The Blame Game

The Blame Game

“If you haven’t the strength to impose your own terms upon life, you must accept the terms it offers you.” T.S. Eliot

If you’ve ever listened to athletes talk about their performances after an event or write about them in their “race reports” posted on social media, you’ve probably noticed a trend. Competitive athletes who consistently perform at a high level will most likely attribute their performance to variables that they consider to be within their control, regardless of whether they performed well or poorly. They take responsibility for the outcome and hold themselves accountable, unless there were some unforeseen circumstances beyond their control that determined the outcome. Even in defeat they will congratulate their opponents for doing what needed to be done, while at the same time acknowledging what they neglected to do to meet their own expectations.

Now try and recall the explanations given by competitive athletes who don’t routinely perform as well as they, or others thought they should have. Are they more likely to attribute their performance to outside influences and circumstances that they deem beyond their control? Do they attribute the success of others to luck, fate, or basically anything other than hard work and superior ability? These athletes are less likely to accept responsibility for their performance, and they will continue to attribute future poor performances to forces outside of their control. Consistently high-achieving competitive athletes are more likely to attribute success or failure as being within their control, whereas lower-achieving competitive athletes are more likely to attribute performance outcomes to forces beyond their control. The degree to which an athlete believes that he or she has control over the outcome of a performance is known as Locus of Control. Those who believe that they are the primary cause of an outcome are said to possess an Internal Locus of Control, while those who attribute primary control of an outcome to forces other than themselves are said to possess an External Locus of Control.

For the purposes of this discussion, I am defining competitive athletes as those athletes whose primary objective in competition in to finish at the top, or near the top of their respective categories. It also includes athletes who never finish at or near the top of their respective categories but believe that they can perform at the same level as those who do. Their Locus of Control is most likely to be identified as external. Before competition they often feel anxious and unprepared. Their performance levels have plateaued, they can’t seem to get over the hump, and their less-than-expected results are almost always attributed to someone or something other than themselves. Their primary objective after a poor performance is not to rectify the circumstances that led to the undesirable outcome, but to maintain their self-worth and self-image. Because they believe that external forces led to their performance results, they don’t have any interest in learning what they can do to facilitate better results the next time out, and the cycle continues. They just don’t believe that they posses the skills to adapt and take charge of their destiny because it’s out of their control.


Locus of Control.  Credit: kristinasintelligence.weebly.com/

Athletes that possess an internal Locus of Control see things in an entirely different light. They believe that they have the power and ability to influence the outcome of events. In extraordinary cases where they might think that their performance outcome was the result of external forces, they believe that they can adapt their strategies for future events to cope with and overcome such forces. They assume responsibility for figuring out how to deal with external forces because they attribute future successes to themselves. Athletes with an intrinsic Locus of Control perceive their worlds as being more controllable and manageable. After a poor performance, their primary objective is to identify what they need to correct to prevent similar results in the future. They don’t focus on self-worth or what others will think about them. They focus on what it is going to take to get better.

Most athletes probably exhibit internal and external Locus of Control orientations to some extent, but those whose Locus of Control is primarily intrinsic seem to be top performers often. Would it not seem logical then that any competitive athlete would want to adopt strategies and habits associated with intrinsic Locus of Control athletes to assume more control of performance outcomes? Well, it’s not very complicated to do, but it can be uncomfortable for some because it requires that you are totally honest with yourself and others. You must first accept responsibility for your own performances and hold yourself accountable for doing whatever it takes to undertake a relentless pursuit of improvement. It’s like those who suffer from addiction, but never seem to get better because they are in constant denial that they have a problem. They must admit that they have a problem before they can begin to fix the problem. Once an athlete can admit that he or she needs to accept responsibility for their own performances, they can then begin the process of improvement. Athletes seeking improvement need sources of feedback to determine areas for improvement, and how to develop successful strategies for improvement. They must be committed to accessing all resources available to them, such as technology, clinics, camps, and coaches, where objective assessment and evaluation is available.

Go back and read one of your social media race reports, or even ask friends who will be honest with you and find out if you tend to attribute your performances to external forces. If so, make the decision to take control of your own destiny and see more favorable results than when you didn’t take responsibility for your own actions. This is not only true in triathlon, but in life.

