5 Life Lessons From The Brownlee Brothers

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Rio 2016 Olympics Triathlon mens Brownlie brothers

Alistair and Johnny Brownlee are two brothers from Yorkshire, in the United Kingdom, who have taken the world by storm with their total domination in the triathlon sporting event.

They’ve made history on multiple occasions, competing on the world stage, as brothers and as talented individuals in their own rights.

What’s a triathlon?

A triathlon is a multisport race with three continuous and sequential endurance races. It features a 1.5-kilometre swim, a 40-kilometre bike ride, and a 10-kilometre run. A huge undertaking for any athlete.

Notable achievements from the Brownlee Brothers

  • In the 2016 Olympics, they were the first British brothers ever to finish first and second in an individual event at the Olympics (the triathlon).
  • Alistair is the only triathlete in history to defend his Olympic gold title from the 2012 London Olympics to the 2016 Rio Olympics.
  • In the 2012 Olympics, they were the first brothers together on the podium on an individual sport since 1908.
  • Johnny finished every race from July 2010 to May 2014 on the podium, in a whopping 42 triathlons in a row.

The inspiring moment which captured the hearts of the nation

The brothers caused a stir in the sporting world at a 2016 World Triathlon Series race in Cozumel, Mexico.

Johnny was in the lead and set to win the race but looked wobbly in the last 200 metres. The Mexican heat started to take its toll. After weaving all around the place, Johnny stopped at the side of the road and looked like he couldn’t go on when Alistair put his arm around him and dragged his delirious and exhausted brother over the finish line.

Alistair sacrificed his chance of winning to help Johnny over the line, as he was overtaken by South African Henri Schoeman. Watch the clip for yourself here.

We can learn a lot from the Brownlee Brothers

These brothers have taken the world by storm with their grit, determination, and inspiring family bond.
Their work ethic, incredible experiences, and outlook on life is surely something we can learn from to improve our own lives.

Without further ado, here are some life lessons from The Brownlee brothers:


1. Be constantly active

As a family, we were always active. Lots of walking, lots of running as well as riding bikes with dad.” Alistair Brownlee 

When the Brownlee’s were growing up, they were always active. Lots of athletics, walking, getting the blood pumping, and so forth. Movement is an important part of a healthy life. Human bodies were designed to be active.

“Sitting will kill you.”

Sitting is necessary for important work and enjoyment. However, much sitting is harmful for your health.
Sitting is necessary for important work and enjoyment. However, too much sitting is harmful for your health.

There’s been much research into the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle, sitting around and being inactive. The American news giant CNN published an article with the headline ‘Sitting will kill you.’ If that headline doesn’t make you spit the coffee out of your mouth, I don’t know what will!

We’ve come incredibly far as a species. We’ve developed technology, discovered tonnes of life-saving medical knowledge, churned out legendary composers like Beethoven and Mozart, built humongous buildings, sent a man to the moon. The list is endless.

We’ve adapted sedentary behaviours like sitting all day at a computer or watching too much Netflix and chill.

However, humans are a strange species. We’ve managed to adapt self-destructive sedentary behaviours in our daily routines. Sitting at a computer, watching Netflix and chilling, scrolling through social media, reading for too long (reading is great and highly recommended, but one needs to strike a balance with an active lifestyle).

What does the NHS say about excessive sitting and an inactive lifestyle?

According to the NHS, excessive sitting is linked with being overweight and obese, developing type 2 diabetes, some types of cancer, and a higher chance of an earlier death.

They say sitting for long periods is thought to slow the metabolism, raise the blood pressure, and reduce the body’s ability to break down body fat. Not good for a healthy waistline! the NHS says the average UK adult spends more than seven hours a day sitting or lying down (outside of sleeping) which is a problem!

What are the benefits of an active lifestyle?

The benefits of an active lifestyle are huge. Being active every day means a lower blood cholesterol level, a lowered risk of diseases like type 2 diabetes and some cancer, reducing your risk of a heart attack, having stronger bones and muscles, improving mood, being healthy. The list goes on, and on.

