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What is a Break Really?

What is a Break Really?

This blog is in response to enquiries from our readers. They see differing rest periods given to different athletes for their ‘time off’ out of race season. After reading that Daniela was given an extended long rest of three months it has thrown confusion into what is necessary for them. So let’s get into it by first putting the Angry Birds break into perspective.

This was a much needed complete ‘spell in the paddocks’ for Danni. She has raced brilliantly for 4 straight seasons with me, without a big rest. Not only is this physically exhausting but mentally draining as well. So we decided it was time for a career reset. A large break away from swim, bike, and run training; plus all the media pressure that builds with a career like hers.

So I’m asked did she do absolutely nothing? If I had my way then yes! However the bird kept in partial shape by gym visits and doing stuff that she can’t afford to do when in full Triathlon mode. What stuff?  I have no idea! I made her realise that I wanted her to have a break from me telling her what to do. So we call this type of break a ‘career reset’. However at Trisutto we usually have much smaller breaks. Up to 21 days / 3 weeks for athletes who have all the skill sets in swim, bike and run. This is a very important point, because if one has a big weakness, then after a small break we go into specific stimulus programs.

So let’s break it into two:
If you are extremely good in all three (swim, bike and run), our pros do something every second day. It always revolves around swim today, then nothing tomorrow.  Bike the next day, then a run the day after. They are all as short as possible for the individual. These short workouts are very important, so when one returns, we don’t waste a month just getting rhythm back to old levels and getting used to all three disciplines. But the point is we do take time off from any organised sessions.

Now the complicated! If one has a perceived weakness in one discipline we will take a little rest, then go straight into a very specific stimulus program which targets that problem. When we do this we minimise the other two disciplines to a more maintainable level. This is expected to be embraced by our athletes, be categorised as ‘I want to improve’ in their own minds, and they willingly buy into doing it.

Conclusion
Breaks vary because of the individual needs of the athlete. Some with great skills are afforded the opportunity to run their own breaks. Before you say the old cliches again, we have already dealt with ‘No pain, no gain‘ in the last blog!

Now here is another Cliche – ‘We should always be trying to improve as to stand still is to go backwards’. Again this is a lot of nonsense. Daniela Ryf needs to improve nothing at the present.
Nicola Spirig is similar except for her swim. So in her ‘break’ we worked on the swim stroke again. As she steps out for her first ITU World Series race in her quest for a 5th Olympics, she will be sporting her fifth ‘new’ swim stroke. This was dialed in over the winter, and was the only focus. I’m sure the critics will like this one a little better. ‘Little Pistol’ Julie Derron had a break that was about improving her run, to give her the outside chance of muscling in on the Olympics one 4 year cycle earlier than I predicted. We are proud she did so and now has a couple of ITU pro wins in the lesser divisions.

Triathlon Breaks are very important to the program. Watching both Danni and Nicola at training over the last days, neither are in their 100% best race shape, however I commented to coach Robbie these girls are ‘blooming’. The rest has done them a world of good. And that is what you are looking for in your break.

You want it to be beneficial so you can get back into training healthy with a few extra kilos to work with, and feel good about it.

 

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

The Importance of Recovery

The Importance of Recovery

Over the years I have been very misunderstood by many pundits who have not even taken the time to visit our coaching camps to see what we actually do. However I have talked with and visited many great coaches who have that most important feature that makes them superior coaches – and that is curiosity.

They look at my results and ask why?

So when I say to you the most important principle of my success in Triathlon is my true understanding of recovery, it is ridiculed by the mass of naivety that passes for Triathlon experts.

So let us begin with the founding statements I had drilled into me by my farther some 45+ years ago. The statements that kept me at the top of international level coaching of any sport I took on

STRESS  +  RECOVERY   =  ADAPTION   =   HIGH PERFORMANCE

Verses

STRESS    +    STRESS   =    DETRAINING   =   POOR PERFORMANCE

Which one do you want for your athletes? That my friends is profound  “science”!
So let’s be very clear.  I believe that if there is no recovery, then there can be no progress.

In this sport of 3 elements (and 5 for Ironman), recovery is a very complicated undertaking. So one needs to know the sport. Can recovery happen in one facet, while working hard on another? My thoughts are a very definite YES! Can recovery happen when one is tired? YES!

The puzzle for the individual to work out is how much stress is enough to stimulate performance, and the amount of rest needed for that to occur. Here is where it is complicated, as it changes with three things:

  1. fitness of the athlete
  2. age of the athlete
  3. mental capacity of the athlete

Get one of them wrong and you hinder your ability to perform at your highest level.


