The juggle (and real life struggle) of a working triathlete mum

Wow. It is hard to look back and believe how much my life, work and training has changed in the past 2.5years. Rewind to December 2016 (yes that seems AGES ago!) and I was standing on the podium of a Half Ironman. Then, just a few short months later I learnt I was expecting my first child. For someone who has always been very personally driven, fiercely independent, loved the flexibility to train as long as I liked, work as much as needed and sleep in whenever I chose to, I knew this was going to be a big adjustment. And adjustment it was! You can read about how I first managed this here.

Press the fast forward button and all of a sudden I have 2 children under two, I am now married (yes we managed to do this between #1 and #2), am also running my own coaching business, AND back into training myself. Phew, even I feel exhausted just writing that!

‘Ohhh 2 children under 2 – you will have your hands full!’ so many people would say to me when they found out about #2. And yep, they were right. But for me, it feels like just the right amount of full – you get very handy at wrangling a toddler in one arm, while carrying a newborn in the other. ūüėČ

BUT – what does ‘life’ REALLY look like? It’s easy to share a glimpse of it on social media – the cute pics and vids of kids doing gorgeous and hilarious things, the snapshots that we choose to share, but as we all know, social media only shows a very small portion of what our day to day lives REALLY look like. Not the nitty gritty, the juggling act, the broken sleep, the tag teaming, or the days of exhaustion but at the same time the sense of accomplishment. You soon learn where your best windows are for working, training, resting and sleeping, and get good at having patience in getting out the door, in taking each day as it comes, and knowing that your well laid out plans may just go out the window. But that you wouldn’t change it for the world. ūüôā

So this is what I wanted to share – more than just the snapshots and cute pictures,. Not to say ‘go me’, but more to say – go mums! I didn’t know many young triathlete mums before I was one myself, apart from a select few, it was like mums took a good 3-5years away from triathlon as they raised a young family, and it wasn’t until say kindergarten or school age that they thought about returning to the sport.

So now being a triathlete and a working mum myself, I have other mothers asking me how I fit everything in, how I manage to have the motivation to get up and train, to head out the door on less than optimal sleep. And even WHY?! Some people seem in awe, others look on questioning… But I wanted to share the journey to show that yeah – it is tough, and it does require a lot of juggling, but if you want it to work, you CAN make it work.

My first ride back:

My first ride back on the road post #2 (Edie) was certainly a mission to say the least. Long gone are the days of simply setting the alarm and waking when it goes off, it now requires military precision. As they say ‘where there’s a will there’s a way!‘ Soooo. To get myself out the door for my first road ride 2 months post-partum, this is what it took:

10pm last night feed + express extra milk for the morning ūü•õ¬†
10:40pm in bed asleep
3.30am bubs wakes for a feed
4.15am back into bed
5.30am alarm goes off, get myself dressed/ready
5.45am express extra milk for hubby
6.15am wake up bubs for a quick feed 
6.30am bike in the car and drive to meet others
6.55am finally on the bike! ūüėĀūüôĆūüŹĽ (and it rained on us mind you, but I did not care one bit!)

So despite having broken sleep, despite having to get up in the middle of the night to feed, despite the logistics of having to express – all this just to get out on the road, I still view this as totally worth it! And worth it is was! Especially after being ‘confined’ to an indoor trainer for the past ~6months leading into her birth and recovering post.

SO – if you feel it’s worth it, then know that it IS possible. It may not be easy, and you may spend more time prepping than actually training, but if you have a goal, if it’s something you really want to do – for you! then do it – only you can put a value on what it means to you. What kept me going in the early days was reminding myself that it won’t always be like this, it won’t always be so time consuming. And it’s not. It does get easier.

As bubs grows and settle into their routines, you will claw back some of your time (and sleep!) and heading out the door wont feel like as much as a mission as it is in the beginning – you get better at the juggling act!

What my work / life / family dynamic looks like

What ones family dynamics looks like plays a BIG part in how you will manage your work, training (and sanity!) ūüėČ And keep in mind that everyone’s child/children are different. And each individual child of yours may also be different too. I can already see differences in my little ones already. They both have similar relaxed natures, my eldest inquisitive, yet slightly cautious, adventurous, but mostly knows his boundaries, he doesn’t like things out of place, has little patience, but at the same time is a determined little soul with the biggest sweetest and kindest heart and LOVES being outdoors. My youngest is already showing signs of being chilled and observant, patient and relaxed, and luckily for me (us) they were (are) both very good sleepers from the onset. Once they grew past the ‘newborn’ stage ~around 4mths, they learnt to (mostly) sleep through the night. So apart from developmental stages/ages where everything (literally!) goes out the window, I honestly couldn’t ask for better little people to fill our spaces. ūüôā

BUT – if this is not you, know I hear you and I feel you. I know what sleep deprivation looks and feels like – we all go through it in the early stages, BUT turning that into months (and for some years!) is tough for anyone to manage and work around, so know your means and know your boundaries based on your own circumstances. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself if you / your bubs and your family are just not quite there yet.

Everyone’s personal situations will also be different. In our household, hubby works full time, I work part time from home and at the same time we are also both athletes training for our own individual sports and our own individual goals. I have my youngest Edie at home with me full time while working around her, and our little man Mills spends 2 days in day care and a day with his Pa. This gives me just enough relief to knuckle down with work while Edie is content or asleep.

But it is the training front that is actually the biggest juggle. Someone commented to me one day – ‘oh it must be easy being able to work from home and train when you want‘. Ummmm, no! (just a tip, never say to a working mum it must be easy, no matter the context – you will loose every time!) ūüėČ

Early in the piece when bubs are newborns they sleep. alot. But they also feed. alot. Each of you are finding your feet and what routine works for you and your fam. When they sleep, you want to rest, or do the washing, or prep dinner….. It’s not like you have instant or infinite time to smack out a training session. Far from it. How many times I have thought – awesome, I’ve got an hour window to jump on the trainer while she’s asleep – and 15min into the session she wakes! But instead of getting frustrated, you just work around it. Sometimes your little ones need you more than other times. Just like work sometimes needs or asks more of you and you have to shift in that direction. I see motherhood as the same. It is and will be forever evolving, and will additionally change if you have outside help, if you are breast feeding, if you are working… there are so many variables.

So I just wanted to share that insight so you got a bit of a gauge of what our family dynamics looked like first – as mothers we are the first to compare ourselves to others. I didn’t write this for others to compare to, or to feel they have to strive for, but simply to document and share while hopefully allowing other (tri) athlete mums know that it is possible to raise a young family, to be a working mum while also training for triathlons (or what ever sport / activity / fitness you choose!) That yes – it is possible to put yourself first during times of the day / week and that you don’t have to feel guilty about that at all.

My working / training week

It’s certainly not perfect, and some days I can train more than others, and others I don’t get in what I had planned, but as a whole, we seem to have a pretty good balance and understanding of each others needs and what it takes to get everything done, while maintaining a happy family life. ūüôā

A few people have asked whether I’m following a program. Apart from squad swimming where I have been joining Jamie Edwards and his crew from JET Coaching, no. I’m not following a program, and I train mainly solo. I have an idea in my head of what I want to achieve in a particular session / certain week, but I am flexible with it. This could mean that I may have a hill rep run planned but if my body is asking for a longer slower endurance run, then I’ll give it that. But I follow my own general coaching principles, methods and planning in my training. I’ve also been using myself as a bit of a guinea pig. I’ll test out a particular swim, bike and/or run set to see what it feels like, and use it with some of my athletes that I feel it can work for. So if you follow me on strava…. ūüėČ

6 months post partum now, and for the last couple of months, this is what my ‘regular’ week can look like:

Monday’s and Wednesday mornings are my swim mornings – so swimming twice a week. These are probably the biggest challenges to get to at the moment. It means an early wake up to feed little miss, before I then get changed and head out the door to swim squad. Get on pool deck and do some mobility and activation work, before jumping in and then getting out to rush home to swap with hubby so he can get ready to head to work.
Should I be including an extra swim in- sure, I should/could/would, but right now, I find the balance of 2 swims enough, especially when sometimes two swims turns into only 1 swim for what ever reason. So two swims it is, and I’m just being realistic about my race goals around the swim based on how my swim progresses around this. But at the moment, after a few months back in the pool I’m just starting to feel swim fit again. Whoop!

