Running is imperative for fitness addict Deborah Ward Fritz
01 January 1970
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You’re listening to Old Mutual Live, great things start here, great things start now. I’m Brad Brown, thank you so much for listening to this podcast and downloading it. If you haven’t left us a review or a rating on iTunes yet, please do. It just really helps us grow this platform and help more people just like you.
Our next guest on today’s podcast, an absolute pleasure to welcome on. She is a self-confessed fitness addict, is the right turn of phrase. It’s a great pleasure to welcome onto the podcast today Deborah Ward Fritz. Debbie, welcome, thanks for joining us.
Deborah Ward Fritz: Good morning Brad and thank you for the opportunity.
BB: Debbie, it’s great to have you on and obviously we’re chatting running today. But you don’t just run, you do a whole bunch of stuff don’t you?
DWF: Yes, I do, I’m very involved in quite a few things. I was actually a swimmer from the age of about 6-18 years old. I made Province at the time, it was the then Transvaal as it was called. But due to South Africa being sanctioned and everything like that, I could compete internationally, but then because of apartheid I couldn’t do that.
When I was 18 years old I decided no, I’ve had enough of swimming and I quit. But I still trained a lot in the gym, I did a lot of weight training and that kind of thing. For about two years I never did anything and I don’t know if it was a lack of cardio or it was just the bad relationships that I found myself in at the time, but I started to suffer from depression quite a bit. I went onto a whole lot of different medications and nothing seemed to help.
Running is the perfect medicine
One day I decided no, I’m going to take myself for a run around the block. When I came back I actually found that I felt a whole lot better. Running just became my escape. I got used to that feeling, that addiction, that running high and my running just escalated from there.
No I’ve actually trained properly for events and running has sort of gone into other things, like OCR. I’ve actually gone back to swimming as well. I do open water swimming now and so I’m a bit of an addict in that way. Because I’m always looking for new and exciting challenges.
BB: That’s awesome, and I love the fact that that’s what took you to running and you’ve almost realised it as a bit of an escape and endorphins are incredible. They’re probably the most powerful drug on the planet. I think for many of us who run, that’s one of the things that does keep us coming back. From a distance perspective on the running side of things, what’s your sweet spot, what sort of distances do you love doing?
DWF: I love the short distance, the 5km, the sprints, maximum 10km. I’m not an endurance runner at all. The longest event I’ve actually entered was the Knysna Half Marathon. It was great but I prefer the shorter distances. I love my Park Run on a Saturday morning and that’s 5km and every Saturday I try and better my time.
At the moment my personal best is 24:31 but I’m trying to do a sub 20 by the end of the year. I don’t know if that’s a bit ambitious, but that’s what I’m aiming towards. I do charity runs, 5km, and then over the weekends I try and pick and event that’s maybe longer, a 10km. Like this Sunday I’m doing the Spar Women’s Challenge. For OCR I do the Commando, which is a 10km event. I don’t really go anything over 10km.
OCR racing utilises a combination of skills
BB: That’s awesome, I love that Debbie. So often we chat to runners and especially being in SA, there’s such a huge ultra culture. People almost look at people who don’t run ultras and think why don’t you? I think it’s fantastic. There’s no reason why you have to run an ultra to be honest. If that’s what you’re comfortable doing and that’s what you love doing, then keep doing it. Let’s talk about these OCR races. For somebody who doesn’t know, it’s the obstacle races, tell us about what you love doing there?
DWF: It’s obstacle course racing, so it’s a combination of trail running and obstacles. You get different categories, you get the rookie, the commando and the black ops. The rookie is a 5km trail run with about 15 obstacles. Then you get the commando which is a 10km trail run with about 22 obstacles. Then you get the black ops which is anything plus of 15km, sometimes they even go up to 21km and that’s about 30 obstacles.
You can enter the race on your own or as a team. If you enter on your own and you do elite, that means that you actually have to do each obstacle on your own with no help. I’ve done that and I’ve finished the race with my band, so I’ve qualified to go to Canada. Which is the World Champs, which is happening on the 22nd of October, but unfortunately due to financial limitations I won’t be participating.
