Gordo Byrn: Fitness, Family, Finances And Taking Action From Self-Reflection
I’m so pleased to introduce a very interesting guest to the show, my old friend Gordo Byrn.
A prolific blogger and Tweeter on his favorite subjects, family, fitness, and finances, Gordo also writes two newsletters: Gordo Byrn’s Endurance Essentials (focused on training, anti-aging, peak performance, longevity, being strong and fit physically and mentally) and True Wealth (family, parenting, being self-reflective about how you spent time, and the true meaning of health).
One theme of this show is self-reflectiveness—Gordo is a deep thinker and has experienced many transitions throughout his career, has lived all over the world, and has performed and trained at a level few others have ever matched. Enjoy listening to this conversation as we talk about parenting, training, aging gracefully, and being prudent with financial decisions and how to align those decisions up with your career goals, dreams, and values.
Gordo’s fascinating journey has gone from high finance to endurance sports, coaching to family man. He brings wisdom to all areas of life. [00:23]
Realizing that he couldn’t make a living in triathlon, Gordo spent time with family where he got out of shape, and now continues to work on staying fit. [07:16]
Many people in finance and in the corporate lifestyle, make a mistake in that they view spending as quality of life. [10:57]
If you have potential for something and enjoy the process, you can get to the top. You can learn physical skills late in life. [12:59]
Teach yourself and teach your kids de-escalation and persistence. [19:30]
Do the personality attributes of a competitive athlete transfer over to parenting skills? [24:42]
If you are a Type A person very competitive, you may find you are competing in everything. So chose your game carefully. [32:00]
Athletics can help fill the void when you feel that empty nest. Metabolic fitness is important for healthy aging. [34:50]
If you are a new athlete or coming to a new sport, ignore the optimal program. It will hurt you. Think about quickness, strength and stamina. [39:05]
Running has weightbearing bone-density benefits. [45:41]
There should be a pendulum between strength and endurance. [45:41]
It’s not a good idea to make your body bigger than it wants to be or have too much extreme exercise. [54:36]
If it is not enjoyable for you, it is too intense. Time is the ultimate asset. [59:45]
When you are a big spender, you are much less wealthy than you think. [01:05:30]
There is a huge percentage of people living paycheck to paycheck. They don’t have the luxury of changing direction like Gordo did. A lot of our spending and a lot of our goals come from the environment that we put ourselves in [01:08:55]
We tend to pass our unfinished business to our children. How do we define success? You cannot make your child a champion. [01:13:39]
You may not have as much influence on your kids as you hope or wish. Your actions are going to be stronger than your words. [01:20:18]
In the Ironman in Hawaii, the times keep improving. Improved bicycles and other things are at play. [01:22:25]
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- Gordo Byrn’s Endurance Essentials
- Can You Make a Living Doing That?
- Thousand day pacing.com
- True Wealth
Welcome to the Return of the Primal Endurance Podcast. This is your host, Brad Kearns, and we are going on a journey to a kinder, gentler, smarter, more fun, more effective way to train for ambitious endurance goals. Visit Primal endurance.fit to join the community and enroll in our free video course.
Hi everyone. I’m so pleased to introduce you to a very interesting guest, an old friend of mine name Gordo Byrne. He is a prolific blogger and tweeter these days on matters relating to his favorite subjects of family, fitness, and finances. He has recently, uh, changed his, uh, publication operation. So he has two different wonderful newsletters, which I invite you to subscribe to. One is called Gordo Byrn’s Endurance Essentials. So it’s a lot about training, especially for endurance goals, but also for peak performance, anti-aging, longevity, being a strong fit, smart, resilient human being physically as well as mentally. And then his other blog is called True Wealth, and this talks about matters relating to family parenting, getting your priorities straight in life, being self-reflective about how you spend your time, and the true meaning of wealth, which as we know is involving time and freedom and how you choose to live in the choices that you’re able to make.
And his story is so fascinating. So I do start out this wide-ranging show where we cover a ton of topics, including some nitty gritty endurance training and athletic training matters, but also some really interesting philosophical reflections, which was just what I was looking forward to connecting with Gordo, because he has tremendous depth, and you’ll hear, you’ll pick up this theme of self-reflectiveness throughout the show where he’s rethinking his career path. He’s rethinking his approach to training, and he’s always kind of weighing the cost and benefits and the return on investment. That is an ode to his background as a high finance guy. And I think we really do start with a bang where you get to know him and his incredible background where he had these amazing disparate careers where he was a one of those young guys you read about those big time high income earning, uh, investment banking guys.
So he, uh, fled off from his home of Canada to London to go make the big money, and then went over to Hong Kong and was deep into this immersive career where he was living, uh, uh, the big time and not healthy nor happy, and looking out the window wondering what else was there. And he made this amazing abrupt transition at the age of 30. And that’s when I first heard about this, you could call him new person on the triathlon circuit, but certainly much older than a lot of the guys that had been going since, college age. Uh, but into his thirties, he became an elite ultra distance triathlete performer. So he went, you know, full whole hog into the money scene. And then he transitioned to, went deep, deep into the endurance scene, you know, performing and training at a level that few other humans have ever done.
And now,, as a family man living the good life in Boulder, Colorado, he offers a lot of wisdom and a lot of reflectiveness including, the parenting journey with his three kids, oldest being teenage and great posts, and a lot of sharing and a lot of great insights. So we talk about parenting, we talk about training, we talk about aging gracefully. We talk about the concept of being prudent with your financial decisions and your career path, and having that lineup with your values and goals and dreams and how you wanna live your life. How about that? Is that enough of an intro to entice you to listen to Gordo? Okay, thank you. Gordo Byrn. Gordo Byrn. It’s been a long time, I think six years since I was there with you in Boulder, in your wonderful home. You’ve traveled the world and finally, uh, settled in. Uh, it must be a top spot if, uh, if, if you chose it.
Yeah, I was, my wife Monica tells me that I’m very fortunate that she grew up here and this is where we ended up.
Oh, I didn’t know that. Incredible.
Yeah, she’s a true local.
Yeah, she was, she was cool and fit and hip way before Boulder became the hotspot.
She gets to sit back and watch it. Yeah.
The whole thing.
I think we should start with your background when we’re talking about how you’ve lived all over the world, but especially that amazing, uh, career track with such disparate and, uh, extreme , you know, checkpoints on the map. So I’d love for you to take us through that as, and then, you know, winding up how we got here to your, your current, um, endeavors, especially the, the blogging.
Okay. Uh, born in Canada and spent most, most of my school years in Vancouver and then started moving east. So the first move was to Montreal, which is where I went to university. And then after university, I ended up in London, England, worked there for four years doing private equity and investments, which was great. And then I had the opportunity to move out to Asia, uh, and get promoted, uh, quite a young age to partner, uh, in my private equity firm. And I was there for six years full-time, and then an additional year, kind of working part-time when I took a leave of absence, doing a bit of consulting for them. And the reason I took that leave of absence was I had started doing triathlon and enjoyed it a lot. Absolutely loved the training, uh, the project management nature of it, the whole deal.
And I just wanted to take a summer, uh, two months, I took two months off, came to Boulder, lived in the mountains above Boulder, and trained for a race called Ironman, Canada in Penticton. And I was racing as an amateur, had a great race, uh, second amateur, and went back to my job and negotiated a one year leave of absence. And I left and went down to Australia, New Zealand that winter. And I never came back. I, I created a completely new life built around fitness and athletics, and I maintained consulting roles using the skills that I had built up in the previous 10 years in finance and private equity, which was great income, but I managed to figure out a way to cover my basic expenses just by being a coach. I, I, you know, I never, one of my favorite books is your book, you know, Can You Really Make a Living Doing That?
And the answer for me was no. I could not. I could make a little bit of money, but on a per hour basis, I was less than minimum wage. But people always connected with my story, and I was able to create a nice niche coaching business, helping fast and aspiring age groupers, qualify for Kona, qualify for world champs, and we had a lot of success with that. And I kept that going for quite a while, with a couple coaching partners. And then ultimately I decided to focus on my family stepped away from racing for 10 years. I’ve got three kids and they’re now at the age where I’ve got time coming back into my life. Mm-hmm. . And I’ve decided to get back into shape. Not that I was particularly outta shape, when I was focused on the family, but, you know, I think both you and I, when we say get into shape, we mean something different probably than the the general person walking around. We’re, we’re talking about competitive shape. Uh, and I want to see what kind of level I can get back to really looking to my late fifties, early sixties. It’s gonna take me a while because of the length of my break, but I’m patient and I, I love the process. Still do. It’s a lot of fun.