Monday’s I will also try to include a strength and conditioning set at home during the day – mainly focused around functional movement, core stability etc, not heavy lifting, along with a walk to get the kids outside. And Wednesdays I attend a clinical pilates session after swimming. This has been fantastic returning post birth, but also a great way to learn how your body moves, it’s imbalances and working on correcting these. I highly recommend if you can fit into your training / week ! (Note this is FAR different to your standard group pilates classes)

Tuesdays have generally been brick days for me, a good way to get bang for your buck. Generally this will be in the afternoon when little miss is (hopefully) sleeping and I’ll time it for when hubby gets home to run off the bike OR I’ll run with her and the pram. ūüôā So a high intensity or strength based bike session, into an easy run off the bike. I might also include another short easy run first thing in the morning when hubby gets home from his ride and before he has to then head to work – if time / our schedules allow.

Thursdays for me have now moved into a double run day to up my run volume, but will shift back to a brick session day or separate bike and run sessions as the triathlon season comes closer. For me, I don’t run well in the mornings, I wake up stiff through my back so I find doing any quality of running in the morning tough. (Plus the winter mojo to run in the AM is severely lacking!) ūüėČ So instead, for these days I do an easy run loosener in the morning after hubby gets back from his morning ride, just running to feel, and then in the evening throwing in some quality such as hill strength/repeats or fartlek type session. (note this is generally my ONLY evening session) I’m not doing any speed / high intensity work in my runs at the moment, the volume seems to be working well and paces just gradually increasing based on my fitness gains from these, so I’m happy with my run progress after a slow and sluggish first few months. Patience here was definitely key!

Fridays I reserve as a ‘free’ day, or day of choice. If I feel like doing nothing, I don’t. If I feel like an easy spin, or a long walk, or some additional strength, I’ll do that. But I find it’s been great having a totally open day to do whatever I feel or whatever the day brings. Not to mention a sleep in! ūüėČ

Weekends are where the juggle continues, with both myself and hubby working out plans on who’s riding when and where and with whom. It’s a compromise. And sucks if there is a day on the weekend when it’s terrible riding weather as it means one of us is spending time on the trainer! Given I do trainer work during the week, by the weekend I’m hanging to get on the road, so I can’t wait for more warmer and lighter days to come! So Saturdays I have generally been doing my long ride, and Sunday afternoons my long run. Long rides around ~2.5-3.5hours with slowly building run volume off the bike, and long runs now getting up around 1:15min. And each week just gradually building on the last and pulling back when I need the recovery.

When I’m training, I ensure I’m fully present. I’m focused, determined and driven to do that little bit better than last week. As you have now gathered, being a working triathlete and a mum, with a hubby who also trains, it really is a juggling act and you have to make the most of the time allowance you have. This often can mean he comes in from a session and I’m heading out for mine. A quick update on the kids as we pass each other. Some may wonder why we would choose to do this rather than just spending all our time with our little ones while they are so young, and all I can say is that we do it because we love it. It not only makes us feel good staying healthy and having goals to chase, we don’t think having kids should stop that. PLUS we can already see the influence this has on our eldest. He jumps on his bike inside all the time, he shows how he cleans it, will want to put his helmet on, even wants to put his water bottle on his bike – just to be like mum and dad. He hops on the floor and tries to do push ups, he ‘play’s with my roller, does squats and simply just loves being active with us. Children observe and learn so much, and without even teaching him, he’s understanding that being active is simply a part of life. And that there, makes my heart sing to know and see that – so why wouldn’t we want to train and chase after our our own goals?! Knowing that those traits are being learnt by the little people around us… ūüôā

Things I have learnt being a working triathlete mum:

  1. Respect & appreciate your body,
    You are not just relying on your body for your sport, your baby/ child/ children/ family is also relying on you. So if ever there was a time to listen to your body, and do whats right for you and your family – then its now. Don’t ignore any signs.
  2. Being healthy is paramount,
    Above all else, it is imperative to stay strong and healthy. I don’t believe any goal should override this and especially not when you are supporting a young bubs. So don’t cut corners on your health.
  3. Consult / work with a professional,
    Make sure you get the all clear from a womens health professional/specialist. Even though you may want to get back running asap, sometimes it may be advised against it based on your personal recovery. So listen to the professionals. They are there for you, so if it means walking for another couple of weeks. Then do it – there is plenty of time to get back to running! ūüôā
  4. Communication is king
    You need to have good communication. With your partner, with your coach / support team, with family… Whoever is on your ‘team’. Communicate frequently and communicate well.
  5. Start sloooowwwwllly,
    Slower than you thought was even possible. And above all else, listen to the advice from professionals.
  6. Have patience,
    For me it was 3 months of what felt like slow, heavy, awkward running before I even felt like I was running and not just plodding along. It took 3 months back in the pool after 2 years out of it to actually start to ‘feel’ the water again. It’s about having the patience to stick at it even though it’s hard and having the persistence (read stubbornness) to want to improve and be better than you were yesterday.
  7. Sleep is key – get it when you can,
    I feel very blessed. Both children learnt to sleep through the night quite early on. So from around 4mths they mostly slept through, this makes a MASSIVE difference. So if you have children that need you more at night time, keep in mind how this can impact your recovery and how your next sessions may feel. And if it means having a nap – or even just a lie down, during the day, then take it. You don’t have to be on the go all day every day. Give yourself permission to rest and recuperate – netflix is great for this just saying! ūüėČ
  8. Don’t underestimate the toll breastfeeding takes on your body. Fuel for your bubs but also fuel for your training. And if you are unsure, seek further guidance. It can be a balancing act – especially around breastfeeding.
  9. You CAN find a way to make it happen,
    If you want to do something, or have a goal that means something to you, then you will find a way to make it happen. I won’t say it will be easy, because its not, but there can always be a way. You just have to be willing.
  10. Just as with anything in life, you learn,
    You learn to be able to carry two squirming children at once. You learn how much is too much. You learn what your body is telling you…. And you will be forever learning – and I actually love that. ūüôā So don’t be so stuck and rigid (in your often old ways) that you loose the ability to learn.
  11. Don’t feel you have to be super(hu)mum!
    There’s the saying – you can do anything, but not everything. And this is so true! If the washing has to pile up for a couple of days, then so be it. If you have to get take out one night because you didn’t have time to go to the grocery store, it’s not the end of the world! You don’t have to be on top of everything all of the time. And that’s ok!
  12. Online shopping will be your savour!
    Speaking of grocery shopping, I can’t believe I never shopped online before children. What a time saver! If you don’t already, I highly recommend you start. I now shop for my ‘staples’ online, and then just walk to our local grocer / butcher / fish monger for fresh food with the kids in tow once a week. SO much easier! Plus I find saves money by planning ahead and not getting sucked into any unnecessary purchases.
  13. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
    If you have to miss a session because you are too tired as bubs was up more than normal the previous night, then do it, but don’t feel guilty about it. If you need to cut a session short as it’s all you had time for, then by all means cut it and again, don’t feel guilty.
  14. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself,
    Set a goal, but be flexible with it. Check in every couple of months to see how you are doing / progressing. Change things up if needed. But at the same time, know that you don’t have to be 100% fit or 100% ‘ready’ for a race to be able to do one. View your first race back as your first ever race! The excitement of simply being back out racing, no pressure and simply picture that finishing line with your little one waiting there for you, that will be your biggest achievement, not the time on the clock. ūüôā
  15. Be flexible,
    Some days / weeks you will feel like you are nailing it all, and others you will feel like you are just keeping your head above water. During these times you need to be flexible. Drop or switch out a session if you need to catch back up on sleep or simply to reset at home. We have a lot more variables in our lives now, that you need to be flexible, otherwise you will get to a point and you will feel like you are failing and not doing anything well.
  16. Don’t compare yourself to ‘pre-baby/ies’
    It can be easy to look back and think ‘I used to be able to do this’ or ‘I used to look like this’… but it serves no purpose. All you want to do is compare yourself today from yesterday. Not 3 years ago. Your life is vastly different now. There’s a new line in the sand. You have permission to set a new bench mark. Of course have goals, but know they don’t have to be compared to ‘before’ children.
  17. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
    As women – this can often be the hardest thing to do. And I find myself guilty of it too. We feel like we ‘should’ be able to do it all. And if we can’t we are failing (there’s that word again!) So reach out. You will be surprised how many people are willing to help if you just ask. And if someone asks – say yes!
  18. I never said it would be easy….
    It WILL be tough at times. There will be times you will feel like crying. There will be times you feel your partner doesn’t understand. There will be times when you feel in over your head. And that’s ok. Humans are emotional beings and feelings are what makes us human. So feel the emotions, acknowledge them, and then work with those around you to keep moving forward.

