The Physical Performance Show: Episode 1 Ironman Champion Ali Day

 In Podcast (The Physical Performance Show)


To inspire people to achieve their physical best performance through

candid interviews with the world’s best and most inspiring physical performers.


We delve into how top physical performers achieve success and the highs and lows of the journey in getting there.

Format: 45-60min interviews with the world’s leading and most inspiring physical performers.

Show Host

Brad Beer, Physiotherapist, Founder POGO Physio, Author Amazon Bestseller You CAN Run Pain Free!

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Episode 1: Ali Day- Ironman Champion

Brad Beer recently sat down with Ali Day Ironman Champion (2015 Coolangatta Gold Champion & 2014/15 Nutri Grain Champion) to record the first episode of our podcast ‘The Physical Performance Show’. Listen in as Brad deep dives into the highs & lows of Ali’s surf lifesaving ironman career to date.

To view the full recording see below (video)


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To listen to the full interview on I Tunes please click HERE>>



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Brad Beer: Welcome to the Physical Performance Show. The show designed to inspire the pursuit of your physical best performance. I’m your host, Brad Beer. Listen in as we delve into how the world’s top physical performers achieve their success, as well as the highs, the lows and the journey of getting there. Let’s get ready. Set. Let’s go.
Hi, guys, welcome to the very first episode of the Physical Performance Show, where we get behind the lives of top physical performers and we take a look at what it really takes to hit peak performance. Today, I’ve got the great pleasure and the exciting task of interviewing one of my favourite athletes on the scene. That’s Alastair Day, the current 2014-15 Nutrigrain Iron Man Series Champion and is certainly an Australian name on the rise. Ali, welcome along, mate, to the show.
Alastair Day: Thanks for having me, mate. I appreciate it.
Brad Beer: We’ve been talking about sitting down and having this chat for a little while now. I guess, I want to throw you a bit of a curly one right out of the gates, and that’s: what’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done in your life?
Alastair Day: Apart from this stuff, mate, it’s … The scariest thing I’ve done in my life … Probably racing, mate. I think that’s pretty scary, when you put so much training, and put so much effort into everything that you do. Then you line up on the start line. I find that pretty scary and pretty daunting, to tell you the truth, mate. From the occasional big wave or something like that, that and those things. Obviously doing this kind of stuff. When I was younger, I found it pretty hard to sort of be myself and be normal, I guess, around the media. That was always pretty hard from me.
Brad Beer: Well, that’s certainly an interesting point. It’s fascinating to hear you say that you compare media commitments in line with some of the big surf you’ve tackled. Let’s just dig a little bit deeper on that. What was it about the media stuff, as you’re a developing athlete, a name on the rise, coming through the ranks, that you found particularly daunting?
Alastair Day: I guess it’s just … Yeah, like the comparison. It’s obviously so different from being out in the surf to facing the media. I think it was just being brought up on the South Coast. I was pretty shy, and the rise for me, I went from being not so great as a junior athlete as an Iron Man, to just getting thrown straight in in the deep end, and just getting some pretty good results straight away. The success I had, I felt like it happened pretty quick, and it almost happened overnight. It was like I went from being not that great, to being thrown into the media, and learning how to deal with that, and getting that added expectation, that added pressure that the media and you put on yourself as an athlete.
I love doing it now. I said to you just before we turned the cameras on, I love dealing with the media now, because now I know what I sort of want to put out there, the message I want to put out there to fans, to my family, to kids that are watching on TV, or to whatever. I think that’s just because I’m happy for who I am, and for the purpose that I want to get out there, and the message I want to get out there at the end of the day. As I said, mate, I really enjoy it now.
Brad Beer: Ali, it’s interesting hearing that from you, because from an outsider looking in prior to us meeting, your character resonated … I think is very endearing on the screen and on different media bits that I’d viewed. It’s funny that you had a certain perception of being portrayed. I guess you being you, it has certainly made you one of the most endeared sports guys running around.
Alastair Day: Cheers mate.
Brad Beer: Ali, it’s just interesting, you sad there was a moment where you just got thrust into it. You felt like your career all of the sudden skyrocketed. What was that moment, what was that turning point?
Alastair Day: Yeah, it was kind of … I’ll go a little bit deeper. I obviously, around the ages of fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, where I guess other temptations come into your life, partying, girls, those sorts of things, other sports, for me especially, I had the opportunity to go play Footy, or run, or do some triathlons and things like that. I guess, through that age, there were those temptations, and at that age, I almost, I guess, fell to those temptations, just giving up what I wanted to do.
I stuck with it, and I think at the age of eighteen, or seventeen, eighteen, I won my first race at my home base down in Warilla. Yeah, I just almost felt like that year was a blur. I won the state title that year. The next year I qualified in the series, and as I sort of said, it just happened so fast for me. It was kind of like I went from being an average sort of competitor that was enjoying what I was doing, but at the same time had thoughts of doing other things, and quitting, and giving it away, and just having a normal life, you know? Doing an apprenticeship down in Kiama, surfing down there, that would still make me so happy as well. I think that’s probably what I would do if I wasn’t doing this right now. Yeah, as I said, it just happened almost overnight. I won that race. I think it was a huge shock for me. It was a huge shock for everyone, and then I guess I just went on to making the series the following year after. I think I was eighteen or nineteen, or something like that. Youngest guy in it, from a small town, not many people had heard from me or of me, but it was by far the greatest thing that’s happened to me, for sure.
Brad Beer: That race, just to be clear, that was the state titles, was it?
Alastair Day: Yeah, that was it. I won a few team races. Most kids growing up in our sport, most of the guys you see, I guess, in the professional series have won state titles from Nippers all the way through. I was kind of a bit different. I know there’s a few other people out there that have this similar sort of story to me. Growing up, I wasn’t a superstar from the moment I hit the water. It was something that I really had to work out at and get better at. I still believe that I’ve got so much to work on to get to where I sort of want to be, I guess.