You might be facing some competition that’s on this similar life arc where all of a sudden they have a bunch of time and resources and they’re gonna be faster than the, the guys in the thirties and forties who are busy raising kids and working out a career.
Yeah. I mean, I just, I, I left it because it was too, too difficult. It was too much time. The races were, you know, the races are on the weekend, which is when you don’t have any coverage for the kids because they’re not in school. So it just, the whole thing was just becoming really stressful for me. And I didn’t like where it was gonna take my family. And I was fortunate. I had way more athletic success than I ever expected. And so when I stepped back, I was, I, I was, I, I mean, even when I’m not in competitive shape, I’m still way better. I’m a much better athlete, much stronger than I was as a kid, than I was in my early twenties when I was completely outta shape and overweight. And so I really took those lessons from sport, and I’ve incorporated them into my core life completely separate from competition and, and, and racing. And that’s been the long term value of changing my life. And, and, and going down that competitive athlete path,
I guess we should reflect back on that career because it was quite intense, as you say, it was, uh, high income, well paying. So it’s easy to get immersed into that type of lifestyle. You write about this nicely, where all of a sudden your standard of living is so high that you’re trapped in your high-paying career and, you know, neglecting other parts of your life, in your case, your fitness, which is so amazing because then you turn the coin completely over and became one of the fittest people on the planet. But I wonder what it was like, you know, immersed in that career and then being able to extricate where you thought yourself, it was only a summer off and then a year off. And then I guess the further you got away from London and the ringing bells of the exchanges and all that, you realized, what the hell am I doing there? Or something?
Yeah, that, and that’s a really good point. I think many people in finance and in the corporate lifestyle, make a mistake in that they view a spending as quality of life, and the ability to acquire goods and services as having a good quality of life. So I, I asked myself, you know, what is living well and living well for me today? And then this is around the time of my 30th birthday. Living well does not include, um, spending a ton of money. And I realized when I left Hong Kong initially for two months to come to Colorado and live up in the hills, was that the spending that I was doing wasn’t buying me anything. It was, I wasn’t benefiting from the money that I spent. And I very quickly saw, when I moved down to New Zealand, I eventually, I ended up in Christchurch.
And when I ended up, when I was down in New Zealand, my cost of living was one 20th of what I was spending in Hong Kong. So, you know, 5 cents on the dollar, my, my budget, my annual budget just collapsed. Um, and it didn’t collapse because I was living frugally or denying myself anything. It shrunk because I was just focused on what I wanted to do and the way I wanted to live, which at the time was a whole lot of swim, bike run. It was being outside every day with my friends and being part of a different type of community, the athletic community, the endurance community, which is a great group of people, highly motivated, fit, very healthy. And it really brought out the best in me. And that is what made it so sticky. That’s why I wanted to stay with that lifestyle.
I could tell it was good for me. I felt good. And at the same time, I was just getting better and better and better at the racing. And I think when you’re on that upswing, and if you’re somebody that does have the potential to be very, very good at something, you know, the first three years, certainly you’re getting better every, I don’t know, three to six months, you’re stepping up and you don’t start to plateau until you’ve been doing it for about, for me it was probably, you know, around five years. And then, then it starts to get very challenging in terms of eeking out those additional gains. Mm-hmm. . And it takes a lot of work over a long time to get to the very top. But you can, you can get, if you’ve got potential for something, you can get to the top relatively quickly.
And by quickly, you know, I mean like three years, a thousand days, it, you’ll definitely make quite a bit of progress if you’re able to stick with it day in, day out, and you enjoy the process and have good mentors. And that’s what I had in New Zealand. I had some very good mentors as well as training partners, uh, limited number training partners, one or two, uh, guys at a time. And they were totally into it as well. And we had this very, uh, we had a virtuous circle where we would just help each other keep it rolling day in, day out. When we were encouraging each other, we weren’t trying to kill each other in training.
Hmm. And you were coming to this, it’s not like you were picking up triathlon again after your youth years. This was kind of a new thing to you, and you weren’t, you weren’t this, uh, old time athlete picking it up again. It was just a hobby that you, you fell upon. Do you think you had a natural inclination and talent for it, and also that work ethic from the business world was able to be redirected to, to bring you the great success that you had in a relatively short time?
So, uh, this is the key part. I, I think of the story. I started swimming when I was 30 years old, . So when, if, if somebody’s listening to this and they’re thinking, well, I, you know, I’ll never learn to swim because I didn’t, I wasn’t a swim kid. I, I, my advice would be, I don’t think so. I, I think you can learn physical skills late in life. I’ve done it, I’ve done it more than just swimming. But I went from zero in swimming to a 20 minute, 1500 long course meters. And it took a lot of work to do that. Um, and I, I got my Ironman swim down to about 50 minutes, which is, which is good for somebody that started from scratch.
Good for anybody.
Yeah. . Well, my wife’s,
It’s up near the front people. It’s up near the front.
My wife’s a 46, but she let out in Kona, so she’s a different level. And that she benefited because she could swim with the men back when the men and women raced, uh, together. But it’s not, it’s not just swimming. I’ve done it with skiing. You know, I, after, during this 10 year break, I had to take care of my family. We had a few years where we wanted to learn how to ski as a family, and I was able to apply the same principles of endurance to a different area. Skiing, which is just swimming, is touch the water a lot. Skiing is touch the snow a lot and get yourself some expert technical instruction and focus on improving your skills, and you get ski fit or swim fit while practicing those skills. It’s the same principle. It works great.
And I, I know you’ve picked up other things later in life too, and become very proficient at them. So it’s not just my story. If you, if you look for it, it’s out there. You can do it. And I think that was, that, that was a key lesson. And, and it, it’s broader than just athletics. What, what I like to say is I, I talk about hidden talents and we, and if you give yourself exposure to a wide range of things that you’re interested in and that engage you, quite often you’ll find, wow, it turns out I have talent in this area. And then you get all the positive feedback from the world because you’ve latched onto something where you’re talented and you can just ride that curve. And it’s, it’s a really effective way for two things. It’s effective to cope with aging, to develop mastery in other areas.
Maybe not necessarily physical areas, but it’s also a great way to cope with the transitions you might have in life. And for those of us that were elite athletes, at some point, we will not be doing elite performances. And what a lot of those athletes do is they move laterally so they move into a new sport. So in my case, I went laterally into long distance mountain biking. The Leadville 100. So it’s, it’s a race that suited me back then in my early forties. It’s very high altitude, and it’s a long event, and it’s way easier than an Ironman because you get a lot of rest on the downhills, and you don’t have to run a marathon at the end of the day. It’s a challenging course, but it’s not the same as running a marathon when you’re tired.
And so I really enjoyed it. And so that’s something that I would recommend to people too, is if you’re struggling in your main pursuit, consider, well, maybe I can get more satisfaction from a lateral move, picking up something that’ll challenge me in new ways. So I did it with mountain biking, done it with skiing, and I’ve, you know, frankly, I mean, it wasn’t very enjoyable, but it’s what I did with parenting and fatherhood, and it’s, it’s like, you know, I got these three kids and I want to do the right thing for them, but I’m gonna have to upskill myself because I mm-hmm. , I’m, uh, you know, I’m lousy at being a father. I mean, no, nobody’s great out of the gate. I think, I think some people may have had the benefit of an exceptional parent as a role model that trained them, or exceptional teachers.
And the teachers are really what helped me. The preschool teachers for my kids. I would have short meetings with them, and I’m like, Ooh, what are you, what are you doing at the preschool? What are your techniques?
And, and, and they would help me. And so then the kids are getting reinforced with the same techniques at school, at home, and they benefit too. And then it, and then again, it’s the whole idea of this virtuous circle where, and the two things, the two key things are, are really, deescalation. Teach yourself and teach your kids to deescalate situations. And then persistence. You know, don’t give up. You know, you’ll, you’ll have bad days, you’ll make mistakes, and you, you just stick with it. And that’s really what the kids need from us. They need us to be engaged, persistent, and teaching them to deescalate situations so it doesn’t spiral out of control and nobody’s having fun anymore.
I guess when you perceive yourself as lousy parent, it could be that someone who’s highly focused on an extreme endurance athletic performance at the elite level is not, inherently not going to be an excellent parent because their, their life is too, you know, focused on these all-consuming peak performance goals, whether it be career in, in the, in the finance world, if, if, if that was your time or whether you’re athlete. And then, uh, as you write nicely, you had to, you had to kind of put the old Gordo aside and become selfless, tireless, and all these things where, you know, the endurance athlete needs their sleep, they need their rest. They better have it quiet at nap time. All these things are thrown out the window all of a sudden as you’re thrust into this new challenge. And to your credit, having a desire to do it right, rather than squeeze all these puzzle pieces into, you know, force them into the puzzle and keep everything going at, at some level, probably mediocre on on many fronts if you’re, if you’re trying to squeeze too much into your life.
