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The Queen of Kona Shares Her Tips For Triathlon Success

Written on November 1, 2013 at 10:35 am , by

Rain or shine, the “Greatest Triathlete in History” is out there kicking butt. See? Hard work pays off! (Photo courtesy of Ironman)

Written by Alena Hall, editorial intern

Earlier this month, world-class triathlete Paula Newby-Fraser traveled to Kona, Hawaii like so many times before to experience the Ironman World Championship. But this time the Hall of Famer enjoyed the race from the sidelines, supporting all of the athletes who dream of one day accomplishing as much as she has over the course of her career.

The Queen of Kona was an athlete from birth, competing on swimming teams in South Africa until she was 15 years old, but she didn’t fall in love with fitness until after college. With a little positive peer pressure, she began running and going to the gym with friends in lieu of extended happy hours. “I started with running a 5K, then a 10K and just generally working out, enjoying the benefits of being back in shape and being healthy,” Paula tells us.

One thing led to another, and when a pal learned of Paula’s swimming background, a triathlon became the new goal. The rest is history. She won a spot in the 1985 Hawaii Ironman, despite the fact that her newfound passion was her most challenging feat yet. “I had never ridden 112 miles and I had never run a marathon, so when I went to go and do that event, I pretty much did everything wrong,” she says. “But I knew that once I got through it, it opened the door and the possibility of pursuing it on a multiple-time basis.”

Almost 30 years later, Paula has won 24 Ironman Triathlon races—eight of which were Ironman Triathlon World Championships. She holds the Ironman world record of 8:50:24, and along with the “Greatest Triathlete in History” title from Triathlete Magazine in 1999. Her mental and physical connection to the sport kept her focused on the finish line every time she stepped up to the racing line. “I would say to myself, ‘There’s nothing I haven’t faced in training. I’ve had days where I felt brilliant, I’ve had days where I felt absolutely awful, I’ve had very average days,” she explains. “I’ve been out there when it’s cold, when it’s raining, when it’s windy, when it’s hot, when I’ve had mechanical problems and yet somehow you make it through all those workouts and just deal with what the day gives you. There’s nothing that I can’t handle.”

Outside of race training, Paula loves taking her mountain bike to the trails near her home in San Diego, California. “It’s so incredibly peaceful and interactive because you’re off road and on the trails,” she says. “Off-road running is also something that I absolutely love. Being able to go up a mountain is always something I think is special.” She even looks for good trails when vacationing—Utah and Colorado are two of her frequented spots.

What’s next after the current Ironman season comes to an end? Paula has a few more race ideas up her sleeve. “Running an ultra-marathon is definitely on my list of things I would love to do. There are also some ultra-mountain biking events that I just feel like I have to get to do once or twice before too many more years go by.” She literally never stops, which explains why this ambitious gal lives by one word: consistency. “Find a way to integrate consistency in no matter what you choose. Being able to make it a part of you, of your life, of your grounding routine will make something rewarding, will make you want to do it, and give you the benefits,” she says. “If you can do something and make it a part of who you are, it just throws open the possibilities.”

More from FITNESS:

The Ultimate Swim, Bike, Run: Kona Ironman World Championship 2011

Written on October 26, 2011 at 3:36 pm , by

The official Ironman logo.

If you’ve ever done a triathlon, then you can appreciate something as powerful as an Ironman—the ultimate competition of some of the world’s fittest people. What I consider fit may be different than what others consider fit, but there’s no denying that this 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26. 2-mile run (yes, a marathon) is a beast of a competition and one of the most physically and mentally demanding challenges you will experience. Training for a race like this takes much experience, determination and commitment, not to mention willpower, to get through those many miles and long hours of constantly pushing yourself.

Having competed in a couple Olympic-distance triathlons (that’s a mile swim, 25-mile bike and 6.2-mile run), I can tell you that training is intense: Long hours spent before work, after work and on weekends getting in the practice in the pool, on your bike and on the road. Sometimes, doing all three in one day. But if you’ve ever done one of these competitions, or have thought about it, then you also know how seriously fun they can be. Combining three sports in one breaks up the monotony of a regular marathon or a long bike ride. Plus, if you’re semi-”Type A” or uber competitive like me, then you might enjoy the challenge, and accomplishment, of completing each leg of the race and checking it off your list as you rush to the next challenge—swim, bike, run. To be able to train for an Ironman takes an understanding of how this sport works, including learning the proper nutrition and how to stay fueled throughout the entire race.

