Falling off the fitness wagon

19:59, Mar 01 2012


This is the blog post I didn't want to have to write. I've fallen off the wagon.

It began, predictably, last weekend when I set off on a camping holiday up north. I took my running gear with me, genuinely excited about getting the chance to jog while enjoying sea views and native bird calls, rather than passing stray dogs and angry motorists on grimy old Symonds St.

It started well. I dutifully got up for my 8am alarm and went out to pound the pavements of sunny Paihia. But pretty soon it went pear-shaped. A nasty niggle in my Achilles and a wayward thought - "what the hell am I doing?! This is supposed to be a holiday!" - soon saw me losing all motivation, and I didn't even make it a kilometre before slowing to a feeble walk around the town and hotfooting it back to bed.

It was all downhill from there. For the next two nights I stayed at a beautiful camping ground at Matai Bay in the Karikari Peninsula. Beaching, swimming, and doing campy things like reading on a comfy camp chair in my pyjamas at 6pm kept those motivation levels at an all-time low.

Now, back in Auckland, I'm finding it pretty tough to get going again. That pain in the Achilles is still there and since I've been back I've probably run about 2kms all up.


Obviously, this is not ideal just three weeks out from the Big Day. I've anxiously watched the calendar tick over from February to March, and the fear is now upon me. The one bright spot is that while I haven't been running per se I have at least kept in the habit of getting up early and venturing out, in the vain hope I might find my lost enthusiasm hiding with those stray dogs somewhere on Symonds St.

Luckily, I am heading on (another!) break - this time to my hometown of Christchurch this weekend. With my mum there to nag me hourly, a whole flat green park to run around and maybe a (hopefully small) earthquake or two to make me reflect on how life's too short surely I can get the running bug back?!

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He might once have cycled into the back of a stationary car at 40kph (“not recommended”) but Richard Ussher is still an endurance sport legend.

He’s a four-time winner of the gruelling Speights Coast to Coast challenge and represented New Zealand in freestyle skiing at the 1998 Winter Olympics.

For the record, Coast to Coast contestants spend almost 11 hours cycling 140km, running 36km, and kayaking 67km from one side of the South Island to the other.

All, apparently, for a swig of Speights at the end.

So while 8.5km is a little bit less than what he’s used to I asked Ussher for some tips ahead of Round the Bays, which is just a couple of weeks away.

Firstly his top five training tips:

1. Set your goals and what you are aiming to achieve - complete or compete.

2. Be consistent. A little each day is better than one big day mixed with lots of nothing. Try and do 10 per cent less than what you think you can but do that consistently every training session and you will improve quickly.

3. Enjoy it.

4. If you aren't sure of something ask around and try to get the best most relevant advice. (Me: You’re welcome, readers).

5. If it sounds too good to be true it probably is - you'll probably want to invest more than three minutes a day!
The best advice he has ever been given he says, is to be consistent and to always try and find the enjoyment in both the training and racing – that may be easier said than done for many but it makes sense to me.

And those of you struggling to get out the door may be heartened to know that Ussher’s the same. However, he reckons you’ll usually feel much better once you’ve been and done it “and you won't feel half as guilty having that slice of cake afterwards”.

In terms of the worst thing you can do training-wise, Ussher reckons always training at the same pace is a big no-no.
“The body can adapt to a training load very quickly so you need to keep changing the stimulus – slow, medium, fast and over different distances and terrain.”

So mix it up. I also find this prevents things from getting stale though taking the same route allows you to get a gauge on how things are improving.

He also has advice for when you’re hurting and want to give up.

“Remember to pace yourself, it's much better to start a little conservatively and be passing people towards the end if you feel good than sliding back through the field after you've blown out.

“If you're pushing your hardest it will hurt but remember it's only 8.5km of your life, you will feel great when you've stopped and you've given it your best effort.”

And on race day - race to your plan, not anyone else's.

So there you have it. Advice from a legend.

Hope it helps.

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* How's your Round The Bays journey going? Are you struggling in your training? Leave your comments and fitness tips below.