I truly believe life makes opportunities for you at every turn. I’ve known today’s Glamamama for many years. She’s inspiration to all those she encounters and encourages people to reach their maximum potential, on a daily basis. No, she is not a motivational speaker but I am sure that part of her daily mantra offers many similarities to Deepak Chopra’s ” You must find the place inside yourself where nothing is impossible.”
Today’s GLAMAMAMA is Annmarie Munk a former Olympic swimmer (She swam in the Seoul Olympics at the age of 14!) as well as one of the leading Pilates authorities in Asia. Annemarie was the Principal Instructor and Program Director at the Streamline Pilates Studio in Hong Kong as well as a Senior Faculty member for the prestigious Pilates education organisation, Body Arts and Science International, USA. She has worked with some of Hong Kong’s top athletes and has advised conditioning programs to various swimming coaches in Hong Kong, Australia and the UK. In 2007 Annemarie co-founded the IHP Tri Programme and two years later formed the Tritons (Tri-Club) in 2009.
She has spent most of her life dedicated to sports and today she speaks with GLAMAROSS about sport, family and how men can not multi-task!
GLAMAMAMA ANNEMARIE MUNK
Annemarie Munk in her south side home (photo @glamaross)
GR: With a lifetime in the sports arena, how did you finally get to where you are today?
AM: Like most kids that grow up in HK, they learn to swim! I never particularly liked swimming at first, often crying a lot when the infamous Captain Wright barked orders at us. It didn’t take long for me to move up from lane to lane at the Country Club though, and before I knew it, I was winning my age group in various events as early as 8 yrs old (having only started as a 7 yr old in a frilly cozzie). Swimming was so much fun and so social that I loved going to practice, but I was no angel. I was a complete headache for my coach and my business partner, Fenella Ng often reminds me how much of a brat I was! I think she didn’t enjoy me nipping at her heels! I was a tough competitor though and I really just loved winning, so I did work hard towards that. Improvements just kept coming and I was soon on the National team at age 12, traveling regionally to represent HK, and I stayed on that path until I retired when I was 22. I tried working at a desk, but I was always drawn to the physical side of things. This led me to Pilates, back to the pool, and now it’s just who I am.
A young Annemarie at the Seoul Olympics in 1988
Munk was one of the first Pilates instructors in Hong Kong
GR: When and how did you get into triathlons?
AM: When I retired from swimming, I went to work for a sports marketing and event management firm that handled the Hong Kong & Cebu International triathlons. So I met many great pros and even though I had very little interest in getting back into something competitive at that time, I eventually entered a few races way back in the late 90’s.
GR: It’s been said that the average age of triathletes these days is 35? Why do you think people pursue triathlons so “late” in their lives?
AM: It’s a challenging sport, with a lot of toys! It gets you into great shape, it’s very social, and you get to spend stupid amounts of money on carbon bikes, wheels and various other gadgets that men, especially, have very little control over their will-power with!
GR: How many triathlons/ aquathons have you participated in? What kind of training was involved?
AM: I haven’t done that many as the kids take up most of my time, but I raced solidly between 2007 after Mette (my daughter) was born, until 2010 before I decided to take a break. Due to the distances covered in a race (shortest is 750m Swim, 20km Bike, 5km run) up to half Ironman which is what I was training for (1.9km Swim, 90km bike, 21km run), the training was very time-consuming and I was putting in about 12 hours a week. I would say on average, most folks train 12-15 hrs per week, depending on how much free time they have to dedicate to training. A lot of this would take place on the weekend, with a long 2 -4hr bike ride on Saturdays up and down the airport highway!
The Harvey clan. Annemarie with husband Marc and their two children, Magnus and Mette.
GR: Of your students/ clients, what is the one commonality? Is there a type?
AM: All in finance, mainly men, the majority of whom find swimming soul-destroying, unimportant and a necessary evil that stands between the start line and their bike!
TRITONS HK CLUB in Phuket
GR: How has sport affected you?
AM: Swimming taught me to be very dedicated, but I was doing it at an international level which is very far removed form than the level I was doing for triathlons. More than anything, it gave me focus, which transferred into all areas of my life.
