“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
As we head into a new year some of our athletes ask ‘coach, what would be a good resolution for me to start the new year with?’
This starts me thinking on how many people have the same dilemma?
Why a dilemma? Let’s not delve into it too deep, however deep enough for you to have a little look in the bathroom mirror, and ask yourself, why do you need the motivation of a new year to do what you should’ve doing every day of your life? What is lacking? Am I a guy or girl that needs a motivational speech each month to keep me from losing sight of what I feel is important to me? This doesn’t have to be sport related, but if I find a stirring speech, or a New Years resolution something I look forward to, to keep me on track, then is there something wrong?
The New Years resolution Grinch says yes there is. So let’s think of some legitimate reasons that one can back slide of their self commitments.
The commitment that has been set has been way too high for ones ability level. At its worst it’s highly unattainable or at its best is highly unsustainable over a longer period of time. This is a legitimate mistake, usually brought on by the motivational brigade who’s mantra is ‘You can do any thing you put your mind to?’. The doc, doesn’t belong to this brigade of hope purveyors or dream sequence directors. It sounds nice, and wrapped up in a pretty package sounds almost achievable. However when reality strikes it has the reverse reaction, making your self esteem even worse than when you went searching for the holy grail. The grail of ‘give me a message that is going to make me something I’m not’.
The resolution that you have made does not produce the passion of what you enjoy in your life. I would like to do this, yes, but is it a passion? Do you obsess over this direction? Am I making a resolution because I have been pressured into it by others? This type of new resolution is destined to failure also, because the reality is our hearts are not 100% in it. While it might be good for you, and others can think it will improve you but as in most things in life, if you don’t believe in it then you can guarantee another failure at the behest of being rail roaded into something that your not passionate about.
This one, is the one I can help you with! The person that needs to have artificial stimuli to make positive things happen for them. Nobody has ever accused me of not dishing out some tough love to help people or athletes at times overcome themselves, or the road blocks they build to undermine themselves. When we look to others, we look to external circumstances to help what is been lost in our society, that is learning to ‘carry our own water’ – taking responsibility for oneself!
At Trisutto we teach coaches that yelling ‘go harder’ to their athlete in a race is nonsense! If me yelling go harder actually sees an athlete lift their performance, then I have failed as a coach. After being in our group all know very quickly that giving ones best is not a luxury but the basic requirement, that is not applauded, but is expected as the foundation one must have to build on for the future. If me yelling go harder is needed, then the athlete just like the new resolution crowd, need to really explore their procedure to life itself.
I am a simple man and I try to keep things extremely clear. I found my own light when it was impressed on me by a wise man – that you can only do your best with what you have at any given time. However he was at pains to point out 99% of the population, the ‘sheeple’ as he called us, have no idea what giving ones best really means! I still hear it ringing in my ears from 40 years ago, the booming voice not to me but at me –
‘you will only fulfil your potential when each day you wake up, and when your feet hit the floor, you say that today I’m going to do my very best to be better than yesterday, and you spend the next 8 working hours trying to fulfil that goal. There will be down days, there will be artificial highs, but the bad days will disappear’.
I remember I was young and so answered back ‘what’s the difference between bad days and down days?’
He quoted the American Novelist Jack London:
The man that does his best is good enough!’, and followed up with ‘if you put your head on that pillow at night knowing you did all you could there are no bad days, just difficult ones. Tomorrow you rise and fight the good fight again. That’s what life is really about’.
So if you’re someone who needs to be motivated by New Years resolution, my resolution to you is take a hard look in the mirror. Give yourself a good slap, and say ‘I need to do better on a daily basis. I need to keep it simple, and do my best with what I got everyday – not just on chosen ones’.
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.
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
The holiday season is almost upon us and I’m beginning to see athletes posting on social media about the newest tri equipment or gadgets that they have received, or would like to receive as gifts. They’ve read in the tri mags, or observed the top age group or elite athletes having great success using these gadgets and are convinced that obtaining such equipment or gadgets will get them to the next level of performance. It’s a cycle that repeats itself every year. Spend lots of cash on gear in the offseason, train the same way you did last season, end up with similar results this season. Unfortunately, they have yet to figure out, or simply choose not to acknowledge the fact that quality focused training is what separates the cream from the crop, and the cream usually have prioritized the enlistment of a proven triathlon coach over spending their hard-earned money on shortcuts to speed.
Many performance records set by elite triathletes in the 1980’s and 1990’s still stand, or have been eclipsed only in recent years. How is it possible that the athletes three decades ago were able to perform at such levels when much of the equipment, technology, and information to athletes at any level wasn’t even invented yet? In fact, I would even argue that most of today’s “entry-level” tri bikes are better than the bikes ridden by the top pros during that period. The answer is training. I lived in San Diego during the 1980’s and early 1990’s, and you could find a different quality group workout almost every day of the week if you looked hard enough. You were welcome to join in the fun at most workouts, with the understanding that nobody was going to wait on you, so it was in your best interest not to get dropped if you didn’t know the route.
