Nicola Spirig is an Olympic champion and lawyer. She is married with three children. Spirig was one of Switzerland’s most talented track and field athletes at a junior level, but soon switched to triathlons. She won gold in the 2012 London Olympics and then went on to win a silver medal in Rio four years later.
She has also won seven European Championships. In 2013, she founded the Nicola Spirig Foundation, which aims to give children from all walks of life access to sport. As part of our Stay Healthy campaign, she takes our staff on regular training runs.
Nicola Spirig, how do you persuade couch potatoes to pick up jogging?
It depends on why they’re couch potatoes in the first place. To some, I’d recommend jogging in a group – a fixed time and group of people makes it easier to overcome the mental barrier and also makes exercising more fun. For others, I'd explain that I think jogging is absolutely the simplest, most efficient kind of exercise there is: you put your shoes on and start running from wherever you happen to be, whether at home, at work or on a business trip. 30 minutes later, you've gotten a good workout.
I always think it's a good time to let my mind wander, ponder problems and look back on the events of the day. That means jogging isn’t just good for your health and fitness – it's also a way to unwind, it can involve a social component and makes you more efficient and more alert afterwards. That means there are lots and lots of reasons for couch potatoes to start jogging.
What should newbies to the sport keep in mind before they start going on training runs?
Like with everything, it takes time before you can train like a pro. It is a good idea to first make sure you have the right footwear to prevent any problems. Then you should start slowly, either with an extremely short round of jogging at a speed slow enough to talk comfortably, or by alternating between two minutes of running and one minute of walking. Bit by bit, you can slowly increase both the duration and intensity of your workout.
From the very beginning, however, you can also make your workouts more interesting by doing things like picking up your pace on the uphill portions and then turning the downhill portions into a very leisurely stroll or by running and marching at intervals, like I just mentioned, but running for five minutes followed by two minutes of more casual jogging, for example. You can incorporate workouts like this at nearly any level since you’re the one who’s choosing your own pace.
One general rule of thumb for everyone is that multiple workouts are better for your health and fitness than one long one. That means two or three short workouts instead of one long session.
You studied law, like many other KPMG staff. Did anything from your studies benefit your athletic career?
Yes, definitely. First of all, sports were beneficial to my studies because they taught me how to work efficiently to reach a goal and how to manage my time, which simplified studying quite a bit. Major competitions also taught me how to deal with high-pressure situations, which I think was enormously helpful for me to pass my "Lizenziat" or master's level examinations with ease.
After that, my studies were beneficial for my athletics, both in terms of my sponsorship contracts and certain legal situations (the Swedish Olympic Committee, for example, turned to the Court of Arbitration for Sport after my narrow win at the Olympic games in London to ask for two gold medals to be awarded – one to Lisa Norden of Sweden and one to me). On the other hand, my degree also lent me a general sense of security that I had had a good education, which enabled me to focus fully on the sport for a few
How do you deal with setbacks?
Setbacks are never what you want when you’re working toward a goal and are often tough to accept. When I experience a setback, however, I still try to find the silver lining. Sometimes a setback also gives you the time you need to look inward and think about trying a new approach or viewing things from a different perspective.
Above all, though, whenever I’m in a situation like that, I always try to focus on ways I can still reach my goal rather than on what’s going wrong or not working at that particular moment. Even baby steps or detours can take you where you want to go – you just need patience and perseverance.
What is your next goal (whether athletic or personal) and what are you doing to reach that goal?
My big goal this season was the "Sub8 Project" – my attempt to complete an Ironman under ideal conditions and with pacemakers in a record-breaking time of under eight hours. It was an extremely exciting project with new components like seeking out a team of pacemakers and perfecting the collaboration with them. This was my second Ironman, which made it a challenge in terms of my nutrition during the competition, pacing, etc.!
Preparing for it was anything but ideal because of a fall I experienced in February, which left me with a broken collarbone, broken ribs and a hole in my lung. But like always, we planned everything in painstaking detail and did everything in our power to ensure that I’d be fit and able to take my place at the starting line in early June.
We often had three training sessions a day, so – like always – it involved an enormous amount of effort and the preparations were intense. The actual workouts were somewhat different than usual and geared toward the Ironman. We also worked together with my sponsors to design new running shoes specifically for this event, manufactured a new swimsuit after tests and put together a nutrition concept. We were successful with a finishing time of 7:34:22 hours, which gave me an extremely strong sense of satisfaction. I’ve got a few more races ahead of me before I wrap up my career in the fall. I’m already looking forward to spending more time with my family.
Do you have a favorite jogging route? If so, what makes it so special?
Engadin is my favorite place to run. It’s got breathtaking nature plus an abundance of natural trails with lake and mountain views! But I also like running in the woods around my home. I relish running in nature.
Thanks for the chat – we look forward to your next KPMG training run and, until then, wish you a wonderful, active summer and the best of luck in your upcoming races!