A Q&A with our client, Will Tennent, the Triathlon Ironman

In this blog series, we interview our clients to learn about their inspirational stories. This reminds us why we love helping Londoners recover and optimise their fitness.

Recently, we caught up with our client, Will Tennent, an avid endurance sports enthusiast, who is competing in the upcoming 2019 Ironman World Championship in Hawaii.

An Ironman Triathlon is one of the hardest one-day endurance race in the entire world. Covering a staggering 140 miles from start to finish, it is comprised of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride and a marathon 26.22-mile run

We asked Will a few questions to learn more about why he has a passion for endurance sports, how he trains, how physio enables him to pursue his goals, and what advice he’d give to any aspiring triathlon competitors. We will wish Will all the best in Hawaii!

When did you do your first triathlon? And what motivated you to sign up for it?

I did my first triathlon back in high school. Whilst I played team sports at school, I never really excelled as co-ordination was never my strong point. One day, a big triathlon race came to town. So as a personal challenge I decided to sign up, and have never looked back.

Which leg of a triathlon is your strongest and weakest, and why?

I got into triathlons through cycling, so for years this was where I could make up time.

In recent years though, I have focussed more on running. I not only added more training time, but have become more efficient with this time, mixing up slow recovery runs with faster tempo sessions, and group track nights. I have seen big gains from this, and now perform strongest on the run.

My weakest leg has always been the swim, where technique makes the biggest difference. In the last few years, both my swimming strength and technique have improved, and I’ve got to a point where I am happy with my swim.

I could get faster by putting in additional hours, but with maximum input I could maybe only see maybe 5 mins improvement (over a 9-10 hour race). Having a full time job means there’s only a certain amount of hours in a day I can train, so I have to use these hours as effectively as I can across the three sports.

Are there times when you think “Why the hell am I doing this?!”

100%!

It is a big commitment, which at times means sacrificing seeing friends and going out having fun.

I enjoy a lot of the training; I like being outside, exercising, being fit and active. When it is the 3rd training session of the day though, I’m tired, it’s raining, and I really don’t want to be out running, I just have to if I want to perform.

But the sacrifice is all worth it when I’m racing, seeing my training pay off, and crossing the finish line beaming ear to ear!

Preparation is obviously a key part of success. What is your training regime?

The training regime is not for one that favours their free time, as usually I clock up around 22 hours of training a week.

Mid-week I do a couple of swim squads, track running, a short and middle distance run, then a short and middle distance bike.

At the weekend I clock up the long miles, with a long swim in a nearby lake, short bike (around 40 miles) followed by my long run (up to about 23miles) on Saturday, with a long bike (up to 125miles) followed by a short run on Sunday. I always take Friday off (freedom!), and at the advice of Mike have started putting Pilates into my week too.

One of the most important aspect of preparation is sleep> If I don’t get enough, I don’t recover so can’t perform the next day, so I make sure I get 8 hours a night.

How has physio helped with your training?

It has saved me! My body would be a bit of a wreck without Mike, but even more so, my head space wouldn’t be the same without him.

I met Mike earlier this year when I was training for a marathon. I hadn’t done any running for a while, and stupidly went from zero to maximum mileage in the space of a week, and my ankle said no!

I thought I wouldn’t be able to do the race, but speaking with Mike, and having him (rather painfully) work into my calves, I slowly built my training up. When my ankle would become painful again, together we would decide to trim back my training, and take it on a week by week case.

At times I wanted to cancel my race, but Mike gave me the confidence that it would get better, that my training will start paying off, and I could perform. I ended up getting a personal best, and qualifying into the London Marathon, among some other races for next year.

Doing the volume of training that I do, issues are bound to happen. Having someone to firstly work into the issues is key, but chatting through the issue, learning it isn’t the end of the world, I can still train, and just alter some details; this is the main benefit for me.

With help from Mike, at the race starting line I’m confident my body is healthy, and I have put in all I can to perform on the day

Many people only think about the physical aspect of competing in an extreme event, but don’t take into account the mental part. Which is the more difficult aspect of preparing for the competition, the physical or the mental? Or are they equal in difficulty?

Both of them work closely together.

At the start line, the aim is to be in the best physical shape of my life. To do this, I have to push my body during training. A lot of the time though, I simply can’t be bothered. Take last night; I was at an event with friends. They kicked on drinking, but I had to go home and do an hour and a half on the spin bike. Whilst physically this pushed me, it was much more a mental battle to even start.

During a race it is similar. My body is essentially screaming to stop or slow down, but you just have to push through, find comfort in this pain, have confidence that you can hold the pace and make it to the finish. Without the mental strength, regardless of fitness, you won’t perform.

What’s your advice for someone just starting out with triathlons?

The first step is finding a race and signing up. I always like to have something on the calendar, it gives me something to be held accountable to so I get out there and do the training.

Whilst racing can seem daunting, it is always an amazing atmosphere, there will always a number of first timers, and everyone is out there on the same course equally deserving that medal. I do have a nice bike, but the reality is you don’t need one. Go out on whatever you have, see if you like it (I’m sure you will), and have fun. This isn’t my job, it’s a hobby, and I enjoy it. If you aren’t having a laugh, crossing the line being proud of your achievement, what is the point?