My brother has, uh, my brother says it’s the same Gordo, different game, . So the, my core personality has not changed. It’s,
He wants to win the parenting game. He wants to be the, the gold star at the preschool best parent of the month. Yeah. Yeah.
It’s painful not to do it, right? Mm. And that was a big motivator for me to change my approach with my family life in my early forties, because when you’re living with spouse and two babies and a preschooler, it’s too painful to shut them out and not do the right thing for them. And so I made the decision. I was like, you know what? I’m gonna change the game. And my, my, I’m not gonna be trying to compete at an athletic level. I’m gonna try and take this world-class attitude and apply it to family life and see what I can learn and see how good I can get. And it was awful. It was not fun, . It was, it was misery many days. But as an elite athlete, that’s not, that’s not a problem. I, I know I can handle that. And it’s, it’s the higher purpose, and you need it.
You need a higher purpose, and there’s no higher purpose in doing the right thing for your children. It’s, it’s, it’s ingrained in all of us. And to turn away from that purpose would’ve, I would’ve had to either ignore or admit that I wasn’t the man that I thought I was. And I didn’t wanna do that. And, and so I just said, you know what? I’m gonna, I’m just gonna lean into this. Mm. And I’m gonna get some coaching just like athletics , and I’m gonna, and I’m gonna just iterate. I’m gonna do it and, and I’m gonna do it every day, and I’m gonna get better at it. And sure enough, I did. And by the time you get better at it, the kids have grown up and you’re not dealing with preschools anymore. I got a 10 year old and 11 year old, and a 14 year old, and I’ve been hiking with them and, and doing all kinds of stuff with them.
And they’re a lot of fun to hang out with. And we’ve got this relationship that we’ve established over their entire lifetime. And so I have a very deep credibility with them, and we have a bond with each other, and they’re fun to hang out with. At the same time, you know, I’m getting older, my energy’s going down, their energy’s coming up, and we meet, and I’m at that point now where it’s great, we can do fun stuff and mix it up, and they have different interests. You know, and, but we have, we have different things that we can do together. And again, this period is temporary too, because our oldest is 14, she’s a really keen swimmer, and I can already see her life tracking different from me. You know, I’m, uh, I, I, I swim, but, you know, I’m, I don’t really like sitting in the bleachers. I prefer to be in the pool. And, and so I’m not, I’m not sort of a swim parent that’s just hanging out, following my kid around. I, I like to be more active with the kids.
So you talk about the same Gordo different game, and my reflection as a former extremely competitive athlete and then a parent afterward is, I don’t know if those personality attributes easily transfer over. You talk about, Hey, you went and got a coach just like you did when you’re an athlete. You leaned into it just like you did when you’re an athlete. But in many cases, I think, you know, presiding over the mess and the uncertainty and all those things that are different than what you needed to do as an athlete where you needed your schedule and all, all these different attributes in place, um, that seemingly requires a big adjustment in your mentality and in your competitive driver or whatever it is. Um, you know, I’m teasing about you wanting to get the gold star at the preschool being the top parent, but I think we have to let go of a lot of these deep personality attributes that made us, uh, competitive in the competitive setting and realize that parenting’s different,
Very different, no positive feedback, . So for many years, for, you know, can’t do a benchmarking test. Mm. Um, nobody gives me a performance review. Um, not getting paid. You know, nobody’s giving me a raise. Kids yell at me every night when I’m putting them to bed. It’s a very different, uh, environment, but if you look for the good moments and you look for the positive feedback, it’s there. And I’ll give you some examples. I took a lot of pictures of the good moments, and, you know, sometimes I just scroll the iPhone and be like, well, I’m miserable now, but I look pretty happy in some of these pictures. And the kids are always having a blast. And that’s something that I would say too. We, we have very happy children because children want to be with their parents. And, uh, and so we are fortunate in that sense.
So we get the positive feedback from the happiness of the kids. The other thing is, if you, if you’re doing a good job, the people in your community will tell you, your children will be well adjusted and fun to be with. And the way they are at home is not necessarily the way they are in the world. Likewise, with siblings, the way siblings are in the house is definitely not the way siblings are out in te world. Hmm. So you need to watch that you’re not assessing yourself based on the toughest parts of your day. And then you also, I think, need to be careful that you, um, I had a, another parent, a mom to give me a tip when I was having a particularly rough stretch. And she said, you know, look, you gotta stay back from the edge. And, and what I took that to mean is put yourself in environments where your family’s seeing your best side, your best environments.
So for me, that is hiking in a forest, taking the kids out and just going for a walk, getting out of the house and just exploring nature and hanging out. And they love it. They’ve, they’ve done it from a, a young age now. And, and that’s an idea, is focus on what’s my best environment? And if you pay attention, you’ll also notice, well, what’s my worst environment? Where, what is the environment where if I’m gonna lose it, I’m gonna be in that environment for me, it’s in a car, or I’m having to concentrate with people around me, with the kids making background noise. And even if they’re happy, it rattles me cuz I’m having, I’m not great at that whole multitasking thing. So I’m having to drive and not listen at the same time, and it just wears me out. So I need to reduce my worst environments.
And then my family sees a better side of me. Now, this is related to why I was stepping back from the training, because when you’re training so much physical energy goes into the training, you don’t really have much left afterwards. You just want to sit in a chair, put yourself back together and recover to get ready for the next session. And that’s a necessary part of being an elite athlete. The, the simplicity and the single mindedness of most the days in your year, a family situation or even a human situation, any interaction between people is not like that. It’s a completely different, you touched on it, you know, the skillset. It’s a completely different skillset. The skillset is the ability to understand what’s going on with other people and just have some back and forth and being much more flexible. Well, a world champion athlete is not flexible.
They have their session at their time and their goals. And if you, you want to come to that session to get a little bit of that champion aura on yourself, you’re gonna be doing their session. You’re, they’re not interested in calling audibles. And that’s why they tend to train in small groups, small communities with very reliable partners. And I wasn’t like an Olympic champion or anything, but I very much embraced that philosophy. And I did have to let go, completely let go of that philosophy. And that’s part of the reason why I stopped racing, because the races were nudging me to back into those behaviors. Um, and, and now as I’m coming back, what I’ve done is I’ve sort of put in a system of monitoring my fatigue and my readiness to do the same kind of thing to keep me from going too deep and getting too tired and not being able to address my family, which is much more important in the larger scheme of things, particularly at this stage in my life.
So you’re picking and choosing all these wonderful attributes of being a dedicated competitive athlete with goals and enjoying the process so much. But you’re making an effort to throw away some of the things that, you know, I have all these reflections and misgivings now about these behavior patterns and sort of, uh, mindset and lifestyle attributes that really don’t serve anyone else and don’t even serve the individual in a way. And I’m talking about just the misplaced competitive intensity and the over, over becoming overly consumed with the results and the, uh, the competitive experience. So, is that kind of, you see it that way that you’re, well, you wanna get back and you wanna bring that heat back and that, that intensity to the Gordo game, but without the baggage, I guess?
Well, there’s two things there. Most, most any individual with a type I was, we did so in, in our private equity business, we did personality testing. They, they ran a bunch of tests on me when I, before I was gonna leave because they wanted to find out what they should look for in somebody trying to replace me.
And so it was a very competitive group of people. Finance tends to attract those types of people. Now, I was at the most competitive side of this competitive group of people. So I was extreme type A. So if, you know, if I’m not, if I’m not competing, like in terms of athletics, I’m gonna be competing on something else. And the feeling I had back then in my twenties and thirties was competing on all fronts at all times. And if you’re somebody that has that feeling, I would say choose your game with intention because you’re going to, you can compete at some very bad habits, drugs and alcohol compete with number of sexual partners and just compete at being a total head casing and just crazy.
