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Group Training. What’s good for the goose may not be good for the gander.

Group Training. What’s good for the goose may not be good for the gander.

As Summer approaches in the northern hemisphere, athletes will begin to take advantage of nicer weather and look for opportunities to train outdoors, often with others.  For the past two seasons, primarily during warmer weather, I occasionally encounter a relatively large group of cyclists at some point during my Saturday long ride. The group’s size fluctuates from week to week, is comprised primarily of tri bike riders, and varies in ability level from beginner to experienced. Often, I will see them numerous times on a ride as they routinely stop to take breaks, let stragglers catch up, and who knows what else. Their group riding skills leave much to be desired also, as they regularly ride three or more abreast, and overlap wheels while riding in the aero position. After observing what I refer to as the “peloton” in action over an extended period, I got to know a few of the regular participants and they provided me with some basic information on how the group functioned. Some participants were registered for a Fall Ironman or 70.3 event together, and therefore were training together for the same events. Other participants were training with the group because they wanted to train with stronger riders to improve their own abilities. A smaller contingent joined in on the fun because they were convinced that the group must certainly be a legitimate way to train for Ironman or 70.3 events, as almost everyone in the group was wearing official Ironman apparel. I say that in jest, but not really. The “peloton” phenomenon is not unique to my neck of the woods. It is a common occurrence, and can be found in swimming and running circles as well. Why? Because misery loves company, birds of a feather flock together, and all those other catchy phrases that explain our need to congregate. Should we avoid being lured into group training at all costs, or should we seek out opportunities to share our suffering with others? The answer is yes, and yes.

Let’s begin with the perceived benefits of group training for individual sports. You get to socialize with people who have similar interests, while improving your health and well-being at the same time. Sometimes it seems easier to complete an arduous task when you aren’t doing it alone. You tell yourself that if others can do it, so can you. You also get to experience competition in the practice setting. Have you ever done a high intensity group run workout where you are just hanging on for dear life, but you won’t quit because you know that you are just as strong as the person running next to you, and if they can do it, so can you? Afterwards, you experience a feeling of euphoria, along with a heightened sense of self confidence that leads to numerous fitness breakthroughs shorty thereafter. In this case, the competitive nature often associated with group workouts pushed you to another level of performance. The group provides motivation for you to train. Hold on! You spent $5,000-10,000 on a new bike during the off season and you need MOTIVATION to train? What was your motivation to buy the bike? Ok then, maybe you believe the group holds you accountable to your promise of participating in a specific event with them, and you don’t want to let them down. The accountability factor mostly works best with weaker and/or less committed athletes who may be new to the sport. The stronger, more experienced athletes are usually highly disciplined and require no extrinsic motivation or accountability to follow their structured training plans. Peer pressure works with adults just as it does with teenagers, but not as much with self-absorbent competitive triathletes who have tasted success and are laser-focused on doing anything necessary to taste it again. The answer to whether one should venture into group training is contingent on the specific training needs of the athlete, and the specific training opportunities offered by the group. In short, the answer is specificity.

You are what you train to be. If you want to be a football player, then you need to practice playing football. In sport, training must be matched to the requirements of the sport to elicit the desired performance on game day.  A coach’s job is to design training so that it addresses the individual needs of the athlete. When athletes fail to execute their scheduled workouts, they short-circuit their desired fitness gains. This is what happens with group training when it doesn’t meet the specific needs of the individual athlete. It becomes random training. Group bike training is usually dominated by the strongest riders, and the workout will most likely meet only their specific training needs. In the case of the previously mentioned “peloton” group, the best athletes are held back, the weaker athletes are overextended, and a small percentage of the group comes somewhere close to meeting their specific training needs. Unless you happen to be in that small percentage, the workout becomes what is commonly referred to as “black hole” or “gray zone” training.  In such instances, for the strong riders the workout is too easy to improve fitness, and too hard to enhance recovery. For the weaker riders the workout is too hard to enhance recovery, and not easy enough to build fitness. Both might have been better off just watching a movie at home. In theory, these rides are planned as long aerobic training rides for Ironman or 70.3 events. The disparity in fitness levels within the group leads to erratic pacing and unplanned stops to allow those who can’t maintain contact with the group to catch up. Similar circumstances can occur with running groups as well. Athletes not being able to keep up with the main group can also present safety problems if workouts take place in secluded areas, or when it’s not yet daylight outside. Group swim workouts aren’t quite as complicated, unless it’s an open water swim, which presents unique safety issues regardless of whether you swim alone or in a group. Master’s swim programs are popular, but most are focused on developing and promoting traditional swim technique that doesn’t necessarily transfer over to triathlon. The key to effective group training for triathlon is to ensure that you can complete your prescribed workout, or at least meet your training objectives. Regardless of whether you train alone, or with a group, the primary objective is to complete your workout as prescribed. If you are inclined to do so in a group setting, you might consider the following suggestions to ensure achieving your objective:

