Monday, February 28, 2011

The Discipline of Racing Adventurously: An Interview with Wilson Low (Part 1)

It is always a pleasure to share interests with another; fellow hobbyists can attest to that. In this case, familiarity does not breed contempt. However, to share both hobbies and disciplines can be a bonus.

I met Wilson Low through the Triathlon Family Singapore website, and its gatherings of members at local races. We also raced at Ironman Malaysia 2008, and we subsequently completed the Ironman 70.3 World Championships together in Clearwater, Florida in 2008. Wilson crossed the line at about 4:39:18, and that established him as one of the fastest Singaporeans for the 70.3 Ironman format. A month before that, he qualified and completed the Ironman triathlon in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii in 10:54:25 – 14 minutes improvement over his first attempt at the Ironman triathlon in Western Australia in 2006.

Wilson’s approach to training is scientific, and it belies his approach to coaching triathletes and adventure racers. He trained in Spartan style, at times twice daily when he was training for triathlons. His personal approach may appear brutal, yet that brutality translates into race-day conditions that the trained body must and will endure. It takes discipline to stick to a plan, deny oneself from pleasant distractions, calm down during a race, and even to back off from one’s ego. It is a thin line between being utterly focused to being self-possessed or obsessive.

Endurance sports and writing are, in themselves, disciplines. Wilson is actively involved in online product reviews. He has a broad knowledge about sports equipment, training and races. Having done the Big Three in endurance sports, he is now focused on adventure racing and professional coaching.

Conducting this interview was a journalist’s dream, for I did not have to edit much; he has a major in journalism from university. I have left Wilson’s words verbatim, so that you get a strong sense of his personality, energy, and drives.
Enrico Varella: How did you get involved in endurance sports?

Wilson Low: In 2000, I spent my first three months of junior college in the Outdoor Activities Club for my Co-Curricular Activity. A friend I knew through the club suggested I check out the Eco-Challenge Borneo that was going on at that time. I saw the coverage of this epic multi-day, non-stop, expedition race on the Internet – including a Singaporean team completing against tremendous odds and a very demanding course - and decided from that day on that I had to do a race like that in future.

EV: What is your background in sports? Which sports or events did you participate in?

WL: Later on in junior college, I was on the school kayaking team. During that time, I did running to keep fit, and bought a mountain bike in my senior year. I promptly fractured my hand falling off that bike a week after finishing my A-Levels, waited six months for it to recover, before enlisting for National Service. During that time, I kept up running and started adventure racing more frequently.

EV: Which is your favourite format in racing: Olympic Distance, 70.3, Ironman or Adventure Racing?

WL: Without a doubt, AR. I am first of all an adventure racer, and only dabbled in triathlon just to keep fit! Of course, I have enjoyed some success at the various triathlon distances as well, but it’s the constantly varying nature of AR that continues to appeal to me. No two AR events are the same. Typically for a given event, the formats, sequences, distances, and course profiles are always changed year on year.

EV: How important was coaching to you?

WL: Being coached taught me the principles of training within one’s means and to avoid the ‘trial and error’ course of action that the majority of recreational athletes take when deciding to pursue a sport they are passionate about. The idea of being coached is really just the idea of getting an objective view on an athlete’s training progression: by acknowledging weaknesses, avoiding pitfalls, and maximizing the quality of the (limited) training time that athletes have.

EV: What and who inspired you to assume coaching as one of your professions?

WL: I sincerely believe that in Singapore, there is a shortfall of quality coaching, particularly for off-road specific disciplines; and that few coaches, if any, bother to address the mental and tactical aspects of endurance racing. For the latter point, it is my opinion that the best mindset for endurance sports participation (and from there, developing strategies and tactics for athletic success) is something that can be nurtured, and is not necessarily innate. For the former point, living in Australia taught me the differences between sporting cultures in Western and Asian societies, but also that the disparity between them is closing fast as Asian affluence rises. For that reason, skills instruction that is easily imparted in the military (navigation) or overseas (amidst technically demanding water bodies, and mountainous trails) has to be tweaked and delivered within a local, civilian frame of reference. The more Singaporeans challenge themselves with endurance races, the more they will seek to go overseas to test their limits – and that’s where being adept at both the soft and hard skills of the sport really come into play.

