Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Building Your Triathlon Team

Ultra endurance athletes quite often have a strong desire to get away from it all. I know in my own career, properly channeling that urge to escape was an effective way to get myself to do the training required to improve.

If only…
…I had all day to train
…I could get rid of all my obligations
…the people around me would serve my goals rather than their own
...I had unlimited funds

If I had all of the above… then I’d be set, and life would be great.

While that sounds great, the real world doesn’t work like that. This article will offer you some practical tips on how to get more performance and, if done right, increased satisfaction from your limited training time.

The secret? Create a team around your goals.

Do you know who is on your team?
Two years ago, I was fortunate to attend a talk given by Tim Hola (8:58, in Kona, with a real job). Tim was VERY focused on the key people within his life. He knew that in order to achieve as a triathlete, he had to convince his wife, boss and co-workers that they had a stake in his victory.

Start by thinking about the people that have the greatest influence on your mood, finances and time. Stability across all three fronts is essential for you to achieve your goals.

Consider what matters to those people. If you want your team members to back your goals then you need to support, not con, them. It can be tempting to sweep difficult topics under the rug with everyone muddling through. However, the last thing you want is to have a major blow up a few weeks out from a key race. The people that care about us can be quite accommodating when they know they have been involved in the decision and have a stake in the outcome.

The Basic Week
In the real world, most athletes simply don’t have the time to periodize their training along classical lines. We have a relatively fixed life situation, and training needs to fit into our existing schedule. To avoid the need to constantly negotiate your training with your team, sit down with the key members and agree your weekly schedule. Then write it down and (most important) stick to it.

I like to call that your Basic Week – get that agreed with your team and start repeating it. Back off every third week and get into a groove. Once a month, do some sort of “event” – a race, a fun training day or something different that challenges you mentally/physically.

The athletes at the top don’t always have the best plan to execute. More often, they organize their lives so that they have the best execution of their plan.

Life Phasing
It’s early January, here in the Northern Hemisphere, many of us will be charged up to take on the New Year. My advice would be don’t bother. Right now we are in the middle of winter. A large amount of volume, or intensity, at this time of year will have most of us peaking in March and toasted by July.

Six weeks of drilling yourself will have you in decent shape by March. However, if you have been plateau’ed in your performance, or struggled in your late season races then you will do much better with a phased approach to training. Here’s an example how to play it:

  • Jan/Feb – Eight moderate weeks of balanced training
  • Mar – Two short single sport “camps” – one camp is endurance focused and the other working on your greatest limiter. Keep the balanced training going and consider a 10K, or Half Marathon running race.
  • April – This is an appropriate time for a 3-8 day training camp that challenges your overall endurance
  • May – Your first focus event for the season. See what happens if you go in a little “under done” and pace to give yourself every chance to run well.
  • June – A planned training break, where you focus on the goals of your team, rather than yourself.
  • Late Summer – Specific Preparation for your main competitive event for the year.

Right through June, I would ensure that you are working for your team members and patiently logging your training hours. Keep broadening your fitness platform to prepare for the 4-7 weeks of Specific Preparation that will have a big impact on your race outcome.

While some athletes can pull it off, most of us fail when we seek to combine “quality time” with training on vacation. My recommendation is to split your vacation time between “training” and “family”.

If you are on a family vacation then make sure you remember that the family comes first. Leave your bike at home and switch into maintenance mode.

Use your other vacation time to train alongside athletes that will motivate and teach you about what it takes to achieve your athletic goals. You can get a big lift in your fitness from a couple of well placed endurance blocks.

Flash Points
There are a few areas of conflict that continually pop up when talking with athletes. I’ll run through them here. If you think that they don’t apply to you then show your team a copy of this article as ask their opinion…

Fatigue – getting tired is the point of training. However, if you are constantly exhausted then it is going to suck the life out of your team. Make sure that you leave enough in the tank so that you can meet your responsibilities as a father, wife, employee… if you want to wreck yourself then save it for a training camp.

Interestingly, I have seen many athletes slow down when they changed their lives to train more. The self-coached athlete is particularly exposed to the perils of excessive fatigue. The moderation imposed by family/work responsibilities can save us from ourselves!

Finances – I am a believer in full disclosure and open communications. A big money saver is to race local (or invent your own races). Until you can beat everyone within a two-hour drive, there is little reason to go through the expense, and hassle, of travelling to a race.

Meals – The evening meal can be a source of potential conflict. Here’s what works for me – crank up the salad & veggies; and skip the bread & potatoes. If I do that then I get what I want and it doesn’t impose on my fellow diners. I’ve also been known to eat a little bonus protein pre-dinner. More importantly than what I eat, I NEVER comment on what other people are eating.


Ultimately, it comes down to long-term balance. If you want to have a long-term relationship with a coach, a company, a spouse, or a child… then that relationship needs to be in balance.

When you feel stress in your life, it is likely a lack of balance in one of the topics that I mentioned above. While you can grind through for weeks, or even months, your ultimate success will be limited unless you give back what you take from your team.

To close I will leave you with one thing that has helped my marriage immensely. If you work daily towards a goal of making your wife feel loved then you will be amazed at the level of support you receive in return.

To reach your potential in sport takes time, the intelligent athlete sets up their life for the long haul.

See you at the races,