 

Robert Taylor is a professional triathlon coach with over 30 years experience. Join Rob in June at his next Triathlon Camp in the USA – Great Smoky Mountains Camp

Who had the best Triathlon series and why?

Who had the best Triathlon series and why?

Sutto Squad enjoying Alpe d’Huez (Sylvain, Luke, Marc, Ben and Chippy). Photo Credit: 220 Magazine

Every athlete asks me at some stage should I do the Ironman races or Challenge? What about the newer ones such as Outlaw, the older independent races, or the ITU series races that have both short and long races. Coach what’s your favourite?

This blog is for the real Triathlon tragics. It’s not for mass appeal, but for those who want a window of what Triathlon used to be. Just join me for 5 minutes and I’ll tell you a true story of the greatest race series the world has known, but that few know of now.

Last weekend family circumstances had me traveling back to Dijon France. This region of Burgundy was a big deal for not just France but the whole of Europe in the ‘Middle Ages’ period of history. It also played a major role in the European start of Trisutto back in 1992, a long time before anyone thought about Triathlon being in the Olympics.

From our Australian squad we had sent Shane Johnson as a scout to the French race scene. He had joined a club he was invited to race for and then sent back all the information he could regarding the practicality of our full squad following the next year.

Shane’s reconnaissance seemed completely surreal to us, his excitement and stories of races and prize money just didn’t seem possible.

To sum up his words in a sentence: “Coach, I’ve found the promised land. 4 races every weekend, with great prize money, and at least 2 mid week races with money during the August holiday month!

We went about, putting our own club races on in Australia to raise money to fund our squad members to get their shot at the promised land. No money, no French language, but a huge hope that we could indeed make a living with Triathlon in France.
Our first bit of luck was we were introduced to a French athlete and his brother Sylvain Dafflon, and his brother Herve. In 30 years I have yet to find a Frenchman with a more Australian attitude to life.Sylvain organised our group to join his club in Macon, which is just south of the Burgundy region. This is where we make the first part of the greatest series start. The club provided us with two apartments to house 8 athletes, and paid for all athlete French licenses.

Our Shane Johnson group did the same with two clubs in a different region. Each club housed and provided race suits and bikes if needed for our guys.

Dylan brought out the race schedule for all of France. It was like nothing we had ever seen. 400 races all broken down into races with stars next to them. All with prizemoney. This took place in a 7 months season. 1 star race had 1000, 750 and 500 Francs in prize money. This was almost 30 years ago with no Olympics on the horizon. Five star races had more money, and paid deeper that we could even imagine.

We decided that we would concentrate with the slower athletes on the Burgundy region, while our best two men and women would travel French wide and take on the best. The next point that amazed us, was Sylvain said ‘you pick the races and who is going and I’ll contact and make arrangements’. We thought this is about getting free entry? No, every race even the one star offered us hotel for 3 nights, food during the trip, and an allowance for travel – unless we wanted to travel by train. That was one reason we selected Macon as we could get to anywhere in France by TGV, and the club provided the tickets!

As we travelled across France recently I started pointing out races that our athletes had won. After 30 minutes I was told, ‘these little towns could not have all had triathlons with money? Some of these towns are too small?’

Indeed they did! In fact, we planned out our attack on this area pouring over the map like Napoleon before a battle. Each athlete was designated races according to their ability and riding strengths. Every race had prize money and some larger than today 26 years later. Dijon had a great half iron distance, then we had our local races Macon, Le Chaplin, Chalon-sur-Saone which I remember well because Sylvain was shocked when we turned up with juniors Ben Bright, his mate Lach Vollmerhaus and Marc Allen.

Ignoring the advice that ‘they will get killed racing pro, stick to the small local races, it might help their chances‘; Ben just destroyed the field. Out of the water minutes in front and then put two more into them on the bike. Sylvain was in the race, and he never again worried about our feeding ourselves, more about don’t send these boys to my races! We were away, Auxerre, Dole, Troyes, Besançon, Epinal, Pontarliar,  Baule-Escoublac, St. Louis, Nevers, Vesoul.  All had money races, all in this one region and we won them all  – it was the Aussie invasion.