EV: As a graduate, where you could qualify for an indoor profession why did you decide to brave the great outdoors?

WL: Being indoors would have killed me. University life reinforced the idea in me that being desk-bound for money, and being half-hearted about it, could never be as fulfilling as being paid to do something you truly love, and can do well. My experiences doing sport and being in the outdoors convinced me that it is possible to challenge convention and build a career out of it, even in outdoors-scarce Singapore. It is my conviction that this line of work will be mine for the long run, and as a result, I take my work very seriously and expect nothing less than top quality service for my clients.
EV: What were your most memorable moments in endurance sports?

WL: It has to be my first win, where my kayaking team (most of us being under 18 years of age) won the relay race for the first-ever Singapore Adventure Quest AR. Just for a laugh, we had named our team after our kayaking coach, who was also on the team. We were just thankful that there was a lot of kayaking in that race. Another one would have to be crossing the finish line of XPD 2006 on my birthday after more than seven days on the go. It was my first expedition AR, and there was a birthday cake, champagne, and pizza waiting for our team at the finish line.

EV: Between Ironman triathlons and adventure racing, which is your preference? Why?

WL: I love both kinds of events, for different reasons. Ironman is primarily a solo endeavor, so all the mistakes are your own – but so is the glory! Solo events that require self-discipline and self-motivation for long periods of time without interaction with anyone else are the best form of ‘me’ time that an endurance athlete can have. However, the inter-personal dynamic of most AR events (being team events) is what I find myself more attracted to. I often find a sort of dynamic leadership scenario develop during particularly arduous AR events. The strongest team member may not be the strongest one all of the time; it may fall upon the team member who is in the background to take a stand and assume a leadership role in certain situations when the strongest member of the team is down, for instance. On a related note, sometimes a different perspective coming from a ‘supporting player’ in the team dynamic can create solutions when there seems to be no other way in the ‘lead players’ eyes.

EV: How is adventure racing different from triathlons?

WL: True adventure racing has no set distances, sequence of disciplines, or a marked and marshaled route – self-navigation becomes an essential skill. Sometimes, race organizations only let racers know part of the course and release the remainder only along the way after the race has started. You also have the potential to accumulate much more equipment (toys) than the average triathlete. AR is a gear freak’s dream sport. Many athletes enjoy the predictable and homogeneous format of triathlon events in that course distances are set to a standard, and its descriptions/profiles known well in advance. AR calls for an athlete who embraces a hardier, ‘can-do’ spirit - in the same vein as that of early pioneers or explorers. That being said, a triathlete makes the best kind of athlete to cross over to AR. The mentality of maximizing efficiency – pace control, not stalling during transitions, doing everything on the move - is something that is commonly seen in triathlon, even amongst the rookie athletes. This is not the case in AR, with the exception of the most experienced and elite teams, who seem to have gotten maximizing efficiency down to an art form.
(To be continued tomorrow…)

Photo-credit: Wilson Low

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Challenging You

Marathon Mohan has completed 100 marathons, and is diving into his 115th. He runs for the sheer joy that he experiences - what a splendid idea!

According to this interview, Mohan’s friend challenged him to beat the latter’s 13 marathon resume, and he did. He has also run his last 10 and more marathons in Vibram Five Fingers. Now, that’s really giving your feet a challenge!

How often do you challenge yourself? Do you set tough, stretch goals? How do you feel when you face challenges? What on your Bucket List are major challenges?

