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Stu
12507674_10153246365187019_7384716587922005804_nWhen preparing for an Ironman, everyone talks about training, nutrition, power readings, sleep, which race wheels to use, recovery, training thresholds, tactics on race day, and the list goes on…

But no one seems to talk about what happens after the big day. What happens when the adrenaline and elation of finishing this ‘beast’ of a race wear off? What do I do with this extra time I now have?

It has now been just over three months since I finished the gruelling 3.8km swim, 180km bike and 42km run. The first week post-race was spent at the family beach house on the Coromandel. I managed a couple of recovery swims with Dad,lay on the couch reading, enjoyed a few alcoholic beverages in the evenings, had some good conversation and coffee with Mum and went for some walks with my fiancee Tania.

At this stage, I think I was in a bit of a vortex where it still hadn’t sunk in that I had achieved this amazing thing. I was pretending everything was ok and that I was happy! But in that clear retrospective vision that I have now, I wasn’t happy. The only way I can illustrate it is that it’s very similar to the grieving process. For anyone who has ever lost a friend, family member or even a pet, you will understand. At first, I felt isolated; like I was the only person going through this, even though there were a thousand people racing with me on the day. A few weeks later I began to get a bit frustrated and angry that I still didn’t have the desire to get out for a ride on my bike or go for a run.

The next stage felt something like depression. I had a major lack of motivation; I wanted to sleep in instead of getting up early to train. I would choose a beer over going out for a run.

Now, finally, as I write this article, I’m coming to some form of acceptance as to where I am now, forming new goals and getting on with normal life! Whatever that is.
Wow! 3 months later! I didn’t think it would take this long! I must have delayed reactions. Or is this normal? What is normal? These are some of the questions going through my head. So, I decided to do a review of some of my peers, the ones who battled out there with me on race day. The 1,400 or so competitors who wear the IRONMAN badge. A few coffees and conversations later I came to a very simple conclusion: everyone deals with this in a different way. Some had done the same as me, slowly trudging through the grieving process for the past few months, only getting back to some form of training now. Some tried to skip the whole process and just throw themselves back into training (ignore ignore ignore!). Some have decided they don’t want to do another Ironman again! Some, the hardened Ironman athletes, signed up the following day so they had no excuse for next year!

13514310_10154213835405690_31955809_nOn some self-reflection and analysis, I came to the conclusion that my response is normal for me. I’m a physiotherapist and wellness consultant. I am very aware of the recovery needed after an event of this type. My body had taken out a huge overdraft. Muscles needed to repair, inflammation needed to settle, joints to be offloaded. Most importantly, my ‘hard drive’ (my brain), wanted to go into sleep mode for a while. Or at least be used for something other than 5am wake ups, 7 hours of straight training, deciding on which nutrition to pack and which fluoro speedos I should wear for swim squad. Putting it simply, I was craving a break from the highly repetitive and time-consuming days that were Ironman training.

Don’t get me wrong. I loved every minute of the build-up and the training. Smashing out a 200km ride to the Coromandel, swimming in 2-3 meter swells off Takapuna beach, 7-hour brick (swim/bike/run) sessions followed up by 2hr 40min runs the following day. I loved the camaraderie of the long training sessions, the silly conversations at 180km of those really long rides where nicknames were bestowed. I would imagine every training session as though I was a Spartan warrior preparing for battle! Except Spartan warriors didn’t have gels or water laced with special protein and carbs.

So what next? Another Ironman? A marathon? Or just continue cruising, training when I feel like it, having a few beers and sleeping in. What I have learned about me in this process is that I miss the routine, the early starts, the buzz I get from training, the clarity of mind a hard training session gives me. I love that build up to my next race. Pushing my body and my mind is just part of what makes me tick! But I have also realised that I love what I do in business every day. I help people reach their physical and mental potential. I help people through their various injuries, improve their running style. I lead a run squad, motivate people. Essentially the journey of Ironman has just added to my professional toolbox. I have been through one of the physically hardest and most mentally taxing races out there and come through the other side wanting to do another one. Not necessarily to beat my time, but to enjoy the journey and the value it adds to my life. The ability to achieve something like this can cross platforms to achieving goals in business, personal relationships and other life goals. My new mantra: Get comfortable being uncomfortable!!

Disclaimer: Make sure you enjoy appropriate rest and recovery in between!!

Thanks, Stu12792195_1097660586922000_9005369321118880324_o
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Stu
IMG_1922
So I’m sitting down to my lunch of  ‘Southern spiced chicken, pickled slaw, salad and vegetables’ (yum!) while I write this. It is just under two weeks out from Ironman NZ, Taupo. This will be the penultimate chapter in the last 9 months of preparation for a race that I swore 5 years ago I would never do! To give you some insight, let me take you back five years to my ‘pre-triathlon days’.

