Many folks assume that because I own Seac Studio I am one of those guys that is always fit and have always been fit. That I spent my youth as an elite athlete and competing at the top level was normal. The reality is quite the opposite. In fact I spend most years at a fairly average fitness level and often dropping below average to near sedentary levels.
During these times my weight will move into the 90kg+ zone, I cracked 100kg in 2004. In my 20’s and early 30’s it was ‘kinda’ funny and it was a bit of a laugh amongst my mates. This is where the “Fat Indian” nick name originated. I actually enjoyed the challenge of getting fit and dropping the weight.
When I start back on my fitness journey I am quite literally starting from scratch. As I have aged it keeps getting harder to drop the weight. Sure I can regain the fitness but the weight hangs around for much longer each time. When I turned 40 my goal was to not let it go quite as far as I have in the past. Although I have dramatically lost fitness …and strength …and muscle tone …and speed, I have managed to keep my weight under 90kg. This is still 12kg over race weight and about 8kg over what I like to call normal weight.
The fact that I have come back from a 95kg beer sloshing slob to 78kg Kona qualifying Ironman not once, but four times - in 1996-1997, 2005-6, 2010-11, and 2014-15 gives me a unique insight into the process. Unlike most coaches that have spent a lifetime as elite athletes and who don’t understand what normal weight is and don’t understand how a ‘good life’ gets in the way sometimes – I completely get it – possibly a little too much.
As I write today I am by no means unfit and I am only about 88kg. See recent pic, caution: staring too long will cause permanent retina damage. However I am a long way off being triathlon fit and feeling healthy. Since November last year, over ten months ago, I have not swum a single swim stroke until a few weeks ago. I have been biking in the Studio once per week for between 30-60mins. Running has been inconsistent but I have tried to keep it going, running about 10-20km per week until I ran in the Seac Rocks to Manly run a few weeks ago – not clever. A few days after that run with insufficient training I managed to wreck my calf trying to run fast off the bike – more on this in a moment.
To get fit again I did what most people do a found a race about three months away and entered and paid good money. I then tried to swim but the water was too cold, couldn’t find my goggles or I didn’t want to swim in the ocean after a storm (very wise). I went for a few runs, but needed three days off after each run to recover. What I am trying to say is that my training went no-where.
Then all of a sudden the race was three weeks away so I tried to train hard and fast and get fit quick. You know how this story ends. After cycling for 90mins I thought it would be clever to run hard off the bike – like I plan to do on race day. Sure enough 800m into the run the calf gave me a little twinge. The very next stride my calf yelled at me “you had better stop this stupidity or else”. I slowed down and thought I’d just jog back to the start – sounds sensible. The very next stride the calf decided to scream at me and buckled my knee. Literally four steps after the twinge I was walking back to the Studio phone in hand googling "The dumb triathletes guide to a calf injury".
I am telling this story because I hear it all the time from tri and squad buddies and Studio members. Rushed, unplanned and stupid training inevitably leads to mistakes and destroys progress (which is what we all seek). So whats next? Now I have been slapped in the face by reality it is time to do it properly.
First of all I need to understand where I am at. Like most people I consider myself pretty busy. I have four gorgeous kids ranging from 12 weeks to 12 years who need some serious daddy time and an aging mother who now falls into the same basket as my kids. I have a 20 year old business with clients that need to be managed and a new business that is growing fast. Most importantly I have my beautiful partner Natalie whom I am very grateful for and who needs some lov’n in the non-biblical sense.
Second step is to set a long-term goal that extends my capabilities and reconciles with my above place on this planet. Natalie is doing IMNZ in 2020 and we have decided to never do an ironman in the same year. So my goal is an age group podium in an Ironman (I have come close, but never podiumed) in 2021. I believe this goal is achievable but will require large amounts of brain and the right amount of brawn - that's the way I like it.
Third and most important step is to get myself coached by someone who understands my situation and my goals. As the owner of Seac Studio you might be asking why would I need coaching? Let me assure you that if you want to succeed (at anything) you need a coach. Yes, it is possible to DIY but I just don’t have the time to waste on trial and error, I want the accountability and my goals are lofty. If I am going to spend time away from my family and my business I need that time to be used as close to perfection as possible.
The time to get the coaching is now. When I am least fit and least ready. Most weekend warriors I know want to get fit first and then when they are fourteen weeks out from their race they go and get a coach. This is the common approach, but it is wrong! The time to streamline my swim stroke is now. The time to add strength to my pedal force is now. To improve my run cadence in the last 20km of an Ironman I am going to do in three years’ time… is now. In the fourteen weeks before the ironman you can get a coaching program from a cereal box – it will say swim, bike and run lots. To actually make wholesale changes you need the coach in your ear now.
The ExEnd program starts with strength first. Two specific gym sessions plus a pre-swim and a pre-bike strength session. Whaaaat? I want to be a triathlete not a gym-junkie! A strong body always comes first. This is hugely underestimated by most age-group triathletes. The main cause of injuries in triathletes and endurance athletes is muscle imbalance – fix it with strength. The main reason a runners form deteriorates later in the run is a weak posterior chain – fix it with strength.
With the strength program in place it is time to add the swim. When you are on the comeback trail or trying to get fit for a triathlon swimming is the base layer. There are Seven Secrets to Swimming. One of them is that nothing builds aerobic strength faster than swimming. Swimming is great for building general fitness. Swimming is also much easier on the body in terms of impact. Swimming also sends your metabolism into over-drive. With all these benefits and many more why do the majority of AG’ers ignore their swim? I have no idea. My plan is to swim four times per week – one long and three smaller swims. My current long swim is 20 minutes but I will add 10 minutes each week for the next 6 weeks.
A couple of gym sessions and two 20 min swims this week and I already feel great – mainly in my head, but my body is starting to feel better too.
Next edition we will explore what the weekly swimming actually looks like and how we go about swimming for overall strength and fitness - not just for the first short leg of a long triathlon.