Cookie Use Notification

This site uses cookies to provide you with a more responsive and personalised service.

By using this site you agree to our use of cookies as set out in our cookie notice. Please read our cookie notice for more information on the cookies we use and how to delete or block the use of cookies.

Lucyna Śliż - Cushman & Wakefield Ironlady

Click to Enlarge

Is it an ability to set yourself new targets to hit and to keep raising the bar as you go along or meticulous planning and the right support of those around you? Or is it rather your capabilities and talent? What does it really take to be successful?

In business – as in sport – the strength of your character is what matters the most. To swim 3.8 km across the lake, to do 180 km on a bike high up in the mountains and right after that to run 42 km to outperform all the others. Not everyone can do it, because as Lucyna says you always hit a crisis point, but your ability to overcome it is the most important thing.

We talk to Lucyna Śliż, the Business Development Director in the Retail Agency of global real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield or just Lusia to friends, a petite, vivacious and fit woman with a head of curls, a wife, a mother to two girls and most recently also a keen triathlete, about her innate desire to win and about stepping out of a comfort zone just before her departure for Mont-Tremblant to take part in her first full-distance Ironman.

Lucyna emphasizes that both her family’s support and the understanding of her boss Charles Taylor, Managing Partner of Cushman & Wakefield Poland, who gave her an additional leave for her training sessions and camps and her travel to the competition, were very important in her preparations for the competition. Cushman & Wakefield is a place that enables women to achieve both professional and personal self-fulfilment. I feel fulfilled in my job, personal life and in sport, but I do admit that it’s not easy to reconcile all that – it requires strong assertiveness and time management skills. It is all doable, but you have to make plans early enough.”

Lucyna Śliż

Lucyna Śliż has worked in real estate for 18 years. She graduated in Architecture from the Warsaw University of Technology. She took her first professional steps in the retail department of a developer Echo Investment and subsequently joined DTZ. Lucyna is currently the manager of the Retail Agency of global real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield, with responsibility for business development.

Lucyna trains daily in the “Kuźnia Triathlonu” club, which she joined more than two years ago when she was preparing for her first competition, a special present for her 40th birthday.

This year she has taken part in her first ever full-distance Ironman Triathlon, which took place in Mont-Tremblant, Canada.

She completed the race in 10:46:59, which earned her 4th place in her age group and a ticket to the Ironman World Championship, which will be held in Kona, Hawaii, on 12 October.

The full content of the interview.

Mateusz Brzeziński: We don’t work together on a daily basis, so let me tell you how I see you Lucy, all right? I joined Cushman & Wakefield in September 2017 and several months later I took part in a team-building event near Legionowo, and that’s where I heard that a lady from our company jumped into water to swim. I know that you jumped into the lake very early in the morning.

Lucyna Śliż: That’s right, at 7:30.

MB: And you swam a few kilometres, didn’t you?

LŚ: Four, to be precise.

MB: That’s quite a lot!

LŚ: And I had wetsuit on.

MB: Do you often turn up in places earlier just to jump into lakes?

LŚ: It would be ideal to be able to practice every day, at lunchtime, but unfortunately there’s no swimming pool near Metropolitan. And I’d find it hard to change after a workout and get back to work, so I do my workouts mostly in the morning or in the evening. I used to work out in the mornings more often, but now I generally work out after work due to longer training sessions; otherwise, I would have to get up very early indeed. I start at about 6:30 pm and go on for about two hours, so I have switched to afternoons. I only occasionally train in the mornings, far more often in the evening.

MB: And at that time, in the morning, were you preparing for a competition at our team-building outing?

LŚ: No, I wasn’t. It must have been May or June, so definitely a time when we intensify our triathlon training for the upcoming season. Major triathlon competitions take place in June, July and August, so it’s when we swim outdoors most of the time, we go to swimming pools in winter and autumn. Swimming in a lake or river is different though. You have to get used to it, to learn to navigate. And out there I got an idea to take advantage of that beautiful place we were in, our team-building trip was really in a great place. When I saw the lake, I thought to myself: Why not? When you combine work, family and training, it’s only natural to look for opportunities, you try to seize every opportunity to squeeze training in somehow. It’s not possible every day, let’s be honest about it.