Mulhouse where the great Craig Alexander spent a season honing his skills then on to the bigger ones in the area. Belfort Half Ironman where the great Hamish Carter during his time in the squad just destroyed the best in the land, and I still remember the bike ride from the future Olympic champ. And we will apologize to the other races in the area that I’ve forgot to mention that were equal to any race in the world. Still going strong is Gerardmer triathlon, a fantastic Triathlon test of skill over half distance, has 6,000 triathletes racing over a week.

This is one region in France only. So is this why I think it’s the best ? No not really. Let me finish by explaining a French race at every level, from our experience. During our first race, we were all very excited, but with no language skills it was difficult. We were told the race starts at 3pm ‘just like football’. Sleep in we were told. Now in Australia, a late race at that time was 8am start. We couldn’t believe it. How do we prepare for a 3pm start? How do we eat? All was new to us.

So on race day about 8:30am, one of the athletes come charging up to me after he had been out for a jog shouting “We have missed it. The race is on now!” I tore out and down to the race sure enough there were athletes everywhere. Finding the race director, he assured me, no no no, 3pm is the pro start. This is the clubs race, the age group race, and the kids race. So be here at 2pm to set up in transition. He answered “if you want lunch come down early between mid day and join us all.“

So, I wandered down early, and this is what I saw! A field completely covered with picnic blankets baskets, and food everywhere. Families having baguettes, cheese and wine. All the French Pros were mixing with the fans. I thought great for us, but the director said, they will all stay for the pro race, and they love to mix with the pros. Before the main race, bring your guys down. They don’t have to eat but it creates an atmosphere for the town.

We raced in towns of 200 and on race day there were 1000 for the picnic. It was surreal, and every race we went to at the provincial level this was a tradition, not a one off, I will point out. Viva la France!

Before the onset of the political power, and joining the Olympics, the French racing circuit, from kids race to ironman races was the greatest race series in the sport.

I’m equally sure that some of our long surviving triathletes, the veterans of  30 years, will confirm how in their part of the world, there was a vibrant Triathlon racing community that provided a great diversity of Triathlon experiences in their area. It could be well argued, that only a few professional athletes yet many administrative personnel have benefited in ITU racing, and that the proliferation of Triathlon would have grown just as much as it has under the Olympic Rings. As in France there were also many half iron and iron distance races. In France today, if we take out Ironman Nice, the major long races are all thriving. Still there after 25 years without an IM brand or Challenge sticker. All still provide a better race experience, and spectator experience.

We finish the observation that when one asks, what happened to Nice? It went from the greatest true test of the complete Multisport athlete with a unique experience, to just another Ironman. If that’s progress you can have it.

 

Know your Sport!

Know your Sport!

After our last blog, Am I missing out, I have received feedback from several people who have been around Trisutto for a long time  asking….,why the change?  I would like to pass on the answer in more detail to not just them, but all of our regular readers.

Why the change from group to non-group training?
Up until 2006 my Triathlon squads were primary ITU Olympic distance athletes with a few exceptions who competed over long distance. However since this time, when I decided to go after the Ironman distance, our squads have been primarily long course athletes with the exception being a few short course athletes.
Last year we introduced age group athletes to our program also, thus thus adding a third category to our training regimes.

As previously stated it’s my conclusion that the longer distance events need to be trained at intensities that suit the actual athlete. Going outside that personal range has no benefit when racing from 4 to 12 hours. In fact I find it quite harmful to performance; thus there is very little need for head to head training, nor the psychological impairments that at times it brings.

So to with older athletes even going short, bashing oneself into submission. I find this gives a very short term and artificial improvement that can not be sustained long term. There are many reasons for that, however I’ll stick to laying down the motor patterns in a controlled environment for each discipline is superior and longer lasting than being one of the white knuckle brigade….‘because I’m tough’

The good news for me, is short course or long course and now age group athletes, don’t seek me out unless they are courageous. Those that are not, don’t last long in my squad, just as the ‘short term in a hurry’ athletes also don’t last long with me.

No pain no gain..? 
We teach athletes to use their courage on race day, to have the courage at training to read their own body and listen to it, not override it because I can gut it out better than most.

‘No pain no gain’ is one of the stupidest mantras in sport, especially if one is training for a multi hour sport.


Short Course athletes have to adapt to the numbers to be competitive. 2003 ITU Triathlon World Champion, Emma Snowsill. Photo Credit: Triathlon.org

Know your Sport
When considering elite pro short course athletes, it is true that back in the day, just as it is now, we consider what levels need to be met to be competitive. Unlike our long course training where we train at paces that adapts to our bodies, in the short version we do the opposite, we have to adapt our bodies to the numbers that are required to be competitive.