Brad Beer: I’m going to be asking you about that as we go, for sure, where you want to be, where does Ali Day want to be? Ali, what was the conversation like in your head? When you were a teenager, you said you were thinking about, “Do I have to follow a normal career path in terms of apprenticeship, live on the South Coast, New South Wales, versus jumping over and really committing yourself to the pursuit of the professional sport and Iron Man. What was it like in your head at that stage? Was there two sides vying for your …
Alastair Day: Yeah, it was probably the first time that that peer pressure sort of affected me, I guess. A lot of my mates, and they’re still my best mates, were doing different things. Every now and then, you weren’t able to go to school camp, or go to this social event, or something like that, just because you were … You weren’t sacrificing it. You were going to a carnival, or you had to get up early the next day. You were missing out on those little bits and pieces. That kind of bothered me at the start. Towards the end, once I got on the series, it wasn’t … I don’t think it’s ever been a sacrifice. I don’t really believe in having to make a sacrifice, because what I get to do every day is something I love. Those two words don’t go together, love and sacrifice, do they, mate? It’s kind of what I get to do every day. I love it, and hopefully I can keep doing it forever.
As I said, in my mind, at that period, it was kind of like the good and the bad sort of thing. “You should go to this,” or “You should go do that,” or “You should give up on yourself,” or “Don’t give up on yourself, Ali.” At that time, I had, obviously, some great mentors around me. A few real old school sort of coaches at that time, and they were awesome. They were just like, “Ali, if you want to do what you want to do, you have to work hard.” Honestly, it was like the same as making the series, it just almost happened overnight.
There was a 400 meter race at swim club one night, and I was racing my big brother and a few other guys that were in the A lane at swimming. I was in the B lane, and I was mucking around. My coach grabbed me, and I was swimming in lane A, and he was like, “Come on Ali, have a crack at this.” I had a real crack, and I ended up winning that 400. It was a small victory for me, but it was one of those light bulb moments where the light bulb went on in my head. I was kind of like, “You know what? If I work harder than anyone else. That makes sense. If I work harder than everyone else, I’m going to turn up to a race, and I’m going to have just as much chance as doing as well as what they do, don’t I?” As I said, I had some great mentors at that age. That kind of really didn’t make sense, mate, but yeah, that was kind of what happened for me.
Brad Beer: That’s interesting. That 400 meter freestyle, it was in the pool, wasn’t it?
Alastair Day: Yeah.
Brad Beer: You raced your brother?
Alastair Day: Yeah.
Brad Beer: Your brother is how old?
Alastair Day: I’m twenty-five, Blair’s twenty-eight. He was a fish when he was younger. He was in the A lane. I used to chase him around, obviously, in the pool, running in the surf. Everything we did, we weren’t competitive with each other, but I looked up to him, and we’ve still got such a close relationship. He’s been handling for me for the past seven years or something now, which is really … I think it’s really special that we both can share that together. I’ve got a lot to thank him for, obviously, for letting me win that 400 free that day.
Brad Beer: There you go, Blair, there’s a plug for you, mate. Well done. Those mentors you mentioned, can you tell us a bit more about those guys? You said your swimming coach, and who else was involved?
Alastair Day: Yeah, I had a great … Through that period of training down the South Coast, I had a great swimming coach at the time, Brian Walker, that was a teacher as well at the time. He was more of a great man, manager, I guess. I was young at that age. He taught my brother a lot about discipline and respect, and doing the right thing by others, and things like that. That sort of rubbed off on Blair, and that rubbed off on me.
I had a coach in the surf, Marty Smith, that was just a dad that would come down a few afternoons a week. He was just tough as nails. I’ve got a lot to thank him for. He was … At the time, a few of us would complain … Not complain, but, “far out Marty, what are you making us do this for?” I look back on it now, and he worked us really, really hard. He was great.
I had an awesome swim coach also at that time, after I left Brian, in Mick McKean. His brother Ron’s in the Australian … What would it be … His nephews Emma McKean and Dave McKean are in the Australian swim team now. I was coached by Mick at that time, and he sort of really helped me when I first came onto the scene in the Kellogs. Once again, I’m from the South Coast, so really tough … I really enjoyed those three guys as my coaches at that period.
Brad Beer: So that took you right up to the start of the professional life, so to speak, the Nutrigrain series. From there, what happened from there? My understanding is you somehow then found your way from the South Coast and New South Wales. You’re in Australia, too … The Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. Can you unpack that transition period and what that was like? I presume you left family, Mum and Dad, on the South Coast to go North as a fairly young guy.
Alastair Day: Yeah, I did. The goal was always to make the series. That’s all I wanted to do, mate. Then I made it. I had one crack at it when I was just finished school, I think, and just missed out. The following year, under the guidance of those coaches, Mick and Marty down at home, I qualified. I think the first year I got a sixth. The year after, I got a seventh. Throughout that time, I became close with Kingy, Michael King, up in the Sunshine Coast. I went up a few times and did a couple of weeks training up there, stayed with him. I think that second year, throughout the series, I got a seventh. Me and Kingy grew closer as friends. We spoke a lot more on the phone. After the Australian titles that year, I think I had a pretty crappy finish, I think tenth or eleventh or something in the Australian Iron Man final which is still amazing, but I knew I could do better. I think, honestly, that was the Sunday afternoon that my mother rang Kingy. Kingy flew down. He met Mum and Dad in Bondi or something like that. We chatted, and then I moved up pretty much. I did four years up there with Kingy, and they were some of the best four years of my life.
Brad Beer: That was in Mooloolaba?
Alastair Day: Yeah.
Brad Beer: Mooloolaba surf club. Prior to that, your only club had been …
Alastair Day: I started as a Nipper in Kiama for the first couple of years. I started as an eight year old, or something like that, to the under tens or under nines or something, and then, yeah I moved fifteen minutes up the road, heading north to Warilla. We just went up there because there was more teams. There was more opportunity for training purposes and things like that. Then I moved onto Mooloolaba.
