Jordan Mercer: confessions of an ironwoman My fit life
She’s not called ‘Magic’ for nothing. After taking out her first Ironwoman title this year, Jordan Mercer is now gearing up for the gruelling 52 km Molokai 2 Oahu Paddleboard World Championships (M2O) in August 2016. When she was still in high school, Jordan became the youngest person to win the M2O, and she went on to win five consecutive titles. We sat down with the star athlete to find out the secrets to her ongoing success.
What is your health philosophy?
I can’t put it down to a mantra as such, but to me, healthy living is life. It’s the ultimate way to live. Everyone is blessed with a body and we should take the very best care of it.
How did you get into competing?
I was lucky enough to grow up near the coastline so the ocean has always been a big part of my life and our family. After excelling at a lot of other sports – gymnastics and running were my absolute favourites – surf lifesaving was something I started because of surf safety. It was such an important thing to have when you live so close to the coast. I started in the the junior ranks – the Nippers – at the age of eight so I’ve done it for a very long time now. But it wasn’t always the goal to become an ironwoman. I only started to truly love it when I was maybe 14 or 15.
What does your daily fitness routine involve when you’re training for a big event like M2O?
I’m about to kick off my training regime and I’m looking at 11 weeks of preparation before I head over to Hawaii. Coming out of the spring/summer season and the Nutri-Grain IronWoman Series, I’m now entering the endurance phase of my training.
I’ll swim train at the aquatic centre so from 5:30am to 7:30am. I’m training with a swim squad and also triathletes and some surf athletes too. It’s probably one of the hardest sessions and it’s never too exciting! But I see so much improvement with my fitness and my breathing so unfortunately it has to be done. Getting it out of the way in the morning is always quite an accomplishment.
After that I either hit the gym or go running. I like to go straight after swim training so that I can go home afterwards and enjoy some breakfast. In the afternoon my training is in the ocean. I’m usually in the water for an hour and a half.
The best way to sum up my preparation in the leadup to M2O is, if I exclude my swimming kilometres and just look at the distance, I try to paddle the race distance throughout the week, so that’s 52 kms. When it comes to a day’s training I try and train the same amount of time that I would spend out in the channel paddling so I spend 5-6 hours training in total per day.
What do you do in your downtime?
Sunday is usually my downtime day. I’ve named it ‘Sunday Funday’. I try and relax and chill out a little bit and give my mind and body some time to refresh so I’m ready to get back into the week on Monday. I like to surf, if the surf’s good, with no pressure. If I tell myself that I’m going out there to refresh, it’s a really refreshing and rejuvenating place to be. I like going to the Noosa farmers markets on the Sunshine Coast. It’s special to know that you’re giving back to the community, but first things first, there’s some amazing food there and I do like to treat myself. Whenever I think of treating myself I always think of food. So Sunday Funday always starts with a really good meal.
How do you prepare mentally for such a difficult and potentially dangerous event?
The mental preparation starts a lot earlier than my physical training. Without wanting to admit it, I finished the race last year and my mind was already thinking about the following year: What it’s going to bring? What do I need to do to get my head around signing up again? What can I change if I want to improve and take things to a new level? The mental side of things can be such a weapon. If you’ve got that sorted and you have a really strong self belief you can do incredible things.
What’s your favourite thing about competing?
I love everything that comes with it. I love the nerves. I love the mind games that you play with yourself. Nothing really compares to the rollercoaster of emotions that you go through leading into a race and obviously during the race. There’s not just one breaking point, there are multiple just in that one race. I love that it challenges me and that I’m pushing myself through tortuous moments. I really learn a lot about who I am.
Where does your nickname ‘Magic’ come from?
Well I studied at Hogwarts for three years (laughs)… I’m just kidding. I was still at school when I first became a professional ironwoman so a lot of my friends at school, who didn’t know, in-depth, what I did outside of the classroom, started seeing me on the news and a few times they called me ‘Magic Mercer’ and it just stuck. My year 12 jersey had ‘Magic’ on it and from there the media continued to run with it.
If you weren’t an ironwoman what would you be?
A rockstar for sure. Hands-down. Even on a Sunday if I get a chance I like to relax and play the guitar and teach myself some new songs. It’s also a form of meditation for me. I’m forced to think about nothing but what my hands are doing and what my ears are hearing.
What do you eat on a general day whilst training?
Before swimming I’m usually not too hungry, but that’s not to say that I’m not thinking about food! I wake up at about 5am and on my way to the pool I normally have a paleo bar. When I’ve finished my swim training I’ll have a banana before heading off to the gym.
After the gym, I come home and have a pretty extravagant breakfast. I like to change it up and I’m always experimenting with different juices and Acai bowls. If the family is still at home before work I normally make them some breakfast too. An omelette maybe or some bacon and eggs. I like doing special things like that for the family because I’m then blessed with a home-cooked dinner when I get home.
I have a nap before lunchtime and my ocean session. Lunch is normally a salad with a protein (fish, meat or chicken) plenty of veggies and sometimes some rice or quinoa. After my ocean session, I’ll have another banana and some coconut water and then home for dinner. Dinner is sort of the same as lunch with maybe a few extra carbs. But it’s healthy, good, nourishing food for the final meal of the day.
I don’t like to go to bed without a dessert or a snack. I’m just not ready for bed unless I have a treat, it doesn’t matter how full I am. It’s something that just needs to happen. Could be as simple as some coconut yoghurt (as an ice cream substitute) and some nuts or muesli and sometimes some frozen berries too.
What’s your favourite smoothie recipe?
I do pride myself on getting creative with my juices and smoothies. Some things I like to put in are kale, beetroot, ginger, coconut yoghurt, coconut water, protein, spirulina. It always tastes good when I put some dried apricots in there too. Have I put banana in yet? That’s always nice. It’s such a tasty and easy way to get everything in and get all the vitamins and nutrients. And I can take it away with me in the car if I need to rush off somewhere.
What’s your favourite food indulgence?
Post race, if I do well and I feel like I deserve to treat myself, it’s McDonald’s chicken nuggets. As many as I can fit in one of those brown paper bags! And I think they have to be had with barbeque sauce.
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