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Talking training with sub-8h triathlete Patrik Nilsson

SuuntoTri — 4 October 2016

From how to balance his training load to his favourite post-workout meal, Swedish triathlete and Suunto athlete Patrik Nilsson shares his approach to training.

At this year’s KMD Copenhagen Ironman, winning 25-year-old professional triathlete Patrik Nilsson achieved the seventh fastest time in the history of Ironman: 07h49m18s. This smashed his best personal time by 20 minutes.

Last weekend Patrik was at it again and crossed the line in Ironman Barcelona in another amazing time of 07h55m28s. We caught up with Patrik just before Barcelona and quizzed him on his approach to training.

You must have felt amazing at the Copenhagen race?

When we reached the mid way point of the bike ride, I started to think about what time I could achieve. I thought for a moment I had been counting wrong or something. I realised if I kept up the pace I could go under eight hours. But then it was even faster! Under 7h50m is amazing. Way faster than I thought possible!

You’re working with a new coach, right?

Yes, and she’s also my girlfriend. Teresa noticed a lot of things in my training and in my mentality that wasn’t as it should be. To do well in races, you need to have fun. You need to really enjoy it, to say, “I really want to win this”, and that’s what I didn't have before.

Has your training changed?

I’ve been focusing more on long runs and long bike rides to develop endurance and to push my threshold higher. I’ve been trying to work on my fat percentage to get my weight down and at the same time keep my muscles strong. As I say, one of the biggest changes was around my attitude – to have fun and really enjoy it.

How much are you training?

I’m training a lot! On a hard training week, usually between 30 to 35 hours. At the moment I’m doing a lot of riding, around 15 to 20 hours a week, and about 100 km of running and the rest swimming and core work.

How do you manage your training load?

I have a close connection with my coach, which is easy when the coach is your girlfriend! It makes it really easy for her understand how I'm feeling. We use Training Peaks, which makes it easy to see how tired I am, the training stress load and how I’m developing over time. 

How long do you usually taper for?

Tapering is usually for one or one and a half weeks. The day before a race, I do one and a half hours of training. Two days before is just an easy jog or a swim. Three or four days before I do a hard three-hour bike ride.

©KMD Ironman Copenhagen

Do you follow any particular nutrition plan?

I drink a lot of chocolate milk. Since I’m training a lot, I need the carbohydrates. Chocolate milk makes it easy to get a little more energy. After a hard session I can drink between three to six litres of it. Apart from that, I try to eat healthy. I’m writing down everything I’m eating so I can see how much I’ve got through in a day.

What’s your usual recovery plan? 

In the week following an Ironman I don’t do any running. I know that it’s easy for me to injure my calf if I do. During the week after the race I do an hour or two of easy riding or easy swimming each day. Then one week after the race, it’s back to serious training. I need that week off to recover mentally as well.

Images © Carles Iturbe


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