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Be the Best You Can Be – Iron Us

February 8, 2024  |  by Juan Christian

Iron Man

Have you ever woken up in the morning and thought, I’m going to do a half Iron Man and raise money for Isle Listen? Nope me neither. But James Hammal and Alec Kneen did. And I mistakenly joined them for a chance to take a sneaky peak at their training program. Yay me…

I remember it like it was yesterday.

It was a glorious Saturday morning, dark and brooding with the smell of pain in the air. I leapt outta my lovely warm comfy bed, with one eye on the clock, 6am it smiled at me. I dragged myself downstairs, took my dogs out, fed my flock of cats and headed towards my annual Park Run. Scared and nervous, I met James and Alec in the same spot as last year and off we trundled for the 5k stomp around Nobles Park.

What lay ahead of me was a glorious experience. For those not familiar with a half Iron Man, it’s a 1.2 mile fresh or sea water swim, 13.1 mile run and a 56 mile ride, on a bike, not a motor bike, a push bike!

The pair have been training for 12 weeks, both already incredibly healthy. James is a very well respected PT, Thrive Health and Fitness and Alec has made a name for himself on the Manx roads on two wheels. So it came of no surprise when they approached Isle listen and offered their pains as our gains. The dedication they have shown to the cause has already humbled us, and the pain they had in store for me was delightful. 800cal challenge. Assault bike ( clue is in the name ) 3mins, ski erg, 3mins rest till we hit 800cal.

Wow…. suddenly it all made sense. At Isle Listen we advocate fitness, working as a team and social activities, things that release those all important chemicals that bring us to the light side. Suddenly, gasping for air on the floor of James home gym, I saw the light, not that light, the ‘I did it’ light!! I went toe to toe with my two fittest friends and didn’t end up in the back of an ambulance. When the dopamine and serotonin was rushing around my body and the norepinephrine was settling my brain. I felt alive. Like proper. 

Its proven that exercise can improve our metal health, we all know that the hormones released make us feel better but it can also improve parts of our brain, in some studies anyway. Studies and research on longtails have shown more physical activity helped develop neural connections in their Hipposcampus, the part of the brain we use for learning and long term memories. Some would say that exercise could help you regain your memory and help us learn like Rain Man, others would disagree, either way there’s nothing wrong with exercise, and it doesn’t matter where you start. We often refer to the BioPsychoSocial model by George Engle, the social, physical and psychological boxes we’ve committed to here and very psycho text book.

Exercise is more than busting your guts like this, it just so happens its what they chose for me, at this time. Both Alec and James have families, Exercise is something very important to them both, cycling, running, walking is on the table for these boys, not just high intensity work outs that we had just done.

Once we retired to the ice bin and hot tub, I was able to ask why exercise is important to them both.

Not long ago, James was on the other end of a disk replacement in his lower back. Years of pain management and recovery procedures weren’t enough.

Keeping a positive attitude and setting an achievable plan was James’s ethos, focusing on what you can do and not what you can’t do kept the darker times away. Walking was key to his recovery. As soon as he could he walked as much as he could till eventually his target was an half Iron Man.

In society we are constantly hounded by what society wants us to be, James talked openly about being the best he could be. With managing his mental health, he listened to positive pod casts that helped him keep his mind in the right place. 

Tools such as his ice bin and doing what he was capable of, kept him resilient and positive. Prioritising self care tasks like walking, mindfulness and going to the gym helped promote other healthy habits. There are so many little things we can do to help ourselves, cutting back on inflammatory foods such as refined sugar and processed foods helping join movement and your recovery from exercise all make the smallest difference between a good day and a bad day.

Alec stated, ‘It’s been good to focus on getting out the house for 30 mins in the evening or at the weekend (even in the winter), to break up a day when you can be at an office or working from home for 7, 8 or 9 hours. It’s nice to just grab my headphones, and have a walk or a run to clear or reset my thoughts before grabbing some food/getting some sleep. Sometimes (quite often) balancing life at home does take a little bit of forward planning.’

Both James and Alec are fathers, and sport is a great tool for them both to get kids away from the vices ( we all have them ) of games and life indoors. ‘Working around kids, family and friends, can be done if you can plan exercise with them, it gives you all a bit of time to get out in the fresh air. They’ll jump on their bikes if I say “let’s go for a run”, or I’ll swim with one of them while the other has a swimming lesson.’

That is a wise statement, when I was a lad, football, rugby and running were key aspects of a healthy social life. As we get older, those times seem to become rarer and rarer, and its days like we had for this article, that it hits home. It’s worth a bit of forward thinking and planning if you want to see your friends more. Even if they did try to kill me.

I’m very proud that these boys are undertaking such a challenge, but its not for everyone. Seeing your friends for a good old cuppa and a walk around our beautiful coast can make you feel incredible! To quote my old friend Hambo, just try to be the best you can be, and you will do just fine. One foot in front of another.

For Further information on the OutLaw Iron Man click the link below

Outlaw Triathlon – The UK’s favourite long distance triathlon series

To support the lads cause, donate via the link below


To Donate directly to us, click the link below

Donate to Isle Listen

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