When the then 34-year-old Todd Gilmore decided to make a life change, it wasn’t because of any sudden, thunderbolt-like moment of clarity. Weighing 92kg and living the oil-and-gas industry lifestyle, the reason was far more simple.
“It was my brother,” says the Canadian-born engineer who has now spent 14 years living in Vietnam. “It had been a year since I last saw him. He had dropped 10kg and was looking really good. I figured if he can do it so can I.”
Now, 11 years later the serial triathlete and Ironman-certified coach spends much of his time either training for triathlons or coaching others to compete in one of the most gruelling sports around. It was a transformation that took years.
“I started with one hour [a day] on an elliptical cross trainer and a few swims a week,” he recalls. “My initial weight loss diet was the Atkins diet. I did an extreme version of it with no sugar, carbs and alcohol. I ate the same eggs, salads and protein meals for six weeks. I dropped weight fast as I was exercising as well.”
Four years in and despite having adjusted his diet and exercise habits, he was struggling. He needed something new to aim for. This changed in early 2009.
“A friend of mine challenged me to do a local triathlon in Mui Ne,” he says. “It was a ‘you train I’ll train’ type of gamble. I bought a bike only a week before the race and I did all my training in a gym. [During the triathlon] I went from nearly last out of the water to sixth in a small field. After this, a different friend said, let’s go and do the Singapore Ironman 70.3. I registered without knowing any distances or the needs and training required to finish.”
After that he was hooked. He now races between two and five triathlons a year.
For Todd, the key motivator is having strong goals.
“Goals are what motivate many people,” he explains. “Often a personal goal of reaching a certain weight or crossing a finish line results in the ‘what-to-do-after’ syndrome. This is why it is so common for people to gain weight again. Steady exercise with additional finish line plans keeps an individual active and moving forward.”
Reminding himself of his goals is also what keeps him motivated when he struggles to keep up his gruelling training regime. With one day of rest, every week he trains 10 times. Each triathlon discipline — running, swimming and cycling — gets three sessions a week, while the final session is devoted either to strength training or Pilates.
“Six early mornings [a week] and most lunches are spent exercising,” he says. “I have also done a lot of commuting by bike or foot rather than waste 30-plus minutes in a car.”
He adds: “The habit of exercise has become a food habit as well about when to eat, and what to have. I often schedule snacks or meals or my training to get the most out of [my diet].”
From Competitor to Coach
With the oil and gas industry in slowdown, in early 2016 Todd started coaching and took his Ironman certifications. Working first with three athletes, he now has 10 triathletes on his books “with room for more”.
“The coaching is emotionally rewarding,” he says, “but not necessarily financially so. I am working on this and a few other means as the growth of endurance sports in Asia is significant.”
As for giving advice to would-be triathletes, Todd is clear that the issue is motivation.
“The sport can be intimidating from the distances and the three-sport equation,” he explains. “Get a coach, team or mentor, or even all three. If you can easily motivate yourself, a coach may be all you need. If you need the accountability of a group or team, then seek that out as well.”
Photos by Mike Palumbo
To read more stories about people who have made substantial personal change, click on the following links:
Todd Gilmore, The Triathlete
Sophie Pham, The Introvert
Ha Minh, The Woman
Laura Sheehan, The Mentor
Robin Babu, The Fitness Dude
Sheereen Amran, The Pastry Chef
Mitch Brookman, The Hairdresser
To read about some ideas for personal change, click on the following links:
Get Into Stand-Up Comedy
Take Art Classes
Get Professional Help
Nutrition and Vietnamese Food
The Power of Habit