Last week I made an honest attempt to defend those developing pro athletes who train every bit as hard as the champions. They have the right not only of our respect, but for the sport’s leaders to provide a pathway for a sustainable career that will benefit both sides.
That aside, the pros do need a sharp reality check – as their predicament is largely self inflicted.
There is still a way to make a small living in triathlon if one is prepared to be disciplined in one’s training and racing schedule.
With the proliferation of new races worldwide – I find it quite concerning the amount of underperforming newcomers who ask about coaching, but then talk about sponsors and fulfilling a travel schedule that looks like a Contiki tour so they can ‘get to Kona’.
That’s all before the standard ‘I can’t afford to get a proper coach’ – despite the coach having a proven track record of delivering exactly what their goals are.
Many are disappointed when instead of producing a magic wand, I suggest they focus on improving their performance to be good enough to earn a pay cheque in the first place. Living out of a suitcase in an airline transit area, competing at races that you are not good enough to be at is the worst possible way to move forward if one’s goals are to be good.
If you have serious flaws in one or two of the triathlon disciplines – ‘joining the circuit’ for 12 months will leave you right back where you started. No money and no improvement.
Sarah Crowley justly rewarded for a long term, professional approach to the sport. Photo: Korupt Vision
Over the past 12 months we have seen the meteoric rise up the professional ladder of Sarah Crowley. Sarah left a well paid corporate job to follow her dream – and I’m proud to say followed a different path to the majority of the inquiries we deal with.
Realising rather quickly that being ‘good’ was more important than the holiday circuit, she got an excellent coach and paid not to go to races but training camps to improve her weaknesses.
A former solid runner at ITU level, she engaged her coach Cam (Cam Watt) who is a bike expert, and they also flew to Jeju, South Korea for swim focussed training. For a month she trained with Daniela Ryf to see how the very best worked.
With improving performances she had the opportunity to get sponsored products – but instead followed her coach’s advice:
“Do not take on inferior products – it will cost you performance and money!”
Losing two minutes over 180km because you’re endorsing slower equipment can be the difference between a win or a fourth. Sarah again wanted what is best for performance. Not to be able to say ‘I have a sponsor’!
Such long term thinking has paid off very handsomely. She is now the current holder of the Ironman 70.3 Middle East, Ironman Asia Pacific and Ironman European regional Championships. For those who were at Sarah’s level two years ago, the improvement is not luck.
Taking The Plunge
It is not to say everyone can make the huge leap she has, but I can identify many others who with professional attitudes have made the step from very good age groupers to real “pros”.
The greatest of them is the legend called, Chrissie Wellington. She took a one week trial with yours truly and then gambled her savings on coaching and camps that would make her the best she could be. She was going to the top or back to a ‘real job’. No grey area.
Similarly, last weekend James Cunnama destroyed the field at IM Hamburg. Writing this I remember James contacting me some 10 years ago and asking what is the best way to become a “real” pro. He was advised to get on a plane and come to camp, so he could get the best possible judgement. Like the others he made the difficult transition with two training oriented seasons – and since then has had eight years career professional athlete with more to come.
For those considering making the jump, please understand it is totally different when you’re racing for a pay check to pay the bills each month. The pressure of racing without a safety net is not for everyone. Though I’m happy to give some free advice for those looking to make the transition from good amateur to hard bitten pro.
1) It takes time. I ask people joining Trisutto for three seasons to be the best they can be. If you come into the pro ranks with the ‘I’ll give it one year’ mindset I can help you right now.
Stick to your day job.
2) Invest in quality coaching and in training to improve and develop all three disciplines. Weaknesses that you can get away with as a good amateur will be brutally exploited when you run into the real thing.
3) Pick races that you can access easily and economically. Ensure after a race you are always able to return to base and get on with the most important agenda – training to make you better.
A professional, long term approach will get you to where you want to go much faster than you’d think.
Join Trisutto Head Coach Brett Sutton at one of his remaining training camps in 2017 in Lanzarote, Cyprus or Gran Canaria.
Swimming in a group can be more fun! Trisutto age group camp in St Moritz.
Age group athletes listen up!
As we head into the business end of the season, I have been asked by three different cross sections of athletes struggling with motivation at the very time they expected themselves to be at their most enthusiastic. What are these three cross sections of athletes?
2/ Age group athletes who have, or are trying to qualify for Kona.
3/ Age group athletes who have taken on triathlon as their sport to help with improving their lifestyle.