With all the benefits of an active lifestyle, imagine what life looks like when you’re moving a lot more. It looks good!

What does an active lifestyle look like?

An active lifestyle means moving more. It’s as simple as that!

Try and go for a walk every day, use the stairs instead of the lift, park further away from your work building, go hiking in the woods, cycle to work, take up running. Get the body working and the blood pumping. Not only will you avoid the harmful effects of a sedentary lifestyle, you’ll also experience an improved life quality. It worked for the Brownlee brothers!

The NHS recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week, and many studies promote the benefits of trying to achieve 10,000 steps a day.

Be like the Brownlee Brothers and be more active


2. Work relentlessly to achieve your goals

I Don’t believe in having a rest day.” Alistair Brownlee

The Brownlee brothers say there's no tricks or secrets to their success. Just lots and lots of hard work.
The Brownlee brothers say there’s no tricks or secrets to their success. Just lots and lots of hard work.

If there’s one thing you must have to be a triathlon Olympic champion, it’s an insane work ethic. The Brownlee Brother’s understand the importance of grinding relentlessly, day in and day out to be in with a chance of winning each race.

The philosophy of not taking rest days is a fantastic lesson to take away from the Brownlee brothers. When we’ve had a hard day week, it can be tempting to lounge around and watch the television or browse aimlessly online for hours and not do anything productive.

However. It’s those off days that make all the difference. Those days when you just don’t feel like going for that run, writing that chapter, practising that piano piece, or working on your business.

Even though you don’t feel like it and you do it anyway, that’s what makes the difference. Putting in the work when the going gets tough, just like the Brownlee brothers who train 7 days a week too.

If you want to be successful, you cannot be a part-timer or a full-timer. You must be an all-timer. No rest days. Just like the Brownlee brothers.

It’s this determination, grit, and relentless work ethic which is a proven factor for success in life.

Examples of incredible work ethics

  • The Beatles played nearly 300 concerts at The Cavern before they became huge.
  • Kobe Bryant, the American basketballer, used to show up two hours before practice shooting in a dark gym on his own. Putting in the extra work before everyone had even shown up, guaranteed Kobe’s skills would develop, and he would master the game.
  • Stephen King, the famous writer, would spend hours practising his writing skills every single day before receiving a shred of interest from a publisher.
  • Beethoven, the legendary classical and romantic composer, allegedly practised the piano relentlessly when he was a young child. Apparently, he would play constantly day and night, learning popular pieces from the time and composing short pieces of his own.
  • Tennis icon, Maria Sharapova, would spend hours upon hours hitting and returning tennis balls against a brick wall when she was young an incredibly mind-numbing but necessary experience. It’s the hours of hard work which made all the difference in her technique and her playing style. Maria’s ability to practice day in day out, even when the going gets tough, is the reason she has won 5 grand slam titles and become a sporting inspiration for tennis players everywhere.

The Brownlee’s have set an excellent role model to follow. You must work relentlessly to achieve your goals


3. Keep your friends and family close

As well as being world class triathletes, Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee are brothers and share a family as well as friendly bond. Not only do they compete alongside each other, they together too.

The Brownlee’s set an important reminder that it’s important to have friends and family in life if you are too be happy, fulfilled, and achieve big things.

The inspirational moment Alistair helped Johnny over the line. Remember who means something to you.
We’ve all seen the clip of Alistair Brownlee helping a physically exhausted Johnny across the line right at the end of a triathlon in Mexico.

When Johnny started struggling, Alistair was in second. He could easily have overtaken his brother, not looking back, to claim the title for himself. It would have been easy to do, and it would have guaranteed Alistair first place in the race. That’s not what happened. Alistair sacrificed his win to help his little brother struggle to the end and push him across the line into second place. Truly inspiring.