So for me, athletics gave me a very positive way to compete. I still overdid it at times, but overdoing it with bike volume or swim volume or something, it, you, you’re just making yourself tired. And eventually you could make yourself sick, but it takes a ridiculous amount of exercise to actually overtrain yourself. And I did, I did that a couple times, , but for most people, it, it’s not a thing. So if you choose your game with intent, I think that very important. Now, roll forward. Now I’m older, um, I’m getting back into the competitive game, but the game’s totally different. You know, if we look at these times at World Championships now, uh, you know, we’re, we’re, uh, the elite man are trying to go 7:35 in Kona. Let’s put that in context. To win an Ironman these days, you have to be, have the fitness to break the world record when I was racing. So a world record time from 15 years ago is just a standard time now. So the, the, the competitive field has, has greatly increased. So, but the competitive field from 55 to 65 has not increased by the same amount. And that’s probably because most people are far more sensible than maybe me in that they, they don’t necessarily wanna do that much exercise at, at this age. And so I look at those, I look at the physiology required, I look at the time commitment required, and I’m like, this, this looks really enjoyable to me. This looks reasonable. I can be competitive with my friends that are still racing at a high level, and I can enjoy the process and the time commitment is not all consuming.
Hmm. And, and so in some ways, as you get older, it gets easier because as well, eventually your kids grow up, your life’s gonna simplify. And athletics can help fill the void that many people feel in that empty nest phase of their life. Hmm. And, and it also done correctly, metabolic fitness is very important for healthy aging, metabolic fitness, as well as maintaining your, your strength and your muscle mass. So if you do it right, it fits into all my goals for successful aging. So, you know, it’s, it is really quality of life across my lifespan as well as being engaged with my community. My friends, uh, my wife’s an athlete too, being engaged with my spouse. So it all kind of fits in now, but it didn’t fit in when I had young kids.
And you’re saying to be an elite 55 plus racer, you don’t have to risk your health and devote your entire day like you did when you were an elite. So it can be, it can be a nice convenient fit. It’s easier. I like that.
Yeah. Well, yeah, John Hellman says there’s no such thing as a old elite. There’s just elites. He’s a bit tough on me with that . Yeah.
I mean, one of my, one of my goals in the, uh, in the future is the 95 plus high jump world record. And the world record is 0.97 meters for those of you not familiar with the metric system, that’s about three feet. And so it literally entailed jumping into bed when you’re 95 to break a world record in the high jump, which is easier than the current world record of eight feet for, for the elite. So I like that just hanging in there and, uh, yeah, it’s competitive.
Yeah. So it’s, it’s, you know, I, if if, if you’re healthy and you’ve got good mobility and you’re feeling good, then that gives you an option to ramp it up for a couple months to prepare for an event. And, and I think that’s probably a better way of looking at it because I think what would happen to most people is if they get this single-minded devotion, like, you know, you’re just on this laser beam track and you’re in your fifties, you, you’re gonna wreck yourself. You need to be taking this holistic Yeah. Long-term view of developing yourself in many different ways. You know, if your, your metabolic fitness, your strength, your mobility, you need to be athletic and balanced. And then while you’re doing that, you can, you can build up towards these events and if it, it’ll, if you can, if you can do the training for the events, it’ll be prudent to do the events. If you can’t, well, hopefully you’re old enough, you’re not gonna do what we used to do when we were younger. It is like, well, we’re just gonna sign up for it and figure it out later how I’m gonna get through it. I mean, I, I think that would be a particularly bad idea after 50.
Well, it’s a bad idea to, um, to try to short circuit the process of, you know, being patient. And here I am recovering from my heel surgery cuz I sprinted too enthusiastically over the previous couple years and got myself into the dead end of the doctor’s office. And it’s such an illuminating example of like, hey, this is the kind of stuff I did all the time when I was, you know, a young athlete. I mean, they teased me in the doctor’s office cuz they said, how long has this heel been bothering you? And I said, oh, around nine months. And they’re like, Nine months, what are you talking about? Are you serious? And I’m like, sure, I have all kinds of stuff that bother me for nine months or 19 months that’s niggling here and niggling there. But they thought that was an extremely long time to be dealing with an injury. So I had to, you know, reeducate myself on, Hey, what what are we doing out here? And, and the first priority being that that stability, mobility, flexibility, being able to just show up rather than be on the sideline is goal number one, forget about your racing time and beating the competitor in the, in the next lane.
Yeah. Stay in the game. That’s, that’s, you know, I’ve, I’ve coached, I’ve coached age group world champions in their sixties and seventies and yeah, they’re definitely exceptional individuals, but the thing that makes them stand out is the ability just to keep going, keep doing the training, stay healthy month in, month out, year in, year out over all those years. And it slows the inevitable decline. And I think that’s, that’s key. The other thing that I would say, if somebody’s listening is to remember, particularly if you’re a new athlete or a strong athlete that’s coming to a new sport, or a veteran athlete, an older athlete, ignore the optimal program. Ignore it. It will hurt you and wreck you. You need to be very conservative in terms of your approach and very patient, because a lot of your instincts are gonna work against you.
So this desire to get fast and do high intensity training, your body’s not ready to support it. The other thing is, the approach that you’re gonna use, particularly if you study elite athletes, is gonna be completely inappropriate in an amateur athletic environment. You have to use very small doses and your dose in the intensity that you use needs to be scaled down to where you are at the moment rather than where you want to be. Mm-hmm. . So it’s gonna be a little bit of quickness that you’re gonna incorporate rather than a whole lot of searing, very painful training. So I point people towards quickness, strength and stamina being the three foundations that they want to be thinking about in their, in their program. And the quickness in terms of just to show, like, what do I mean by a small amount of quickness? Take 1% of the time you spend training in a week and you can spend that on quickness, and that’s gonna be enough, that’ll be enough to actually give you a dose and it’s not gonna wreck you.
And you’ll need to become dedicated to daily mobility. And what I recommend there is just a 10-minute habit. Establish the habit first. And if you, you establish the habit, you’re gonna feel better in your body. And when you feel better in your body, it’ll be easier to extend those sessions because you’re gonna be starting to get the payoff, but at first you’re probably gonna be so stiff and rigid. I mean, you’ll be thinking, why am I even doing this? Well, you’re, you’re doing it because you gotta loosen up your body. And I had that leaving finance. I remember the first time I got a massage, it, it was, it felt like on my traps. It actually felt like there were golf balls inside my traps from all those years of desk work. And that was the wonderful thing about triathlon, swim, bike run.
It really loosened my whole body up, combined with, as an elite. I did a lot of yoga all winter and spring down in New Zealand. I do three 90-minute sessions Monday, Wednesday, Friday as part of my program. But that I, I don’t have that kind of time in my week now. So I, what I do is I do a minimum of 10 minutes a day and that can keep me, keep me going and it can let me continue to exercise while I’m dealing with niggles. So use active recovery as opposed to using a total rest approach, which doesn’t do my mental health any good. I mean, it must not have been fun coming back from the surgery. How, how long were you shut down?
Well, I’m still not running. They said three to six months of no running. But I could do just about everything else. Cycling and strength training and lifting heavy weights and all that.
Oh. Oh, that’s good.
It’s nice to you, you have to find a place to, to redirect that energy and, and work toward your healing. You talk about making lateral moves, which is such a great suggestion. And I think just on that, on that topic, um, I think it’s also important to embrace the idea that you may have, you know, achieved your peak when you won the Ultraman World Championship at whatever age, at the most ideal event that anyone could come up for you, which is that crazy three-day, double Ironman distance event. And then anything that’s off that, you know, maybe you’re not the the most adapted lead vel mountain bike guy, but you’re gonna be out there and be a member in the pack. And I’m certainly not adapted to high jump as I was for Olympic distance Triathlon. But just embracing the challenge and enjoying the process, even if it’s not your signature event, I think that’s a wonderful skill or or mindset to, to try and adopt, especially as we age and try to find things that light us up without succumbing to the measuring judging forces that, gee, you know, this is never gonna match what I did in my signature event.
Yep. And I mean, you know, I had 10 years off running, I tried to get back twice and I just kept getting hurt. Hmm. And it wasn’t until I embraced a a different approach and it, it is really simple. It’s just no back to back runs. Hmm. And 10 minutes of mobility every single day. That, that’s the fundamental thing. And whereas what I was doing before was lots of little runs mm-hmm. , but I, I was never giving myself that time to recover between the runs, even if they were short, like two mile runs. And as a result just kept, just kept getting hurt. So I think sometimes if you can persist and get some advice in terms of different things to try, if you, if if there’s a listener that has a passion for something, you can get back. I mean, I I, I’ve been running pain-free since July 1st. I’ve had little niggles, but it’s, you know, I’m past that initial streak and it’s been, it’s been great to actually bring that back into my program. I, you know, I always really enjoyed running and I missed it when it was gone.