Yes, I hear you saying that makes no sense, but in reality short course is not Triathlon.
Know your sport…, it is a wet run. Thus the first 200 metres of the swim is very, very important.  You won’t swim your way into the event if you are not there at the first bouy. Just as today if your not a 29 min 10 km runner in the men’s race, you are not in the top 10. If you can’t crack 34 mins in the women’s, you too will be fighting it out for 11th.

These are facts not fiction; the realities of ITU life. So short course athletes need to work at speeds during the week that are above that pace to get adaptions. Being there from the start of the drafting races and having coached many of the champions of their generations, I have documented evidence of what it took on a weekly basis to win a world title. The speed needed in 1997 didn’t cut it in 2007 and 2007 doesn’t cut it now!

Adapting to the Realities
At Trisutto we have always adapted to the new realities of what it takes. I discovered early on that when we were training as a group for ironman the results were not as I wished. Sickness, tiredness, more injuries brought on by I’m sure the fatigue of going long, but also going head to head,  This had me rethink our approach, along with the so many other differences needed between long course and short course racing.

Having people ‘doing their own pacing’ was a huge break through for me. Just as throwing away the stop watch or asking people for more effort when training also resulted in massive steps forward in the actual performances.

I know that for at least 5 of my great champions, taking off the power meters all the time and the heart rate monitors for most  (the Angry Bird still uses a heart rate monitor), made them from good if neurotic athletes, to absolute kick arse champions.  But how do I sell that to you budding triathletes against the wall of marketing Triathlon has become!

“Sutto , you got to move with the science “ …., but the science is killing the majority of the performance. It’ hindering.ones ability to know where their levels are. The reality is playing pinball on your bike trainer (which is the ‘new’ thing I’m told) is going to give you a short term hit and then burn you out completely.

Believe me, when you learn to read your own body and to have the courage to stick to your ‘gut feel’, you too will improve out of sight and enjoy the feeling of being free!

That’s the way I see it.

 
Join Trisutto Head Coach Brett Sutton and his squad at training Camp in Cyprus in April, 2018 for insights into the Trisutto Coaching and Training methodologies.

Feature Photo credit: Tahni Brown

Exceptional performance craves repetition

Exceptional performance craves repetition

In 2018 I have returned to coaching a group of age group athletes as well as a team of new pros. The last 4 years had seen me back off and run some educational camps, and a group of predominantly Swiss athletes. However now I’m immersed again in squad training, one observation intrigues me no end.  The biggest hurdle I have to deal with for new athletes, both pro and age group, is their despair of doing a similar training program for more than one week!  It is astounding that they almost demand that I change what I believe to be our programs greatest strength.

Now I know it’s the greatest differential to many other programs. We replicate, we repeat, we love the word repetition, actually I’m obsessed with repetition. Exceptional performance craves it. Yet it’s the aspect I must continually combat, explain, cajole and educate on:

Repetition of weekly cycles.
Repetition of monthly cycles.
Repetition of 3 monthly cycles.
Repetition of yearly cycles.
And last but not least repetition of workouts.

We have had athletes visit our workouts that were old squad family, and they pass on in some form of astonishment to the new family – ‘we did this same workout 20 years ago’.
To which I add ‘if it ain’t broke, we don’t fix it!’.

Look at the score board, we are producing the most amazing results year after year, and we do it not with one athlete but with nearly every one that joins our group and buys into the mantra that repetition is good, our body adapts, our body adjusts and goes to a new level.

What astonishes me is that both age group and pro athletes are debating that next week is nearly the same as last week. The next line is:
‘You don’t understand Sutto, I’m used to doing so much more than this’. Even the slowest age groupers, ‘coach, I can do more’

And there in lies the story which is some times more than I can take:
The same people improve massively, and I mean hours not minutes.
Slow age groupers become good age groupers
Good age groupers become podium pros.
Podium pros become champions.

And they all keep saying the same thing, ‘coach we can do much more. If we just trained more, like the others do?’ They don’t understand the reason they have improved, is because I stopped them killing their performance. With more is better when it’s quite clearly not!

