Lionel Sanders hopes to follow in footsteps of Jan Frodeno as recovery becomes top priority

Lionel Sanders hopes to follow in the footsteps of Jan Frodeno and find his peak during the latter years of his career.

Staff Reporter
Last updated -

Like a fine wine, fan favourite Lionel Sanders hopes that he gets better with age, as the 35 year old Canadian looks to reach new heights this season.

The two-time IRONMAN World Champion runner-up, who is based in Tucson, has already stated his intentions to compete in the IRONMAN Pro Series this season.

With the stakes higher than ever and the Windsor native reaching the twilight of his career, Sanders revealed in his latest YouTube video that he understands there is little room for error in his training methods moving forward.


A mix of naivety and ignoring reality

For Sanders, the past season has had its ups and downs, with a crash at Clash Miami at the start of the season setting off a chain reaction that brought setback after setback, which Sanders acknowledges get harder to deal with as you age.

“It’s nice to be young, for sure, but as time has gone on I’ve had to watch my recovery capacity and my capacity to do stupid things, things that you don’t need to do. My capacity to do that has gotten less and I’ve had to get a lot smarter now.

“I’ve been doing this a long time, I’ve got a lot of experience now and a lot of knowledge and I would say the theme of this season has been and will be acknowledging reality.

“Part of my failure to acknowledge reality is a little bit of naivety and a little bit of not wanting to acknowledge reality. I train with a lot of young guys, Trevor [Foley] is 24, Ben [Foltz] is 23 and Sam [Long] is 27-28.” 

Sanders said that realising the importance of recovery has been of paramount importance over the past 12 months, with the conversations he has had with his younger training partners driving home how fundamental it is to put recovery first.

It’s not all doom and gloom

Questioning what has led him astray this past year, Sanders quickly dismisses the idea that it is his age, whilst also minimising the impact that he had previously believed quick fixes like clean eating had played.

“We made videos about how it was all nutrition related and for a clean athlete, nutrition and sleep is all you have to recover, but it’s not just nutrition, there are many things that lead to feeling good or not feeling good, absorbing training or not absorbing training and nutrition of course is one of them but there are many things.

“So, is it because you’re old? You’re washed up and the career is over? It may look like that looking in, but that’s not what it means in my opinion.

“What it means is that it’s not the same as it was, you are not the same, you’re not 24 anymore, you’ve logged a decade worth of aerobic training, you don’t have to do stupid things anymore.

“Anyway you slice it, I’m 35 now. I can’t do the things I did when I was 24 but I also don’t need to do the things I did back then, because some of the things were stupid and not supported by science at all.” 

Using multiple time world champion Jan Frodeno as a prime example of what can happen if you hone in on the basics and work on making everything click as you get older, Sanders reiterated his belief that he can still be the best.

Jan Frodeno / Lionel Sanders

“Does that [his age] mean I can’t have a peak performance anymore? No, look at Jan Frodeno, who at 42 had a peak performance in Milwaukee, where Kristian [Blummenfelt] knew it would be his last chance to have a shot at him.

“Keep in mind, when I got to observe Jan during his career, he was probably 34 at the beginning and 42 at the end, around where I am now, that’s where he was the entire time I was observing and he was doing 4-5 races a year.

“If he had a bad race, it wasn’t a case of going out and finding another one the next week, it was about going to the drawing board and taking months to build up and correct what has gone wrong.

“I’m 35, I’m going to be 36 next season and if you take anything from this season, it’s that you can still have peak performance. I would say I’m mentally and physically stronger than I’ve ever been, I’ve got so much more behind me now, but I’m just not going to be able to do it by replicating the stupidity that you did ten years ago even though you did well ten years ago.

“What I have learnt from 2023 is that I can still have a peak performance and me having a peak performance now looks a lot different to me having a peak performance in 2014. It will take a different approach and it can still happen but it will take me listening to my body, using my brain and informing my training with science.” 

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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