With each group having a totally different solution I will address each section in separate blogs. We will start by giving the most important group the first response. Triathlon for the newbie can be very exciting, empowering, frightening and frustrating in equal measures. When I’m asked to address diminishing motivation after an exuberant start; or the age group athlete who has been doing the sport for a few seasons and although super competitive their late start curtails podium finishes in their age group; I always point them in one direction.
Back to the future!
When you first started what were your thoughts?
Why did you get into triathlon?
What were your initial goals?
I advise not to brush off the very best thing you can do, which is to break down the problem to the basic truth. You are overlooking all the benefits triathlon has provided, have started to think too far forward, and maybe also too competitively.
The sport begins very encouragingly, but has a propensity to take over from the reality of why we should be doing it! We start out looking to build a healthier lifestyle, to improve our physical condition, to help build improvement in oneself. At Trisutto whether you are a champion, a pro or an elite age group athlete, you are not hounded about winning. Try to let the sport help you grow as an individual – your only competitor is yourself.
Winning does not mean success. We place so much emphasis on individually being a success, however in a world that is built on more is better, faster is optimum, we tend to lose sight of what success is. To me the lack of motivation mostly comes from the results one looks at, rather than the most important part, which is the journey. This is the element where success is built, and self satisfaction can be found for all levels.
I point out on a weekly basis to some athletes who are not happy, that they are failing, and can’t see it. They dispute this very quickly, saying they are now 30 minutes faster, have gone from 30th in their age group to 10th but still want that podium. It’s driving them nuts.
For me, I ask really? Who for? What for? Why for?
They look at me rather strange.
Are you unhappy, never satisfied, having personal family problems because of an insistence on more training time, and find work now a hindrance to your new obsession? Personally does Brett Sutton find this success?
No. This loss of perspective is what is hurting our motivation.
The ability to use triathlon to enhance our lifestyle should not be measured in numbers. Instead how our new hobby enhances not just our fitness but our lot in life. So when you guys get a little stressed about a missed work out, or the need to have an easy day, look back to your original reasons for starting the sport.
Are you enhancing your lifestyle or hindering it?
It takes courage to back off and say this is not about next months competition, but is a plan for the rest of my life. It can’t be defined by such short term thinking. I advise to take a good look in the mirror. Then give yourself a good slap and say wake up! Go back to your original thoughts of what you first wanted out of the sport, and I’m sure your motivation for the future will be secured.
If looking for a motivational boost, join Trisutto Head Coach Brett Sutton at one of his remaining training camps in 2017 in Lanzarote, Cyprus or Gran Canaria.
Six days before the Hawaii Ironman in 2016, Daniela Ryf completes a key pre-race speed set on the treadmill.
Over the last month I have written blogs on exercise equipment that can help you with your swim and bike performance. There have been many enquires asking can you write something about the run?
Since founding Trisutto.com, there have been several blogs published on the benefits of treadmill for run / triathlon performance. I urge all of our new readers to breeze through our back catalogue of blogs for a variety of articles that will help you enormously with your triathlon. We view ourselves as a resource for all triathletes to use in their quest to be more efficient athletes.
The Dreadmill: Benefits Of Treadmill Training includes a short video blog to explain one of my favourite mid week run workouts, that will help your leg turnover and your run form on race day. It was developed when training Jan Rehula who went on to win the Bronze medal at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.
As well as run efficiency, the practical aspect of the treadmill is time efficiency. Trisutto coach Rafal Medak wrote an excellent blog on exactly this, Training in the City: Treadmill
I hope you will make the most of our online resources – happy reading!
Any person who has studied project management in the Information Technology field will be familiar with the 1975 bible on the subject titled ‘The Mythical Man Month‘ by Fred Brooks.
The premise of Brook’s text (known as Brook’s Law) is that adding additional resources (people) to a project speeds up the delivery of projects, but only up to a point. Once past this tipping point, every additional resource added actually has a negative affect on the outcome (delivery date) due to the additional overhead.
What does this have to do with Triathlon? Many of us want to succeed so badly, that we are always on the hunt for new ways to improve – ‘free speed’ of buying a new bike, $4000 wheels, a $400 carbon rear derailleur cage to save 1 Watt, or their third $400 bike fit in the last 18 months! The promises of super human recovery from sitting in compression boots between workouts, or enhanced skill acquisition from wearing a $700 pair of headphones prior to training!
