Our personal Trisutto camp is in full swing in St Moritz. We have my coaching nirvana, athletes from very beginners, to Olympic and Kona champions all side by side in our pool, and the coach is loving it. Ability and speed is no barrier to being in our camp. We have two full time coaches in Susie and Robbie, plus myself, all trying our best to help people live their sporting dream in the most beautiful surroundings in the world.
However we also have other Trisutto coaches visiting too, to take advantage of the facilities, but also the sharing of coaching information. So camp to me looks more like “Tri-fest 2018” as coaches meet and talk about their specific problems in getting the message across. This message is that 90% of all triathlon information disseminated is not best practice for Triathlon. One theme that all coaches seem to struggle to get across to their athletes is recovery and rest needs to be built in to the program on a daily basis.
It’s not just my group that has been totally brainwashed that I must work hard every day. To the astonishment of all who visit, they see the best in the world doing 800m swim sessions. They see 20 minute runs implemented regularly. They are often gob smacked when they are told 45 minutes ride. As they watch the best do that, they also see my dismay with athletes arguing and debating for more work. They see the strong discussions I have with the best athletes in the world, who after they have had brilliant success, are still opposing my advice nearly every day, about what has made them great!
Our coaches see it, and they say ‘that’s our biggest problem too’. Athletes just can’t believe they don’t have to go longer, faster, harder every day to be better. Being in this group environment of over achievers just escalates the obvious misunderstanding of how performance is achieved. Not only built but maintained for a full season. Just as the misunderstanding of breaks from training. How different they are, and why some athletes get them, and some don’t! One of our long time supporters wrote in with a very respectful e-mail about what is a real break. He asked ‘When we read your blogs, they can mean so many different things, but giving Daniela Ryf a 3 month break has me totally confused.’
So to add to those things, many including the coaches find it difficult to understand. I preach that doubt is the poison of performance, and that as coaches they must work with athletes that buy in 100% to what we are trying to achieve and why. Without finding the harmony between coach and athlete success is nearly impossible to find. When the athlete mind is turned by other coaching thoughts, or doesn’t believe what they are doing is right for them, then the coaches need to understand that their best outcome is for the athletes to find another coach that espouses the philosophy that the athlete believes in.
So I am going to write a blog as a 3 part series. So everyone understands that I believe one of the stupidest cliches that doesn’t work in our sport is – ‘No pain. No gain’. This is firmly etched in my mind every time I set a task. Just as one of the most important cliches that works great for Triathlon – ‘If you don’t use it, you will lose it!’.
With those two thoughts I hope ringing in your mind, here are the three headings for our 3 part series to be published over the next month –
- The importance of recovery
- Breaks from training, and why you must have them
- Harmony of coach athlete relations
Join Trisutto Head Coach Brett Sutton and his squad at training Camp in St.Moritz and Sursee July/August, 2018.
The month of May I headed home to Australia to see family, friends and to do a memorial camp for one of my old coaches who was struck down by stomach cancer. We paid tribute to one of triathlon’s real supporters at every level – Scott ‘Aardvark’ Penny. Scott was old school. Scott helped people. Scott got involved. Some would say he was a Triathlon Coach, but that was a cover, the reality is he wanted to help people lead better lives. Money, position, fancy facilities was not his motivation. He ran a local bike shop, he took bike tours of Aussies to Europe. All small scale, but he had one thing he did huge – his effort to help people.
Great to be back in Australia; bike action from Caloundra.
This was brought home to me further when I was looking for gyms for my daughter to train in. Zali is a skier, so nothing to do with triathlons, however I’ve worked in a lot of gyms, and thought no problem, we will find something everywhere we go. I expected to pay for a workout, and to get on with it. We visited many gyms, we looked inside, all shiny equipment, a couple even had an air freshener smell, but they could not give my girl a one day entry. The buff trainers walking around simply said ‘Impossible. She has to buy a membership’. Not helpful when we were only in town for two days.
This was not a one off. The Gold Coast, Sydney then on to Melbourne. I must have ventured into 12 gyms and got knock backs. So disappointing, so I stopped taking her, as it made me sad to see my girl with a dream, and a sparkle in her eye, get told ‘impossible, this is a private gym’. It also had me pondering, and I said to her let’s look for a real gym, with real people.
