August 19, 2008

Multisport Athlete Tunes Body and Mind for Big Race

By GIBBS, Peter

There's a fine line between obsession and dedication and multisport athlete Luke Chapman walks that line pretty closely. When he was 16, he had the Coast to Coast entry form pinned to his bedroom wall.

The boy from Whangaparaoa, north of Auckland, had the beach at his doorstep and loved nothing more than to go out and paddle in a good storm, or to run around the rocks. He had a paper run, but a lousy bike, so ran up the hills because he was too impatient to walk.

He joined the Red Beach Surf Club at 20 and refined his paddling skills, often in the wake of Olympian Erin Taylor and other top paddlers.

In his first multisport event, Son of Moehau, he surprised everyone, including himself, by finishing second.

The next step was to get closer to the terrain of the Coast to Coast, so he moved to Nelson.

At the age of 24, Chapman is a geotechnical engineer, working for Nelson company Tonkin and Taylor. The Coast to Coast dream is still alive, but now he has a 14th place in that race (2007) behind him and a couple of victories in Nelson's Kahurangi multisport event across the Tablelands, the Cobb Lake and the Takaka Hill.

Chapman thinks that now's the time for a reality check. How well could he really do in the race that's billed as the world championship in multisport if he dedicated himself to some solid preparation?

He decided he needed a more structured programme to prepare and a more holistic attitude, where it wasn't just the physical effort that got him there.

"The biggest thing is the necessity for balance in a good performance. By balance I mean being competent physically and emotionally. I've seen myself how even if I'm fit, if I'm nervous and not prepared emotionally, I won't be able to use the training that I've done. If you look to top sportpeople who have choked or not performed as well as they should have, I think it almost invariably comes down to a lack of balance.

"I feel that now with a couple of years behind me of reasonably solid training, I'm not at the stage to win Coast, but I am at the stage where I can really handle a good volume of training and step up from where I have been before.

"In terms of what I've learnt with training . . . you need a good base. Coast to Coast is all about strength, endurance and being able to utilise fat for fuel. To train hard you need to recover harder - basically what everyone keeps telling you."

Chapman has gathered together a team of sponsors that includes R & R Sport and CLM Fitness and has back-up support from osteopath Liz Stroud, whom he credits with healing hands.

For the next month, he'll be back to basics.

"Training over the next month is centred around building a good base and further developing my running. As I see it, Coast to Coast is about putting in a good run but coming off the hill fresh enough that you can have a good paddle and final cycle. So I've really been working on my running for the past 6 weeks.

"I'll be doing a lot of steady paced work to develop my aerobic system. I'll be doing some heavy weights in the gym, core strength and yoga for injury prevention.

"I'm changing my diet so I eat more good fats and protein and less carbohydrates. This is key to ensuring that your body becomes good at burning fats (for a race like Coast to Coast or Ironman, the difference between the top guys and the rest is the amount of energy their bodies are able to derive from fat), I eat very little sugar and processed carbs. Plenty of fruits and vegetables."

Over the coming months, the Fitness Zone will follow Luke Chapman's progress as he builds towards the Coast to Coast in February.


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