Yeah. A lot of people move away from it over, over the, the timeline of life. But I think it does have those weightbearing bone density benefits. It’s a fundamental human skill even going fast and sprinting, I would recommend for anyone, especially for fat reduction benefits and just aging gracefully and maintaining that ability. Um, but it takes, takes a lot of, uh, prep work. And, um, another thing you wrote about was the pendulum between strength and endurance, which I feel like I’ve been struggling with and trying to maintain these disparate skills seems to be, uh, in, in some ways it seems impossible to me, like trying to become really competent at 400 meters, high jump and then also be maintaining endurance for things like speed golf or just general endurance to be able to go out for a couple hours. Um, might be, uh, too daunting. I don’t know this, tell me about this pendulum.
So I, wiuth these, here’s what, here’s what I recommend people do. And first off, you have to acknowledge that in life you can’t have it all and you’re gonna have to make choices. And there’s a cost to everything and there’s a trade off between things and you have to acknowledge that. So it’s just, just the way it is. If you want to be an exceptional parent or an exceptional athlete, or an exceptional CEO,A exceptional, whatever, there’s gonna be costs in other parts of your life. Many of these costs are hidden, you’ll never see them. Hmm. Um, the cost of, I call it the cost of the status quo, but let’s come back to the original question, which was this pendulum. And with strength, I think, well, strength and endurance, I think it’s important for athletes to recognize and acknowledge that they’re not the typical person in terms of strength and endurance.
So when I am not strong, I’m still strong relative to my community. When I am not in race shape, I am still fit and healthy relative to my community. And so you, you need to establish a reasonable baseline in terms of your expectation. And I would say the reasonable baseline would be health rather than performance. And so that would be, so evaluate yourself based on a healthy baseline and choose your reference set carefully. You know, if, if your, if your friends are, uh, a bunch of total nutcase ultra athletes, you might think that you have no stamina when actually your stamina is pretty good. And, and, and this focus on health is, is one way that you, I find you can actually get through to somebody is think about, well look, what is my healthiest training weight? What, what, what is a healthy amount of strength?
Like, how strong do I need to be in life? I mean, you know, can I, can I pick up my kids? Can I pick up my grandkids? Can I move my luggage around an airport? Um, you know, these types of functional activities, functional strength, functional mobility. And then over top of that, you’re gonna have these goals which arrive for whatever reason, you might want to dig into, you know, where your goals are coming from. It’s usually community environment reference set, or it might be some sort of unfulfilled need. You know, I wanna win races because I want respect or admiration in that you can get that other places you don’t need a race. So, but with these strength and endurance things, what I recommend people do is touch them every so often. And what I mean by that is you think about the seasons of your fitness year and you’re gonna have a, you’re gonna have a strength season, a mobility season, a longer endurance season.
And so they’re coming in and out across the year and you’re never getting too far from them, but you never go like all in. And that was a mistake I made in the pandemic with my own training. I, I went all in with strength and work capacity training. And so I spent most the lock, the lockdown period and then the period after. So if we say that that pandemic period, let’s call it about two years, very much training like a CrossFitter, if you know what I mean, work capacity stuff. Uh, a lot of cleans, a lot of body weight exercises, occasionally going really heavy in the gym. So I swung too far towards that strength and power athlete. And I looked great. You, you, you know, people that say you can’t gain lean body mass in your fifties, not my experience. I got stronger, I felt more muscular, my clothes fit better.
It was great.cf And, um, felt good, uh, really enjoyed it. But my metabolic health suffered. And when my metabolic health suffered, the way it appeared was it, it appeared because I would get really tired going hiking with my wife or my son. Both of them love to hike, do long hikes, and they can’t tell because I’m, you know, I’m experienced athlete. I kinda keep my mouth shut when I’m suffering, but I’m like, wow. I’m just like, so worked. And I couldn’t figure out why. And the reason was I didn’t have this, this low end endurance fitness, which had really been a strength of mine, um, as an elite. And then subsequent to being elite. And it, and it lingered for a long time, but I had detrained that aspect. I had gone, the pendulum had swung too far away from endurance. And really what last year was about was bringing back that endurance focus so I could get that metabolic health and I could enjoy my life with my family more.
I could do, I could be kind of the, the athlete I used to be in terms of having some stamina and being able not only do long events, but enjoy these longer hikes and climbs. And that’s been a, it’s been a process. It’s ongoing. Um, but I’ve had, you know, I, I didn’t, so I started at the end of April and honestly, I didn’t have anything to show for it until December. It’s, it’s, it’s a relatively long time horizon. That’s kind of what’s something you gotta bear in mind. You might not be getting a whole lot of feedback in your first six months, and you just gotta stick with it and trust the process.
Now concurrently, do you feel like you’ve lost your edge in the strength, power, uh, CrossFit performance categories?
So yeah. So this, this is, so I’m, you know, I eat my own cooking as a coach, as a writer, as an athlete. And what I mean by that is I do what I tell people to do. I’m, I, I don’t hold myself out as, you know, a the coach that’s sitting in a chair and not looking too healthy and just telling everybody what to do because they’re an expert and they happen to work with a lot of fast people. I actually do it. And so I noticed, I did a set of squats in December, uh, two by 25, and I got really sore and I was surprised and I was like, wow, there’s information in this soreness. And so right now I’m in a buildup build back kind of strength phase, and it comes back very quickly for me because I didn’t, I I ha I didn’t let it go too far.
So I didn’t do do much strength training across the fall in the summer, and that’s why I was getting sore. But it’s not like I took two years off the gym. And so what I’m gonna do is I’m gonna get back in touch with my strength and the gains come back quickly if you never get too far away. And so my leg press is already going up pretty good. And so I, I suspect that by early February it’ll be time to kind of hang up the strength focus for a little bit and get back to, uh, the endurance focus. Uh, specifically I’m gonna try and increase my run frequency, uh, and see if I tolerate that. Because by then I’ll be getting close to enough months that hopefully my body’s ready to do a bit more, uh, running and just see how, see how that happens. And then in the late spring, the weather gets good and we start adding back some longer bike riding. Mm-hmm. So it’s very much a traditional approach, uh, triathlete might do with a strength focus in winter than a run frequency focus and then a balanced focus with the overload being done on the bike. Uh, it’s, it’s worked for athletes that I coached over the years of both veterans and younger athletes.
It seems like this real talk here is countering some of the, um, the, the imagery we get from the, the, the today’s fitness influencer who appears to be trying to master everything. And you see these popular challenges on social media, like, can you deadlift 500 pounds and then go run a five minute mile? Or, or things relative to that, or big guys who are, uh, showing that they can also run a marathon. And certainly they’re fantastic fitness, uh, specimens. And, um, you know, Mark Bell, my buddy is training for the Boston Marathon, which will be an amazing achievement when he finishes because he was a world-class power lifter with these crazy, you know, squatting 870 pounds and dead lifting a thousand pounds and what have you. Of course that was a different era, but trying to, um, have it all in real time seems like, um, there’s, you’re, you’re hitting up against this barrier that you described.
Yeah, I’m, it’s, it’s fun to watch. I don’t think it’s particularly good for anyone’s health . I I think, I think the extremes might be places to visit, but you don’t wanna move in. You know, I, I, I think I’ve, I’ve done some extreme things mm-hmm. in my time, and I mean, it was okay, I guess I got some value from it. But it’s, it’s, if you hang out there, uh, as a destination, something’s gonna go wrong. I, I also think, you know, it, it seems obvious to me, but carrying around a lot more lean body mass than you need is your body doesn’t want to be that big. And so one of the, one of the things, uh, I, I don’t think it’s very good for our health, and I, I think if you dig a little deeper into mortality, you’ll see you’re certainly, you’re not gonna be able to demonstrate that you’re getting any benefit, although it is kind of fun to be jacked.
Um, . But, and, and that’s, by the way that it’s related to why extreme exercise, I don’t think it’s particularly healthy. And when you’re, when you’re that large, like when you’re doing these huge weeks, you have to eat a tremendous amount of food and you, and you’re placing your body under nutritional stress because it’s always having to oxidize. It’s always having to process the calories. It’s always having to produce energy. And there’s a, there’s an inherent stress in size, but also in high activity. And so I, I, I think at the extremes, and most people never need to worry about this. I mean, hardly anybody’s ever gonna do a 35 hour training week. But if it is, if somebody is listening and, and you, you do have a tendency to be really extreme both in volume or in size or in intensity, I, and you’re not really doing yourself any favors.
So if you can find a way to use the ultra training to work through some of these emotional issues that you have that are driving this compulsion towards size, towards exercise, this is something that I was able to do very successfully. I used the bike volume to work through a lot of these emotions that I had from my childhood, from, from all these different things, from living in a big city, from my life history. And you can get to a calmer spot, a spot where you’re more centered, a spot where you’re less compulsive. It can be a very positive experience to visit these extreme places. If you get something from it, if you just get wrapped up in the extreme nature, I think it, it, it can work against you. And that, and, and how do you know it’s working against you? Your body’s gonna start to fall apart.
