Ironman pro Frederik Van Lierde explains how to stay on peak form for your key races

Photo: IMG/Wouter Kingma

Photo: IMG/Wouter Kingma

With a steady upward curve in both his times and race performances, Belgian professional triathlete Frederik Van Lierde is one of the most consistent performers on the long-distance circuit. His racing CV boasts two big-money wins at the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon, multiple wins at Ironman Nice and a third-place finish at the Ironman World Championship last year. So how does he maintain his improvement, stay injury-free and race so consistently?

Performing well time after time is a trick few of us age-groupers are able to master, despite the fact that most of us race several times during a season. Of course, Van Lierde has all the advantages of being a pro triathlete – access to the best training advice, high-end kit and the time to recover properly. But many of the secrets of his success can be applied to mere mortals, too. Here, Van Lierde shows you the simple strategies that help him race well time after time.

1 Think long-term

“Triathlon is a sport where most of us athletes like to do a lot of training, but you have to be patient and not do too much swimming, cycling and running all at once. It’s all about having a plan – you need a plan for one year, two years, five years. Know where you’re going to. Sometimes I look at my progress and I say, ‘Yes, I’m here at this phase and I’ll get to there’.”

2 Race less, race better

“When I do a race, I fully dedicate my training to it. You can’t go to a race under-prepared. If you pick a goal you’ve got to go for it because otherwise it’s not worth it. For me, it’s better to do fewer races but pick some big goals and have it all in a big plan. It’s silly to go to a race and say, ‘I’m at 70 per cent’.”

3 Prepare for a long tri season

“Don’t do too much – not in racing, not in training. Just have confidence. Mentally and physically you need to prepare for a long season. I have a good coach, and we work together on building a very good base. That’s the most important thing. That’s how you keep consistent performances. It’s also important to have good communication with your coach. One of my first coaches told me the training plan isn’t a bible so if you’re tired and you don’t feel OK, you have to communicate that.”

4 Recover properly after racing

After every big race I leave a lot of space to recover and I think that’s important so you don’t get injured over the years. After the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii I did nothing for weeks, but for an Ironman in the season, like Melbourne or Nice, I have two or three days of nothing. Then I do two weeks of easy, short training sessions to build up the speed again, because when you do Ironman you can get slow. Then it takes me four to six weeks to get back into the volume you need to train at for Ironman.”

5 Keep an eye on progress

“I work with a very good sports physician in Belgium and he does testing before the season and in between the big races so I can see where I’m at, what training I have to do, what’s OK and what’s not. I train with a cycle power meter, and we also keep an eye on my running speed at the track and swim splits in the pool. I always have a realistic idea of my fitness levels.”