A few weeks ago, one of my athletes came to town so that we could work on her swim and run technique. For her, the common thread to improvement in both disciplines lay in making adjustments to the balance of her distance per stroke (or stride length) and her strokes (or strides) per minute. Balancing these two elements across the disciplines is essential to optimizing performance in triathlon.
In The Boys in the Boat, about the University of Washington eight-man crew team and their journey to win gold in the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games, Daniel James Brown illustrates the same concept as it applies to rowing.
There are certain laws of physics by which all crew coaches live and die. The speed of a racing shell is determined primarily by two factors: the power produced by the combined strokes of the oars, and the stroke rate, the number of strokes the crew takes each minute. So if two boats carrying the same weight have the exact same stroke rate, the one producing more power per stroke will pull ahead. If those two boats have the exact same power per stroke but one has a higher stroke rate, the one with the higher rate will pull ahead… Every race is a balancing act, a series of delicate and deliberate adjustments of power on the one hand and stroke rate on the other.
This is an instructive passage from a rich and inspiring book. It helps to illustrate an important fundamental concept: speed is a function of distance per stroke and strokes per minute. This applies on the swim, the bike, and the run. What we’re after is striking that balance to optimize power, turnover, and efficiency.
In the interest of clarity, it is worth mentioning that in cycling the distance your foot travels around the bottom bracket is fixed, however, depending on your gear selection, the distance per pedal stroke, or gear inches, will vary. In cycling, gear selection and the corresponding gear inches determine your effective distance per stroke.
In all three disciplines, efficiency also has a direct impact on your effective distance per stroke. The better you can direct your energy in a straight line, the farther and faster you will go for every stroke and stride. Efficiency is both mechanical and metabolic. Mechanical efficiency has to do with technique, streamlining, aerodynamics, stability, the condition of your drivetrain, etc. Metabolic efficiency is a function of fitness. The fitter you are, the longer you can tolerate and sustain higher cardiovascular and muscular loads.
On the swim, bike, and run, accelerations and pace progressions are some of the best ways to improve power, distance per stroke, and efficiency. Accelerations and pace progressions improve turnover and also help to develop the body awareness necessary to manage and regulate physical and mental focus, relaxation, and technique under fatigue.
Hill training on the bike and the run, as well as low cadence, heavy gear work on the bike, are indispensable for developing the power and core strength necessary to increase distance per stroke and to hold that stroke/stride length over time.
In the water, my athletes use pull buoy, paddles, and ankle straps daily to build swim specific strength that will improve their distance per stroke, stability, and efficiency. Accelerations and pace progressions are standard-issue for the development of turnover, economy, body awareness, and power.
In swimming as well as the other disciplines, I have my athletes focus on three intensity levels: strong, very strong, and fast that correlate with Brett Sutton’s moderate, medium, and mad. Tuning into these three intensities help to work the balance between stroke length and stroke rate. It is easiest to conceptualise it for the swim. I explain that strong should feel long, strong, and balanced. There should be good purchase and hold of the water as well as strength and muscular engagement through the body. Very strong should have the same length of stroke, purchase, balance, and engagement as strong, with an increase in turnover. With fast the focus is on high-intensity, turnover, and just cracking it out.
Getting back to the athlete who was visiting to work on her swim and run technique. As we were wrapping up she expressed a concern that is shared by many athletes who attend training camps or don’t have regular contact with their coaches. She said that she felt more confident doing the new techniques while I was watching and was concerned that when training on her own she would just practice and reinforce poor technique. The key to improvement, I told her, is in two things: awareness and discipline. I know that she has both. It is her awareness that allowed her to make the adjustments while I was watching. Her discipline is what has her consistently nail her sessions, to the letter, regardless of circumstance. Tapping into those two resources – awareness and discipline – is what makes the difference for her. Likewise, awareness and discipline will make the difference for you of as you continue to work the balance between power and turnover, as well as so many other things in triathlon and beyond.
Mateo Mercur has been a professional triathlon coach for nearly 15 years. He has trained three Age Group World Champions, an Age Group WC Silver Medalist, and the Ironman Maryland Women’s Champion. Based in Bend, Oregon.