Sure, you don’t necessarily achieve all your goals immediately, yet given time, most targets are possible. Sometimes, obstacles block our way only to resurface as motivators. Failure is feedback, and yet-to-realise results. When you see people wearing their post-marathon t-shirt with the declaration ‘Finisher of 42.195km’, that is a consequence of having met their running challenge. The finisher medal and certificate and, where due, the podium finish are testament to having set and fulfilled on these challenges. Being interviewed by the media is also a very strong testimonial and recognition for being a leader in one’s field of excellence.
This morning, I did my first ride since last weekend’s roller-coaster marathon. I expected to meet the ENR triathlon train along the way and I did. Clifford, Lap Huan, Desmond, Matthew and Reeves met me at the road junction just as I was about to take the ascent up a moderate stretch of road. I led the train for the remainder of the first loop with Lap Huan playing tag with me. The two short climbs up the side road was enough to exhaust us, and my legs were obviously reminded of its recent physical ordeal. I enjoyed the short ride and hope I will be fully ready for the 150-180K ride in Malaysia next Sunday.

Tomorrow: Our interview with Adventure-Racer, Wilson Low.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Creating Atmosphere Within An Atmosphere

In the property or real estate business, 'location, location, location' is everything. The tenants of a retail outlet in a mall deliberately pay high rental so as to secure a unit that attracts the most shopper traffic. Being at the right place and right time sounds like luck, yet the climate at work can have significant impact on staff, vendors and customers.

In managing and leading people, the atmosphere that you create at the workplace can influence how people perceive you as a leader. The atmosphere comprises the air that you stir around you. Do you suffocate people, or refresh them with your presence? Do people behave with coolness and composure? Do you breath down their necks constantly? What do your people weigh in terms of options and opportunities?

Celebrations allow people to divide attention and share in emotional expressions. These occasions and events promote a sense of goodwill that boosts moral and appreciation for one another. Staff’s mood undergo variation from moment to moment, and negative attitudes and inappropriate behaviors can affect how achieve results and affect others. The energy of celebrating can be sustained for long periods, as long as the sense of celebration is transferred from person to person, from day to day. The pride of achievement and accomplishment is enhanced when people feel recognized occasionally.

What kind of atmosphere do you create at work? How do you build deeper and meaningful professional relationships? What is the type of energy that you bring to your colleagues?
It is day six after the Hong Kong Marathon, and the residual soreness is almost diminished. The active recovery on day four (pool running and mild swimming) and five (barefoot running and circuit training) are taking effect. This week, I had less than six hours sleep each night because of a heavy teaching schedule: this has reduced my full recuperation and recovery. I look forward to tomorrow’s 90K ride, so I can flush leftover toxins out of my muscles. It is about three weeks to the 70.3 Singapore race, and a slot at the World Championships in Las Vegas in September is my potential goal.

Big Shout Out: All the best to photographer/designer Richard’s attempt at the Tokyo Marathon tomorrow!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Less May Be More For the Masters-Level Athlete

I have been researching extensively on Masters-level endurance training. An article from a 2006 issue of Triathlete magazine got me thinking seriously about mileage and intensity. Briefly, over-40-years-old triathletes could benefit more from lesser mileage and greater intensity. I have been applying it after I spoke to a former-professional triathlete at last year’s IMWA, who claimed that his charges benefitted more from significantly shorter workouts with more intensity. The Australian, Ironman Western Australian champion Charlotte Paul’s husband, is a Trigger Point Therapy expert and he touted runs of not more than 2 hours and rides not exceeding 3 hours. He focused on quality over quantity.

