Ironman Fitness: Craig Alexander On Music, Tracking Tech And Ageing

Ironman Fitness: Craig Alexander On Music, Tracking Tech And Ageing

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

“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

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

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.”


  • ” One of the great things about being 38 is I have 20 years of training in my body, and your body doesn’t forget.”

    This is a point that stuck out for me – I’ve just turned 37, and most of my life I’ve been sedentary but the older I get, the more obvious it is that I need to jog or play more sport or something… but I keep coming up against this issue of attempting to seriously get into exercise and fitness after your prime. I do exercise now with some jogging and lots of walking, but I’d like to really shape up one time before it’s too late, as such… but the questions pop up: Will the fact that I DON’T have 20 years of training in my body, affect my outcome? Will it make it harder? Am I more likely to damage myself more severely? Is there anything to “setting” your body shape and metabolism by exercising heavily during the final development years? (up to age 25) The research I’ve done doesn’t seem to give much in the way of answers, since most “exercise and aging” articles seem to focus on people who have been exercising for ages – I presume its because not a lot of people who’ve done zero are likely to just up and become a massive gym junkie.

    Someone please prove me wrong about this, before I attempt it anyway and blow out a knee. 🙂

    • Im 35 this year and starting to get fit myself. I like Sciby, I have spent probably the past 15 years in a stagnate work/lifestyle but in the last two years I have started cycling and as of late last year started jogging.

      I dont think that you have to have X number of years training, for me the biggest problem was building up the muscles used in running, cycling and swimming. One of the key things that I have found to provide the best results (I dont get to exercise on a regular basis) is interval training. This has been covered a few times on this blog.

      I also think that it is extremely unlikely that you are going to damage yourself, but you have to work within your limits. This is a hugely important point. If you have not done any exercise for a long time and then try and go for a 10km run your going to do some damage. period.

      you really have to build up to do things like that and building/starting is the hardest part next to finding the motivation to keep doing it.

      I have even started my own blog, mainly so that I can document my own journey to competing in a triathlon. I have set my self a date of near the end of this year.

    • 38 isn’t that old enough to worry too much about that. As Marty said, your problem is more that you have gradually build up your muscles before you can start really pushing yourself, which could mean months before you see real benefits.

      I’m 25, but I went though a few years there of completely sedentary lifestyle. I started cycling to work (just 15 minutes either way), which lost me about 15kg over the first few months. about 4 months ago I started doing pushups – At the start I’d collapse at 10, now I’m up to about 50 a set.
      In each case, it followed this progression:
      1) Your Muscles wear out so fast you can barely do any actual exercise
      2) Your Muscles build up enough to start working you out aerobically. You can push yourself until you’re gasping if you want to.
      3) Suddenly you realise that you haven’t been gasping for weeks, and what you were doing before is actually pretty easy. The sudden ‘wow I’m not completely unfit’ realisation is pretty awesome.

  • I raced over the weekend at melbourne in my first ironman and while i’m 25 the most memorable and inspiring thing about the event was that a 71year old lady from the US compeated and finished the event. If somebody that age can still go out an compleate this huge feat then anybody can.

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