Bex living it up on the Big Island!
Bex Fink returned to the Big Island of Hawaii, one of her favorite places, to race 70.3 Honu this past weekend. After a winter that presented some challenges to her training, Bex executed a very strong and well-paced race showing that she’s got a great base of fitness as she heads into the final big build-up for Ironman Whistler at the end of July. Well done Bex!
Ollie, digging deep on the run.
Ollie Saxon took advantage of the spring bank holiday last Monday May, 29 to run the Vitality London 10K. Ollie ran a massive negative split and managed to run a personal best 5K in the second half of the race!
Ollie bookended the week with another race at the Rother Valley Standard Distance Triathlon. Ollie has been an example of consistency and coachability. He’s been pushing himself and working to see just how far and fast he can go. He had a great showing to come in 9th in his age group. It’s going to be a great summer of racing Ollie.
Ashton Prejean jumped into the Joe’s Run 10K in his home town of Fort Worth. Ashton just celebrated his 40th birthday, and as such, he’s racing in the masters division. Ashton has done an outstanding job of balancing family, work, and his passion for sport. We’ve worked together to hone a training program and race schedule that works in balance with the big picture in his life. We’re focusing on sprint and Olympic as well as run races. The new program is going really well for Ashton who ended up winning his age group as well as the masters division for the day. Happy Birthday Ashton.
Race Recap from Coach Mary Beth Ellis:
Lisa runs herself to a 4th place finish.
Lisa Roberts had a solid effort finishing 4th amongst the female pros at Victoria 70.3. Lisa is excited that she is back fit and healthy and ready to start attacking the long distance racing season in Europe. She had s solid day and finished with her typical speedy run legs. Lisa picked up a 70.3 worlds spot along the way so we may well see her going for a podium in Tennessee this fall.
Rob Straznitskas had a great training race as he prepares for some 70.3 events later this summer. He finished 2nd overall in the Pawling Sprint Triathlon. Rob started the day with a solid swim, battled on bike through some mechanical issues, and finished with his best run ever on this course.
PB for Miriam – no wonder she is smiling!
Miriam Cole raced the North Shore half marathon for training as she prepares for 70.3 Madison this coming weekend. She executed a perfect build run over the distance and finished 14th overall (4th in her AG) and picked up a pb of 1:45 in the process.
Race Recap from Coach Michelle Barnes:
Shawn off to Chattanooga this September!
Awesome weekend for my some of my Canadian athletes!
First the star of the weekend was Shawn Russet, a super dad, husband and busy orthodontist. Shawn an I started working together near the end of last year after a minor knee operation. The first goal, as always was to get Shawn training healthy again & build up consistency and strength so he could have another go at racing again. After having some major GI distress last time he raced Hawaii 70.3 his plan was to have another crack at it! I knew Shawn was fit (but not at full fitness by any means) and healthy and we spent a lot of effort testing out some new nutrition strategies before the race. Shawn nailed it with a 31 minute PB from the last time he raced that course & stamped his ticket to Worlds 70.3 in Chattanooga in September! His race nutrition is not perfect yet but a few minor tweaks and we’ll be good to go for Worlds and his first Ironman in Cozumel in November!
Shannon with her best bud and training partner Anna 🙂
Next up steady Shannon Jones raced very close to her hometown, Victoria 70.3. This ended up being a race of overcoming but she showed what this sport in all about! After a killer swim for Shannon, she took her first fall going into T1, then went on to riding her best power I’ve ever seen from her and into another fall in T2! Shannon races with a camelback but for some reason had an issue and couldn’t get any drinks out, improvised and used what was on course but decided to just keep the effort steady instead of killing herself. Overall the race landed Shannon within the top 20 and showed some great long course fitness, I’m also very proud of how Shannon handled herself! Looking forward to watching her race Long Course Worlds in Penticton in August!