MB: Two hours is a lot…

LŚ: But only now, only this year. A training session usually lasts an hour, up to an hour and a half.

MB: What’s it like? Do you cycle and do some running for instance? Are they aerobic exercises?

LŚ: Triathlon is obviously an endurance sport and you need to do all the three sports quite regularly. In the swimming pool it’s simply an hour with your coach. We do various exercises, we sometimes just swim laps and sometimes work on the technique. Running can also vary, depending on the day. It’s longer at weekends, usually an hour during the week. As for cycling, in winter we exercise on bike trainers. Mateusz, have you seen a trainer?

MB: It so happens that …

LŚ: …you have a trainer at home?

MB: No, no, I don’t, but I know someone who has! A friend of mine has told me that there are some models…

LŚ: There are multiple models…

MB: …and high-end ones, nearly like cars…

LŚ: Yes. A time trial bike can sometimes cost as much as a car, such equipment can actually be very expensive. Prices of running shoes are within a certain range, but as for bikes there are no limits. Back to trainers, bike training in winter is boring, because you attach your bike to the trainer and you just spin. You can watch your series on Netflix though, because your trainer controls intensity and you can watch something, but as soon as the weather gets better, everyone wants to cycle outdoors. It’s a lot nicer. So, it’s like that: swimming twice a week, cycling twice, and running twice – so it’s six days a week.

MB: One day for your family?

LŚ: Yes, one day for my family. Taking a one-day break is even recommended. To let your body recover a little.

MB: We have talked about the components of triathlon. Is any of the three sports your favourite?

LŚ: Of course!

MB: I’ve tried to figure it out looking at your times, but it’s not always possible.

LŚ: [laughs] It changes a little with time. But I’ve always enjoyed cycling the most and I probably got the hang of it the quickest of all the sports. To run good times you need to do specialised training, you have to run intervals. You’ll get nowhere if you just go out, start your stopwatch and run at a comfortable pace. I find swim training just boring. You just do laps from one end of the pool to the other. You can do some exercises, of course, so it’s not always that monotonous, but anyway, it’s not very exciting. Cycling is great! You can go to many interesting places on a bike.

MB: Do you have any favourite places you go to on a bike?

LŚ: I love cycling in the mountains. In March we always go to the mountains in Spain. I also enjoy sightseeing by bike in the Beskid Mountains. For example, a bit of showing off here, we recently travelled from Warsaw to Prague: Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, via Szklarska Poręba. The road was flat at first, to Łódź and from Łódź to Wrocław: fields and villages. It got interesting once we hit the mountains in Szklarska Poręba. And it was also great in Prague.

MB: I looked for information on the performances of Lucyna Śliż in various triathlons and I was surprised by the information about 70.3 Ironman 2017. It was at 2,000 metres above sea level, wasn’t it? Am I right?

LŚ: Yes, because in 2017 I happily turned 40 and enrolled for a race in Boulder, Colorado, the United States; it’s at 2,000 metres above sea level. True, when I was signing up, I wasn’t fully aware. And it’s clearly a lot more difficult to do all those aerobic and endurance stunts when you are so high up there, it’s not a natural environment for us. There were many contestants from Mexico. New Mexico is at an altitude of 2,000 metres above sea level and beyond. The altitude was actually a challenge. But Boulder is beautiful! And by the way, it’s a city of Ultras. Scott Jurek and Anton Krupicka live there, to name a few; triathletes also train there, because running at high altitudes is recommended as part of your training.

MB: And the distance was...?

LŚ: It was also half-Ironman.

MB: So, that’s what you are up for now?

LŚ: … It’s twice as long.

MB: It’s your debut on this distance?

LŚ: Yes, it will be my first time ever, and it’s obviously a lot, much more effort will go into that, so I must admit I feel a little anxious. I wonder how my body will react, because I’ve never taken part in a strenuous exercise that takes 10 or 12 hours to complete while maintaining a certain level of intensity – that’s roughly how long it lasts. The deadline is probably 16 hours, but it would be good to do it in 11 hours instead of 16.

MB: What does the route of the upcoming Ironman look like? Have you seen it yet?