Recovery Run

A coach needs to adjust for each individual, and also over the course of their career. Adaptions made over time can mean that an athlete who worked best on a lighter load, will after 3 years cope with and require additional work to perform at a higher level. If the athlete is with you long enough, you will then see that as they get older they may do better and keep improving by adjusting their work load to once again do less.

When one reads this, you may think I’m trying to confuse, however it is this complicated. Thus why there are only a few master coaches in a sea of mediocrity. It is a fact that every athlete has a different stress level, and this fluctuates. A great coach finds this, and then manipulates it. Recovery is his/her tool to control it.

The next job for the coach is once finding the level is to persuade the athlete that this is best for them. What is best physically might not match up at all with the psychological abilities / requirements some athletes have. I have witnessed many athletes who did great things only because they were dragged kicking and screaming to their results. Not by pushing them harder, but by using recovery they don’t want, to save them from themselves.

As noted in my previous blog, my biggest problem, is athletes not knowing their threshold levels to stress even after showing them with great performances. Their paranoia is such that the more is better syndrome lives extremely close to their pillows, and it takes only one word or performance from a competitor, to start their alarm bells ringing, “i gotta do so much more “. We use some recovery every day in our work outs.

Here are three examples of programs I just sent  to serial winners only 5 minutes before I sat down to write this

  • I want you to go to the pool. Run 20 minutes from there, then swim 200m and 15 minute spa.
  • I want you to ride your city bike to the pool. If you are bored do an extra 20 minutes on the city bike, then swim 400m easy. Have a spa and ride home.
  • Coach I can’t do nothing. It drives me crazy! One workout a day doesn’t do it for me. Then ok, ‘What about a run day. 3 runs what do you think?’  Coach that sounds fantastic, how do they look? ‘20 minutes before brekky.  20 minutes max before lunch. If you still feel the need then 20 minutes max before dinner.’

These are actual workouts, and will help all three be better athletes.

Recovery is everything. Your job as an athlete is to embrace it.  The Coaches job is to work out how much. If you give some too much recovery they become bored; and as such I’m a master of camouflage, to give athletes recovery while they think they training.

When discussing ‘stress’, people tend to look for the red line. We don’t. The red line is for anaerobic events. Triathlon (excluding the new team format) is aerobic after the start. Thus we look to find the white line. And that to me is B.A.P. – Best Aerobic Pace. With stress that’s what I’m looking for. We do a lot of B.A.P. when our body is ready. Our recovery we have done previously allows for this.

Ironman is a different set of operational tools. The pain is not pain, it is lingering discomfort. There is plenty of gain to be had, if training is done right, without pain. The key is consistency. Not how hard you go. In fact i think going too hard actually limits Ironman performance.

I’ll finish just as I started

Stress + recovery = adaption

Stress + stress = DETRAINING and thus poor performance

 

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

 

Feature Photo: Tahni Brown

Recovery – the Trisutto Way

Recovery – the Trisutto Way

Our personal Trisutto camp is in full swing in St Moritz. We have my coaching nirvana, athletes from very beginners, to Olympic and Kona champions all side by side in our pool, and the coach is loving it.  Ability and speed is no barrier to being in our camp. We have two full time coaches in Susie and Robbie, plus myself, all trying our best to help people live their sporting dream in the most beautiful surroundings in the world.

However we also have other Trisutto coaches visiting too, to take advantage of the facilities, but also the sharing of coaching information. So camp to me looks more like “Tri-fest 2018” as coaches meet and talk about their specific problems in getting the message across. This message is that 90% of all triathlon information disseminated is not best practice for Triathlon. One theme that all coaches seem to struggle to get across to their athletes is recovery and rest needs to be built in to the program on a daily basis.

 

It’s not just my group that has been totally brainwashed that I must work hard every day. To the astonishment of all who visit, they see the best in the world doing 800m swim sessions. They see 20 minute runs implemented regularly. They are often gob smacked when they are told 45 minutes ride. As they watch the best do that, they also see my dismay with athletes arguing and debating for more work. They see the strong discussions I have with the best athletes in the world, who after they have had brilliant success, are still opposing my advice nearly every day, about what has made them great!

Our coaches see it, and they say ‘that’s our biggest problem too’. Athletes just can’t believe they don’t have to go longer, faster, harder every day to be better. Being in this group environment of over achievers just escalates the obvious misunderstanding of how performance is achieved. Not only built but maintained for a full season. Just as the misunderstanding of breaks from training. How different they are, and why some athletes get them, and some don’t! One of our long time supporters wrote in with a very respectful e-mail about what is a real break. He asked ‘When we read your blogs, they can mean so many different things, but giving Daniela Ryf a 3 month break has me totally confused.’