Amy at the Epic Belgium Waffle ride a few weeks back 🙂
Last but not least, Amy Ellett decided last minute she wanted to try out a Dirty Feet Trail race while visiting her mom in Kelowna. Now I’ve done two of them and they are no joke! We had backed off the running a bit while getting ready for the Waffle ride a few weeks ago, that she absolutely nailed with one of her strongest bikes yet. I knew the dirty feet would be a good hard hilly run for Amy so I was all for it considering her upcoming races all being very hilly! Well we got what we wanted out of it, a 10 km run with almost 500m of ascent! Amy has no idea how much natural talent she had and frankly doesn’t care cuz she’s just out there to have fun! So many of us could learn from Amy but i am seeing with a bit more structure in Amy’s training, she’s making huge gains:-) Always impressed by Amy!
Race Recap from Coach Perry Agass:
Showing everyone how it is done, well done Carmen 🙂
Carmen Macheriotou is based in Cyprus, and she is progressing very well in a short time. We have recently been nursing a foot injury, however she went to Crete (Chania Oly distance race) and delivered a solid performance crossing the line 1st to win the race overall. There is a lot more to come from this athlete.
A great day out for Davina even if she was looking a little apprehensive before the start!
Davina Greenwell took on the Blenheim Palace Triathlon for the first time. Davina is progressing all the time getting stronger and stronger and crossed the line 1st in her Age Group and 3rd female overall. Really well done.
Race Recap from Coach Ed Rechnitzer:
Great PB for David; well done!
Despite some race disorganization at the swim start David Pokluda still managed to carve out a 4min improvement on his swim from last year at the Lake Wilderness Olympic distance Triathlon in Washington state. He paced himself well on the bike which helped him shave another minute off his run time from last year. Dave is feeling his strength and confidence developing in good stride and is eager for the US Duathlon short course National Championships in a couple of weeks.
Race Recap from Coach Robbie Haywood:
Whats in the basket Gisela? Well done on second place 🙂
Gisela Reichmuth raced in the Lustenauer Ironmaennli sprint triathlon last weekend with a very nice second place finish in her category, as we enjoy a summer of local and shorter faster racing. It was one of those wet and cool days that test the resolve, so a big congratulations to all who finished.
Race Recap from Coach Brett Sutton:
Finish line celebrations!
What can one say about the brilliant race for Jane Hansom off a very disjointed training program. When the flag drops, the bullsh*t stops and Jane is a warrior. Great effort. Well done.
Race Recap from Coach Edith Niederfriniger:
A late flat didn’t help Johnie’s cause at the National Champs – but he’ll be back!
Italian National Championship Half Distance – Lovere (Italy): Jonathan Ciavatella (MPro) had a flat tire after 80km, he continued pedaling to finish the bike but accumulated a big gap to race leaders. He decided to chase, but after the first lap (out of 5) his calfs got very tight and so he DNF. Let’s move on to 70.3 Pescara in two weeks Johnnie!
Diego Ludovici (M35-39) had a bike crash during a training ride just two weeks ago and we weren’t sure he had fully recovered. But Diego showed huge mental strength, overcoming a few physical issues, and finished 22nd M35-39 in 4:53.44. Good job Diego!
(Clockwise) Nadia and Francesca, Diego, Alina and Tanja, all had successful races on the weekend; well done!
The Championship – Challenge Samorin (Half distance): Very good races for the two ladies, Tanja Starl and Alina Losurdo. Tanja took 5th place F35-39 in 5:01.07, which is also best result amongst all Austrian age group girls. We are training for IM Switzerland and this was Tanja’s first triathlon race this year, so it was a confirmation of the good work done in the last weeks and months. Alina was looking forward to her first big international race and in 5:25.21 she placed 20th F30-34. Very well done Alina and now in 1 month Ironman Austria is waiting for her!
Skyrace Valle Intrasca – Italy: Nadia Incerto and her running partner, Francesca, worked very well together as a team and finished 9th place in the Valle Intrasca Marathon Skyrace, a trail running race over 35km and 1634+ of climbing. Strong ladies 🙂
Triathlon sprint Cagliari (Italy): Massimo Argiolas used his home race to put in a bit of quality training for upcoming Ironman Austria. Saturday he did a long bike ride, 180km and sunday the triathlon sprint where he placed 5th M50-54 in 1:11.57! Excellent training weekend for him!