When I got the most amazing opportunity to watch the World Championship in Kona, Hawaii on October 8th, I literally jumped for joy! Instantly upon arriving in Kona, I developed a much bigger appreciation for what these athletes accomplished just by being there.

And, they're off! Official swim start.

Much to my surprise, it wasn’t just the elite athletes, who blew my away—it was the oldest competitor, an 81-year-old man from Oregon, and the 60-something-year-old breast cancer survivor, and Scott Rigsby, the man with two prosthetic legs who crossed that finish line before the 17-hour time limit that brought tears to my eyes. To be fit and healthy is something that anybody can practice and aim for, no matter the obstacles pitted against you—and these athletes are proof of that. Just like the three amazing people mentioned above, everybody racing has a story worth telling.

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I Tried It: Aqua Zumba

Written on March 21, 2011 at 10:38 am , by

While on a recent trip to Hawaii, I got the chance to visit the beautiful Hilton Kings’ Land resort for an early morning Aqua Zumba class!

Aqua Zumba at the Kings' Land resort!

Aqua Zumba at the Kings' Land resort!

What it is: All the latin-inspired, dance-fitness moves of regular Zumba but with added resistance from the water.  Our instructor guided us through the moves on dry land so we could see all of her movements. Just like in a regular Zumba class, we jumped, stretched and moved to the beat of the music — all while pushing our arms and legs through the water. (One neat trick: You can adjust the level of difficulty by closing or spreading your fingers when pushing through the water. Open fingers provide less resistance, while a flat, closed palm makes things a little harder.)

water zumba 3Who should try it: Everyone! This workout is completely beginner-friendly, but it even got my heart rate up. Plus: Being in the water makes even the fast-paced Zumba moves nice and easy on your joints.

My favorite move: The exercises didn’t have names, but I’d call this one the “Walk Like An Egyptian.”  Extend one arm out to the side, bent at a 90-degree angle with your fingers pointing down (like the back half of the famous pose). Keeping the top half of your arm lifted up away from your body, swing your hand toward your torso and then away, pushing the water away from you with a flat palm. You’ll feel it in your triceps — it gets right to that hard-to-tone “bat wings” zone.

Read more to find out how to find an Aqua Zumba class near you! Read more

My New Favorite Workout: Stand-Up Paddleboarding

Written on March 16, 2011 at 11:38 am , by

Paddleboarding off the coast of Hawaii's Big Island (That's me, third from the right)

Paddleboarding off the coast of Hawaii's Big Island (That's me, third from the right!)

Alright, so living in New York City doesn’t exactly permit me to paddleboard any old day of the week. However, I recently got the chance to tour Hawaii’s Big Island courtesy of the Hilton Waikoloa Village resort, where I took the opportunity to learn how to paddleboard in their gorgeous, ocean-fed lagoon.

If you’re not familiar with stand-up paddleboarding, it’s exactly how it sounds: standing up on a surfboard while using a paddle to propel you through the water. Our guides from Hawaii Ocean Sports started our group off in the resort’s protected lagoon, which allowed us to get the hang of balancing on the board without the added challenge of the ocean waves. I was surprised to find myself engaging muscles I hadn’t used in awhile (hey there, lower calves!) and getting a pretty great ab workout as I used my core to stay upright.

When standing up on the board, your upper body does most of the work to pull you through the water. But once we started to make our way toward the open ocean, our guide instructed us to drop to our knees (first to duck under a low bridge, second to avoid falling into shallow, rocky water). On my knees it was a whole new workout — though I no longer needed to work as hard to stay on the board, being low to the water required lots of ab strength to pull my big paddle through the water.

This was, by far, the most fun workout I had in Hawaii (and I tried Aqua Zumba! More on that later…). It was amazing to be so mobile in the water, as opposed to simply riding waves back to shore on a traditional surfboard.  And, as you can see in the photo above, the scenery was unstoppable. I paddled past sea turtles and got up close to fish of every color imaginable — which sure beats my usual view from the treadmill!