I had a bad spate of joint injuries ONLY A MONTH AFTER my first 84K ultra-marathon last year. Part of my healing strategy was to strengthen the muscles of my ankles, feet and knee. Thus, I focused on core stability and core strength work, kept up my regular massages, and rode on a well-fitted bike. My strategy for training for a marathon soon after Ironman Western Australia 2010 was:

1)    Unshod running (Vibram Five Fingers) twice a week for about 45-60 minutes (@ 5:10-5:45”/K pace).
2)    Two CrossFit/circuit training sessions weekly (comprising 3 sets of 4 key, gross muscles exercises, i.e. 12 chin-ups, 25 pushups, bench step-ups X 20 each leg, and parallel-bar walk X 2).
3)    One long run, one medium distance run, and one or two 10K runs each week. Total mileage between 40-50K with tempo run or intervals.
4)    One time trial held every 7-10 days. Before the Hong Kong Marathon, I completed a Duathlon (10K run, 36K ride, 5K run), 5K time trial/qualifying run, and two in-training time trials for 11K and 21K.
5)    Cross training with swimming and riding; mostly, maintenance work.
6)    More speed and strength work instead of purely endurance workouts.
7)    ZERO hill-work.
8)    Nutritional support as per race day (one energy-gel/sports drink every 6K or 25 minutes, and two cups of water at every aid-station)
9)    Sleep 6-8 hours per night (crucial for complete recovery after intense training).
10) Fortnightly deep tissue massage with my physiotherapists.
My verdict: So far, so very effective. Wayne Kurtz’s book is out now. Head over to to order your copy!
 Photo-credit: My link-up with personal trainer, run coach and Boston marathoner finisher, Ben Swee after the HK Marathon.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Discipline in Professions and As Professionals

‘A goal is a dream with a dateline.’ ~ Opening announcement for the ING New York City Marathon 2010.

As undisciplined as I consider myself to be (in areas I avoid, like chores), I am a stickler for discipline. Perhaps, it was the decade-and-a-half that I served in the reserves as a military officer, and how I was educated that taught me to appreciate discipline. There is discipline in my professions, and I seriously attempt to apply it into expected results. The discipline is in the doing.

As I had no access to social media tools over the last few days, I wrote my thoughts down in my journal. I then transferred these thoughts into individual blog posts. I felt that it was important to meet my goal of one post a day for next three years. Writing is a discipline. Horror-writer, Stephen King wrote in his book ‘On Writing’ that he isolates himself for three hours a day with a typewriter and no distractions – just to write. Whether he wrote one line or a paragraph or a page, it was considered work done. The only way to be a better write is to write. The discipline is in the writing.

I embrace endurance sports as a lifestyle because I get to express a core value called discipline. Without discipline, chaos and confusion can emerge. Last Sunday, I learnt more about discipline when I applied it diligently and earned delightful results in a marathon race. Next week, you may get to appreciate more about discipline through our interview with endurance athlete and coach, Wilson Low. The discipline is in the racing.

I returned this afternoon to find a copy of Guy Kawasaki’s new book Enchantment sent by courier for my review. I will post my review of this new business leadership book on 8 March, so stay tuned.

If you like a book to be reviewed, please send me a note for the mailing address. If you are keen to be a book reviewer, or wish to make submission write me direct. I will be pleased to showcase your opinion. The discipline is in taking the first steps.

Time for me to do some compulsory washing and cleaning…

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Darn Good Weekend At the Marathon (Part 2)

The Hong Kong Marathon starts with one of three major bridges at Kowloon, with several tunnels tossed in for good measure, and multiple flyovers for a twist of fate. I was warned that the Hong Kong route was treacherous for this fact of life, and to be prepared for the disappointment of no PB. Initially, I believed those who did it, as they intended to give good counsel. However, as I inched towards a faster pace – from 5:40 minute/K to 5:10 minute/K – I became more optimistic in my monitoring and measurement. Every one kilometre after the mid-point, I would check my watch (no heart-rate monitor just this once) to see if I was running faster, and I was!

