The northern powerhouses: A day in the life of the Brownlee brothers

A day in the life of the Brownlee brothers. Jonny, left, and Alistair at Otley Sailing Club. Picture: Bruce Rollinson
A day in the life of the Brownlee brothers. Jonny, left, and Alistair at Otley Sailing Club. Picture: Bruce Rollinson
  • They’re the top of their sport, so who better to give the lowdown on how to train for a triathlon? Photographer Bruce Rollinson spent a day with the Brownlee brothers.
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The Brownlee brothers start early. By the time the rest of us have just switched on the office computer, chances are they will have already been for an icy swim in the waters of Otley Sailing Club, putting their first toe in the water at 7.30am.

When they do need to refuel, they often stop at Cranberries cafe in Adel, but there’s little time to chat with the other regulars.

A day in the life of the Brownlee brothers. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

A day in the life of the Brownlee brothers. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

Before lunch, the brothers, who have dominated the World Triathlon Series in recent years, can often be spotted taking on the Otley Chevin. Add to that the odd physio session, indoor pool training and media commitments and in the course of an average week, Alistair and his younger brother Jonathan swim up to 20 hours, run up to 10 hours and in between squeeze at least a couple of hours in the gym.

This weekend they will both be hoping to cross the finish line first in the Hamburg triathlon and such is the popularity of the World Series Events that last year the Brownlee brothers decided to launch their own event on home soil.

This year’s Brownlee Triathlon will take place at Harewood House in Leeds on September 26. If you’ve already got a place or are thinking about entering, it might be worth following some of the Brownlee brothers’ advice.

Alistair never runs on treadmills, as he believes that it is a sure-fire way to get injured. Instead he prefers to run off-road and says technique is key. Triathletes tend to have tight hamstrings, so it looks like they’re running half sitting down. The most important thing he says is to keep tall, with your hips straight up and forward.

A day in the life of the Brownlee brothers. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

A day in the life of the Brownlee brothers. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

Easier, said than done perhaps, but the Brownlee brothers’ next piece of advice is much simpler. Buy a light pair of trainers, ones that feel good on your feet, as it will help prevent injury.

Much like running, when it comes to the swimming, technique is king. To make sure you are at peak fitness, do arm-based drills in the water, concentrating on one arm at the time. If you are feeling like you want to go for a personal best, Alistair also suggests swimming with feet tied together.

Hills are every amateur triathlete’s worst nightmare. The Brownlees’ advice is to push through. As you come to a hill, focus on keeping your upper body still and pedalling from your glutes.

Eat a balanced diet. It may sound like common sense, but when you are training for a triathlon you need to eat plenty of meat, steak, potatoes and vegetables.

A day in the life of the Brownlee brothers. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

A day in the life of the Brownlee brothers. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

A day in the life of the Brownlee brothers. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

A day in the life of the Brownlee brothers. Picture: Bruce Rollinson