Benefits in unexpected ways
How can a physical education teacher education contribute to a successful elite investment and career as a running inspirer? For many, it is not obvious, but for Anders Szalkai, the answer comes quite naturally.
– My knowledge of exercise science and physiology has primarily been useful in my own training, but above all when I have trained others. The pedagogical part has helped me a lot when I have worked with large training groups, he says.
An obvious choice
Inspired by physical education teachers from his school days, Anders moved to Stockholm in 1991 to study at GIH, which was then still called the Swedish School of Sport Sciences. He didn't know if he wanted to be a teacher, but he was sure he wanted to do physical education. At the time, GIH seemed like the obvious choice.
– Stockholm attracted me, and the Swedish School of Sport Sciences had a very good reputation. In addition, I had gained an insight into the PE teaching profession and understood that it was health that I wanted to work with, he says.
A good start
When Anders started at the university, he still didn't have an explicit running commitment. This meant that he had more time for school and fun activities alongside his studies.
– In the beginning, there was a lot of fellowship and physical activities to weld us together, which meant that I got into the programme and made new friends. It was a fun period, and I'm still in touch with people from my school days. I made many of my best friends during my time at GIH, he says.
Elite investment and study
In the class, there were several who ran, and after a while they started training together. One of the friends was serious about running, which inspired Anders to switch up his training. In 1992, he set the second fastest marathon time in Sweden that year. During the autumn, he decided to go elite. A dialogue with the teachers was initiated, and he says how accommodating the university was.
– When I started going to championships and training camps, I got help to opt out and postpone certain courses. I also have a funny memory from the swimming training, where I had to wear a wetsuit so that I wouldn't freeze too much to be able to train later, he says and laughs.
Knowledge in practice
In 1994, Anders won his first Swedish championship gold medal in marathons, and from 1995 he started training himself. In the late 90s, he launched his first web-based marathon training program for exercisers. Much of this was possible thanks to the knowledge he had acquired during his time at GIH.
– We had very good teachers and guest lecturers, it was a real professional line-up. I always had someone I could turn to for advice and tips. The knowledge I gained during my time at the university, I was able to use first when I trained myself, and later when I started training others, he says.
Running career takes off
From the mid-90s to the early 00s, Anders won a total of 13 Swedish Championship medals in long-distance running. In 2001 he crowned his career with a victory in the Stockholm Marathon. Although there is a lot to be proud of, it is still the victory at home that he holds the highest.
– Without the victory in the Stockholm Marathon, life would probably not have looked the way it did. The competition made me a running profile, and the win has helped me to make a living from running. Just like my time at GIH, that victory gave me credibility as a runner, he says.
Inspire and train others
When he finished his elite program, Anders worked as a teacher for a year, but in the end there were too many other offers that attracted him. Although his teaching career was short-lived, Anders sees how he has benefited from the pedagogy in his role as an inspirer and coach.
– I've worked a lot with large training groups, and in order to convey what I want, I need to be pedagogical. Even though I'm not a teacher, I want to inspire people to move, and it's basically about pedagogy, he says.
Anders remembers his time at GIH fondly. He lists countless occasions during his career when he has benefited from the training. When asked if he would recommend GIH, he answers immediately.
– Obviously! For me, it has been a great advantage to have an academic education. It has given me credibility when I talk about training later in life. There are countless PT and health training programmes, but at GIH they know that they get the best teachers in each area, he says.
Even though Anders didn't know exactly what he wanted to be, he knew he wanted to work with health. Therefore, he wants to encourage more people who have similar thoughts to dare to try and follow their dream.
– Today, the health sphere has grown enormously, there are many more areas you can work in. You can apply here without having a dream of becoming a teacher or coach – it's enough that you like training and health. The basics at GIH can lead to many different paths, he says.
The love for running remains
Today, Anders works as editor-in-chief of the Swedish edition of Runner's World. He has hung up his elite shoes for many years. Despite this, he continues to train and compete at a high level, and as recently as last autumn he embarked on perhaps Sweden's toughest cross-country race – the Kullamannen 100 miles. The fact that he had to retire from the race was hard, but it only triggers Anders to try again.
– At first I was very disappointed, but then I thought, 'This still means something.' I will always love running for the sake of training, but I am still triggered by new goals and goals. Right now, I'm wrestling with what will be the next challenge, he says.
No matter what the challenge will be, we can count on Anders Szalkai to give everything he has. If you want to keep up with his running adventures, we recommend that you follow him on Instagram External link, opens in new window..