Brad Beer: What was the shift up? You were how old at this time?
Alastair Day: Just turned twenty, or turning twenty-one. I was turning twenty-one. That was my first year at the surf club there on the Sunshine Coast.
Brad Beer: You just finished the Aussie titles tenth, the Australian surf lifesaving titles, Iron man race, and the series was that year? How did you go in the series that year, your debut year?
Alastair Day: Debut year, I got sick. I qualified by one point. I got into the series the following year, which I thought was awesome. I didn’t really deserve it, but I took it. Back then, they only took six through, and I think the first few guys were … Shannon, Zane, Kai … I got through in six. A kid from … A nineteen year old from the South Coast, which I thought was pretty special to me. Obviously, yeah, I did that. The following year, I backed it up, and I got a seventh in the series and got through again, because they were taking eight through that year. I guess as an athlete, and as a human being, you always want to see where you can get to. As I said, I built that relationship with Kingy. Mum and Dad were kind of like, “I think you should pursue it, and I think you should go up and see where you can get to.” The following year, I led the series the whole way through until the last race, and Caine, next time, got me in that year. It was one of my favourite years because I had no pressure, no expectation on me. It was just a really fun year for me.
Brad Beer: That was what year, what series was that? That was around 2000 …
Alastair Day: 2012 maybe? 2012-2013.
Brad Beer: Was that the final at Noosa?
Alastair Day: Yeah, it was a really hot round at Noosa and Cain deserved to win that year. He was incredible. It was one of the hardest years I’ve ever raced in the series, just because six different races, six different locations, so many different weathers and surf conditions, and things like that. He was just incredible that day.
It was awesome for me. That sixth, the seventh, and then the year after, I got second. It was kind of like, “Oh, yes, I’ve made the right decision, and everything’s paying off for me.”
Brad Beer: It was validating for your efforts and your decision to pursue it. What was the emotion around standing on the podium at the end of the series? You’ve, as any athlete does, sacrificed in terms of the other career paths to put it all on the line. Was that a real moment of, “I can do this, I’m where I’m meant to be?”
Alastair Day: Yeah, it was. It was a huge … I’ll admit, when I was at school, I wasn’t the sharpest. I think that was because I probably wasn’t putting much time and effort into it. At that time, I didn’t realise what discipline and what hard work was. I wasn’t interested in it.
Brad Beer: You were raised in the surf, mate.
Alastair Day: Yeah, I was interested in sport. I was so interested in footy, and running, and doing extracurricular activities outside of school. When I did get second that year, and I led the whole way through, and there was quite a bit of media behind it. It was kind of like, “Wow.” It did. It validated what I was doing the sport for, and all those … It was hard, because at that time, a lot of … What happens if it didn’t pay off? What happens if it didn’t work? There’s all those sorts of things that run through your mind. I guess you’ve just got to … You can’t think about that failure. You’ve just got to go, and do it. If you fail, you fail. It’s fine. You learn more from your failures than from your triumphs, I believe.
That year, everyone’s like, “Oh you must be so disappointed that you got second.” I was like, “No way! I got second. I don’t think I’ll ever do any better.” It was just a really proud moment for me, and obviously a huge moment for my family as well. I’ve got to give my Mum and Dad … They were awesome that year. They always have been awesome. They’ve never forced me to go do something or try something. They were always behind me, and they still are now. I think it’s pretty cool.
Brad Beer: Good on Mr. And Mrs. Day. I actually met your dad, and your Mum on the weekend, it was great, at the most recent round of the series. Ali, certainly it’s something I know I admire about you, and I know many others that follow you through the sport do, and that is your attitude. You did say something that was really interesting. You said you learn more from your failures than you successes, in those roundabout words. What’s been one failure, one shortcoming you’ve come across or experienced in your career to date that’s taught you the most?
Alastair Day: That’s a really good question. I do have a few. Yea, that’s a good question, mate. I have had, obviously, injuries and illnesses, and things like that. I guess the biggest one … I’ve almost had one every sort of … I think everyone has them every day, little setbacks and things like that. For me, it would have been in 2013. I had a great … Not a great, no. I didn’t have a great pro season at all. I went back to training with a great attitude, and, throughout that year of pre-season, over twenty weeks where they saw what you do, I was sick a lot. I was injured. I had a stress fracture in my foot. It was just a real up and down sort of year. The training, obviously, that I was doing was really good. I was getting some good work in there for two or three weeks, and then I would break down. Then I’d get a couple of weeks in, and then I’d break down.
That year, I went on ten days out from the Coolangatta Gold in 2013. Kingy rang me and he said, “I think you should do it.” I literally only just got my moon boot off, and I was like “Uh, okay, I’ll do it.” We kept it under wraps. We didn’t tell many people. We lined up, we did it, we got through it. Obviously, I won. It was an awesome moment, but as soon as I crossed that line, I knew that I’d used all of my reserves that year in trying to get myself up for that race. All those times throughout the year when I was sick or injured, I knew I’d used everything. As an athlete, that people would understand what I mean. I was shot.
I went home. I was still on cloud nine, obviously, after winning an event that I probably shouldn’t have won because of the training I did before it, and the off season I had before it. I went home. The week after that, I tried to get back into training. I was just spent. I had nothing. I went from doing a 46k race to doing 400 meters the week after. My heart rate was through the roof. I was tired. I think I went home that day, and sat for like eight or nine hours or something like that. I knew something was wrong.
To fast forward, I took that year out of the series. I took twelve months off, almost, from the sport, got myself better, and came back the year after and won the series. That was kind of probably the biggest speed hump I’ve had in my life. Everything had always been pretty much perfect, and then it was like what I loved was taken away from me like that. I was so immersed in the sport, and then I was just taken away one day. Obviously, I paid … Obviously, I just had to take that time off, and it was the best time of my life when I look back on it now.
