It’s almost time again to make that New Year’s resolution to get fit, eat healthy, discard bad habits, and just get your act together in general. History shows that about 80% of those who make New Year’s resolutions will abandon them by mid-February. WHAT? Ok, maybe this doesn’t apply to triathlon as much as it does to the general fitness population based on the initial commitment required by athletes to simply enter the sport, but coaches and athletes should be aware that there are factors that could lead to an earlier-than-expected exit from triathlon.
How many times have you crossed an Ironman finish line and immediately told yourself and anyone else that would listen that you had just completed your LAST Ironman? Well, If athletes were required to register for next year’s event immediately upon crossing this year’s finish line, most races would likely go out of business. After dedicating a significant amount of time and resources to do whatever it took to get you to the start line and across the finish, you instantly proclaim your permanent exit from the sport, or at least from Ironman distance events. Surprisingly, by the next morning you have already identified areas in which you could make huge improvements, and have selected another event taking place only 6 months later for which you will register. Why couldn’t you just walk away?
Almost two decades ago I was pursuing a doctoral degree in human performance, and the subject of my dissertation was sport commitment among triathletes. I was interested in learning why athletes decide to stay, or discontinue participation in the sport of triathlon, and to hopefully identify determinants of commitment that could be used to structure an athlete’s routine and/or environment to increase the likelihood of continued participation.
The results of my research found that there was a significant relationship between sport commitment and the predictor variables of enjoyability, personal investments, social constraints, and involvement opportunities. Enjoyability can be generally described as having a positive or pleasurable response to a sport experience. Personal investments are resources that are invested in an activity which cannot be recovered if participation is discontinued. Social constraints are social expectations or norms which create feelings of obligation to remain in an activity. Involvement opportunities are valued opportunities that are only available through continued participation. The results indicated that increases enjoyability, personal investments, social constraints, and involvement opportunities were correlated with increased commitment to triathlon participation.
The number one principle of Trisutto training is for athletes to enjoy training and racing, and love what they do.
Regarding sport commitment, athletes can be classified as either “stayers”, “burnouts”, or “dropouts”. Stayers are usually associated with receiving steady or increasing rewards, experiencing increased satisfaction, continually increasing their investments, and having fewer alternatives that provide the same rewards as triathlon. Burnouts perceive their alternatives to participation as less attractive or non-existent, and they continue to increase their investments even though they have not experienced their expected return on investment. Dropouts usually enter the sport with an end-game goal, invest only what is required to attain that goal, and they can easily leave the sport if they identify an activity that is that is equally or more attractive than triathlon. As coaches and athletes, we can refer to the determinants of sport commitment to shape the training environment and activities so that they are conducive to promoting continued participation and longevity in the sport.
Coaches are always looking for ways to enhance motivation, focus, fitness, recovery, nutrition, and a myriad of other factors that all contribute to a successful experience for the athlete, while taking it for granted that most, if not all athletes have the desire and resolve to continue participating in triathlon. In the best interest of the athlete, we shouldn’t assume that everyone is enjoying their experience simply because they have yet to quit. The following are questions that might be considered by coaches and athletes when structuring the training environment to strengthen commitment:
- What does each individual athlete enjoy about the sport? What makes it fun? What isn’t fun about the sport? Use the information to structure the training environment and activities to help them enjoy training when possible.
- How invested is each individual athlete in the sport? Not just financial investment, but how much time and effort they invest in obtaining their reward. Are they investing too much to be able to maintain balance in their lives? Are they not investing enough to meet their expectations? Coaches should discuss with them what is important and necessary, and what is not, for them to attain their goals.
- What is each individual athlete getting from participation in the sport that they can’t get elsewhere? Coaches can try to provide opportunities while working with them that nobody else is offering. Things such as regular or occasional supervised coaching sessions when other coaches only provide training plans will separate you from the pack. Occasionally incorporate alternative activities that they enjoy into the training plan to give them a break and promote balance.
- How is each athlete similar to, or different from other athletes in the squad? Some thrive in a social environment, and some thrive alone. Find out what makes each athlete thrive and encourage them to structure, or seek out those situations to train and race. Start conducting group workouts several times during the week for the athletes who crave social interaction.