It’s a juggle – and at times often a struggle, I can’t deny that. Made even more challenging when your hubby is an athlete too, which means competing for training times and juggling these around children, work, daycare drop off and pick ups, feeding times, sleeping times and not to forget adult time!

But when my eldest yells with glee ‘mummy’s riding her bike!’, and waves with a big smile on his face as I head out the door, it truly melts my heart. It reminds me I’m not just doing this for me. But I’m doing this for them. Showing our two little ones that exercise is fun, and in our household, it is a part of who we are and what we do and with that, I can sleep well at night knowing that the example we are setting for the two most important humans in our lives is one we can be proud of. ūüôā

Sarah xx

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Sarah is the Director & Head Coach at Complete Per4mance Coaching. Sarah qualified for the Ironman World Champs in her first Ironman attempt at Ironman Melbourne 2013 (also achieving a podium place in the same race), going on to compete in Kona that same year. Sarah shares her 10 years of coaching and racing experience, knowledge and education with athletes of all levels to help them achieve their optimal performance while maintaining a balanced, happy and healthy life.

Contact Sarah to discuss training options for you.

IN FOCUS: Ironman Cairns

CPC: Firstly congratulations, Caroline Houston YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!! How does it feel? 

Coming down that chute I was so stoked ‚Äď I forgot to do anything coming over the line, so no special pics there !

I am happy with how I stuck to what I needed to do to prepare, which I don’t think was very sociable sometimes, and gave me some hard decisions, but it really gave me confidence (once I got out there) that I was fully prepared. But I seriously did not believe that until I was on the course, prior to that I was sick with worry (and still not very sociable!)
CPC: It’s a tough game this Ironman business that’s for sure and can bring out deep rooted insecurities and fears. But… for now, let‚Äôs take a few steps back, you started your coaching / training with CPC mid 2018 ahead of your preparation for the Standard Distance worlds. You were really looking forward to the experience, but unfortunately race day you had an unfortunate accident and crashed ‚Äď but even that couldn‚Äôt stop you finishing! It did however stop you in your tracks for your attempt at Busselton 2019 with a shoulder injury. Talk us through that.

Yes, I was happy to finally be on a supported track as I had wafted around trying to do a ‚Äėself program‚Äô & was getting very dissatisfied with lack of progress/direction.

Worlds:  lesson here,
1) this was the only corner I didn’t recon thoroughly prior to racing,
2) plus, I went into it too hard as I was trying to make up ground, braked hard (right hand corner & I am worse that side) & the wheel went from underneath me. I knew I had done damage ‚Äď I got up & yelled at this guy not to touch me (otherwise I would be disqualified) & he said he was an official, so it was OK but as I could move my arm I figured nothing broken and I should just finish. From here, I then worked out I had no lower gears, only big chain ring and I was a bit concerned with a short sharp hill on 2nd lap, also, being on the drops was a bit painful. Then both running in with the bike and the pull on my shoulder was painful on the run, I was always going to finish (this is the Worlds!) , just maybe not in good shape.

CPC: so post race you actually had to have shoulder surgery, spent approx. 8 weeks off training (incl. 4 weeks in a sling) and 14 weeks out of the pool, but worked diligently on your rehab. How hard was it though coming back to full health after your surgery? How did your coach and physio / medical team help you work through that process?

This phase was a very controlled & prescribed section. I was on the bike (WT & Indoor classes) as early as possible (in a sling) as I figured I could monopolise on that period to build up my bike strength. Injuries can be an opportunity!

Honestly, my physio & coach worked hand in hand to both strengthen & control me through this phase (which was quite long). One thing I found was, I needed to communicate avidly ¬†to both of those experts in order to get the best outcome. No comment from me ‚Äď no comment from them , because there were no details ‚Äď absolutely, categorically, tell them the smallest changes / concerns (eg. something going on in this calf ‚Äď which turns out to be a stress on the perineal, easily fixed by some rehab) So having a team around ou is super important and helped me get to the start line of my Ironman that’s for you – I could not have done it without them.

CPC: when did it get to that moment in your training when you thought ‚Äėyes I can really do this‚Äô! (Ironman) ?¬†

CAROLINE: I am forever mindful that it’s a huge ask of the body, and, there are so many things that can get in the way/go wrong. When I reached the taper period I added up the training & prep and thought I should be able to do this, and the confidence in my preparation grew, so I was OK to put myself out there, but I think it was only when I was out on the course & gauging how I was feeling, that I actually finally allowed myself to truly believe. 

CPC: Once you landed in Cairns / Port Douglas and checked out the course, what went through your mind? And how did you manage any self doubt that started to creep in on race week?

CAROLINE: Hah ! Thanks to Geoff for getting me in the water at Palm Cove at least 3 times. The more we went in the water, the more comfortable I felt, but I was mindful that I am not strong in the water and if these were race day conditions, I was not likely to make the cutoff and was not sure how I would manage that heartbreak. But for me, it was about being as prepared as possible to help allieviate those doubts, and that included putting myself in situations and exposing myself to conditions I didn’t feel super comfortable about, because you can get anything come race day.

CPC: Despite that, conditions on race day turned out not too bad, soooo, talk us through your race? We want to know how it unfolded! How were the nerves on race morning? What did you find the toughest? How did you keep focused? 

I knew I would be almost unable to talk on race morning & we had made the decision to take the buses so I was not having an apoplexy about being late ‚Äď good move. Checked the bike, heard the usual explosion of a tyre in transition and glad it wasn‚Äôt me ! Frantically looked for Sharon starting in the 70.3 and off she went effortlessly into the froth.

Swim: I had been nervous all week and on the morning, luckily for me the water was calmer. So, I figured I had a chance. I was with my friend Michelle (7 time Ironwoman) going into the water, and she was boldly pushing us forward. Once out there, I think I could even see her in the water near me ‚Äď good news, I was not completely at the back!¬† Reaching the yellow buoy I knew this was about ¬ľ of the way but couldn‚Äôt see Michelle & figured she was way ahead, it didn‚Äôt feel as strong a current against us as it had on the leadup days, but I was getting nowhere fast. So much so, I checked my watch at the 2nd pink buoy (hoping it was 50 mins, but it was actually more like 60 ). Trying not to feel deflated I plodded on hoping for a bit of current to bring me in. For a while there I looked around & figured that the circling rubber duckies meant that I was the last one out there, couldn‚Äôt see anyone either. I got into a bit of rhythm & thought maybe I would try breathing on the left as on my right it was very sunny plus into the chop. Turns out that was a bad move, I became a bit dizzy doing that, and went back to 1in4 on the right. Bit tricky spotting the last buoys as the swell seemed bigger in the last few hundred metres. BUT all in all, I got through for me – what is the toughest leg.

