"Try and turn that nervous energy into something positive," says the World Champion triathlete.
Raise Your Game: Why triathlon?
Alistair Brownlee: I started competing in swimming and running at a young age. I used to go along to the local swimming and running clubs. I did my first triathlon when I was 11-years-old and it was just another new sport to try. I got better at it and decided to take it a bit more seriously.
RYG: Which is your favourite triathlon event and why?
AB: Running is the event I've always been best at. I love it because it's so easy to do. You just put on a pair of trainers, get out the door and that's that.
RYG: How important is preparation going into a big triathlon event?
AB: It is very important. The main thing with triathlon is you've got to be as fit as you can. I train all year round. Coming into an event you're looking to be as fresh as possible. You need to ease off the training about a week before. That usually involves focusing on short track exercises in training rather than the longer exercises. It's about finding the extra bit of speed and relaxing a little bit. You need to arrive on race day as fresh as you can.
Just before a race I tend to do the same warm up every time. I do a bit of a swim warm up and a bit of a run warm up. Pre-race is very structured because you have to go through transitions - you've got to sort your bike out and put your wetsuit on. Then it's just a matter of trusting all the hard training that you've done in the weeks and months before.
RYG: What kind of foods do you need to eat before a race and which foods do you need to stay away from?
23 April 1988
- Winner - ITU Trathlon World Championship (2011)
- Winner - ITU Trathlon World Championship (2009)
- Winner - ITU Triathlon Under 23 World Championship (2008)
- Winner - ETU Triathlon World Championship (2011)
- Winner - ETU Triathlon World Championship (2010)
- Winner - ETU Triathlon Junior European Championship (2007)
- Winner - ITU Triathlon Junior World Championship (2006)
- Winner - ETU Duathlon Junior European Championship (2006)
AB: I train for about 25 to 30 hours a week so I need to eat a lot. You just need to have a generally healthy diet. You need to be eating foods with lots of vitamins and minerals. You need to make sure you eat properly in order to give yourself the best chance of performing and recovering from training and competing.
RYG: How important is the mental side of the triathlon?
AB: I've never made a conscious effort to do anything about my psychological side. I just try to think positively and enjoy it. I always try to keep in mind that I do all that training for a reason, which is to compete to the best of my ability. In triathlon you don't get to race that much so when you're on the start line you just need to make sure you focus on the job in hand and enjoy yourself.
RYG: What have been the highlights of your career so far?
AB: Winning the U23 World Championships and qualifying for the Olympics in Beijing 2008 was great as well.
RYG: And the lows?
AB: I've had a few stress fractures. Winter training can be really hard sometimes. I'm sure I've had lots of bad races, but you try to forget about them.
RYG: Everybody has setbacks in sport - how do you go about bouncing back from those?
AB: I think you've just got to focus on why you're doing the sport in the first place and take it back to the basics. Every athlete has training they enjoy and training that they do because they have to and they don't enjoy so much. Do the training you love, remind yourself why you do it and hopefully it'll all come good for you.
RYG: You're in the middle of an event, all your muscles are telling you to stop - what do you say to yourself in those times to stay motivated and maintain your focus?
AB: Again it's important to remind yourself why you do it. I just try and block all negative thoughts out, get on and do it. Just get on with it.
RYG: How do you handle the pressure before a big event?
AB: I tend to get very nervous before the first races of the year. It takes you a bit of time to get into the season. As soon as I dive in to start the swim all the nerves disappear because I'm just concentrating on racing. I just try and tell myself 'It's only a race,' and try to look forward to it rather than being nervous or scared of it. I try and turn that nervous energy into something positive.
RYG: How dedicated do you need to be to get to your level?
AB: I train for about 30 hours a week. That's at least four hours every day. I swim at seven most mornings. It's got to be your life. You've got to fit everything around it. If that's all you know and it's what you love to do then it's got loads of positives as well.
RYG: How important is it for you to set yourself goals?
AB: It's not massively important for me because I love doing the training, but it is good to have targets in the middle of the winter - something that you know you're aiming for. Triathlon has quite a short season. It only runs from May to September so there's a lot of time when you're not racing. I try to set myself the target of doing a certain amount of training every week and things like that.
RYG: What are your hopes and ambitions for 2012?
AB: First of all I want to be there. Only three people go from Britain so qualifying is always going to be a bit of a challenge. We're quite a strong country and there are lots of good athletes around so I'll have to be at my best. After that I hope to get a medal or even win. That's the dream.
RYG: Is 2012 in the back of your mind when you train at the moment?
AB: It's definitely in the back of my mind, but it's still a long time. Four years before Beijing I wouldn't have had a clue I would have been competing there. It's definitely in my mind, but as an athlete you've got to take things a season at a time. I'm still quite young so I'm still learning what I have to do in order to be the best on any given day.
RYG: What advice would you give to young people looking to get started in the triathlon?
AB: You need to get down your local swimming club and join your local running club. Practice as much as you can. Join a club so you can benefit from the social side of competing. You need to enjoy yourself and just get into the routine of keeping fit and enjoying being active. That's always easier once you've made friends in the sport.
To succeed in top level sport you need to be a bit obsessed about it.
Head of UWIC's Trampoline Academy
Colin Jackson reveals more top tips on making exercise part of your lifestyle.