Mm-hmm. . So if you’re a power lifter, you’re gonna compress your spine, your joints are gonna give out on you. If you’re an endurance athlete, you’re gonna, you’re gonna, you’re gonna start really just consuming your body. You’re gonna, you’re gonna move into ill health and then getting your health back can be a way to, to kind of exit when you’ve gone too far. And, you know, I have seen a few of my friends go too far. And it’s sad because the exercise component, the strength training component is the best part of their life, and it’s a part that gives them a lot of satisfaction and it’s, uh, it’s a part of their identity. So you don’t wanna lose that and create this crisis for yourself because you went too far. And that would be the warning I would give people. And that’s what I say to a, a lot of folks, that there is a point where your Ironman training becomes unhealthy. And it’s like, if this costs you, your overall training. I don’t care if you win your age group this year, it’s totally not worth it. You, you gotta back off and try and figure out a, a viable strategy because there’s a lot of people that are using exercise to manage other issues that they have going on in their life mentally. And so you gotta help them keep training because it’s, uh, they can get into a downward spiral without the outlet and, and the positive neurochemical benefits that they receive from their daily endurance training.
I guess it’s a fine line and you have to, you know, get out a piece of paper and answer a bunch of questions, honestly. Um, such as, you know, is this massive amount of extra muscle mass, uh, enhancing your life? Or are you dedicating an extraordinary amount of time and, and mental anguish to the ups and downs of your training schedule? And if you’re, if you’re answering the wrong way, it’s gonna compromise your, your present health as well as your longevity. But I’m often reflecting on like, who’s gonna win the, the longevity contest? Is it gonna be a monk shuffling through the garden and meditating for hours a day and eating a little serving of brown rice and lentil soup at nighttime? Or is it gonna be some jacked guy or relatively jacked guy who can also hike for four hours but can, you know, throw around some heavy weights in the gym and they’re keeping this, and when they turn 70 and turn 80 and turn 90, it’s kind of a fascinatiing challenge. But I also wanna throw in like, the person who’s enjoying themselves, whatever they are doing, whether they’re shuffling through the garden and meditating their asses off, or whether they’re clanking around plates. If they absolutely love it and don’t show these obvious signs of excess like injury, maybe they’re, maybe they’ve, maybe they’re onto something.
Yeah. The, the game isn’t won later. The game’s being won right now.
II’s important to remember that there is no later. So that’s a lesson from athletics. You know, my personal best times that they’re nothing. They’re, they’re times, they’re moments. What sticks with me actually from the whole process is the relationships and the experiences and the habits that I was able to build in this lifestyle, in this endurance lifestyle. And, and I think that’s, that, that would be, so if you catch yourself, you know, it’s that whole, I’ll be happy when, or I’ll be satisfied when. Well write that down and pay attention. Because it’s usually a trap. You’ve, there’s a part of your mind that’s playing a, a trick on you. And, and what that part of the mind is, is doing is convincing you that it’s, it’s later where you, you’re gonna need to be satisfied or you will be satisfied.
You’re, you’re probably not gonna be satisfied. I would say play a game where day in, day out, you’re, you’re winning most of the time. And there will be times when it’s not much fun, it’s a little difficult, or maybe you gotta go do a, a run or a ride in the rain or it’s cold. But you, you can get through those times. But if day in day out it’s a slog and it’s a grind and you’re feeling stressed out, it that that’s not winning. And you know that, I think that was probably why I was able to ramp up so quick with the endurance is I just loved it. It was really enjoyable. I, I latched onto this life that was a lot of fun for me and very rewarding. Um, if it doesn’t feel that way and what I tell people if, if it doesn’t feel that way, well, first off, you’re probably going to intense. I think a lot, a lot of people don’t understand how enjoyable, easy training can be. And if you’re putting all this pace pressure and all this other stuff on yourself to go faster and more intense, we’ll just back off and enjoy it. I mean, I started by walking and hiking and then doing like, uh, multi-day treks. And eventually that led into mountaineering. But it was a really gradual ramp up, um, uh, with a lot of easy training, very enjoyable mixed with strength training. I’ve always liked to lift weights. I’ve done it since high school.
Hmm. You talk about this in the refrain of shifting from a high consumption lifestyle in your youth and, and working hard on this goal of, uh, minimalism or efficient, uh, distribution of your, your assets. Not, not only financial, but time and how those kind of weave together. So maybe we should get some insights on that too. Is one of your favorite subjects?
Yeah. The, the well time is the ultimate asset. And, and what I recommend people do when they, when they do, if they want to do a personal inventory of how much wealth they have is actually take a look at where they’re spending their time, and then also consider their wealth in terms of time. So let’s talk about those as two different things. First thing is just have a look at your week. Where are you, what are you doing? Who are you with? You know, how, how are you spending your time? Because I found that I was working a job that I was good at and, uh, but, and I was putting a lot of time into it, a lot of energy into it, a lot of travel into it, but it wasn’t where I wanted to be. And I realized that even though they were paying me a lot of money and I was good at it and I enjoyed it, fundamentally I was somewhere I didn’t want to be.
And so I needed to go somewhere else. And that my time inventory, cuz I was always thinking about, I’d be looking out the window at, uh, uh, at, at work and I’d be like, I want to be out there. I don’t want be in here. I wanna be outside. And so I stuck with that. So that’s, that’s the, the time part of it. And, an interesting point there was, I didn’t know where I wanted to go or what I wanted to do. I just knew that the only thing I was certain about was I wasn’t in the right, right spot. So then I had to try some different things to figure out where I would fit in. And first I went to Australia, but it wasn’t as good a fit as when I ended up over in New Zealand. The other thing is money.
When you’re, when you’re a big spender, you’re much less wealthy than you think. So the an example I use is, you’ve got a net worth of a million dollars. Now that seems like a lot of money, but if you’re spending a quarter million dollars a year, your net worth is four years. 1 million divided by 250,000 is four years. So if you look at your net worth in terms of time, that can give you a better view in terms of what you are spending is actually doing to your freedom, your time. And if you have the ability to live a less expensive lifestyle, doesn’t necessarily need to be minimalist lifestyle. It’s, it’s really more your spending is focused where you want to, not necessarily all this other stuff. Big house, cars, fancy vacations, you can cut that. And so when I left Hong Kong, I cut my expenses, my net worth didn’t change.
It was the same, but my wealth in time went way up because my expenses went down by so much. And what that time gave me was the ability to try different things. I realized that although I had a year off, I wasn’t under pressure anymore because all of a sudden I knew I could live for a decade off my current balance sheet. And, and so it completely took the pressure off me. I could, I could develop a coaching business, all I had to do was manage my expenses and I had this time. So what you give yourself is you, you try and give yourself time. And with young people, I say, well, what do you, what, what are we shooting for here? I say, you, you want to get to the point where you can give yourself five years because an active young person that’s motivated and willing to work five years is a lot of time.
So you want to get your assets minus your liabilities, that’s your net worth divided by your current spending. Get that to about five years. And you’ve got tremendous flexibility. You don’t have to stay in a job that you don’t like. You have the ability to go work part-time for one or two years and then have a side project where you, where, where you start up. I started up a financial business when I was an elite athlete, uh, with, with a friend. And it was a part-time thing. And I, I helped him start it, start it up. I used my skills, he used his time. He was the CEO, but I was able to do that because I was not working full-time on something else. So it opens up all these other opportunities which are invisible to you. Mm-hmm. when you’re in, in full-time employment, living, living that kind of hard charge and lifestyle where you’re spending money all the time telling yourself you’re happy because you’re going on these fancy vacations. But, you know, I mean, both you and I know, I mean some of the, I mean a lot of athletes are basically on a permanent vacation. It can be a, a lifestyle being an elite athlete. You could be a lifestyle athlete, not necessarily a high performance athlete. You’re just doing it because you, you like the life and you’re passing time. Mm-hmm. . So something to think about that, that’s how I approached it. Uh, I was always focused on buying myself time rather than just building up assets and spending.
It seems like the statistics are pretty bad here in terms of the huge percentage of the population is living paycheck to paycheck. Their net worth is a month or some incredibly short duration period where they’d be screwed if they weren’t slaving away. Just trying to, you know, stay above water. And I know a lot of that’s on the individual and their discretionary purchases, but there’s some pretty big hurdles to overcome when you look at like, the average housing cost in Los Angeles County is so high that, you know, the the affordability to to, to purchase a home rather than rent. And the rents are outta control. And it, it seems like, and I hear this from young people too, that they feel like their back’s against the wall because just getting a routine career going is going to eat up so much of their income just to live and eat and then go back to their job.
