Helle Frederiksen : An exclusive interview

Helle was born in Holstebro, Denmark in 1981. She was involved with sports at the age of 5 which was swimming. At the age of 12 she came on the national team in swimming. She was on the national team in 7 years before she stopped my career in swimming. It took her 6 years before I started Triathlon – in the mean while she travelled around he world and started at University. She started to involved with Triathlon when in 2005/2006.

Triathlon World : Triathlon magazines readers adore to read the training schedules of the elite Triathletes. Could you please give us a typical training week of Helle Frederiksen at a build up week?

Helle Frederiksen : A typical week for me is always pretty busy. In order for us to stay at the top of the sport the time commitment to training is massive. A typical training week for me consists of around 25 hours of training with around 15 hours in between race weeks. During a standard build up week I will swim 5 times per week between 4 – 6 km each time, 1 of these swim will be open water race specific. While the rest will be purely focused on technique, speed and endurance. I ride 4 – 5 times per week with one ride consisting of 3+ hours. The remaining rides are very much specific work either on hills, intervals or sprints. This all depends on my upcoming race and what area I feel needs to be improved. A good running week will see me running 5 – 6 times 2 x Specific running e.g interval, fartlek, tempo etc. 1 x Long run 1 hour 15 minutes +, 1 – 2 x kombi runs either at pace or more for off bike running feeling. 1 – 2 x easy/stead pace runs. 2 x Core sessions per week of around 40 – 60 minutes long. 1 – 2 x Massage per week. 1 x Physio/Osteo check up per week. More often than no there is sponsor commitments and administration work to fill up the rest of my time


Triathlon World :What is a typical day of you?

Helle Frederiksen : If we take a Wednesday which is generally my busiest day. I wake around 6.45 am eat a good breakfast as I have a long day ahead of me. Then head to our local lake for a race specific open water session starting at 8 am. This session is high intensity with the rest of the Danish National Squad. It is tough but exactly what is needed to emulate race day conditions. After this 1 hour + session I then head quickly home for a quick bight to eat and then ride out at around 10.15 am for a 3 hour+ ride. This is generally a group ride which helps greatly with pack riding experience. I more often than not train with the men and this is always a great push. It also gives me great confidence when they push hard and I am able to stay with them. Straight after the ride I will then perform an off bike run (kombi) approx. 40 – 50 minutes long. Depending on the weeks schedule this run could also be a specific tempo session. Once the ride is completed I eat and eat lots!! Training at such a high level it is so important to fill your body with all the calories and more you have lost while training. Being a  Master of Human Nutrition allows me to know exactly what is needed to maximize my recovery and ensure I am ready for another days training in less that 24 hours. Once refuelled and recovered I then get a massage either at home (benefits of having a multi talented partner) or via our National Governing Body – Team Denmark. This is vital for recovery and injury prevention, any niggles and aches can be addressed and ‘ironed’ out. Also a great way to relax that is if the masseur is feeling generous,  else they can be pretty painful. Finally it is home for more food, relax, admin work and finally sleep zzzzz.

Triathlon World : Denmark has produced many exceptional triathletes as Susanne Nielsen, Rasmus Henning. What is the secret of success? What kind of support have the Danish elite triathletes that make them so succesful?