However, just as complex programming projects cannot be perfectly partitioned into discrete tasks that can be worked on without communication between the workers and without establishing a set of complex interrelationships between tasks and the workers performing them; the constant ‘looking for clues‘ and the resulting never ending changing of training methods, workouts, equipment and recovery methods by Triathletes has a similar affect on their own ‘project management’ – i.e. themselves as athletes, and their race results.
Assigning more programmers to a project running behind schedule will make it even later, because the time required for the new programmers to learn about the project and the increased communication overhead will consume an ever increasing quantity of the calendar time available. A Triathlete constantly examining workout ‘data’ in minute detail, chopping and changing workouts, weekly structures, training methods and philosophies finds themselves in the exact same dilemma.
They are in a constant state of flux, never being able to ascertain what is working for them, and what is not. They never stay with one program long enough to understand their body and to see how it responds to training stimuli. When things are not going as they wish, they are lost. They have no standard routine to retreat to. Six pairs of cycling shoes, 3 changes of bike position, another new saddle…
Instead of ‘Looking for Clues‘, our TBF Training methodology directly combats this out of control approach with an emphasis on ‘Pick and Stick! Taking what so many triathletes consider is a very complex sport, and boiling it down into a simplified method. A repeatable plan that when given time and shown to be working, does not change for the sake of change. Losing 20% by looking for an additional 1% is rife in our sport – at all levels.
Brooks wrote: “Question: How does a large software project get to be one year late? Answer: One day at a time!” It is no different in the triathlete community. Triathletes who after years of ‘looking for clues’ suddenly experience huge improvements are the norm at Trisutto.com
Just as in this classic book on the software development process, persistent myths never quite go away: every new generation just has to learn them over again. Triathlon is no different.
Robbie Haywood is the Director of Coaching at Trisutto.com.
Join Robbie and Brett Sutton at one of their remaining training camps in 2017 in St.Moritz, Cyprus or Gran Canaria.
Very often we hear about athletes working in this grey zone, however this area doesn’t allow athletes to improve their performance. The grey zone is where many athletes spend their training, because they believe that to race fast they must train fast and constantly push the pace. It also feels nice, and is enjoyable to roll along with mates!
As a result, their ‘easy sessions’ are done at an intensity level that doesn’t properly develop their aerobic system, and their ‘hard sessions’ are done below the required intensity to fully develop their anaerobic system, as they are too tired from their ‘easy session’.
The middle or grey zone is always a bad choice
The mistake isn’t the intensity itself but maintaining this same pace in all training sessions. So, the training becomes counterproductive and a lot of of time and energy is wasted. Athletes who try to do too much speed work in a given week will either burnout or perform sub-optimally.
REMEMBER: If you push hard all the time, you will be tired and unable to push harder when you need to!!!
In all three disciplines it is important to respect the following progression:
Warm Up: Should last between 15 minutes and half an hour; this gives the body plenty of time to gradually get ready for physical activity and to prepare the athletes mentally for the work ahead. Warm-up can also be used to practice skills and drills. The warm-up should gently prepare the body for exercises by gradually increasing the heart rate and circulation; this will loosen the joints and increase blood flow to the muscles
Main Set: Depending on which training cycle you are in, you will cover varying sessions on endurance / stamina work, and speed / power work.
Warm Down: The length of your warm-down depends on the length and intensity of your session. A tougher session requires a longer warm-down than a steady run. The objective is to return to a resting state over a period of 15 minutes to half an hour. The warm down can also take the form of other parts of the triathlon e.g. a loosen up short swim after a hard run.
Four training intensity zones: easy, moderate, medium, mad.
Training intensity refers to the exertion level put forth during training. Is your workout “easy” or “hard”? Were you able to talk while doing that run or were you gasping for air? These are all factors that can help characterize the intensity at which you are working.
The Trisutto training methodology uses 4 intensities.
Easy: This can be for recovery – an easy run, easy bike ride or swim helps to clear the waste products out of the muscles and increase the blood flow after an hard session. The real benefit of recovery runs is that they increase your fitness, promotes muscle tissue repair, glycogen replenishment or any other physiological response. EASY can also be the warm up, and warm down before and after then main set in a workout.
Moderate: to develop peripheral training adaptations: increase fat metabolism, increase number of aerobic enzymes.
Medium: To increase lactate threshold and maximal aerobic capacity. Improve efficiency (same speed, lower heart rate then a previous marker). “Broken conversation’’
Mad: do this only if you really feel up to it. To increase stroke volume, increase maximal aerobic capacity, and lactate tolerance (buffering capacity). “Broken conversation” ceases. Tingly or heavy muscles likely.