Commitment to continued participation in sport is about balance. There needs to be balance between an athlete’s investment and the reward for that investment. Balance will lead to a fun and enjoyable experience, which outside of an unforeseen incident or career-ending injury, is the primary determinant of an athlete’s longevity in the sport. As it turned out, my research findings are still applicable today. People are more likely to continue participating in an activity when they are having fun. Not surprisingly, the number one principle of Trisutto training is for athletes to enjoy training and racing, and love what they do.
Robert Taylor is a professional triathlon coach with over 30 years experience. Join Coach Rob at his January Training Camp in Lexington, South Carolina.
Article Photo Credits: Mokapot Productions
Daniela lays it on the line at Bahrain 70.3. Photo Credit: TrimaxMag
Now the dust has settled from last weekends race, we can make a clear analysis of both the race, and of the season.
Firstly, hats off to an absolute brilliant return to top level racing for The Captain Matty Trautman. Just a brilliant return from spinal injury, with two titanium rods in his back. Our saffa proved he could be the next man of steel. His best ever non wetsuit swim, a decent if not spectacular bike to be in T2 in 10th, before grinding out a run to find his rhythm and finish in 5th place. Just incredible.
Captain, on behalf of every member of the Trisutto family, I want to publicly say how proud we are of your race, and how pleased that you are already near your very best.
Matty exits the water with the front pack. Photo Credit: TrimaxMag
Moving on to the race by the Angry Bird, Daniela Ryf. This was the final race of her brilliant season.
The question of the Triple Crown and could she pull off the million dollar slam has been answered. While many saw this as a foregone conclusion coming into last weekends race, few considered the realities of what is involved. Without her injury in the early part of the year, Dani may have had the opportunity, however once the rehabilitation became too long, there were decisions to be made.
I was honest with her and said, ‘it’s either the triple crown, and we forget Kona and Ironman training, as we can win 70.3 Worlds, and take Bahrain. However if we go for 70.3 Worlds, then back up with Kona, I do not think we have done the earlier work to be able to go to the well 3 times’.
Well, I was wrong, as the bird did go to the well, and did herself proud. She toed the start line, and when the gun went off, so did the bird. For 85% of the race, she stood tall, flew very high, and gave it everything.
Chasing out of the water, and on the bike before forcing a gap and leading into T2, it took the quality athlete that is the previous years World Champion to overcome her. It was apparent this wasn’t the usual free flowing bird, discovering her limits as Kona caught up with her. However she didn’t go down without a fight, tucking in on the run, before the quality athlete that Holly Lawrence is claimed the win.
This was a real fight. I couldn’t be more proud of Dani, who produced one of her best ever performances. Without Holly there it would have been a very different race.
I’m also proud of her for a second reason. When given the choice of Kona or the money, she never hesitated. ‘I want to win the 70.3 Worlds, and do a 3 peat in Kona. We go after these two goals, as the history of the sport is on the line. I want to be a 3 time winner at Kona.’
So congratulations Daniela Ryf, it has been a wild ride.
What is next for the bird? If she is training with me, she will now have a very long rest. I will (once again) personally ask Ironman the same question most of the top pros and former winners of Kona have attempted to change. That the podium finishers should not have to pre-qualify for the next seasons event. It is no coincidence that the champions of the modern era have a shorter shelf life than those that came before them.
So while I try one more time to get some positive solutions to the sport burning out our very best, Bird will be on a very long holiday. This part of her career has now come to a close.
Daniela Ryf closes out a brilliant year. Photo Credit: TrimaxMag
Join Trisutto Head Coach Brett Sutton and his squad at training Camp in Cyprus in April, 2018 for insights into the Trisutto Coaching and Training methodologies.
Ridin’ down the highway
Goin’ to a show
Stop in all the by-ways
Playin’ rock ‘n’ roll
Gettin’ beat up
I tell you folks
It’s harder than it looks
It’s a long way to the top
If you wanna rock ‘n’ roll
I sent the video of AC/DC playing this to one of my pros last week. Why?
So many triathletes are in such a hurry, self sabotage through exuberance is in abundance in our sport that is so attractive to A type personalities. Drawn to quick results at the expense of long term success.
Under the eye of the coach…
Being an expert in one specialist domain does not automatically make someone the best decision maker in other areas of their life, sporting or otherwise. So many athletes are also drawn to the metaphorical pot holes in the road, and can’t help but rush straight towards them. If you want to be the best you can be in any activity, sporting or non sporting, consistency over time is key. For our pros it’s a minimum 3 year process. The same window of time applies to highly driven age group athletes, and those who just want to improve and have fun. Hurry slowly for the best long term outcomes!