Race Recap from Coach Lisbeth Kristensen:
Tor blowing away the cobwebs at the first race of the year.
This weekend I had Melanie Baumann and Tor racing in Slovenia in The Challenge Championship.
Melanie had an ok swim and a great bike and the fastest split in her age group 35-39 but then she melted on the run and therefore missed out on the podium! We’re saving that for later!
Tor did his first race this year and he had a good swim, very solid bike and an ok run that could probably have been faster too in a bit colder conditions!
Well done to you both!
Race Recap from Coach Christian Nitschke:
Congratulations Hjordis on a National record and 4th place at Challenge Samorin
Last Saturday the inaugural Challenge Championship took place in Samorin in Slovakia. Age group athletes could qualify for that race with a top 5 result in another challenge race during the year leading into this championship race. Hjordis Olafsdottir was racing “the Championship” as her first real season highlight. She was prepared very well and optimistic before the race even though a bit skeptic about the different tapering compared to her last 70.3 races ;-). She had an ok swim followed by a very good bike ride of 2:33 even though she said after the race that she wasn´t even pushing too hard. This already was a massive improvement. But Hjordis also was able to show a very good run even though she wasn´t used to the heat at all. She had no heat adaption before the race and was used to train in the cold! In the end she finished 4thin her agegroup. I am sure if Hjordis would have been used to the heat her run would have given her a 3rd place finish! But she was far from disappointed after the race because a finishing time of 4:56 was a massive personal best on the 70.3 distance and a new Icelandic national record! Over the next couple of weeks and months the goal is to win as many Icelandic point races as possible and be even stronger for Challenge Iceland in July.
Perla Gonzales did a local sprint Triathlon and could win her agegroup. The goal was an agegroup podium, but a win is always nice ;-). Now that we got rid of the fatigue and tiredness she was facing back in April I am sure that Perla will get stronger from race to race.
Race Recap from Coach Bella Bayliss:
Good job Vinny. Photo Credit: James Mitchell Photography
Vinny Veness raced the Challenge Championships in Slovakia. Pain in his back that he has had for the past 6 weeks did not stop him, coming 9th overall in his category in a time of 4 hours 48 minutes.
The Lanzarote Team at the Canadian Championships and Michael (bottom right, Photo credit: Sports Photography Northumberland)
It was the Canarian Cadete Championships this weekend. I travelled with the Lanzarote Team, a Team of 6 girls and 6 guys aged between 15-16 years old. I had 4 of my Team racing and all got the very best from themselves to help give Team Lanzarote the win overall!
- Overcoming morning nerves Mia Leadbeater raced excellently and powerfully to come 3rd.
- Anne 4th overall improving with every race, getting the absolute most from herself right to the finish line,
- Tiffany Cabrera Robson who had been ill all week managed to recover just in time for a great race, 6th place overall. Only let down by an organisational problem when they decided it was a 2 lap run course during the 3 lap run course!!!
- Marcos Knight raced magnificently, only slowing a little during the run but held onto a very good 2nd place behind Alvaro Bernal Hernandez from Lanzarote who won the race.
Finally, Michael Lavender won the Northumberland Triathlon, winning with a 7 minute course record!
Race Recap from Coach Rafal Medak:
Stockholm Marathon action; congratulations David 🙂
One of the season’s objectives for David Nicholson was to run a marathon with his daughter in Stockholm. We have not trained specifically for the event, rather treated it as a long run in his IM training preparation. Secretly David was hoping for a new PB but breaking 4 hours is always something special. Again David proved that the best way to enjoy the training and racing is to get other family members involved! His daughter enjoyed the experience and the best supporter I know, how wife Clare was again on duty taking very nice pictures.His email after the race was the best reward for me as his coach:
Just finished Stockholm in 3.56. Very pleased. Thanks so much for your support, amazing how we are getting these results!
That very satisfying pain! Well done Rafal.
