Off to the Ironman World Championship in Utah with an espresso in hand

Anybody who is incredibly talented at more than two things must either be Beyoncé or a triathlete. As enough has been said and written about the American R&B diva, we would like to introduce Denise Johannsen: full-time Retail Operations Team Leader at HUGO BOSS and an after-hours triathlete.

Ready set go

1.5km swimming, 40km cycling and 10km running – all without a break, one after the other. Denise has already completed the so-called "Olympic distance" in triathlon. That was last year at the Ironman in Kraichgau, Baden-Württemberg, Germany. As a triathlon newbie, she approached her first competition feeling rather relaxed. "Looking back, I can't help but smile," she says. 

She hadn't given much thought to what lay ahead for her that day, she said, and had approached the event with an open mind. "And then after the swimming part was over, I suddenly found myself standing between all these experienced triathletes and their high-end bikes, while I jogged to my ordinary street bike with its standard bike computer that I bought for just 12 euros a few days before!" 

Maybe it was this innocence, which made all the difference. In this, her first competitive triathlon, the incredible happened: she managed to take first place in the women's triathlon – and, what’s more, in a field filled with professionals.

Racer like runner like triathlete

She got into doing the triathlon the same way as many others. The step from being a regular runner to triathlon participant is not that big. Denise started as a runner, completing half marathons at first, then marathons. Four years ago, she ran the Chicago Marathon in 2:51 hours – a personal best. "After Chicago, my goal was not to switch to triathlon, but to complete the 42 kilometers in under 2:50 hours.” But injuries put a damper on her plans. Did she think about giving up then? Never, she says, that was out of the question for her. 

While recovering from her injury, she decided to start with an alternative training, switching to cycling and swimming instead. A local triathlon coach, whom she asked for a training plan, certified her above-average performance after a test, especially when cycling. "I'm not writing you a training plan for a marathon," the coach said at the time. "You have to do the triathlon." That was two years ago and "the rest is history", as they say.

Next up: the Ironman in Utah

At the moment she’s continuing to train despite the cancellation of all triathlon competitions due to the coronavirus. For Denise, being active is, above all, fun. She’s always driven by the next challenge: she qualified for the "Ironman 70.3" World Championship in Utah in September 2021. "To win the title there is my goal, for sure!" With this goal in mind, she trains hard, 12-18 hours a week, adding stretching and stabilization exercises to the training schedule every day. "The first thing I do every morning now is put mountain pine cream on my legs," she laughs. If you are as ambitious as Denise, you can’t be put off by heavy legs.

"Be the change"

Generally, nothing gets Denise down – not even on the job. Does she think the challenges that a triathlon brings helps her with her daily work? "Of course! There are many parallels. Every day is a new day – that puts everything into perspective. There are bad days at work and bad days in training. The important thing is to keep going and to keep at it, even if something doesn't work out." If you come into the office in the morning in a good mood, others will be affected by that. As a manager, she knows that her own attitude counts, especially for the team. "You have to be the role model for others," says Denise.

Bringing everything under one roof

Sometimes it also helps to take a step back and refocus. This is true in sports and at work. “We have to keep reminding ourselves that we work for a great company, for great brands and with many talented colleagues. That is worth a lot!" A bad working day? Forget about it! A bad training day? Just carry on!

For her sport and her newly discovered passion for triathlon, she receives a lot of encouragement from her work environment and support from the company. Denise appreciates the flexibility of the working hours models offered and the great trust HUGO BOSS places in its employees, not only in terms of working hours. "There is no "nine-to-five" attitude at HUGO BOSS. I have the freedom to schedule my training flexibly and combine my job and my training," she says.

Espresso? Keep it coming!

Listening to Denise, it becomes very clear that she has a lot of power. Full throttle on the job and then up to two training sessions a day. How do you recharge your batteries, we ask her? "At work, it's my team that gives me a lot back. Every day they give their best, are motivated and enjoy what they do. Especially with the pandemic and all, the team has gotten closer and are going that extra mile. We can really be very proud of our store employees. Their dedication spurs me on time and again.”

And even when her energy level drops eventually and nothing works anymore: give Denise an espresso, that’s all she needs. "You can never have too much of that," she laughs. Luckily it’s is available free of charge at all 60 HUGO BOSS subsidiaries worldwide (and cappuccino too, by the way).