Helle Frederiksen: Denmark has produced some exceptional triathletes, especially considering we are such a small nation compared to the likes of Great Britain, Australia, France, Germany and so many other good triathlon nations. Denmark Triathlon does not receive funding anywhere near the likes of Great Britain and Australia so it is really impressive that we produce and get recognised for world class triathletes. I am not sure there is any secret in the success, in general Denmark is a good sporting nation. Look at the recent World Swimming Championships in Shanghai with Jeanette Ottesen taking the 100 m Gold and Lotte Friis taking Gold in the 1500 m and silver in the 800 m. Our cyclists are always ever present in the Tour De France with riders such as Lars Bak riding for HTC Highroad and Nikki Soerensen riding for Team Saxo Bank (Danish Team). So I would more say that Denmark we are gifted with natural    athletes  Elite triathletes are fortunate to have Michael Krueger as Performance director/head coach. Michael’s work is exceptional and he was the mastermind behind Rasmus Henning’s triathlon success. Michael runs an elite centre which is a base for the athletes and a very social base at that. We have everything we need there, treadmills, core room, massage facilities, kitchen, television, big screen projector for indoor sessions when the weather is bad, x-trainers, weight room, changing rooms, shower facilities, bike maintenance. Michael has created this exceptional environment for the squad so if anyone needs and deserves credit for the recent success of Triathlon in Denmark it is him. I am a little concerned about the youth/talent development in Denmark as we do not have a solid development programme for talented juniors and youth to gain support and develop their knowledge. I am sure this is something that is being worked on and I when I get a little more time I will do all I can to get the youth of today involved in this great sport. As I know my racing career will not last forever we need other athletes to keep up Denmark’s recognition as a good triathlon nation.

Triathlon World : Who is your coach and what is his/ her training philosophy?

Helle Frederiksen : Michael Krueger has been my coach for the past 5 years. He is also the coach of Dirk Bockel, Jordan Rapp and until recently the 12 year coach of Rasmus Henning. He is an amazing coach but also a tough one at that. Michael has been and is still an exceptional athlete himself so he is by my side on nearly all my training sessions when in Denmark. He is pretty old school in terms of toughness. He is a strong believer that if an athlete can cope with it then mileage counts. We have a very good working relationship which only now gets better as time goes on, we understand each other well. I trust him and he trusts me. He knows that I will speak my mind if something is not how I think it should be. This is something I feel is very important and not done enough in elite level coaching. This is how many athletes become injured or over trained because they simply can not speak with their coach. A coach is not only someone who designs your programme but also explains you the reasons why and listens when needed, they become a massive part of your life.

Triathlon World : Do you think that one triathlon coach is enough or do you feel a need for a coach in each single sport?

Helle Frederiksen : I strongly believe each athlete needs a coach, know one should do it alone. If you are self coached then you tend to not see things that a coach or a mentor can see simply because each person looks at training in a different aspect. There should always be a head triathlon coach responsible for the structure, layout and design of your training. This coach will be experienced at putting all three of the sporting disciplines together. If you was to have a sole swim, bike and run coach then there is a big risk the training will not be designed to accommodate the previous discipline. I then think it is great to have a support team of mentors and helpers providing they do not interfere with the head coaches plans and training philosophies. Although Michael Krueger is my coach I also regard my partner Ben Powell as massive part of my support network. He can often see things/areas that me or Michael can not, he helps me both physically and mentally over come obstacles so I also see him as part of my coaching team. Two experienced coaching minds combined with mine make for a better all round partnership. Getting help in the sole disciplines on technique etc. is also beneficial e.g if your coach is online based and extremely good at making your structure and designing your training then join swim sessions where there is a coach on the side of the pool. This will not interfere with the overall structure and design of an athletes training. And you will benefit from the technique advice.

Triathlon World : What are your goals for the rest of 2011? What are your plans for 2012 ?

