From Prop to Wannabe Ironman


I am Martin Nicholas a 33 year old local lad from Tavernspite. I have had a hard sporting back ground of rugby, rugby and more rugby playing for Whitland up until last Christmas where through a hip injury from years of scrummaging as a loose head prop, i was advised to give it up and since then i haven’t looked back!

I have climbed Kilimanjaro for the Help for Heroes charity, i climbed in the alps last September summiting Gran Paradiso the highest mountain in Italy and also a summit attempt on Mont Blanc which we had to turn back 500M from the summit due to poor conditions – devastating but at 100KM winds totally the right decision! On returning on Saturday 13th Sept’14 from Chamonix, i was already thinking what was next?

I awoke the next morning to watch and support my good friend Dafydd Lewis take part in his second Ironman in Tenby. My feet bandaged from a bad pair of boots and my body sore and aching from a weeks climbing, my wife, two children and i arrived in Tenby and i could instantly feel the atmosphere of the crowd as the cyclists were flying through the town and the roars of support gave me goose bumps. Could i do something like this? No i am a bloody prop, or could i? As we spoke as a family as we watched, i said ’i might do this next year’ where my son shot me straight down ‘ you couldn’t do this dad, no way’ charming i thought! All that night, as i watched those very soon to be Ironmen and women run over that finish line and hear there names being called over the microphone – i could do that, i want to do that!

The next morning i woke early inspired by yesterdays amazing events, i am going to swim this morning i thought – ‘can i be an ironman’, it was still in my head? That Monday evening, when i saw on the internet that Ironman Wales 2015 application was now open, i booked it and told no one. I needed to see first if it is achievable, can a man of my size, no experience, my work load, wife (and she is a demanding wife), two kids, rugby coach for Whitland under 11’s, a new job in Cardiff there were so many factors to consider so i didn’t tell a dicky bird until i was ready and i believed that it was feasible for me to achieve this goal.

I needed help to get this going, i couldn’t really ask any of friends as living in Whitland news seems to travel fast and the wife wouldn’t be pleased. So i managed to stumble across Tom Walker, my saviour! After explaining the situation to him, he agreed to help and the journey started. I am now about 3 1/2 months into working on my swimming, cycling and running, concentrating on technique and building up my core strength and base fitness level as i follow his training programmes and nutrition guidance, and we slowly increase the training. And if i am honest i feel great for it! Once we got to Xmas my training was going well i was managing to balance life with training, it was time to let everyone know and i spoke to my friends and family informing them that i had signed up and that my son will soon eat his words when i get over that finish line.

I’ve signed up for a few events over the year which i will keep you all updated twice a month. To start a duathlon in March and then the Llanelli half marathon and 20 miler leading onto the London Marathon the end of April (This is for a local mental health charity which i will provide more details on shortly). In May and June, i plan to enter the Fishguard and Broad Haven triathlons and as we get closer to the main event the long course weekend and the Ocean Lava Wales Triathlon and then in 33 weeks time (not that i am counting) Ironman Wales 2015!



Café stop, helping or hurting?


New Year’s Eve has come and gone, the fitness industry is waiting, poised, rubbing its hands together at all the new but unfortunately short term business walking through its doors and there is only one thing that seems to be on people’s minds.

Loose the festive weight!

The gym is not for some people, some would rather get out on the bike and make up for the rides they missed over the festive two weeks. Being a business aimed at cyclists and triathletes these tips are going to be aimed at you lot!

1. This one is simple but could get you into trouble. There are always Christmas left overs, I don’t mean turkey sandwiches as I’m sure they are long gone! I mean chocolate and alcohol. They sit there, waiting for you to walk past and just pick them up without thinking or drink it because you’ve told yourself you need the space in the fridge. For the lone wolf who doesn’t share their space the answer is simple, either give it away, hide it or throw it out! For the family man/woman it becomes a little more complicated. Tell your family you are not allowed them, make yourself accountable and use a little discipline! This is also good psychological training for later in the season when you just want a lie in or fancy skipping the last hill interval!

2. Portion size has been a growing concern ever since rations stopped post war, and with plates now getting too big for dishwashers you can’t stick to the plate divide rule either. Research has shown people will ignore their brain telling them they are full and go by what is left in front of them, and old habits die hard especially the one that says you don’t get desert until you have finished all your dinner. A portion size guide to use is: -

Protein = the size of your hand palm

Carbohydrate = a handful size (that’s one hand not two)

Fats = a handful size (oils should be a table spoon size.)

If your plate still looks empty then fill it with salad! Using the chefs trick of placing it all in the middle of the plate and not around the edges will help make you look fancy too.


3. Building muscle has long been known to help with fat loss. I say fat loss because it doesn’t necessarily mean weight loss. However fat loss should be the goal at this point in the year. Having a greater muscle mass in the body means a greater metabolic demand and so more kcals used up by the body. Cyclists tend to have good leg muscles but as a bike fitter and coach I tend to see a lack of important upper body muscles especially in the posterior chain (muscles used to help support posture). Below are my top 5 muscle building, fat shredding, and posterior chain supporting exercises for cyclists.

Pull ups – Whether done with or without support a correctly done pull up has stood the test of time in the body weight exercise world. It hits all of the big back muscles and gets the core working overtime too!

Bent Over Row – Technique over weight with this body building classic move. If unsure of your form seek out some professional help. The key is to stick your bum out and keep the legs in a sqaut stance while maintaining a neutral spine.

Deadlift – The Daddy of moves. Whether done with a barbell, dumbbell, kettlebell or whatever else you can lift with good form this will get those posterior muscles working. This lift comes from the legs and not the back! Again seek professional help if unsure.

Pencil-Y-T’s - This gets the upper back muscles and posterior core muscles too. Lie face down try to keep your bum and leg muscles relaxed. Then lift your chest away from the floor and  straighten your arms into a pencil shape squeezing your ears. Hold for 5 seconds before moving your arms to a Y shape then after another 5 seconds out to a T shape before repeating the movement. If you feel you need to use weights for this move then keep it light and up the reps.

Burpees – Mr burpee is just an all-round great guy. Not only will he help with muscle building he will also get your whole body shedding fat in just a matter of minutes! Done quickly and intensely he will also increase your V02. And it is as simple as throwing yourself face down onto the floor then jumping back up to your feet as quickly as you can. I like to add in a jump and a clap at the end as small celebration too.

4. High intensity interval training. Nothing new about this and every fitness magazine in the past 4 years will tell you the benefits. My favourite HIIT cycling workout is simple. After a good warm up with some high effort bursts. Perform 10 rounds of 60 seconds maximum effort 60 seconds full rest. Cool down with 10mins smooth pedalling. If the 60 seconds feels too difficult to maintain, drop to 30 seconds and add on 10 each week.

5. Congratulations, you cycled to a café. You don’t need to eat cake!

Coffee and cake, the age old stereotype in the cycling world. Steady state cardiovascular efforts in a fasted state have been shown to help with fat loss and helping the body become better at utilising fat as fuel. A pre ride black coffee has also been shown to accelerate the fat burning effects but unfortunately a mid-ride piece of cake has not. If your effort is staying in the easy zones and you’re staying under the 2hour mark just fuelling with H20 is sufficient. If it is going to be longer than 2hours and you get hungry taking a bag of un-roasted nuts or seeds with you will help keep the body using fat as fuel. Add a sprinkle of sea salt to help with electrolyte levels.