After a well deserved recovery time from IM South Africa Rafal Herman started regular training 3 weeks ago. Now with the next race being Kona we shifted the focus of the training to shorter efforts. Mid week he sent me an email that there is a 5k run race nearby – Ursynow 5k. Why not was the reply – it fits very well into what we are working on. His short note after the race and a ‘happy picture’ seems to say ‘a happy runner’
5k done, 19:35, only 13 sec slower than my PB, not bad but it was a painful experience 🙂
Steve Lyons raced Cotswolds 113. A breakthrough swim a very strong bike and a solid run, although as he admitted he suffered on the run, overall a 8min PB. Not bad a result after few weeks of heavy training and a very short taper. Steve’s report:
Race went ok. Good swim 32 mins. It felt good. Possibly first time i have ever said that! Those sessions in Gran Canaria must have helped. The bike was ok, 2 hrs 29. It was a fast course and I pretty much stuck to the wattage 235 ave. The run was tough and I could not get my speed up 1 hr 52. Altogether came in at 4 hrs 59 and a half distance pb of 8 mins
Congratulations to all our athletes competing this weekend.
Trisutto.com online triathlon coaches are available to help improve your performance here.
One of my athletes, Ashton, will be racing his first half-marathon after many years this weekend. He recently emailed me expressing some anxiety about the race. His email conveyed a broader concern that many of us face, the effects of ageing as we continue to pursue a life in sport.
With his permission, I’ve included an excerpt from his email, as well as my reply below. He wrote:
‘I want to let you know how I feel about the race this weekend and where I am at overall. I had a “wake-up” moment this morning in the pool. A moment where I looked at my current reality. When I read your note about going under 1:30 for a half marathon reality hit me in the face, and it is a bit depressing. I talk about qualifying for Hawaii, but I think when I talk about it, I’m thinking about the younger me.
I’ll be ok with all of this, even though this is a hard pill to swallow. I need to face this reality, without losing my confidence as a racer.’
Like all athletes, we all want to get better and faster, often mentally holding ourselves back because we think age is a limiter to our performance. Below is the email that I sent in response.
‘Thanks for confiding all of this in me.
For starters, remind me of your age?
Regardless of your age, none of us are getting any younger. It’s not just the ageing body, but also the family and professional commitments that place more demands on our time. That being said, there is hope.
Racing long, especially off the bike, is about strength and endurance, not flat-out speed. Strength-endurance does not decline nearly as soon, or as quickly, as we age. Furthermore, racing long is about patience, experience, and wise choices – all of which come with age. Strength and endurance are best developed through consistency in training. This cannot be overstated, just look at the Kona course record, Crowie set it at age 38!
“One of the most important things that I say to all of my athletes is that consistency is the most important variable in training, not speed or volume.”
Taking all of this into consideration, your feelings about ageing and slowing down are understandable. It is a hard thing for many people to come to terms with, particularly those who’ve been high-performing athletes. I hope that I can help you deal with those feelings, and to give some perspective regarding the bigger picture – about your training and your ability to continue to perform, particularly at longer races.
Recently we set some goal times and racing paces, based on your 10km performance, these might differ from what you could achieve in your 20s and early 30s. After the race you mentioned that you felt you’d be able to go faster with continued training. I agreed with the assessment. You have been training with me for two months at that point, which was enough time to get you to a good baseline. That race gave us a sense of where you were at, providing us with a good indication of your performance level.
You will gain more confidence as you gain successful efforts under your belt. For now, look back on your training, recognize the quality and consistency that you’ve put in, and draw confidence from that. Then, get on that start line with a plan. Your plan is drawn from what I know you can do and what you’ve proven in your training and racing. Have confidence in the plan and then go out and execute it.
Train hard and train consistently. Have a race plan and execute your race plan. These are the steps to take that will build your confidence.’
Ashton and his family.
Often age is considered a limiting factor in our performance, but mostly it is lack of consistency and race planning that inhibits great results. The beauty of endurance sports is that age actually works in your favour, as I mentioned it brings patience, experience and wise choices, things only gained from age.
As we continue with endurance training later in life, it is often other external factors that can inhibit performance, such as family and work commitments. These can effect our ability to train consistently, but they are defiantly not bad things! These external factors force mature athletes to train smarter, due to time restrictions, encourage balance, and give them a stronger desire to performance better, often lacking in younger athletes.