Helle Frederiksen : My plans for the rest of 2011 is to remain consistent. I have recently been treated for a parasite infection which really knocked me out for some time. It affected my results in the European Championships and Edmonton World Cup. I am now slowly getting back to fitness and shape so I would really like to get back to being consistent. This 2011 season has all been about gaining Olympic points. I am not chasing the World Championship Series so they schedule for the rest of 2011 will be designed in order to give me added Olympic points securing my selection for the London 2012 Olympics. 2012 will of course be the Olympic year. Should I be selected (I will know for sure in May 2012) I do not want to go to London to make up the numbers, of course it will be an honour to represent my country and be on the start line. However the Olympics is an opportunity that does not arise so often (every 4 years, qualification permitting). I do not want to just be an athlete that settles on becoming an Olympian, I want to be an athlete who can look back and say I did everything I could to get a medal. I will sit down with my team at the end of this season and establish how I think I can get the best out of my performance in London 2012. Then we will establish a training plan, formula to work on putting me in the best position possible to fight for a medal in the Olympics. The winner of that Olympic Triathlon gold medal since Sydney 2000 has gone to athletes not regarded as the favourites pre-race. Should I get to London 2012 I will not be regarded as a favourite therefore I will believe that I can content for a medal. Many people will say that is unrealistic but that only adds to my motivation to prove them wrong.  Although my 2012 season will be designed to deliver the best performance in London I will race the World Championship Series and possibly some French Grand Prix’s to ensure that I do not burn myself out mentally by solely thinking about the Olympics. It is important to have other goals to.

Triathlon World : Could you please give some tips to age group triathletes that could help them improve fast as triathletes?

Helle Frederiksen : Train specific. Do not just train. Select your goal then establish a plan that gets you to that goal best prepared, mentally ready and physically adapted to your selection of races. Design your training to focus on your weak areas while maintaining your strengths. You will then notice that you times and confidence will dramatically increase. Do not be afraid to try something different. A good athlete is not just an athlete that is on top of the results list but an athlete who looks for new training methods and adapts their training for triathlon and not swim, bike and run as individual disciplines. Do not do it alone get advice and help from those who are able to give it.


Triathlon World : What are you doing in terms of recuperation/ recovery?

Helle Frederiksen : Recovery is massive for me. I am always learning in the sport having been a professional for only 3 years I learn about my body every day. Unfortunately I have experienced some serious injuries. Despite suffering physically with these injuries, caused by unavoidable crashes, I have mentally become wiser and smarter regarding recovery and recuperation. I am now very cautious when it comes to pushing the body to far. I now take very little risks, if I feel a niggle or a slight ache somewhere I will get it looked at and treated. If I feel too tired or my body tells me it wants to rest I will let it rest. I often use some of my sessions as an active recovery. It is very important that you become good at listening to your body. Your body is an amazingly complex machine and it will tell you when it has had enough. An athlete who listens to their body is the athlete that ends up on top eventually. Massage, self massage, foam rollers are excellent to aid with recovery. Research on the body, books on exercise science will also help you gain a good understanding why the body acts as it does.

Triathlon World :The fact that you have studied sport science has helped you a lot as a professional athlete? If yes how?

Helle Frederiksen : It has helped me massively. Many athletes out there do not know enough about the body and the sport to actually make the most of it. Some athletes just follow the programme with no questions asked therefore when things go wrong or not as they should they do not know how to counter act the problem. With my education I have a massive understanding on how the body functions, how best to combine different disciplines and training methods. Also with my nutrition background it means I am always aware of what is needed to recover the most effective way.

TriathlonWorld : Ηοw do you monitor your progress?

Helle Frederiksen :I have my training programmes and training data logged for the past 5 years so it is easy for me to access and monitor my progress. Race results is also a good way but not so much the actual timing splits but more the consistency in the overall result in comparison to the field of athletes racing. After every race I sit down an analyse the areas where I felt strong, where it went wrong, the good points, bad points etc. this all helps with monitoring my progress and building towards a better all round athlete.

Triathlon World : Can a female body “absorb” the training loads (volume and intensity) that a male body can or do women have to train a little lighter and less?

Helle Frederiksen : I strongly believe that a female athlete can “absorb” the training loads of a male athlete but definitely not maintain the same output. Energy exertion levels can also be equal to a male but of course a male is naturally stronger allowing them to perform at faster paces. This for me is the only difference in terms of differences between male and female athletes. Of course it all depends on an athletes capabilities whether or not they can handle a big training load. Me as an athlete do not train so much as some of the other athletes on the circuit but that is simply because of my body type.    As I mention above nearly all of my training is conducted with men, I will train the same amount of time and conduct the same sessions but the speed in which I conduct efforts and intervals will be slower (on some occasions).If you take the best male and female athletes in the world and put them on a training camp you will notice that they will swim, bike and run together and will only be separated when speed and strength sessions are introduced. Even then the difference is not huge only on the run.

