If you’re participating in the BIG5 SPORT CHALLENGE and looking for inspiration and advice to help you perform at your best, Steve Atwell, Head Triathlon Trainer from Embark Training, shares a few strategies to help get you through the challenge:

1. What sets the BIG5 Sport Challenge apart from other adventure or endurance races?

The BIG5 Sport Challenge encompasses a mountain bike, a trail run, an open water swim, a running race and a duathlon. It attracts the top South African multisport athletes while also accommodating multisport weekend warriors - those with a spirit for adventure during the day and a thirst for Knysna’s festivities in the evening.

2. In what way should your BIG5 training differ from your usual training?

Providing you are already a multisport athlete, with a few triathlons or endurance races under your race belt, your training will not differ much. But take a look at the distances of the races. Compare your current fitness levels with the required distance for each challenge and adjust your training distances accordingly.


3. Are there any unique obstacles that the BIG5 Sport Challenge presents to athletes?

It is winter in South Africa and this means cold winter mornings. The races all start early, when its cold, and you need to work out how to dress for these cold mornings versus actual racing when you warm up. Invest in some winter gloves, arm warmers, a buff (you will get one in the BIG5 race pack), and a gilet (a sleeveless wind breaker).

4. What recovery techniques should athletes focus on with the short turnaround on races?

The races are all early in morning and once you finish the race you have the rest of the day and the following day to recover. The best afternoon technique for recovery is to head down to the race village, grab a hearty meal and a glass of wine, and watch the Tour de France on the big screen. Just stick to a few rules: Keep your feet slightly higher than your hips when you are sitting, limit yourself to one glass of wine, and balance your carbs, protein and veggies.

5. What role does race day nutrition play?

It’s a crucial role and if you run out of fuel you will limp home, frustrated, and Knysna is too beautiful for that. The longer races have brilliant aid stations with happy and helpful marshals, tables of energy drinks, water, coke and snacks. You need to fuel yourself before the race, eat your breakfast in good time before you start racing, and take a snack with you if the start time is still a while from when you leave the house.


6. What advice would you give to first time BIG5’ers?

  • Get the right gear: You need to be warm while waiting for the start, but then you need to strip the warm stuff and store it once you start racing and warm up
  • Plan your days: Check each day’s race start time, and be well on time
  • Get your mountain bike cleaned after the race: The bike you leave the house with in the morning returns as a mud crusted extension to your bike rack, and don’t think you can ride this again later in the week without a serious wash!
  • Get a wetsuit for the swim

The final tip is the old cliché about having fun. The Festival is a buzz of entertainment for 10 days, so get down to the race village in the afternoon and share a few race stories with other athletes, families and friends, sample the local cuisine around log fires, and just soak up the vibe that is the Pick n Pay Knysna Oyster Festival.

For more details on the BIG5 Sport Challenge visit or follow the BIG5 Sport Challenge on Twitter @big5challenge or on