British Superbikes racers Glenn & Andrew Irwin at Club Fit

At Club Fit our functional training facilities and experience have begun to attract the attention of the sporting community not just in Jávea and the Costa Blanca, but internationally. Sportspeople, both amateur and professional, are wising up to the performance edge that functional training provides, tailored to the individual specialist requirements of their sport.

Recently we had the great pleasure of sitting down with professional motorcycle racers Glenn and Andrew Irwin to chat about their off-season functional fitness training regimen at Club Fit Jávea, and their preparations for the upcoming season in the British Superbikes Championship in UK. Glenn began racing in British Superbikes in 2016 and has just switched to Quattro Plant JG Speedfit Kawasaki from the Be Wiser Ducati team with whom he finished 3rd in Championship in 2018. Brother Andrew is about to join the British Superbikes series for his first season as a fully-fledged professional racer with Honda Racing this coming season.

British Superbikes' Glenn and Andrew Irwin training at Club Fit Jávea with Peter Fitz.
Glenn and Andrew Irwin with Peter Fitz at Club Fit Jávea

Good morning guys, and thanks for setting aside the time for this interview. To begin, what brings you to Jávea?

Glenn : We came out for a week of cycling last August. I’d been out here earlier in 2018, and liked the area. I trained with Peter [Fitz] at Club Fit, and found it really really beneficial. Then we both came out in August. I was always going to come back this year, and then Andy got his deal with Honda. Now he’s a professional as well, so it’s not as if he’s away missing work because … this is work (laughs) … and it’s funny because it’s fun, but when we look our schedules it really is a job … We both agreed to come back out here, and the training’s been perfect. What we get in Club Fit is very beneficial to what we need to do on a bike and that’s due to Peter’s skill and also the investment in equipment he has here like the Reaction Training (SmartFit), and that’s not just a cheap portable system, so that kind of thing - not a lot of gyms in northern Ireland, in fact not a lot of gyms anywhere have that, because that’s mainly for elite athletes. It’s beneficial to anyone, but for us, we crave that sort of thing - the Reacts and quirky little training aids. So we have that and then blend it in with Jávea just being … Jávea. Having the hills for cyclingand running, I’ve lost over a stone in the time I’ve been here.

Andrew : I was working for one of my sponsors a little bit up until January this year, but now I’ve stopped it completely. Once I signed for Honda you have to take it more seriously, you have to begin treating it as your full-time job and I’m employed now as a full-time rider. Probably around the middle of 2018 was when I first started to get paid in an ok way, to be able to do it full-time, so this year is the first proper year. So that’s why I’ve come here, and done everything properly. I’ve trained harder than ever before!

So what brought you to Peter and Club Fit?

Glenn : I’m in Jávea because of a friend of mine Paddy Deighan. I was coming out here to train and he asked if there was anything I needed him to do. He calls me Horse … “is there anything you need me to do Horse?” Find a gym! So he set up a meeting with Peter at Club Fit, and that was at the beginning of 2018. When I first spoke to Paddy it was about coming out to Spain to train and I knew he had a bit of an idea of the renting world, holiday renting and whatnot. He says “I have my own apartment up in Cap de La Nau, there’s no need to look anywhere else”! And he managed to source us Club Fit, and thankfully it’s exceeded all expectations.

Glenn Irwin taking the win at the North West 200 in 2017

Andrew, now you’re making the leap to professional rider and training really seriously, have you had to change your mentality in any way, or is it coming naturally?

Andrew: I think you change your mentality a bit because you know that once you become professional you don’t want to go back to working a 40 hour week in a normal job and having to do your training, whereas now we’re clear, we’re completely committed to training, and we’re cycling as well. You know, Glenn’s always been my benchmark. He’s my older brother, I can see what he’s doing and what I need to be doing to get to the level that he’s at and I have to keep working towards that, and then, him being over here, I’ve been at home and so I haven’t had that person to guide me, he’s always been like a reference to me. Then he said Peter’s a really good trainer and as soon as I came here, the first day I thought now this is a proper gym, nothing like I’ve been in before, and it keeps it fun as well. And especially since we train together, it’s always a race and we want to do everything properly at the same time. When you get to the Reaction lights you want to get your five done first! It keeps it fun but it pushes us on at the same time. Generally Glenn’s a little bit ahead and I just keep trying to dig deeper and keep chipping away at it.

