The following is my interview with Carl Bamforth, one of the people I interviewed for my upcoming book 50 Athletes Over 50 Teach Us to Live a Strong, Healthy Life. I learned so much from the athletes I spoke to, and shared what I learned in my book. I hope you enjoy the interview.
Carl Bamforth is a 51 year old highly motivated and competitive in-line distance speed skater, who lives in the “Garden City” of Victoria British Columbia. Carl has participated in various sports at different times since age 16 including soccer, running, hockey, baseball, cycling, triathlons, as well as in-line skating. In his early 40s, Carl had developed plantar fasciitis from running, and was looking for other forms of exercise. He tried on a pair of in-line skates that a friend lent him, and he never looked back.
Carl is a single dad, who co-raised his daughter who just started college last September. He is a carpet and upholstery cleaning professional by trade, and enjoys his work because it has him moving around rather than sitting at a desk. He trains alone most of the time, since there are not many competitive skaters in Victoria.
Carl is currently focused on training to set the over 50 world records for the 1 hour, 6 hour, 12 hour, and 24 hour distance events. The distance record for 24 hours is currently held by John Silker at an unbelievable 282 miles. Carl routinely does 50k to 80k skates that take 2.5-4 hours, so that he can break the world records in such a way as they won’t be broken in his lifetime.
I think of Carl as Rocky Balboa on skates. If I had to bet money whether or not Carl will set the world records he’s chasing, my money would be on Carl.
Q: What is your biggest accomplishment in sports?
A: It’s longevity. I’ve managed to stick with it for 30 some odd years, and always been fit. I’m still 185 pounds, and have never been over that.
Q: What one or two things do you currently do in your training that are the keys to your success?
A: My weight training, and my diet, as well as the skating itself are the keys for me. I spend 2.5-3 hours per day in the skates, weather permitting. I do gym workouts early in the mornings and try to do legs three days a week, and back and arms for stabilization another couple days a week. I probably train 25 hours per week. I now train smarter rather than harder, doing the right exercises in the right fashion. That has kept me injury free. I once was shooting to leg press 900 pounds. Once I did it, I thought about trying 1000 pounds. I caught myself, and decide that would happen next year.
Q: What would be your ultimate achievement?
A: It would be setting the over 50 in-line distance speed skating world records for 1 hour, 6 hour, 12 hour, and 24 hours. I am training to set these records so that they can be put it in granite, and not broken in my lifetime.
Q: What is your biggest challenge, and how do you manage it?
A: I don’t have a social life. I don’t have time for a relationship. Entering a relationship would be a selfish thing, because what I’m doing is a relationship killer. It will be this way for the next 5 to 8 years. I try to stay focused.
I also think financing the venue for the world record attempts will be a challenge. I will be looking for a charity to work with to finance the event for raising money. Maybe a children’s cancer charity. I will also need someone to handle the arrangements, so that I don’t get distracted from training. I read about the guy who has the current 24 hour record, and he said it took a lot of his time to get things set up.
Q: What is your diet like?
A: I try to eat all whole food. I’ve never been a big fan of supplements, except a protein shake once in a while for recovery. I like fruit, skinless boneless chicken breasts, yams, rice, and lots of fruit. I don’t like vegetables that much. I have a 1500 calories smoothie made with nuts, yogurt, seeds, berries, and bananas to give me quick energy before I skate. Last time I looked at it, I ate about 5700 calories per day. I don’t track what I eat unless I’m performing poorly. I then look at what I should be doing differently. I’m not really a meal eater. I eat all day. The smoothie is the most important thing to me. It is really the only way I can get the energy I need without getting that bloated feeling.
Q: What 1-2 things do you believe differentiates you from your contemporaries who have tailed off in their athletic participation or abilities?
A: I have repulsion for body fat, and 15% is too much. I figure if I’m not going to be rich, I’ll outlive them all. I want to be healthy, and enjoy my life when I’m older.
Q: Do you have any recommended resources to share (books, seminars, websites, coaches)
A: One of the best books I ever read was The Joy of Stressby Dr. Peter Hansen. It explains how if you don’t like what you’re doing, stress kills you. I like motivational speakers such as Nick Vijicic, who was born without arms or legs, yet there’s nothing he can’t do. I really like stories about people overcoming big challenges. It is not about what you have, but what you do with it. When I’m doing squats and people ask me, what I’m going to do when one of my knees blows out. I just tell them I’ll do it with one leg.
Q: Have you experienced a breakthrough, and if so, what led to it?
A: I once had a plateau where I was pushing and pushing without making progress. One day I pushed it to the point where I had incredible pain in my legs, and nearly had tears in my eyes. After that, my speed increased by several kilometers per hour, and my distance increased dramatically. Sometimes you have to dig deeper than you ever thought you could, through personal desire, and at any cost.
Q: What is the best advice you were ever given?
A: Never give up. Never say can’t. I’ve always taken that to heart. Can’t is a four letter word. It was a marshal arts instructor that told me that.
Q: Do you have a saying or motto that you live your life by?
A: “Taking the lead is heaven, holding it is hell. Welcome to hell”. I’m going to get that on a T-shirt.
Q: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
A:Jack Lalanne is amazing. Anyone who has overcome anything difficult makes me want to work harder. My dad also taught me that if you do things right, you do them once. If you don’t, you do them again.
Q: How do you set your goals?
A: I have my big goals, and my little goals. I work on achieving the small goals on the way to the big goal. When you have a goal, you need to realize how you are going to do it. If you can’t figure out how you will possibly achieve it, it’s just a dream. With the 24 hour record, I figure out how to meet the 1 hour, then the 6 hour, then the 12 hour records.
Q: Anything else you’d like to share?
A: Find your passion, and go for it. Live your dreams. If you don’t, then why are you living at all?
Stop chasing the dollar. I’m in retired people’s homes all the time, and there is no way am I ending up like that. They have nice things, but they can’t do anything. When you think about it, you won’t need any money in the end. The quality of life is as important as the quantity of life. They keep proving that fitness improves life, yet there is so much misinformation out there. People hear what they want to hear. If someone writes a paper saying that squats are bad for your back, people believe it. I recently read that you are 30% less likely to get cancer if you lift weights. People at the gym wonder if they should lift or run. I say lift and run, and you’ve probably got an 80 or 90% better chance of not getting cancer.
I plan on sharing the full interviews of the athletes I interview so you can enjoy some of the powerful messages that come through. Enjoy.