Robbie Magasiva has been spending his time between shoots gearing up for a race with a great cause.

For Samoan New Zealand actor Robbie Magasiva, regular exercise is about more than just looking good. Magasiva is best known for his portrayal of Dr Avia in Shortland Street and latterly the conflicted Corrections Officer Will Jackson in Australian television drama series Wentworth.

Less well known is that the 45-year-old has asthma, and is conscious of the link between good health and keeping the symptoms of asthma under control.

"It's part of my job to be in shape, but also I know that the fitter I am, the better I feel. I suffer from asthma but if I keep up a certain level of fitness, it helps keep the asthma in check. And I enjoy exercise - it makes me feel good!"

Magasiva is busy filming Dirty Laundry and DNA Detective before returning to Australia later in the year for another season of Wentworth. Despite an action-packed schedule, he has found time to enter and train for his first triathlon. On March 19, Magasiva will join 2000 other athletes to swim, mountain bike and/or run on the islands of Motutapu and Rangitoto in the Total Sport Partners Life Dual event.

Advertisement

The decision to sign up for a triathlon was a spontaneous one, Magasiva recalls. "It was New Year's Eve and I was in a restaurant having lunch with my friend Bazza. I wasn't feeling that great about myself - I had put on about 10kg and was keen to fix that. Bazza had done lots of triathlons and bike races in Queenstown, so I said if he could find something for us to do in Auckland, I would be in. He told me about the Dual. We went online and signed up and paid on the spot, while we were at lunch. Then it was on!

"Since then I've been watching what I eat, cutting out alcohol and am training, doing something every day."

To complement visits to the gym, Magasiva has been cycling, running and swimming. "I used to do a bit of CrossFit so I am quite strong - so just working on the cardio and looking after my dodgy knees for now."

The Dual offers trail run or walk and mountain bike options alongside the off-road triathlon and there are a range of distance options in each discipline. There is a strong environmental sustainability ethos surrounding the event, which won the 2015 NZAEP Best Partnership award for the relationship between event organiser Total Sport and the Motutapu Restoration Trust. During the event's eight-year history, Total Sport has contributed almost $300,000 towards pest control, planting and restoration, and species reintroduction programmes on the islands.

Competing at the Dual allows participants to engage with this unique environment and community on a number of different levels, a big part of the attraction for Magasiva. "Some of the entry fee goes towards the native planting campaign - that's 15,000 native trees planted each year over there. It's such a good cause and I'm stoked to be part of it.

"It's the perfect spot for a first tri, and I am really excited about getting my bike over there too. You can only ever do that on event day."

Magasiva has modest expectations for his performance in the 1km swim, 26km mountain bike and 10km run. "This is my first triathlon so I have nothing to gauge my fear against - ha! - I guess this time around I just want to finish in one piece."

Dropping into a recent training session with the Dual Scholarship Programme participants, Magasiva met someone with higher aspirations than to simply finish. Fifty-year-old Lia Niuelua is training for the 10km run/walk. "I've done the Dual before but the thought of that giant hill start was a bridge too far. I joined the Total Sport scholarship programme and am loving the training - the nutrition education part of the programme is a gold mine of information," she says. "What I need is to incorporate exercise into my day-to-day lifestyle. I am over 50 now, and aim to look healthy, feel healthy and have a well-oiled gait in my 90s.

"I want to finish in the front half of the pack this year - not puffing at the back," she says.

Partners Life Dual
What: Off-road triathlon, trail run/walk or mountain bike
When: Saturday, March 19
Where: Rangitoto Island
For more information: www.thedual.co.nz