The conclusion, repetition, a whole lot of repetition will trump junk miles done all over the place. Believe me. Hard work gets you places. Smart hard work gets you to better places! Repetition is the key to turn you on to hyper performance

Just the way I see it, Just the way we do it
I wish everyone and their family the very best for the festive season.

 

Join Trisutto Head Coach Brett Sutton and his squad at training Camp in Cyprus in April, 2018 for insights into the Trisutto Coaching and Training methodologies.

Stayers, Burnouts, and Dropouts:  Staying Committed to the Tri Lifestyle

Stayers, Burnouts, and Dropouts: Staying Committed to the Tri Lifestyle

It’s almost time again to make that New Year’s resolution to get fit, eat healthy, discard bad habits, and just get your act together in general. History shows that about 80% of those who make New Year’s resolutions will abandon them by mid-February. WHAT? Ok, maybe this doesn’t apply to triathlon as much as it does to the general fitness population based on the initial commitment required by athletes to simply enter the sport, but coaches and athletes should be aware that there are factors that could lead to an earlier-than-expected exit from triathlon.

How many times have you crossed an Ironman finish line and immediately told yourself and anyone else that would listen that you had just completed your LAST Ironman? Well, If athletes were required to register for next year’s event immediately upon crossing this year’s finish line, most races would likely go out of business. After dedicating a significant amount of time and resources to do whatever it took to get you to the start line and across the finish, you instantly proclaim your permanent exit from the sport, or at least from Ironman distance events. Surprisingly, by the next morning you have already identified areas in which you could make huge improvements, and have selected another event taking place only 6 months later for which you will register. Why couldn’t you just walk away?

Almost two decades ago I was pursuing a doctoral degree in human performance, and the subject of my dissertation was sport commitment among triathletes. I was interested in learning why athletes decide to stay, or discontinue participation in the sport of triathlon, and to hopefully identify determinants of commitment that could be used to structure an athlete’s routine and/or environment to increase the likelihood of continued participation.
The results of my research found that there was a significant relationship between sport commitment and the predictor variables of enjoyability, personal investments, social constraints, and involvement opportunities. Enjoyability can be generally described as having a positive or pleasurable response to a sport experience. Personal investments are resources that are invested in an activity which cannot be recovered if participation is discontinued. Social constraints are social expectations or norms which create feelings of obligation to remain in an activity. Involvement opportunities are valued opportunities that are only available through continued participation. The results indicated that increases enjoyability, personal investments, social constraints, and involvement opportunities were correlated with increased commitment to triathlon participation.


The number one principle of Trisutto training is for athletes to enjoy training and racing, and love what they do.

Regarding sport commitment, athletes can be classified as either “stayers”, “burnouts”, or “dropouts”. Stayers are usually associated with receiving steady or increasing rewards, experiencing increased satisfaction, continually increasing their investments, and having fewer alternatives that provide the same rewards as triathlon. Burnouts perceive their alternatives to participation as less attractive or non-existent, and they continue to increase their investments even though they have not experienced their expected return on investment. Dropouts usually enter the sport with an end-game goal, invest only what is required to attain that goal, and they can easily leave the sport if they identify an activity that is that is equally or more attractive than triathlon. As coaches and athletes, we can refer to the determinants of sport commitment to shape the training environment and activities so that they are conducive to promoting continued participation and longevity in the sport.

Coaches are always looking for ways to enhance motivation, focus, fitness, recovery, nutrition, and a myriad of other factors that all contribute to a successful experience for the athlete, while taking it for granted that most, if not all athletes have the desire and resolve to continue participating in triathlon. In the best interest of the athlete, we shouldn’t assume that everyone is enjoying their experience simply because they have yet to quit. The following are questions that might be considered by coaches and athletes when structuring the training environment to strengthen commitment:

  • What does each individual athlete enjoy about the sport? What makes it fun? What isn’t fun about the sport? Use the information to structure the training environment and activities to help them enjoy training when possible.
  • How invested is each individual athlete in the sport? Not just financial investment, but how much time and effort they invest in obtaining their reward. Are they investing too much to be able to maintain balance in their lives? Are they not investing enough to meet their expectations? Coaches should discuss with them what is important and necessary, and what is not, for them to attain their goals.
  • What is each individual athlete getting from participation in the sport that they can’t get elsewhere? Coaches can try to provide opportunities while working with them that nobody else is offering. Things such as regular or occasional supervised coaching sessions when other coaches only provide training plans will separate you from the pack. Occasionally incorporate alternative activities that they enjoy into the training plan to give them a break and promote balance.
  • How is each athlete similar to, or different from other athletes in the squad? Some thrive in a social environment, and some thrive alone. Find out what makes each athlete thrive and encourage them to structure, or seek out those situations to train and race. Start conducting group workouts several times during the week for the athletes who crave social interaction.

