Should I do the Birthday Set?

Should I do the Birthday Set?

The posting of Nicola and Celine’s birthday party set brought a number of enquiries from members of our trisutto family? Coach why didn’t we join the swim party? How come I had my birthday set and you gave me 48x100s?  I wanted to do The Birthday Set!

So let’s look at what it is, and the reasoning behind the different programs for different athletes.

The set is an old swim session primarily done by some great distance swimmers back in the 1970s. I used to watch Stephen Holland (1976 Olympic Games bronze medalist) in awe as he punched out 100 x 100m all on 1 minute 10 seconds long course. This created a bit of a craze with distance swimmers of the time. The hardest set of this type that I saw was done by Bobby Hackett (1976 Olympic Silver medallist). He swam 100 x 100y leaving on 1 minute (short course yards) in the USA, then told his coach it was a piece of cake. When his coach then asked ‘the tough guy’ to do a 1500y fly, he did so with ease, and then said ‘I’ll raise you one’ and did a second 1500y fly. He indeed was a tough guy.

So I brought the 100 x 100 set in my kit bag to Triathlon as well as a few others that were ‘frowned upon’ in Triathlon. We decided that it would be the birthday set in Trisutto.

However this is where we need to explain that it is not done for everyone and not even for all of the good swimmers if it doesn’t fit with their fitness. This session done at the wrong time can be very destructive.

  • take into consideration where you are in the build up to your program.
  • consider fitness levels. This is our third short pro training camp. We have had athletes with birthdays on the first two camps. However our fitness levels were not where we could cope with such a physical exertion to be a positive asset.
  • if you have a certain physical or stroke impediment no matter how fast you are as a swimmer, we don’t do this type of swim.

We may also use swim tools including large pull bouys to protect the shoulders from possible over use strain when swimming this (and other) sets. The ability of the swimmer doesn’t need to be a factor in not doing such an arduous session. However if one is a slow(er) swimmer then this is more than a swim session, it is an immune system test, much like a race. You will need to give yourself time to recover from it. Just as if 4km is your normal swim session, this session has also got to be treated like a race experience, and that smart rest is needed to help it be a positive to your work and not a negative.

Can it be a beneficial workout?
Of course. However it needs to be done when you are fit enough to cope, have a technique to cope with the physical strain, or use tools to alleviate that problem and help assist to make it manageable.

Happy birthday.

Join Trisutto Head Coach Brett Sutton and his squad at training Camp in Cyprus in April, and St.Moritz in June/July, 2018.

Your Limiter Is Not Going To Fix Itself!

Your Limiter Is Not Going To Fix Itself!

If you’ve ever watched beginning tennis players, you might have noticed the lengths to which they will go to avoid using the backhand stroke. They expend valuable energy doing everything within their power to run themselves into a position to hit a forehand because they lack confidence in their backhand. In tennis, this practice is referred to as “running around your backhand”. It’s no different in triathlon. Most triathletes enter the sport with greater experience in one discipline, and running seems to be the gateway activity more often than swimming or cycling. Because we tend to gravitate towards activities in which we excel, tri newbies will usually seek out opportunities to participate in their strongest discipline and avoiding activities in which they perceive themselves as inferior. Failing to address a weakness early in training will result in the athlete arriving at a dead-end on the road to progressive improvement. Every athlete enters the sport with at least one weakness, or limiter, which must be addressed for improvement to occur.

Recently, one of the athletes that I coach was telling me about a local triathlete that he described as being a very poor swimmer, an average cyclist, and an above average runner. When my athlete suggested to him that learning to properly swim for triathlon could greatly improve overall performance, the athlete responded that he wasn’t going to waste time on swimming next season and was going to focus his efforts on becoming an even faster runner to offset his weakness in the water. Employing this strategy would be the triathlon equivalent of running around your backhand. By the end of the tennis match you struggle to even hit the forehand proficiently due to the excess energy previously expended to avoid the backhand. Because triathlon is one sport comprised of three interrelated disciplines, your inefficiencies in one discipline will affect your performance in others.

Triathlon is one sport, not three. Training must be structured so that all three disciplines interact to facilitate maximum fitness gains, while at the same time promoting optimal recovery between workouts. Every athlete enters the sport with at least one limiter. Professional, elite, and top age group athletes may have limiters, but they are still highly proficient in each discipline. They do whatever it takes to eliminate their limiters, with the knowledge that they may only improve enough to minimize the damage done by competitors who look to exploit their weaknesses. Athletes who train for triathlon as one sport not only improve performance in their weakest discipline by addressing their limiters, the increased efficiency also allows them to redirect previously wasted energy to their stronger disciplines. For example, improved efficiency on the swim results in fresher legs on the bike. Stronger bike fitness combined with a more aerodynamic position will result in fresher legs for the run. Everything that you do in one discipline will impact what you do in the others.

