Former national swimming rep Scott Rice now helps others take on big challenges as the founder of the State New Zealand Ocean Swim Series. These days you’re more likely to find him in a pair of running shoes than in the pool, however. Rice shares his wellness tips:
My father was a swimmer; he was a surf lifesaver and a national-level swimmer in the pool. My mother’s sister was an Olympic swimmer and my cousins have also been top British competitors in the sport. So we’re a breed of swimmers.
I started learning to swim when I was five, and from age 10 I swam competitively for 13 years. Near the end of that time I made the New Zealand team, representing New Zealand on the World Cup circuit and at the Pan-Pacific Games in Sydney in 1999.
It’s the thing you do; you go to school and swim - and that’s about it. Your whole life revolves around it, and it teaches you a hell of a lot about hard work and commitment and putting in the hard yards to get the result.
There are a lot of things I’ve taken from swimming and applied to other areas of my life. When you do an individual sport you can’t blame anyone else if you don’t get the result you want and running a business is like that. When the going gets tough, are you going to lose the plot, or are you going to deal with the situation and make a good decision?
On the run
When I finished swimming competitively - as with anything you’ve done for your whole life - I was kind of over it. But I’d seen a lot of ex-swimmers just explode; they kept eating the same thing, but didn’t get any exercise and they’d get fat. I wanted a change in terms of exercise, but I wanted to do something I wasn’t naturally good at so I could challenge myself.
So I started running. I really enjoyed doing something different and I liked the fact it was quick, cheap, you can do it anywhere, and a lot of my mates did it too, so it was a social thing. With swimming you’ve obviously got your head in the pool, but with running you can chat with friends and solve the world's problems.
I now run three times a week, early in the morning, and usually with friends for about 8km or 9km. It gives me a level of fitness that keeps me in shape, helps me think problems through at work and release stress. Often when I need to solve a big problem I’ll go for a run, figure it out and come up with new ideas.
The sweetest thing
I’ve always had a sweet tooth and I used to be the kind of guy who’d throw a bag of sweets in the trolley when I was at the supermarket and polish off the whole lot myself. But I read a book on the effects of sugar a while back, and it’s changed my life.
I haven’t cut sugar out of my diet completely, but I have consciously taken it out of most of the things I eat. To begin with I took sugar out of tea and coffee, changed from drinking mochaccinos to trim flat whites with no sugar - little things like that. Now I’ll have Weet-Bix with a banana and no sugar on it for breakfast every morning, I have almonds on my desk to snack on and I try to eat more protein.
I’ve dropped a little bit of weight, but the main thing I’ve noticed is my energy levels are much more consistent; I don’t get the ups and downs with my energy that I used to. Work is particularly full-on at the moment because we’re developing a new event, so these kinds of insights are really topical for me.
I’ve had to learn how to switch off, because as a business owner I think you do have to set boundaries for yourself and stick to them. I try to turn the computer off at 8pm to let my brain rest before I go to bed, otherwise I’d be up until midnight even if I’m tired. And I try to put my phone down every now and then.
I love my weekends with the family so I typically don’t do any work in the weekends. I’m not a big believer in 60- or 70-hour working weeks; I think those people are crazy and they’ve lost sight of what’s important in life.
Some people pride themselves on getting five hours’ sleep a night but that’s not for me. I’m a seven-and-a-half hours’ sleep a night person and I work 50 hours a week at max. Otherwise I think either your health is going to suffer or your family. And I don’t want to be that guy whose kids never saw their daddy when they were young.
The finish line
Rodney Hide swum our series for a good few years - although he doesn't do it anymore - and I spoke to him a lot during that time. The first time he tried swimming across the Auckland Harbour he failed, but he came back and tried it again and succeeded. He’s got some guts that guy, like many others who do our events.
I still find being at the finish lines of our events one of the most awesome places to be. Just to see the faces filled with delight and surprise and people coming up to you afterwards to thank you for the experience. That never gets old and it’s definitely what makes this more than just a business. I love the people that take part; they’re swimmers, and that’s what I was, and it’s something I’ll probably always have an interest in.
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