This was certainly quality training, but it only met the needs of the top dogs leading the workouts and left the rest of us to overextend ourselves and sabotage our recovery and ability to do quality training for the next day’s workouts. We really didn’t know what we were doing because the sport was still young, and there weren’t many triathlon specific coaches. Most of the coaches working with triathletes were swim coaches, cycling coaches, or run coaches. It was an inexact science to say the least, which led to overtraining and injuries while trying to improve through trial and error. Although many athletes were able to perform at a very high level, everyone training together at the same intensity was not conducive to everyone improving performance, and only a small percentage improved and stayed healthy enough to race regularly.
In the three decades since, the body of knowledge with regard to triathlon training has increased significantly, and today’s athletes are able to procure the services of highly qualified triathlon coaches to help them achieve their goals in the most efficient manner possible. Unfortunately, the proliferation of coaching certifications in recent years makes it difficult for athletes to make a well-informed choice if decide to secure the assistance of a professional coach.
How Do I Find the Right Coach for Me?
It’s important that you find the right coach for YOU. The easiest way to do so may be to simply answer the following questions:
- What are my short term and long-term goals?
- What do I need to do to improve so that I can reach my goals?
- Do I personally know, or know of anyone who has made similar improvements recently with the help of a coach?
- Does this coach have a history of successfully developing athletes to get to where they want to be?
Once you have answered the questions and decide that this coach may be a good fit for you, contact the coach. Explain your goals and what you hope to achieve by working with a coach. The coach should be able to give you a general idea of what he or she believes is required to achieve your goals, and whether or not they are realistic. If possible, try to meet in person with the coach so that he or she can assess your skills and provide immediate recommendations on a plan to meet your needs.
Coaching versus Planning
There is no shortage of instantly downloadable, free online coaching plans. Some are better than others, but the last time I checked, none of them provided feedback, automatically adjusted workouts regularly for athlete adaptations to training, stood on deck to teach and monitor skill development, or accommodate for individual personalities when structuring workouts or developing race plans. That’s because coaches do all of those things, plans don’t. Trisutto plans don’t come with a coach either, but each and every plan is built on the same principles and methods practiced everyday by Trisutto certified coaches worldwide. These are the same methods that have guided countless numbers of athletes to achieving success at the highest levels of triathlon, as age groupers and elite athletes. Sometimes circumstances dictate that an athlete simply may not be able to enlist the services of a qualified coach. In such cases, a downloadable training plan may have to suffice. If so, athletes should take time to do some research just as they would if they were looking for a qualified coach. For instance, if you want to train for an Ironman distance event, try and find someone who has trained for a similar event and had success with their plan and get as much first-hand information as you can. If you find that several athletes have used the same training plan, you might be on to something. Recommendations from people that you know will always be much more forthcoming and reliable than product advertisements.
Unfortunately, there are also coaches that provide standardized or “cookie-cutter” plans that are not built on proven coaching methodology, and are in many cases provided by certifying organizations for use by all who complete the certification process. Most have limited or no background in the sport other than a few years as a non-competitive age-grouper, and a coaching certification that required little more than attendance at a weekend seminar (in the best of circumstances), completion of a take-home exam, and the payment of a hefty registration fee. Some of the certifications are entirely online, and almost none of them require participants to actually demonstrate coaching abilities under the direct supervision of a mentor coach. Upon earning their certification, new coaches set up an online site, recruit athletes, collect a fee, and provide a plan. They are for all intensive purposes planners, not coaches. Sadly, the worst part isn’t that they charge a fee for their services, it’s that uninformed athletes choose to pay them for this service. In all fairness to the athletes, I imagine that they have no idea of what they should expect from a good triathlon coach, or how to select one.
So, this holiday season, instead of asking for the latest equipment or technology that you are certain will finally get you over the hump and on to the next level of performance, ask for a triathlon coach.
Happy Holiday Training!
Rob Taylor is a professional triathlon coach with over 30 years experience. Join Rob at upcoming camps in Lexington, South Carolina as well as Hilton Head. Details here.
As we see on social media many are now at or heading to the big island, excited for the big show.
Each athlete will be champing at the bit to pull out the bike and hammer down the Queen K. There will be three types of athletes there by now.
The ‘Worker Bees’. The guys who have been working hard, saving up their money and holidays so they can be here for the biggest race in Ironman. They will have missed vital workouts, had to shorten others and now think they’ve got a whole 10 days to catch up and get their final work in.
The ‘Long Taper’ Brigade. This group are content ‘knowing’ all the work is done, so they’re happy to just to chill out and relax. They will be well at ease with themselves as most will have a coach who has a dogma for long tapers, and has assured them all will be OK.
Finally, we have ‘Deep Thinkers’. Similar to the ‘Long Tapers’, but are not overly convinced by their coaches and so are worried they’re going to wreck their race by too little work. This group tries to settle down, but on about day three start to think over everything very deeply and decide ‘I do really need to do a little more, if I’m careful it won’t hurt’.
