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Mirinda Carfrae’s first race back in Galveston, Texas, on April 8, 2018. Photo courtesy of Getty Images

How to Make a Comeback like an Ironman Champ

What the average athlete can learn from Boulder-based Mirinda Carfrae's journey from full rest to full beast mode.

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Usually, trying to emulate Mirinda Carfrae would be like attempting to mimic Wonder Woman. Given the Boulder triathlete’s status as a three-time Ironman world champion, the comparison is apt. But in December 2016, Carfrae followed in the footsteps of many a mere mortal and stopped training. (The reason? Welcoming her first baby, Isabelle.) When it was time to hit the gym again, Carfrae asked her strength coach, Erin Carson, for a regimen to get her from idle back to idol. It’s clearly working for Carfrae, who placed second in an April Ironman eight months after giving birth and will compete in the Ironman World Championship on October 13. Carson can’t guarantee the program will turn a sofa spud into a superhuman. But coupled with cardio, it will get you to your own version of fitness heroism.

1. Single-Leg Bridge

Illustration by Aaron Ashley

Set The Stage: After a period of rest, Carfrae needed to “switch on” her muscles. Translation: Warm up the tissue to increase flexibility, promote a wider range of motion, and avoid injury. For the time being, skip the weight rack while you lay groundwork.
Do This: With your feet and upper back on the ground and hips raised, squeeze your glutes and extend a leg. Point and flex your foot. 20 reps per leg
And Also These: Stability ball bridges with alternate leg raises, lateral lunges

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2. Single-Leg, Single-Arm Row

Illustration by Aaron Ashley

Strike A Balance: Once weight-free moves get easy (it took three months for Carfrae), add resistance with dumbbells and elastic bands. Combine them with single-legged exercises to improve stability and fix muscle imbalances—a dominant leg can overcompensate for the weaker one, Carson says, causing injury.
Do This: Stand tall on one leg. With your opposite palm facing down, grab the handle of a band—attached at hip height—and pull it to your body while rotating your elbows in and maintaining an upright posture. 15 reps per leg
And Also These: Back lunges, single-leg Romanian dead lifts

3. Lateral Plyometric Depth Jump

Illustration by Aaron Ashley

Hone Your Skills: The stronger you get, the more you’ll want to compete. But to best show off your post-break progress, Carson suggests incorporating moves designed to achieve a specific performance goal. For Carfrae, who was getting ready to race after four months of training, that meant increasing speed and agility.
Do This: Stand on top of a six-to-eight-inch box and hop sideways, landing with both feet on the ground. Quickly jump back onto the box; the goal is to keep your ground-contact time to a minimum. Five reps each side
And Also These: Agility ladder drills, Bulgarian split squats

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