Know the groups planned workout ahead of time so you can determine if it’s like yours, or if you can complete yours within the framework of the group workout. Don’t get caught up in the competitive nature of the group and allow it to disrupt your plan.
Ride alone, off the front of the group for efforts that require you to exceed those of the group.
Try to convince others to complete the group ride as a turbo trainer session. This way everyone can do their prescribed workouts without disrupting others. This also eliminates the tendency to ride someone’s wheel to rest when you are tired.
Settle for a group spin class as a last resort, as you should always try to ride your own bike when possible. Group spin classes using turbo trainers and your own bike would be more beneficial as long as the planned workout coincides with your prescribed workout
If you want to swim with a Master’s swim group, try to swim on a day when the group workout will coincide with yours (ie. speed day, aerobic day, etc.)
Group treadmill run sessions at the gym are great opportunities to train in a social setting and still get your individual workout done
Try and keep the group size as small as possible. Training with a few athletes of similar, or slightly superior ability and similar training objectives would most likely provide greater gains.

Ignore unsolicited training advice from “experts” in group training sessions when they try to convince you that you’d be better off doing the group workout instead of your own. If you have a coach that you trust, and total confidence in your training plan, you don’t need training advice from anyone else. There’s always going to be someone telling you that there is a better way to do something than the way you do it. The bottom line is that you should be training with a technique tailored to meet your individual specifications, and a plan that is designed to maximize the effectiveness of your technique. Excelling at anything usually requires that you are selfish to a certain degree. Always put YOUR training needs above those of the group if you want to stay on track to reach your goals.

 

Robert Taylor is a professional triathlon coach with over 30 years experience, and is available for coaching.

There’s No Such Thing as an Overnight Success

There’s No Such Thing as an Overnight Success

“Success is the sum of small efforts repeated day in and day out” – R. Collier

It’s officially Spring in the northern hemisphere, and the 2018 triathlon season is now upon us. After scrutinizing last year’s performances, most of us have probably taken steps that we believe will lead to improved results during the upcoming season. One of the steps that we undertake on a yearly basis is goal setting. We identify performance outcomes that are used to define individual success when the dust settles after an event or an entire season. As triathletes, we need goals to serve as incentives for us to remain committed to such a demanding lifestyle of regular physical activity, and to validate the sacrifices that are deemed necessary to our successes. Unfortunately, goals often go unfulfilled due to circumstances that are totally within our control. We often come up short in our pursuits because we set unrealistic goals that are not attainable within our desired timeframe, or we direct our attention more towards the attainment of the goal instead of the pursuit of the goal.

