Ridin’ down the highway
Goin’ to a show
Stop in all the by-ways
Playin’ rock ‘n’ roll
Gettin’ beat up
I tell you folks
It’s harder than it looks
It’s a long way to the top
If you wanna rock ‘n’ roll
I sent the video of AC/DC playing this to one of my pros last week. Why?
So many triathletes are in such a hurry, self sabotage through exuberance is in abundance in our sport that is so attractive to A type personalities. Drawn to quick results at the expense of long term success.
Under the eye of the coach…
Being an expert in one specialist domain does not automatically make someone the best decision maker in other areas of their life, sporting or otherwise. So many athletes are also drawn to the metaphorical pot holes in the road, and can’t help but rush straight towards them. If you want to be the best you can be in any activity, sporting or non sporting, consistency over time is key. For our pros it’s a minimum 3 year process. The same window of time applies to highly driven age group athletes, and those who just want to improve and have fun. Hurry slowly for the best long term outcomes!
Similarly a focus on all the things that have zero relevance to performance. Pressing a button on a stop watch every lap of the pool – what does one do with that? Then chopping and changing training programs every two weeks based on self analysis of meaningless data from workouts.
I’m often asked ‘what’s the Trisutto secret?’. If there is one this is it.
We have a phrase ‘chop wood, carry water’.
To quote the well known Australian coach Percy Cerutty – ‘hard work does things. Intelligent hard work does things better’.
At the pointy end of elite sport another fundamental of successful coaching is mentoring / life coaching, making decisions for the athlete. Whether simply avoiding injury, or avoiding self destruction like so many prominent professional sports persons over the years.
In competition poor decision making and insecurity go hand in hand, and are magnified by self imposed expectations. At the 2015 Australian Open tennis I had the opportunity to observe Venus Williams and her coach pre match practice. Not a single word was spoken in 40 minutes. Later sitting only a few seats away during her match, there was constant non verbal communication and reassurance from coach to athlete, of their pre planned strategy. Observing one of the greatest tennis players of her era about to throw this away after just one bad shot was educational. Without her coach to encourage, and be strong, the outcome may have been very different.
Superstars of sport are often fragile individuals, and winning is not normal for most people.
It’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock ‘n’ roll…..for athletes, and coaches
Robbie Haywood is Director of Coaching at Trisutto, with over 16 years experience. He spreads his time between his home on the Sunshine Coast, Australia, the Trisutto Headquarters in St Moritz and Trisutto Training Camps worldwide.
* Feature Photo Credit: Mokapot Productions
Gwen Jorgensen and Nicola Spirig at the 2016 Olympics. Photo: André Motta
On Gwen’s decision to retire from triathlon and take on the marathon? One can only tip their hat and say congratulations and best of luck for the future.
I also don’t think the decision should come as too much of a surprise. Her rise may have been stratospheric, but Gwen is no overnight sensation. After top level swimming and athletics at collegiate level, then 8 hard years in triathlon where she won multiple World Championships and the Gold Medal – what more does she need to prove?
She has now had the good sense to balance her athletic success with starting a family. The reality is having a child while competing is in itself a massive lifestyle change. Factor in that her triathlon training has up until now been managed skilfully by Coach Jamie Turner, whose bases are in Australia and in the summer not the US, but Spain.
To replicate that setup in the US with a young family was going to be very difficult. You don’t win gold medals if you are stupid, and Gwen’s actions throughout her career have proved she is anything but. Ironman was never going to be the skill-set that suited her or her new time constraints. Similar to another super mum, Nicola Spirig, who simply does not have the time to complete the huge training loads that Ironman demands.
So for me, yes it makes sense that running would be the go to plan. The Marathon? I would have thought more 5,000m track. But that’s just one coach’s opinion.
Regardless, for those preparing for Tokyo and thinking the path to the podium just got a little easier. Heed very well the following warning: There is no absolutely no downside to Gwen’s triathlon career by focusing on the run discipline. If in two years Team USA is struggling and the marathon has proved too large a bite, the Stars and Stripes will have a ready made comeback competitor. That’s what our squad will be preparing for anyway.