Bike: running (trotting) out of transition after my complete wardrobe change, I was hanging onto all the food I had in my back pockets ‚Äď reckon I could have fed a few of us ! (I watched a video of me getting on my bike ‚Äď it‚Äôs hilarious, it‚Äôs as if I am in slo-mo!)

I spent a lot of time thinking about Sarah‚Äôs advice to always be pedalling – make the most of the downhills, so we could hit that 27kph average. I was a bit nervous going hard down hills and concentrated to stay alert, and thanks to Geoff for painstaking going over every metre of the bike course (in the car) prior, to be as best prepared as possible ‚Äď pot holes, wind etc. The scenery was amazing, and, when you are ‚Äėup the back‚Äô there‚Äôs quite a bit of open road with not too many athletes so plenty of space to view.

I had slightly misjudged the last 30k‚Äôs by not having enough personal landmarks to help me ‚Äėclock‚Äô where I was, so the last part of the ride was a bit of a slog, especially as my expectations of times kept slipping past, and, by this time, me & the saddle were not friends. So I was happy to pass the bike onto volunteers and start to tackle the last leg.

Run: ¬†What a relief to get here with no mechanicals & in one piece !¬† I set out with a renewed energy but brought myself straight back to sticking to the plan and not going out too hard ‚Äď a long way to go yet. I was at first very deflated as the pace is very slow but I knew I had to do it to get there, also, some ‚Äėempty gut‚Äô issues were starting and I didn‚Äôt want to suffer from that again so started sucking on Clif Bloks as a way to get at least something in. I spent a lot of time thinking about the course and how many k‚Äôs I was at as I couldn‚Äôt really see my watch, and, I don‚Äôt think I had turned it on properly as it kept beeping at me. Once 1.5 laps in, I was a bit more settled and just stuck to the pace, sucked on a bit of water melon and the Blocks & it was starting to go OK, I just wanted to finish ! With 2k‚Äôs to go I decided to go as fast as I was capable of at that point & storm home. Stoked coming down the chute!¬† What a wave of emotions!

CPC: Hearing an athletes race story always gives me goosebumbs!  For most athletes doing their first Ironman (well technically your second after the shortened Busso in 2017), I try not to focus too much on the time outcome, but more the experience and having a consistent and well-rounded race. How do you feel you went in this regard? 

CAROLINE: I was certainly so much better prepared for this race than Busso, I had really put in the training, to achieve realistic goals. I was thinking about it when I was on the bike, I felt confident that I had the prep behind me for all disciplines.

CPC: and the bonus – you nailed the race and came away with not only a fantastic experience, but a race result that reflected all you hard work ‚Äď PLUS A PODIUM FINISH! Full results here

CPC: So  what would you say is a highlight (or highlights!) is/are from your Ironman experience? What will stay with you forever? 

My strength at the end ‚Äď I had energy left for the last 2 kms and I pushed hard to the finish & enjoyed the finishing chute experience ! It really was a little surreal, and awesome, and hard, and incredible all in one!

CPC: any wise words for other mature athletes thinking of taking on the goal of Ironman later in life? 

Don‚Äôt think of the end-game if you have a big goal in mind. Break it down, with your coach, and it is all achievable. Be patient and it is possible ūüėä

CPC: Wise words!
I always finish with this question…. so – what‚Äôs next for Caroline Houston? Would there be another Ironman on the cards one day?…. ūüėĀ

Oh wow ‚Äď right now, I feel like all the stars were aligned for me, I did the best I could do on the day, I had all the training under the belt, plus, the weather was good to us, so if I went in search of a better performance time wise I could be in for a tough challenge. ¬†Not sure I need to go there again, I need to sit back for a while, I might do shorter racing for the time being – I just don‚Äôt want to assume shorter = easier, because it is not!

CPC: anything else you would like to add / people to thank? 

Gosh, this was a team effort ! ¬†A huge thanks to this team ūüėä

Coach Sarah: honest & upfront, & able to gauge me as an individual to probe questions and help me through with a ‚Äėfitted‚Äô ¬†program

Hubby Geoff: for putting up with me hardly being around, being with me in the open water no matter how slow I was

Friend & training partner Sharon: constant encouragement, great friend & being that arse for me to chase (she’s a very good rider)

Friend & S&C Coach Kerryn: constant support, strength training & sounding board to unload to

Steve: physio from Lakeside Sports Medicine Centre, who helped me set my expectations, & used needles & painful massage to keep me on track. ūüôā

My employer, Mondelez: for being flexible with my hours

Fire up your training

You‚Äôve been training for a few years now,¬†results¬†happened¬†quickly,¬†improvements kept coming,¬†you felt¬†unstoppable, riding the high of your triathlon successes.¬†But¬†as quickly as the results came, you suddenly¬†feel like your improvements are slowly withering away and your shot at another PB seems like¬†a distant memory. You¬†keep training¬†but¬†your body¬†just doesn’t¬†seem to¬†respond like it used to. Paces seem to be faltering, or even slowing down, energy and motivation¬†wavering, race results¬†diminishing.¬†Does¬†this¬†sound¬†like you? Good news is ‚Ästyou¬†are¬†not¬†alone.¬†Most¬†athletes hit¬†a¬†plateau at some point in their training. We often see it in athletes after 2-3 years in the sport, but it can happen at any time.¬†So¬†with¬†some understanding, practical tips and know how ‚Äď you can smash¬†through¬†the plateau and be back on your way to your next PB in no time.¬†¬†

What is a training plateau? 
Firstly, to understand why you have hit a training plateau, we must understand what it is.  When you put your body under physical exertion or physical stress (training), it creates a multitude of physiological responses at a cellular level in your body. Once the body is stimulated by the stress (training) it then goes through a process of adaption to meet the demands of the stress. As adaption occurs, the body is then better equipped (adapted) to handle the training load and it therefore becomes easier (ie you become faster / stronger / more efficient).  

Training increases must then be applied to elicit further physiological responses in the body and to continue improvement. This can be done in a number or combination of ways including increases in frequency, duration and/or intensity. If not, or if you don’t allow the adaption process to occur (through over training or under recovering) then your body will undoubtably hit the dreaded training wall plateau.  

Hitting a training wall or plateau is a frustrating part of training¬†that most athletes will¬†unfortunately¬†experience at some point. The key is¬†recognising¬†it¬†and making changes so¬†you¬†don’t¬†find yourself¬†stuck there and¬†treading water¬†for too long.¬†So¬†if you are consistent with your training, but have stopped seeing the¬†results,¬†try¬†these¬†practical¬†and effective tips and training methods¬†to smash your way through that training wall plateau¬†and reap some serious results (and PB‚Äôs!) as a result.¬†¬†

1.¬†Don’t just train more
I put this first, as it’s often the ‘go to’ for athletes if they find themselves in a plateau. This can¬†often¬†be the worst thing you can do,¬†especially¬†if you have hit that wall due¬†to over training or¬†under recovering in the first place.¬†Overtraining generally leads to fatigue, injury and/or¬†underperforming, all that¬†go hand in¬†hand¬†with hitting a plateau.¬†So¬†if you find yourself in this situation, don’t immediately just train more.¬†Yes¬†it’s important to be disciplined and consistent with your training, but it’s also crucial that you pay attention and listen to your body.¬†If you have been training¬†consistently, then look at other signs and reasons as to why you have found yourself in a¬†plateau (read on).¬†More training doesn’t necessarily equate to better results.¬†¬†

2. Get the balance right
How much you train, and the type of training you do over time, along with the amount of recovery and/or the recovery methods¬†you¬†employ will all help ensure¬†your training¬†keeps¬†progressing. A¬†well-developed¬†training plan/program will incorporate frequency, intensity and duration to elicit a specific physiological response¬†at specific times in your training.¬†Training increases are needed¬†for a¬†progressive overload¬†but it is¬†the amount of overload applied to the body¬†that¬†is the key. Too much and you risk injury, illness and over training, not enough and you won’t get the physical response to improve.¬†To¬†continue to¬†see improvements, your training plan must stimulate the body at the¬†new fitness level. Adaption then takes place again¬†(the plateau)¬†and¬†so¬†the¬†process¬†then¬†continues. If you get to a point where you aren’t coming out of your plateau, then review the frequency, intensity and duration of your sessions to ensure a continued improvement.¬†Sometimes it¬†can mean¬†not¬†quite having the balance right or at the right times that sees you landing in a plateau for longer than planned.