To run continuously in the cold was not an issue. It was a little windy on the long bridges (reminded me of San Francisco’s Bay Bridge), with a mild drizzle. Fortunately, it was not as wet as Berlin last year where it was dreadfully cold because of wind and rain. The air in the tunnels was, strangely, refreshing and I suspected the giant fans were circulating cool air throughout. I felt strong on the slopes, and I believed that my twice-weekly circuit training sessions helped me tremendously. I did not do any hill-work at all! My only direct strength work for my legs was riding off the saddle, and a small bridge. I will need to analyse this phenomenon further. My strategy for slopes was: run up steadily and slower, and descend faster. It worked for my ultra-marathons after I learnt it from some seasoned marathoners.

My last two kilometres were hard, and possibly at a 4:50 minute/K pace; my race photographs by the official photographers were not encouraging. I was struggling like a racehorse with contorted facial expressions. I made my last desperate attempt by sprinting down the green carpet of the finishing chute, and stopped my watch at 3:30:06. Although I sliced more than six minutes off my best 42.195K time (2009), I was mildly disappointed that I finished right on the Boston Marathon qualifying mark/limit.

Entry to the 115-year-old Boston Marathon is based on elite-level performance; the more you shave off the qualifying time, the higher your priority for a slot for the following year (slots open online in September). I found this out after speaking to uber-runner Sumiko Tan who was top-10 for the 21K women’s category, and veteran Boston-finisher, Ben Swee. The rules for qualification in 2013 have been made more stringent with a 3:25 limit for my age group (a deduction of five minutes across the board for all age-groups). I need to be faster than that for my next marathon PB. I was glad to chat with several young male Singaporeans who finished in sub-3:10:00 timings (including a few Ironman Western Australia finishers). We identified ourselves with our IMWA marathon wrist-bands.

I had a great day: I enjoyed several personal bests (PBs). I managed to hold an average of 5 minutes/K, negative split at the turnaround point, PB in the 25K, 30K and, of course, an overall, official time of 3:29:59 (nett time) and 600th ranking out of 10,000 participants. This was way better than my 3:37:06 time at Berlin last year, and 7,700-plus, position.

What more could a person ask for? Actually, a warm spot, hot food and a hot shower were more appealing. A potential slot for Boston Marathon was a pleasant afterthought, as I headed for the airport to Shanghai for work. It was a great day at the office!
Photo-credit: Marathon Photos

A Darn Good Weekend At the Marathon (Part 1)

Sunday, 20 February 2011. I realized a few personal goals today. I ran the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon 2011 that started at Kowloon and ended at Causeway Bay. It was a rolling course, with several major bridges, numerous flyovers and tunnels. The temperature was a cold 15 degrees, and less.
Wrapped, faithfully, in multiple layers  (a tip from tri-buddy, Joseph Seetoh) I braved the cold morning. I dressed similar to last year’s Berlin Marathon. I wore woolen gloves, compression tights and top, tri-top, and the official race t-shirt; I stuffed my tri-top with High5 gels. I got the High5 Marathon Pack (at S$25) from a local race fair: I used both caffeinated and non-caffeinated gels, as well as the Iso-Gels (for electrolytes). I consumed a pack every 20-25 minutes for the calories and the warmth. I calculated I would need more calories hourly if I were to hold a faster pace of 5 minutes/K. My calculations were spot-on, and I attended to all the aid-station for either two small cups of water or a pack of sports-drink. I only skipped the last aid-station in the fear of not meeting the Boston qualifying time of 3:30:00. I had to defy the additional fatigue of a few surprises: more slopes from flyovers.
I kept check of my physiology and psychology throughout the race, although it got much harder after the 34K mark. I did not hit the wall – I have not for a few years – however, I did feel the stress of meeting my intermittent datelines. From the 21K mark onwards, I kept track (with mental mathematics) how much I was ahead or behind for a negative split. I have long obsessed over having a negative split in the marathon; I was glad I earned it this time. My coach, Craig ‘Fox’ Holland emphasised to me this fact for a long time: be patient, and run a smart race and keep enough for the second-half.