So to add to those things, many including the coaches find it difficult to understand. I preach that doubt is the poison of performance, and that as coaches they must work with athletes that buy in 100% to what we are trying to achieve and why. Without finding the harmony between coach and athlete success is nearly impossible to find.  When the athlete mind is turned by other coaching thoughts, or doesn’t believe what they are doing is right for them, then the coaches need to understand that their best outcome is for the athletes to find another coach that espouses the philosophy that the athlete believes in.

So I am going to write a blog as a 3 part series. So everyone understands that I believe one of the stupidest cliches that doesn’t work in our sport is – ‘No pain. No gain’. This is firmly etched in my mind every time I set a task.  Just as one of the most important cliches that works great for Triathlon – ‘If you don’t use it, you will lose it!’.

With those two thoughts I hope ringing in your mind, here are the three headings for our 3 part series to be published over the next month –

  1. The importance of recovery
  2. Breaks from training, and why you must have them
  3. Harmony of coach athlete relations

 

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

The master and the apprentice!

The master and the apprentice!

Thursday night at the ITU teams race in Nottingham was a very special night for me personally, and for Trisutto. Representing Switzerland was Nicola Spirig and her apprentice Julie Derron  – for the very first time together on the same Swiss team. It has been a journey that those in our squad have watched with great interest.

The development of Julie to be a real contender followed a very different path from what federations are doing around the world today. Rather than separating the junior athletes from the seniors, and training in separate groups based on age, we followed the well tested Australian way of the 1990’s.  A way that Australia has since abandoned, along with their results and success in recent times.


A wonderful team race in Nottingham for the Swiss. Photo Credit: ITU Media

 Back in the 90’s my junior athletes were nurtured by the seniors, and whenever possible they trained along side them, clearly showing the pathway to the top of the sport, and what it took on a daily basis. We have followed this very same model with Julie, with the Olympic champ not only sponsoring her early on, but then supporting her by sharing her training – all be it in a very modified version. However each season has seen Julie take a step closer in training load to that of her mentor.

Science plays no part. Humanization plays a massive role.

We do what we can in training, albeit slower. Then we rest till we recover, before once again getting on the ‘Nicola Train’ again. When tired we stop and take a break. When really tired we take a rest day. This has been the modus operandi for the past 3 years. Day after day. Week after week. Month after month. This season has seen Julie make a major break through to represent her country at senior level. To see both her and Nicola in the same team was a special moment for myself, coach Susie, and Trisutto.

This is an un-finished  journey as ‘The Champ’ showed the young ones on Thursday evening. That she is going to be a force to recon with, no matter how many children she has. Taking the team from 12th to 6th in a blistering leg in her first competition of the season. While we look to the future of an Olympic start in 2024 for Julie, it is now obvious that Nicola will be looking to  gain her 5th Olympic selection. Julie now needs to work towards 2019, to finish her apprenticeship and become a legitimate Olympic hopeful.

I personally want to thank Nicola for her mentorship. From now on, the pair will fight for the same goal, on an equal footing – both legitimate contenders.

From all of us at Trisutto we wish that you both continue to represent your country for many years to come. Thursday was a magic moment for all of us.

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

 

Gyms – The Real Deal

Gyms – The Real Deal

The month of May I headed home to Australia to see family, friends and to do a memorial camp for one of my old coaches who was struck down by stomach cancer. We paid tribute to one of triathlon’s real supporters at every level – Scott ‘Aardvark’ Penny.  Scott was old school. Scott helped people. Scott got involved. Some would say he was a Triathlon Coach, but that was a cover, the reality is he wanted to help people lead better lives. Money, position, fancy facilities was not his motivation. He ran a local bike shop, he took bike tours of Aussies to Europe.  All small scale, but he had one thing he did huge – his effort to help people.


Great to be back in Australia; bike action from Caloundra.

This was brought home to me further when I was looking for gyms for my daughter to train in. Zali is a skier, so nothing to do with triathlons, however I’ve worked in a lot of gyms, and thought no problem, we will find something everywhere we go. I expected to pay for a workout, and to get on with it. We visited many gyms, we looked inside, all shiny equipment, a couple even had an air freshener smell, but they could not give my girl a one day entry. The buff trainers walking around simply said ‘Impossible. She has to buy a membership’. Not helpful when we were only in town for two days.

This was not a one off.  The Gold Coast, Sydney then on to Melbourne. I must have ventured into 12 gyms and got knock backs. So disappointing, so I stopped taking her, as it made me sad to see my girl with a dream, and a sparkle in her eye, get told ‘impossible, this is a private gym’. It also had me pondering, and I said to her let’s look for a real gym, with real people.