Until then, from our team we wish Gwen and her family all the best for the next phase of her career.
Have you ever considered why you may not reach the same levels of performance as say Nicola Spirig or Daniela Ryf? You may put it down to not training hard enough or not having the time to put in that much effort. In fact. It may not be your fault.
In general, there are two categories of triathletes that perform at the highest level: the genetically talented or gifted athlete and the athlete with a highly developed capacity to train and a specific training program guiding them.
When athletes perform at the top level they often attribute their success to superior coaching, access to a great training environment or beginning training at a young age. Could their success be attributed to underlying biological predispositions? Genetic traits are thought to account for up to half the variation in performance and the other half in the athletes response to training.
These genetic qualities are not only the inherited characteristics of their parents such as height and arm length, leg length etc, but also muscle fibre type (fast and slow twitch muscle fibres) and the capacity to attain high levels of fitness (maximal oxygen uptake) or inherited cardiovascular traits.
From this perspective, whether you will make a champion or not, is governed by:
a) The type of mix in your anatomical, physiological and behavioural characteristics that you were born with;
b) Proper training, rest and nutrition, and
c) The ability of those inherited characteristics to adapt to the training, rest and nutrition.
Other factors that may affect performance include the trainability of the athlete. There are some people who are what we call “non responders”, who have great difficulty to improve in sport and of course never attain any high performance levels but still find it enjoyable to train and compete. Neuromuscular activity and biomechanics (skill) plays a part in the sport of triathlon but not to the same extent as in single sports. The nature of triathlon does not require perfect skill development. The swim, being in open water and in a group situation does not require a perfect swim stroke to perform well. The bike can be in draft legal or illegal format and does not require the same level of skill as an Olympic cyclist. The run is decided by who is the fastest after the swim and bike, not necessarily the runner with the fastest run time trial. It is often determined by the strongest, fittest runner.
Probably one of the most important factors in producing a high performing athlete is to find individuals who are highly motivated and are likely to persist over the long duration required to produce a champion.
Training over a long period can vary between individuals but could span between 10-15 years. This could be the initial learning of fundamentals of the sport; the building of performance power and capacity; and the reaching of an international level. Once the athlete has reached this level of performance, it is not uncommon that another 6-8 years of competitive experience may be needed to achieve consistent world class rankings.
So taking into account all of the above, there are also the psychological factors. This includes the ability to tolerate pain and fatigue and also dedication and diligence to train and race at such a high level. Other psychological factors that are important include motivation, aggression, focus, the ability to sustain effort, attitudes toward winning and losing, the ability to cope with anxiety and stress, management of distractions, capacity to relax and of course, coach-ability.
Coach-ability encompasses not only following a specific training program but also being tenacious, conscientious, and demonstrating a perseverance and readiness to perform. That is what you need to bring to the table if you wish to improve and succeed in this sport.
Unfortunately there is little that can be done about changing your genetic make up, you will have to live with that, but those people with a highly developed work ethic and a successful system of coaching that is guiding their efforts have a better chance of reaching your true potential.
Rob Pickard is a former National Coaching Director and High Performance Manager of Triathlon Australia, and is based in Australia. Rob is mentor for coaches studying at our Trisutto Coaching Academy
Trisutto.com online triathlon coaches are available to help improve your performance here.
Gunning for history. Daniela Ryf going for Triple Ironman & Ironman 70.3 World Championships. Photo: Korupt Vision
With close to 10% of the professional field at Kona now training with Trisutto coaches my traditional pre-race preview is getting more difficult. Instead of sizing up our competitors, I’ll be wishing all the best for our coached athletes across the board. We know they’ll be ready.
In the meantime for our followers here’s a short preview of my squad starters:
I’ll lead off with the great Daniela Ryf. After overcoming a difficult season I’m pleased to say that the Bird is back at Kona – injury free and close to her near best. Winning three in a row is a huge feat at any World Championship event, at Kona it makes one legendary with only a select group of athletes having accomplished it:
Dave Scott, Paula Newby-Fraser, Mark Allen, Natascha Badmann and Chrissie Wellington.