Glenn : Because we are brothers, as well, when we do it and we are competing in the gym, it doesn’t get stupid where you do something wrong or let slip your technique just to be faster because as brothers it’s not hollering, it’s … encouraging. I would rather be doing something as fast as I can but correctly and I think we both see that. It’s not like “I’ll do 5 of them quicker than him” by doing it wrong, because then we’re not getting the benefit out of the exercise. I’m not trying to defeat him, it’s not some battle of “I’m fitter than you”. In a gym full of people it can be like that, but we like to build each other up. This is the first year we’ve ridden together - last year we did it for the first time but we were teammates, now we’re not, but he’s still my brother, and I’d love to see him win. Racing is a cut-throat business, and so shrewd, and so difficult to get to the point where we’ve got to, and I say that like I want to keep going way higher, and so does Andrew I think. Some people might think “I’m a British Superbike rider and that’s all I am” and I think they like to say they are, whereas I don’t do it for that - I do it because I love riding motorbikes and I just want to keep getting better and better and better. And, having Andrew, he’s younger and he’s fit as well, he pushes me on in the gym, and if I was to flip it round, I could say he lives up to a lot of things I do in the gym and I’m using that as a benchmark as well, and that’s important. My advice to him would be - don’t just look at me because then you can only be as good as the person you’re looking at. He probably hasn’t thought of this before, but he has to look past me. In training, I think him looking at me in the gym is good and I think what he’s doing is the right attitude. He’s copying what’s working. 

Your father Alan’s a racer as well isn’t he?

Glenn : He actually did some MotoGP races, 3 or 4. We’re a close family and my other brother Graeme was British Motocross champion, and he’s now switching to tarmac and he’s going to be in the British Championship this year, not in the Superbike class but the Superstock 1000, a version of our bike that isn’t tuned as much. Both series race at the same events, so we’ll all be there, and Graeme making that step across has been done by us all. Basically he got a career-ending injury in Motocross, so we were wondering, what’s Graeme going to do now? We’ve all chipped in and made it happen, and that’s because we’re brothers, and we’ll definitely always look out for each other.

British Superbikes test day with the Irwin Brothers

So tell me more about your pre-season training schedule at Club Fit Jávea.

Glenn : I had my off-season November December fun, and Christmas was the last blow-out. We came to Jávea, and immediately got together with Peter. We’d kept in touch all year and have struck up a friendship now and we agree whenever we’re here, block-wise, if we’re here for two weeks, or ten days, we’ll hammer in our sessions. We’re doing cycling and running in between, and that’s an important part too, and the discipline we’ve been gaining in Club Fit we’ve been carrying outside as well with our cardio, so that keeps us quite lean. But what we’re doing in here is next-level. This week’s a short week, we’ve had Monday off and we both fly back to Northern Ireland tomorrow. I’m just back from testing and the results of the training feel really really good, I feel sharp on the bike and it really works. The same thing happened last year, and I wouldn’t come back if it didn’t. I feel fit, and I feel strong in the right way for riding.

Andrew : In racing you’ve got to be fit, strong and mentally fit, and in here you get both. At the end of the week, after all the sessions, you feel really sharp. Every day I wake up and I think, I’m getting stronger,  and you can see it. The weight’s good … Weight’s something I don’t struggle with. Having come here I feel much stronger, but also I haven’t put on weight, which is important. And the mental side of it, for me, is so important and to know that you’re doing everything right. With Peter here at Club Fit we’ve got that.

