Resilience, determination, hard work AND balance – Till Schramm of Germany, has it all.
Have you ever wondered how some people manage to do so much and achieve some really amazing things? How do they find time and balance? And how do they juggle all this without sacrificing family time?
Schramm, is not just a six time Ironman winner, he is also a real family man. He has managed to live out his dream of being a professional athlete all while finding balance in his life to support his family.
But it hasn’t been all roses and butterflies. It has definitely come with sweat, tears, and some unthinkably tough circumstances. Till briefly touches on how he pulls his strength from the memory of his late son and how his family is in his mind and in spirit during a race.
Host: Alexandra Shepherd
Guest: Till Schramm
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I know you’re a very busy man.
Nah not really. This week is quite relaxed. I’m as relaxed as I can be.
Good. Well, like you just said, you’re in one of the most relaxing, beautiful places Busselton.
It is, I agree.
But I do want to get straight into the main points with you today. So, I don’t waste too much of your time so you can get back to relaxing. Um, I do want to talk to you a little bit about mindset. So obviously our minds are, the main thing is to keep us safe and stop us from doing things that we shouldn’t do that puts us in danger. But doing something like the iron man and taking yourself to the next level, you have to push yourself incredibly hard at points. You’re going to have to override what your mind is telling you.
Uh, I think there needs to be like a strong relationship of body and mind. So, I always try not to overrun one of them. So I try, I try to have like the Japanese, or wherever they’re from, the yin and yang and like, this is what I tried to live a little bit, but of course, Ironman racing, it’s not like, it’s not the real health advice and you really need to like push your limits, but uh, but still there needs to be, needs to be like, like a balance. But I, I ever since like, since I’m a, I’m a, I’m a young kid, um, I like to challenges and I like to, uh, like push my, push my personal best and like to overcome these, uh, these moments. And so, uh, yeah, for me, I try to keep the, the, the low points as little as possible, which you, which is in your own hand with like following the right nutrition or doing the right pacing. So whenever you seriously suffering, that’s mostly because you made any sort of failure.
So you didn’t fuel properly or rest properly
Yeah. Or in the lead up, you did like major failures and obviously with the experience and the years, um, the failures are getting less and less. I mean, I’m still of course doing them. I’m, I’m human. But yeah, I just, when you reduce the failures then you have less low points. And uh, yeah. So then it’s good to deal with it. But to run really hurts like when you go hard on a marathon, off the bike you really need to go to a big amount of, of pain. But I, I saw both births of my sons obviously, and I saw how my wife dealt with it because like I think every mother goes through several Ironmen when giving birth. And I think, uh, I mean racing Ironman is self-chosen. So I would not complain about having some sort of pain.
That’s the best analogy I’ve heard. I have done an interview before with a boxer, female boxer, and she said that the women that have given birth do tend to be the most fierce.
Probably. I mean I obviously I never, I never gave birth, but like, yeah, my, my life, uh, recently with losing one of my sons in an accident brought some major challenges obviously on, for me it’s like giving up, it feels like a betrayal of my lost son Henry, because like, he really fought to survive and, and he couldn’t. And so I’m, I think I’m a, I’m not faint-hearted I’m quite quiet, quite hard. Like, I broke my fibula in a crash in a race two years ago and I still finished it, it was also Ironman distance. So I think I’m, I can be very strict with myself. But I learned to balance it a bit because, uh, being too strict eats you up. So, uh, meanwhile I also learned to grant myself if there is something really wrong, better stop it rather than, because pulling through this one Ironman with a broken, fibula really costing me, literally a year. Like, like it took ages to heal because I, I heard all the tendons surrounding and all this, so it, it took ages. So, um, I kind of, I kind of learned to also, as I said before, I tried to balance it out and uh, yeah, push it hard, but like train hard, recover harder and yeah, that’s, that’s a major effect.
So if you’re faced with something like that, again, in terms of that injury, would you push through it this time knowing what you know?
No, I had it actually this year in September, uh, I had like a, partly ruptured tendon in my knee and I, uh, like I wanted to, uh, erase and I was in holiday mode. I had too many drinks and I really enjoyed the, like having the summer a little bit off. And then I went back to racing too early and it already felt wrong to register. Yeah. And so within the race after 10Km on the bike, it was Ironman Wales, I just felt like, that’s the most stupid thing you’d done this year. And I thought, well I like to end the in shape and with like a good memory and with being healthy and fit. And that’s why I decided, which I normally don’t do, well I stop it here in Wales and then I finally recovered my tendon and then I had a really nice and strong build up, healthy fit, no issues leading up to Busselton. So yeah.
