For Hong Kong luxury hotel manager, fitness is about balance and enjoyment and keeping busy

When Torsten van Dullemen is not keeping the Landmark Mandarin Oriental ticking over, he is probably training, competing or spending quality time with his family

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 June, 2017, 5:17pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 June, 2017, 11:41am

As the general manager of The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, it would be easy to assume that Torsten van Dullemen doesn’t have time to stay fit. Yet the 48-year-old Dutchman competes in and wins triathlons.

He somehow also finds time to spend quality time in the evenings and on the weekends with his wife and two teenage daughters.

So how does he do it? An answer may lay in his Mensa (the world’s largest and oldest high-IQ society) credentials, putting him among some of the smartest people in the world.

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Van Dullemen’s health regimen includes ultra-distance open-water swimming and various martial arts such as kyokushingkai (a form of full-contact karate). He also loves underground cave exploration, diving and abseiling.

Were you a daredevil as a child?

Oh yes, definitely. I have an older brother and we were forever getting into mischief – he always talked me into doing silly stunts to see what would happen. I was a weekly regular at the local GP getting stitched or plastered – on one occasion when I was about 10 I ran through the front door (on this occasion I think I was doing a blindfolded jumping bag race) and received 36 stitches in my head for my efforts.

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What was the reaction the last time you showed up to work with an injury?

My PA is used to it, as are my team. One day I turned up with a ruptured ACL [knee ligament], torn meniscus and shattered cartilage having fallen down a cliff on a hiking trip. My boss decided it was enough and told me in no uncertain terms that if I didn’t find something a little less risky he would fire me. I think it was his way of caring for me and not wanting me to get hurt too seriously.

Has there been an extreme sport that you tried and while you enjoyed it, decided it was just too dangerous to try again?

Downhill mountain biking. I no longer have the strength, flexibility and reflexes to safely do this. My wife and my boss were right in asking me to hang up my bikes and find something else to do.

Sounds like a smart decision, but then again you are pretty clever. Just how smart are you?

Ha – I will leave that one for others to decide, but yes, I am a member of Mensa. I believe my IQ came in at 137, this equates to the 98.75th percentile of the population.

What do you do to get your blood pumping here in Hong Kong?

Triathlons, road biking, (trail) running and open water swimming.

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How important is general fitness to prevent injuries?

I think being generally fit allows you to maintain your concentration levels and therefore minimise mistakes. In a way it doesn’t matter, simply because in most cases you end up pushing yourself close to the edge anyway.

You’ve already finished two triathlons this year, winning one in your age group. What is so appealing about triathlons?

Last time I went for a physical check-up the doctor told me I should get my head checked out, not my body since there was obviously nothing wrong with it. “You are wasting your money with these tests,” he said. Perhaps he was right. I love the training side, but also the competitive element of the races. Training hard, competing, seeing where your body can take you. I get a real high from these things. I also enjoy the triathlon community a lot. The majority of triathletes, are brilliant people. There is great camaraderie during training sessions and especially on race day. I suppose each of us knows the effort that goes into the training, so there is a shared sense of respect and achievement.

Does your workout ever include your commute to work?

Occasionally when I am crunched for time I will run or cycle to and from work. I live in Repulse Bay, so it is about 11km and quite hilly so it’s a good session.

With sports, competitions and an extremely busy professional life, do you ever get to see your family?

Yes. I make sure that they are not the last priority on the list. Even if this means having to wake up very early to get the training hours in. Unless any work commitments prevent me from doing so, I always make a point of being there for dinner and weekends are largely spent on family-related activities.

You seem to lead a pretty balanced lifestyle. How about your diet?

I naturally like to eat healthily, but I enjoy a burger with fries and mayonnaise as much as the next person. I love red wine. I don’t think you can get too hung up about your diet. Try to get a decent amount of sleep, and avoid processed food as much as possible and above all enjoy life. Mental happiness is just as important as physical fitness.

Your life seems exhausting. How do you keep your energy levels up?

Actually, it is quite the opposite, I have so much energy because I am so active.