Now, I’m not having a go at anyone in the above three categories and neither am I presumptuous enough to tell anyone what they should do. But this is the advice I give to my own athletes (pro and age-group) who have found themselves on the big island with just under two weeks to go. It has served the Trisutto squad pretty successfully and while it may not make you quicker, it may just save your race.
So, the three Golden Kona rules that don’t change no matter how fast or slow you are.
1) Stick to your own routine:
If that means in London you always swim in a pool, don’t now start swimming in the beautiful ocean just because you don’t have it at home. If you normally swim at 7am, don’t go swimming at 7pm so “I can watch the sunset”. If you usually run on a treadmill, get out and find one in Kona.
2) Stick to your own sets:
If you have been doing 3-months of certain sets, DON’T (you hearing me!?) Don’t start watching the pros and say I’ll give that a bit of a try because it could improve me. It won’t and it could kill your performance. That goes for the swim, the bike, and the run. If the race is over and you still want to try it, then be my guest. But not before the race.
3) Stick to your own nutrition:
Don’t go changing your race food or lead up nutrition. ‘But Sutto, it’s hotter here’. I know that. I also know that the biggest group walking along Alii Drive come race day are those that took steps to change their eating going into and during this race, because ‘Wow! It’s hotter than I thought.’ It is too late to change now. Stick to what you know.
In conclusion, you’ll find the golden rules have absolutely nothing to do with enhancing anything. That’s because when you hit the big island the biggest performance enhancer is not changing a thing. Go with what you’ve got and go knowing ‘this is what got me here in the first place!’
Join Trisutto Head Coach Brett Sutton at one of his remaining training camps in 2017 in Cyprus or Gran Canaria.
Countdown to the Ironman World Championships. Photo: Rob Holden Photography
With 22 days and counting – it’s about this time every year that the Kona surge starts to take hold.
An affliction that doesn’t just occur with pros, but one that infects many hard working age group athletes who have qualified to go to the big show.
And let’s clarify ‘hard worker.’
These are not pros, but people who have full-time jobs. Given the Ironman demographic we find that these tend to be high-powered, stressful jobs at that. It may not be physical labour, but it is the kind of work that requires a lot of time and mental attention.
What you’ll find in the ‘Surge’ is that these qualifiers are now cramming every bit of training in they can do. Every minute is filled with extra training as they feel guilty about their jobs robbing them of valuable time in preparation for a good race at Kona.
Within my pro team I’ve been addressing this issue nearly every second day. Assuring all that the training is on track and repeating the word ‘No’ quite a lot.
I need to do more! No, you don’t.
This is too slow! No, it isn’t.
I’m not able to push hard enough! No, you’re pushing the exact right amount.
Can I do an extra session of … No!
I don’t feel I need the rest day, can I … NO!
These conversations mirror the ones I’m having with our working age groupers – hyper motivated individuals who have had to miss a few sessions because of work and as such are in meltdown mode when coach advises to take a step back and readjust the program accordingly.
‘But Coach you don’t understand… I haven’t had much time…’
Yes, I do understand. You see most of these AG athletes are university educated people who in some form of their old lives have had to cram for exams to maintain high grades while maintaining a busy outside life.
Many of the same people then move into the business community where they’re governed by strict work deadlines in a culture that seems think that setting unreasonable time tasks will enhance the work value out of those white-knuckling 15-hour days.
The head down and don’t lift it up, don’t shower, drink some more coffee way of getting things done is a common theme when discussing people’s work / training arrangements.
So of course it’s natural that the habits and rituals we see in the workplace are now carried over to one’s new hobby – Ironman.
Just a few days ago I heard this: “What do you mean easy swim and 20 minute jog? I’ve done nothing for 3-days except meetings so that I could get here to train my arse off.” For context they had just hopped off the plane after an 11-hour across the dateline flight.
Does this ring a bell to some of our qualifiers out there as the nerves start to jangle as we think that Kona is only 22 days away?
Training in the build up to Kona.
If so, have no fear as Coach is here to help.
Firstly, the ‘add more training’ approach is not applicable. Physical sport is not the same as when you used to cram for a week and pass with flying colours. It’s not the same as pulling an all nighter on a Powerpoint and then nailing it the next morning. The phenomenon of ‘cramming’ with a few weeks out will have a huge negative impact on your performance.
If the Kona surge has got you in its grip then the ‘do more, do it faster, take less rest’ approach will ensure that you will be making this statement after finishing your race: ‘Next year will be better as I’ll have more time.’
So I’ll pass on what I’m telling my own coaches on a daily basis now. Hold the line. Stick to what you have been doing, even if it wasn’t enough. Athletes a little underdone will perform a hell of a lot better than athletes that are overdone.
Courage is shown at this time by not joining in the Kona surge people, but resisting it!
You want my honest feelings about Kona?
It’s just another race. To prepare for it like it’s just another race will prove much more fruitful for your performance. Enjoy the experience. The journey is the real adventure, the doing is just the icing on the cake.
Join Trisutto Head Coach Brett Sutton at one of his remaining training camps in 2017 in Sursee, Cyprus or Gran Canaria.