The predominant limiter for triathletes is the swim because the sport is so technical, and most middle-age adults with jobs and families can’t commit the necessary time required to become proficient at using the traditional mainstream swim techniques. Even if they did have the time, the return on investment is relatively small in comparison to the time requirements for such minimal gains. They simply accept being weak swimmers, and register for triathlons that are wetsuit legal and/or include a current-assisted swim. Another option is to increase swim volume and continue to use the same inefficient form. The problem with this is that although you may experience a slight fitness bump from the extra time in the pool, you will also continue to reinforce weak swim form. Since most athletes only have a limited amount of training time, the extra time dedicated to swim volume detracts from the time that may be spent working on the bike and run.

Improvement on the bike is another matter altogether. Unlike swimming and running, athletes can buy speed on the bike. Aerodynamic carbon-fiber bikes, lightweight wheels, and aero helmets are purchased by athletes under the assumption that it is possible to shave minutes off Ironman and 70.3 race times without exerting any additional physical effort. What they don’t realize is that these technical innovations were designed by engineers for athletes who have maximized gains through training and proper bike position, and are searching for the extra seconds or minutes that only technology can provide. Fortunately for equipment manufacturers, the middle and back-of-the-pack triathletes are looking for these types of shortcuts to speed in lieu of training to improve their bike prowess. Is there anything more ridiculous than someone sitting up on a ten-thousand-dollar bike with a disc wheel, while wearing an aero helmet and riding 14 mph? Save yourself thousands of dollars and just learn to train and ride the bike properly for triathlon. As with the swim, some will attempt to improve bike fitness simply by increasing their training volume. Again, you may experience a slight fitness bump due to the increased volume, but you are reinforcing inefficient form and detracting from the time that you could have been swimming or running.

Let’s say you came from a swimming or biking background and the run is your limiter. You avoid addressing the issue by packing on lots of extra pool time, or time in the saddle to offset your running weakness. The problem with running in Ironman or 70.3 races is that you begin the run already tired. Those athletes who are stronger swimmers and bikers have the luxury of being less fatigued if they pace properly in their stronger disciplines. Spending inordinate amounts of valuable training time learning to run like a runner will not address the specific task of running in long distance triathlon. Neither will performing run technique drills designed for short and middle-distance runners. Your run success isn’t based simply on your run volume. It’s also dependent on swimming and biking proficiency, and how those workouts are structured to have crossover training effects on your run. The form that you will use in a long-distance triathlon will in no way resemble the perfect running technique taught by the experts for decades. Long distance triathlon running is not about going fast, it ‘s about going slow. Why would you train to race fast if you know with certainty that you will be running slow for the entire event? If you are going to address you run limiter do so in a manner that is specific to the needs of the events for which you plan to race.

How do you address your limiter without sacrificing the gains that you have made in the other disciplines? Obviously, you need to increase the quality time spent on your limiter to improve, but the trick is to do so without increasing your total training volume, while at the same time dedicating quality time to the other disciplines. The answer is a stimulus plan. Stimulus plans are designed to focus more quality training time on your limiter, but not at the expense of the other disciplines. The plans are followed for a brief period, and then you return to normal training with improved skills and a newfound confidence. Most coaches use stimulus plans in the off-season, pre-season, or just prior to an important training block. If you want to be a well-rounded triathlete, make the choice right now to stop running around your backhand and incorporate a stimulus plan into your early season training. If you want something bad enough, and are willing to do whatever it takes to get it, the possibilities are unlimited.

 

Robert Taylor is a professional triathlon coach with over 30 years experience. Join Rob at one of his upcoming triathlon camps in 2018; January in Lexington, South Carolina and his recently announced June Great Smoky Mountains Camp.

Trisutto Stimulus Plans are available to athletes of all abilities. 

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

Am I missing out?

Am I missing out?

Coach, if I can’t go to camp or train in a group am I missing out?

Every off season stories permeate through the Triathlon media about how great camps are, or the need to train in a group to push to even greater heights? Their objective to create buzz and to sell products.

Now I hold camps, last year personally I ran fifteen in total. Of those fifteen, only two were camps where real work was done.  These were the camps that were dedicated to hard graft! When were they held? In September, for those getting ready for Kona, or for those with races in early November to also to be ready to go for the last blast of races in their season.

