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Mon 4th Jul 2022
Fitness and Health: the fine line
Posted by: Simon Ward
Posted on: Friday 6th May 2016

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The fine line between fitness and health

Last week we brought you the first two parts (part one | part two) of Simon Ward's route to Ironman Austria 2016. There will be no records broken, PB's set of contention for Age-Group success in this series - Simon started 2016 in hospital with boken ribs and a fractured collar bone after a high speed bike crash. Goals have had to be changed and the training plan ripped up and started again.

This time around, we are looking at the elements of success - that hopefully you can apply to your own training and racing - when you are in a compromised, sub-optimal position relative to your initial target. Having covered the 'big picture plan' in part two, in this piece, Simon highlights the fine line between fitness and health, and some of the practical things you can do to stay on the right side of injury and illness.

Fitness - treading a fine line with illness or injury

To gain fitness you have to push to the limits. In doing so there's an increased risk of injury or illness. If  that happens so close to the race, panic sets in. You may even have been in this situation yourself.

To avoid these two impostors it is important to be extra diligent with rest and recovery. This is my strategy...

Firstly, you have to create the right environment. The problem with most triathletes is that they are type ‘A' characters. They live with high stress all the time and adding in triathlon goals just adds to that stress. To be successful it is vital to live a quiet life. That means reducing stress. Not an easy task by any means and judging by the number of highly stressed athletes who can't manage their training, one which many are failing at.

I'm talking about a stress free environment. One which enhances the training by allowing full mental and physical recovery. Training gains ONLY happen with adequate rest and world class nutrition. It includes:

More training equals more recovery. Most athletes reduce recovery (and especially sleep) to “squeeze” in more training.

Sleep - minimum 7.5 hours sleep each night (sleep cycles are 90 minutes, so thats 5 sleep cycles. Its actually better than 8 hours!).
Meditation - 20-30 minute per day
Stress reduction - often ignored but lots of “rushing” around causes the body to produce cortisol. Basically you need to spend more time in rest and digest mode than in fight or flight.

I'm currently 5kg above my goal weight.
Clean eating will not only help me recover but also help with weight reduction.
I don't advocate trying to cut calories when training hard but with discipline we can all eat a bit better.
First to go are regular, empty calories - cakes, sweets (especially chocolate), alcohol and those calorie dense cappuccino's from Costa.

I'm also experimenting with a higher fat, lower carb approach not for weight loss but to “force” my body to be more efficient at using fat. This will accelerate fitness gains as well as helping with my body transformation. The added strength training will also help to boost metabolism, another bonus.

Ultimately my approach to nutrition is simple and aimed at helping my body to perform better. This helps me to feel better and once on top of these two the weight takes care of itself.

So thats it.

Ironman Austria on June 26

  • Goal 1 - To finish
  • Goal 2 - To start the race having been able to train without any pain or discomfort
  • Goal 3 - To cross the line in under 14 hours

If I follow the plan described then I'm ultra confident that I can achieve all three but really Goal #1 is my main focus.

Then I have 15 months to get into shape for Kona 2017.

Simon Ward About the Author

Simon Ward is the founder of, the most experienced group of coaches in the UK. You can contact him on 08700 418131, by e-mailing [email protected] or by visiting

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