Are you ready for Sally Edwards?March 18, 2012 — Jason Maxwell, J Max Fitness Blog
It’s not every day that you get to sit down and speak with a legend. These people are few and far between. As the population grows, legends become more and more rare. In fact, I’m still grinning from my talk with a triathlete legend, serial entrepreneur, heart rate expert, author, public speaker, and the nicest person you will ever meet (except for when she made fun of me for saying “eh”).
Growing up in the pre Title IX era, 90 percent of sports budgets went to boys sports. Even though this occurred, Sally still played and excelled in every sport imaginable. “I chose my parents well, so I can thank them for my good genes. Even though there were no teams, and no opportunities, I played as many sports as I could, and then got into competitive running in my early twenties.” The great thing about running, is that you don’t need funding to be able to start. We now know that competitive running was Sally’s gateway into something much, much more.
“I had been doing ultra-marathons for 3 or 4 years and won a couple of 100 mile races. I then decided that I wanted the next challenge: Ironman triathlons (this is partly because there were no other triathlons to do). I did my first Ironman in 1980 and was the fifth woman to ever finish an Ironman triathlon. I finished 2nd, fell in love with the sport and wrote the first book on triathlon training (before anybody even knew what triathlons were). Since then, I’ve written 24 books in total. At the time we were a bunch of freaks, and winning these races were no big deal…but then in my 40’s I ran a race and set the masters world record…and that was pretty cool. To do a personal best when you are 40 years old feels really good.”
Now, we all know that you can’t just go out and enter a triathlon without training. At the peak of Sally’s career, she would predominantly use cross training (she coined the term in her first book, Triathlon). “When I was doing competitive running, I was a big advocate of specificity of training, and cross training was a logical transition for me while doing triathlons. In 1984, I got my first heart rate monitor, and since then I’ve only done heart rate based training.”
“The heart rate monitor is a biofeedback tool (like the speedometer on your car). It’s fun and gives context using data and numbers. For years, it was our only way of measuring physical stress. Second of all, it’s also a diagnostic and a tool and can help measuring physiological response to different situations. A few years ago, Heart Zones (my company) fell in love with the Suunto Fitness Solution. We called it the ‘Gymbotron’ because we would project a whole group’s heart rate zones onto big screens in gyms and high schools. It was like a huge fitness event! This way, we could track everyone in the group’s heart rate, and use this as an indicator to see if anyone is working too hard, or on the other hand not hard enough. The indoor cycling studios just loved being able to teach and guide exercise intensity based on individualizing the experience, yet they can all train together as a group.”
After speaking with Sally, I felt like I learned a crazy amount of information about heart rate training, business, goal setting, and just enjoying life. If I could describe Sally is one sentence it would have to be this: The girl’s got heart.