A handful of Herald reporters spent a day training, eating and sleeping like an Olympian in a chosen sport. Today, Kurt Bayer shares his experience of middle-distance running.

The Olympic Games brings out the armchair expert in everyone.

The tiny, pig-tailed, Romanian gymnast soars through perfect back-flips and bristling twirls before alighting on the splinter-thin wooden beam. But she moved her foot on landing. Slightly.

"Rubbish!" you cry, stuffing more Munchos into your jeering mouth. You reckon you could do that.


But you can't. Not in the slightest.

I found out the hard way.

An hour earlier than usual, my alarm goes off.

Up, and driving in the dark to my local pool.

Last night, I Googled, "How to aqua jog?".

It gently gets the creaking body moving for a daunting day ahead.

Home again for an unusually nutritious breakfast, I then go to High Performance Sport New Zealand's Christchurch base. In-house performance and technique analyst Matt Ingram takes a gym session.

It's been some years since I mothballed my gym membership.

Fair to say that after countless gut-busting lunges, squats, sit-ups, and killer "Spider-Man" push-ups, my face resembles the surface of Mars and I'm blowing harder than a Canterbury nor'wester.

And yet, I know he had been taking it very easy on me.

After a swim in the endless pool, it's ice-bath time.

"It's a critical part of your active recovery," Ingram says, a vaguely evil glint in his eyes.

The stinging arrives quickly but I survive five minutes before asking to get out, in a higher-pitched-than-usual voice.

A scorching shower flows.

A few hours free before my track session, I head to the newsroom.

Productivity is low. Yawning at my desk, sighing loudly, eating nuts, and stretching my stiffening muscles.

At 4pm, I meet Maria Hassan and her stable of young athletes at Burnside Park. Lithe and bouncy sprinters and middle-distance runners.

First, a warm-up jog around the park. Perfect. Except their warm-up pace is quicker than my usual running speed. And Burnside Park is massive!

After the warm-up, I'm gassed. Legs jelly, belly heaving.

A thorough stretching session returns some breath before 200m sprints.

"Not far. We're just doing a light session today," Hassan says, worried I'll ping a hamstring.

I never knew 200m was such a long way.

Out of the blocks I explode. Arms pumping, legs driving, I think, "Hey, I'm pretty fast ... Move over Usain!"

But by 120m, my pace has disappeared. The other two runners have disappeared.

By 140m, I suspect a cardiac arrest.

By 160m, I desperately want to stop, or succumb to death. I cross the line and double over like a camping chair.

"Okay, jog back to the start line and go again. Three to go!" Hassan says.

I try to curse but nothing audible arises.

I walk back and do two more 200m.

That is enough. I'm done. Spent. That night, I abandon a near-full beer and collapse in bed. And sleep a dreamless night.

A day in the life


Alarm goes off.

6.05am Record resting heart rate of 56bpm and get up.

6.15am Yoghurt and banana. Drink water.

7am 30min aqua-jogging session.

8am Breakfast of poached eggs on wholegrain toast.

9.45am-10.30am HPSNZ gym session and ice bath. Drink water during session.

11am Recovery smoothie.

11.30am Session with HPSNZ athlete life advisor Anna Simsic.

12.30pm Lunch of shredded chicken and salad wholegrain wraps with light mayonnaise.

1pm-3pm Work.

3.30pm Planning meeting with coach.

4.15pm-5.30pm Training at Burnside Park. Drink water during training.

5.45pm Stretch. Drink 300ml flavoured milk.

6.30pm Dinner of beef stir-fry.

7.30pm Rehab/stretching.

9pm Sleep.