Alan Prendergast – fueling the comeback

A story about building an international rower back together, fueling this kind of ambition takes a lot of work and time, and it was worth every second…

“I’ll begin with a little context to set the scene of why I reached out to Evan. I’m 28 years old and I’ve been rowing since I was 13. It’s the biggest part of my life, rowed all through secondary school, had a scholarship in college and immediately following college I was full-time for several months trying to earn a seat in a lightweight four crew which we would try and qualify for Rio. Big statement, and I ended up not making this team due to weight management issues (not performing when down at weight) because 70kg is a small man! I’m still actively rowing and competing at senior level on the domestic scene here in Ireland.I came down from the full-time rowing lifestyle and transitioned nicely (I felt) into the full-time working lifestyle. Competing at senior level domestically in Ireland is still a 12-sessions a week commitment. As I wasn’t involved in a weight management category anymore, I began to “find my natural weight” which was extremely painful because I gained about 8 kilograms quickly and after being so stringent with my weight for so long that caused intensive panic and I really felt like I was losing control. I wasn’t training as much as I used to because trying to be 70 kilograms to compete required lots of extra running at the time.I initially began working as a Personal Trainer in a gym in Cork initially and this was a fairly hands-on role so the calories were still being burnt as I was on my feet moving all day, so my weight topped out at about 80kg, 8kg above my training weight as a “lightweight”. I’ve since transitioned into office jobs, and I’m currently working as a recruitment consultant which is insanely busy. But sitting all day at a desk was detrimental, as the appetite was the same but the movement is significantly reduced.

The kgs piled on and I hit 90kg, something I thought I’d never hit, and I threw the scales away because the abs I once had were long gone and being honest, there was a little bit of “I hate looking at myself”. I was still rowing but my eating was really gone to shit-I’d often skip breakfast, I rarely ate fruit, ate too much pasta, and my performances were only ok, I wasn’t hitting PB’s and I could never complete the full program because my body would shut down. I was floating through the program, younger guys were overtaking me, which is painful, I was down about it a lot because I loved rowing, and the athlete I once was was quickly becoming a memory. I needed to be held accountable and hence reached out to Evan to take control.Had a fantastic initial conversation where we discussed the questionnaire I had to fill out for him. Turns out I had massive food guilt and if I had something “bad” for me I’d hate myself afterwards. This is detrimental mentally. The immediate changes I could make included things like turning bedtime into a process whereby I put my phone away at least an hour before (something I reckon everyone will find hard to do) and dimming the lighting and trying to get to bed at a reasonable hour. Basic, but this worked a treat. I had more restful sleep and immediately felt better in the mornings.

The major thing was cutting out all caffeine after 2pm. The one thing I couldn’t cut out was coffee as I’m 100% addicted, this was initially incredibly difficult, had the shakes and all, but had my 2-3 coffees between 6am and 2pm.When it came to food, we didn’t reinvent the wheel, but I had to start eating enough to fuel the training, and time the intake, and I never skipped breakfast. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’ll say “sure I was eating very little why am I getting flabby and gaining weight?” Giving me a template to follow, it was easy to manage this. I’m naturally lazy and hated to cook but batch cooking became a very regular thing, as did having loads of fruit in the house, so I always brought my food with me and snacks, to deter me from making a stupid food choice for lunch as I often did because I rarely brought my own lunch to work. I’d then go back to work until 5:30, have training at 6:30pm and probably buy something like a flapjack or a red bull in the shop on the way, make it home by 9pm and having not eaten anything substantial since lunchtime. I’d be pissed off because the session went shit, or I ran out of energy. Three guesses why..It took about a week or ten days before I began to see performance increases, and I think it came from simply better recovery. There was no more coming home from training at 9pm, not eating and going to bed after scrolling on my phone for an hour. I had to be regimented with the food and sleep, and at the beginning I felt like I was eating a monumental amount of food, but I began to see things like a steady drop in weight. Had to buy another weighing scales. I wasn’t overly concerned about my weight anymore because I convinced myself that 90kg was my natural weight.

It was more about performance now but seeing the kgs come steadily down, and getting a bit leaner, was massive for my confidence. Especially when other people notice!In the 4 months, may be coincidental, but I wasn’t sick once. I did my 2 nd fastest score ever on the 2000m test on the rowing machine, the standard fitness test for all rowers. My fastest had been done in 2016. This is my proudest achievement from the program, and I was like a giddy child telling Evan that I had done this score, which would have meant nothing to a non-rower but I’ve done this test hundreds of times so to pull out a performance like this was like winning the Olympics! We had a very good racing season, we took 1 st place at 3 major events this year and topped off the season with a second place in men’s senior 8 at the national championships. This result in the highest standard event of the calendar was unreal, it really felt like a win and 4 months ago, I wouldn’t have gotten a seat in this team but with the last 4 months, I felt it really was impossible not to select me from a coaches point of view.

About Evan’s input now. Every single week he checked in to see how the week had been, what worked/didn’t work, and what he could do to make things better. I cannot recommend him enough, he didn’t know much about rowing, but he made it his business to research as much as he could into the performance needs of rowers. Always a phone call or a Facebook message away, the guy is a genius, and he is ALWAYS learning. We chatted frequently, some weeks were shit, other weeks were brilliant. The beauty is that cheat meals were included and makes the whole process very easy to adhere to. It isn’t just grass and water! I lost 5kgs in total, and I’m eager to push on to the next level now next season again. I will work with Evan again 100%, just look at his Instagram for examples of how reliable the guy is. I’ve never met someone more passionate about A) Helping athletes to step on performance wise; and B) Always striving to upskill himself and learn more. I would 100% recommend him to any athlete looking for performance increases, or any individual who has an interest in improving their diet, losing weight/gaining weight, anything!The biggest take-home message is; I was starting to lose all confidence in a sport I love, and question if it was time to hang up the oars. But these past 4 months I’ve really gotten my passion for competing back again. I absolutely love it, both racing and training and I owe it to this man!”