On the morning of 23 May 2019 you started 18 hours of non-stop adventure; free-diving 40m to the lowest point of the Slovenian sea, cycling 210kms and climbing for eight hours to Slovenia’s highest peak. It wasn’t so much about meeting your own personal goals, but inspiring others?
Absolutely. Together with my team I wanted to show people that you can achieve anything. Even things that might seem a bit extreme, with the correct preparation, you can do anything.
I’ve been involved in fitness industry for over 20 years and my goal has always been to move as many people as people. While we have plenty of knowledge and scientific proof that exercise is good for us, still not enough people are active. I believe what we are lacking is the inspiration. My aim was to show movement in a way that captures attention, to make people go ‘wow’ or ‘are you crazy?’. The idea was to use this extreme multisport event as a story of extreme motivation.
And it certainly wasn’t a solo effort, there was a team of us going above and beyond to inspire others to get moving. In fact, my 13-year-old son Val had the honor of kicking off the event – the opening act was him solving a Rubik’s cube puzzle underwater!
Why free-diving, cycling and climbing?
I chose biking and climbing because they are very popular in Slovenia, and free-diving because it’s something that I really enjoy. Slovenia as a country is special – it’s small, we don’t even have two million people, but we have everything, high mountains, sea, amazing scenery. With this combo of activities, we can see and feel the entire Slovenia in an active way, from the deepest point to the highest peak with a bike.
Eduard’s preparation combined outdoor training with LES MILLS workouts.
You say that with the right preparation you can do anything, how did you train for such diverse activities?
If was actually quite a challenge because you need different types of conditioning, and they are not necessarily that complementary. You need to be as strong as possible for the cycling and climbing, but still as light as possible – when it comes to the free diving it’s not good to have too much muscle.
I actually found the LES MILLS programs were very advantageous in this situation.
BODYBALANCE was fantastic for the free-diving, as it helped with flexibility and relaxation. For free-diving you need long and flexible muscles, so you can relax and get in the best hydrodynamic position to freefall through the water quickly. For cycling and climbing, core strength is imperative, so CXWORX was the ultimate training tool.
When it came to the cycling conditioning, to be able to ride 210 kms with quite some reserve at the end (so I could climb a mountain for eight hours) required a lot of training. Of course, I couldn’t train for this by riding 210kms on a daily basis, so that’s where interval cycle training came in. A combination of shorter distances on the road and HIIT cycle workouts gave me the result of capability to cycle 210km and still have the reserves to climb the mountain.
“Over the entire day I burned 20,155 calories. Over 10,000 were spent climbing the mountain during the night, over 9000 were spent biking. Just 150 were spent free-diving, but it was definitely the toughest part.”
You’ve said the hardest part of the event was the shortest part – the free-diving. Tell us more …
Free diving is very mentally demanding. Unlike other sports you can’t just force yourself to push harder to get through. The actual dive doesn’t last longer than 90secs, so it’s quite hard knowing that in that short time you can make or break it. It’s also dangerous, you can face fatal consequences, which makes it even more mentally demanding. There’s the need to be calm and relaxed enough to let go of everything so there is no excess use of oxygen. So, although you are under pressure that you can’t fail, you still need to be relaxed.
Eduard trained for the challenging free-dive in the pool and the ocean.
What do you think it takes to nurture the mental strength required to get through physical challenges?
You cannot build mental strength in 12 weeks in the way that you can build physical strength. I think mental strength comes from experience – and lots of different types of experiences. It relies on going through a lot of fails and getting yourself back up and finding the confidence to know that, although you do fail sometimes you can still find the way and reach success.
Tell us about the most rewarding part of the event …
Right after the free dive I was feeling so hyped. I could actually feel how my body was high on dopamine and I felt I could achieve anything. This made me so pumped to get started with the cycling, and although it was physically demanding I was so hyped that it felt quite easy. The other most rewarding part was reaching the summit at sunrise – all of a sudden, I felt like I was on another planet – just 18 hours earlier I was sailing in the sun on the sea, and now I was high above the clouds surrounded by snow.
“I have always been attracted to adventures and activities that make your heart beat faster, but I’m not that keen on the term ‘extreme sports’ – I think that if it’s doable, it’s not extreme.”
Much of Eduard’s preparation was done in the group fitness studio.
So what next?
I have three big, bold projects in the pipeline. I feel that the event that we just pulled off gave people some kind of inspiration, perhaps they have started moving more, or at least thinking that they should. But where can they be active? What kind of solution can we give them that makes it easy for them to access activity. My next project involves partnering with a strong experiential fitness club, the first of its kind in Slovenia – together we will extend our philosophy, which is to make people move by proving unforgettable experiences. The second project will be something similar to what we’ve just done – but with different types of activities. The third one, is so big and so bold that I am kind of scared to talk about it yet! I think it will take me some time to unveil the secret.
Eduard Zalar is a qualified economist who always had a vision or a dream to be involved in something that combines business and sports. In 1997, by pure coincidence, he was at the gym when they trialled the first BODYPUMP workout in Slovenia. The gym needed an instructor to deliver the program, so he stepped into the role. He soon became a Les Mills trainer, and then the training manager. In 2004 he became the LES MILLS agent for Slovenia.