Triathlon World : There aren’t many scientific woks and papers concerning triathlon. Do you think that this is the reason why many triathletes are training in the wrong way, e.g. doing more training than is needed? Could you give some tips for age group athletes that would like to improve in an ironman race?

Helle Frederiksen : Triathlon is a tremendous and fascinating sport. As it is so new (originating in 1974 in Mission Bay, San Diego) methods and training methods are continuing to be explored. Not one formula is the recipe for success and I do not think there will ever be. However many people are still training as swimmers, cyclists and runners instead they need to be training for Triathlon. Triathlon is a sole sport in its own right. A recent scientific study on Triathlon concluded that Triathlon needs to be explored as a sole sport and new methods, techniques and research needs to be made available for athletes to help with the education and growth of the sport. I strongly believe that many athletes over train simply because they do not know what they are doing. This is why I would strongly advise gaining helping and guidance from those able to help. Which is my main purpose for establishing my newly founded coaching company HF Triathlon. A quick tip for an age group athlete wanting to improve their ironman race is to not think endurance, endurance, endurance. Ironman is rapidly changing which is evident from the recent tumble in World records by Marino Vanhoenacker and then 1 week later Andreas Raelart. 7 hours 41 minutes does not happen by just endurance training. It requires a tremendous amount of speed work incorporated into this endurance training. Despite being extreme endurance athletes, a successful Ironman competitor will now include a lot of speed training to enhance their overall result.

Triathlon World : We have visited your website and we would like to ask you to clarify what exactly is the philosophy of your coaching system and business.

Helle Frederiksen : I have established the coaching company to enhance to options for elite level coaching to triathletes of all levels and abilities. As you can see I am very passionate about the sport and its growth. However I understand there is a lack of resources available to athletes in all countries, in all distances of all abilities. My companies coaching philosophy is simply just high quality, high standard, attention to detail for each an every client. I know what an athlete needs from a coach, I understand what points a coach needs to be at their best. This style of coaching is currently not easily accessible to the general public. This is what my company targets. It is easily accessible, available internationally as it is online based and we provide you a coach who is passionate about every athletes success and progress. www.hftriathlon.com will provide you with more information. enquiries@hftriathlon.com will be happy to help with any query or question you may have. I understand I am not going to be able to race forever, I look forward to one day becoming recognized for my coaching abilities as I have been recognised for my racing abilities. For now I am focused on my racing career. The company is run day to day by my partner and despite me having an active role in the planning and design of each training programme I do not currently act as an active coach in the company. I am just simply the boss!!

Thanks for taking the time to get in touch with me. I am very grateful for your interest and it has been a pleasure to provide you an  insight into my life as a professional triathlete.

