He is the only Portuguese athlete to ever win an official Ironman competition
Ironman Pedro Gomes shares his triathlon training tips for the UAE
Pedro Gomes is a pro-fessional triathlete who has focused on long-course racing for more than 10 years, and is also a certified triathlon coach. Coming from a non-sporting background and working his way to the top of his sport through a combination of consistency, patience and hard work, Gomes is still the only Portuguese athlete to win an Ironman event, in Sweden, in 2013. He currently lives between the United Kingdom and Dubai.
You’re a triathlete who has enjoyed success at an international level. How did you get into the sport and when did you realise you could be good at it?
My dad sent me to swim school when he realised I was gaining weight and living a really unhealthy lifestyle. It took me quite a few years to grow a love for sports in general. Triathlon came disguised as a challenge organised
by my swim club. There was never a point where I realised I could become good at the sport; it was just a natural progression of working harder and results starting to appear.
How do you cope with training in the UAE?
I must say it’s a lot more challenging than I expected, mostly due to the high humidity. I used to live in another desert, in Arizona in the United States, but in Dubai it’s more difficult to keep up, with the amount of water/sweat you lose during any outdoor effort. I’m always very aware of that and never forget to drink a lot during my workouts, and to go into the session properly hydrated. In the UAE, you don’t just drink when you are thirsty; you just drink as much as you can.
If people are looking to get into triathlons, what are some of the tips you’d offer?
Find a group, use it to stay committed and push yourself. Surround yourself with other individuals in the “same boat” and mimic their best behaviours. Be patient. As with any endurance sport, it takes time to build your engine, so don’t self-impose pressure or deadlines on yourself. Above all, it’s still about having fun and enjoying the process.
What are the essentials that you need for a triathlon?
Heart rate monitor, a clean, comfortable and fast bike, compression socks, good running shoes and coffee.
A lot of people have mental blocks when it comes to swimming. What would you suggest?
Group swimming and practice. The mental blocks happen mostly with open-water swimming, which I know can be challenging as I use to fear it myself. However, practice makes perfect, and with open-water swimming, the more frequently you do it, the more comfortable you are with it. Beyond the swimming itself, practice sighting: find something to swim to, like a building, a landmark or a buoy. I have found that having a target to swim towards, helps keep your mind focused on it and away from all the dark thoughts that may pop up during an open-water session.
Can adults become good swimmers, too? If so, where should they start?
Obviously they should start with proper form and technique. Once you make it across a 25-metre pool, focus on getting across faster and more efficiently. Work on body position, breathing, reducing drag and a proper front pull. Having someone look at your technique once a week makes a big difference to helping you improve. A famous Olympic swimmer once said: “I think of my form on every single stroke, when warming-up, when sprinting, when relaxing.” And if you are an Olympic swimmer, you swim a lot of strokes per day – imagine how many times he thought about it.
What do you think the benefits of swimming are?
At young ages, it helps you build the aerobic engine that may allow you to get into any other endurance sport as an adult; besides, it helps with the proper development of the soft tissue in your body.
How important is nutrition to people doing varying degrees of exercise?
Think of your body as a race car: it doesn’t go anywhere without gas. The body is a machine and works along the same lines: you need gas to run, and you continuously need to fill up the tank as you keep on going. People often forget how hydration is a key factor in the nutrition bag: they put too much focus on carbs or calories, and they tend to forget that for every molecule of carbs, you need two of water to store it and use it. So if you only focus on calories and carbs, and forget to pair it with proper hydration, you will not be able to use that energy.