3. Mix it up
One of the reasons¬†you¬†may have hit a plateau is¬†because¬†you are stuck in the same training routine.¬†That training routine may have worked well in the past, but it doesn’t¬†mean it is right for you now. Our bodies are very smart and extremely good at adapting to outside stress, so if you don’t mix things up, it can not¬†only¬†affect¬†your results, but it can also affect your motivation¬†too.¬†So¬†make sure you mix¬†things¬†up every now and then. It doesn’t¬†have to be¬†drastic, but¬†just by¬†changing up a block or period in our training such as¬†backing off your running and bumping up your riding can freshen up your run and boost your ride at the same time.¬†Or¬†if you are always prescribed an aerobic, high volume training¬†program, try adding some more intensity into your training. You may even want¬†to¬†try and¬†flip things around, start your build with some intensity, and then move back to aerobic and strength. Remember there is always more than one way to¬†achieve results.¬†So¬†don’t get stuck in your ways. Change it up and¬†then¬†monitor your results¬†to¬†ensure you are getting back on track.

4. Embrace recovery
If you are one of those athletes that fears taking a day off training, you are actually more susceptible to hitting the dreaded training wall plateau.
A body¬†grows and becomes stronger¬†and¬†faster AFTER it has adapted to¬†a training¬†stimuli.¬†So¬†the amount of rest and recovery you give your body is just as important as the training itself. Without sufficient recovery, over time your body won’t be able to¬†absorb the training load and make the¬†adaptations¬†to increase performance.
Think of this¬†process¬†like climbing¬†a¬†staircase. You can’t keep climbing¬†at the same rate and the same intensity forever. At some point you will need to stop and rest so you can¬†recharge and¬†keep going.¬†That’s what recovery days / sessions allow.¬†A chance¬†for your body¬†to recharge so you can then hit¬†your next sessions¬†stronger.¬†¬†So¬†if you are constantly fatigued, sore, or not hitting¬†your¬†target times or efforts in training,¬†there’s a good chance that you are simply not giving¬†your¬†body sufficient rest and recovery.¬†So¬†listen to your body and back it off a little if you need.¬†Try taking a day or two off to regain both your physical and mental strength.¬†You may just¬†be surprised with how taking¬†just¬†a few days off can actually help not hinder your training and performance.¬†So¬†don’t¬†fear recovery sessions or days. Embrace them.

5. Go hard on hard days, easy on easy days
Far too many athletes spend time in the ‘grey’ zone. Sitting in that middle ground of training. I understand it, it feels like you’ve had a good work out, but still got some left in the tank, it’s not¬†super¬†hard, but not easy¬†either.¬†But there lies¬†the problem.¬†Each type of session has a purpose¬†at specific times in¬†your training build. If you are always training in that ‘grey’ zone, you will miss the benefits of building a sounds aerobic base and therefore stunt your maximum aerobic¬†function¬†(your engine!),¬†and at the other end, you will never hit hard sessions hard enough to¬†effectively¬†improve your¬†VO2Max¬†‚Äď which is what every athlete should be¬†aiming for.¬†Plus¬†another down-side ‚Äď you are at an increased risk of¬†over training and/or under recovering.¬†¬†So¬†know and have a purpose for every session you¬†do. If the purpose is aerobic base development, train in that zone, if it’s technique, go slow and focus, if it’s VO2max¬†or speed, go hard¬†and fast.¬†Save the tempo and¬†threshold¬†training for race specific sessions when they are needed, and they certainly aren’t needed¬†in¬†every¬†session.

6. Include specific training blocks
Many athletes get stuck into the ‘3 swims, 3 rides, 3 runs’¬†routine and then find themselves stagnating in one or more of the 3 disciplines. To give your training¬†a little¬†boost,¬†while still balancing your time and recovery,¬†look at including a¬†block¬†of training which focuses on one or two¬†disciplines¬†for a specific period of time, not all three. As an example:
Plan a 6 week ‘swim’ block if you have found you aren’t making progress in your swim. You might still train 9 times a week, but the ratio may be 5 swims, 2 runs, 2 rides. Similar plans can be done for¬†the¬†bike and run.

7. Add a training spike 
If you feel like you train specifically,¬†you tried the recovery,¬†have¬†a good balance but still feel like you are in a rut, the next step might be a training spike. A training spike can often come in the form of a training camp. Training camps provide a training spike through a condensed training overload over a specific period of time ‚Äď generally from 3-5days. Your aim is to¬†overload your¬†training during that specific period, then allow¬†sufficient recovery¬†and you¬†should see the benefits a few weeks¬†later.¬†You can¬†choose to attend a specific training camp, or you can¬†simulate¬†your own at home. As an example, you might normally swim 3km on a Friday morning,¬†ride 3hours in the hills on a¬†Saturday and¬†run 1hour on¬†Sunday. A training spike over the same¬†3 day¬†period may look like the following*:

Friday AM: 3km aerobic strength based pool swim
Friday PM: 45-60min easy technique focused aerobic run
Saturday AM: 4hour aerobic strength based hills ride
Saturday LUNCH: 2km easy recovery pool swim
Saturday PM: 60-90min aerobic strength based run
SUNDAY AM: 3hour flat aerobic ride
Sunday LUNCH: 45min easy technique focused run

*Keep in mind that¬†everyone’s¬†training load and demand¬†is¬†different. Depending on the time of the year and phase in your training program, your training spike might focus on increased¬†frequency,¬†duration, intensity or a combination¬†of all three. It should also have a particular focus based on where you are at in your training¬†such as aerobic strength¬†base¬†or¬†race specific phase.

8. Plan a bi-annual /annual recovery phase
A sound training plan will build you up over time, aiming to peak you for your specific¬†key¬†race/s, then include a recovery or transition period where¬†you¬†enjoy some recovery and down time.¬†Too many athletes are frightened of having time off after a key race for fear of¬†loosing¬†the fitness they worked so hard¬†for.¬†Yes ‚Äď you will¬†see some decline in¬†fitness after a week or so, but it is necessary. If you don’t,¬†you actually run the risk of¬†under recovering.¬†The key though¬†is not stopping fully. In general, aim to move your body for fun, enjoyment and exercise ‚Äď rather than viewing it as training. Try something new, jump on a mountain bike, sign up to a yoga class, go on a¬†hike… the list is endless.¬†The movement and exercise¬†will help maintain some fitness while fast tracking your recovery.¬†Our bodies can’t be at their peak¬†year round, so take some time off after a key race to refresh physically and just as importantly mentally, and you will come back even stronger for your next race¬†or season.¬†¬†

9. Seek out a coach
When you started out in the sport, you may have¬†been training yourself,¬†joining¬†in¬†on¬†group sessions¬†or even following a template training plan. But as you progress, your training needs to progress¬†too.¬†So¬†if you are serious about¬†improving,¬†it may¬†be¬†time¬†to seek¬†additional guidance through a¬†Coach. A Coach¬†can provide¬†a¬†training program¬†that¬†is¬†periodised, with¬†specific training blocks¬†and cycles to help you get¬†the most out of your training, and also¬†leap you¬†out of¬†that¬†plateau.¬†Do¬†some¬†research¬†on Coaches¬†that¬†provide¬†individualised¬†training programs¬†designed¬†for you. It will cost you a little¬†more, but¬†don’t¬†underestimate the value a¬†personalised¬†coach¬†who¬†can add to your training and progression as an athlete.¬†

Although there can be a number of reasons for a training plateau, most of the time you can come out the other side with just a few small changes to your training, recovery or lifestyle to get you are back on your way. So instead of getting stuck behind the training plateau wall, listen to your body and make some changes to ensure you are back on your way to your next PB in no time!  