** Post Race update – Congratulations to Ashton who completed the Mansfield Half Marathon in 1:33 finishing 2nd in his category.
Mateo Mercur is a US based Trisutto.com coach available to help improve your performance.
A wonderful year for Paula, capped off with another Kona Qualification. Photo Credit MundoTri.com.br
Race Recap from Coach Mateo Mercur:
Paula Ponte raced in front of a hometown crowd at Ironman Fortaleza this weekend. She didn’t disappoint! It was an age-group only event, and after leading the women’s field for much of the day, Paula was second across the line. In addition to her breakout podium finish, Paula was the first Brazilian, first in the 18-24 category, and earned herself a slot to Kona 2017.
It’s been an incredible year for Paula with massive improvements across all three disciplines. She’s been able to put them together for breakthrough races in Kona and then this weekend in Fortaleza. Congratulations Paula, this is just the beginning.
Jordan Bryden joined my squad during his final preparation for Ironman Arizona. His lead up to the race was outstanding. Training out of my base in Santa Barbara he was able to stay focused, happy, and relaxed. Jordan had a plan for the race and he executed it to perfection. When things got tough during the marathon, Jordan was able to keep his composure, adjust to the back-up plan, and finish the day with resilience and heart. Well done Jordan. Enjoy some down time, and set big goals for 2017.
Ashton Prejean is another newcomer to my roster. This fall and winter are focused on a run stimulus and to getting him up to speed with the Trisutto methodologies across the disciplines. This weekend, Ashton ran a local 5K as a first hit-out and to establish a baseline as we get started. He raced on feel and nailed pacing from start to finish. Welcome to the team Ashton, you’ve got an exciting year ahead.
Ollie Saxon is also using this fall and winter to focus on his run. He’s got a number of races from 5K to half-marathon on the schedule. This past weekend was the Clowne Half-Marathon. Race morning was a postcard perfect Northern England day: 3 Celsius, windy, heavy sleet, and rain. Ollie got in another solid race effort in adverse conditions to prepare for his key race in Barcelona on New Year’s Eve. Well done Ollie.
Race Recap from Coach Edith Niederfriniger:
Go Martina! Hot racing in Laguna Phuket
This week I had Martina Dogana racing the Laguna Phuket Triathlon (1,8 – 50 – 12 km), also nominated “The race of the Legends” because of the high quality fields since many years.
Marty together with the Italian TriathlonTravel group arrived only 2 days before the race and coming from cold Italian temperatures, the possibility of adaptation to the high, humid temperatures of Phuket (Thailand) was not enough for her. She did well in the first two disciplines, but suffered high heart rates right from the beginning of the run leg, so she was not able to show her usually final strength. Martina finished 6th WPRO in 2:54.45 and after another week in Thailand she will be able to increase performance for next weekend: 70.3 Phuket. Anyway: well done Marty, it was very long season for you!
Race Recap from Coach Rafal Medak:
David on the run at Laguna Phuket, and then celebrating with Toon Bodyslam at the finish
David Nicholson raced Laguna Phuket triathlon on Sunday and I’m very happy with his performance. His training for the race should be rather called a battle with recurring injuries – not one but two at the same time. It meant not much swimming and not much running for some time.
Since we started working together the first objective was to get these injuries under control. It looks that finally we are getting close to achieving this first goal. I’m very happy he was able to start and finish the race but most importantly David raced pain free all way through. Not only did he finish in a good time but also made new friends including Toon Bodyslam, who’s a Thai rock legend. This is what triathlon should be about: an adventure, having fun, meeting new people and enjoying the experience rather than an obsessive focus on the finishing time.
Well done David, now time to do some more training before attacking 70.3 Phuket.
Race Recap from Coach Rob Pickard:
Congratulations to Michael Faustmann who was the overall winner at the Murray Quadrathlon held last Saturday. The Murray Quad starts out in Yarrawonga and is the worlds longest quadrathlon, a 141km course comprising a 3.2k swim, 21.1k run, 91.4k bike, 25k paddle). Michael won the event in a total time of 7:01:49 hours.
