Setting the example — and raising the bar — is our MD Liam Snelling, an avid cyclist. Earlier this year, he set himself the challenge of completing a middle distance triathlon. This meant adding swimming and running to his normal cycling routine — and lots of it. A middle distance, also known as a half iron man, triathlon involves a 1.9 km open-water swim, 96 km bike ride and then running a half marathon at the end. The sheer volume of training needed to prepare for an event like this means a lot of hours spent training, which is itself a challenge when fitted around the high-pressured working week as a senior agency executive. To add to the challenge, Liam lives in Bristol with his young family and commutes to London in the week.
How did you fit in all that training around running an agency and family life?
It wasn’t easy — especially since my wife was training for her first triathlon at the same time! We tried to make the most of our mornings by getting up early and getting a training session under our belts before breakfast. Some evenings I was training after the kids had gone to bed up to 10 pm. I just had to make the most of every gap to train, stretch or eat!
Tell me a bit about the training schedule itself?
I had a training plan that focused the shorter speed sessions during the week with a couple of longer sessions over the weekend. So during the week I would hit the pool, do a spin session, a tempo run or any combination of those three. The hardest training was the brick sessions; a bike followed by a run to get your legs used to the feeling of an actual transition. You never get used to those jelly legs!
What was the most challenging part?
The long sessions at the weekend were tricky, in amongst looking after the kids, a bit of DIY and trying to see friends and family. 3–4 weeks out from the event I was scheduled to training for over 10 hours a weekend which was tough. The weekend of my youngest son’s birthday I did no training as we were too busy!
How was the race day?
The race was set in the Brecon Beacons so it was really hilly. It was pouring with rain when we started — I was drenched when I arrived at 6 am for the swim. It was also ridiculously cold for June, around 12–13 degrees. In fact, it was so cold that they cut the swim short, to 1 km. Once we were out the lake and onto the bike, the weather warmed up and it stopped raining. The bike ride had about 1000 m of climbing, including the legendary iron mountain at the end to climb back into the Valleys. I was feeling good by the time I started running which was just as well with a three-lap course with two hills per lap to deal with! I finished in 6 hours 15 mins which I was happy with considering the conditions — but reckon I could shave another 20–30 mins off that with some smoother transitions and some speed training on the bike. The crowd were awesome! South Wales has really embraced triathlons and the crowds at each triathlon really make the difference.
Liam still smiling at the finish line.
Did you learn anything along the way?
Because of the open water swimming, I’m much better in the cold water now. It was painful to begin with but you do get used to it. I’ve also learnt to listen to my body and swap the schedule around if I need to. And finally, to enjoy it. Training and competing is fun: have a smile on your face and don’t be too hard on yourself if it doesn’t go to plan.
Would you do it again?
Absolutely! I have another triathlon booked in a few weeks in Saundersfoot, Pembrokeshire. It’s a sprint version this time though — 750 m swim in the sea, 20 km on bike and a 5 km run. Maybe I’ll do a full Iron Man next year….
And finally, how does exercise fit into daily life at Digital Detox?
It’s essential to our business. We encourage everyone to take regular breaks from their work, to pursue their hobbies and to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Physical exercise has been proven to help reduce stress, contribute to well-being and mental health. I’m not sure I could do my job without regular exercise — I try to do something every day.
Thanks for sharing, Liam! It’s inspiring — and vital- to see our leaders provide good examples of work-life balance: Not just talking the talk of, but walking the walk. Or in this instance, running, cycling and swimming it…