Written by Coach Sarah, as previously published in Australian Triathlete Magazine

~ ~ ~~ ~ ~ ~~ ~ ~ ~
Sarah is the Director & Head Coach at Complete Per4mance Coaching. Born out of the desire and passion to not just coach but to educate athletes, Sarah shares her 10 years of coaching and racing experience, knowledge and education with athletes of all levels to help them achieve their optimal performance while maintaining a balanced, happy and healthy life.

Contact Sarah to discuss training options for you.



Are you sabotaging your racing success?

Why would anyone deliberately do that you may ask?
Don’t we all want to improve and get the most out of ourselves? Aren’t we all aiming to be better than we were yesterday? Heck we train every day (often twice a day), so why would we sabotage that? The problem with self-sabotage is athletes often don’t even know they are doing it. It can creep into our everyday lives, into our training and then that flows on into race day and before we know it we are sabotaging our own racing potential and success.  

So what can self-sabotage look like for athletes?
There are¬†some¬†more obvious ways¬†self-sabotage manifests into our lives¬†such as not eating as well as you know you could ‚Äď even though you know eating better would improve your recovery and/or performance. Or training when injured for fear of¬†losing¬†fitness ‚Äď even though you know a few days rest is what your body needs.¬†These are classic signs of self-sabotage that can easily be addressed,¬†but on top of these,¬†there are a lot¬†of hidden ways that you can be self-sabotaging¬†without even¬†realising¬†it. Can you relate to any of the following?¬†¬†

  • You tell¬†yourself that you aren‚Äôt a ‚Äėswimmer‚Äô, ‚Äėrider‚Äô, ‚Äėrunner‚Äô¬†
  • You worry¬†too much¬†about what others think¬†of your performance¬†
  • Your self-worth is determined by your results¬†and the praise you receive¬†
  • You tell yourself you aren‚Äôt ‚Äėgood‚Äô enough¬†
  • You doubt your ability and don‚Äôt believe in yourself¬†
  • You say to others how you go doesn‚Äôt matter to you to avoid disappointment¬†
  • You feel unrelenting pressure and expectations to achieve¬†
  • You often say ‚ÄėI‚Äôm ONLY doing a sprint‚Äô, or I‚Äôm ‚ÄėJUST doing the half‚Äô¬†

Self-sabotage is like an internal fight that is played out into your training and performances. You want to race well, yet on the start line all your fears come bubbling to the surface and you tell yourself you aren’t ready. You would like to push hard, yet you tell yourself you aren’t good enough. You line up on the start line knowing you have done the training, yet you start doubting your ability and hold back. You put high expectations on yourself, but those expectations bring about anxiety and fear. The internal struggle can be an ongoing battle, and that battle can be hindering your performance and sabotaging your racing success.  

How do we stop this subconscious self-sabotage?
The attitude, beliefs and the mindset that you take with you into training, and ultimately your racing will shape your performance and your success as an athlete. If you are able to shift your mindset, change your attitude and alter your beliefs, then you will minimise the effects of self-sabotage and reach your performance potential.  

The first step is to understand and recognise the signs of how you might be self-sabotaging through areas such as self-doubt, developing anxiety, setting high expectations, the pressures of perfectionism, worrying about what others think and many other mental self-sabotage roadblocks you could be hitting. If we can become aware of these signs and understand when and where they pop up, we can learn to shift them so they don’t negatively impact our racing.  

I have outlined my top 5 areas to help get you started in improving your mental resolve, shifting your mindset and changing your attitude to minimise the effects of self-sabotage on your performance.  

photo credit:

1. Reframe your thinking
Our actions are inspired and driven by our thoughts. If we can work on changing the way we think, we can begin to change the actions we take.¬†‚Äúwhere¬†the mind goes the body will follow‚Ä̬†A practice I‚Äôve used with my athletes is¬†applying the use of¬†positive affirmations or motivational quotes, along with trying to change the way we word our thoughts.¬†Without¬†realising¬†it, we are often using negative affirmations in our everyday lives, and these negative affirmations can then be displayed in negative habits or traits.¬†¬†Both negative and positive affirmations impact the neurological functioning of the brain, so¬†if you repeatedly¬†think¬†that you are not going to succeed, or you are not good enough, this is a negative affirmation, and your body will subconsciously believe what you repeatedly tell it.¬†But if you work on filling your thoughts with positive affirmations ‚ÄúI‚Äôm going to nail this session‚ÄĚ ‚Äď then you are more than likely going to. So¬†the more positive affirmation you can¬†include in your thought patterns, the better!¬†¬†

Try this:
Instead of thinking: ‚ÄúI can‚Äôt‚ÄĚ, try ‚ÄúI‚Äôm going to¬†give it my best shot‚ÄĚ
or instead of¬†‚ÄėI‚Äôm never going to be good at swimming‚Ä̬†try ‚ÄúI‚Äôm¬†making progress¬†every day‚Ä̬†

So if we can reduce the effects of our limiting beliefs by changing the way you speak to yourself through your thoughts and work on our mental resolve, then we can diminish the effects of self-sabotage and start to have a positive impact on your performance.  

2. Worrying about what others think
For¬†a lot of¬†athletes, a big stressor pre-race is worrying about what others¬†will think of their performance.¬†On one hand, this can¬†be a positive as it can push you harder when a race starts to become tough. It also feels good when you have a great race ‚Äď who doesn‚Äôt like a little pat on the back every now and then! But if you are an athlete who relies on the need to receive praise, feel accepted or liked by others through your performances, then what happens if¬†(when) races don‚Äôt go to plan? The sheer thought of a race not going to plan and worrying about what others will think can manifest into race day anxiety. This form of race day anxiety leads to self-doubt and has negative effects on your racing. The opposite¬†to¬†what you had to begin with. So instead of craving the approval of others, work on understanding why it is you¬†race,¬†finding your internal driver ‚Äďnot¬†relying on external motivators¬†from others. This will help reduce the need for approval and improve your race day performance by racing for¬†YOU¬†not for others.¬†

3. Fear of failure
Goals are big drivers. They are what help you get out of bed in the morning and keep you going when the training gets tough. But how do you feel if you don’t quite reach your goal? Do you consider yourself a failure for not achieving?  Do you punish yourself in some way, or give up totally? We all need goals and we all want to reach them, but don’t be so hard on yourself if you don’t. Worrying too much about results or the outcomes of your races can create unnecessary pre-race anxiety in the form of fear of failure. It is this fear of failure that can lead to athletes underperforming on race day compared to how they train on a daily basis. We probably all know or have trained with athletes who train the house down, but come race day things just don’t come together for them. These athletes are often extremely critical of themselves and could be fearing failure on race day. They’ve put in the hard work in training, everyone is telling them they are going to have a great race, and so they fear what may happen if they don’t. This fear can come from a number of areas including worrying about what others think (see above) and worrying that the hard work they have put into training won’t pay off on race day (the payoff syndrome). If you feel like this is you, then it is important to determine what the underlying fear for you is, so you can learn to overcome it and reduce this form of self-sabotage.

