Former Royal Marine Commando’s top training tips

Former Royal Marine Commando, Joe Townsend, lost both legs in an explosion in Afghanistan in 2008 after standing on an anti-tank mine buried just below ground. Since then, Joe has helped inspire the current generation of wounded and shown, there really is life after injury by successfully competing in many endurance races.

Since his days as a Marine Joe’s sporting career highlights include:

  • Paralympic athlete in Rio Games 2016
  • 4 x Gold medal winner at the 2014 Invictus Games
  • Participated in the world’s toughest cycling race – RAAM – cycling over 3000 miles across America with seven other wounded servicemen, to raise money for Help for Heroes
  • 2x Bolton Ironman winner
  • Runner-up in the disability category in the Ironman World Championships

Here Joe gives his top training tips:


Like a Marine – know what you are training for. Strength is the ability to move heavy loads, power is moving loads quickly. So train with speed.

I personally train size, strength and speed. Build a base, add the strength then develop speed.

Throughout the season I train specifically for the time of year. Generally hypertrophy during off/early season, strength pre/in a season then power pre peaking/major competition. You want to be your fastest and strongest for when it matters.

Training for strength/power and endurance concurrently is tough as the strength gains can be blunted. I try to maximise my recovery time between strength and endurance sessions. Although this is tough when training 2-3 times per day.


To be able to develop strength and power you need to have sufficient fuel for recovery. Ensure you are getting a good source of protein consistently throughout the day.


Rest and recovery. As an elite athlete, this is probably the most important thing to get right but also the hardest. You always want to keep pushing but you need to learn to listen to your body. My biggest interruption to training is always illness/ injury. It’s a fine art pushing to the edge but not falling off the cliff.

Training slowly will not make you fast. You can bag hours and hours of slow endurance training which will make you very economical but this is not always the best way to increase performance. I train a mix of training sessions from a long slow distance, tempo, and threshold. The threshold sessions are race intensity focused sessions and are usually the key sessions to develop my race conditioning which determines what pace I can maintain and therefore my performance.


Lifting heavy weights will develop strength and strength has a direct correlation with movement economy and endurance performance. Essentially in a repetitive movement if you can create more force in each cycle you are going to achieve a greater output.

Strength also relates to robustness/injury prevention. The stronger your muscles, bones and connective tissues are the less likely you are to pick up an injury.


Endurance can get boring, especially in the winter. I spend many hours sat indoors on the turbo trainer so I try to keep myself occupied with music and films. Monotony or boredom can decrease your motivation and tolerance to exercise, often making you want to stop even though your body is capable of continuing.

Follow Joe on Twitter here.