I was very fortunate to swim with some of the greatest minds in the sport, and they taught me a lot, but those lessons didn’t make themselves apparent until I started coaching. I have surprised my coaches as I was a bit of a headache as an athlete. I have an excellent business partner who swam with me for years, and we have become very good friends as a result. We share a very simple philosophy which is all about work ethic. I think its safe to say that we very much lead by example, and it certainly helps that on paper, we have “achieved” athletically (4 Olympics between us), but we very rarely just go through the motions. If we are going to do something, it has to be done right, and to the best of our ability and we expect the same from anyone that seeks us out as coaches. There are no short-cuts to success. A big part of this process is appreciating the process to get better. It does not happen overnight, and patience and open-mindedness is key.
Having trust in your coach is also key, as a relationship where you second guess the “expert” is never going to succeed. I trust myself in this realm, but I will always seek to learn from those that have far greater coaching experience than me.
GR: What do you attribute to the success of Tritons and the IHP triathlon program?
AM: As mentioned before, a lot of folks find swimming very difficult, and the IHP tri program was born out of a program I started in 2003 to help triathletes with their swimming. Nobody likes to swim by themselves, and we offer an environment where we can push those that need a nudge, tame those that need a good kick up the butt and empower and build confidence in those that simply want to make it to the finish line. We want everybody to succeed at whatever level they have signed up for, but we also try to make them realize where the goal posts are. It took years for us to achieve what we did, and we trained upwards of 20+ hours a week staring at a black line at the bottom of a pool. The needs here clearly differ by degree, but not kind, so patience plays a huge roll here.
GR: When you started there were only a few students, how many students do you have today?
AM: I started with about 8 swimmers. Then I had to ask Fen to help me as I started getting pretty popular. In 2007, we began the IHP program and brought a few more coaches on board and the program grew to about 100+ regular attendees training with us. This has pretty much stayed constant as folks come and go, but Tritons, the social “club” we formed for like-minded individuals to get together to not only train but enjoy all the other benefits of being on a team has grown from 50 members to 200+. It has been very rewarding to see the club grow.
GR: What do you think the appeal is? It is easy to train in Hong kong?
AM: It’s a lifestyle, and it seems like a good one to get into as it can get you very fit. We have seen huge physical transformations in folks, and when their friends see this happening, they want to do it too. PLus, there is so much gear, and guys LOVE gear. We have a joke with lots of our rookies that they have “all the gear, but no idea” what to do with it all! Men often wonder why their female friends can drop $50,000 on a bag. Well, it’s exactly the same thing when it comes to boys and carbon frame time trial bikes. Everybody starts with a cheap bike bought down in Wanchai, then by the end of the year, they are upgrading to a carbon time trial or road bike with racing wheels and spending a months’ salary on this stuff.
It’s easy to swim and run in HK, but cycling is not easy as there is absolutely no culture amongst the locals (even though the national cycling team is very very good) so basic road awareness is nonexistent. There are lots of altercations between cyclists and vehicle drivers! This is why we have to wake up so early to get on the roads before the traffic starts building up. Also, the daylight is not like it is in Europe in the summer where folks can ride at night as the sun is still up, so there are limited hours to get on your bike. Despite that, HK boasts some of the top (if not the best) age-group triathletes in the region.
GR: What’s your philosophy to coaching?
AM: To be patient. I have really learned how to do this over the years (although it wanes when it comes to getting the boys to keep track of their pace and the send off interval), especially with rookies. I am less patient with my seasoned veterans!
GR: What’s the worst part of your job?
AM: To be honest, not much. I love coaching. I literally enter a state of “peak performance” when I coach and it invigorates me. I can get very frustrated at times, but mainly it has to do with not being able to understand why a pool full of guys in finance cannot read a pace clock or keep track of how many reps they are doing! If men ever wanted proof of how they absolutely cannot multi-task, this is it!
GR: How do you manage your time between work, kids and husband? What’s your typical day like?
