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Women & Sports: Alexandra André, Iron(wo)men

Alexandra André's story involves taking on a sporting challenge that even she thought wasn't possible - an Ironman.

Not only did she finish the race, it became one of such purpose and passion when a good friend of hers passed away, that she committed to dedicating her Ironman to him. And so, the fundraising and sporting challenge Ironman for Iron Mads was born.

When did you start participating in Ironman events

I’ve done one Ironman – Melbourne Ironman 2015, but I’ve always loved running, and have now clocked up five Marathons. My earliest childhood memory of running was when I was 7 at a cross-country race, and my entry into endurance sport and what I was capable of came when I crossed the finishing line at my first marathon, 2008 Melbourne Marathon. I collapsed to my hands and knees, my eyes welled and I shook my head at what I’d just achieved. 

Signing up to the Ironman came 6 years later after 5 years of running injuries attempting to do another marathon. I’d taken up some cross training in swimming and riding to alleviate the constant impact of running, and found myself surrounded by people who almost ‘normalised’ Marathons and Ironmans.

How did you start training for competition

At the time I couldn’t run more than 12 km’s, so the odds were against me, but I’ve learnt that odds are the best chance we give ourselves. The Ironman was a bigger goal than I ever imagined myself contemplating and I would do all I possibly could to get to that start line. It’s a 3.8 km swim, 180 km ride, 42.195 km run – considered the toughest one-day sporting event in the world.

One of the first things I did was recognise I’d need a team to help me, so I recruited a coach, physio, massage therapist, nutritionist and a kinesiologist. Week by week, training session by training session I chipped away. My distances became longer and I was getting stronger both physically and mentally. I tried not to focus too much on the race distances themselves (that was too daunting), but just on each session I had in front of me.

I also adapted my training program as I went under the guidance of my coach. You can’t just follow an off the shelf program without any flexibility, you need to listen to your body. We’re all different and we require a different level of training. Having a coach to guide you certainly helps, as does listening to your body and respecting what it needs more than what a training program dictates.

Who is your biggest advocate and what makes them so supportive?

For my Ironman it was my good friend Mads. He sadly passed away at the age of 38 from Multiple Myeloma, and I chose to dedicate my Ironman to him, I called it ‘Ironman for IronMads’. And I found when the purpose of my goal became bigger than me; it gave me a sense of drive and motivation like no other. Mads showed the most incredible strength in his efforts to ‘live’, and that’s what inspired me to dig deep when I needed to in my training and on race day.

And beyond Mads, I have so many advocates, I am so inspired by countless people around me in various ways, just by them doing what they do. And so many of them have encouraged me and believed in me, more than I did in myself at times. Surrounding yourself with these kinds of people, who lift you up and encourage you, is so important and so powerful.

What tools do you need to get through a tough training session?

Having purpose behind your training I believe is fundamental, it doesn’t have to be a dedication to someone, but knowing why you signed up in the first place, and keeping that top of mind will get you through those tough training sessions. There’s always a reason we do things, make it a good one and a big one, and you’ll achieve anything you set your mind to.

Also being in the moment, fully present, not thinking about the next kilometre, or how many you have to go beyond that, but this one, and this one alone. I am also a real advocate of a ‘team’ approach in mind, body and spirit. So many people train for a sporting event just by the ‘physical’ aspect of it, which is absolutely key but it’s not the only thing, we also have a mind and wells of strength and inspiration deep within we can tap into to help us.

I also listen to my body, and adjust as I need to during my training, kinesiology has helped me enormously on this front. And I thank my body after every training session; I scan through my main muscles and bones and thank them for what they just did.

What was the hardest thing you ever had to give up, in order to keep doing your sport?

I don’t believe it’s about ‘giving up’ anything, it can’t be. If it is, I don’t think you’re doing it for the right reasons. People talk about those who train for these big events not having a life, due to the amount of training they do. I disagree. I believe they help you get more out of life. It certainly has for me. I’ve taken on so many things I didn’t think I could achieve, and I surprise myself every time when I get there. And this has just encouraged me to sign up to more of life in so many ways.

By far the hardest part is signing up, having the courage to start. If you can do that, and fully commit to reaching your goal, one way or another, you will.

The only thing I have learnt to ‘give up’ is being too attached to a time or a place. I bring 3 goals to races and encourage others to consider these too: 1) get to the start line 2) get to the finishing line 3) enjoy the journey (on race day and in training). There’s a quote I saw running the London Marathon: ‘Greatness has no time limit’. How true that is.

OMG, so true Alex! Thank you for inspiring us today
We love Alexandras' internet presence, if you want to feel inspired to live and love life, go check out her instagram, her motivating sizzle wheel (including her tedX talk!) or find read more about her mate Mads and the road to Ironman via the following, link

More on Alex via her webpage

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