Brad Beer: Just to clarify, that was … You had your three seasons in the series, going from seventh to sixth?
Alastair Day: I think I had the … The sixth, the seventh, I think I had a second the year after. Then I think I had a third. Then the year after that, I think I got crook.
Brad Beer: You just won the Coolangatta gold. For overseas listeners, can you just quickly describe the Coolangatta gold?
Alastair Day: Yeah. It’s obviously a race that started in the eighties. I think Kyle Lynch … Yeah, well he was the inaugural winner of it. They mad a movie out of it. If you haven’t seen it go look at it, it’s a great movie. It’s just based on a race from Surfer’s paradise, all the way to Coolangatta and back. It’s a marathon race, around forty-something K. It’s twenty on the ski. There’s over ten on the run. There’s three and a half in the swim, and there’s a five and a half K board. It all adds up, and it takes you about four and a half hours or something like that. It wasn’t a race that you can go in under done. You’ve got to go in doing the work. Obviously Kingy … I did too. I’d never blame myself, or I’d never blame my Michael for…… at the end of the day, it was my decision to do the race, and I did. I learned so much about myself that week, putting my foot on the start line and just doing it, because I think Kingy said to me, “Ali, as an athlete, you only get limited opportunities in this sport and in this life, so I think you should do it.” We put it all on the line, and that paid off, but, obviously, I took a couple of weeks off there. I just couldn’t get back to hundred percent health.
Brad Beer: That’s the fine line every athlete’s seeking, best performance has to tread, isn’t it? How much is too much versus how much is not enough? As you say, it’s a great learning curve. You wouldn’t change it, you’ve turned what could have been a disastrous year into a positive.
Through that year, obviously, what were the steps you took to get yourself back to the start-line for the following series, the following year? I imagine through that year off, as you said, you had what you loved to do taken away from you, but the fact that … by virtue of health, let alone the injuries could have incapacitated you that year … What were the steps that you took? Describe the emotion.
Alastair Day: It’s a really good question, and I do love answering it, because I guess I’m proud of what happened … Not what happened, but how I dealt with it. I was pretty proud of the person, how I dealt with all of that. I pretty much sat in the room with Kingy and my doctor, Mark, on the Sunshine Coast, and I think I was telling you the other day, Brad, they were kind of like, “We don’t know what’s going on with you, Ali. We know you’re not a hundred percent. You’re not going to do the series.” I was kind of like, “Well …” I drove home that night. I booked a flight from the Sunshine Coast the next day to fly back down to my home town of Kiama. I pretty much went down there.
Throughout that time, obviously Mum and Dad were pretty worried about me, because I went from winning a race that was a marathon race, to a couple of weeks later, I couldn’t do anything. I was bedridden pretty much. I went and saw a lot of doctors at that time, a lot of specialists, blood tests, you name it, I did it. One day, I drove down to AIS with Mum at Canberra. We’d had an early start. Went down there and saw a doctor down there. She was really helpful as well. I guess I just wasn’t getting any answers. Nobody was telling me, “Ali, this is wrong. You’re not doing this right. You’re not doing that right.” I knew that there was something wrong. I knew that my energy levels, my motivation, my attitude, everything was just out of whack. There was no balance in my life.
I met up with an old friend of mine by the name of Keagan Smith. We met at a paleo café in Bondi with my Mum and with my partner, Kel. I just said, “This is how I’m feeling. This is what I’m experiencing. This is what I’m sort of dealing with.” I probably should give a bit of brief: Keagan, at that time, was working with the Roosters, the Sydney NRL team, head of performance there. I’d been following him on social media, and we met up, as I said. We went to this paleo café. I was telling him these symptoms that I was experiencing, and he was kind of like “Oh this is that. This has to do with that.” It was the most information that I got in half an hour that I’d got throughout that whole period, from anyone, I guess. This guy wasn’t a doctor or anything like that. He was just a guy that knew a little bit about health, and he’d kind of gone through the same thing as me. He pretty much just said, “Ali, I want you to go home now, and I want you to get back in touch with nature. I want you to go and do the things you love again,” which was surf, which was have a normal life. “Forget about the series that was happening that weekend in Perth. Forget about everything, it’s done. Get back in touch with nature. Start eating whole foods.”
I went on a week detox with Kel. All we ate was just vegetables and fruit, raw fruit, raw veggies for a week. Immediately after that, I started noticing my energy got better. I’m blabbering on here, mate, but his key principle’s just getting the basics right. Movement, my diet, mind, and there’s one other, I’ve forgotten it now. They were the things that he really focused on. He broke me out of some old habits. He got me back in touch with what I loved, why I was doing it. He got me eating better. He got me sleeping better. He got me thinking better. He just steered me, I guess, throughout that period of three or four months of just being bedridden, to getting to doing twenty minutes of running, all the way up until going back up to the Sunshine Coast and training with Kingy, and then going on to win the series that year. It was kind of …
As I said, I blabber on a bit, mate, and some of this doesn’t make sense, but I guess, if I didn’t meet Keagan, I don’t know where I would be without him. I got a lot to thank him for.
Brad Beer: We’ll pop Keagan’s social media profiles in the show notes, so listeners can jump over and check Keagan out. Obviously, he was a key step in that rehabilitation period. Meeting Keagan, following his advice, implementing it, and then I guess busting out.
At what point did you know that you were starting to get some of your mojo, that Ali Day mojo that saw you on the podium for a couple of times prior to the fall, if you like. How did you know you were starting to climb back? What were you starting to feel, and experience? What was your body telling you?
