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

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….

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.

Stu, Tania

It’s summer, finally. Sort of. Most of us are back at work now, full of food, good intentions and a few too many celebratory wines or beers. This time of year is one of New Year’s Resolutions, which often come with new gym memberships. It’s also the perfect time of year to build new habits and make the most of the beautiful country we live in. Whether you’re city based, in the country or near the ocean, strapping on a pair of running shoes and getting outside is not only a great way to get fit and smash your resolutions, it allows you to see your neighbourhood from a new perspective. Not to mention the wonders that fresh air does for your mind. You can’t get that sweating away in some over air-conditioned gym filled with other New Year’s Resolution makers!

Some tips for running in your area:

1. Get to know your area. Get onto old Google Maps and find your nearest park, put your shoes on and get out there to familiarise yourself with it. Some parks have trails, fitness equipment, hills and great grassy areas where you can do core strength exercises, sprints, run drills. Or just get to know some of the streets in your neighbourhood.

2. Close proximity is key. This can help with motivation and ease of access. Being able to head straight out from the office can help prevent that dip in motivation that occurs when we walk in the door after a long day to spy the couch and the TV remote. It will also help you process everything that happened at work so that you can come home and be more present with your family and friends.

3. Know what works for you. Maybe you run best on your own. Maybe you need a buddy to help keep you motivated. Maybe you need a run group to learn from. There are lots of different types of running groups out the re – big, small, boot camp, technique focused and many more. Get in touch with the coach or organiser and ask for a complimentary trial session. This way you can see if it’s for you or not. And if it isn’t – find another group!

4. Variety is the spice of life: Make sure you try a few different running routes in your area. This is really important to keep your motivation levels up. Running the same route every time can become boring, the brain switches off and injury can creep in. Try running the same route in the opposite direction even. It is amazing what you see from a different angle sometimes.

5. Have a goal. It doesn’t have to be to run up Everest or to run a marathon. Although there’s nothing wrong with those goals, it does help if you can break them down into smaller, more manageable steps. Want to complete a full marathon? Maybe book in a half marathon first. Or even a 5k or 10k race. Make an action plan for the year, that’s realistic for you to stick to, and you’ll be running down that finishing chute in no time.

Summer is definitely the perfect time to build up those good habits for when winter creeps in and can start eating away at your motivation. Go on, get outside, enjoy your local area and get fit!

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Building on the last couple of weeks, Stu is going to show you the High Knees Skip to help improve your running gait. Want to know more about how to use this running drill? Come along and check out the Wellness Room Run Squad on Monday nights.

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