This week we are high-fiving FiTONIC's Athlete of the Week: Ironman competitor, Elaine Young!! After her boyfriend signed her up for her first Ironman (without her knowing!) Elaine had to learn how to swim to even compete in the race. Since then, she went on to win in her age group in Ironman Korea and is now in love with the sport. This week, she shares with us her story of overcoming the physical and mental barriers to competing in triathlons!
Hi! Tell us a little about yourself and your fitness journey!
I am a recreational runner turned rock climber turned Ironman Athlete! I picked up triathlon 6 years ago after moving to Singapore (after finding out very quickly that there weren't many mountains to climb). A triathlon is a sport that consists of a swim, bike and run. An Ironman is a 3.8km swim, 180km bike, and 42.2km run. Believe it or not, I didn't even know how to swim when I first started, but slowly and surely with some perseverance (interrupted with some hissy fits) I improved and eventually went on last year to win in my age group at Ironman Korea and qualified for a spot to compete in the Hawaii Ironman World Championship in October this year!
What first inspired you to pursue this path?
I honestly never thought of doing an Ironman. I wasn't exactly inspired, but more influenced by my boyfriend at the time (now husband) who was doing the sport at the time. He signed me up for a couple of triathlons and only told me after the fact!
What do you believe to be your greatest strength and weakness?
My biggest strength is that I am disciplined and dedicated, something that is critical to pursue any goal in life (athletic or not)! In fact, I have been able to apply a lot of the skills I learned in Ironman to my normal life. I go into work with the perspective that nothing can be harder than doing an Ironman - this makes the crazy of life a little easier to digest! My weakness is that I can be a bit intense for people, and so for people who meet me for the first time will either think I'm really cool or really crazy!
Have you worked with coaches? If so, what is one major takeaway that you have learned through them?
Yes and no, For the most part, I train myself because I like to be able to control my schedule. Having said that, I do look for external help when I think that a coach can really help me with certain aspects of fitness goals. For instance, I have been working with a strength and conditioning coach, Arthur Tong, recently because I want to get stronger, and with limited time leading up to Kona and a crazy work schedule, I need something effective that can be done in a short period of time. It's funny, sometimes, in the sport of triathlon, people think that if you swim, bike and run a lot you will improve but honestly, strength training is critical to getting stronger and having endurance as well avoiding injury.
What is the hardest part about what you do?
Finding the time to train is definitely the hardest part. An Ironman is one of the toughest single day endurance races in the world and therefore you need to spend hours and hours training every week to get ready for one. I find around 15-18 hours a week is my sweet spot and honestly all I can afford, having a pretty intense full-time job. Therefore, keeping things under control in other parts of my life is important so nothing derails my training - I find getting up early the easiest way to deal with that problem. This means many 4 am mornings, unfortunately!
What is the most rewarding?
The most rewarding is crossing the line after an Ironman and knowing that the months and months of hard work has paid off. During an Ironman (which can take up to 17 hours, there are so many thoughts that go through your head, and honestly, so many negative ones that make you want to give up). But when you get there and realize you have done something absolutely crazy... nothing can really top that!
What is your nutrition like? Any tips?
If you want to go far and strong, nutrition is so important. Be aware of what you are putting in your body and question yourself before putting something in your mouth i.e. is this going to help me or push me back with my training?! I'm not going to lie, I love to eat and often I will eat what i feel like, but when a race is approaching and it is time to get serious, I will watch what I eat - less white carbs, more complex carbs, a good mix of protein and vegetables, etc. There is no point spending 15 hours a week training and then eating things that don't let your body recover or perform properly!
Do you have any words of encouragement for women who are just beginning their fitness journey?
Baby steps and find something that you enjoy to do! That is the only way your fitness journey will be sustainable. Make realistic goals and don't be too hard on yourself when things don't go right all the time! Just keep trying - you can do it girl!
Looking forward to the future, who do you WANNABE?
I want to be a better version of myself - that is what I am always striving for =)
BIG thank you to Elaine for being our Athlete of the Week!
You can connect with her at:
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