Alastair Day: I guess I grew up. That’s where I started the sport, because I love the ocean. I’d go down to beach, and I’d surf for fifteen minutes, and come in. Kel would be sitting on the beach and like, “Oh, I’m tired. I physically can’t paddle out.” I noticed each week, I got stronger and stronger. We set little goals, and I’d go to the gym, and I’d … It sounds silly … I’d write down what I did that day, how I was feeling motivation wise, how I was feeling in my body, what changes I noticed. We kept track of how I was sleeping that night. Everything we kept track of. It wasn’t scientific. It wasn’t anything really structured. It was just simplified, and we just simplified everything.
I guess mentally, it got to the point where I felt almost a hundred percent, I think. I probably wasn’t a hundred percent in the head, I was second guessing myself, I guess. I went back up to the Sunshine Coast, jumped in with Kingy, and I guess the biggest thing for me was I went to training that day, and I got through the session fine. I got through the next day fine. I got through that week fine. I knew that I was back. I knew that I was living on this new diet, I was thinking differently, I looked at life differently. Everything completely changed. I took 180 degrees from what I left the Sunshine Coast and getting back to the Sunshine Coast. I came back a different person, I think. I had to change for the better. I look back on it now, and it was such a great time, it was a huge … I just wanted … I didn’t care if I didn’t get to race again. I just wanted to be healthy again. When I got back up, mate, I was stoked.
Brad Beer: That one or two back-to-back sessions back with squad, you knew, sort of, escaped it. It was six months was it, or longer, a year?
Alastair Day: Yeah it was probably … the Gold was October that year. Then, obviously, I took November, December, January, February, March, I think I went back up in April. I think Dad counted. It was over some hundred days in Kiama where I just, I guess, hung down there. That had a lot to do with it as well. I went back and it was almost so I could … Throughout that seven years, I didn’t really stay as connected as I’d liked with the South Coast. I went down there, and did things that I did when I was younger. I hung out with friends, I surfed, I went to all those spots I went to where I was growing up being a kid, and stuff like that. That had a huge impact on me as well, like being around those surroundings, being around those people. They motivated me to get back to where I wanted to be.
Brad Beer: I think sometimes a change in scenery is therapeutic in itself, where you can escape some of the day to day distractions, and really … That’s a great story. You had two interesting things I just want to dig a bit deeper on. You said you were second guessing yourself. What were you second guessing?
Alastair Day: Two things: obviously, was this diet and all this change that I’ve done … Because I did it all pretty much on my own, no one was training with me. I was down in Kiama paddling a ski, swimming on my own, running on my own. Was it going to be the Ali Day that I’d seen at the Gold that year? I wasn’t going to be better, I wasn’t going to be worse. How was I going to fit in with the other athletes? Was I going to be on the same sort of level that I’d left the sport in? The diet and those two things, the performance side, was it going to be the same again that I left it? Just because I changed everything, pretty much. Was I going to be feeling the same? Was I going to be just as fit? Am I going to have the same ability? They were the kind of the questions that I had doubt over, I guess. “Obviously, you’re shitting yourself, because you took so long off.” I didn’t want to slide back down that hole where I was and not get out of bed, and not have any love for life, or love for what I do anymore. I guess ultimately, that’s what worried me at the end of the day. I didn’t want to feel like I was feeling again.
Brad Beer: Those doubts, and that fear around did you still have what took I guess was there?
Alastair Day: Yeah.
Brad Beer: Thanks for sharing so keenly around that. If you had to summarise that whole lesson … Back to the lesson around it … If you had to put that in to encourage other athletes, other people pursuing peak performance, kids coming through the sport … If you had to put the lesson in a brief little sentence, what would you say as a little maxim around that journey of going from …
Alastair Day: As we sort of said before, I do believe in with those … They’re not even failures, they’re just little speed humps along the road to your journey … I do really believe that they shape you as a person, and that they’re meant to happen. That year, that was meant to happen. I was meant to be sitting here right now, and you’re meant to be sitting here. We’re meant to be talking. All those little things that have gone well or haven’t gone so well, I think they’re supposed to happen.
As an athlete to young kids, to anyone that’s aspiring to do whatever they want to do, they’re going to be thrown at you, and I think you’ve just got to deal with them in the best way you sort of knowhow, and not think too much about it, not put too much energy into it. That’s supposed to happen, and then you go down the next path. There’s a roadblock there? Okay, cool. Let’s go down another avenue, or let’s go down another street. That’s a huge thing for me.
Another thing for me now, as I’m getting a bit older … I’m not too old yet, but a bit more experiences … Just trying to get the best out of myself every day. Give myself the best opportunity every day. Whether that be spending more time on this, or spending more time on that, whatever that is, I think that’s one that sticks pretty clear with me right now.
Brad Beer: Great. I think it’s a Tweetable … The speed humps shape you. Certainly from my pride of going into the professional world of physiotherapy, my experiences, I look back now, and as uncomfortable as some of the pain points were, the challenges, the speed bumps, as you say, really are the shaping agents in your life. It’s not so much when things are going rosy. Those difficult times, as much as we’d like them not to be, that way.
Shifting gears if we can from the struggle into the victory, that’s an incredible change to go from doubts, fear about coming back, to winning your first Nutrigrain series, something that I imagine, correct me if I’m wrong, you aspired to from those junior days growing up in the South Coast?
Alastair Day: Yeah. That’s a crazy story. When you said that just then to me, I still can’t really sort of believe it. I’d always aspired to be an Iron Man, always wanted to be a professional sports person in some way or form, or whatever it was, I wanted to be involved. Iron Man was obviously the one that was closest to me, and I had so many heroes at that time that I’d love watching on TV. I just wanted to be them.
Once I got in the series, it was kind of like, “Okay, I just want to qualify for the series after,” and the year after that, I was kind of like, “Well, I want to get on the podium. That’s be really cool.” Once I got on the podium, I was like, “Fire it up!” I couldn’t … “I’m pretty happy now. Not much can beat this.” I think the year after, I won a race. I thought, “Seriously, I can die a happy man now. I’ve won a professional race, this is awesome.” Then the year after that, obviously, I had the year off. I came back with a completely different mindset, a completely different way of thinking, going into races. It was just a way more relaxed approach. I went in … I used to listen to pump up music, and put the headphones on.