Do you feel the need to have to kind of always explain that when you make your decisions or are you very much like do it, what you need to do?
I think I’m in my ninth or 10th year now, fully professional. So I make my living and the living for my family out of sports. so of course, my decisions sometimes depend on sponsor needs or requirements. I’m not like an age grouper, so I can’t always make the decisions my own way. So, it’s like, of course certain partners, uh, demand certain countries are racing or certain races if they sponsor them. So as a professional it’s sometimes, yeah, you need to also there find the balance in between the economical side and uh, and the best performance.
Yeah. You know, I, I did proper jobs before in my life. Like I, uh, I had a rough path to go in my youth when I grew up and I always had to work like seriously tough jobs. I go work as a landscape garden and all of these things. So when you do this, when you, when you woke up at six in the morning and then dealing with big stones and trees at minus one and in Germany, uh, then you really appreciate the lifestyle of being a professional athlete. And that helps me. Uh, so I know what life normally looks like and I tried to achieve this lifestyle as long as I can. Like I’m 34 now and my aim and my dream is to do it until I’m 39 or 40, because I know that then there will still be 25 normal working years and uh, they, they can, they can look ugly by the time. So I know that and I try to keep it balanced and fit as long as I can.
Now you did just mention about your son. I was, I don’t want to sort of go into that too much ‘cause it was quite personal, but um, I was just wondering how much is family, like your whole family, the driving force for you when you are in the race?
Are they always in your mind, are they always with you during the race?
Always. Yeah. My, my own family, my, my two sons and my wife. That’s everything for me. That’s, I’m totally stepping back on personal things. That’s also why I rather, I prepared for this race. You know, it wasn’t like hang loose, you know, I could have from my professional side, I could have arrived here six weeks earlier and uh, taking it easy, but I know that when I’m away, my wife wakes up half an hour earlier to uh, go, go for a walk with our dog too. And then she drops Theo at the nursery, even with the bike in winter to, uh, to give him some sort of movement too. So I know that everyday I’m, I’m away, it’s much harder for my, for my family. So then yeah, I swallow the bitter pill and I do, hours, total sessions next to the heating vent and you know, I do all these things, which are of course not as nice as just riding at 30 degrees. But no, for my family, I go, I go beyond every limit. And if, if, if my sport would ever harm my family, I would, or any job I would, I would stop it without any regret. So that’s not like for me, that’s above everything.
Yeah. That’s good. Yeah. So, I mean at any, most families have trouble just balancing life as it is, let alone you now being a professional.
Yeah. But also everyone is a professional and has a profession. And like at the end, my job is, it’s quite even I think, quite good for my family because I’m the only dad normally who can drop and pick up kids at the nursery. So I’m always there with them, with the women. And so I know many normal working dads who maybe give their kids a goodnight read or not even see them in the evening. And that’s not the case for me. So I’m, I, that’s why I appreciate my job as a triathlon professional. So I train roughly 20 to 30 hours and maybe there are 10 or 20 hours for like sponsor obligations, marketing, whatever. But this still is flexible and I can train in the early hours or if we required in the late hours so I can make space for my family whenever it’s needed. Yeah.
Sounds like you’ve got really good balance.
Yeah, I think so. Uh, I, that’s what my wife said. I, yeah,
If she’s happy it’s all that matters.
As happy as happy as she can be. She’s probably, yeah.
So, let’s move over to something a little bit different. Um, there’s a lot of talk at the moment around gut health and how it impacts wellness and energy levels. Do you do anything around gut health or other holistic, treatments I suppose, for your performance?
Uh, you know, I’m really open for that, so I do a lot of homeopathics before I take something real in terms of medicine. So if I ever have inflammation, I rather take arnica or something, then start with ibuprofen. Generally, I just tried to fuel myself, right. In a way that kind of, I eat healthy. Uh, and I’m not much processed food, but I’ve found out for me personally that whenever I go into an extreme, like trying to stay away from carbs or whatever, then this really brings me out of the balance. Because if you do endurance sport, you need a certain, I mean, it doesn’t matter how you look at the start line. For me it matters how I perform. And if I look like a bodybuilder, uh, uh, but, um, I’m just not, not moving. That’s not ideal for myself.
So you don’t follow anything like keto or paleo or plant base?
