Performance strategies from Ironman World Champion Chrissie Wellington

Performance strategies from Ironman World Champion Chrissie Wellington

We’re absolutely thrilled to welcome multiple Ironman World Champion Chrissie Wellington to the 33Fuel podcast. Chrissie needs little introduction – the way she utterly dominated the long-distance triathlon scheme makes her one of the world’s greatest. Hear her thoughts on being a role model, working with coaches and retirement and learn how she fuelled her training and racing. Finally, hear her top performance advice for anyone wanting to reach their best self, in life and sport

Listen to Chrissie Wellington on the 33Fuel Podcast

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Chrissie Wellington podcast - on being a role model

I think we often look at sports people - and people from all walks of life – and see them as role models. And we sometimes put them on a pedestal. By the term role model, we think they’re infallible and invincible. I’d like to be considered a role model but for people to realise that I am not perfect and that I’m vulnerable, make mistakes and have had to overcome adversity.

So, I really appreciate that people consider me a role model, but I hope that they also realise that they too can achieve success in whatever sphere they want to, and that also everyone can do incredible things. I’m not special in that regard.”

Chrissie Wellington podcast - on working with a coach

I’ve always been fiercely independent and found it really difficult to ask for help. I wanted to be resourceful and independent and take responsibility. But I realised that to be able to reach my potential I had to accept that there were areas of my performance I wasn’t an expert in.

While I was good at executing the swim, bike and run, I didn’t have the knowledge, understanding and information of all the other aspects of a sports person – whether that’s setting a plan, psychology, nutrition, physio and so on – so I had  to lean on experts in those fields. My coaches were such an important part of my team.

33fuel chrissie wellington podcast - the team

Chrissie has been an ambassador for 33Fuel since our very early days

As a professional athlete, I had two principle athletes and my victories are also theirs. I could not have achieved what I did without them. It’s not just that they set me a program that was suitable and adaptive to me, but all of the other support a coach provides as a mentor, a council, a shoulder to cry on and as a motivational force.”

Chrissie Wellington podcast - on that “perfect race” in 2011

A ‘perfect race’ isn’t necessarily a race that goes perfectly! If we look at an Ironman as a microcosm of life, not everything goes perfectly. You have highs and lows and you need to embrace and endure both. A race is no different - I expected and embraced the highs and lows.

The perfect race is one where you overcome all the imperfections perfectly. I felt I did that in 2011. I had a crash 2 weeks before and went into the race physically compromised but also riddled with self-doubt. That race in my mind completed me because it was the race where I finally felt that I was worthy of being a champion. I felt physically and mentally annihilated at the end, and it’s the race where I had to battle my competitors that I’d always craved. The beauty was in the difficulty and in the fact, I achieved more than I thought I could.”

Chrissie Wellington podcast - on transitioning into retirement

Change is hard. We’ve all experienced it this year and we’ve all had to adapt from one way of life to another. They’re all difficult, challenging processes. Transitioning away from professional sport isn’t easy. I was able to take control of that decision and for that I’m really happy and grateful.

33fuel chrissie wellington - a true champion

Chrissie is a true champion

I decided to leave on my own terms rather than it being decided for me, so I felt empowered by that. I found the process of moving away from the sport incredibly hard – you lose your structure, your goal, your routine, your sense of identify and the validation that comes intrinsically and extrinsically.

However, the easiest thing for me to do would have been to continue as an athlete. That was my comfort zone. But you don’t grow if you stick with what you’re good at. The most challenging thing for me to do was to leave and carve a life outside of the sport. The question isn’t ‘if’ but ‘when’ and I wanted to embrace it and find out who I was outside of being a 4X Ironman World Champion.

Chrissie Wellington podcast – on defining success

What is success? Is it winning a race, or is it having a really strong relationship wit ha partner, or seeing our daughter laugh with happiness? Is it achieving something in my career? Is it achieving balance? Is it getting 8 hours sleep? I’m slowly working out what success is for me, because previously it was winning a race. I’m trying to see success through a slightly different lens rather than always see it through satisfying my competitive streak and position in a race. Success and happiness aren’t one and the same. What’s important to me right now is the pursuit of happiness.”

Chrissie Wellington podcast – on nutrition during training and racing

My nutritional strategy throughout my career wasn’t a static strategy. It evolved. It was very much focused on performance at that time. So, if I reflect back, I was all about ‘what can I take to maximise performance in training and racing’ rather than necessarily thinking about long term consequences of consumption of various products.

Having worked with you guys [33Fuel] I’m becoming increasingly aware of both the short and long term impacts of some of the products I relied upon in racing. I don’t regret it, but I don’t think I was taking a long-term view when consuming those products.

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Chrissie and 33Fuel's ethos around the power of whole, natural foods is perfectly aligned

I now want to fuel for performance but also holistic health, because the two are so inextricably linked.”

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Chrissie Wellington podcast – on visualisation

Visualisation is incredibly powerful because I think positivity is incredibly powerful. So as the evidence around nutrition expands and grows, so too does it around the mind-body connection.

Especially in a sport like triathlon, a large part of the challenge psychological so having the tools, weapons and strategies to endure is crucial. These strategies enable our mind to be able to override some of the sensations that our physical bodies are telling us.

As well as visualising positive outcomes, I visualised thing that might go wrong too. That way I had a positive psychological strategy for dealing with them. I’ve already been through the process in my mind so I can be confident I know how to deal with it in the eventuality something does go wrong.”

Chrissie Wellington podcast – top tips to reach your potential

“Don’t focus on the outcome. Focus on the process. Focus on executing every step of the process the best you can. Of course, that process needs to be developed with the process in mind but focus on executing each and every minute of each and every day as best you can.

Surround yourself with those that can support you on your journey and don’t be afraid to lean on them.

33fuel chrissie wellington - finish line photos

Embrace rest and recovery a spart of training rather than as something that – as I did! – is tantamount to weakness. Rest your body and mind. That includes getting your nutrition, sleep and massage as right as possible.

Don’t adopt a ‘performance at all costs’ mentality. Don’t sacrifice everything at the altar of performance and neglect every other aspect of your health – whether that your relationships, your hormonal health, your career or any other aspect of life.

Most importantly, enjoy it! Enjoy the journey.”

Chrissie Wellington podcast – on ultrarunning

“I was attracted by the challenge. I needed something to focus on that was different, new and that I didn’t know if I’d be successful at. Ultrarunning was a new and exciting challenge for me and I thoroughly enjoyed the races I’ve done. They’re much more like journeys than races.

Chrissie Wellington podcast – on her work at parkrun

“I came onboard in 2013 to set up junior parkrun, a series of 2km events for 4 – 14 year olds. I am now the global head of health and wellbeing, so I develop interventions to engage those that are less active in our 2,000+ events across 22 countries around the world in which parkrun operates.

I thoroughly enjoy my job. It’s gratifying and I feel so lucky to work with a super team and for a phenomenal organisation.”

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