So we wish her best mechanical luck on trying to achieve her destiny!
James Cunnama is back at Kona and carrying a few more weapons than his last couple of forays to the Big Island. Armed with a stronger bike and returned run form, if the favourites decide to play games we could see the giant Saffa taking matters into his own capable hands.
Also returning on somewhat of a reconnaissance mission is Reinaldo Colucci. Rei has started back on the journey I first set for him nearly 16 years ago. While he surprised me in the interim by having a massive ITU and Olympic career it was always Kona that Coach dreamed for him. So he is paying his dues this year, but look for the tall timber from Brazil to give it a massive shake in 2018.
Also returning will see the Welsh Wizard Corinne Abraham. After two interrupted seasons with injury, I’m so proud to see her put together an outstanding season that lands her back in the Big Island. While no one is paying her much attention in the pre-race favourite lists, Coach thinks she will be vying for the best run split coming down the Queen K.
It’s a proud moment to announce the prodigal daughter Celine Schaerer will be making her Kona debut. Celine will not just be in attendance, but is going to find Kona very much to her liking. Like Corinne the heat and toughness of the run course is only going to help Celine. And with no massive packs of men bringing the women up to this swim-biker, things could be so different for her at Kona.
Finally, special mention to Jane Hansom who is returning to Kona to defend her World Championship won last year. The Burglar is getting fitter by the day and again will be a formidable foe for any looking to take her crown.
Best mechanical luck to all who are competing!
Join Trisutto Head Coach Brett Sutton at one of his remaining training camps in 2017 in Cyprus or Gran Canaria.
Nicola Spirig top 15 in the world just 15 weeks after birth of her second child.
This year has seen an unusually high amount of top professional triathletes taking the opportunity to start families. It’s a subject that’s close to us at Trisutto with no fewer than 6 of my former athletes currently pregnant or who have just given birth.
Over my career I’ve seen many athletes both struggle and triumph with what should be a very happy change in life circumstance.
I understand people’s interest in the performance aspect, so I’ll start with what should be a rather obvious point:
Everyone is individual and will be impacted physically and emotionally post birth in different ways. The reality is some athletes will come back and be just as strong (if not stronger) than before, some will be back but having lost some top end speed, and some won’t return at all.
Athletes making the decision to start families tend to fall into three categories.
- Those who are very firm that if and when they have a baby, that will be the end of their sporting careers.
- Athletes who want to see how they cope with motherhood before making any decisive decision on their sport careers.
- A third group who are very positive and in no doubt about coming back to their sport.
Returning to racing after giving birth really has very little to do with training, but about time and expectations.
I have been taken aback with some criticisms levelled at the female athlete who decide to continue their sport at the top level. While being a top athlete does sometimes mean a level of selfishness in one’s lifestyle choices, starting a family is not a selfish decision. Every athlete I have worked with that had children spent much more time with their children than the average working mum.
Unfortunately that is a stigma that still needs to be broken down.
Trisutto coach Lisbeth Kristensen.
High Performance Post Pregnancy
Many athletes after birth tend to be physically stronger. I have been surprised that with no extra weight training, on return, many are at strength levels similar or above what they were prior to the birth. Similarly short course athletes may have the bonus of discovering a natural endurance they previously never had. It is of course anecdotal, but one sees across sport athletes returning after birth mentally tougher and resolute than before.
Another positive is how new mothers will also tend to become much more organised in their training behaviour and habits! Once training is done, they switch totally to being ‘mum’. This is a huge benefit, as instead of fixating on past workouts and thinking 24/7 about triathlon, the ability to focus on what’s really important in one’s life and training becomes much sharper.
Bella Bayliss (16x Ironman winner) after the birth of her child tended even to drop the warm up and down out of the workouts with a ‘I don’t have time to fluff about now’ attitude! This attitude didn’t have any harm on her performance.
If I’m to list the negatives;
Guilt. I’ve seen athletes suffer huge guilt returning to training hard, one suspects because of societal pressure that is also seen across women in the workplace. Being an athlete and mum can also be a huge stress on the partner, which in turn can make for an unsustainable balance in one’s training and parenting.
