Triathlon
April 16, 2019

Lessons On Training, Racing And Life From World Champion Triathlete, Andrea Hewitt

Andrea Hewitt Smiling After A Race

I first met Andrea Hewitt in an old farmhouse in a small town in the south of France.

It was 2006 and we were among the first few athletes to arrive at our new training ‘base’.

After the success of Hamish and Bevan in the Athens Olympics in 2004, Tri NZ had benefited from an increase in funding and we were on the receiving end with a free place to live and train over the Kiwi winter.

At that time, Andrea was still relatively new to triathlon. After a successful career in surf lifesaving, she made the switch to triathlon only a few months prior to our meeting and had had immediate success.

In only her 4th triathlon, she won the Under 23 World Triathlon Championships in Gamagori, Japan in 2005.

She was just getting started.

Over the next two years, Andrea and I spent a ton of time together. Both coached by John Hellemans, we did most of our training together, travelled together and when at our European base, lived together.

I got to know her pretty well.

What became clear very quickly was Andrea’s quiet drive. A laid back toughness that I wish I could have bottled and taken in.

That drive combined with her extreme resilience and work ethic led to her becoming arguably the world’s most consistent short course female triathlete over the last decade.

She competed at three Olympic Games. Raced three Commonwealth Games winning two medals. She won many World Cup’s and stood on the World Championships Series podium 5 times in the last 10 years.

Because that wasn’t enough, she even dabbled in the longer races a couple of times, racking up a podium at the Ironman 70.3 here in Singapore and another one at the ITU World Long Distance Championships in China (where she fell getting off the bike and broke her collarbone).

With nearly 15-years spent racing at the highest level, Andrea was kind enough to share a number of the most important lessons she has learnt about training, racing and life.

Here they are.

Andrew Hewitt And Ben Pulham On A Training Ride

Lessons About Training

Consistency Is Key

I have been incredibly consistent in my racing because I have been very consistent in my training. For more than a decade I have been training consistently with few injuries along the way.

I have always had great coaches planning my training and have always been careful in how I followed their plan and executed the training sessions. I always make sure never to push too hard, leaving the really hard efforts for race day.

Hills Improve Strength

Triathlon is a strength based sport so I have always invested a lot of time training to improve my strength and power.

When possible, I ride and run over hills as I have found these the best way to build sport-specific strength.

Group Rides Improve Technical Skills And Confidence On A Bike

In the draft legal style of racing I do, having good technical skills is very important. Not only does a high level of skill improve my safety (and the girls around me), it’s also faster and helps me to conserve energy as I am not having to sprint out of corners to catch back up to the girls in front.

In my experience, the best way to build a good level of technical ability and to improve your confidence on the bike is to regularly ride as part of a group. I do the majority of my training with training partners and will often ride with bigger, faster groups too.

Never Miss Your Long Sessions

The long swim, bike and run each week are the cornerstones of my programme.

These are the sessions that build my endurance and strength and allow me to race at a high percentage of my maximum speed for the entire race.

I always do these sessions at an easy pace. A common mistake I see amongst age-groupers is pushing too hard in their long sessions. Keep them easy and you’ll see the benefits.

Lessons From Racing

The Less Stress, The Better

Racing is stressful enough so I like to limit other external stressors prior to the race. I always prepare my gear the day before the race and double check everything to make sure I haven’t forgotten anything.

I always study the courses I am racing and arrive at the race venue with plenty of time to spend spare. The last thing you want to be doing before a race is rushing around in a state of panic.

Learn A Routine For Race Day

A race day routine helps ensure that race day goes smoothly for me.

I always eat at the same times prior to a race. That’s 3 – 4 hours before an evening race and 2 – 3 hours prior to a morning race. From there, I like to ride to the venue whenever possible as my bike warm up. That is not always an option so if it’s not, I always do my bike warm up first so I can rack my bike and set up my transition.

Next, I do a short run and lastly a swim.

Racing Is Where To Push Yourself

I mentioned above that I never push myself to the max in training. If you do that too often, you won’t be able to do it on race day and that’s when it is really important.

I am a competitor and always strive to do the best I can in any race. To do that I need to be able to push myself as hard as I can for as long as I can.

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Lessons From Life

Set Goals For Yourself

I have been setting goals since I first started competing in surf lifesaving when I was 11. Since then my goals have gotten bigger and bigger but the purpose remains the same – to have something to focus on that will fuel my motivation.

I regularly set goals for my training, racing and life and I find them to be a tremendous help.

Sleep! A Lot

I sleep 10-hours a day. I need to in order to recover and be consistent in my training. I know it’s hard for many age-groupers to get enough sleep but it is so important to performing well and being healthy.

Schedule Rest

To perform at my best, I need regular rest. Not just physical rest but mental rest too. Besides having a regular day off every week, I also plan longer breaks throughout the year. During these times, I try to forget about training and triathlon and focus on other things.

I find these breaks help to keep me happy and motivated.

Thanks For Reading

Thanks so much to Andrea for sharing these great lessons. I encourage you all to apply what she teaches and hopefully, you too will find a level of consistency and success that you will be happy with.

If you want to learn more about Andrea and follow her journey, you can find her on:

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Coached RunningBen PulhamBen Pulham is a former professional triathlete and the founder of Coached, a heart rate training programme that helps you optimise, track and enjoy your training.