Commitment to continued participation in sport is about balance. There needs to be balance between an athlete’s investment and the reward for that investment. Balance will lead to a fun and enjoyable experience, which outside of an unforeseen incident or career-ending injury, is the primary determinant of an athlete’s longevity in the sport. As it turned out, my research findings are still applicable today. People are more likely to continue participating in an activity when they are having fun. Not surprisingly, the number one principle of Trisutto training is for athletes to enjoy training and racing, and love what they do.

 

Robert Taylor is a professional triathlon coach with over 30 years experience. Join Coach Rob at his January Training Camp in Lexington, South Carolina.

Article Photo Credits: Mokapot Productions

Bahrain Brilliance

Bahrain Brilliance

Daniela lays it on the line at Bahrain 70.3. Photo Credit: TrimaxMag

Now the dust has settled from last weekends race, we can make a clear analysis of both the race, and of the season.

Firstly, hats off to an absolute brilliant return to top level racing for The Captain Matty Trautman. Just a brilliant return from spinal injury, with two titanium rods in his back. Our saffa proved he could be the next man of steel. His best ever non wetsuit swim, a decent if not spectacular bike to be in T2 in 10th, before grinding out a run to find his rhythm and finish in 5th place. Just incredible.

Captain, on behalf of every member of the Trisutto family, I want to publicly say how proud we are of your race, and how pleased  that you are already near your very best.
 


Matty exits the water with the front pack. Photo Credit: TrimaxMag

Moving on to the race by the Angry Bird, Daniela Ryf.  This was the final race of her brilliant season.

The question of the Triple Crown and could she pull off the million dollar slam has been answered. While many saw this as a foregone conclusion coming into last weekends race, few considered the realities of what is involved. Without her injury in the early part of the year, Dani may have had the opportunity, however once the rehabilitation became too long, there were decisions to be made.

I was honest with her and said, ‘it’s either the triple crown, and we forget Kona and Ironman training, as we can win 70.3 Worlds, and take Bahrain. However if we go for 70.3 Worlds, then back up with Kona, I do not think we have done the earlier work to be able to go to the well 3 times’.

Well, I was wrong, as the bird did go to the well, and did herself proud. She toed the start line, and when the gun went off, so did the bird. For 85% of the race, she stood tall, flew very high, and gave it everything.

Chasing out of the water, and on the bike before forcing a gap and leading into T2, it took the quality athlete that is the previous years World Champion to overcome her. It was apparent this wasn’t the usual free flowing bird, discovering her limits as Kona caught up with her. However she didn’t go down without a fight, tucking in on the run, before the quality athlete that Holly Lawrence is claimed the win.

This was a real fight. I couldn’t be more proud of Dani, who produced one of her best ever performances. Without Holly there it would have been a very different race.

I’m also proud of her for a second reason. When given the choice of Kona or the money, she never hesitated. ‘I want to win the 70.3 Worlds, and do a 3 peat in Kona. We go after these two goals, as the history of the sport is on the line. I want to be a 3 time winner at Kona.’

So congratulations Daniela Ryf, it has been a wild ride.

What is next for the bird? If she is training with me, she will now have a very long rest. I will (once again) personally ask Ironman the same question most of the top pros and former winners of Kona have attempted to change. That the podium finishers should not have to pre-qualify for the next seasons event. It is no coincidence that the champions of the modern era have a shorter shelf life than those that came before them.

So while I try one more time to get some positive solutions to the sport burning out our very best, Bird will be on a very long holiday. This part of her career has now come to a close.


Daniela Ryf closes out a brilliant year. Photo Credit: TrimaxMag

 

Join Trisutto Head Coach Brett Sutton and his squad at training Camp in Cyprus in April, 2018 for insights into the Trisutto Coaching and Training methodologies.