingly.’

‘I believe that one should stick mainly to whole foods and use sports nutrition sparingly,’ Chrissie concludes.

In light of Chrissie’s views on the importance of natural nutrition, Chrissie has teamed up with 33 Shake – a sports nutrition brand, offering 100% natural sports nutrition supplements. This Q&A was conducted by Tim Heming at the launch of 33 Shake’s new Chia Energy Gels.

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