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Dublin: 4°C Wednesday 1 December 2021

The gruelling training plan Arthur Lanigan-O'Keeffe hopes will drive him to Olympic success

The modern pentathlete trains six days a week to become one of the best in the world.

Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

HOW LONG DID you sleep last night?

Eight hours? Four hours? No sleep at all because you were still mourning the Ireland result?

Whatever the answer, it’s likely that Arthur Lanigan-O’Keeffe slept for longer. A lot longer.

The Irish Olympian sleeps for an average of 14 hours a day when he’s training and he does so with the aid of an altitude tent so, even when he’s in bed, his body is preparing for Rio 2016.

The modern pentathlete, who has been ranked as high as second in the world this year, is a real medal hope in Brazil but his talent is built on a foundation of hard work.

Indeed, the current European champion trains 30 hours a week with five training sessions a day Monday to Friday, three sessions on a Saturday and a day off on Sunday.

Source: Arthur'sOlympicCountdown/YouTube

It starts with a trip to the pool at 7.30am where the 24-year-old will swim for 90 minutes or 4.5km , whatever comes first.

Around 10am he goes back to bed for 45 minutes and when he wakes he spends a further 45 minutes with the physio at the Institute of Sport.

11.30am sees him on a pilates machine, terrifyingly known as ‘The Reformer’ for 30 minutes, which helps to limber Lanigan-O’Keeffee up for more the more gruelling afternoon sessions.

After collecting his training partner, Lanigan-O’Keeffe heads back to Santry for a running session that starts at 1pm.

The running session is usually a 15 minute jog to warm up and 10 minutes of activation drills. This is followed by a main set involving speed work with the sessions being no more than 6 or 7km.

With a cool down session lasting a quarter of an hour, this part of his training usually wraps up in 75 minutes.

Following a three hour afternoon nap, Lanigan-O’Keeffe back at the Pentathlon Centre in the sports campus for 6pm where he will practise his shooting for half an hour. This is followed by two hours of fencing.

He says:

“Fencing is the one discipline I look forward to. It would be one of my stronger ones, definitely.

I won the junior worlds in it and the Europeans as well. It’s one where you don’t really know what’ll happen, though, unlike swimming and running. In fencing you could turn up and be really hot and the next day you turn up with two left hands.

“That’s what I like about it, it’s unpredictable and it’s the only event where you can take points from your opponent.”

By 8.30pm he’s home but that’s not the end of it as 30 minutes of yoga is needed to ensure there’s no stiffness the following morning.

Arthur Lanigan O’Keeffe Lanigan-O'Keeffe celebrates at London 2012. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Of course, a lot of fuel is required for all this training and the Kilkenny man packs in more than most.

Breakfast consists of two courses with overnight oats when he wakes and  poached eggs on pitta bread and some coffee after his swimming session.

Lunch is always a high carb meal that varies from day to day but a typical option would include chicken with rice and broccoli or sweet chilli.

Dinner is Lanigan-O’Keeffe’s most substantial meal of the day which, he says, includes “a lot of meat and vegetables.”

It’s not all carbs and carefully calculating calories though as he admits he usually has something sweet like popcorn and hot chocolate before bed, around 9pm, to make him sleepy.

Of course, Lanigan-O’Keeffe goes to the Olympics this year more in expectation than hope that all this training will see him earn a place on the podium.

If he fails, it certainly won’t be for lack of effort.

Arthur Lanigan-O’Keeffe is a Nissan ambassador and now four rising stars of Irish sport have been named among the 20 finalists who are currently competing in a public vote to secure one of ten coveted places on the Nissan Generation Next ambassador programme.

Each ambassador will receive a brand new, taxed and insured Nissan to drive for a year as Ireland’s new generation of leaders and champions.

To learn more about the Nissan Generation Next ambassador programme and the sports finalists — Sophie Spence (Rugby), Shane Carthy (GAA), Cathal Daniels (Horse Riding) and Gearoid McDaid (Surfing) — and to vote, click below before 28 June.

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