Former Olympic race walker Tim Berrett has been competing internationally for Canada for over 25 years. During that time, he has competed in several Olympic and Commonwealth Games. He retired from international after the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and resides in Edmonton. With races that lasted up to 50 kilometres, we sat down with Tim to discuss his love for the sport, his training regime as an Olympian, and how he still maintains WELLNESS in his life.
Q: You have been competing internationally for over 25 years, what got you interested in race walking in the first place?
A: I started in high school in England … I had competed in all other events in track and field and members of our school team were asked to either participate or volunteer at the county championships for race walking. The course went past my front door, so I had no excuse other than to attend. I chose to give the event a try rather than stand on a corner and direct my teammates!
Q: Did you compete in other sports before trying race walking?
A: Yes, I was very active in a number of sports while growing up. I have participated in all events in track and field, including the pole vault and hammer throw! I also played rugby, soccer, and cricket (I grew up in England), as well as swimming, cycling, and golf. Since moving to Canada in 1987, I’ve also participated in cross-country skiing and triathlon
“Athletes in all sports at the highest level must have the ability to push their physical and mental limits.”
Q: Being an Olympian is no easy task, what did your daily training consist of when you prepared for a race?
A: I retired from competition after the 2008 Olympics. But when I was in training, I would cover up to 200km in a week, averaging 30km a day with a ‘rest day’ each week. This would be either a single training effort (up to 40km) or split into two workouts with varying distances and intensity. In addition, I would do strength training with weights up to three days a week, with mobility and stretching exercises daily.
Q: What is the hardest part of race walking?
A: There are a number of different aspects to the sport that are difficult. Race walkers must not only push their limits physically, but have to ensure that their form and technique are sound throughout a race in order to pass the scrutiny of the judges. The event and its judging are often misunderstood by the casual observer and the training can be lonely.
Q: How do you maintain your focus over a 50-kilometre race?
A: Although the event lasts between 3 1/2 and 4 hours (depending on racing conditions), the athlete always has something to think about while racing. Maintaining good technique is important, not just to pass the judges’ eyes, but also to ensure economy of effort and that requires constant concentration. Athletes also have a fluid replacement plan for the race to ensure that they avoid dehydration and this can change during the race depending on conditions.
Q: How does the discipline in race walking relate to the rest of your life?
A: Athletes in all sports at the highest level must have the ability to push their physical and mental limits in order to endure the training and competition stresses. Outside of sport, athletes can be relentless in the pursuit of excellence, and will persevere until they find success in whatever task they are attempting.
“The event and its judging are often misunderstood by the casual observer.”
Q: What other methods do you employ to maintain overall wellness in your life?
A: Now that I no longer compete, I try to stay active and eat a healthy, balanced diet… having children who are active in several sports ensures that we are never sedentary, and having a dog ensures that I get out every day to exercise both him and myself – otherwise the whole family suffers with the mischief that he gets up to.
Photos courtesy of James Aldridge