Going the Distance: How to Train for Extreme Sports

Posted: May 2, 2014 by kirisyko in Fitness and Training, SykOtic

Working hard and training harder, amateur athletes discuss their workout regimes and what drives them. In the past decade, many professionals have channeled their extra time and energy into training and competing in sports that were once relegated to professional athletes. We look at what drives four amateur athletes.

Joe Waldron

WHEN THE ENGLISH ACTOR and television presenter David Walliams swam the English Channel in 2006, his goal was to raise money for U.K. charity Sport Relief, not to kick start a trend.

“He triggered a mainstream interest in swimming the Channel,” says Michael Read, the president of the Loughborough, U.K.-based Channel Swimming Association. “I think David’s accomplishment made a lot of the public think hey, these athletic feats are not impossible. If David could swim it, I could stand a good chance of swimming it, too.”

In the past 10 years, many working professionals have channeled their extra time and energy into training and competing in sports that were once relegated to professional athletes. The crème de la crème of trail running events, the North Face Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, was started in 2003 and covers approximately 166 kilometers across Switzerland, France and Italy with a total elevation gain of around 9,600 meters. Catherine Poletti, the organizer of the event, says they had to change the registration format into a lottery system for 2014 due to the increased interest. “My husband started this race because he loved to discover a country not from the road, but from the mountains,” she says. “After he ran his first 100 kilometers on trails, he said to me, ‘oh that’s good, let’s go further.’ I think a lot of people share his mentality. They want to see how far they can go.”

Training takes over many of these amateur athletes’ lives. Work and family revolve around workout schedules and socializing moves from the pub to the pool or gym. Unlike professional athletes who have sponsors, amateurs need to eat up the high costs of training and competing. The English Channel swim requires a boat pilot to be hired at least a year in advance and the total cost with administration fees is around £3,000, while a race like the Manhattan Island Marathon swim costs $2,050 (£1,220) to enter, not including the cost of travel. “At the end of the day it becomes part of your lifestyle,” says Omar Abdellaoui, a triathlete and ultrarunner who works in equity derivatives for Merrill Lynch in London.

In his early 20s, Mr. Abdellaoui found himself going to the gym three to four times a week and hitting the bars on the weekends. “By 30 I grew tired of that and decided to train for a half marathon,” he says. Mr. Abdellaoui enjoyed the discipline and routine, and decided to sign up for the London triathlon. Two years later, in 2004, he did his first Ironman.

“It wasn’t just about training,” he says. “It was a lifestyle change. Suddenly I became much more efficient with my time and as a result more productive.” Mr. Abellaoui, 41, became known as “that crazy guy who does epic stuff and is always getting changed into workout clothes in the bathroom.”

His triathlon training soon consumed 10-20 hours of his week. “The triathlon training got very scientific and serious,” he says. “One day I had my training spreadsheet open on my computer and my boss just shook his head and said, ‘my personal finances are simpler than your training log.’ ”

About eight years ago Mr. Abdellaoui started trail running and mountaineering. “It felt much more back to basics without the gear and gadgets needed for triathlons,” he says. He is currently training to climb the 3,970-meter Eiger in Switzerland in July and run the 80-kilometer Mountainman Ultra in the country in August.

His training schedule includes Bikram yoga on Mondays. Tuesdays he runs 15 kilometers into work and in the evening does Olympic-style weightlifting. Wednesdays he runs 10 kilometers at lunch and then rides his bike 1-1½ hours after work. Thursdays he runs to work and does an evening CrossFit session. Fridays he does a short run during lunch and swims for 40 minutes after work. Weekends are dedicated to distance—usually a two-hour run one day and a three- to five-hour bike ride the other

Jackson Carroll spent two years training to swim the English Channel in August 2013. “I wanted to set a big challenge for myself before I got too old.” says Mr. Carroll, who works in London as a freelance strategy consultant for large multinational industrial firms. The 35-year-old started swimming outdoors around six years ago and eventually began competing in open water races.

“After a few longer races I thought the logical next step was to swim the Channel so I booked it and put it in my diary without knowing how to get there in terms of training,” he says. Weekends became all about swimming. “I haven’t gone out on a Friday night in a long time,” he jokes. He swims around 20 kilometers a week in addition to long swims on the weekends. He tacks more distance on to weekend swims as he ramps up training, eventually swimming six to seven hours both Saturdays and Sundays.

To prepare for the English Channel swim, Mr. Carroll signed up for a six-day Channel and Long Distance training camp with SwimTrek, a company that offers open water swimming training in 25 locations around the world. Not long after completing the Channel swim in 13 hours and 33 minutes, he got antsy to try something else and is now training for the 46-kilometer Manhattan Island Marathon swim on June 8. He says one long-distance swim a year keeps him motivated.

Like Mr. Carroll, Deirdre Ward is also training for the Manhattan Island Marathon. However, Ms. Ward, who works in technology at a large investment bank in London, has been swimming since the age of 4. After university she joined a Masters Swimming Club to keep fit and was swimming indoors three days a week. Ms. Ward broke her leg in 2005 and lost a lot of muscle while in rehabilitation. An email about a relay-swim around Manhattan in 2007 was her motivation to get back in shape.

“Things snowballed quite quickly from there,” she says. In 2010 she swam 25.7 kilometers across Lake Zurich and in 2012 swam the English Channel. Last year she was 2 miles short of completing the Manhattan Island Marathon, so she is heading back this June for a second attempt. Ms. Ward, 34, is a member of the Serpentine Swimming Club, a year-round, open-air swim club whose members can swim in the Serpentine in London’s Hyde Park between 6 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. And in January she joined the Otter Swimming Club, which provides coaches. “I become quite unsociable each year around the time my training ramps up,” she says. “I cut everyone out for three months unless they are swimmers or my husband.”

Merel Blom sat on her first pony at 4 and began riding competitively by the time she was 11. “Riding is my life,” says Ms. Blom. “When I was younger, my girlfriends would go play after school but I’d want to go home and ride my pony.” Today, Ms. Blom, 27, is one of the Netherlands’ top equestrians. She just missed qualifying for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London and still has Olympic dreams for 2016.

She estimates that she competes in dressage, show jumping and cross-country about 50 weekends a year. She is currently training for the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials, a four-star event in Badminton, U.K. (), which she competed in last year, as well as the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games () in Normandy, France, and the FEI World Breeding Event Championships for Young Horses in Le Lion D’Angers, France ().

Ms. Blom juggles her training with her studies. She is in her third year at Erasmus University in Rotterdam where she studies Dutch law and financial law. She rides each morning from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and then drives 1½ hours to school where she attends classes from noon to 10 p.m. In 2011 she started working with a personal trainer who she meets with two times a week for about two hours at a gym near her home.

“I run on the treadmill for 30 minutes and then do a lot of strength and conditioning work to improve my core, balance and coordination,” she says. She often shifts her studies and plans with friends to accommodate competitions. “I wouldn’t change anything though,” she says. “I get to see the world and I love riding.”

see more:http://stream.wsj.com/story/latest-headlines/SS-2-63399/SS-2-521810/

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