No, I don’t, I mean like my wife is plant-based ever since she just don’t like meat. So once in a while she has a bit of salmon or whatever, but if I buy meat, I have to do it for myself and my son. So I don’t think it’s not if I see I’m staying here now with an age grouper and with a local resident in Busselton. When I see how much meat they eat, like on a daily basis, uh, that’s not how I have it at home. Yeah. I would say I have meat two to three times a week and I more have fish or chicken. I rarely have beef.
I never eat pork just because I have a really good, orthopaedic, who was a friend of mine and he says because the way they, they grow them. They are full with medicine and he says it destroys the ankles and weakens the tendons. So, uh, he says that most of the people suffering big tendon problems is because they have too much meat, especially pork. So, I tried to stay away from this and yeah, also porks are meant to be as intelligent like, like a dolphin. And in Germany, they are not grown on a grass field. They, grow up on one square meter. Uh, a mother with like the whole bunch of kids. So I really don’t feel like it, from an ethical point of view. But often the ethical point of view comes into, into place with my nutrition.
Yeah. So I rather buy a German apple at home at a normal supermarket, then going for the New Zealand Apple in the ecological supermarket. They are organic and stuff
Which has just flown around the world.
So I just try to keep it simple and, uh, follow logical routines. Yeah. My family are farmers originally and uh, like I, I grew up with like basic and good core values and not make it too complicated. And I see the generation now is sometimes, uh, yeah, not overseeing the whole thing and going into too much detail with, uh, unnecessary things. Yeah.
Probably with their whole influencing. Social Media
I think, yeah, it’s hard to stay, on your own path if you are influenced however.
That’s one of the big things that we’re trying to do at the pharmacy that I’m at. We are trying to help people look at things from evidence base and not getting too sucked into it. But then listening to what they want as well. You know, if you choose plant base, great, we support you for plant base. But then we just made sure…
Some people probably can handle it. Like my wife, she has a good red blood screen all the time with mostly being on plants. When I tried it, I had a blood screen like a 94 year old male two days prior to passing away. Like, you know, when you’re walking around like a zombie. It’s like probably the amount of workload I put to my body you can’t compensate it with vegetables. And also like, of course I in a legal way, I’m always interested, as every athlete is, in like performance enhancement. And if I know that, for example, soy products are very bad for the testosterone level. All these meat replacements, most of them are like soy or tofu. Or even chickpeas are very high in estrogen and all these things, are lowering my performance.
So I think maybe, maybe when I stop professional sport, then I would probably more go to a keto diet. Yeah. Just because you can achieve like a good basic fitness and uh, you’re not getting, not gaining weight even if you’re not exercising a lot. But for endurance sport, you just need, you need carbs. But I try to have them from like in a daily routine, more from fruits or potatoes or rice which has grown, less from pasta. But if I’m leading up to a race, for example, I know that just a simple white pasta is the best for me and then I’m not making it complicated. Yeah.
Easy to break down. It is quick energy.
Yeah. Yeah. That’s it. So in normal training week, I have a wholegrain bread, but if leading up to Race day I have a white bread with jam and I have pasta maybe with a bit of pesto. And I know that maybe my race week is not the most healthy week, but if I’m in a race week then it’s, for me it’s about performance. Yeah.
Just achieving what you need, what the body needs to do basically. What were some of the key things that took you from being a rookie to being a pro?
Um, I kind of ever since did sport in a, in a way of uh, yeah, on an elite level. Like I, after my parents divorced, I literally read the book of Lance Armstrong, how he deals with the divorcement of his parents. Obviously, he did some cycling, triathlon as well and I was very motivated by the book and I signed up at the gym. And I just started to work out as hard as I could. So, I was in a national team, mountain bike in juniors. And then from there I went on with road cycling duathlon and finally ended up at triathlon. It was always really like performance driven. And I literally skipped the age group ranks so they were like my first long distance, uh, one off to famous ones in the world, in Ross in Germany, that was uh, together with the same year Ironman my first. I did like two age group races and then I switched to elite levels.
How much do you think was natural talent and how much was hard work and determination?
I think most of it is hard work and determination and consistency over the years. Like there are some people they rock up, then they have a result one year, but then they are burned. And to really make a major step and to keep in the business, you just need to be consistent in training and racing over the years. And I think therefore the mindset and like other talents count. The talent that you’re not like you, you need to be a bit more, yeah, as I said, not a faint-hearted. If you are injured after every run, it doesn’t matter if it was a quick one and you’re a talented runner but then you won’t make it anyway.
