Should you be focussing on strength training and speed training to improve your Ironman run? On this episode of The Kona Edge we catch up with former elite swimmer turned Ironman Age Group World Champion Lucy Charles and chat about what she has done to improve her Ironman run.
LUCY CHARLES: Hello, lovely to be back again.
BRAD BROWN: Lucy, you came from a competitive swimming background when you first got into triathlon but you mentioned to me that you did a bit of running at school as well. Were you fairly competitive as a runner and cross country growing up or was swimming your main thing?
LUCY CHARLES: Swimming was my main thing. There was a small amount of time that I joined an athletics clubs because I almost had that as a little sideline, but it never really did materialize. It was only school cross country and school athletics that I did. However, I was normally very competitive on the 1500m on the track and sort of the longer distance cross country, I could normally come at least in the top three in those events, if not first place, if I was having a good day. A lot of my swim coaches never really wanted me to do it because they thought it would be detrimental to my swimming, but I always seemed to sneak it in.
BRAD BROWN: Often people who come from a swimming background struggle with the running side of things. Obviously they’re a lot bigger, they’re carrying probably a bit more muscle mass than an out and out runner, is that something you’ve struggled with?
LUCY CHARLES: I think as I got older I struggled a bit more with it. When I was young, because I just had so much more endurance than the other students, I definitely had an advantage but as I progressed in my swimming, I did find it a little bit harder to keep up the running.
Overcoming your toughest challenge on the Ironman run
BRAD BROWN: What’s been the toughest thing that you’ve had to overcome as far as improving your run has been?
LUCY CHARLES: I’ve really had to improve my leg strength. As a swimmer, I’d never really kicked my legs, I still don’t really kick them as much as I should, so my legs never really did a great deal of work. I was being very lucky to have not gotten injured, but I’ve had small niggles along the way that I’ve had to manage really well in order to keep on top of my running. I’d say managing the small injuries has been the hardest battle.
BRAD BROWN: You talk about leg strength, you talk about doing stuff in the gym and just getting stronger in that, or is it specific running drills that you worked on?
LUCY CHARLES: A little bit of work in the gym, sort of bodyweight stuff, really trying to improve the leg strength and then in terms of running drills, most of just what I was given by my triathlon club, just to work on small elements.
BRAD BROWN: What’s been the one thing that you’ve done that you can sort of pinpoint that’s made a huge difference in your running performance over your career Lucy?
LUCY CHARLES: I mean it wasn’t until after Ironman UK this year that I started to do some track work with a coach and it was the track sessions that made a huge difference. The speed that you can run on the track is definitely a lot faster than you can get on the road, so it’s that ability to really buildup your speed, but it’s also progressing that into endurance running as well. The track stuff has been a big help.
BRAD BROWN: Would you say that’s your favourite workout now, the ones on the track or do you love doing the longer stuff on the road?
LUCY CHARLES: Yeah, I say the track sessions I love to hate them. They’re very tough, but they almost remind me of what it was like back when I was swimming, so they’re similar sort of sessions, really working you hard and at the end I feel I’ve got a lot from them.
BRAD BROWN: Let’s talk about your favourite track set or workout, what do you love doing? Is it one of those really tough ones again that makes you feel like you’re going to die when it’s happening, but you’re chuffed when it’s over?
LUCY CHARLES: Yeah, pretty much, a fairly similar story to the bike session that I mentioned previously. It’s normally quite a few reps, so we’ve done a session before that was 15 x 800’s, we did seven of them, then we went and ran the local 5km Park Run, which I made the mistake of running in best time and then we had to go back onto the track to do the second half of the set which, yeah, the sick bucket was very, very close to being needed and yeah, that was one of my favourite sessions I’ve done.
Do you need to be a masochist to get to Kona?
BRAD BROWN: I’m starting to believe that you need to be a bit of a masochist if you want to perform in Kona. Would that be a fair and accurate comment Lucy?
LUCY CHARLES: Yeah, there’s definitely an element of not being quite normal, but then I don’t think many triathletes are, so yeah, that’s definitely in your favour if you’re a bit like that!
BRAD BROWN: I seem to recall having a very similar conversation with Reece, your boyfriend about the very similar things because I think he’s also into these crazy sort of favourite sets. It’s good to hear that it’s not just him and it’s not just you, it’s obviously rubbed off on each other.
LUCY CHARLES: Yeah, but obviously we’re compatible in that sense, it must be why we get on.
BRAD BROWN: I love it, Lucy, thank you so much for joining us here on The Kona Edge once again, much appreciated and I look forward to catching up with you again in a future episode, thanks for chatting to us.
LUCY CHARLES: Excellent, thanks very much Brad, thanks for having me on.