4. Striving for perfection
Striving for perfection for some can be an¬†advantage,¬†these¬†‚ÄėA‚Äô type¬†athletes have¬†incredibly high expectations of¬†themselves and their performance. However at the same time it can actually hinder an athlete‚Äôs¬†performance. Because here‚Äôs the thing, nothing¬†or no one¬†is truly ever perfect, as much as someone may try.¬†I don‚Äôt say that to stop you from¬†striving¬†for and chasing¬†your goals, or¬†be comfortable with settling¬†for ‚Äėmiddle of the pack‚Äô,¬†but at the same time¬†you don‚Äôt need to¬†drive yourself into the ground trying to achieve perfection ‚Äď because it‚Äôs never going to happen.¬†¬†

Why not? You ask. Because if you are one of those athletes who¬†is¬†a true perfectionist, you will never be truly satisfied¬†–¬†no matter how much you excel, or what race results you achieve, you will always be searching. You will also find you forget to take the time to recognise your performance results¬†when you do achieve them¬†and¬†actually¬†acknowledge the hard work you have put in¬†because¬†you¬†will¬†always seem to find the negatives, or find the things that didn‚Äôt quite go to plan.¬†¬†

You may also find if¬†your race isn‚Äôt going to your ‚Äėperfect plan‚Äô then this can demotivate you or you can become frustrated with a situation or outcome, losing sight of the process and¬†focusing solely on the end goal ‚Äď and that‚Äôs when things can stat unraveling in a race.¬†¬†

So chase your goals vigorously, but hold onto them lightly. Continue to aim to improve day in day out, but remember that it is ok if every race isn‚Äôt ‚Äėperfect‚Äô. Those races that¬†are the ones we learn from the most.¬†¬†

5. The pressure of expectation
Pressure can manifest itself physically ‚Äď through increased adrenaline, breathing and heart rate, it can be mental¬†‚Äď either positive or negative thoughts, and/or emotional¬†‚Äď positive feelings of excitement or anticipation, or negative feelings such as anxiety and fear.¬†¬†¬†

How an athlete views a particular race in regards to pressure and expectations can often determine how an athlete performs. If you are using expectations to your advantage, you view it as a challenge. However many athletes feel expectation as pressure and therefore a threat and have a negative response or experience as a consequence. So the feeling of pressure manifests into fears of failure. And as soon as an athlete fears failure (the outcome of a race) they are already beginning to worry about meeting their own or others expectations. This causes athletes to focus on an outcome and feeling the pressure to perform, which can turn into pre-race anxiety or incites uncertainty and hesitation. All which can stop an athlete racing to their full potential.  

The good news is, for most age group athletes, the pressure and expectations comes from within, therefore if you created it, you can also dismantle it. Instead of focusing on the end goal or result, break it down and start focusing on the process. When you start to feel pressure or expectations, break it down. Focus on what you need to do in that moment, not what you want to achieve overall. If you have been working hard on your swim technique and your hard work should net a faster time, don’t think about the time, think about the technique. If your aim was to PB on the bike, don’t think about the PB, think about what you need to do in the moment to achieve that such as technique, power or your effort level.  

And ultimately in the end, remind yourself why you started in the sport in the first place. The sport hasn’t changed over the years, it’s still the same as when you started, it is you that has changed. So if you are finding you can’t escape the pressure of expectation, are worrying too much about what others are thinking and fear failure, let it all go and simply go out there and find your fun again!   


Written by Coach Sarah, as previously published in Australian Triathlete Magazine

~ ~ ~~ ~ ~ ~~ ~ ~ ~
Sarah is the Director & Head Coach at Complete Per4mance Coaching. Born out of the desire and passion to not just coach but to educate athletes, Sarah shares her 10 years of coaching and racing experience, knowledge and education with athletes of all levels to help them achieve their optimal performance while maintaining a balanced, happy and healthy life.

Contact Sarah to discuss training options for you.



IRONMAN CAIRNS Nekite Krog: Unfinished business

CPC: You didn’t get the chance to finish what you started at Ironman Busselton in December 2017, what made you decide you wanted to have another crack at an Ironman?¬†

Nekite: It was the worse feeling ever to have worked so hard to get to the start at Busso, physically and mentally I put in the hours I did the training, I was ready to take this IM on. 3 days before race day I got bronchitis, not ideal, but I was still determined to do this. Race day came and I was nervous as hell but calmed the nerves, did my warm up then saw the 70.3 athletes get out of the water. My heart sunk. The swim was cancelled… the first swim that I actually looked forward to. Damn sharks! The disappointment was written all over my face. I was still determined to do this, even though it wasn‚Äôt going to be a true Ironman. But it was like the day was set and nothing went to plan. I got too excited and went out waaay to hard. I lost my nutrition 10min into the ride. Bronchitis combined with the 37C heat and smoke from the bush fires made it so difficult to breath which brought on anxiety and panic attacks. I then also started to get immense pain in my feet through the ride. It was the first bike that I thought there is no way I am finishing this. I finally got to bike dismount a bit delirious and stumbled to the change tent where the medic checked me and called off my run. The disappointment was indescribable. I felt like a failure, like I gave up. The feeling of defeat didn‚Äôt sit well with me. I needed to hear those words in the finishing chute!¬† ¬†

I had unfinished business! 

The disappointment took a while to digest, but I still knew deep down I needed to hear those words called out to me.¬† Eventually I decided Cairns is going to be my come back race! I struggled to get back into training. I needed help! In searching for a training group or coach a friend told me about Complete Per4mance Coaching. 10 weeks out from race day I finally made the call, fingers crossed that Sarah had space for one more challenge. ūüėČ I knew the lead up to race day was very tight and wasn‚Äôt quite sure how it was going to be possible to get myself ready to tackle that 3.8km swim 180km bike and holy moly then a bloody marathon. Sarah reassured me that is tight but definitely possible. So 10 weeks out and it was on…


CPC: Your prep was short and you had quite a few challenges thrown at you, were there times that you didn’t think you could do this?¬†

There were definitely moments during the build to IM Cairns that I had serious doubts. I thought there is just not enough time, I kept comparing my prep against the build for IM Busselton. I had 8 weeks more to train for Busso than Cairns! And to throw another challenge into the mix, my sister’s wedding was in South Africa 3 weeks before the race, and my dear mother was diagnosed with stage 3 aggressive breast cancer just weeks before the race. I went back home for my sister’s wedding and to be with my family through this challenging time. After an extremely emotional two weeks I arrived back in Melbourne. I struggled with jet lag and missed my family. I felt guilty for not being home with my mother, I felt guilty for missing training sessions, when I trained I felt guilty for spending so much time training. My emotions were all over the place! At times it was tough to keep going, there were days that I just wanted to sleep, I was so exhausted emotionally and physically. I considered changing from IM to the 70.3, but that felt like me giving up. I thought of the battle that my mother is fighting so bravely, without complaining and with such a positive attitude. I then decided that I am finishing this for her, I am going to fight and win this battle like she is fighting and going to win her battle. I will cross that finish line for her! I knew I had to work on my mental game, work on my patience and with words of wisdom from coach Sarah, realised that I will have to realign my goals. The aim was just to move forward slow and steady and cross the finish line with a smile! And I did! Oh what a feeling!


CPC: Given your short prep, and the challenges, other than sheer determination, what helped you get you not only to the start line, but ultimately to the finish line? 

It is so important to trust in and have confidence in your coach and the program/process! You trust someone to guide you trough this massive journey and rollercoaster ride. It made a massive difference to have coach Sarah in my corner, constantly updating my program and adjusting my training to my schedule, travel, head space etc. Sarah provided words of encouragement and motivation, always being reassurance that I can do this that we trained enough to finish this.  She was patient and encouraging and provided a great program that was tailored to me, my situation, my abilities and the goal at hand. It was very important to trust in Sarah, to trust in the program and the approach. It was very different to the way I trained prior to joining CPC. What really helped my trust in Sarah and the program was all the information Sarah provided. Not just telling me to do something, but explaining why, providing articles to explain why. It made more sense. We had a plan and structure / framework but the weekly program changed to adapt to my schedule. Sarah understands that life happens and that training needs to fit in around life. There are times that training takes priority, but ultimately we as amateurs need to fit training in around work and life in general. Sarah was there every step of the way and ultimately guided me across the finish-line.  


CPC: So tell us how did your day to ‘finish business’ pan out?¬†

The 3.8km swim – oh how we love to hate that swim! It was a tough swim, very choppy and I think I swallowed my body weight in very dirty water. I was so relieved to get it out of the way and hop on my bike!

The 180km bike – bloody LOVED it!! Few climbs and the last 30km was brutal, but I was in my element! It was such a fun and beautiful bike coarse all along the coast and through the tropical rainforest. How lucky am I! The plan was to keep it breezy on the bike, keep the pressure, but not over work the legs and spare them for that marathon. I enjoyed every moment of the ride!