When we arrived in Sydney, I wanted to give the family the Bondi Beach experience of where I spent a lot of time when I was younger. Again I must have visited five gyms in a 2km radius and were knocked back by all, or except two that were 50 dollars and 30 dollars! So when we saw the new building at the Bondi Icebergs we assumed the gym there would be now the same. However old habits die hard and I said Bondi Icebergs is a traditional place with a wealth of history, let’s at least take a look. We were amazed to walk in and it hadn’t changed in 30 years. The same barbells were there, a bit rusted, and the kettle bell had my name on it, as it had come back into fashion now. Old school alive and well on Bondi Beach.
Of course, the pool in Caloundra on the Sunshine Coast, ‘Aardvarks’ club had a real functional gym in a shed. They nearly broke their arm on the door opening it for us – ‘there you go missy knock your self out the place is yours’. We were joined for a couple of days by my nephew Dale, who we called ‘White Lightning’ as a kid. As he was always so passionate, he followed the Camps. Even after 8 years of running Ripple Fitness in Brisbane, his motivation, the care he took for his athletes ‘You don’t mind uncle Brett if I come to Sydney too. But my motto is I do everything to help my clients have a better experience with their training, I won’t get in your way’.
Then at our camp in Melbourne with coach Michael Harvey who is so passionate about how he can do a better job for his Victorian athletes, that he has travelled to Asia and then all the way to Europe to learn from us, and be better for his athletes. The camp wasn’t about promotion but about my sadness of how poor the performance levels have been out of the State Of Victoria since the 90s. I thought that some would like to know how the most successful group on the planet trained during that period of time? To my astonishment the one person who didn’t need my advice, the great Stephen Foster made his way from the Mornington Peninsula to attend.
‘What are you doing here Stephen?’
‘Sutto I want to learn. I’m missing something and I want to be a better coach.’
Can you can see a theme here yet!
Swimming in Melbourne with Abi, Stephen and Jo.
Then i walked the streets in Melbourne there was no shortage of swish gyms. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment. Sparkly buildings, sparkly equipment and buff attendants who proceeded to say no, we are sorry, but it is not our business model.
Just when we were about to give up we saw a little gem. No not a spelling mistake, it was a gym, but it had heart. No real flash equipment, Muhammad Ali poster on the painted walls to try and lift it. I said to my daughter, that I bet the guy running this place will be happy to let you train here. ‘Why Papa?’ – because when you see a place with a heart and a soul, you can bet those in it are just the same. Sure enough in we went, and were meet by Dave. Older guy, not buff, just fit, hard as a rock with track suit on and peak cap, with a group of women in there working out like real athletes. No tinsel togs here.
Dave was so attentive to his clients my daughter got impatient. Just watch and learn from a real coach. His clients are his fixation, look at him, this bloke is our man. You watch when I tell him what you do he will say yes. When Dave had finished the circuit training, he came over. He said what they did a monthly fee here. I said we down for all of two sessions, and he said the gym is yours enjoy it. I asked about money. Dave said ‘no charge. Why don’t you get to work Zali, we will worry about that later.’
I watched Dave take 6 lessons. And they were lessons. His motivation was only matched by the skill set he was showing in his workouts. This guy knew his stuff. His clients are very lucky, to be in such good hands; and hats off to the ladies who were there, as they were working like real athletes, and they had good shapes that only come from consistent and well trained work. Well done ladies’. I’m happy to say if you in the area from St Kilda to Elwood or Elsternwick, take my tip and do yourself a favour and drive past the fancy Dan soulless gyms and walk into a real gym at For Fits Sake and say hi to Dave and his team . If your serious about your work this is the place.
Which brings me to my point. Facilities mean nothing! One day when we couldn’t get into a gym or an oval as the football was on it we did our work in the cricket nets and boy was it a great session. We improvised, we over came. What really matters is what you do, and who you do it with. Dale, Dave, Caloundra pool. Their place did stink – it stunk of motivation, passion and care. A place where success is nurtured in an environment that can’t be matched by shiny pieces of metal .
They all reminded me of my friend ‘Aardvark’. When I first meet him, ‘Hi Sutto. My names Scott, but call me Aardvark. I’m just here to help!’. The world is worse off for the loss of Scott Penny, but there are still some pockets of places where Scotts favourite saying is still in play.
The ‘no dick heads allowed’ camp was a great success, and the trip made me realise more than ever, that we must keep spreading the word where ever there is one person there to listen.
Rip Aardvark. All who count, miss you terribly.
Join Trisutto Head Coach Brett Sutton and his squad at training Camp in St.Moritz in June/July, 2018.
The bird is in the Trisutto nest!
We have been relatively quiet about the start of the Angry Bird’s season. As some of our followers have noted that she will be toeing the start line at 70.3 Rapperswil I thought it best that I let our Trisutto supporters know from the real source and not the triathlon rumour mill.