I had recently returned from a five year stint living in the UK and Ireland. I was 10kg heavier, lacking in vitamin D, severely lacking in any form of exercise regime. It was early March 2011 and I was contracted as a physio to Ironman NZ for the lead up to race day. This involved an injury assessment service, strapping ankles and feet, massage, and stroking athletes’ egos in the lead-up to their big day. Essentially this came in the form of telling each person, no matter how severe  or how insubstantial their injury, that they would be okay on race day! During race day, my time was spent inside transition between the swim/ bike and the bike/ run helping athletes change their clothes, handing out transition bags and tending to various injuries. It was a cold day out there, raining and windy. Athletes were coming in from the swim and bike with mild signs of hypothermia. At the time, it reminded me of a scene from a zombie apocalypse movie! People with cuts and grazes, white skin, slowly moving and looking for food… or just collapsing on the floor. I thought to myself at the time, I will never do ‘one of these’, who would want to put themselves through this?! Even the look of absolute relief and elation as people crossed the finish line some 10-17 hours later wasn’t enough to inspire me.

So, obviously the next question is, how did I get from ‘I’m not doing an Ironman… EVER!’ to sitting down and writing this article pre the big day? It was Christmas five years ago at our family beach house on the Coromandel. The family has just sat down to swap presents before the big Christmas feast! I get a shoe box sized gift from my sister, a pair of shoes I think. As I unwrap the gift and open the box I realize that this is not a pair of shoes… a small piece of paper rests in the bottom of the box… uh oh! I unfold the paper and read what is written on it…  It’s an entry to my first sprint distance triathlon! My immediate thoughts are… I haven’t swum more than 50 metres since I was a child at the Manurewa pools. I’m going to have to start swimming. More than that – I’m going to have to be able to swim 500 metres in three months time! So this was the seed planted 5 years ago thanks to my little sis, which slowly grew into a much bigger and time-consuming ‘redwood tree’ sized goal…  Ironman! To be continued….
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Tania
It’s just before midnight. It’s cold. I’m still recovering from a cold. I’ve been up since 4.15am. I’ve spent a good portion of my day on my feet or running around. I would love to be in bed right now. But I’m not. I’m leaning over a barrier, reaching for high fives from people I don’t know. I’m clapping and cheering to hopefully give people a last burst of energy to make it down that finishing chute before the clock strikes 12. No, they’re not going to turn into pumpkins if they don’t make it. They just won’t make that exclusive list of Ironman finishers.

stu-run-ironman2I just witnessed my fiancée take the journey from 70.3 to Ironman finisher. In fact, he was standing on the road and I had to give him the final push (my seal of approval) before he committed to making the journey happen. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart. Nor is it something you should attempt without first getting buy-in from your nearest and dearest. Yes, the day is hard slog. But that’s nothing compared to the nine months prior.

There is some real magic in the air in Taupo, and it’s just on steroids for Ironman weekend. The nerves are almost palpable. The day starts with a local group of men emerging from the lake on their waka and doing a haka to pump up the crowd. The mass swim start fills the lake with limbs and water spray. There are intense sights like the guy cycling past holding his seat, not prepared to give up and not able to sit down to let his quads rest. The very vocal Iron Maori supporters. The slight smiles on exhausted faces when you cheer on someone using their name. The guy with the ukulele, sitting in the dark, playing Bob Marley for those still pounding the pavement on their marathon after the sun has set.

