If you’re a fitness buff who participates regularly in sports events in Malaysia, you’ll notice a general trend in the annual calendar. Within the last five years, multisport events like duathlons and triathlons have mushroomed beyond the title competitions that have been around almost forever. And with more and more of these multisport events becoming popular, so does the need for proper training for these events.
It may seem counterintuitive for a non-professional athlete to pay for proper regimented coaching, but it can be likened to why a regular gym goer would sign up for personal training. Why indeed? Ruper Chen, co-founder and head of RC Coaching reckons it is great to see more and more people are branching out from a single sport. “They want to challenge themselves, some do it for health reasons, some for the social side of things,” he grins. “So there are a lot of different reasons.”
“A lot of them, when they first think about Ironman and they know the distance they think oh my god it is such a big task, I wonder if I can do it. But then they see people who they know are able to do it and they get poisoned to do it too. It does sound a bit crazy for someone who doesn’t do it, but once you’re in the scene you’ve got people motivating you, you get the equipment, your share experiences with your friends. So more people get into the sport and get addicted.”
“A lot of people are taking it up and they are more aware that coaching helps to expedite the process of improvement. Like last time, when we started we had no idea how to train. When we had Ironman to do we ‘hantam’ only, the more we do the better! Now with a coach they can guide you, they can tell you what you’re doing too much and where you will most likely hurt yourself, how to push on which side and all that.”
Rupert himself should know, he’s been in triathlons for a number of years and is Malaysia’s sole Ironman ambassador. Fresh from the World Championships, he has also finished a full Iron distance in under 10 hours, making him the only Malaysian to achieve 2 All World Athlete (AWA) Gold level. This means he is in the top 1% Ironman ranking in the world. Not bad for a 30-something year old who was once overweight and had a raft of health problems due to his unhealthy corporate job.
When we last spoke to Rupert, his triathlon coaching company was in its fledgling phase, having started with training some friends and other people who wanted to know more about the sport. Since then, the number of his trainees have tripled and he now has a total of 7 coaches under payroll in the Klang Valley, with one coach based in Penang. These coaches have different specialties based on their expertise, and sessions are run in specific formats.
“Our schedule is like this: Mondays we do swim only, Wednesday is sim and run, Thursday we do a swim-bike-run class, and on Friday we do the swim only session. We (the coaches) communicate every week, I am in the chat room with them so I know what they’re doing, but all the coaches are independent.” Training sessions are spread out between sports facilities at both Bukit Jalil and Kampung Pandan.
And the coaching life is busy indeed. Rupert has 150 students overall, most of whom are Malaysian though there are some Singaporeans and Indonesians in the mix. Overall, two-thirds of the trainees attend regular sessions, while the remaining one-third undergo remote training via Training Peaks. This may seem like it is the less effective option, but it isn’t exactly true. Even Rupert himself communicates remotely under a long distance arrangement with his own coach who is based in Qatar.
RCC prices are based on packages and what form of training you prefer, whether hands-on or remote. Walk-in sessions are possible, and no long term commitments are required, making signing up a very appealing idea. Rupert explains that it is all for a genuine love of the sport. “It’s really flexible. It’s not like those gym memberships, I don’t lock them in. I don’t do this for the money. I just want people to come and try.”
With his own training now taking a bit of a backseat to the coaching, what is his end goal? “I want to train up our first (Malaysian) triathlon Olympian,” Rupert declares. “The issue now is that there is no systematic coaching to take them there. It is a long-term process and a lot of parties need to be invested to train these champions. I say champions but they train here and there only. There’s no long term programme, and we don’t have the facilities and the environment to build these champions up.
Clearly there are a lot of challenges to reach this target, but we reckon that if there is one man who could, Rupert is definitely the one to do it. I ask him frankly, is it possible? A look of pure determination takes over his face, as his grin grows wider. “Yes, in ten years time. We have the talent for sure, I have already met this talent. I WANT to build our Olympian.”