After Kona 2017 it was decided that Dani would take a long break; after 4 fantastic seasons and to reconfigure the way forward for her over the next 3 years. So, with 3 months completely off and then getting back into some fitness, the 1st of June has seen Dani pack up her car and head to St Moritz to begin her quest for a fourth Kona title.
This will be her only target for this year. Then we will appraise her goals for the 2019 season.
It is no secret that while I’m very pleased with the rest break and only Kona this year, it has been a struggle for the bird. She much prefers to be training and racing more regularly. However, I have seen far too many champions be allowed to burn themselves out, as the very temperament that makes them champions can hurt them. While I’m still in charge, that will not happen on my watch.
I believe Dani has a minimum of another 3 years at the very top of Ironman racing. Contenders come and contenders go. To those that send well meaning messages asking me about this athlete and that athlete who they think is the new Chrissie – the answer I give is that winning 3 x Kona World Championships while also winning 3 x 70.3 World Championships is very special. It is something that has never been done before. Only the great can achieve such performances. I prefer to concentrate on making the adjustments to allow the angry bird the opportunity to see off the oncoming challenges that she will inevitably face in the future. The break and a lesser race load in 2018 is an initial part of that strategy.
So, we see the Bird dust off the race bike and will have our first competition in 2018 this weekend. It is viewed as the start of the next phase of her spectacular career. A first step in building back to her top form for the 2nd week in October.
Let the renewal begin!
Join Trisutto Head Coach Brett Sutton and his squad at training Camp in St.Moritz in June/July, 2018.
After our last blog, Am I missing out, I have received feedback from several people who have been around Trisutto for a long time asking….,why the change? I would like to pass on the answer in more detail to not just them, but all of our regular readers.
Why the change from group to non-group training?
Up until 2006 my Triathlon squads were primary ITU Olympic distance athletes with a few exceptions who competed over long distance. However since this time, when I decided to go after the Ironman distance, our squads have been primarily long course athletes with the exception being a few short course athletes.
Last year we introduced age group athletes to our program also, thus thus adding a third category to our training regimes.
As previously stated it’s my conclusion that the longer distance events need to be trained at intensities that suit the actual athlete. Going outside that personal range has no benefit when racing from 4 to 12 hours. In fact I find it quite harmful to performance; thus there is very little need for head to head training, nor the psychological impairments that at times it brings.
So to with older athletes even going short, bashing oneself into submission. I find this gives a very short term and artificial improvement that can not be sustained long term. There are many reasons for that, however I’ll stick to laying down the motor patterns in a controlled environment for each discipline is superior and longer lasting than being one of the white knuckle brigade….‘because I’m tough’
The good news for me, is short course or long course and now age group athletes, don’t seek me out unless they are courageous. Those that are not, don’t last long in my squad, just as the ‘short term in a hurry’ athletes also don’t last long with me.
No pain no gain..?
We teach athletes to use their courage on race day, to have the courage at training to read their own body and listen to it, not override it because I can gut it out better than most.
‘No pain no gain’ is one of the stupidest mantras in sport, especially if one is training for a multi hour sport.
Short Course athletes have to adapt to the numbers to be competitive. 2003 ITU Triathlon World Champion, Emma Snowsill. Photo Credit: Triathlon.org
Know your Sport
When considering elite pro short course athletes, it is true that back in the day, just as it is now, we consider what levels need to be met to be competitive. Unlike our long course training where we train at paces that adapts to our bodies, in the short version we do the opposite, we have to adapt our bodies to the numbers that are required to be competitive.
Yes, I hear you saying that makes no sense, but in reality short course is not Triathlon.
Know your sport…, it is a wet run. Thus the first 200 metres of the swim is very, very important. You won’t swim your way into the event if you are not there at the first bouy. Just as today if your not a 29 min 10 km runner in the men’s race, you are not in the top 10. If you can’t crack 34 mins in the women’s, you too will be fighting it out for 11th.
These are facts not fiction; the realities of ITU life. So short course athletes need to work at speeds during the week that are above that pace to get adaptions. Being there from the start of the drafting races and having coached many of the champions of their generations, I have documented evidence of what it took on a weekly basis to win a world title. The speed needed in 1997 didn’t cut it in 2007 and 2007 doesn’t cut it now!
Adapting to the Realities
At Trisutto we have always adapted to the new realities of what it takes. I discovered early on that when we were training as a group for ironman the results were not as I wished. Sickness, tiredness, more injuries brought on by I’m sure the fatigue of going long, but also going head to head, This had me rethink our approach, along with the so many other differences needed between long course and short course racing.