AM: Work is very much a passion for me. I don’t have a terribly busy schedule as we only offer 5 training sessions a week which we rotate through 4 coaches. I write all the swim programs so I try to get that done by Friday each week. On Monday, for example, I’ll get up at 5:45am and head over to the pool and coach from 6:30 – 8am. Then I’ll get in for a 45 min swim on my own, then head to the grocery store and stock up for the next few days. Head home and go through some home admin. I’ll make lunch and then continue with home admin or do some coaching research – I like to read a lot of reports and journals etc. I may be working on an article myself as I write for TriMag Asia every now and again. Then it’s after school activity time so I become the family driver for a few hours before heading home to get dinner ready for everybody. Homework, feed, shower and change the kids and hopefully do some reading with them (they always want to wrestle – why is it they bicker all day with each other and then just before bed-time, they turn into mischievous allies?) before saying goodnight around 7:30 (increasingly not happening!). Marc will roll in around 8 and we’ll have dinner and catch up on the day and then watch one of the shows we are currently into (Game of Thrones, Endeavour) or whatever cycling tour is on going (Giro D’Italia currently). Then its bed around 10:30, 11pm, depending on what is happening in the cycling stage (as its live – when a tour is own, our sleep is ruined).
The family Harvey hiking the Hong Kong trails
GR: Ok, so if an averagely fit woman, late 30s- early 40s wanted to get into triathlon training what would she need to do?
AM: Surprisingly very little. You can do a triathlon on 3 sessions a week. The main things are to learn how to swim in the sea, how to ride a bike, and how to run better. We teach all of this to rookies. The whole concept is to finish, not to come first. Finishing is a huge reward in itself, and it is very empowering for anybody that does it the first time around. It’s also hugely addictive, with folks signing up to the next race as soon as possible. I’ve just had a bunch of teammates that have been racing for years now, but have just finished their first half-ironman and its like they’ve just done their first triathlon again! The supportive atmosphere within triathlon is hugely encouraging, which also helps. Many people started in the same place, overweight, out of shape and with very little skill or idea about how to do this.
GR: Did having a family change your focus, slow you down?
AM: When I had Magnus, I was running my Pilates studio in Central and had to get back in there and keep plugging away. All my staff were also pregnant so it kinda naturally slowed itself down as everybody wanted to shift gears and focus on their families. I had to prioritize my time a lot more regardless, and eventually, I closed the studio and got a bit more involved on the coaching side of things. Then Mette came along and by then, I had pretty much closed the door on all things Pilates and spent my time on a pool deck. Marc started soon after Mette was born and shifted a lot of weight, learnt how to swim and is now a very strong cyclist!
GR: How long did it take you to get back in shape?
AM: With Magnus, not very long, about 4 months as I had to run the studio and get back into teaching. With Mette, I had more time but by then, we had started IHP and I was really keen to start training again. It took me a while to get back into a training routine as I was closing Streamline down and phasing clients out, so I didn’t race until 11 months later, and it was super tough, but that was pretty much the start of 2 solid years of racing.
GR: What are the biggest “misconceptions” of women when they start training with you? What are they afraid of?
AM: Squeezing yourself into lycra and hanging out with lots of other folks in lycra, many of them very fit, can strike the fear in anybody, but this sport is so supportive and encouraging as the vast majority of both men and women who take part, started in the same place of being a little heavier than they’d like and not knowing much about swimming, cycling or running. Triathlon naturally attracts a lot of guys, but my team has a great group of women, certainly one of the larger groups of women amongst the other tri clubs. I’ve found the women to be a lot more focused than men when they start out, plus, women pick things up much faster than men. Men are impatient, whereas women have a lot more patience for working on skill and technique, which is paramount when it comes to swimming. No amount of fitness will help someone swim well. A focus on the process of swimming will, with skill and precision is what will make the difference. Women get this concept much faster than men, and in general, they are technically better than the boys. My pet peeve of not being able to read a pace clock does not affect women, clearly as multi-tasking is inbuilt in us all!
GR: Where can we train with you?
AM: You can find out about the IHP Tri Program here. This is a group training program with options for private sessions etc. Should one want to be part of the social madness that is otherwise known as Tritons, you can find us here.
If you get inspired, drop me a message and I’ll “tri” out with you