Yeah. These are real issues, real issues facing a lot of people. I, um, I, I lived, I rented a room for many years. I, and I didn’t buy a house until I moved to New Zealand. And then I bought a five bedroom house for 110,000 US cuz the kiwi dollar was blown out. So I saved my money from 16 to 40. I saved 50 cents of every dollar I earned and completely changed my life. So it’s, it can be done. Hmm. When you’re young, you don’t miss the money. You don’t spend. I would say this is why you want to help. Uh, you want to model exceptional work ethic to your children. So they just get used to doing stuff and enjoying working. I always enjoyed working. I enjoyed working in the corporate world. I enjoyed working as an athlete.
I enjoy working now. And that’s just the way it is. You, you, you want to train yourself so that you want to be active, want to be doing stuff, want to be productive. And I think it’s doable. I think it, it is challenging. I also think that a lot, lot of our spending and a lot of our goals come from the environment that we put ourselves in. And, you know, the, but one of the best things I ever did, you know, my early career was in London and Hong Kong, and those are two cities where it’s a lot of fun to hang out if you’re rich and people that are rich with capital, they didn’t earn turn up there. So you have all these people around you all the time, and I still find those environments very difficult. They trigger envy in me and they’re not a good place for me to be.
So I went outta that environment. So one of the most grounded environments in the whole world, which is the south island in New Zealand. The people down there understand the relationship between work and progress, and they understand they can’t have it all. And it was just a great environment to be in. I put myself in a different environment and there’s challenges to being in Boulder. Seems like everybody’s my kids. It’s like everybody’s parents as an Olympian, it can feel like sometimes, you know, , so you have this, you know, it’s like, oh, your dad’s fit, but did he medal? Yeah, sure. He went to the games. . I I mean, it’s a bit like that and, and it’s a different environment, but you know, I’m balanced. You know, no place is perfect. Every place has its pluses and minuses. It’s fun to be here.
What’s that movie where the kids, you know, had career day and then they, you know, the father comes in to, uh, to talk about their job. You know, so you’re, you’re going to the local Boulder Elementary School and here comes a gold medalist from this sport. And then oh my goodness.
Yeah, you go, you go to the cross country meet, it’s like, oh, there’s an Olympian there and another one over there. And I think she medaled and yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s just the, it is the environment and it’s a fun environment. It’s a healthy environment. Hmm. The kids are active and you gotta keep ’em grounded at home because there’s always, you know, there’s, we got kids in town that are doing 50, 60 mile weeks a and there’s kids doing big volume and you just have to say, well, look, you know, sorry, you’re a kid and you’re not doing that much. You have to, you know, you gotta model a bit the being sensible at home and, and not get wrapped up in the volume game before you’re even outta high school or in some cases, even outta middle school. Um, these, you know, the parents that know do a good job of keeping the kids balanced.
I, I think it’s some of the parents that get a little wrapped up in the environment that can overdo it on the kids. And, and that’s, that’s an interesting thing for the parents listening is that we, we all tend to pass our unfinished business to our children. The aspirations that we weren’t able to achieve, we can tend to pass that along, uh, to them. So I try and make my kids aware of what I’ve done, but they’re like, yeah, dad, no, it didn’t come from you. I, I really feel that way. And I was like, okay, well maybe you do. Um, but we, we have a tendency. And so you, you have to kind of keep an eye on the family in that sense that you, you don’t push a kid towards something where maybe it not, might not be the best, uh, direction for them to go.
Yeah. And the cultural forces are really something that I became highly aware of as my kids were going through the age groups. And you realize that, um, you know, like in, in the case of my son, this little guy who loved playing basketball, and pretty soon the, the level of competition in the local community league didn’t match his level of intensity. And so I had to, you know, bite my tongue and swallow hard and go join up with the, um, you know, the system, which is widely regarded just like in other sports like swimming and, um, you know, it’s super high, high caliber and high pressure, whatever it is, tennis or the junior golf circuit or whatever, where they’re developing these young athletes at such an age. But if you don’t kind of, uh, tap into the, the, the level of opportunity, then literally you’re gonna get, you know, the, the athletes are gonna get left behind because the acceleration is so crazy.
And it’s, you know, a hard thing to kind of, um, stay with your values and your belief systems that middle, middle school athletes shouldn’t be pushed to the brink with four hours a day practice. But I hear this all the time from parents who seem to be walking in with, you know, high ideals and a healthy perspective. Uh, but, you know, succumbing to the, the incredible pressure and the energy, same with college application. I mean, it’s known if you receive a B on your report card at any time in high school, you’re not gonna get admitted to the most elite schools. There’s just no fooling around. Even in 10th grade Spanish class, when you were chewing bubblegum and drawing pictures instead of paying attention, you just lost your chance to get into uc, Berkeley. It’s pretty, it’s pretty heavy insight.
I I, yeah, that’s a cultural phenomenon in the United States. Um, the, uh, over-emphasis on, uh, college and the over-emphasis on athletics. Um,
Boy, it hasn’t helped us in the World Cup soccer though, Gordo. I mean, if it’s the, the soccer tryouts are so high pressure and the, you know, the, the traveling team and the gold team and the silver team. But wait a second, how come we’re getting our butt kicked by, by Trinidad still?
I, so I, I, I think you need to decide as a family what your definition of success is and not let other people tell you what being successful is. And, you know, I had to think this stuff through. So for myself, uh, you know, around the time of my 30th birthday, how am I gonna define success? What is it? And then, you know, 12 years later, young family gotta think it through again. Hmm. What is successful? How are we gonna gonna define it? And yeah. And when I talk about knowing the game you’re playing, define your own game. Don’t let someone don’t, don’t let your culture define the game that you and your family want to be playing. I would also say that if you dig deeper and you really want to give your child the opportunity to be a great athlete, you will discover that you do not have positive control.
You cannot make a child a champion. All you have is negative control. You can screw them up. So your, your only ability is direct the situation. And when you embrace that, you will realize that, well, ultimately it’s all I’m trying to do is equip this child and then this teen with a toolbox of skills and experiences and a work ethic, and then they will be released into the world. And this will happen way before high school because you can’t control their effort at practice. It needs to be coming from within them. And you can drive ’em to practice. You can make ’em practice, you can make ’em do doubles, but you can’t make ’em train. And we, we already see this around 14, 15 and swimming. Um, kids have been at it for a long time. They’re not really into it that much. Parents won’t let ’em out.
They’ve checked out and they’re, you know, that’s it. So they, they’ve leveled out and, and that’s it. And that’s a really tough thing for a kid to have to deal with in their teens in high school when they got all this other stuff going on in their social life. They’re trying to figure out who they are in the larger world. So these high pressure parents are actually setting their children up for failure, not for success, because you have to give the child room to grow at every level. And then when they’re an adult, they will have the ability, if they want to take themselves to the next level in an area that they want to take themselves. And I think this is really important to remember, if you have very high goals for your children, and, and my goal is not to limit them. My goal isn’t for them to do anything.
It’s to have them do. And, you know, if I gotta president of the United States and a gold medalist and a C E O living in the house, I don’t wanna limit where they can take themselves. But I don’t really care about pushing them. I just wanna be the, i I want ’em to be at grade level. And, and I, and I, and I think as a society, we waste a tremendous amount of resources on big name sports and the college education system. And the only way we were able to do that is by the amount of money that we put in by consuming the products. And the government puts in by subsidizing debt and subsidizing the whole system. And the city’s put in with the stadiums and all this. But that’s a cultural decision. I don’t have to play that game with my family. I can be aware of it and make my kids aware of it, and then praise them on the things that I value and I believe
Hmm. And see where that goes. And one of my great reflections or insights is that I had far less influence than I thought I did throughout the various years of parenting young people. And so you get really wrapped up trying to, trying to do everything the right way. And then you realize that they’re their own creatures and they’re gonna follow their own path even if you make the perfect speech or you show them the perfect environment. Um, and so that kind of takes some pressure off the parents, I think.