Having people ‘doing their own pacing’ was a huge break through for me. Just as throwing away the stop watch or asking people for more effort when training also resulted in massive steps forward in the actual performances.
I know that for at least 5 of my great champions, taking off the power meters all the time and the heart rate monitors for most (the Angry Bird still uses a heart rate monitor), made them from good if neurotic athletes, to absolute kick arse champions. But how do I sell that to you budding triathletes against the wall of marketing Triathlon has become!
“Sutto , you got to move with the science “ …., but the science is killing the majority of the performance. It’ hindering.ones ability to know where their levels are. The reality is playing pinball on your bike trainer (which is the ‘new’ thing I’m told) is going to give you a short term hit and then burn you out completely.
Believe me, when you learn to read your own body and to have the courage to stick to your ‘gut feel’, you too will improve out of sight and enjoy the feeling of being free!
That’s the way I see it.
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.
Feature Photo credit: Tahni Brown
Coach, if I can’t go to camp or train in a group am I missing out?
Every off season stories permeate through the Triathlon media about how great camps are, or the need to train in a group to push to even greater heights? Their objective to create buzz and to sell products.
Now I hold camps, last year personally I ran fifteen in total. Of those fifteen, only two were camps where real work was done. These were the camps that were dedicated to hard graft! When were they held? In September, for those getting ready for Kona, or for those with races in early November to also to be ready to go for the last blast of races in their season.
‘But coach what about the winter warm weather camps that we hear so much about?’ Well at Trisutto we don’t do that ridiculousness in the off season.
Our camps are educational. We run five comprehensive lectures that are must attend. We do six compulsory sessions, covering each of the three disciplines, so I can view techniques. We have five optional sessions that go with that. Do you have to attend? No definitely not.
‘But coach why would I go?’
We go to get out of the cold. We go to learn what Triathlon really is. We don’t do what most other camps do.
‘What is that?’ Blindly smash themselves every day thinking that it will improve them through sheer weight of tiredness.
I’m sure many of you have been on these camps, but what is not advertised is this. The amount of injuries accumulated by tripling bike mileage in camp, doubling run mileage of back home, and sore shoulder syndrome by Sunday night because whilst I swim two or three times a week at home, in camp we swam seven! Of course all done racing the guy next to me who I’ve never met in my life, don’t know his abilities, his heart rates or fitness levels. But I know one thing, we are on holidays and we are at camp, the sun is shining, so I’m going to war with anybody near me – in everything! Welcome to the normal Triathlon camp! If you can still eat your third portion of pasta taken from the buffet with a fork then you are soft and haven’t worked hard enough at camp.
Photo Credit: James Mitchell Photography
‘But Coach, I got Kona in October’
Here is a news flash – so has the Angry Bird, and she isn’t in the kick off camp I’m running at this very moment. Why? Because I hope she is sitting at home doing normal things and resting, as this year we really going after Kona! I can’t re-iterate enough, that starting too early makes sure the last races of the season are not what you were after.
This was rammed home to me by a couple of newbies in pro camp this week. ‘Coach, you didn’t name a time and meeting point for tomorrows morning run?’ That’s right was the answer, we are all adults, we do our own thing, were you given instructions? ‘Yes coach.’ Well go and do it at your own pace!
And there in lies what I keep trying to communicate. Ironman is not short distance. Where once I trained sprint athletes they did certain sessions as a group, we still did less than most groups together but we did fast work together pushing hard. We swim together now only as a meeting point. Within that group there may be three to five different swim sessions at the same time.
I’ll point out once again, that Nicola Spirig and Daniela Ryf might have ridden together two times in any sessions requiring hard effort, or ran twice together in any session done with some zip in the past two years. Not two days. Not two weeks. Not two months, but two years. However, yes I do train both of them.
I put this caveat for people who have never been to my squad training. It’s dangerous to your health and thus performance, in reading articles about ‘what Brett Sutton’s group do’. They really have no idea, but perception replaces reality.
- Ask an athlete that has attended any of my own camps.
- Ask if everybody trains together pushing harder.
- Ask is Brett Sutton on the pool deck screaming for athletes to go harder?
- Is he with stop watches calling out times on any interval?
- Ask someone that has been there!
Our success is about knowing when to push and when not to. It is about knowing Ironman is a personal sport. Where training outside of your numbers may make you feel good, remember pride comes before the fall, and fall you will, if you head to a camp and think drilling oneself is good for performance in 3 months time.