Another negative, at least perceived from a female perspective, is that there will be a little gain in weight! This, especially in Ironman should not be seen as a negative and is greatly linked to strength and endurance improvement. Not necessarily just for long course, but we saw Nicola Spirig at the Olympics compete competitively over the short distance. Similarly, I personally think Gwen will be every bit as formidable and perhaps stronger after a season return.
For those returning to Ironman I would caution on two points:
Training for Ironman becomes super difficult from a time perspective.
For short course triathletes, as well as specialist swimmers, cyclists and runners we see it’s not so much an issue – as training times are not as long and with proper time organisation can be overcome. Ironman is tougher. To be at your best there is no getting around the fact one needs to spend long periods of time on the road.
Not that it can’t be done. Rachel Joyce showed great character returning and qualifying for Kona. With time she has built back to have a terrific season and in Ironman winning form.
Rachel Joyce after winning Ironman Boulder. Photo: Jay Prasuhn
Which brings me to the final point:
If you are contemplating a comeback to racing after giving birth, please don’t rush it! Yes, I saw what Nicola did just 15 weeks after birth. It’s not an example I’d suggest others follow! Very few have the level of talent, mindset and support to get back so quickly.
If you take your time, organise oneself, it is my opinion child birth does not harm performance. Over the long term and by it’s very nature has the ability to unleash hidden potential that some athletes just can’t access.
Join Trisutto Head Coach Brett Sutton at one of his remaining training camps in 2017 in Sursee, Cyprus or Gran Canaria.
As we head to the business end of the season, I want to address a big problem for not only age group athletes, but also pros. Putting unbearable pressure on oneself to perform before the race even starts.
Many who join our squad are more than a little surprised that as we enter our race preparation for the big days, how laid back and not revved up they are. Our results on getting it right on the big day are formidable! Thus, athletes looking for the big motivational speeches are duly disappointed!
We keep it calm, controlled and clinical!
As mentioned in previous blogs, we shun the word ‘win’. It has no meaning in itself. It can’t positively effect the outcome where one person or a team can beat another. That outcome only manifests itself if the preparation has been carried out in the best possible way, and on race day the focus is on the process.
We at Trisutto have had huge success with many athletes who before joining us, did not get their job done to the best of their abilities on the day they wanted. As a coach just as an athlete, I do have my process. That is about diffusing expectations and honing the athletes thoughts on having a clear head, to be able to then execute a planned strategy.
Here is a taste of what I try to achieve:
1) I emphasize that thinking of winning is a detriment to performance. We must have the self discipline to concentrate in the ‘now’ and to be able to execute certain skills and actions.
2) The strategy or actions have been laid out, discussed, and agreed well before race week. So it is rehearsed and completely understood as second nature.
3) Have check lists. This is so important, to take any last minute error that can provide extra pressure.
- Check list for travel
- Check list for race gear
- Check list for strategy
- Check list of how to think on the day
How many times have I seen athletes been destabilized because they left something at home! That creates anxiety.
How many times has a piece of race kit been left at the race hotel! That creates anxiety.
Check lists for strategy – when the nerves come (and they do), having something to remind the athlete of their procedure that is physical makes an enormous difference.
Check lists or some written word about how you should view competition is very important.
Quite a bit was made about what I gave Chrissie to settle her down at races – a copy of the poem ‘IF‘ by Rudyard Kipling hit the spot. Nicola Spirig has a different type of list, but it all has the ability to do one thing. The similar job as the other lists. The most important thing you can do as an athlete or coach, is to plan to diffuse anxiety! This is easier said than done. But if you follow the blueprint above, you will be amazed how it can clear your mind to have a positive outcome to your big races.
I wish the best mechanical luck to all Trisutto followers, athletes and coaches. For those who aren’t, we are about the best person on the day winning – it doesn’t have to be us! That is the honour of sport.
It still lives at Trisutto.
Join Trisutto Head Coach Brett Sutton at one of his remaining training camps in 2017 in Lanzarote, Cyprus or Gran Canaria.