But back to the finish line. Setting out to complete something as massive as an Ironman is such an incredible goal. It’s a long journey for everyone taking up the challenge and that journey is filled with many, many hours in the pool, out on the bike and in your running shoes. I am so, so proud of everyone who was brave enough to state it as a goal; to enter the event; to make it to the start line; to keep pushing to make all those cut-off times; to make it to each Transition; to cross that finish line; to be an IRONMAN. You are all such an inspiration to me. Even though I won’t be joining your ranks, you inspire me to set and smash my own goals. And a special thank you to Stu for taking me on this incredible journey with you.
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Stu
Rest and recovery are very important aspects of any successful training program. There is a difference between rest and recovery or how to implement them both into your training programme. Rest can be defined as a combination of sleep and time spent not training, it is the easiest to understand and implement. How you spend this time and sleep is very important. Recovery, refers to actions taken to maximize your body’s repair. These include nutrition, hydration, posture, heat, ice, stretching, self-myofascial release, stress management, compression, also time spent standing versus sitting versus lying down. Recovery encompasses more than just muscle repair. It involves chemical and hormonal balance, nervous system repair, mental state, and more. We have different systems that need to recover. These include structural, neurological and hormonal. Our structural system includes muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones. Muscles recover the quickest because they receive direct blood flow. Tendons, ligaments, and bones receive indirect blood flow and therefore can take longer to recover and be more susceptible to overtraining stress. For most, the goal should not be set for perfection or include exactly correct levels of each factor – leave that for professional athletes to strive after. Our goal is to prioritize life and maximize performance without personal sacrifice. Kick back, relax, and enjoy an evening out with friends. Order your favorite beer and get the ribs as this may mentally benefit you more, allow you to unwind, and put you in a better place to perform as opposed to another solitary night of broccoli and chicken. A balanced combination of rest and recovery along with proper diet and exercise should be a part of any fitness regimen. Unless you are competing at an elite level, you should follow the follow the 80/20 rule. Eighty percent of your time can be spent focusing on diet and exercise, while twenty percent should be left for enjoying life. In other words, don’t let yourself get too wrapped up in perfection. Below is a break down of the subcomponents of rest and recovery to provide you with better insight on how to improve performance and overall quality of life. A healthy and happy athlete not only performs better, but has the ability to give time and energy to friends and family.


Elements of Rest and Recovery

 1. Sleep

Sleep is the most important action for recovery. Healthy levels of sleep help to provide mental health, hormonal balance, and muscular recovery. You need to get enough sleep, which is 7-10 hours for most people. Everyone has individual needs based on their lifestyle, workouts, and genetic makeup.
  • Hours slept before twelve at night are proven to be more effective than those slept after.
  • Sleep in the most natural setting possible, with minimal to no artificial lights.
  • Wakeup with the sun if possible.
  • Fresh air and cooler temperatures help to improve the quality of sleep.
  • 2.Hydration

Drinking enough water is vital to health, energy, recovery, and performance. Athletes tend to be very attentive to hydration levels close to and during competitions, but keeping that awareness during training and recovery times can make just as large an impact. Water helps in all of our daily bodily functions. A few examples are more efficient nutrient uptake, lower levels of stress on the heart, improved skin quality, and better hair health. The simplest way to check hydration is to look at your urine. If it is clear to pale yellow you are hydrated. The darker and more color in your pee the less hydrated you are and more water you need to drink. That is unless you have been taking vitamin supplements which may change the colour of your urine temporarily. Water is the best way to hydrate. Sports drinks are only needed for before, during, and after strenuous training or completion, don’t drink them simply because they taste good.
  • Flavorings and other additives only give your system more to process and cause it further strain. Stick to adding a lemon or lime.
  • 3. Nutrition

Everything you eat has the ability to help heal your body, or to poison/injure it. Alcohol and processed foods contain toxins and are harmful to the body. Eating clean, eating close to the source, and eating balanced meals in moderation is proven to be effective to remain healthy and increase performance.
  • Create a meal plan and shop ahead for the week.
  • Have healthy snacks readily available that you enjoy.
  • Plan ahead for dinner out by helping to pick the place you’re eating and looking at the menu ahead of time.
  • 4. Posture
We spend more time sitting in the present day compared to the last decade and the decade before that. This is not a restful position; sitting or standing with poor posture is harmful. It can lead to back or neck pain, specifically for those with desk jobs.
  • Find a chair that is ergonomically correct.
  • If you struggle to sit upright use a lumbar roll in the small of your back, sit on a stool without a back, sit on a swiss ball (all in moderation).
  • Don’t lean to one side or on an object for support while standing. Instead you should try step standing, ie. Putting one foot up on a ledge or step for a period of time and engage the straight leg glute muscle and activate your core.
  • 5. Stretching
You need enough flexibility to move well and remain pain-free. Include dynamic stretching in your warm-ups while saving static stretching for after your workouts. Yoga is a fantastic way of gaining flexibility and also strength.

6. Self-Myofascial Release

Tight muscles and trigger points sometimes need assistance to return to healthy normal tissue. Use a foam roller to keep your myofascia in good health.

7. Heat, Ice, and Compression

Use these techniques for recovering from injuries or a very stressful training or racing experience such as a marathon, triathlon or any intense sporting experience.

8. Conclusion

Spending some time focusing on rest and recovery can pay great dividends. We could describe it as ‘legal performance enhancement’. The most frustrating thing for me as a clinician is that people don’t spend enough time focusing on rest or recovery. Dedicating additional time to the three categories of sleep, hydration, and nutrition will increase your output ability, decrease recovery time, and reduce your risk of injury. Don’t ignore your body until it becomes too late and you’re forced to take unnecessary time off due to injury, burnout, or worse. Your body is a bank account, look after it!.
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