10 Lessons Learnt from Hong Kong Marathon 2011

Location: Kowloon, Hong Kong
Day: Sunday, 20 February 2011
Flag-off time: 6:20am
Destination: Causeway Bay
Total time taken: 3:29:59

1)    Patience is necessary: Start slow to end fast (and get a negative split!).
2)    Aim for small improvements. Small victories add up.
3)    Adapt (and modify) to the situation. Watch how other experienced runners take the course.
4)    Prepare thoroughly (dress adequately, and have enough to eat and drink).
5)    Stay alert, and be aware and lucid. You are in some kind of trouble if you lose track of your surroundings.
6)    Enjoy the moments and smile to yourself (it lessens the discomfort).
7)    Appreciate and acknowledge those around you, including your friends.
8)    Stay warm, and fully warm-up (get your heart-rate and core temperature up).
9)    Enjoy the total experience.
10) Your PB is your PB (never allow anyone to deny you that) at whichever distance (official, or not).

Friday, February 18, 2011

9 Ways To Stay Calm & Composed Before the Big Race

This piece is for Saturday: The day before the Hong Kong Marathon. I decided to squeeze in several days of posts in advance in case I enjoyed my break too much. Stay tuned for our interview with adventure racer, Ironman triathlete, and coach Wilson Low next week!
You have done the time. Time to deliver the goods. Even with the best-trained and recovered athletes, other factors like concerns, worries and doubt can disrupt optimal performance on race day. If you experience pre-race jitters, how do you manage them? When left uncontrolled, anxiety and nervousness can sap away at our race energies. Emotions can drain your physical energies and put you in a less-than-optimal state. Here are some thoughts on how to exorcise some of these energy parasites.

1)    Listen to your favourite choice of music and songs.
2)    Rest. Take a nap. Keep your feet off the ground.
3)    Enjoy your Social Media (Tweeter, Facebook, blog, etc.).
4)    Avoid strenuous physical activities, like going for a run to burn excess energy off.
5)    Enjoy a good comedy. There are plenty of funny animated films available.
6)    Shoot the breeze with friends, except with those who are highly competitive and talk about racing strategies.
7)    Sit on a bench at a park, and watch the world go by.
8)    Be realistic about your goals. Complete or compete. Avoid giving yourself heightened expectations that are hard to meet.
9)    Stay near the start-point so that you get extra sleep, and not worry about reaching there on-time.

Well, that’s what I’ll be doing from today onwards until Sunday’s race. I will be running at 6:20am with thousands of runners at the Hong Kong Marathon. Then, the real race begins as I grab lunch and head for the airport, to Shanghai for a teaching assignment. It should be a blast!

To those who are racing this Sunday: Have a great day!

Affirmations: Making Peace With Yourself

'Keep feeding. Keep drinking. Keep moving.' PAM REED, 2-times Badwater Ultramarathon winner

I thrive on my own private army of paranoias; one of which has to do with staying hydrated during all my races. My first biathlon, and ensuing heat disorder, led me to humbly respect my body’s need for fluid when I am exercising. Pam Reed’s quotation has become my personal mantra. I was also drawn to a t-shirt advertisement in an old triathlon magazine. It showed samples of tees plastered with words such as ‘Never Give Up’, and ‘Pure Concrete’.

I use affirmations, although I am not heavy on mantras. I adore short brand slogans as they express and impress. Phrases like Impossible is Nothing and Just Do It are priceless scripts. No wonder they are trademarked, intellectual property. When we use these brands, we represent ourselves with their glowing tag-lines.
I recalled, years ago, I read a book ‘The Little Engine That Could’ and the mantras ‘I think I can, I think I can…’ and ‘I thought I could, I thought I could…’ delivered in fire-engine style stuck with me.

Runner’s World featured an article recently about the use of positive affirmations for training and racing. When going through the grind, these personal words of encouragement can have a sustaining effect on our performance.