‘But coach what about the winter warm weather camps that we hear so much about?’  Well at Trisutto we don’t do that ridiculousness in the off season.
Our camps are educational. We run five comprehensive lectures that are must attend. We do six compulsory sessions, covering each of the three disciplines, so I can view techniques. We have five optional sessions that go with that. Do you have to attend? No definitely not.

‘But coach why would I go?’
We go to get out of the cold. We go to learn what Triathlon really is. We don’t do what most other camps do.
‘What is that?’  Blindly smash themselves every day thinking that it will improve them through sheer weight of tiredness.

I’m sure many of you have been on these camps, but what is not advertised is this. The amount of injuries accumulated by tripling bike mileage in camp, doubling run mileage of back home, and sore shoulder syndrome by Sunday night because whilst I swim two or three times a week at home, in camp we swam seven! Of course all done racing the guy next to me who I’ve never met in my life, don’t know his abilities, his heart rates or fitness levels. But I know one thing, we are on holidays and we are at camp, the sun is shining, so I’m going to war with anybody near me – in everything! Welcome to the normal Triathlon camp!  If you can still eat your third portion of pasta taken from the buffet with a fork then you are soft and haven’t worked hard enough at camp.


Photo Credit: James Mitchell Photography

‘But Coach, I got Kona in October’
Here is a news flash – so has the Angry Bird, and she isn’t in the kick off camp I’m running at this very moment. Why? Because I hope she is sitting at home doing normal things and resting, as this year we really going after Kona! I can’t re-iterate enough, that starting too early makes sure the last races of the season are not what you were after.

This was rammed home to me by a couple of newbies in pro camp this week. ‘Coach, you didn’t name a time and meeting point for tomorrows morning run?’  That’s right was the answer, we are all adults, we do our own thing, were you given instructions? ‘Yes coach.’ Well go and do it at your own pace!

And there in lies what I keep trying to communicate. Ironman is not short distance. Where once I trained sprint athletes they did certain sessions as a group, we still did less than most groups together but we did fast work together pushing hard. We swim together now only as a meeting point. Within that group there may be three to five different swim sessions at the same time.
I’ll point out once again, that Nicola Spirig and Daniela Ryf might have ridden together two times in any sessions requiring hard effort, or ran twice together in any session done with some zip in the past two years. Not two days. Not two weeks. Not two months, but two years. However, yes I do train both of them.

I put this caveat for people who have never been to my squad training. It’s dangerous to your health and thus performance, in reading articles about ‘what Brett Sutton’s group do’. They really have no idea, but perception replaces reality.

  • Ask an athlete that has attended any of my own camps.
  • Ask if everybody trains together pushing harder.
  • Ask is Brett Sutton on the pool deck screaming for athletes to go harder?
  • Is he with stop watches calling out times on any interval?
  • Ask someone that has been there!

Our success is about knowing when to push and when not to. It is about knowing Ironman is a personal sport. Where training outside of your numbers may make you feel good, remember pride comes before the fall, and fall you will, if you head to a camp and think drilling oneself is good for performance in 3 months time.

After the Super League Nicola was rested.  She swam every second day with us working on another new swim stroke. Two full months later she left the pool and I said  ‘Write that down as your second swim workout of this preparation as I was pleased with the stroke.’
What were all the other swims? Stroke work and preparation for when she is ready to start. That happened last Friday.
Daniela kicks off on the 1st of February.

Are Camps a good idea?
Camps are a splendid idea if you get in the sun and start an easy build up to your season. Smash fests for one week only to go back home to the cold and do one third of the work in the camp may be good for your ego, but does nothing for your season.

Just 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 Picture Credit: Cris Solak

Don’t think about it, just do it over and over and over and . . .

Don’t think about it, just do it over and over and over and . . .

It’s no coincidence that many triathletes choose Ironman Chattanooga, 70.3 Chattanooga, 70.3 Augusta, or Ironman Louisville as their initial foray into long distance racing. These events have some of the highest first-timer rates in the sport for one primary reason. The swim courses are perceived to be friendlier to weaker swimmers. Each course is either current assisted, a rolling or time trial start, more-often-than-not wetsuit legal, or a combination thereof. Although choosing to participate in races that play to their strengths and minimize their weaknesses is a strategy employed by even the best in the sport, most weaker swimmers do so out of fear. They are afraid of failure that could result in physical or emotional harm. Left unchecked, this fear, or more specifically anxiety, can derail an entire performance in the first few seconds or minutes of an event scheduled to last hours. It doesn’t have to be that way. Repetition and simplicity are the keys to reducing or eliminating anxiety, and maintaining control over performance.

Anxiety is a negative physical or mental reaction to situations that an athlete perceives as being stressful. The absence, or presence of anxiety depends on the degree to which the athlete perceives the outcome of the performance to be important and uncertain. The secret to controlling anxiety is actually very simple. An athlete simply needs to reduce the importance and uncertainty involved with an event.