Indoor training for focusing the intensity zone
Turbo training allows you to do your workouts in a controlled environment that can be easily and accurately measured and reproduced. What’s more, it’ll probably be easier to train consistently as you won’t have the weather as an excuse to miss training.
Use indoor sessions to work on your ability to maintain a hard effort for an extended period of time by focusing on intensity.
There’s little to no point simply climbing on and pedalling randomly. To get the most from your stationary pedalling, you should start with a session plan. To be effective, this must be suited to your current level of fitness, and to your goals
Running indoors comes to mind with inclement weather, however running indoor is a great supplement to outdoor running and offers such advantages as: quicker workouts, speed and form improvement, safety, and it allows creativity in movement.
With tapis training it’s possible to reproduce different and increasingly intense zones / pace.
- Don’t make all your workouts High-intensity training
- Respect different intensity zones
- Optimise Your Recovery For Optimal Performance
- Hacking your body’s ability to bounce back from competitions, intense workouts or even just intense training or work periods is key to enhancing your performance.
Irene has been a multisport competitor for over 5 years. She is a 70.3 World Championship qualifier and recently dedicated herself to a full time coaching career, completing the Trisutto Coaching Certification Course and working as co-coach at 3 camps. She is based out of Padua, Italy and speaks Italian and English.
Trisutto.com online triathlon coaches are available to help improve your performance here.
After our blog on the humble turbo trainer, we received requests for my thoughts on swim benches, and other swim tools used out of the water. As we have quite a few online athletes who work not only shift work but in remote places, I thought we could pass on a little history with swim benches.
Let’s first answer the burning question, do you believe they are beneficial? The answer is an unequivocal yes. However, it depends what kind and if you use it to:
- replace a swim workout
- incorporate it with your training session
- because you don’t have a pool alternative .
Then there are the many different swim benches available. Before I discuss some of them in detail, let me list them in my order of merit:
- isokinetic swim bench
- pulley system swim bench
- weighted pulley system swim bench
- own body weight resistance swim bench
- stretch chords. Or a bench set up with chords
Each of these apparatus can be improved further with a small tool, called the swim halo. With this device on your machine it can promote an arm position that mimics the correct position of the arms in the water.
Halo Swim Bench
Done properly swimmers who drop their elbows can be taken through the correct movement on the swim bench out of the water, so instruction can be very effective indeed.
As far back as 1978 I was using isokinetic boxes to develop my own swim benches. As I became a little more sophisticated around 1986 I was making them on the walls of our gym to be specific for breaststroke as well as butterfly. My squad would do a swim workout from 9am – 11am but I would still add between 2 and 4 workouts a week on these machines. These swim bench workouts being a minimum of 45 minutes of work.
It is fair to say that in triathlon I have not used them, as time becomes critical training for swim, bike and run inside the one Triathlon program. However as a teaching aid, or a replacement for lack of pool time availability, they are excellent.
Why do I prefer the isokinetic over the other 4 types of benches? With this devise the power output lifts with the effort and acceleration of the stroke. This is crucial. Benches that do not do this are counter productive as the weight or resistance is static along the full movement, and hence is dictated by the weakest point of your stroke. The power phase of the stroke does not then have the necessary resistance to be developed as it could be. This is a massive problem. I have experimented with just strait isometric exercise on some of my lesser loved machines and I have found that I get a better result doing that in 3 or 4 static positions rather then doing the full swim stroke.
The second reason I ‘love the isokinetic movement’ is that once accustomed to it there is zero muscle pain the day afterwards – none. This is so important when doing multiple sports. We can do very very hard workouts for 1 hour 30 minutes on isokinetic machines and the next day zero soreness. I have done only 25% of the work on other benches and athletes can’t lift their knives and forks at meal times for 3 days, they are that sore, and impedes training in the other disciplines.
One last point I’ll make on the execution of technique, is when using a swim bench, and trying to include the proper swim arm recovery. After the initial first ever session I personally abandoned that procedure. We recover the arm just by letting it swing back normally. I’m positive not doing a full swim recovery is not impeding improvement.
In summary, if an athlete has pool access and only swims 3 times a week would I replace one of these swim workouts with a swim bench workout? Just the same answer when I’m asked should I replace one of these workouts with a gym session that will make me stronger. The answer from me is no. And just if you miss-understood: No. No. No !
However, it is a legitimate tool to improve swimming if used correctly, and a great piece of kit for any level of swimmer