BB: Those races are pretty tough, they’re really physically demanding aren’t they?
DWF: Yes, they are, it’s a whole different training and basically you’ve got to be good at the running and at the obstacles. The running is very technical because it’s a trail, so you’ve got to be quite good at hills and downhills and know how to navigate your way around, things like that.
With the obstacles it’s a lot of strength and grip strength. So it’s a totally different training with the obstacles, especially for women. You have to have a lot of upper body strength, be able to do pull ups, push ups, that kind of thing and your grip work, be able to swing between things.
The benefit of cross training
BB: Debbie, I’m a huge fan of cross training and a big believer that if you do one thing it’ll help the other. Have you found that doing these various things, like the obstacle course races and the running and swimming, do you find that one helps the other. Like the running helps the swimming and the swimming helps the running and the OCR and that sort of thing, what’s been your experience?
DWF: Definitely, I just found they all feed off each other. My running helps my swimming, definitely and the swimming helps my running. With the swimming, you need for your breathing, it helps with the running. Also when you’re going uphill with your running, you need a whole lot of upper body strength to help you power up those hills.
OCR is helping me with that because I’m training my upper body. So it’s giving me strength to help me going up those hills. They’re all feeding off each other. I’m finding that because I ran my personal best quite recently, it’s all just benefitting each other.
BB: And from an injury prevention point of view as well, it definitely helps too. Debbie, I also believe that you were part of the USN Face of Fitness for 2016. I don’t know if I’m allowed, I am allowed to give away your age, I’m going to ask. I saw pictures of you, there’s no ways that you’re 44, like never!
DWF: Yes, I’m 44.
What is the key to keeping young and healthy?
BB: You’re in incredible shape. What do you attest that to? Everyone is obviously trying to find the magic cream or the fountain of youth, I think you’ve found it. What is it?
DWF: I just think my body is a reflection of my lifestyle. I try and eat healthy about 80% of the time. I’ve learnt that fast food doesn’t make for faster running or aging well. So I eat to live and not the other way around. I don’t drink or smoke and I exercise seven days a week, sometimes twice a day. I know that’s overboard, but as you know, I’m an addict. I’ve basically kept this lifestyle for most of my life.
BB: It’s incredible, do you feel 44?
DWF: No, not at all.
BB: Funnily enough, I’ve just turned 40 and somebody said to me the other day: 40 is the new 30. I don’t feel it either, but I think a lot of it has got to do with being fit and being healthy.
DWF: Yes, definitely and I’m hoping to keep this way until I’m 80. I want to be running and swimming and physically active and everything when I’m 80 years old.
BB: You’re obviously very competitive too, that’s one thing I’ve picked up, obviously with the swimming competitively as a kid and chasing PB’s, time-wise. Do you think that’s important, to have a bit of competitiveness in you, not that you’re going to necessarily win races? But that you’re pushing yourself to be better all the time?
DWF: Definitely, I’m very competitive. Sometimes to my detriment because I’m always trying to better myself. If I don’t better myself then I go into a bit of a mood, but I think it gives me that edge to try just a bit harder than the next time, especially with my Park Runs.
Every week I’m trying to better myself and find new techniques and I research a lot on the internet about how other people train. I’m always trying to put that into practice. I think if I didn’t have that competitive streak in me. I would be more, just whatever, but yes, it’s actually making me push myself harder.
BB: Debbie, what’s the biggest life lesson that running has taught you?
DWF: I think it’s just to put yourself out there. I mean I wasn’t a runner and just because of my circumstances, where I found myself in at the time, I just went with it. I pushed myself and I’ve actually realised that I enjoy running. I’ve just kept with it all the time and the more you keep with something and you persevere and you’re disciplined in that sport, the better you get. That’s one thing I’ve learnt, you’ve got to just keep at it.
BB: Brilliant, Debbie, thank you so much for joining us here on Old Mutual Live today, best of luck. I’m going to be following your progress. Just by talking to you I’m pretty sure that sub 20 Park Run is on the horizon. It might not be the end of the year, but it will come, of that I’ve got no doubt. Best of luck for that and we look forward to following your progress.
DWF: Thank you so much Brad.