As the starting pistol fires for a brand-new year, many people will be resolving to tackle one of the endurance events on Lanzarote. But whether it’s a 5K run or a triathlon, they’ll need to get prepared. Who better to offer some tips than Lanzarote’s Olympic triathlete Lionel Morales?
There are plenty of athletes on Lanzarote, but few will know more about preparation than Lionel Morales, Lanzarote’s paralympic triathlete, who will be heading to Paris in late summer to represent Spain.
Born in Venezuela, Lionel came to Lanzarote as a boy and was a promising boxer and keen scuba diver before losing his leg in a motorcycle accident. However, he never lost his competitive spirit, first focusing on swimming contests, before developments in prosthetic limbs allowed him to tackle the triathlons that are so popular on Lanzarote.
He completed his first Triathlon ten years ago. Since then, he has represented Spain at two Olympiads, in Rio de Janeiro and in Tokyo. A familiar presence at many of the island’s sporting events, Lionel, who grew up in Punta Mujeres, was also awarded the Haria Prize in 2017.
Lionel is quite clear about what it takes to prepare yourself for serious competition. “If you’re training as a hobby or to get some exercise, the only really important thing is that you enjoy yourself,” he says. “But if you have aims and goals, you’ll need assistance.”
Lionel’s trainer, Rubén Toribio, has been a vital element of his success since 2015, working closely with him to achieve peak performance levels.
Lionel also follows the advice of a nutritionist. “I tend to eat proteins and avoid carbohydrates,” he tells us, “But recently my nutritionist has advised me to up my carbs for energy, which suits my current training regime based on volume rather than intensity”
In training, volume and intensity relate to two different aspects of physical exercise, with volume referring to the overall amount of work done, while intensity relates to the difficulty of exercise.
Before Christmas, Lionel was working out for three sessions a week, focussing on two of the triathlon disciplines and gym work every week. Lionel also has a job at the Cabildo to do, and he likes to spend time with family at Christmas (“and have a dessert”, he says) – but the real training regime will kick in later this year.
One of the best ways of training is, of course, taking part in other competitions and there is no shortage of those on Lanzarote, with endurance races taking place all the time.
At the end of January, Lionel will be preparing for events in Australia and Japan, all of which are aimed to keep him in peak form for the Olympics in September. “Right before the Olympics I’ll actually relax a little bit,” he tells us, with the intention to be fully fit and recovered in time for the big event.
Last year, Lydia Dant, the reigning Lanzarote Ironman champion, told us how she came from nowhere to become a professional athlete in just two years with a training regime that placed great importance on mental preparation and behaviour management.
Lionel agrees that the brain is important to peak performance, but he’s disciplined enough to deal with it. “Like everyone, I have bad days as well as good days. But I’m a very demanding person when it comes to my performance, and, more than anything, this is something I enjoy doing.”
At 50 years old, Lionel is also older, even for a triathlon event in which athletes tend to peak later in life. However, he’s feeling no signs of age at the moment. “Last year at Malaga I’d never had better running times in my life”.
He says that one day he’ll retire from competition but says that “sport will always be part of my life. I’ll always find something to do that I enjoy.” When we jokingly suggest Canarian bowls, the favourite pastime of pensioners on the island, he laughs and says “Who knows? I never rule anything out.”
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