In business, entrepreneurial mavericks like Sir Richard Branson author books with significant titles like ‘Virgin’ and ‘Screw It. Just Do It.’ Which are your favourite affirmations? Which will be your personal tagline that you live by?

Picture credit: 1954 edition with illustrations by George and Doris Hauman.

Using Scales for Excelling

‘Measure, measure, measure! What you can measure you can manage.’ ~ Peter Drucker.

I learnt very early in sports about the relevance of measurement. In bodybuilding, I learnt about how I progressed in muscular develop with three measuring techniques: measuring tape, weighing-scale, pinch test (for fat), and use of the mirror. My almost-obsessive approach to this arsenal of measures led me to qualify for the national squad (B team) that was a great personal achievement.

As a runner, I learnt to use a tool called the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) where I could self-assess my intensity of training with a scale of 1 to 10. Done on the fly, ad hoc, I could decide how I felt by an arbitrary scale. With a heart-rate monitor (HRM), both methods complement each other when one is suspect. Sometimes, you feel great although the HRM shows that you are off the charts with your heart-rate zones.

In the Solutions Focused approach to coaching or therapy, scales are also used. Here, the client is asked where they rate themselves on a scale of 0-10 for a situation. Instead of making a big leap of faith, the client is requested to think about what they could do (in terms of behaviors) to improve their position by one level.

How often do you measure your performance? How do you rate your team member’s performance? How consistent are you in your observation and assessment of your people? In business, when do you know to scale up? Which are the conditions for scaling down your efforts when results do not go your way?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A New Relatively Unsupported Pair of Shoes Runs Fast!

A new broom sweeps clean. Or, in contemporary terms, a new vacuum-cleaner sucks better.

This evening, I took my new pair of Newton Gravity shoes for its second run. I was mighty pleased when I ran a PB-in-training for my usual 11K route. I completed the run in about 47 minutes, sustaining a 4:20/minute pace. It was challenging to stop at one traffic light, weave around oblivious recreational cyclists, and running alone with my laboured breathing for company.

I am pleased that my anaerobic fitness has improved over the last duathlon and cross-country time trial. Hopefully, this newly found speed would see me through a decent marathon time in Hong Kong this Sunday: three bridges, one stuffy tunnel, and cold conditions. 

Elite Bicycle-sponsored athlete, Ashley Liew won his age-group at the TAS Duathlon held three weeks ago. Wayne Kurtz shares his thoughts about faster feet turnover, but watch your heart rate as you increase your cadence. My preference for training these days are:

1)    Unshod running (Vibram Five Fingers) twice a week for about 45-60 minutes, with forefoot landing and forward lean.
2)    Two CrossFit/circuit training sessions weekly (comprising 3-4 key, gross muscles exercises).
3)    One long run, one medium distance run, and one or two 10K runs each week.
4)    One time trial held every 7-10 days.
5)    Cross training with swimming and riding.
6)    More speed and strength work instead of purely endurance workouts.
We will be reviewing author and marketing guru, Guy Kawasaki’s latest book Enchantment in early-March. There might even be a bonus interview with Mr Kawasaki. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Enhancing Your Value: Staying Employable in 2011 & Beyond

A look at job advertisements may be a startling revelation: How is this New Economy everyone is talking about going to impact us? Armed with an arsenal of digital equipment, how will we brave the new world order that is driven by compression technology and information overload, and assured by a false sense of virtual communication?

Why is it people are not going anywhere with the abundance of education and qualification? A fresh graduate – of the Generation Y status - may be disillusioned that his/her degree may not be fully recognized for immediate employability. Generation X may have enjoyed the fruits of its labour, while Generation Y struggles to establish its identity. Thus, Generation Y opts for more aggressive, digital platforms to build their online identities and branding. Social media becomes a means to actively network and build degrees of connections. The lure and allure of being a successful, home-based entrepreneur (or designer of a runaway, bestselling, iPhone or iPad apps) or workplace intrapreneur become the de facto and de rigueur standards for ascending the social ladder. So, is this high-technology approach also high-touch?