When we arrived in Sydney, I wanted to give the family the Bondi Beach experience of where I spent a lot of time when I was younger. Again I must have visited five gyms in a 2km radius and were knocked back by all, or except two that were  50 dollars and 30 dollars! So when we saw the new building at the Bondi Icebergs we assumed the gym there would be now the same. However old habits die hard and I said Bondi Icebergs is a traditional place with a wealth of history, let’s at least take a look. We were amazed to walk in and it hadn’t changed in 30 years. The same barbells were there, a bit rusted, and the kettle bell had my name on it, as it had come back into fashion now. Old school alive and well on Bondi Beach.

Of course, the pool in Caloundra on the Sunshine Coast, ‘Aardvarks’ club had a real functional gym in a shed. They nearly broke their arm on the door opening it for us – ‘there you go missy knock your self out the place is yours’.  We were joined for a couple of days by my nephew Dale, who we called ‘White Lightning’ as a kid. As he was always so passionate, he followed the Camps. Even after 8 years of running Ripple Fitness in Brisbane, his motivation, the care he took for his athletes ‘You don’t mind uncle Brett if I come to Sydney too. But my motto is I do everything to help my clients have a better experience with their training, I won’t get in your way’.

Then at our camp in Melbourne with coach Michael Harvey who is so passionate about how he can do a better job for his Victorian athletes, that he has travelled to Asia and then all the way to Europe to learn from us, and be better for his athletes. The camp wasn’t about promotion but about my sadness of how poor the performance levels have been out of the State Of Victoria since the 90s. I thought that some would like to know how the most successful group on the planet trained during that period of time? To my astonishment the one person who didn’t need my advice, the great Stephen Foster made his way from the Mornington Peninsula to attend.

‘What are you doing here Stephen?’

‘Sutto I want to learn. I’m missing something and I want to be a better coach.’

Can you can see a theme here yet!


Swimming in Melbourne with Abi, Stephen and Jo.

Then i walked the streets in Melbourne there was no shortage of swish gyms. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment. Sparkly buildings, sparkly equipment and buff attendants who proceeded to say no, we are sorry, but it is not our business model.

Just when we were about to give up we saw a little gem. No not a spelling mistake, it was a gym, but it had heart. No real flash equipment, Muhammad Ali poster on the painted walls to try and lift it. I said to my daughter, that I bet the guy running this place will be happy to let you train here. ‘Why Papa?’ – because when you see a place with a heart and a soul, you can bet those in it are just the same. Sure enough in we went, and were meet by Dave. Older guy, not buff, just fit, hard as a rock with track suit on and peak cap, with a group of women in there working out like real athletes. No tinsel togs here.

Dave was so attentive to his clients my daughter got impatient. Just watch and learn from a real coach. His clients are his fixation, look at him, this bloke is our man. You watch when I tell him what you do he will say yes. When Dave had finished the circuit training, he came over.  He said what they did a monthly fee here. I said we down for all of two sessions,  and he said the gym is yours enjoy it. I asked about money. Dave said ‘no charge. Why don’t you get to work Zali, we will worry about that later.’

I watched Dave take 6 lessons. And they were lessons. His motivation was only matched by the skill set he was showing in his workouts. This guy knew his stuff. His clients are very lucky, to be in such good hands; and hats off to the ladies who were there, as they were working like real athletes, and they had good shapes that only come from consistent and well trained work. Well done ladies’. I’m happy to say if you in the area from St Kilda to Elwood or Elsternwick, take my tip and do yourself a favour and drive past the fancy Dan soulless gyms and walk into a real gym at For Fits Sake and say hi to Dave and his team . If your serious about your work this is the place.

Which brings me to my point. Facilities mean nothing! One day when we couldn’t get into a gym or an oval as the football was on it we did our work in the cricket nets and boy was it a great session. We improvised, we over came. What really matters  is what you do, and who you do it with. Dale, Dave, Caloundra pool. Their place did stink – it stunk of motivation, passion and care. A place where success is nurtured in an environment that can’t be matched by shiny pieces of metal .

They all reminded me of my friend ‘Aardvark’. When I first meet him, ‘Hi Sutto.  My names Scott, but call me Aardvark. I’m just here to help!’. The world is worse off for the loss of Scott Penny,  but there are still some pockets of places where Scotts favourite saying is still in play.

The ‘no dick heads allowed’ camp was a great success, and the trip made me realise more than ever, that we must keep spreading the word where ever there is one person there to listen.

Rip Aardvark. All who count, miss you terribly.

 

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