Brad Beer: What was on the playlist then?
Alastair Day: A bit of Eminem, I had some Rocky on there, everything. I went over to Perth that year, after having the year off. Kelloggs were great. They gave me that wild card that year. I said to Kel, before the race … I was just happy, mate. I was happy to be there, and , honestly, that’s probably what made me win that day and win the series, just because I’d let go of what I thought was important. I worried more about things that… I wasn’t worrying as much. I was more focused on … It’s hard to explain. It was a funny moment for me. I went over to Perth, and everything just happened like that. It happened so clearly, and everything. It was almost still in time. I was just running up the beach going I shouldn’t be in front. I’m just happy to be here.
Brad Beer: That was the first race back in the series. You had a year out, so it’s your first race back. Yet, to win a race in the series …
Alastair Day: I won one. I won one, and then took the year off.
Brad Beer: Then, all of the sudden, you find yourself running to the finish line in your first race back after your year off. All those doubts, all those fears … then to scrub that, as you said, you didn’t think you should be there.
Alastair Day: No. I was sitting out of the tent before the race. I was sitting there with Kel, and as I said, I was happy to be there. I was happy to have my health back. I was happy to be on the line with sixteen or eighteen or however many guys there were that year, the best in Australia. I was happy to be in Perth. I was stoked that my dad and my brother were there, stoked that my beautiful partner was there. I think I said to Kel like, “I just don’t want to come last.”
As I said, we started racing. It was an hour, a long race, it was about an hour or something like that. The longer the race went, the better I got, and I ended up getting off the ski, was in front, ran up the beach. I think I just looked at Kel and was like, “This shouldn’t be happening,” you know what I mean? I was just … That happened almost at every race that year. As I sort of said before, I just believed in it, and didn’t think too much about it, didn’t put too much energy into it, or the point score, or whatever it was. As I sort of said before mate, it was supposed to obviously happen to me.
Brad Beer: You won the series. First series victory after a couple of podiums, in your inaugural … In second year. What were you thinking at that point? You won the series. You were twenty-four?
Alastair Day: Yeah.
Brad Beer: You were twenty-four, got the series. Going back to your junior years, you fell in love with the sport. Young in life. You’ve climbed the real pinnacle, I guess. In surf life savings, it’s the Nutrigrain series and Australian Iron Man title. Describe the emotion around that. You stand on the dice, get the series. It was a close victory over, obviously, multiple champion of the series, Shannon Eckstein, by a point. It was a nail biter, right? Describe the conversation you had with partner Kel, and your support network about what the next steps are. You’ve climbed the summit. Now what?
Alastair Day: That’s a good question. Throughout the year, as each race went on and on, you could feel the pressure building and building. I’d gotten close before, but was never close enough. It was obviously never the right time for me to win. The morning of the race down at Newcastle, I’m not going to lie, I was nervous, I was so scared, because all I had to do … Not all I had to do … Well, pretty much it was simple. All I had to do was go out and do what I do every day, and it was pretty much going to be between you and Shannon, that’s a scary prospect, I guess. You’re racing this guy who’s your hero, who’s your friend, who you’ve looked up too for so long. He’s arguably the greatest ever. That was … When I won that day, he kind of … I sat back and was kind of like, “Oh, do I really deserve it?” There’s so many emotions running through your head. I guess now, after this year … After last year winning … I haven’t put a huge amount of thought into it, but it’s probably …
When I moved down to the Gold Coast this year, and obviously met yourself and fell in love with the guys that surf, it was all about finding my purpose, and delivering that to people. I’ve only kind of really just found it. I get a huge kick out of just helping people, inspiring people, I guess. I guess that’s my goal at the moment, is to go out there and do what I do, and love what I do, and let people see that, let people see that I am really passionate, and I do really love this, and I do really care about people. The more people we can get on board, the more it helps the Universe, and it helps the world. I don’t know if that makes sense.
Brad Beer: It sounds like even what you’re describing, Ali, that the pressure’s shifted. Is that a fair statement? That pressure of the expectation, you had your breakthrough win, which certainly, as an observer of the series, I listen to the commentary. “Ali Day is knocking on the door. He’s going to win a race.” It sounds like the pressure shifted, and your belief gauge maybe got jolted over to, “I’m good enough for this.”
Alastair Day: Yeah, I guess it did. I guess it was only a matter of time before everything was just going to fall into place for me. I still sit here now, when people say that the list of the guys that are in front of me … I think there’s only eleven guys that have won a Kelloggs series or an Uncle Tobys series. They’re just so hard to win, mate. They’re literally the hardest thing, and they take a lot out of you to win. I think I said to Shannon on the weekend, I said, “Man, I don’t know how you do it. I literally don’t know how you’ve done it for this long, and dealt with the pressure, and things like that. I just feel so grateful that I got to win one.
From what happens now in this sport or in my life, it really is just a bonus. I get to still do what I do every day, and I love it. Anything now is just a bonus, because I did not see last year coming at all.
Brad Beer: Wow. That’s a great lesson for anyone listening, just persist, right?
Alastair Day: Yeah, exactly. As I said, I don’t think I was the greatest nipper or the greatest cadet coming through, but I just worked hard. I’m not going to lie, if someone … It’s just working hard. You can’t substitute it. I worked my ass off. I hate saying that because I don’t like to big note myself, but when I was down at home, I wouldn’t … I had those great coaches, and I wouldn’t miss laps. I’d do them all. I’d do the one percenters. That’s years, and years, and years, of repetition and constant repetition. I’d like to think my coaches would say that about me as well. I feel a bit bad saying that, because, hopefully not too many people are listening to this, but that’s ultimately … Anyone who’s been successful will say that. You would say that, Brad. It’s work. It’s your work ethic, and it’s your discipline. That’s what’s got me through to where I am today.