The importance of a performance will be primarily subjective for each athlete, with higher investment usually correlating with higher importance. Perception of importance can be influenced by internal and external forces such as family, friends, coaches, sponsors, etc., but usually boils down to the fact that we are humans who are self-conscious of what others will think of us. Have you ever wondered how young children are able to learn new skills so quickly? It’s because they just want to learn the skill, and they don’t care what else is going on around them when they are trying to learn it. Adults make things more complicated than necessary, but we’ll come back to that shortly. As adults, our level of importance needs to balance out with our level of commitment to success. When performance expectations match investment, anxiety should be low. Or to put things even simpler, don’t write a one-hundred dollar check when you only have five dollars in the bank.

Although we may never be able to attempt a performance with total certainty, we can significantly reduce uncertainty through repetition. Triathletes love their routines. Specific workouts on specific days. Running the same route every week for the long run. Performing the same pre-season conditioning routines that you have done for years simply because they have done them for years. Why? Mostly because doing something differently would require that they venture out of their perceived comfort zone, and that might entail surrendering even the slightest bit of control, and worse yet, taking risks. The routine, or repetition of the routine keeps them in their “safe place”, but more specifically it reduces anxiety. Repetition also builds confidence, and confidence tells athletes that they are in control of a situation.

In a recent Trisutto blog article, coach Brett Sutton wrote about the importance of repetition for achieving exceptional performance. When training cycles and workout plans are structured properly, repetition builds confidence if there is variability to account for adaptations to the training stresses that have been repeated.  Small variations in methodology require athletes to extend their comfort zones and accept new challenges, thereby leading to improvements in performance. When athletes are reluctant to variation, repetition will most likely build stagnation and frustration instead of confidence. Much of the blame for adult anxiety regarding learning new training methods is the insistence on “experts” to make the learning process as technical as possible. The reliance on technical jargon and training toys makes learning much more complicated than it needs to be, especially when adult brains are designed to perform, and conditioned to understand how and why things work. Child brains are designed to learn, so wouldn’t it only seem logical that adults might be more efficient learners if they just simplified things?

The major advantage that children have over adults when learning a skill is that they usually don’t have to unlearn poor habits. They get to start from scratch, whereas adults don’t have that luxury. As adults, we can’t simply forget poor habits, so we need to be able to override them and replace them with good habits. The way that we override poor habits is through conscious effort. We must create new muscle memory so that the new skill becomes automatic. The more you practice something, the more it becomes a muscle memory. Practice does not make perfect, it makes permanent. It is the repetition of desired behaviors that brings about desired changes. We also know that the simpler the task, the easier it is to concentrate on doing it correctly. Children focus on learning only what is required to master a skill. They aren’t afraid of making mistakes, and they learn from them. Adults make the process more difficult with our desire to know why and how we are learning the skill. We further complicate things by being afraid to make mistakes because we don’t want to look like idiots. Children will focus on a few simple cues, while adults try to focus simultaneously on any and every aspect of performing the skill correctly. Children also follow their natural instincts and rest when they struggle to maintain a conscious effort to practice the skill. Adults will continue practicing a skill once they begin to fatigue and their mental and physical performance begins to suffer, for no other reason than to complete the prescribed practice session. The key to successfully learning a new skill in the most expedient manner is not just repetition, but repetition of quality attempts. It’s better to take brief rest periods and perform more quality attempts than to perform more attempts of poor quality.

Trisutto methods are based on repeating the desired skill over and over, but not just doing repeats until you reach a prescribed total workout volume. The focus is on performing as many desired attempts in the allotted time. Working hard only makes you tired if done incorrectly. Working smart makes you better. We make things as simple as we can, so athletes can focus only on what is required to get better. It’s more difficult for adults to consciously learn skills, so we structure workouts that provide maximal opportunity for athletes to focus only on what is required to master the skills. The belief is that if you are provided with the proper training methods and environment, you’re going to learn whether you want to or not. If you have children, you know how important repetition is to their learning process, especially when they have a new favorite song. You will hear them play that song so many times that it becomes ingrained in your memory, like it or not. It’s done unconsciously, without requiring you to make any effort on your part to try to learn the new tune. As athletes, mastering new skills can be just as easy if we can simply embrace simplicity. Embrace your inner child. After all, it is still just a game.

 

Robert Taylor is a professional triathlon coach with over 30 years experience. Join Coach Rob at his January Training Camp in Lexington, South Carolina. and his recently announced June Great Smoky Mountains Camp.

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.