Raise your hand if you, or someone you know has never finished within the top fifty percent of his or her age group in an Ironman race but has declared that one of this season’s goals is to qualify for the Ironman Triathlon World Championship in Kona. History has shown that you will most likely need to finish in the top two percent of your age group to qualify for a Kona slot, so attaining your goal in one season is highly unlikely. Nonetheless, you download a popular Ironman training plan designed for elite and professional triathletes to get your game to another level because you have a few friends who are doing the same thing, and your ego won’t let you believe for one moment that you aren’t faster than any of your friends. Letting your ego and social influences formulate your goals will sabotage the season before you ever get out of the recliner. You need to take an objective inventory of your skills and determine what you are realistically capable of accomplishing in one season. Since our own biases and subjectivity will always creep in to skew our assessment, it might be best to enlist the services of a coach who will tell you what you NEED to hear instead of what you WANT to hear. Ideally, we want to set realistic “big picture” goals and then work backwards to develop a plan of attaining them. The big picture goals can be viewed as our destination, and we need regular check points along the way to ensure that we don’t get lost. To stay on the correct path, we develop check points in the form of short-term goals with the belief that if we focus only on getting to the next check point we will eventually end up at our destination. Outcome goals represent our destination, and process goals guide our journey.


Coach Robert working with athletes to set and attain realistic individual goals.

Outcome goals are big picture goals that are usually not under the control of the athlete due to their susceptibility to outside influences. Let’s say that your outcome goal for 2018 is to secure a Kona slot by finishing near the top of your age group at an Ironman qualifying event, and you believe that your season will be a failure if the goal is unfulfilled. If you develop the flu a week before your race and are unable to compete at the level required to qualify, then your season has been a failure according to your own definition of success. Your ability to secure the Kona slot is also dependent on how well, or poorly your competition performs, which is entirely out of your control. Outcome goals can also be overwhelming if you continually look to where you are trying to get and realize how far you need to go to get there. Although it isn’t recommended that athletes place too much emphasis on outcome goals, they are very important in serving as motivation to begin the journey.

There is no such thing as an overnight sensation. If you look closely enough you will find that great success stories are a culmination of small successes experienced on a regular basis over a period of time. Process goals enable athletes to train in an environment where they receive steady feedback used to continuously adjust the plan to meet fitness adaptations, and they also serve to facilitate the motivation-success cycle. The premise of the motivation-success cycle is that we set a short-term goal to motivate us to perform at a specific level and once we fulfill that goal we build on our success by setting our next short-term goal, and the cycle continues until we fulfill our big picture outcome goal. Simply progressing from one short-term goal to the next increases motivation and self-confidence on a regular basis. As we continue to progress through our training plan, the greater the likelihood of fulfilling our outcome goal. Although process goals help us build good habits, develop muscle memory, maintain focus, and are entirely within our control, there is one caveat. You must be relentless in your dedication to ensure that each process goal is fulfilled, and your commitment will usually be rewarded with small gains that may not be recognized and acknowledged by anyone other than yourself. Repetitive training doesn’t always have to be boring if you learn to track your improvements and celebrate the smallest of gains. Success is a habit built on doing the little things over and over. Chop wood, carry water. Small gains experienced on a regular basis add up to huge gains when all is said and done.

The greatest virtue a long-distance triathlete can possess is patience. Continuing to grind it out daily with the knowledge that you may see only miniscule gains, if any at all, requires patience and trust. You must have unwavering trust that your plan will get you where you want to go, and you must be patient enough to put in the work and use the smallest of gains to fuel your commitment to get up and do it all over again the next day. You can apply the same logic when developing your race plan. Break the race up into smaller, more manageable segments so you can use feedback to adjust your performance accordingly, and mentally celebrate the completion of each segment as a small victory. The day goes by much quicker when you are only thinking about the next few minutes instead of the next 8 to 17 hours. Whether training or racing, setting short-term goals allows us to celebrate small victories on a consistent basis, and who doesn’t like to win? Create an environment conducive to winning by setting realistic goals that can be attained through small, manageable efforts repeated day in and day out.

 

Robert Taylor is a professional triathlon coach with over 30 years experience. Join Rob in June at his next Triathlon Camp in the USA – Great Smoky Mountains Camp

The Blame Game

The Blame Game

“If you haven’t the strength to impose your own terms upon life, you must accept the terms it offers you.” T.S. Eliot

If you’ve ever listened to athletes talk about their performances after an event or write about them in their “race reports” posted on social media, you’ve probably noticed a trend. Competitive athletes who consistently perform at a high level will most likely attribute their performance to variables that they consider to be within their control, regardless of whether they performed well or poorly. They take responsibility for the outcome and hold themselves accountable, unless there were some unforeseen circumstances beyond their control that determined the outcome. Even in defeat they will congratulate their opponents for doing what needed to be done, while at the same time acknowledging what they neglected to do to meet their own expectations.