LŚ: Of course, I have! If you make up your mind to go full-distance, you need to arrange it with your family. My children and husband must be fully aware of what it is all about and what it takes. They need to agree to me being absent all Saturday, six weeks in a row. A lot of thinking and planning went into it. We opted for Canada, because we wanted to combine it with holidays. And the contest in Canada in which I will take part is not the easiest of all. The cycling route has elevation gains of 1,800 metres. It’s not an easy route. It will be the same with running. That’s why I feel anxious. I love mountains, but in Warsaw there aren’t too many opportunities to train on such terrain. I’m not fully aware of how my body will work, but I hope everything will be fine.

MB: Have you set yourself a target? Is reaching the finish line your objective?

LŚ: I would like to do it with dignity. Some say that you should add an hour to your time of the middle distance multiplied by two. It’s the predicted time in Ironman, because you get more and more tired with time and you slow down. Most of the competitions I took part in were not held in such mountainous areas, so I’m not really sure if this rule will work in this case.

MB: I look at the time of the recent half-Ironman in Bełchatów…

LŚ: It’s 4:52, but Bełchatów has hills for cycling, not mountains. Altitude variations aren’t so big as in Canada.

MB: You’ve said that you can save time on changes. But as for equipment, will the equipment for the middle distance be enough for Ironman?

LŚ: It will, it will! Triathlon is not a low-cost sport when it comes to equipment. You need a wetsuit and swimming goggles. The bike is the most expensive item. You need to have a helmet, a pair of shoes, and another pair. Contestants have different capabilities and there is a variety of equipment. Before the long distance I bought a time trial bike, a triathlon bike. It’s a bit different from a typical road-racing bike – it’s mainly the position of your body for cycling that’s different. It’s actually easier to cycle 180 km in the position you have on such a bike. On a road bike you sit more straight up, on a time bike you lower your torso, you’re in a more aerodynamic position. And despite all this, you’re more comfortable. And there’s less strain on your quadriceps. And there’s less chance of getting a muscle cramp or leg pain during a run.

MB: In addition to physical training, mental preparation to prepare your body to perform is also important, isn’t it? Do you use any techniques to motivate yourself during competitions? What do you think about when swimming or riding a bike?

LŚ: An interesting question. During a race you’re obviously focused on what’s happening. You ask yourself: am I feeling weaker? Should I eat one more gel? Am I underperforming because I’m having a bad day? Can I go faster or not? You talk to yourself in your head about such things. It’s when you are a bit on your own, alone and with your thoughts for, let’s say, five hours. And you have to face the loneliness of a long-distance runner. You are all on your own. But back to your question – yes, I wanted to go to some meditation classes, to learn how to engage your mind, to focus on effort, but I couldn’t find time for all that. I also wanted to do some other exercises, to strengthen other muscles in addition to those you use in triathlon, but all these great ideas came to nothing. It’s just life – I had enough time only for these three sports. I think it’s a question of your innate desire to win. That’s what it takes, I guess.

MB: Adrenaline?

LŚ: Yes, adrenaline does kick in. Your body produces all those substances, everybody around you gets them. But speaking for myself, when I race, I go for real. I can’t go slow thinking: “All right, I’ll go to a triathlon and do it for pleasure.” Well, no. When I am out there, at the start, I do my best. And I never think about it. That’s the way I go.

MB: As for middle distances, Bełchatów was your best performance, wasn’t it?

LŚ: Yes, although it’s hard to compare due to elevations.

MB: But there are hardly any women in overall rankings, I had to scroll down and down… So, first of all, congratulations on taking part!

LŚ: Well, it’s a good time now. The time of the woman who won in Luxembourg was 4h 39’. It was a lot better than mine, by about 22 minutes. So, there’s still something for me to do. Daniela Ryf, the best triathlete, a Swiss, completed the Half-Ironman in Gdynia last year in 3h 57’. But she is already a professional and the only thing she does in her life is triathlon, so you should bear this in mind too and compare yourself with those who lead a ‘normal’ life, which can be tough. To be honest, I am sometimes absolutely knackered when I do my training, and it’s not the best way to go either. It would be good to have had a good night’s sleep, to be well-fed and hydrated, but I can say that my 4h 52’ is a good time for a woman. And I won that competition anyway. But there were five female contestants. That’s the difference between Poland and other countries – you have five women in my category F40–44 here and, say, 120 abroad.