Keeping family and friends close is incredibly important

When things get tough, it can be tempting to forget about your friends and family and focus solely on yourself.
It’s easy to sit alone and work on a project, rather than asking your partner how their day was.

There’s no effort needed to walk past your kids with just a “hello” then not speak to them the rest of the night because you want to watch Holby City on TV. Likewise, not texting your mates for a monthly catch up is incredibly easy too.

However, the lack of action will come around full circle and catch up with you later. If you neglect family and friends now, there’s a good chance they won’t be for you when you need them. Not only that, having friends and family around is important to health and happiness in life.

Take care of your inner circle

These people make up your inner circle, your close network as you navigate your way through life. It’s always better to go through life with others than alone. Sure, your kids can be loud and irritating at times.It’s understandable that you and some friends don’t’ see eye to eye about where you should go for a night out. Arguments and disagreements happen sometimes.

However, it’s always good to try with friends and family. Keep your inner circle tight and secure. Ask a friend if they fancy going out for coffee, speak to your partner about their day, take an interest in your kid’s school work, join a club or group in your local community.

Not only will your life be more satisfying and fulfilling, you’ll be safe in the knowledge someone will have your back when you need it.

Keep your friends and family close. Like Jonny needed Alistair, you will need them one day.


4. Follow a routine

Routine is important for getting good at something.
Routine is important for getting good at something.

Athletes can be a very stressy bunch. We like routine. I’m a very routine person. If something changes, I really don’t like it.” Jonathan Brownlee

The importance of a routine in life is incredibly important. For most days, there needs to be a degree of consistency and predictability to keep things moving properly and stable.

Getting up at the same time, having the same morning rituals (brushing your teeth, eating breakfast, getting showered and dressed etc.), going to the same (or similar) job each day, exercising, and so on. These activities make up the staples in our everyday life. We all have our routines.

Imagine if every day was sporadic, random and unpredictable. Waking up in a different place, eating different foods, showering one day then bathing the next, travelling to a different place of work in a different job, not knowing the exact amount of money you’ll be getting paid.

A little variety is good, but when life becomes hugely unpredictable it can induce huge anxiety and reduce happiness.

How can routine help me in life?

If you want to achieve something, anything, making it part of your daily routine is essential. You could stick this activity in the morning before work, during lunch time, or in the evening hours. Make sure you do it consistently and embed it into your daily routine.

If you want to become a world-class athlete (like the Brownlee brothers), get a training routine and stick to it religiously. When you want a distinction star on your grade 5 piano exam, promise yourself a daily 1-hour practice session. To become a professional novelist, set aside a couple hours every evening for some writing.

Whatever it is you want to achieve, be like the Brownlee brothers. Decide what it is you want to do, establish a routine, and stick to it.


5. Have a love for nature

When you train seven days a week, you need good scenery to inspire you.” Alistair Brownlee

The school holidays were always an exciting time in the Brownlee household. This was the opportunity for my brother Alistair and me to escape from the classroom and enjoy the great outdoors.” Jonathan Brownlee

The benefits of the outdoors

Research has shown outdoors experiences have a range of mental and physical health benefits. Being outdoors can fight depression, anxiety, low mood, and boredom for the mental benefits. If the outdoors is combined with exercise (running perhaps), physical benefits like staying a healthy weight and a reduced risk of disease (like cancer and type 2 diabetes) are more prevalent.

How can I get outdoors into nature more?

Walking your dog in the woods is a great way to get into nature.
Walking your dog in the woods is a great way to get into nature.

There are plenty of ways to get out and about to enjoy nature.

Take your dog for a walk in the woods, paint a beautiful natural landscape, head down to the coast for a family fun day, go for a trail run with your running group, take an interest in gardening, go for a walk in a local nature reserve. There are so many ways to get into nature, the list is endless.

Try and get into nature at least 3 times every week for maximum benefits for mental and physical health. It worked for the Brownlee’s, who have already had fulfilling and inspiring careers, and will continue to inspire for many years to come.


For more information on the Brownlee Brothers, check out their website here.

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