Brad Beer: It’s those cumulative little decisions to not cut corners. I’ve got a favourite saying. Literally, my favourite saying is, “A shortcut will only cut you short.” Those two laps at the end of your swim warm down, and everyone else is out. No one else would notice, but no, it’s a 400 warm down. I’m going to do 400 rather than 300.
Alastair Day: It got to the point where I was almost … I still am a bit now, if it was 4.3 this session, I’d have to do 4.5. It wasn’t 4.4, it was 4.5. It was you do this right, or you’re not getting out. You do an extra one of those, you do that. That’s just the way my mind works, and it still works. I guess that’s why I wasn’t great at school or anything like that. I struggled with learning things. When it was … Hey, if you can do this or do that, and put your mind to it, I could do it. I found that easy. That was easy to me. I would dedicate time, and if someone puts something in front of me, like dangling a carrot, I could just go and do it, you know what I mean? It was like you don’t have to think too much about it. You just go and do it.
Brad Beer: Ali, in general terms, just shifting, slightly, gears away from the professional Iron Man racing, talking about what it takes to succeed at the highest level in any sport, can you unpack a little bit about two things: what your week looks like in terms of training, just for the listeners, and then secondly, I just want to unpack a little bit about what your support network looks like, how important that is to your success.
Starting with training: what’s a typical week in the life of Ali Day look like, in sort of peak training, peak season?
Alastair Day: Yeah, big training, mate. Obviously, at the moment, we’ve just come off the back of racing round one and two, so this week’s been a lot for me, but a normal week would consist of four swims, anywhere between six and seven k sort of thing. So that’s a Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and a Friday. I do a back to back session on a Monday and Tuesday. I go straight from swimming on a Monday to board training. I’m swimming on a Tuesday, I go straight to running. There’s a few back to back sessions there, which I found have helped me a lot, just to sort of get used to that backing up sort of thing. We’re out in the ocean every afternoon either on our skis and boards. There’s a gym session in there, and there’s about three run sessions as well. There’s probably about fifteen sessions maybe, sixteen sessions or something like that. It’s always varying depending on the time of the year. Obviously, depending on what you’re training for at that time. For the Gold, a month or so ago, we were doing some really long sessions. On a Saturday, it would be almost a run through, almost four hours or something like that. As I said, I love doing it. It’s awesome.
Brad Beer: What’s your most loved and hated session during the week?
Alastair Day: They’re both the same, because I think your most hated one you get the most out of, you’ll be the most scared of. Zane Hamill, one of our coaches, put a few of those there for us, and so has Glenn Baker as well.
Brad Beer: Zane Hammill from the Surfers Paradise, Surf Life Saving Club
Alastair Day: Zane Hamill, our coach at Surfers, and Glenn Baker, my coach at Southport for Swimming. They’ve both worked really, really well together this year. Wednesday afternoon board training, we paddle just behind here at Budd’s Beach with Zane. That’s always hard. It’s in a flat, you can’t hide, it’s hot, and he just always sets a bit of a torture session for us. As I said, it’s my most hated, but I love it, too. It’s hard, and you get the most out of it.
Brad Beer: That’s a fascinating insight, the one that you hate the most is the one that you love the most, because you know what it’s obviously developing.
Alastair Day: Anyone knows when you finish those really gruelling sessions, you get the most out of that. Not physically, you get the most mentally out of, I think. You’ll turn up to a session, you’re like, “All right, I’ve just got to get through this.” That’s what it’s got to be like on race day sometimes. You’ve got to really sort of tell yourself you’re going to be okay, and you’ll get through it.
Brad Beer: Trying those new gears. What’s the most memorable, hardest swim session you’ve ever done in your life? What was the mindset?
Alastair Day: This year?
Brad Beer: In your life that you can remember you going, “I can’t believe I got through that.”
Alastair Day: Jesus, there has been some tough ones that Glenn sent me this year. That’s the thing. I think when you do a hard session, you get through it and then you almost forget about it. I used to write all of my sessions down. I’ve done, I wouldn’t say a session, but some of the sessions I did down with Marty and Mick down in Wollongong, they’re always hard. Some of the days we did with Kingy were huge. I wouldn’t lie. He was tough, too. Down here, we’ve done some really hard days. I think some of those Tuesdays Glenn smashes me in the pool. We’ll go straight to running, hills at Miami and do some 2k, 1k time trials. Then the afternoon, Zane will smash me again on the ski. That’s three sort of back to back sessions throughout that day that are pretty big. I won’t name the session. Maybe next time.
Brad Beer: That’s the day. So Wednesday?
Alastair Day: Tuesday/Wednesdays are hard. They’re hard days, yeah.
Brad Beer: What’s your sleep pattern like? I want to talk about support network as well, but just out of interest, what’s your rhythm of sleep look like? How have you found that to be?
Alastair Day: Huge, it’s huge. When I met Keagan … I’ve always been a great sleeper, always have been. I could nod off like that, you know what I mean? I got into a habit on the Sunshine Coast and maybe even a little bit when I was living down at home. I’d have to come home and sleep after swimming and things like that. I’ve broken that now. I kind of only just sleep … I listen to my body more. I’ll sleep when I need to sleep. I just make sure every night that I’m getting eight or nine hours. I think it’s the best recovery tool you can use. And I think you could learn a lot from your sleep, with … Like, “How good is your sleep?” People go, “How’d you sleep? How many hours did you get?” Oh, I got ten hours, but how good were your ten hours? You know, like, I think it’s so important that you’re getting … I might get eight good hours, and that’s better than twelve hours in bed, you know what I mean? You’ve got to look into that, and how you rate your sleep, what makes you sleep good?
Brad Beer: Do you use data?