Race Recap from Coach Susie Langley:
Tauranga Tinman kicks off in New Zealand
A new season is underway in New Zealand and Jane Loughnan kicked it off in style, travelling up to Mount Maunganui for the 2.6k ocean swim on Sat followed by the Tauranga Tinman Sprint on Sunday, snagging a second place category finish in the Sprint Tri. A weekend of racing was the furtherest thing on Jane’s mind earlier in the week with the aftermath of the earthquakes which hit Wellington hard…, but it was was great to get away and enjoy a fun weekend of swim/bike/run! Super work Jane 🙂
Race Recap from Coach Robbie Haywood:
Minsok Pak ran in the Eton Windsor Autumn Classic Half Marathon on Saturday in Eton, UK. A flat and smooth 4.5 loops of scenic Dorney Lake. Minsok has been training well post 70.3 Hefei, with this being a nice chance to enjoy a classic run event in the UK before returning home to Austin, TX for a family Thanks Giving.
Congratulations to all our athletes competing this weekend.
Trisutto.com online triathlon coaches are available to help improve your performance here.
Coach Mateo and the UCSB squad.
A few weeks ago, while discussing an athlete’s program, Brett Sutton said something to me in his typically unvarnished and straightforward style. Our conversation was about the psychological impact when athletes are exposed to different thoughts on training and racing. He said, “Doubt is the poison of coaches.”
Different perspectives or approaches themselves aren’t inherently damaging, however, when they provoke doubt, then the troubles begin.
When doubt enters the mind of an athlete, it’s a poison that can unhinge even the most formidable competitor. By contrast, confidence is one of the defining features of mental toughness. Fortunately, confidence is something that we can deliberately build and strengthen. There are a number of practical approaches that can develop confidence in athletes. This article highlights three.
The first is consistency. Consistency and progressive development are at the heart of my coaching method and the Trisutto methodology. If you’re not consistent, then you can’t build progressively over time. If you don’t build progressively over time, then your chances of having consistent top results aren’t very high.
One of the biggest mistakes that I see both age-groupers and pros make is bouncing around from one training session to another rather than following a single unified program. They’ll do masters swims (often with different coaches), group rides, club runs, their friends’ key sessions, weekly time trials and swim/run events, and call that a plan. This approach may help with motivation and it may keep training social, but it won’t optimize race results.
Bouncing between groups has many problems. For one, the training program is not cohesive. For example, the masters group may be doing sprints on a day that you’d be better served with a strength-endurance session. Similarly, this approach isn’t targeted: it isn’t likely that the local group ride, or your friend’s session, will provide the specificity of structure that you need to get ready for your goal event.
If group sessions get you out the door and staying fit and healthy, then use them! However, if your goals include racing at your best, then following a well-structured plan is what it will take.
Brett Sutton and Lukas Verzbicas. Consistently reinforcing the need for consistency.
Having a single unified training program builds confidence because it allows for consistency and progressive development. It also limits potential sources of bad or conflicting information that you’re likely to encounter when interacting with a range of coaches and athletes. Most importantly, having a single, unified training program keeps things focused on your plan and your training needs.
A positive coach-athlete relationship with strong communication and trust is another factor that builds confidence. A secure coach-athlete relationship provides enormous advantages and works both daily and in the long term to reduce doubt and build an athlete’s internal sense of confidence, motivation, focus, resilience, and composure under pressure.
The third element that can help build confidence is having a plan for your season and your races. Having a well-structured plan can help keep you focused and on track. A sound plan can keep you from making an impulsive decision in the heat of competition. Similarly, a clear training plan can also keep you from getting carried away when friends invite you for a session that might seem fun but would be counterproductive to your goals. A thorough and detailed plan builds confidence by alleviating anxiety as well as providing a valuable record to review.
As Sutto said, “Doubt is the poison of coaches.” Consistency, confidence, and communication are the antidotes. Having a cohesive plan that is tailored to your goals and allows for progressive development over time, is one of the best ways to build confidence and counter doubt. And, if doubt does creep in, talk it over with your coach. Your coach will be able to give you perspective, help you focus, and get you motivated and ready to crush!
View Coach Mateo Mercur’s full profile here.
Trisutto.com triathlon coaches are available to help improve your performance here.