MB: In this age group alone?

LŚ: Well, yes. There are already a lot of women abroad doing triathlon – it’s very popular. And you can really tell by their performance that they must have been doing it for some time. Triathlon is still very new in Poland, that’s why only five women turned up the start line in Bełchatów, but about 35, if I’m correct, showed up in Gdynia. But that competition is very popular. And as for motivation, when I come to think of it, ever since my first competition in Piaseczno – it was a one-eighth distance – I didn’t need anything to speed up. It came naturally. I didn’t learn it or anything.

MB: You got a horseshoe in Piaseczno.

LŚ: I was awarded the Horseshoe of the Kuźnia club for the debut of the year, but it was rather for my lifetime achievements, mainly for Boulder, where my time was 5h 24’ – it was quite good for a debut in the middle distance, and it was quite high in the mountains and so on; my friends from the club recognised that. But there were other competitions in that year too, so we can say it was for my lifetime achievements. Boulder was my first half in my life and I think I knew from the beginning that triathlon was for me, that I had an aptitude for it. I have performed well since my first competition in Piaseczno and I enjoyed it. Well, it’s like this: you try various sports and see if they’re fun for you. And first of all, you must enjoy training.

MB: I think it’s a good role model. If you have a dream, you should make sure it comes true.

LŚ: I was afraid that my daughters would think that I’d rather go to a training session than be with them. We talked a lot about it. There’s no doubt they miss me, but we agreed beforehand that it would be like that for some time, two hard months of preparations. They had been told about it and knew that it would end at some point, so it’s fine. They are definitely affected emotionally by it, but in a good way, thinking “My mum is trying hard, she’s superb”, and it’s nice for me too.

MB: Does sport help you in business?

LŚ: I have been thinking about it long. I didn’t engage in sports so much before. Gallup’s assessments have revealed that I’m an achiever. Well, I am definitely a person who needs to be driven by a higher vision, not just targets. I feel that some of my needs which used to be fulfilled by business are now being met by sport. It is one of the reasons, for sure. I have met many businesspeople who do triathlon – they are very ambitious. They are able to reconcile multiple things and get satisfaction from it. They know how to step out of their comfort zones.

MB: And does this sport take mental drive rather than skills and tough training? What do you think?

LŚ: I think that if you have no mental drive you won’t go beyond a certain level. That’s because pain is always there. You have to accept that pain, enjoy it in a way and see some sense in it, so your mental strength is very important for sure. This can be sometimes seen on your route – some people give up. For instance in Bełchatów the temperature soared to 31 degrees, the weather got muggy before the storm, it was terrible. And I felt bad doing the last two rounds. Some people stopped to march on to the finish line. And you don’t stop, so there is something that keeps you going on until the finish. Your mind is absolutely pivotal here. People have various physical capabilities and not everyone can see the effects of training quickly. So, these two aspects are equally important. In business, your mind and personal characteristics are more important, but here – your physical capabilities. Well, you can’t do without them.

Lucyna Śliż

Lucyna Śliż has worked in real estate for 18 years. She graduated in Architecture from the Warsaw University of Technology. She took her first professional steps in the retail department of a developer Echo Investment and subsequently joined DTZ. Lucyna is currently the manager of the Retail Agency of global real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield, with responsibility for business development.

Lucyna trains daily in the “Kuźnia Triathlonu” club, which she joined more than two years ago when she was preparing for her first competition, a special present for her 40th birthday.

This year she has taken part in her first ever full-distance Ironman Triathlon, which took place in Mont-Tremblant, Canada.

She completed the race in 10:46:59, which earned her 4th place in her age group and a ticket to the Ironman World Championship, which will be held in Kona, Hawaii, on 12 October.

Lucyna emphasizes that both her family’s support and the understanding of her boss Charles Taylor, Managing Partner of Cushman & Wakefield Poland, who gave her an additional leave for her training sessions and camps and her travel to the competition, were very important in her preparations for the competition. Cushman & Wakefield is a place that enables women to achieve both professional and personal self-fulfilment. I feel fulfilled in my job, personal life and in sport, but I do admit that it’s not easy to reconcile all that – it requires strong assertiveness and time management skills. It is all doable, but you have to make plans early enough.”