Similarly a focus on all the things that have zero relevance to performance. Pressing a button on a stop watch every lap of the pool – what does one do with that? Then chopping and changing training programs every two weeks based on self analysis of meaningless data from workouts.
I’m often asked ‘what’s the Trisutto secret?’. If there is one this is it.
We have a phrase ‘chop wood, carry water’.
To quote the well known Australian coach Percy Cerutty – ‘hard work does things. Intelligent hard work does things better’.
At the pointy end of elite sport another fundamental of successful coaching is mentoring / life coaching, making decisions for the athlete. Whether simply avoiding injury, or avoiding self destruction like so many prominent professional sports persons over the years.
In competition poor decision making and insecurity go hand in hand, and are magnified by self imposed expectations. At the 2015 Australian Open tennis I had the opportunity to observe Venus Williams and her coach pre match practice. Not a single word was spoken in 40 minutes. Later sitting only a few seats away during her match, there was constant non verbal communication and reassurance from coach to athlete, of their pre planned strategy. Observing one of the greatest tennis players of her era about to throw this away after just one bad shot was educational. Without her coach to encourage, and be strong, the outcome may have been very different.
Superstars of sport are often fragile individuals, and winning is not normal for most people.
It’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock ‘n’ roll…..for athletes, and coaches
Robbie Haywood is Director of Coaching at Trisutto, with over 16 years experience. He spreads his time between his home on the Sunshine Coast, Australia, the Trisutto Headquarters in St Moritz and Trisutto Training Camps worldwide.
* Feature Photo Credit: Mokapot Productions
Gwen Jorgensen and Nicola Spirig at the 2016 Olympics. Photo: André Motta
On Gwen’s decision to retire from triathlon and take on the marathon? One can only tip their hat and say congratulations and best of luck for the future.
I also don’t think the decision should come as too much of a surprise. Her rise may have been stratospheric, but Gwen is no overnight sensation. After top level swimming and athletics at collegiate level, then 8 hard years in triathlon where she won multiple World Championships and the Gold Medal – what more does she need to prove?
She has now had the good sense to balance her athletic success with starting a family. The reality is having a child while competing is in itself a massive lifestyle change. Factor in that her triathlon training has up until now been managed skilfully by Coach Jamie Turner, whose bases are in Australia and in the summer not the US, but Spain.
To replicate that setup in the US with a young family was going to be very difficult. You don’t win gold medals if you are stupid, and Gwen’s actions throughout her career have proved she is anything but. Ironman was never going to be the skill-set that suited her or her new time constraints. Similar to another super mum, Nicola Spirig, who simply does not have the time to complete the huge training loads that Ironman demands.
So for me, yes it makes sense that running would be the go to plan. The Marathon? I would have thought more 5,000m track. But that’s just one coach’s opinion.
Regardless, for those preparing for Tokyo and thinking the path to the podium just got a little easier. Heed very well the following warning: There is no absolutely no downside to Gwen’s triathlon career by focusing on the run discipline. If in two years Team USA is struggling and the marathon has proved too large a bite, the Stars and Stripes will have a ready made comeback competitor. That’s what our squad will be preparing for anyway.
Until then, from our team we wish Gwen and her family all the best for the next phase of her career.
Have you ever considered why you may not reach the same levels of performance as say Nicola Spirig or Daniela Ryf? You may put it down to not training hard enough or not having the time to put in that much effort. In fact. It may not be your fault.
In general, there are two categories of triathletes that perform at the highest level: the genetically talented or gifted athlete and the athlete with a highly developed capacity to train and a specific training program guiding them.
When athletes perform at the top level they often attribute their success to superior coaching, access to a great training environment or beginning training at a young age. Could their success be attributed to underlying biological predispositions? Genetic traits are thought to account for up to half the variation in performance and the other half in the athletes response to training.
These genetic qualities are not only the inherited characteristics of their parents such as height and arm length, leg length etc, but also muscle fibre type (fast and slow twitch muscle fibres) and the capacity to attain high levels of fitness (maximal oxygen uptake) or inherited cardiovascular traits.
From this perspective, whether you will make a champion or not, is governed by:
a) The type of mix in your anatomical, physiological and behavioural characteristics that you were born with;
b) Proper training, rest and nutrition, and
c) The ability of those inherited characteristics to adapt to the training, rest and nutrition.