Glenn : You can be in a 30 minute race and at any point in that race you can be attacking, or come under attack, and that’s what you could say is a stressful situation, where the heart rate can rise and you can make mistakes. We’re training here with heart rate monitors every day which is something you can really use. We do it when we’re cycling, and we can see where we were afterwards on your Garmins (gps), but in here you really have to concentrate, and I can see my heart on the screen every second. In the second week, we knew we’d make a step because we couldn’t get our heart rate as high so easy. It’s nice when you see that and a sign right in front of you that it’s working . We’re 8, maybe 10 weeks down the line now. The fitter your body is, the fitter your mind is and the less chance you’ll make a mistake in a stressful situation. 

Andrew : Even if you do make a mistake and your heart rate goes high, you’re able to get it back down, your concentration is back to normal. If it’s a really hot race it’s hard to make every lap perfect so if you do run wide you don’t panic, you get your heart rate back down again and get back into the ryhthm.

What would you say are the most relevant exercises you’ve been doing here that directly benefit you as a rider?

Glenn : Honestly, this year’s been a step up again, with new equipment - the ropes for the wrists, and there’s been other things Peter’s included, poles that are filled with water that never stay still that we’re using for our grip and our balance while we’re standing on swiss balls - it’s a complete training. We have our core, our concentration, our forearms which are a big part of it on the bike, our triceps, our shoulders, but I couldn’t pinpoint any one thing, even the reaction wall, which you don’t see anywhere else. I’m the kind of person that if I do something that I don’t feel is beneficial, I won’t just keep doing it. Everything we’re doing here is on the money, it’s next-level. 

What about flexibility? Does your training routine involve much stretching?

Glenn : Yeah, we do loads of yoga at home, and they do lots of classes in here as well. We’ve started doing lots of vikram yoga back in northern Ireland, and it’s also another way of staying mentally calm.

Andrew: It helps with your flexibility on the bike, it helps with your comfort on the bike, with injury prevention, and it boosts your recovery from training. It’s all part of the professionalism we’re getting in our training, and what we learn in here we carry outside.

Tell us about your diet.

Andrew : He eats incessantly … (laughs) I think Glenn looks at my diet and I look at his training. That may be quite an honest way of putting it. I was closer to 80kg but I’m now around 69,70, 71 and that’s a healthy medium that I’ve found, and I’ve just learned not to over-eat. I used to be able to go … if I’d had breakfast, I’d have another breakfast … whereas now, I’ll eat in the morning, something that’s going to keep me til half ten eleven oclock, something small then to take me to lunchtime, and that takes me through to 3 or 4 oclock and then dinner. You’re not eating too many carbs, but still getting enough carbs for energy for the day, especially because we’re training, you have to eat carbs for energy, and protein for muscle. The diet’s important. 

Glenn : What he’s saying. I think I definitely look to Andy, but only when we come out here. We spend a lot of time at home together anyway, but it’s usually meeting at the gym and training together, and then I’m back to my family and Andy’s back to his house, but I’ve always been a healthy eater and I’m lucky that my girlfriend does a lot of cooking for us and she understands the racing game, which is important as well. But if we’ve had a healthy dinner and there’s still half a pot of rice I’d be back up and finishing it … I could have 3 helpings and go on sitting (laughs)! One of the changes we’ve made is I’ve cut out my second servings, then being in Jávea we’ve been eating a lot of fish, and we’ve increased little things like spicing our food, and doing it properly with fresh chillis, keeping our metabolism high. I’ve lost 7 and a half kilos. It’s a jigsaw. We do compound exercises and a lot of bodyweight stuff, but we never lift a dumbbell, or very rarely. In the facilities in Club Fit they do have that, for the people who want to do that it’s here which is good, but there’s a new science to training as well. Peter got me using the corestix in 2018 a lot, and it’s good, interesting. There’s a smarter way of training and you learn that perhaps with other ways you’re maybe only working the muscle one way but you’ve got to work it both ways, that’s what I’ve learned.

