Name: Stef Economides
Nationality: British
Age: 55 years old
Profession: Sales Manager, Challenging Adventure

Stef Economides’ best memories date back to his first Ironman in Sweden. A triathlete who thought he would never be able to do an Ironman (combo of swimming 3.8km, cycling 180km and running 42.2km) after he suffered a shoulder injury trained for two years to get the mobility back and finally made it to the event. For him, running down the finishing chute with the brilliant supporters cheering on, is just the best feeling ever!

Stef EconomidesWhat does triathlon mean to you?
Triathlon is a way of life. The training means you have to stay focused and driven, even if you don’t feel like getting out of bed at 4am before work or go to the pool later in the evening. It’s a brilliant way to keep the weight down, stay fit and generally feel good about yourself. You have more energy and a positive outlook as a result. The social life and networking is great too and it’s a very supportive and inclusive sport for people of all abilities.

Stef EconomidesWhat has kept you hooked to triathlons?
I did my first triathlon in the mid-90s as a step-up from marathon running. I felt I wanted a new challenge and entered the London Triathlon without knowing how to swim! I had about six months to learn and worked hard at it, but failed to put up a satisfactory performance, particularly in the swim part of the event. I was hooked though and stuck with it for a few years before personal circumstances took me away from the sport for what ended up being quite a long time.

Stef Economides What does your training involve?
A proper training regime is vital, whether you’re trying to win a race, beat a personal best time, qualify for the World Championships or even just complete the race distance. Fitting two sessions a day around work and home life is often difficult, but this is the reason for participating in a race or even just doing a triathlon! So as triathletes, we ensure we can do our training despite everything that life throws at us. I remember being inspired by Chef Gordon Ramsay, who obviously has a ridiculously busy life but still manages to fit in his marathon training…..he just gets up at 4am every day to do it! My weekly training schedule is anywhere from 9 -14 hours and usually consists of 3 swims sessions, 3 run sessions and 3 bike rides. There are also some general strength, conditioning and flexibility sessions to help keep injuries at bay and in my case, hold back the ageing process! All the sessions are designed to help build a mixture of speed, endurance and technique. They are intense enough to progress, but not so hard that you over-train and get ill or injured.

Stef EconomidesAny challenges that you might have faced?
My biggest challenge comes from injuries which have dogged me for a long while .To say, it is frustrating would be a massive understatement especially as one of the keys to being progressively faster or stronger is consistent training, something I just don’t seem to be able to achieve. Trying to work through the problem has helped me to stay focussed during the long breaks away from full training. Over the past 14 months, I’ve been doing up to one and a half hours a day of strengthening and stretching exercises which has definitely helped to build stability in key areas and also to keep me relatively sane!

Stef EconomidesWhich events are you looking forward to?
Next up for me is Bahrain 70.3 in November, as long as I can stay fit and healthy of course. There are some really amazing triathletes here in Dubai, I’m certainly not one of them but I would like to put in a good showing in my age group. I did the event three years ago and enjoyed it tremendously so am very much looking forward to going back to see what I can do this time around. For next year, I plan to do a couple more 70.3 (half-Ironman) distance races and then maybe the following year have another go at the full distance Ironman. The training for that is such that it really calls for a big commitment so it’s not a decision to take lightly.

Stef EconomidesHow have triathlons impacted your personality?
Working very hard to reach a goal always gives me a great sense of satisfaction and often, the bigger the challenge, the bigger the sense of achievement you feel. Triathlon has helped me stay focussed and driven. There are a lot of hurdles in life and being involved in the sport has helped me to learn how not give up so you can overcome problems and take on a “can-do” attitude to things. Once you’ve done an Ironman, you feel like you can achieve just about anything.

Stef Economides
You have been lucky enough to visit a few countries for Triathlons. How is UAE as a ground for a triathlon?
There are so many races around the world that I’d love to do but as is often the case, time and money are restrictive factors. However, I have raced in Sweden, Austria, South Africa, Vietnam, Indonesia, Bahrain, Italy, with Sri Lanka and Spain possibly on the list for 2018. The UAE has fantastic facilities for Triathlon and the sport is understandably quite popular here.

Stef EconomidesAny words of advice for readers contemplating Triathlon?
Triathlon is fun! It’s a sport that suits all abilities and by mixing three sports (running, cycling and swimming) into one, helps maintain a healthy lifestyle. Ironman is swimming 3.8km, then cycling 180km then running 42.2km. Honestly, if I can do it then anyone can, really. Give it a try and you’ll surprise yourself as to what you can achieve. You need some equipment to start out but don’t need to buy a fancy bike or spend a lot of money to enjoy the sport. Triathlon is inclusive, supportive and friendly, especially here in the UAE, so you’ll have all the help you need to get you going. We were all beginners once and definitely know how it feels to start out! The best thing to do is to get a coach who will build structure into your training, which will repay you in bucket-loads. ■

Words by: Bandana Jain
Photos by: Supplied