Watching Andrea Fisher swim is like taking a master class in the sport. Fisher, a former University of Texas Lady Longhorn, glides through the water effortlessly, her powerful strokes propelling her lean six-foot frame forward with no wasted effort. Form like that has a history: Two national high school records, state records, national championship, 18-time All American swimmer in college, NCAA Division 1 individual and team champion, conference champion, USA national swim team…
Following UT, Fisher went on to be a champion triathlete, and is a multiple winner of regional races such as Buffalo Springs 70.3, Cap Tex Tri, Kerrville Triathlon, and Lake Pflugerville Triathlon to name a few. Along the way, she’s competed in numerous Ironman races, including the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. It’s no surprise, given her background, that she set at least five Ironman swim records.
And of course there’s the Beer Mile: Fisher is the master’s world record holder with a time of 6:26.
It’s been more than 20 years since Fisher competed in her first Ironman, but the 47-year old mother of two is headed for Ironman Florida this November.
“I have no idea how many finishes as a pro I’ve had,” says Fisher, “but I did come to realize recently that I’ll be toeing the line at my 40th Ironman race come November.”
Being a life-long athlete is all about being able to adjust and change your outlook, while still training consistently—something Fisher has certainly embraced. Ultimately, it’s all about staying motivated.
“Competition to me has changed drastically,” she says. “There was a time when I was more concerned with times, performing at my best fitness and overall winning. The reality now is that I ‘participate’ in events, and competition is not the same motivator. What motivates me is trying to figure out how I can be the best I can be, at this moment, at this age, given the circumstances and parameters I deal with every day. It’s a little hard to describe, but I have a different life now. I work, I have two amazing young girls, and I am a lot older than I used to be. All of those factors contribute to how I can ‘perform’ and I have to respect each and every one of them.”
Let’s not forget the sheer volume of training it takes to compete in Ironman-level races. Fisher has learned to be more flexible in her approach and finds joy in the act of training and seeking goals.
“When I go out for an early morning run and actually accomplish the goal I set out for that workout then it’s a pure success and win for me,” she says. “However, if I go out for that same workout and don’t hit my goals/markers but I know I did the absolute best job I could in that moment then I also know it was a success for me. I’m motivated by this, which may sound a little ridiculous when applying to say an event like Ironman, but it keeps me going. By participating in events and not being caught up in some pie-in-the-sky thought of winning overall, or setting a PR, etc… I am able to enjoy what I do and love the thought of seeing what I can fit in and not at the cost of the other elements important to my life.”
She’s also learned that training volume is not always the key, especially as you get older.
“Training in an Ironman build-up these days is a lot different than it used to be,” says Fisher. “I’ve had two major knee surgeries, which has taken its toll on my ability to put in mileage and strength work.”
She’s spent the last couple of years rebounding from that last surgery and has to be cognizant of how she treats her knees now. So her run mileage is somewhat lower. Overall, she’ll increase her training volume approximately 12 weeks out from an Ironman race.
“These days it’s a lot of early morning workouts, before school and work, and late afternoon, post work workouts if there’s a second one on my plan. I squeeze in my long runs and rides on the weekends, but only if it works with my kids and family’s schedule. There are some weekends that go without those elements and that’s OK.”
Overall Fisher’s biggest weeks will clock in somewhere around 16-18 hours of training, versus the 22-26 hours during her pro days. Otherwise, she’ll get it around 10-12 hours a week. At times when she’s not training for an event, she’ll usually get in about 6-8 hours of workout time a week. During Ironman build-up training she’ll typically got one speed session with running and swimming, on the bike, focuses more on strength and tempo.
“The big thing I have changed as I’ve gotten older is that I don’t run off the bike after long bike rides anymore,” says Fisher. I save those runs for shorter bikes because my knees just don’t like me the day after. It’s fine for me to put it on the line race day, but I don’t need to beat myself up unnecessarily in training.”
Fisher has been fortunate in that she’s always been able to integrate her career path with her athletic life. She is currently the director of Stronger Austin, a non-profit that delivers fitness and nutrition education programming, expanded access to healthy food, increased access to health services, and improved coordination with social services.
“I am very fortunate to have been offered the position as director of Stronger Austin,” says Fisher. “I realized a few years back that my passion is really to help people—to make their lives more fulfilled and empower them to reach goals they never thought they could accomplish. Stronger Austin has provided me a platform to help develop community resource services that provide just that to Austin’s most under-served neighborhoods. It’s inspiring, it’s motivating, and it allows me to feel fulfilled every day I am working. I personally know what exercise, health and wellness has provided in my own life and to be able to provide those services to individuals who may need it most is beyond rewarding.”
Upcoming Races: Sunday, August 11 at 8:00 a.m., Muleshoe Xterra Trail Run-6K, 10.5K and 21K at Muleshoe Bend Recreation Area. Saturday, August 17, at 8:00 a.m., Vern’s No Frills 5K – Race #124, at Berry Springs Park & Preserve, Georgetown.