Tell me about riding the bike at high speed. To what extent are you able to remember and play back critical moments on track, like the entry and exit to a corner, and does physical fitness play a part in that ability to slow down time and analyise what you’re doing and what’s happening with the bike?

Glenn : I think if you’re unfit, you’ll not be able to remember your race as good, and you won’t be able to relay that information about what your bike’s doing to your team. When we’re on the bike, and everything’s happening that fast … At high speed we’re not just racing the track - you’re talking with your bike, then when you come in and speak to your engineer you’re taking him though every corner, every gear, and what the bike’s doing. It’s only when we sit down and talk about it now that you realise what a huge volume of information it is, because you can’t make any notes while you’re riding. Maybe there’s some natural talent in there, and what we’re doing in the gym makes that better. It’s funny when you’re at high speed what you can do. I feel like when I’m on it, the way I feel at the moment, if I was doing 200mph down a straight and a little bug walked out in front of me, I could swerve around it. That’s what I feel. And I’ll see people in my peripheral vision and I’ll spot every person whether I know them or not, and if I know them I’ll know who it is, around a track. When I’m looking at the track somehow I can see everyone. It’s bonkers. I always say “I could see you at that corner”. It’s crazy (laughs).

What’s the plan for the future?

Andrew : For me, it’s my first full year in Superbikes and I’ve got a lot to show and I think there’s space for me to do that. This year is another learning year in Superbikes - I’m definitely not a championship favourite, but I think I’m one of the guys that can be in the Showdown, which is the final six, and the following year it’s obviously to do a really good job in Superbikes, and from there to try and get into World Superbikes. But in racing you never know what’s around the corner, what doors will open, what doors won’t, and that’s what makes it so exciting. You really don’t know what each year’s going to bring. I think World Superbikes is the goal, go there and do a good job and it can open doors into MotoGP, which is the pinacle of our sport, it’s where you aspire to get to. At our age it is difficult, because there’s a lot of Europeans that are 18 coming up …

Glenn : Spanish kids are growing up at age 10, 11, 12 and if you look at the sponsorship they’re on and what we had, it’s a different level - a Repsol getting behind a Danny Pedrosa for example, from when a rider’s no age … They’re born into the Grand Prix paddock whereas we’re in a street-bike paddock in Ireland, working our way up. For me, World Superbikes is where I want to go next. I can win the British championship this year, I’m among the favourites, and I thrive on that, I like being … I like expectation. I like having the belief of other people as well, that’s something I thrive on. When you get to World Superbikes, that’s when opportunities to enter Grand Prix [MotoGP] can come, because you’ve climbed to the top and you can move across. The current World Superbike champion is from Northern Ireland as well, four times consecutively, and he hasn’t gone for GP, simply because he’ll be riding a bike he can’t win on. Racing should be fun, and winning is definitely what gives you the most fun, and if you ask me could I do one year in MotoGP and never be a World Superbike champion, or be a multiple World Superbike champion or something, I’d rather do that. But there’s always a possibility, if we get to World Superbikes of doing a one-off round in MotoGP if someone gets injured. There are things that can seem so far away, that can also be so close, but again that all comes through what we’re doing now and the hard work. The harder the work we put in now, that’s what makes everything happen, and puts us in a good place. 

19 - 21 April Silverstone (National)
4 - 6 May Oulton Park (International)*
24 - 26 May Donington Park (National)+
14 - 16 June Brands Hatch (GP)
28 - 30 June Knockhill
19 - 21 July Snetterton (300)
2 - 4 August Thruxton
16 - 18 August  Cadwell Park
6 - 8 September Oulton Park (International)+
20 - 22 September Assen
4 - 6 October Donington Park (GP)
18 - 20 October Brands Hatch (GP)+

You can follow Glenn and Andrew Irving in the British Superbike Championship 2019 live on Eurosport.

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