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Brownlee Brothers: Unstoppable Triathlon Tips

Olympic medallists and proud Yorkshiremen, brothers Alistair and Jonny Brownlee talk triathlon, training and ham pizza

The Brownlee brothers: Alistair, left, and Jonny are sponsored by Adidas

Brownlee brothers Ali and Jonny on the growing popularity of triathlon

Jonny: “I think triathlon’s become so popular because it’s a bit of a challenge sport, like marathon-running was 10 years ago.

Usually people can swim, cycle or run so they’ve already got one third covered

“If people wanted to get fit, raise money for charity, or just have a bit of fun, they used to do a marathon. Now more and more people are choosing triathlon.

“Usually people can swim, cycle or run pretty well, so they’ve already got one-third of it covered, and the other two disciplines are exciting to train for.”

Ali and Jonny on setting up their own triathlon


Ali: “After the Olympics, we realised a lot of people were starting to pay attention to triathlon and we wanted to encourage them to try it out, rather than just watching it on TV.

It’s not a sport that only weirdo anoraks do, anyone can have a go

“It’s not a sport that only weirdo anoraks do: anyone can have a go, so we decided to put on a short-distance race in a really nice and inspiring environment.

“The first Brownlee Tri was in 2013 and we raced in it [they won, obvs]. The next time we just did the swim so we could spend more time watching and meeting people.”

Jonny: “We’re from Leeds and we’re very Leeds-proud, so we wanted the Brownlee Tri to be located there. A lot of the major events are very London-focused, so Yorkshire seemed a good place to do it.”

Ali and Jonny on spanking loads of money on kit

The brothers got new Boardman bikes for their most recent triathlon. Alistair won; Jonny had a flat tyre

Ali: “Triathlon doesn’t have to be expensive. You can spend a fortune if you want, the sky’s the limit, but there’s no need.

Buying a better bike will only improve your performance by around 1-2%. You get far bigger improvements from training than from kit

“A pair of running shoes is all you need to go for a run, you can head down to the local leisure centre with your swimming trunks and goggles, and you can get a basic bike to start with and then maybe upgrade after you’ve done a few races.”

“It’s nice to have new things, but buying a better bike will only improve your performance by around 1-2%. You get far bigger improvements from training than from kit.”

Ali and Jonny on nutrition

Jonny’s pre-race fodder of choice

I have a ham pizza the night before a race

Ali: “We’re not massively specific with our nutrition, we just try and eat a normal, healthy diet, and keep it balanced.”

Jonny: “I have a ham pizza the night before a race: it’s simple, you can’t get food poisoning it, and it’s available all over the world.”

Ali and Jonny on not panicking in the swim

Looks alright that dunnit? (PIC: Twitter / @jonny_brownlee

Ali: With an outdoor swim people are often scared of being a long way from shore, not being able to touch the bottom, and having other people around them. But swimming is just swimming.

It’s nearly impossible to go under water in a wetsuit

“As long as you don’t panic there’s not much that can go wrong. It’s nearly impossible to go under the water in a wetsuit, so just keep relaxed and swim exactly like you would in a pool.”

Ali and Jonny on training

Jonny says running is his favourite of the three sports, while Ali likes both running and cycling

Ali: “Us Brownlee brothers spend around 35 hours a week training, and when we’re not training we’re resting, so it doesn’t really give us time to do other things. We do about 15-20 hours of cycling a week; swimming probably takes up the least hours.”

We do bodyweight training like squats and lunges – mainly to stop my knee collapsing

Jonny: “We go to the gym twice a week and do strength work, as it’s important we don’t get injured. We do bodyweight training like squats and lunges – mainly to stop my knee collapsing and to strengthen my glutes up.”

Ali and Jonny on sibling rivalry

Ali and Jonny won gold and bronze respectively at London 2012 (PIC: Facebook/The Brownlee brothers)

We used to be really competitive over everything: board games, crazy golf…

Ali: “We used to be really competitive over everything: board games, crazy golf… everything. But I think we’ve used up all our competiveness now.”

Jonny: “We’re very good at switching it off . We used to be competitive in training but we’ve realised that you can’t race all the time.”

Ali and Jonny on their younger brother Edward

Ali: “He doesn’t do triathlon. He’s very, very different, very much his own person. He used to come and support us a bit, but he’s 19 now and he’s not really bothered. Yes there are three Brownlee brothers!”

Ali and Jonny on transition

Ali:  “Practice putting your kit on and go through a few dry runs. You might think you can do it, but can you do it under pressure?”

Make sure your bike helmet’s straps are the perfect length so it’s easy to get on

“Make sure your bike helmet’s straps are the perfect length so it’s easy to get on. And make sure you know where your bike is, because there can be thousands, so you’ll need to remember exactly which row you are.”

Jonny: “Use oil to get your wetsuit off – I put baby oil all over my arms. I also cut the legs on my wetsuit to the middle of my shins, it makes it a lot easier to get off.”

Ali and Jonny on adding another sport to triathlon

Jonny picking up some tips (PIC: Twitter/@jonny_brownlee)

I’d add a penalty shoot-out. I like to think I’m good at football but I’d probably find that I’m not

Jonny: “I’d add a penalty shoot-out. I like to think I’m good at football but I’d probably find that I’m not. Most endurance athletes aren’t very good at it though, so maybe I’d have an advantage…”

Ali: “Skiing. It’s not very practical, but I enjoy skiing and I’m not really allowed to do it in case I get injured. When I retire I’m really, really looking forward to skiing and just doing a bit of exercise for fun – going out for a ride to a cafe, and running where I want.”

They’re a bit faster than us these guys

The Brownlee brothers Ali and Jonny on choosing between…

A. Winning, and their brother not placing

B. Helping their brother out and achieving a Brownlee bronze and silver

Ali: “Oh, I’d always want to win.”

Jonny: “Yeah I’d definitely want to win as well!”

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