Generation X is not resting on its laurels, for it cannot afford to. Once you are past 35 years old, your perceived value may be diminished. Although it is not appropriate today to ask personal data like age (for it is deemed discriminating), we know the reality is a dark cloud of pessimism that can ill afford disenchanted, jaded, cynical, disenfranchised and lethargic employees. Unless you thrive on paranoia, and do something about it – it is business as usual – which is not a good sign. Business as unusual is the new norm: passionate, driven by purpose, collaborative, and focused on value.

Perhaps, it is time now to rebuild one’s branding and value. Using marketing principles of Positioning, Product, Price and Place as guideposts, how do we enhance our value? How do we create attention, and become attractive despite our unavoidable laughter lines and age spots? How do we promote our wisdom of hindsight, and integrate our insights with our foresights.

We need to engage our mindsets for a future of possibilities. We should possess a positive, open-minded attitude and activate our skills and knowledge. If experience matters, how do you use it to perform with mastery those skills that you used to be valued for? Demonstrate the skills and expertise you have, so these do not become redundant and retired like sunset industries and professions.

What does not attract - distracts us. What does not add value, devalues us. Choose.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Pushing Dailies

In the short-lived TV series, Pushing Daisies a young man finds true love by rejuvenating the love of his life with his touch. He has a gift, albeit a morbid one – for he can raise the dead for one minute before they succumb to the limitations of mortality. Unfortunately, he can prolong his relationship with his girlfriend only if he touches her through a plastic bag. The artificial barrier allows contact, yet restricts actual physical contact.

Push to the limits. What about pulled to the limits? We can force people to work against their will, enforce rules, and forcibly remove people from their creature comforts. However, how effective are these interventions?

How often do you push the limits of your perceived shortcomings? How do you encourage the best out of others? How often have you made breakthroughs with others without breaking them?

In endurance sports, we push through our physical discomforts when we train longer, or race faster. Pushing past our self-imposed limits allows us to experience new results and sensations. It could be shaving off 14 seconds off your biathlon time, making the qualifying time for Boston Marathon, or completing your first sea-swim. Swimming past your fear of open-water can spell new confidence and pride. Braving pain to inch in one second ahead of your competitor, to finally stand on the podium can be just a sweet as Manuka Honey.

Push or pull. Force through limitations, and create new results every day. Everyday is an opportunity to push past our barriers. Press on!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Leaders Are Fairly Outnumbered!

There are more managers and supervisors out there than leaders. And, there are even less practising leaders out of this smaller group. A formal title of ‘Team Leader’ or ‘Manager’ needs to be backed up by behaviors that demonstrate your competency, clarity, confidence, credibility and commitment as a leader (the 5 ‘C’s). It takes a lot to live up to the ‘L’ word.

It may be simple being a leader, but it is not easy. It requires soft skills, yet these skills may be hard to exhibit – no pun intended. Here are some challenges of being a leader:

1)    You can be fair to your staff, yet they can accuse you of being unfair.
2)    Your staff also determines how effective you are as a leader.
3)    Using leadership terms (in your conversations) may make you sound impressive, but may not be expressive to others.
4)    You are being monitored all the time. The moment you violate the consistency code (i.e. walk the talk), you get tanked for it. Say what you will do, and do it!
5)    You are either loved or loathed. There are no grey areas of allowance. Leadership is black and white for the masses. To your staff, either you have it or you don’t. That’s how stringent their personal and professional criteria are.
6)    You are expected to be open-minded and follow others. The leader is expected to follow his/her colleagues, at times.

Having said all this, leadership requires vision, motivation, decisiveness and commitment. How will you lead your people this week? How will you add to the pool of emerging leaders? How will you hone your leadership skills this week?