Over the weekend, five-time world champion ironman Craig Alexander won the inaugural Melbourne Ironman triathlon challenge, setting an Australian time record in the combined swimming, cycling and running event. He chatted to Lifehacker about how music choice and technology can improve training, and the advantages of being an older athlete.
Run to paradise
Just days after his victory, Alexander fronted a Sydney media call on behalf of Bluetooth headset manufacturer Jabra, which is one of his main sponsors. Under the circumstances, it's not surprising that the role of music in training was a focal topic.
"I've trained with music for a long time. Part of my job description is logging a lot of hours on my own. In a heavy training period I'll be training 40-45 hours a week. I've used music a lot for company, but also for motivation. I just find it good company."
"I never use music when I'm riding on the road, but always on a stationary bike, which I use at least three times a week. The type of music changes whether it's a slow easy aerobic run or a faster run. There's a lot of 80s rock and pop. I went to the same high school as Angus and Malcolm Young of AC/DC, If I'm doing a very hard session on the treadmill or on the bike, I'll have AC/DC and Australian Crawl. I also like Celine Dion. I'm not ashamed. She's got a great voice. A lot of U2 as well."
"I like all styles of music. There's more recent stuff too. My daughter's nearly seven and she's got that Just Dance Wii game so I've got into some of that stuff on there. It's a good mix of everything. I'm a big fan of listening to the words.
Alexander argues that emotion is more important than tracking the BPM of individual tracks. "Everyone has their songs that invoke special memories. If I've got a hard session to do, I'll put on a playlist with those songs. I'll be scrolling through trying to find a certain song.
Gear choice is also important. "Another thing I always has problems with is running on the treadmill and sweating a. lot I used to go through MP3 players quite quickly!"
Technology for tracking
Headsets and MP3 players aside, technology plays a crucial rule in Alexander's training and preparation. "At university, I didn't have access to a lot of technologies," he said. "But technology has come a long way, particularly in the last decade."
One interesting evolution is that while Alexander is based in Sydney, one of his key coaches is a sports scientist based in Colorado. "I communicate daily on training; we just upload the data after every ride. I let him crunch the numbers; I still predominantly do it a lot to feel.
For a fuller overview of the gear Alexander uses for training, check out Alex's gadget-centric writeup of the event at Gizmodo.
My old man's an athlete
Alexander's success at 38 is a reminder that you can't use growing older as an excuse for not being fit. Yes, I'm feeling guilty. I'm roughly the same age, but the only point of intersection we have uis in as frequent travellers? "When you sit in a plane seat for 20 hours or so you get pooling of blood and that thick leg feeling. You often get that in long races too."
Endurance events such as triathlons are more forgiving of ageing than many other sports. "One of the great things about getting old is you have experience. There are a lot of areas — strategy, nutrition, recovery — where you can take up the slack. It's one of the reasons at 38 I'm still doing the sport. From a cardiovascular perspective it's well documented your endurance gets better. It's about a combination of working hard and working smart. One of the great things about being 38 is I have 20 years of training in my body, and your body doesn't forget."
Success remains an important motivator. "I have a pride in my performance When you first start winning, it's personally satisfying. You can't control what other people do, but I can control my training and my preparation, and if I do that I'll live with the result."