We’re Inspired By – Grant Barnett
Grant Barnett tells us his inspirational story about how he used triathlon to get back into shape.
Grant used triathlon to lose weight and feel fitter
My 40th birthday last year was a horrible day. It was the moment I awoke to the fact that over the previous 15 years I’d let myself go.
In my 20s I used to do a lot of sport – I played rugby for the Bath development team. But when I met my girlfriend I thought it would be nice to do something other than playing rugby, lifting weights and running, which I’d been doing since I was 13. So I just stopped. I didn’t do anything outside of work except drink, smoke and eat curry. All of which obviously had repercussions on my body.
I’d always been a big guy so I guessed my weight was about 15 or 16 stone. But my wife suggested we buy some scales to find out for certain. When I stepped on them, they stopped at 25st 10lb (160kg). I thought, “that can’t be right,” so I climbed off and tried again. And again. And again. It was the same every time: 25st 10lb.
It was a number I knew I needed to do something about but at that stage a triathlon was the last thing on my mind.
When I hit 40 I decided to cut the booze and snacks. But I was finding it very difficult so for Christmas 2011 I got myself a personal trainer.
By the end of January I’d lost just over a stone (6kg). I was still going out with friends but instead of drinking alcohol, I’d have sparkling water. And despite everyone telling me I’d be better off with a mountain bike, I bought a road bike and started riding as well as working out with my personal trainer Jeremy Bingham.
The first few rides were fairly modest: just 10 miles. But they soon built up to 15 and then 20 miles and nobody died. They were strenuous to begin with, especially as I’m no fan of hills, but all of a sudden the work, the diet, the lifestyle started to kick in and I think that’s what kept me going.
Jeremy kept asking what was motivating this change – what’s my goal? And that’s when I thought about triathlon. I used to do them in my 20s so why not try one again. There was one in Gloucester at the end of May and I reckoned I could do the 400m swim and I could definitely ride 28km. I thought the 6km run would be the real killer but if I couldn’t run it, I’d certainly be able to walk it. All I had to do was finish.
So, perhaps foolishly, at the beginning of February I put my name down for the race. After that, my aim was to keep on losing weight while training for the triathlon, increasing my fitness but also working on my endurance. Most of my training was done on the treadmill and by riding on Sundays and a couple of times during the week. Rather arrogantly, I’d always thought I was quite a good swimmer so I only did a couple sessions in the local 25m pool. I managed to cover 400m in under 14 minutes so I knew I could do the swim part of the race come the day of the event.
On race day, I went out too fast and had to stop myself from vomiting just two lengths in. I remember thinking, “they’ll pull you out of the race if you vomit so just calm down a bit.” Despite calming down a little I still did the swim in 11mins 13secs. It was a ridiculously fast time for me and left me crucified for the transition to the bike.
Luckily the bike course followed the same route as my Sunday rides so I was familiar with it. I even managed to overtake a couple of people on the second lap which, for someone who weighed almost 23st (145kg) at the time, was a great motivator. After that was the run, which was simply a case of getting round.
I must have caught the triathlon bug because it wasn’t long before I signed up for the Cotswold Sprint Triathlon in September. The difference this time, however, was that it involved a swim in open water so I thought I’d better get some practice in.
Looking to the future – Grant hopes to complete an Ironman one day
A call to a local triathlon shop led me to a lake in Cirencester for a training session and a chance to try out swimming in a triathlon wetsuit – after I’d been convinced it would be a wiser option than simply making do with my surfing one. I thought I’d be one of only a few people attending but it turned out to be the triathlon training centre for Gloucestershire and Wiltshire. There were all these fantastically fit people with M-Dot tattoos diving into the freezing lake and then swimming around a marker buoy dozens of times before climbing out and jumping straight on their bikes. And there I was squeezing myself into a wetsuit and trying to convince myself the water wasn’t too cold.
I liked swimming in open water – sort of – but I quickly realised I’d need to improve my stroke. And that’s what led me to booking some coaching in Majorca with Nick Kinsey.
During my trip to the Spanish island, Nick took me swimming in the sea and riding up among the fig, olive and almond trees on the hillsides. We started climbing up one hill and after what felt like the third hairpin, I told Nick I was knackered. He said not to worry as we were about a third of the way up, which very soon turned out to be a barefaced lie. But when we finally reached the top it was spectacular. It was the best ride I’ve ever done – we did about 50 miles in the end and it was awesome.
Now I weigh about 20st 8lb (130kg). I’ve lost a lot of weight but as I’m 5ft 10in (1.76m) I’m still heavy. I work in sales, an area where you’re only ever as good as the last thing you did, and that approach has helped me with my weight loss and triathlon training. So the next challenge I’m taking on is improving my open-water swimming. I want to get the stroke right so I can slip through the water more easily. I also want to get quicker at running 5km and have a crack at 10km. Looking further ahead, I want to do a middle-distance triathlon and maybe even an Ironman in a year or two. I’m going to do a couple of sprint triathlons in 2013 and I’d like to do an Olympic- distance race too because that’s the next logical step.
People say to me “you must be really proud,” but to be honest, I’m not. I’m excited about what I’m doing but I’m not proud of myself. I’m furious that I let it get to this stage in the first place and frustrated that it’s taking so long to get to where I want to be. I’m impatient with my progress but also galvanised by it because this time last year I could barely get on a treadmill, let alone run for three miles (5km) on one. I couldn’t jump on a bike and ride 60 miles (100km). In Majorca, I was swimming a couple of miles every time I got in the sea. A year ago that would’ve been unheard of.
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on Sunday, December 23rd, 2012 at 5:30 am under Magazine.
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