Other factors that may affect performance include the trainability of the athlete. There are some people who are what we call “non responders”, who have great difficulty to improve in sport and of course never attain any high performance levels but still find it enjoyable to train and compete. Neuromuscular activity and biomechanics (skill) plays a part in the sport of triathlon but not to the same extent as in single sports. The nature of triathlon does not require perfect skill development. The swim, being in open water and in a group situation does not require a perfect swim stroke to perform well. The bike can be in draft legal or illegal format and does not require the same level of skill as an Olympic cyclist. The run is decided by who is the fastest after the swim and bike, not necessarily the runner with the fastest run time trial. It is often determined by the strongest, fittest runner.
Probably one of the most important factors in producing a high performing athlete is to find individuals who are highly motivated and are likely to persist over the long duration required to produce a champion.
Training over a long period can vary between individuals but could span between 10-15 years. This could be the initial learning of fundamentals of the sport; the building of performance power and capacity; and the reaching of an international level. Once the athlete has reached this level of performance, it is not uncommon that another 6-8 years of competitive experience may be needed to achieve consistent world class rankings.
So taking into account all of the above, there are also the psychological factors. This includes the ability to tolerate pain and fatigue and also dedication and diligence to train and race at such a high level. Other psychological factors that are important include motivation, aggression, focus, the ability to sustain effort, attitudes toward winning and losing, the ability to cope with anxiety and stress, management of distractions, capacity to relax and of course, coach-ability.
Coach-ability encompasses not only following a specific training program but also being tenacious, conscientious, and demonstrating a perseverance and readiness to perform. That is what you need to bring to the table if you wish to improve and succeed in this sport.
Unfortunately there is little that can be done about changing your genetic make up, you will have to live with that, but those people with a highly developed work ethic and a successful system of coaching that is guiding their efforts have a better chance of reaching your true potential.
Rob Pickard is a former National Coaching Director and High Performance Manager of Triathlon Australia, and is based in Australia. Rob is mentor for coaches studying at our Trisutto Coaching Academy
Trisutto.com online triathlon coaches are available to help improve your performance here.
Gunning for history. Daniela Ryf going for Triple Ironman & Ironman 70.3 World Championships. Photo: Korupt Vision
With close to 10% of the professional field at Kona now training with Trisutto coaches my traditional pre-race preview is getting more difficult. Instead of sizing up our competitors, I’ll be wishing all the best for our coached athletes across the board. We know they’ll be ready.
In the meantime for our followers here’s a short preview of my squad starters:
I’ll lead off with the great Daniela Ryf. After overcoming a difficult season I’m pleased to say that the Bird is back at Kona – injury free and close to her near best. Winning three in a row is a huge feat at any World Championship event, at Kona it makes one legendary with only a select group of athletes having accomplished it:
Dave Scott, Paula Newby-Fraser, Mark Allen, Natascha Badmann and Chrissie Wellington.
So we wish her best mechanical luck on trying to achieve her destiny!
James Cunnama is back at Kona and carrying a few more weapons than his last couple of forays to the Big Island. Armed with a stronger bike and returned run form, if the favourites decide to play games we could see the giant Saffa taking matters into his own capable hands.
Also returning on somewhat of a reconnaissance mission is Reinaldo Colucci. Rei has started back on the journey I first set for him nearly 16 years ago. While he surprised me in the interim by having a massive ITU and Olympic career it was always Kona that Coach dreamed for him. So he is paying his dues this year, but look for the tall timber from Brazil to give it a massive shake in 2018.
Also returning will see the Welsh Wizard Corinne Abraham. After two interrupted seasons with injury, I’m so proud to see her put together an outstanding season that lands her back in the Big Island. While no one is paying her much attention in the pre-race favourite lists, Coach thinks she will be vying for the best run split coming down the Queen K.
It’s a proud moment to announce the prodigal daughter Celine Schaerer will be making her Kona debut. Celine will not just be in attendance, but is going to find Kona very much to her liking. Like Corinne the heat and toughness of the run course is only going to help Celine. And with no massive packs of men bringing the women up to this swim-biker, things could be so different for her at Kona.
Finally, special mention to Jane Hansom who is returning to Kona to defend her World Championship won last year. The Burglar is getting fitter by the day and again will be a formidable foe for any looking to take her crown.
Best mechanical luck to all who are competing!
Join Trisutto Head Coach Brett Sutton at one of his remaining training camps in 2017 in Cyprus or Gran Canaria.