If you didn’t know already, I’ve moved to New Zealand; more specifically to Hamilton for a position at WINTEC alongside a great team. I’ve been encouraged to write this post my new boss and our Centre Director Greg Smith (check out his article on head injury, rugby and his playing career), this blog will be different to the sports science, product reviews and interviews I’ve written previously and reflect on the move, the change and look ahead to antipodean adventure…this may be a long one, so I’d grab a cup of tea first!
It all began in a Durham University lecture theatre. I’d been working as a part-time tutor on the Medicine in the Community strand and was attending a lecture on ‘The Researcher as an Explorer’, naturally local lad and hero Captain James Cook (below) was provided as the example. Sitting there, espresso by my side, this stood out to me. I’d been toying with the idea of applying for jobs to gain interview experience and as an incentive to finish my PhD, what had I got to lose by looking on the other side of the world for opportunities? Australia and New Zealand have been producing great sports scientists and research for a while now, but in Australia one typically needs to be a dietician to work with athletes and their nutrition. With generations of strong athletes and beautiful scenery by the bucketload New Zealand it was, and New Zealand it is!
The move hasn’t been without it’s hiccups, but with a marriage in the middle, I can now say Alice and I are settled here in Hamilton and are fully immersing ourselves in New Zealand life and with a great team of colleagues, it’s a pleasure to work in a place where there is a buzz and a desire to succeed at work every day. I’ve had great conversations with all the staff here, everyone’s opinion and background is different, and all are immersed in practice in their own way too. It’s pretty cool to be part of a team that have a fantastic future ahead of us.
I’m employed as an academic staff member, delivering on modules that cover Biochemistry, Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. Taking charge of modules and trying to find ways to push and progress students has been very rewarding. I was fortunately left a lot of content by the previous staff member so have largely been updating, reformatting and trying to make the content relevant to life outside of the lecture theatre. What we learn in the lab must transfer to the training field, gym or even kitchen to best serve our students and future practitioners.
On this note, my progression depends on building relationships and innovation. We’re currently approaching other departments within WINTEC and external bodies and businesses to arrange student placements, visits and up-skilling. I’m hoping that in a year’s time I’ve made an impact on my modules, and taken the first steps into making our sports nutrition pathway the best in the country.
I’m still ticking away with my PhD whilst I’m here. Currently I try and dedicate at least 1 full day per week to my research, with other free time dedicated to students’ projects. I’m currently supervising projects that are assessing nutrition and supplementation attitudes in both codes of Rugby, as well an intervention study in Waka Ama time trial performance. Most recently, we gathered some of this data at a NZ Rugby League U16/U18 selection camp where I also presented, and prepared recovery nutrition.
Alongside my research commitments we have recently ‘launched’ an Applied Practice Group. The response has been great so far, but we are looking to extend this beyond an in-house meeting of the minds and invite guest speakers, other PhD candidates, post-graduates, coaches, athletes etc. as things progress. We are also hoping to live stream this online. If you’d like to know more, or can think of anyone who might please drop me an email at Russell.Best@wintec.ac.nz
Finally, onwards to running. Hamilton has a great heritage in Hamilton City Hawks; the club house wall boasts names such as Dick Quax, Dave Moorcroft, and the Robertson twins. The club also hosts the esteemed Round the Bridges race, established in 1945, which I look forward to running this year as my hero Sir Peter Snell KNZM OBE is a former winner (for a brief overview click here; more in depth video doc here. On a personal note, my short term goals are to prepare for the Christchurch and Wellington Half marathons. These races are both of a great calibre, and despite only being two weeks apart I feel they are a great way to get into New Zealand racing.
Training has been pretty basic up until now, focusing on conditioning (gym 2-3 times per week), consistent mileage and progressing long runs. Now into a more dynamic phase of training I’ll build to 90-100miles per week, with 2 big volume days per week, 1 Kenyan Hill session and a series of progressive sessions. These sessions will be preceded by 60mins of running at 6:30-6:40 mile pace or 4:05-4:10 per km:
2-3 x 5km off 3min recovery
1 x 10km + 1x5km off 3min recovery
2 x 10km off 3min recovery
The idea being that one gets accustomed to running on tired legs, yet still hitting a consistent pace. I feel these sessions really replicate the need to maintain pace under fatigue in the latter stages of any distance race and are good mental callousing too – I’ve pinched that term from this great book
Until next time…