About triathlonworld

Ο κ. Γιάννης Ψαρέλης είναι από τα ιστορικά στελέχη του Τριάθλου στη χώρα μας έχοντας παρακολουθήσει και συμμετέχει έντονά στη διοικητική ανάπτυξη του αθλήματος. Χρόνια μέλος των εθνικών ομάδων ,εκπρόσωπος των αθλητών στην τεχνική επιτροπή του αθλήματος, υπεύθυνος χάραξης των διαδρομών αγώνων της Ομοσπονδίας μεταξύ των οποίων και της Ολυμπιακής διαδρομής του 2004 στη Βουλιαγμένη,έχει διατελέσει γενικός γραμματέας της Ομοσπονδίας Τριάθλου και εκπρόσωπος αυτής στην Ελληνική Ολυμπιακή Επιτροπή. Έχει πληθώρα προπονητικών πιστοποιήσεων στα αθλήματα αντοχής από εθνικές ομοσπονδίες και συνδέσμους προπονητών. Έχει παρακολουθήσει πλήθος εκπαιδευτικών σεμιναρίων της Διεθνούς Ομοσπονδίας Τριάθλου τόσο για Διοργανωτές Αγώνων όσο και κριτές. Επίσης έχει παρακολουθήσει πολυήμερα σεμινάρια για διοργανωτές αγώνων στη Λοζάνη κάτω από την εποπτεία της ΔΟΕ. Έχει σπουδάσει Χημεία στο Εθνικό και Καποδιστριακό Πανεπιστήμιο Αθηνών. Έχει τους εξής πανεπιστημιακούς μεταπτυχιακούς τίτλους : Αθλητική Διοίκηση (Παν.Lyon1-Masters in Sport Organisations Management – πρόγραμμα αναγνωρισμένο από την Διεθνή Ολυμπιακή Επιτροπή), Αθλητική Διοίκηση (Παν. Leicester), Διοίκηση Επιχειρήσεων (Οικονομικό Πανεπιστήμιο Αθηνών- Executive MBA), Μάρκετινγκ & Επικοινωνία (Οικονομικό Πανεπιστήμιο Αθηνών -MSc in Marketing and communication with New Technologies). Προπονητής Τριάθλου Προπονητής Τριάθλου Ο κ.Γιάννης Ψαρέλης έχει διατελέσει Διοικητικός Υπεύθυνος καθώς και Υπεύθυνος Στρατηγικής & Ανάπτυξης στο Sports Excellence (πρόγραμμα που πραγματοποιείται υπό την επιστημονική επίβλεψη της Α’ Ορθοπαιδικής Κλινικής του ΕΚΠΑ, όντας εγκεκριμένο κέντρο από τον Διεθνή Σύνδεσμο Κέντρων Υψηλού Αθλητισμού) έχοντας την επιστημονική επίβλεψη μέχρι και 1800 επίλεκτων αθλητών και αθλητριών προεθνικών και εθνικών ομάδων έως 18 ετών καθώς και των μελών της Προ-Ολυμπαικής προετοιμασίας για τους ΟΑ του Τόκυο (με μνημόνιο συνεργασίας με την ΕΟΕ). Σε επίπεδο ακαδημαϊκό/ ερευνητικό με σημείο αναφοράς μεταπτυχιακές και διδακτορικές σπουδές ασχολείται κυρίως με την επίδραση των προϊόντων νεοπρενίου/ wetsuit στην κολύμβηση τριαθλητών καθώς και με την μεγιστοποίηση της απόδοσης των αθλητών στο mixed relay του Τριάθλου. Από το 1990 συμμετέχει ως εισηγητής σε πλήθος εκπαιδευτικά προγράμματα επιμόρφωσης προπονητών, καθηγητών Φυσικής Αγωγής, γονέων αλλά και αθλητών είτε αναπτύσσοντας τεχνικά θέματα που αφορούν το Τρίαθλο είτε θέματα που αφορούν την ηθική στον αθλητισμό και το αντι-ντόπινγκ. Αρθογραφεί σε πλήθος αθλητικών ιστοσελίδων και περιοδικών σε θέματα που αφορούν την προπονητική, τους κανονισμούς του Τριάθλου ή θέματα ηθικής/ κοινωνιολογίας του αθλητισμού. Ο ίδιος σε συνεργασία με αθλητικούς φορείς (Ομοσπονδίας, Σωματείων και Αθλητικών Οργανισμών των Δήμων) από το 1990 έως σήμερα έχει σχεδιάσει και διοργανώσει έχοντας την επίβλεψη πάνω από 50 αγώνων σε όλη την Ελλάδα (Αθήνα, Χανιά, Ρέθυμνο, Τρίπολη, Θεσσαλονίκη, Σέρρες, Πιερία κ.λπ.)