Yeah, they’re, they’re always watching. They don’t really care what I say, although the, they’ll be polite and listen to me. They just wanna know what I do. Hmm. So my actions, my choices, you know, my decision to exercise every morning, my decision not to drink alcohol, my decision not to smoke, my decision to eat salads and vegetables and healthy is what is teaching them, not what I’m talking about. It’s, they are learning from what I do. They’re learning from how I treat them, how I treat every person that they see me interact with. And most importantly, how I treat their mother. That is probably the central relationship education that they get is via my marriage. Um, in terms of seeing how that works, what a healthy relationship looks like, how we problem solve, what happens when we disagree, all that kind of stuff. They just pick up by living it
No matter what. , no matter how hard you try, your, your actions are gonna be way stronger than your words. Freakonomics takes it even a step further saying, um, who you are is more important than what you do. And all the research showing, that, you know, being a child of college educated parents is going to have an imprint even if there’s no books in the house and they never get read to by their college educated parents. Pretty, pretty mind blowing. But I think the, the, the actions are the, the biggest impact.
Well, before we wrap up, I want to go back to one thing. When you mentioned that today to win the Ironman in Hawaii, you have to be dropping a 7:35. And it’s sort of mind-blowing to realize, for example, in our era, how hard we worked, how hard we trained, how talented the top athletes were. Scott Molina, your longtime training buddy was very high performing, uh, swimming and running as, as a youngster in, in the, in the school years. And then, you know, a beast on the bike riding these incredible mileage and putting up these amazing performances. And of course, um, we are gonna expect that performances escalate over time. And I know we have some outside variables, such as the improved bicycle that cuts through the wind better. But what are some other things that you think are at play, and you’re allowed to say doping and microdosing with products that help you, but don’t that evade detection because it is quite amazing to see, um, you know, from, from my own reference point, how fast everything has become in recent years.
Well, if I look at the, if I look, you know, the beautiful thing now is we’ve got all the data we can look on Strava, uh, we can look at the power files. We even have like aero aerodynamic data. We have computer models where you can feed in a picture of the bike setup. And we, we can really dig into all that. When you start looking at the physiology, it doesn’t look totally crazy to me in an Ironman sense. And honestly until they figure out how to dope fat oxidation. And, you know, if, if somebody comes up with a drug that can triple your fat oxidation during an Ironman, we’re gonna see some people go really fast, right? Because it’s an energy it’s an energy equation. Your energy constrained in terms of the uptake. So when I, when I look at the training programs, when I look at the performances, when I think back to my own best performances, my own best physiology, I had a very good physiology at my peak for Ironman racing.
And I look at that and then I consider, well, I was in my thirties and I came up off the couch. And so I had, so if we, if we think, so I’m starting. So some of these athletes probably have a cumulative training load of an extra 10,000 hours in terms of where I was then it’s, it’s entirely conceivable that someone can go that fast. So it’s, it’s not like it, it, you know, it’s not like pro cycling when they put the leader table up and, uh, of the best climbs in France, the best times in France, and everybody on there that’s retired was caught for doping. And then the current guys are all mixed in there and they haven’t been caught . It’s the, you know, when they do that table, you’re kind of like, you know, that, that just doesn’t look very legit to me cuz everybody else is retired, was busted.
When I look at these Ironman times, they look absolutely feasible to me. Mm-hmm. And so there’s, there’s, there’s nothing where I, I say, ah, that, that’s totally outlandish. But, but the other thing is with this whole, there’s things that happen in professional sport, all professional sports that are different than what’s going on in elite sport or high performance sport. So, you know, it’s, it’s personally, it’s a game I decided not to play. I I, I didn’t want to go that professional route. I was much more comfortable just being an elite and making it about how good I could be relative to the amount that I was willing to put into it. And that would be my recommendation for, for people. Are some people lousy partners are, are, you know, are they, are they, uh, not necessarily some of the nicest people in the world?
Sure. But it’s like that everywhere and are people bending rules and cutting corners? Yeah, that happens too. But we knew that already the the times themselves don’t look particularly, uh, ridiculous to me. They, they look legit. I, I mean it’s pretty impressive that they can do it. I mean, if you think about our era, if you think about how fast people went for a half Ironman distance Hmm, uh, the best athletes and then just double it. You know, you’re getting pretty close to how fast everybody’s going. They’re just, they’re just, they’ve just figured out a way to take that physiology and make it, it doesn’t have to last twice as long cuz everything’s kind of gotten a little bit quicker, but it, it’s having to last maybe 75% as long and it looks reasonable to me. It’s, it’s pretty impressive. Now the other thing that’s interesting to me is it’s been, and this has been gradual over 25 years, is the depth of the athletes.
And what we’re seeing is the Olympic movement, the including triathlon in the Olympics, brought a lot of expertise and a lot of talent into triathlon chasing that Olympic dream. And as we see those athletes move out so that the fir well now we’re, we’re like on the third and fourth wave of those athletes and they, they’ve tended to go short and then go long. But what we’re seeing now is better athletes, athletes at their prime going long and we’re seeing times drop and we’re seeing a lot more depth in the fields. And I think, I think they’re gonna go even quicker. Cuz if you look at how competitive the Olympic distance racing is, and if you, if you took that pool of athletes and you turn them loose on nothing but Ironman, they’re gonna figure out, they’re gonna figure out how to go faster. Likewise, I would love to see a world-class athlete do an ultraman distance mm-hmm. And, and see just how fast somebody could go over that distance. I think we would all be blown away.
I think it’s possible to go really, really fast, um, with the right preparation and, and the right athlete doing it. I think that’s
Like western states, you know, when, when I used to live there, go finish line running Auburn. Um, yeah. And you know, Ann Trason got second overall one year, which is one of the greatest female performances ever to, to be in, in the, the, the best race. Uh, but you know, then these guys who are now full-time elite performing professional ultra runners mm-hmm. can go knock, knock three hours off the previous record times because they’re living and breathing training where Tim Tweer, my buddy who won six times, he was a engineer at HP working a 40 hour week and running at lunchtime. So that’s pretty obvious how that escalation occurs. But, speaking of fat oxidation, when I look at Blumenfield, who has a larger frame for an elite endurance athlete and Ironman champion, um, it seems like he could be burning through carbs the entire race in order to run that fast off the bike. And, you know, something’s maybe changed from even the basic physiology, uh, insights that we have that you have to get better and better at burning fat and preserving glycogen.
I, you, you know, he’s a high volume guy. I think we’re his, his data’s gonna come out in due course and it’ll be great to see. We’re gonna learn a lot from studying that Norwegian approach, over the years to come. Uh, I, when I see those athletes and I see the training they can do, I really feel like I was, I was probably, uh, definitely one kilo too light, but maybe two kilos, uh, too light. I had some great races down in New Zealand when I was racing heavy and my bike power was phenomenal. And by power, I mean my aerobic power, so I could, I could just ride really strong for a long time. I did, you know, at that larger size of it was a hot day running, I did, uh, I did struggle a bit when I was leaner.
I ran great in the heat. Um, but I think, you know, they’re very sophisticated in their approach to heat, uh, and volume and fueling. And you know, Scott Molina has a great saying, and it’s like, you know, if it was all just about getting super light, they’d have a scale instead of a finish line. So it’s, it’s a, you know, it’s a multi-variable, uh, problem that you gotta try and optimize them and, and, and figure out. And I think the Norwegians do a, a great job of that. And I’m really looking forward to learning from them in the years to come.
Gordo, we have gone across the board, man, it’s always a pleasure to connect with you and listen to your insights on so many things. And speaking of that, please explain how we can connect with your wonderful blog writings and the new format in 2023, even for people who are, uh, old time readers.
Okay. So thousand day pacing.com, it’s just a simple landing page and it’s one zero thousand day pacing.com. On that page, you can see my, it’ll take you to Twitter, it’ll take you to my YouTube channel. And there’s two publications that I write. One’s called Endurance Essentials, which covers all the athletic stuff that we’ve been touching on. And then for the family and money stuff, what I found was my readership didn’t like me mixing it on my blog. So I started another that’s called True Wealth. Hmm. And that one covers family finances and the lessons that I’ve had over the 30 plus years I’ve been watching and working for the wealthy. And that’s really what that one’s about.
I kind of liked when you mixed it all in, but I get it. I get it. Okay. We’re gonna have to sign up for two things now. I don’t want you to don’t just pick one or the other. It’s all, it’s all in with Gordo. So we’re gonna go sign up for both of those great regular content. And, uh, you work so hard to put together a, uh, short and memorable, uh, passages, which remember that Mark Twain quote. He said, I was gonna write you a shorter letter, but I didn’t have time. That’s how he started a letter to a friend. And, um, so I, I appreciate your effort so much and thanks for spending the time today. Thanks for listening everybody. To Gordo Byrne.
Say the website again, 1000 1000
Thousand day pacing.com.
A thousand day pacing.com. All right, everybody,
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