Emma Pooley: her 5 key preparation areas

Emma Pooley’s success at multisport racing stems from years of focussed training as a cyclist. Here’s how she preps for triathlon and duathlon domination…




For eight years I’ve done this session with a Swiss ball three times a week. It’s specifically for holding a time-trial position. It’s elbows on ball, feet on bench behind you, doing a kind of plank but you move your legs one at a time. Then the opposite way around – hands on the floor, feet on the ball and roll it in towards you gently, then back out again, then side to side. Four sets of 30 reps. If I don’t do it for a few weeks I really feel weak in my stomach area.

Good core control – key exercises


For bike sessions, hill repeats have got to be my favourite because they’re hard and you’re doing them right if you can see the numbers. Even if you don’t have a power meter you can feel the right effort, (that’s useful for bike racing or accelerating on inclines). And then translating it into triathlon or duathlon, practising holding the same power on the flat essentially, which I’ve obviously trained for time-trials, but it’s different for a longer period. I’ll do 20min efforts: 4 x 20mins which is fairly interminable for a cyclist!


I do a lot of technique work on the turbo: rolling, spinning, single-leg… sessions that I really like. Especially with running injuries, you can keep your running down but your heart rate up, plus a 45min turbo is mentally doable. An hour and a half is horrible. Over two hours… nightmare. So if you break it into three 45min turbos with runs in-between it’s actually a lot more fun.


Breakfast varies depending on whether I swim before or after. But I love porridge – half milk, half water, no sugar – or boiled eggs. I eat oatcakes while riding. After training my favourite meal is chopped-up apple and quark, which is higher in protein than yoghurt. But my diet mainly consists of salad – with fish, soya, eggs or cottage cheese. Post-race, I normally have a sachet of recovery shake. I try not to have too many carbs because I’m fed up of bars and sugar by then. If it’s the end of the season or the end of a long race, I’ll have goats cheese, apple and a glass of red wine. 



One of the ones I find really useful is fartlek, so a 5min warm-up, 40mins of 3mins hard, 1min easy or 90secs hard, 30secs easy. It’s kind of sweet-spot training. I find it’s always better when you can do a larger lap; you don’t have to do a session on the track. I enjoy those. It’s also good training for hills; you can choose a hilly route that simulates race courses, which I like. 

The lowdown on fartlek

Hill running vs. fartlek – which is better for time-poor triathletes?