Q&A: Ironman training with Rachel Rutherford

Rachel Rutherford is an Ironman World Championships 2019 finisher and winner of Ironman Lanzarote. She loves all things fitness and aims to inspire people on their own journey. We chat with Rachel about her Ironman experiences, training preparations, benefits of exercise and best experiences.

The interview:

Hi Rachel, in your words, what do exercise and health mean to you?

Exercise & health go hand in hand for me. Having been completely inactive up until about 6 years ago, I have experienced first hand the difference being active can make to both the mental and physical aspects of your health.

You took part in the Ironman World Championships 2019, how was it?

Absolutely amazing. Hawaii is literally like a fantasy island, the whole time I was there was like being in a fairytale. While the race didn’t go quite as I would have liked it to, I had the best time, before and after the race and wouldn’t change anything about it. I would love to go back one day but I’ll have to see how it all plans out.

How do you prepare for something like that?

Its all about consistency for me, and not being too hard on myself when things don’t go quite as planned. When you are training 15+ hour weeks, everything isn’t going to go perfectly, it wouldn’t be real life if it did. An important part for me is understanding why I am doing the sessions I am doing. It’s a bit like anything – If you don’t see a benefit in doing it, its much harder to make yourself. Ultimately though, a lot of hard work, early mornings and training after work, making work a sleepy struggle at times.

What keeps you motivated when it gets tough? 

I am incredibly fortunate, at my age, to be able to compete in IRONMAN. Not only are the events very expensive, but the equipment, nutrition and kit you need to keep up with others hurts the bank balance. When it comes down to it, I like the fact I am doing something that most of the population deem impossible, I am fit and people look to me for inspiration and motivation, which in turn motivates me to keep going.

What impact has exercise had on your life?

Honestly, it has taken over. It’s a massive part of my identity now and I’m not actually sure who I would be without it. It’s caused me a few issues along the way, but on the whole, it’s very hard to see any negatives in being active. A triathlon isn’t for everyone and I truly believe that if you find something you enjoy it no longer becomes a chore to have to do it.

For anyone thinking about triathlons or longer endurance events, what tips and advice would you give them? 

Make sure you know what you are getting yourself into. You don’t necessarily need to have done a triathlon before, or ran a marathon, but it is very important to understand what a big commitment the training is. If you are currently at a stage where you are beginning to get into exercise, build up gradually, don’t force the long stuff, it will come.

Best training tip? Gym or outdoor training?

Don’t forget to have some downtime. Everyone will give you different advice on the topic of rest days. Some people don’t have them and seem to be absolutely fine whereas others end up injured or burned out. You need to work out what is best for your body and mind, and not just copy what others are doing.

In terms of training, I will always say outdoors as it’s where my heart lays. When it comes to running I will always go outside, the exception being safety. I can’t think of anything worse than spending ages running on the treadmill, the most ironic thing about this being that I used to run on one for an hour three times a week when I started.

I won’t lie though, in the dark winter months, I often opt to do a lot of my bike training sessions indoors. It’s easier to hit an interval session on the turbo – Partly because it’s less safe to cycle outside, but mainly because it’s cold and I’m a wimp from time to time.

Finally, what have been your best exercise/sport experiences? 

Now this is a hard one to answer. I mean obviously all three of the IRONMAN events I have done, the support and excitement surrounding these are second to none, and if you are considering doing one, stop thinking and do it, you won’t regret it.

IRONMAN aside, my three favourite races have to be the Sheffield half marathon, Southampton marathon and the Dragon ride, my first proper sportive with my Dad. I am taking part in the Mallorca 312 next year, which will be a step up from anything I have done before.

Thanks for sharing your story!

Follow Rachel on her Instagram here.

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