Athlete Interview : Ali Cigari, Engineer at Wattson Blue

Ali is our lead engineer at Wattson Blue. He is 34 and is a keen cyclist and runner. He got into sports at University when he started rowing for his college. We caught up with him several months before the race to discuss his preparation for his duathlon.

Where and when are you competing?

My main event this year is the London Duathlon in September 2019, which is held in Richmond Park in London.

Have you done a Duathlon before?

I last competed in the London Duathlon five or six years ago. I have done duathlons three times in the past. It has been a lot of fun.

What made you decide to participate in this race?

I generally need a reason to train. I don’t like to train without a target, so I like to have a goal and train towards that.

What is you ultimate goal for this Duathlon ? 

I would like to finish the race feeling like I have had a good race and performed at my best.

Do you have a time goal for the race ?

Not really, because it’s a really long events. I would probably like to run the first 10k in thirty-eight minutes, then, the second one in under twenty minutes and with the rest I will see. The course is really hilly, so being light is a big advantage.

Have you started training already? And When did you start your training?

I started training around Christmas time. I had October and November completely off.

What does a typical training week look like?

I usually do a lot of long run and then two or three long cycle. I try and do one or two high intensity cycles or runs per week. I probably train between 7 and 10 hours each week.

How do you expect this to change in the next few months?

In reality, I would like to train more but sadly I don’t have time to do that much more training.

Are you training on your own? or do you train with friend? Do you have a coach?

I generally train by myself. I sometimes go cycling with my cycling club team mates. I am a member of Kingston Wheelers in London and Cowley Road Condors in Oxford. I don’t have a coach.

Are you following a training plan? 

I look at Wattson Blue and I generally try and do 60% or 70% of low intensity and around 20% high intensity training. I usually plan my sessions depending on what I have done in the earlier sessions in the week and how I feel according to Wattson Blue.

We know recovery plays a huge part in training response and performance, how are you finding balancing training with your work and life commitments to make sure you get enough recovery and rest?

I am trying to make sure I get as much sleep as I can. For example, five years ago, I didn’t sleep much, but now I try and sleep more and I have more awareness of how busy or stressed I am.  I generally never wake up early to go training because I rather sleep longer. I want to make sure that I am recovered. Sometimes, it’s hard to find the time to train while making sure I get enough recovery. It’s really hard.

How are you finding using with Wattson Blue ?

With Wattson Blue app, I like the fact that I can see my weekly summary. Thanks to that, I can see what I have done each week, for example : what intensity I have done or how much time I have spent in different training zones. Equally, I like that the fact I can look back at my training, my metrics and how my HRV has changed. I really like that. I am using the app everyday to plan my training, in order to make sure that for example if I am stressed I don’t train too hard and if I am feeling good, I push on with training. I am using the app a lot to manage that. 

In order to prepare for this Duathlon, are you following a special nutrition plan?

I need to lose weight because it’s quite a hilly course. My main goal is not to eat too much or to drink alcohol. I try and consume a lot of protein and fat ,while avoiding too much carbs. Generally, I am trying to be careful but I don’t worry about it that much. 

Do you have a favourite post workout snack? 

 Smoothies and lots of fruits are my go to snacks. Peanut butter is my guilty pleasure. 

Has your lifestyle changed? or do you expect it to change in the coming months?

To be honest, I think my lifestyle has changed a lot in the past couple of year. I am more aware of my well-being but I don’t expected to change more in the next few months. I am already quite good at being aware of what’s going on.

How does your work affect your training?

It’s hard, because my office is across of London and the day when I come to this office, I can’t train much. I really can’t cycle, that’s really difficult. But sometimes, I work at home or I go to the office at around 11 am, consequently, I can go to training in the morning before work. If I had more time, it would have been good.

How does your social life and training interact?

Currently, I don’t drink a lot and I don’t go out that much. If I go out, I usually leave at 10 pm because I want go to the bed to be recovered for the next day. It’s definitely a huge change from a few years ago and I can say that it’s a sacrifice but I am feeling happier day to day. 

How does Wattson Blue come into preparation for Duathlon?

The main features I use is the recovery feedback  in order to make sure that I am well-recovered for each training session and for the race itself.

Do you use any other apps to monitor your training or recovery?

I am also using Strava to record and analyse my training rides and runs. 

Have you done any other endurance events, such as marathons or long bike rides? 

I like doing Sportives, and I am doing the Ride London in August this year again. I have done it a few times, it’s on closed roads, and so really good fun.

Between cycling and running, what is your favourite sport?

Definitely it’s cycling. I am a terrible runner. [laugh] 

Do you regularly do any tests to monitor your fitness?

I dont usually do specific tests. I do use the Fitness Estimates in the app. Sometimes I use races to test my form but otherwise I feel too busy to be doing specific tests every month.

Are you monitoring your HRV in Wattson Blue?

Of course.  I now have a better understanding of how nutrition and lack of sleep affects my HRV, and so I try and look after myself. For example, if my HRV is outside of my normal range I usually try and reduce intensity and not train too hard.

How have you found the app’s feedback?

It’s good but it could definitely be better.

Are you feeling nervous about the race?

There is a long way to go before the race, and it’s only two hours, so it will be OK. It’s not like an Ironman that would take over 10 hours.

What has been your favourite athletic achievement so far?

Not sure I have one, but I really enjoyed some of the boats I was a part of in the past few year in the Oxford’s “Summer Eights” regatta. We rowed well together and had a really good time with some of my good friends.

Do you have a sporting hero?

Acer Nethercott, who coxed Oxford in the Boat Race and coxed the GB Eight in the 2008 Olympics.

If you could go back a year, and give yourself one advice what would it be?

As for me, stop stressing that much. I would say that’s the main thing for me to improve. 

(Interview by Caroline Munier, February 13 2019)