The 42.2km run – OMG I knew it was going to be a veery long slow run and the aim was just to move forward, slowly making my way to that Finish line, but there where times where the finish line seemed soooooo far away! It was brutal, with gut a bit upset, my back in a spasm and muscles aching, I tried to keep smiling and use the amazing energy of the crowd and support to just move forward. 1km out, the end was in sight! Running down that finish shoot supporters cheering, music pumping the energy was amazing! Then that Finish line and those 5 words I have been waiting for fighting for … Nekite YOU ARE AN IRONMAN! I did it! I bloody did it! What a feeling!

What a journey it has been, but I finally crossed that Finish line…I AM AN IRONMAN!ūüí™ūüŹĽ

That moment would not have been possible without the love and support along the way and on race day!

Big thanks to my training buddy Megan, I am so lucky to have shared this experience with you! You have made the journey so much more enjoyable and have kept me going when I really questioned WTF we are doing! Congratulations with your smashing time!!! 11:49:35!! You ran your heart out! WOW what an accomplishment!

My coach through this journey, Coach Sarah thank you for your patience, motivation, words of wisdom and for guiding me to the Finish line! Loved training with you!

To my amazing support crew Marinda Meyer and Andries Meyer I have no words! Thank you so much for all your support! Thank you for sharing this moment with me! You calmed my nerves, lifted my spirits and carried me through to the finish line! I love you so much! I am the luckiest to have you as my friends!

Family and friends thank you so much for all your love and support through this! ūüíóūüėėūüíó

Thank you for all the support and good luck and congratulations messages and calls, I truly appreciate each and every one of you.

Now for some much needed R&R! Bring it on! ‚ėÄūüŹĚūü•ā

How to make the most of your winter season training

Don‚Äôt you just love this time of the year?‚ÄĮKey races are complete and you are all set for some time off structured training. Did someone say social life? Yes please!¬†

It’s the perfect time to reflect, review and reset. To look at what went right, what went wrong and what can be improved and what you would do differently.

It’s also the best time to start building a solid winter base. Base endurance is the key to having a strong racing season, no matter the distance you are training for.‚ÄĮ Short Course athletes require a solid base so their bodies can adapt and grow and handle the intensities that will come later in their training program. Long Course athletes require a strong aerobic base to build the engine that will carry them through their training volume and more importantly, race day. A solid base also helps you become a more robust athlete, which in return helps prevent injuries, illness, inconsistency and athlete burn out.

Build your best winter base yet! 

I’ve put together my 7 TOP TIPS to building your best winter base yet, ensuring you‚ÄĮmake‚ÄĮthe most of your winter season this year. Enabling you‚ÄĮto start next season stronger, hungrier and more robust than ever and propel you into your next triathlon season!¬†


A strong and robust base starts with solid rest. Every athlete needs a break from the racing season and structured training so they can repair and recharge. Ensure you have taken the time to have a few weeks off from structured training after your season/last event to rest and reset. When you feel like you have had a good mental and physical rest from structured training (this time frame can differ for each athlete), then start building structure back in a few days a week until you are ready for a fully structured program. The key is backing off enough to recover, but not so much that you completely lose fitness. So keep the body moving while it still rests.



Build back into training gradually

Sounds simple right? Yet it is often hard for athletes to grasp this concept. Building gradually into your training allows for your body to adapt to the stressors training (of any level/duration/intensity) places on the body. Base building provides a platform for building up training at a slow and safe rate, which helps decrease the likelihood of injury and burnout. Building up gradually following a carefully structured plan will ensure your body adapts, while also focusing on key fundamentals including general strength, technique and form which are essential during the base training phase. 

Low intensity / Aerobic Training

‚ÄúWant speed? Slow down.‚ÄĚ ‚Äď Dr Phil¬†Maffetone.¬†

And I couldn‚Äôt agree more! The building block of base training is low intensity aerobic training. Far too many athletes still train in the ‚Äėgrey‚Äô zone,‚ÄĮtraining with their heart rate too high to develop their aerobic system (crucial for endurance) but then on the flip side, not hard enough to illicit improvement in their Vo2Max or speed. Essentially you want to develop your aerobic capacity through low intensity / aerobic training so over time you will be able to train faster for longer.

To train your maximum aerobic function, I often ‚ÄĮuse the MAF Method‚ÄĮas‚ÄĮdeveloped by Dr Phil¬†Maffetone.‚ÄĮIn the winter/off season.¬†The easier the better.¬†The hard training will come. So keep reminding yourself that. Those athletes who have taken the time to build their base consistently over winter will be the athletes that will get the most consistent results for the season and are generally less prone to injury and burnout also.


If you have a coach, you would have definitely have heard this one before. Consistency is¬†key. The ability to string together multiple weeks and months of consistent training brings about far better (and more consistent) results at races during a season. If we compare an athlete who goes extremely hard for one or two weeks/months, but then has to have days or weeks of easier training as they recover from the hard training, then they are not building a consistently strong base.‚ÄĮAthletes who go too hard too early are¬†also more susceptible to illness and injury over winter, which again in turn results in inconsistent training.¬†

Remember to rest

Just because base training doesn’t include large amounts of intensity, keep in mind that rest is still an important aspect of training during this phase. It is during the rest and recovery portion of your training that the body repairs itself, adapts and becomes stronger. So ensure your base aerobic training still factors in easier days or rest days to allow your body to adapt and come back from each session/week stronger than before. This is where a well-structured training program comes into play to gain the best results from your hard work during training. 

Fuel smart

So many athletes say they train so they can eat what they like. Well I’m afraid you can’t if you want to be healthy on the inside and out, recover quicker and perform at your optimum. The base building phase is one of the less intensive phases of a training program, so it’s the perfect time to develop sound, nutritional habits and you will find you might actually lose a few kg’s (not put them on which is what most athletes tend to do over winter!). During lower-intensity training, try some of these sessions fasted. This helps condition the body to draw energy from fat stores rather than rely on constant fuelling with carbohydrates. Base training can be the perfect time to become leaner and a more efficient fat burner. So ditch the packaged foods and gels over winter and fuel with real wholesome food.  

Add a ‚Äėspike‚Äô in your base training

There is no magic number for how long a base-building phase should last. This is very individual for each athlete and can depend on training history, lead in time to the season/key race/s etc, but generally you will see this phase last from 6-12 weeks. If you have a heart-rate monitor and/or power meter you can measure more closely on when you have built up a strong base and ready to move into the next training phase. Working with a Coach will‚ÄĮhelp you achieve this optimal phase in your program.‚ÄĮA great way to then‚ÄĮkick your base training to the next level is through a ‚Äėspike‚Äô in your training. This can be through a weekly challenge or blocks such as a swim/ride/run block (ie¬†increase mileage of one particular‚ÄĮdiscipline over a given period of time to add a ‚Äėspike‚Äô). Another great way is through training camps. Training camps are fantastic as they add a large spike in your training over a short period of time (generally 2-5 days).‚ÄĮTraining camps‚ÄĮoffer a short specific stressor to your body to propel it to the next level, provided you then follow with a specific recovery protocol post camp to recover and adapt.‚ÄĮThese spikes‚ÄĮhelps¬†to avoid a plateau and also provides some great motivation ‚Äď particularly over winter.¬†


So no matter what distance you plan to race this coming season, make sure you are starting off with a strong base before you build into the next phase/s‚ÄĮof your training. This approach will safeguard you against injury, keep you healthy, help your race times come down and be a more consistent athlete in the process!

Happy Base Training!
Coach Sarah 

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Sarah is the Director & Head Coach at Complete Per4mance Coaching. Born out of the desire and passion to not just coach but to educate athletes, Sarah shares her 10 years of coaching and racing experience, knowledge and education with athletes of all levels to help them achieve their optimal performance while maintaining a balanced, happy and healthy life.

Contact Sarah to discuss training options for you.