After the Super League Nicola was rested. She swam every second day with us working on another new swim stroke. Two full months later she left the pool and I said ‘Write that down as your second swim workout of this preparation as I was pleased with the stroke.’
What were all the other swims? Stroke work and preparation for when she is ready to start. That happened last Friday.
Daniela kicks off on the 1st of February.
Are Camps a good idea?
Camps are a splendid idea if you get in the sun and start an easy build up to your season. Smash fests for one week only to go back home to the cold and do one third of the work in the camp may be good for your ego, but does nothing for your season.
Just the way I see it.
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.
Feature Picture Credit: Cris Solak
After two successful training camps where our visiting coaches were impressed with the improvement in swim strokes and times of the athletes attending, I now sit on the plane reflecting on a pertinent point that was raised at the end of our camp debrief:
How was it that improvements observed in nearly every athletes swim were achieved not from swim specific drills, but directly upon jumping in the water after the swim lecture? One coach added ‘I got in the water after the talk and have to say I had the most enjoyable swim I’ve had in ages.‘
At the lecture we did not discuss swim technique at all. Instead I opened the minds of athletes, that the marketing and proliferation of ‘established best techniques’ can effect everyone, including the best athletes in the world; even after they have achieved remarkable success.
With complexity stripped away, swimming gets easier, more enjoyable and faster. However maintaining this is a struggle. In society in general, and triathlon in particular, we operate in a community where ‘Keep it Simple’ principles are viewed condescendingly. I point this out, as many of our age group athletes having made swim breakthroughs will now return home and bit by bit, under the guise of friendly advice will start the process of complicating their strokes all over again. The temptation to return to ‘proper’ swim techniques can effect even the best athletes in the world, even after they have achieved unbelievable success.
At training camp we had Barb ‘Pepper’ Riveros, who already has had podiums at ITU World Cups, and a 5th place finish at the last Olympics in Rio. I believe to be on the podium at the next Olympics she needs to improve her bike and run. To do this she needs to change her swim stroke.
We invested a month to achieve the stroke I believe is right for her. Barb then went traveling and racing, with a vacation in Hawaii where she collected a 2nd place in the XTerra World Champs, before arriving back in camp. The difference? A return back to the old techniques, old stroke, old drills. So I thought this was a great example to share of elite level coaching.
I’m not changing her stroke to make her a faster swimmer. I’m changing her stroke to make her a more superior triathlete.
My method of trying to get her to ‘buy in’ to the new technique is to sell her the results of Nicola Spirig. I have changed Nicola’s stroke many times over the years, from the most ‘technically correct’ six beat, high elbow, bi-lateral breather which was beautiful to watch; into the straight armed, no kick whirlwind seen at the last Olympics. That stroke allowed her between two Olympics to go from 1 minute 10 seconds behind the leaders in a wetsuit swim, to being in the front swim pack in Rio, in a non wetsuit swim. This was the key to her Rio Olympic Silver medal.
However, here is the point I want to make. Even after her success, Nicola still pines for her old swim stroke!! As we now make another change in swim technique for the Tokyo games, which will be her fifth Olympics, I still hear on a daily basis ‘I used to swim 50m and 100m so much faster. People used to complement me on my stroke, now they laugh at it.’
I will add that Daniela Ryf, now 3x Hawaii Ironman World Champion, was also given a new swim stroke when she joined. Yet she too, despite such success wants to keep changing back from her 2 beat to her 6 beat kick, as ‘I’m so much faster swimming with 6 beat‘; It makes me sick to my stomach when she keeps adding swim drills, and other things into her swim workouts, which only serve to hinder her progress.
I try to breakdown these protests by making 3 points:
- Your bike and run has been the beneficiary of these changes. You are much faster triathletes.
- Your distance swimming has improved greatly, and at top speed you now develop way less lactate. And finally, when I can see that the above is not convincing enough, I remind them:
- At least your bank manager enjoys the new stroke!
Which usually breaks the deadlock.
Here is the point for challenged swimmers – ALL three of the above athletes, if they left and were coached by someone else, they would change back to their old swim techniques in a nano second.
So I understand completely how hard it can be for age group swimmers to hold the line, and to use a technique that is not trying to copy a Michael Phelps!
To my challenged swim friends, I can only say to you that you will improve and results over thirty years have proved it. But the real challenge is in ‘hold the line’ against the opinions and instinct to complicate, as your Triathlon will be so much better for it.
Join Trisutto Head Coach Brett Sutton at his training camps in 2018. Spots still remain for Gran Canaria in February and Cyprus in April.
Article Photo Credits: Mokapot Productions