Dubai Ironman, 52, proves age is no barrier to fitness

Set to compete in his fourth Ironman World Championship at the age of 52 this year, Dubai resident David Labouchere knows all about the art of self discipline and how to apply it in a personal and professional capacity.

David Labouchere’s self discipline was moulded during 32 years in the British army. Courtesy David Labouchere
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The more self-controlled people are, the happier they are with their lives, according to a 2013 study by Wilhelm Hoffman. Although they might miss out on the sugar rush when the doughnuts are passed around the office, people who do not allow their choices to be dictated by impulses live life in higher spirits than those that succumb to temptations.

One of Dubai’s most self-disciplined residents has to be the Englishman David Labouchere – ranked 19th in the all-World Athlete rankings at the age of 52. On top of being managing partner of Optimal Fitness boutique gym and an executive coach for 2B Limitless coaching company, he spends four hours a day training for the Ironman World Championship – a 226-kilometre swim, bicycle and running race taking place in Hawaii in October. If he qualifies in South Africa on April 10 it will be the fourth year in a row he has done so.

“I’m not normal, but neither are most ironmen,” says Mr Labouchere, whose self discipline was moulded during 32 years in the British army. “It’s an endurance race, so life becomes an endurance life. I won’t ever look back and say I wasted my time.”

Mr Labouchere believes exercise gives you more energy, affecting all other aspects of life. The fitter he has become, the easier it is for him to discipline himself into packing other activities into his day.

“As I became fitter and gained more energy, I found that the alarm clock was no longer the monster it used to be. I tend to wake up just before it rings at between 3am and 5.30am. I certainly don’t have a snooze button.”

Abu Dhabi-based mountaineer Jules Lewis, who has a new book Moving Mountains out this month, says those wanting to become self-disciplined must decide exactly what they want to do and, more importantly, why.

“Then every day do something to move you towards your goal,” says the Briton. “Some people like to have an accountability partner – somebody to check in on them. It’s smart to share your goal with someone who has your best interests at heart.”

Consistency is another key to success, says Mr Labouchere. “In exercise terms, a little bit done often is much better for you than a lot done rarely. I do a little exercise every day without fail. I never allow myself an excuse to miss it. If I’m going to a funeral, I run before the funeral.”

q&a going beyond the limits

David Labouchere expands on what drives him to be so self-disciplined:

How do you push yourself to keep moving when you are tired?

People say that marathons turn ugly at 20 miles. With an Ironman marathon, the run starts ugly, because you've just got off a bike after 180km. But everybody has got much more capacity than they ever use. You focus in on the bits of you that hurt and rationalise it through your understanding of your body. You feed those aching muscles with as much food and drink as possible. You then think of the muscles that aren't so tired and recruit them, while the muscles that were complaining get better. Cramp is neurological, it's your body trying to protect itself.

Is it also about conquering the fear of the pain itself?

The worst fear is fear of the unknown. Whenever an entrepreneur takes a risk, he is taking a risk into the unknown and that's why entrepreneurs are special people. If you get a stitch, it's painful if you had never had one before. The second time, you have no fear and it doesn't seem to hurt as much.

How do you bounce back from a race after you’ve lost?

I tell everybody I know that I’m going to be world champion beforehand, but I don’t mind losing. I say well I gave it my best shot but that guy is better than me.

Are there downsides to leading such a self-disciplined life?

I have a very beautiful wife who would like to see more of me, and that’s difficult.