So I think there is a general talent for me and in movement, but look, we don’t have to drive a handstand into the transition area or something. So it’s not, or a backflip into run is not required. So I think in endurance sport always the, the hardest worker gets, or the most clever worker. It’s not about ticking boxes and clocking stupid hours. It is to really go beyond the limit. Like you can either ride six hours junk milling in a group of 10 and take it relatively easy and you are really proud about the kilometres. Or you do two hours on your own, like with proper efforts or you do them like fast. This is really, really painful. But these sessions bring your further. So, uh, so it’s not about how many hours you train, it’s about how the hours look like.
So do you study other athletes then prior to, is that a silly question? Is that sort of something people do? Cause you know, for boxing for instance you’re always studying your opponent.
No I don’t. I totally keep out of the triathlon scene normal. Like I have some professional friends over the years where you race with and you know well. They are good guys and you can trust them. And if you need something at a race or they need something. Then they in Germany or Europe they show up at my motor home or if I need something I go to them. So over the decades, some good friendships. But uh, generally I just, I found out that’s why I tried to stay away from social media as much as I can. I I found out that I need to make a plan. I have a small team of people I trust and they are all great in their trade. And if I set the plan for the goal, I follow it and I’m not looking left or right.
For someone else, something can be good but it’s not good for me and the other way around. So of course I always had and still have people who kind of inspire me, but they don’t need to be automatically out of triathlons. So I’m more motivated by some cyclists, like the Australian Rohan Dennis, he’s kind of motivating me. Or there are some, some runners when I see them running, you know, I rather watch Eliud Kipchoge, I would rather watch him running. Then watching a competitor because compared to runners, we are all running crap. So I’m always trying to motivate with the people who have the best knowledge in the discipline and the triathlete never has the best knowledge in the discipline. We are like a jack-of-all-trades.
How much of a difference did it make having the right team around you and having the right coach?
I’m coaching myself, so I do have the right coach. Yeah, my most successful years, I coached myself.
Because, you know, I grew up with sports as I said, and I met really, really good people and coaches. And I worked with really, really famous coaches for many years. But I always tried to learn. To understand what we’re doing. And I always ask. And one of them was an athlete for more than five or six years. And he is a multiple Ironman winner. And he was one of the top three in a whole decade. And um, after a while he, like we started that I kind of planned my training and he looked over it. At a certain point he said, I’m honest with you but you are even giving me ideas sometimes. So you are good to go if you feel confident.
And so, so ever since, and he’s one of them. I have some people when there might be like a, like a question because every, every time it’s something a bit different. Do you need to adapt to situations? And when a situation brings me to a point where I don’t really believe in my plan anymore, I need to do changes, then I have like good people to ask. Uh, what might be the better option. Also if I have an idea, I always ask someone but always first and last is my wife. She lives with me and she sees it and she knows me the best in the world. And so if I feel that there might be something wrong or if I have an idea, I always get it checked by my wife because she’s really like down to earth and realistic. And she would tell me if, I mean, and she even did like before out of a summer holiday. I kind of decided, oh well, let’s go to Ironman Wales even totally unprepared. She said to me, well let’s have holidays in Wales but leave the bike at home. And you know, like, yeah, normally she’s right. More often she’s right.
So the last question that I’ve got is, what motivates you more? The wins or losses? And I suppose you’re not ever losing as such.
Yeah, probably the disappointments. Yeah because I became second six times in Ironman races and meanwhile I also won six times. I’m honest, last year after these five victories and then becoming second again it feels like a down step. And I’m not like a triathlon fan, like here is different. I’m honest in Busselton that was my aim to end the season just with a solid shape, with a proper result. I heard this season is like a world champion field. If I have a proper top 10 result here and I have a fast time I’m happy. I’m really thankful to my sponsors who made it happen.
So for me, there is no risk here. And for me it was important to start fit into the winter in a way. Now it’s Christmas and in Germany it’s hard to stay away from the cookies and having December off is fine. If you had a good shape beginning of December, you won’t be as unfit in general as if I would have skipped in September. But generally you’re right whenever I prepared for race to win it and it didn’t happen or I made failure. Even in a victory, there can be major failures, but normally you’re not analysing a victory because that’s the top of it.
But uh, yeah the deeper you fall, the harder I analyze it and the harder I work to overcome these weaknesses.
Okay. Well, we look forward to seeing you out there on Sunday. Thank you very much.
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