Alastair Day: Yeah, we do. Zane’s got a thing that we fill out each week with how many hours we get of sleep, how good the quality of sleep is, how we wake up, resting heart rate, that sort of thing. It’s obviously great for Zane, but it’s great for us as an athlete. It keeps us … It helps us, I think, a lot. Sleep … I try to nail my sleeps … Especially the week leading up into a race. Just all the time.  Sleep is so important, and people often neglect it a lot, I think.
Brad Beer: Is there a time in your career when you didn’t have that revelation about the importance of sleep?
Alastair Day: Yeah. At the time when I was younger, sleep and nutrition wasn’t really that great. Recovery wasn’t great. I think it’s those extra one percenters that you can do now. You go ask any of those top athletes. They’ll be making sure they’re sleeping good, they’re eating good, they’re recovering good. They’re just all around professional, and that’s something that I’ve gotten better at over the years for sure.
Brad Beer: Great. Thank, Ali. Certainly, I know from my experiences coming up as a junior athlete, sleep was often not spoken about as an important performance ingredient. I know now it’s certainly a lot more flavoursome, if you like. More people are aware of it. I’ve heard it said that sleep’s the number one pillar of good health. That’s a very bad pun, but bedrock that everything else rests on.
Ali, the support network: you mentioned Kel, you’ve mentioned you’re Mum and dad, you’ve mentioned Zane, Glenn, your coach, certainly I have a relationship with you in the physiotherapy room.
Alastair Day: Of course.
Brad Beer: Tell us about, though, what it means to you, I guess, to have a supportive support network.
Alastair Day: It means the world. Literally means the world. On the weekend, as I said we had rounds one and two of the Nutrigrain series up at Coolum and I … I’ve always been blessed to have a great network around me. It was just so cool, on the weekend, to have people around me that I could just tell were just happy for me no matter what. No matter what the result was, no matter how it went, no matter what I did, they were … They love me. I’ve obviously got Zane, who’s just incredible. Trev’s behind him, who helps me a lot with my finding my purpose, and helping people, and things like that. I’ve obviously got Kel, that’s just … I’ve been with for three years now, and she’s been through all those sort of waves with me. Obviously, you’ve got Glenn at Southport. I’ve got someone like yourself, mate, that’s just … They’re not just there as a coach, or to help me. They’re there for friends, and I think that’s really important. I’ve got so many great people around me in my life, mate. Great people here at the surf club. I’ve had great people on the Sunshine Coast at the Surf club. Kingy was a huge one for me. The sponsors that I deal with every day are fantastic. I’ve built really good relationships with them, and then also the people down in Kiama, mate. They are my best friends.
As I said, I’ve been so blessed with my life, not even in the sport. Just to have great people around me that I love. It’s honestly the best feeling when you finish a race on the weekend, and they’re there to talk to you and give you a hug and a high five, and get a photo with. It’s honestly the best thing. I’ve got to thank you. I said that to Kel yesterday. I’ve got so many people around, like yourself, that come in and want to help me. Sometimes I’m like “Why do they want to help me?” It’s just an amazing feeling. There’s somebody out there, obviously upstairs, that’s looking out for me, for sure.
Brad Beer: Ali, to bring this to a close, the support network’s been a critical part in your journey. What’s in the bucket list of Ali Day in life, outside of Iron Man racing, outside of the professional that we see on the sporting field, what’s on that list?
Alastair Day: After what I do?
Brad Beer: Yeah, in life, what are the things that you …
Alastair Day: I guess I sort of touched on it before. I guess since I was eight, I’ve always sort of … “what am I going to do? What am I going to do after this sport?” It used to be a really scary prospect for me. I’d just be like, “Man, should I go do Uni, should I go to an apprenticeship, what am I going to do when this is all over?” I’d still like to obviously … There’s a few more little things I’d love to do in this sport while I’m here, and enjoy it at the same time. Id’ obviously love to get back when I do finish, because hopefully by then, I’ll know a little bit more than I do now, and hopefully can coach kids, or coach guys that are coming through trying to qualify. Hopefully, I can just pass on some of my knowledge.
That’s not just training, I think I’d like to help kids mentally. Upstairs, I’d like to really … I think I have the ability to be able to help people, to motivate people, encourage people to love what they do. That’s not just in sport. I think that’s in life, too. I’d love to help people like that.
The last few weeks, I’ve had visions of myself just opening some sort of facility somewhere. I think we spoke about it the other day, an environment where it’s a gym or whatever it is, where people come in, and I … I don’t know how it would work. I think Kel would help me as well, and we help people create better versions of themselves, pretty much.
Brad Beer: Wow. That’s Powerful. Ali, what would the twenty-five year old version of yourself tell the fifteen year old version of yourself?
Alastair Day: That’s a good one. Work hard. For sure, that’s the number one thing. Work hard. Don’t every give up. Obviously, everybody’s been through that phase of wanting to give up, and nearly giving up or giving up. I think you learn from that. That’s another one. For me, it’s a hard question. I’ll have to come back to you on that one, but just for me, I guess recently …. Find out what you love, and find out what your dream lifestyle wants to look like, and go get it. That’s what you should do. There’s no one stopping you or holding you back. You can do it, and that’s ultimately what’s driven me to where I am now.
Brad Beer: Thank you very much Ali Day for your time. I’ve really enjoyed chatting with you and getting to learn a little bit more of the story that sits behind the popular face, the popular personality …
Alastair Day: Don’t say that, mate.
Brad Beer: … That we all see, so Ali Day, all the best for the rest of the 2015/2016 Nutrigrain series. I know that our listeners will be … Will really get a lot out of this show, so thank you, mate.
Alastair Day: Cheers mate, thank you.
Brad Beer: So guys, there we have it. Behind the scenes with Iron Man Champion Ali Day. If you enjoyed this episode, make sure you hit subscribe, and feel free to leave some comments and questions in the notes below, and we’ll see you on the next episode of the physical performance show. Until then, perform at your physical best. Brad over and out.
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