Now try and recall the explanations given by competitive athletes who don’t routinely perform as well as they, or others thought they should have. Are they more likely to attribute their performance to outside influences and circumstances that they deem beyond their control? Do they attribute the success of others to luck, fate, or basically anything other than hard work and superior ability? These athletes are less likely to accept responsibility for their performance, and they will continue to attribute future poor performances to forces outside of their control. Consistently high-achieving competitive athletes are more likely to attribute success or failure as being within their control, whereas lower-achieving competitive athletes are more likely to attribute performance outcomes to forces beyond their control. The degree to which an athlete believes that he or she has control over the outcome of a performance is known as Locus of Control. Those who believe that they are the primary cause of an outcome are said to possess an Internal Locus of Control, while those who attribute primary control of an outcome to forces other than themselves are said to possess an External Locus of Control.

For the purposes of this discussion, I am defining competitive athletes as those athletes whose primary objective in competition in to finish at the top, or near the top of their respective categories. It also includes athletes who never finish at or near the top of their respective categories but believe that they can perform at the same level as those who do. Their Locus of Control is most likely to be identified as external. Before competition they often feel anxious and unprepared. Their performance levels have plateaued, they can’t seem to get over the hump, and their less-than-expected results are almost always attributed to someone or something other than themselves. Their primary objective after a poor performance is not to rectify the circumstances that led to the undesirable outcome, but to maintain their self-worth and self-image. Because they believe that external forces led to their performance results, they don’t have any interest in learning what they can do to facilitate better results the next time out, and the cycle continues. They just don’t believe that they posses the skills to adapt and take charge of their destiny because it’s out of their control.


Locus of Control.  Credit: kristinasintelligence.weebly.com/

Athletes that possess an internal Locus of Control see things in an entirely different light. They believe that they have the power and ability to influence the outcome of events. In extraordinary cases where they might think that their performance outcome was the result of external forces, they believe that they can adapt their strategies for future events to cope with and overcome such forces. They assume responsibility for figuring out how to deal with external forces because they attribute future successes to themselves. Athletes with an intrinsic Locus of Control perceive their worlds as being more controllable and manageable. After a poor performance, their primary objective is to identify what they need to correct to prevent similar results in the future. They don’t focus on self-worth or what others will think about them. They focus on what it is going to take to get better.

Most athletes probably exhibit internal and external Locus of Control orientations to some extent, but those whose Locus of Control is primarily intrinsic seem to be top performers often. Would it not seem logical then that any competitive athlete would want to adopt strategies and habits associated with intrinsic Locus of Control athletes to assume more control of performance outcomes? Well, it’s not very complicated to do, but it can be uncomfortable for some because it requires that you are totally honest with yourself and others. You must first accept responsibility for your own performances and hold yourself accountable for doing whatever it takes to undertake a relentless pursuit of improvement. It’s like those who suffer from addiction, but never seem to get better because they are in constant denial that they have a problem. They must admit that they have a problem before they can begin to fix the problem. Once an athlete can admit that he or she needs to accept responsibility for their own performances, they can then begin the process of improvement. Athletes seeking improvement need sources of feedback to determine areas for improvement, and how to develop successful strategies for improvement. They must be committed to accessing all resources available to them, such as technology, clinics, camps, and coaches, where objective assessment and evaluation is available.

Go back and read one of your social media race reports, or even ask friends who will be honest with you and find out if you tend to attribute your performances to external forces. If so, make the decision to take control of your own destiny and see more favorable results than when you didn’t take responsibility for your own actions. This is not only true in triathlon, but in life.

 

Robert Taylor is a professional triathlon coach with over 30 years experience. Join Rob in June at his next Triathlon Camp in the USA – Great Smoky Mountains Camp

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. 

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.