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Meet the Pit Bull

Got a race coming up? Coach Lesley Paterson will train you at any park, pool, trail, or beach in San Diego. Pick your poison.


Lesley Paterson is a 5-foot-2, 100-pound dynamo who’s won three off-road triathlon world titles. Today, she’s owner/coach of San Diego’s Braveheart Fitness with sports psychologist husband Dr. Simon Marshall. Now 33, the Scotland native hopes to make Great Britain’s Olympic mountain bike team in 2016.

How do you define your “special training sauce” for Braveheart clients?
I take people to the brink of failure and then basically sort of cushion the blow and reel them back in again. It’s about pushing the limits of what they think is possible mentally and physically.

How can someone get abs like yours?
I train 30 to 40 hours a week. But abs are a funny thing. By doing core work, it’s going to help define that muscle, but you have to lean out so you don’t have the fat… Everyone actually has a six-pack underneath, it’s just we have the fat over it.

What’s your best attribute as an athlete?
My husband calls me a pit bull. Once I get a bite of something, I never let go.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from your husband?
“Embracing the suck.” When you’re having a bad training day or a bad race, instead of seeing that as a negative, you see it as a positive and an opportunity to develop your mental toolbox.

What did you learn playing in an otherwise all-boys rugby league in Scotland?
Not to give a shit what people think. I had to walk on the pitch and all the fingers would be pointed at me. You’re an eight-year-old girl and you’ve got all these boys, “Oh, there’s a girl!” Point. Point. I just tried to suck it up. It’s what I loved to do and I was going to do it no matter what.

What are your favorite local running and biking spots?
I love Balboa Park as an in-city oasis. So much variety of terrain. And I love the Laguna Mountains. It’s really pretty close to San Diego, but it’s absolutely gorgeous. You’re out in the wilderness. You’re up at altitude.

What food do you splurge on?
I go to 2Good2B. It’s a gluten-free bakery (in Encinitas and San Diego). They have this cinnamon roll. I don’t eat stuff like that when I’m racing, so all last season I was craving one. After the season I went in to get it. As I walked away, I dropped the box and the cinnamon roll fell on the ground. I almost cried. They said, “Don’t worry, we’ll get you another one.” …I would have licked that damn thing off the ground.

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