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The making of Alistair Brownlee: Inside the mind of a double Olympic champion

Alistair Brownlee shares his advice on motivation and willpower.

Staff Reporter
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Redefining triathlon

Double Olympic Champion Alistair Brownlee has given a great insight into the mindset of a world-class athlete, with tips on how to reduce reliance on willpower and maintain motivation.

The Yorkshireman, who along with younger brother Jonny transformed short-course triathlon, has in recent years transitioned to long-course triathlon, where his motivation has been tested time and time again by a number of obstacles.

Whilst he hasn’t had the season he would’ve wanted so far in 2023, there is no doubt that Brownlee will be back with a bang shortly – and his continued perseverance to be the best after everything he has achieved is a lesson to us all.

“I’ve learnt a lot about motivation and willpower”

Recounting his early days in the sport, Brownlee provided an insight into what a typical day looked like for him as a teenager. Almost without knowing, he was putting in the work which would one day make him a champion.

Brownlee Brothers Alistair Jonny London Olympic Games 2012 Triathlon
(Pic – World Triathlon).

Writing on social media, he revealed: “Having been involved in competitive sports almost all my life, I’ve learnt a lot about motivation and willpower. As a teenager, I competed in swimming, cycling, running, and triathlon.

“I had a pretty rigorous training schedule, which would often look like a 15-mile ride to school along the canal, a lunchtime run, and a 2-hour swim after school, often in the depths of winter, setting off in the dark and riding back down a dark canal on my way home.

“Looking back, I realised that what kept me going wasn’t just the desire to win races. It was also the habit of training and making it a part of my daily routine.

“We only get a certain amount of willpower to draw and I wasn’t having to constantly use my willpower to force myself to train because it had become a habit. I made training enjoyable and motivating by training with friends and finding ways to make it social and fun.”

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Alistair Brownlee’s four tips on motivation

Now, having reflected on his own relationship with motivation and willpower, Brownlee has summarised his main pieces of advice on the topic – applicable to just about anyone and most walks of life:

“Make training habitual: Incorporate it into your daily routine so that it becomes second nature. For example, in school, I knew exactly what I was doing on a Thursday – riding to school at 7:30 am and running for 60 minutes at lunchtime. Much like now, when I wake up on a weekday I know that I need to be in the pool for 8am – whether I like it or not!

“Remove the barriers: Keep your equipment in working order and ready to go so that you don’t have to waste energy on getting ready to train or wondering where your kit is. If you know you’re running in the morning, your kit needs to be ready the night before so it’s one less thing to think about when you get up.

“Make it enjoyable: Find ways to make training fun and social, whether that means training with friends or finding a competitive aspect to it.

Alistair Brownlee PTO European Open Ibiza 2023 bike rack [Photo credit: PTO]
Alistair Brownlee ahead of the race in Ibiza [Photo credit: PTO]

“Use external motivation sparingly: I try to use external motivation tactically – the race I’ve got coming up or maybe riding by myself with a treat after the session – when I really need to prise myself off the sofa to go training.”

Tomos Land
Written by
Tomos Land
Tomos Land is a triathlon & running journalist whose expertise lies in the professional world of short course & long distance triathlon, though he also boasts an extensive knowledge of ultra-running.
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