I’ve had a front row seat for the tragicomedy of the lone “I can do it myself triathlete”.
Plot Summary: Andrew (a doctor, lawyer, plumber, or entrepreneurit doesn’t matter) works 60 hours per week. He spends weekends training the house down and spends limited time with his wife Melissa and two kids.
Late at night, he stays up reading books, triathlon publications, and e-newsletters. He is searching for the secret sauce that will make the difference. Every so often he finds onean exciting story about a session or protocol that’s a “game changer.”
The coach, fellow triathlete says it could “easily double or triple his results.” That could help him break 10 hours (or whatever hour marker it is). Maybe get him to Kona. So he adds it to his ever growing confusing repitore of what ‘works’, he’s feeling great.
Then he implements it for a session or two, but worried about something that maybe missing. His performances in training are going up and down, up and down like a yoyo.
He is never quite sure whether to change it, add something (always add.. never subtract) Months and sometimes years later, he wonders what went wrong. Surely he was doing the required work.
It’s the oldest plot in the theatre of ironman triathlon. Yet it keeps playing out. Year in, year out, all over the world. There is a moral to this drama: You can’t expect to be successful in Ironman triathlon if your approach is to read tons of triathlon stories from many sources and buy into the stories that most excite you.
Please re read that!
Many TriSpecific subscribers, Blueprint athletes and at times coached athletes still do this. I know because I read every single email sent in. My readers use my service as one of many they enjoy reading. They follow this bit of advice from me, that tip from someone else, and those suggestions from yet another advisor.
And I know this makes them feel they’re being shrewd. They feel they’re reducing risk of loss by following advice from several sources.
This is a dangerous illusion.
Every good coaching outfit has, as its core, a smart strategy. A theme that drives the particular choices made. So when a coach recommends a training protocol, they may make good sensebut only in the context of that coaches strategy.
If you jump from one suggestion made by X coach to another made by Y coach, you’re not setting yourself up to benefit from an overall strategy. You’re just cherry-picking and hoping for the best.
Some truths that have been discovered about Ironman triathlon training.
One is about quality. In the long run, you will do much better by investing your time and focus on a qualitative approach (i.e., builds consistency through focusing on equally important components of the overall training mix such as skill, strength and speed development) then by gambling on the quantitive approach to training that is ‘one dimensional’ and only focuses on doing MORE.
The other truth . Being consistent is more important than being “right.” Athletes who continue to follow a proven system do much better, in the long run, then athletes who randomly magic 8 ball their training sessions based on ‘shiny object syndrome’ or follow a system only when they want.
In developing my philosophy as a coach and athlete I kept coming back to recommending and advising a qualitative over quantitative approach. Creating and using only proven strategies, and then of course staying loyal to them. It’s not always sexy but it works and ends up with the overall goal of the athlete.
There are three fundamental principles that are inherent in the strategies we use: We rely on these to improve physical performance and they work because as an athlete we are in control. We can always effect change – the degree is based on our willingness to do so, our circumstances and ability to remain objective while listening to feedback from our own self!
Understand that genetics do not matter until all else is equal (and it rarely is) and that YOU can program performance (through repetition) because as a late mentor used to say “just view the body as a red meat computer” – meaning our abilities are programable i.e., fitness, strength, skills and mindset.
The three principles which we base our training strategies around are: The order and structure of training, repetition and cyclical training, and consistency and listening.
Each of these principles is pretty deep and cover a lot of areas – for instance when looking at the order and structure of training for an athlete we need to structure and balance the training to the athletes needs (such as time available, specific skills, fitness and strength requirements) the effect of the workouts on the endocrine system and rotation of training across the five major systems (strength, speed, neuromuscular, threshold tolerance and of course endurance). Each of those aspects has its own things to think about when creating the most optimal plan for an athlete.
I have spoken about repetition at length before and that is because it is an overriding principle to ultimate performance. Why? Because it’s such an efficient approach when we can concurrently develop motor skills, aerobic endurance (fitness) and mental strength (which is an understated aspect of optimal performance in any racing but more so as the race gets longer). Cyclical training is not periodisation in the most known sense – You can continually train all aspects of fitness while emphasis is put on specific components according to the athletes needs. The beauty of this principle as Pete and I discuss in Friday Fat Black Episode 20 is that we develop motor skills, improve our ability to focus, develop intuitive feedback skills, improve training efficiency, can effectively track performance and reliably gauge fatigue. All of which greatly improve your athletic ability.
The third principle binds the first two together. We have all heard about compound interest and it can be both positive and negative but when we have a dependable, consistent training routine it will result in the greatest long-term performance and health for you. Training is much more effective when its focused on a wax-on wax-off approach. The consistent drip, drip, drip and not a full flood. If you cannot recover from todays training in time for tomorrow it is too much. The regular training routine does so much for confidence and athletic development it can’t be stated enough.
So all in all our System is Complete.
We follow a core system and we understand the importance of consistency.
As an athlete, you must be consistent too. That’s why it worries me when I get an athlete or a blueprint athlete feedback revealing a lazy adherence to our advice. These emails indicate a “pick-and-choose-from-many-advisors” mindset.
I want to be clear: I believe that mixing advice is a big mistake. Cherry-picking from two or three advisory services will almost certainly get you into trouble.
What you should do is select one coaching service/method and follow it. Most will work if you go all in and follow it. There are many great coaches and plans out there. But when you start cherry picking advice – it’s not the original plan and results will nearly always end up very lacklustre.
If I look back at what always works it is when the core system is followed and guided by the fundamental principles.
This is what we follow as coaches and athletes ourselves. If Pete and I advise something it is because we follow our own recommendations. There is no secrets and this is the main point of this blog post. We don’t cherry pick from many different advisors. We learn from being in the trenches and being highly intuitive athletes and coaches.
If you have been taking advice from many advisors/coaches and training strategies, think about what I’ve said. I believe it’s a monumental mistake.
I suggest you train intelligently by following a proven model.
So ask yourself: Are you a cherry picker or an intelligent Ironman Triathlete?
Obviously our TS Coaching is the best way to get you to your goals but it’s not cheap nor should it be as we greatly value our service. You can fill out an application to find out more and see if you’re a good fit. Otherwise we continue to have athletes that follow our TS Ironman Blueprint to a tee and get mind blowing results.
I felt it important to send you an email to say a massive thank you. Ive been following your program loosely for the past 12 months, and almost religiously for the last 6 months. I competed in my first ironman on the weekend in Melbourne, and mate, I smashed it!! (well it was a smashing for a 40yo like me!) My goal was 12hrs, aspirational goal was 11.30, and I went 10.40!! And I ran a marathon PB in the process! I cant tell you how happy I am that the hours of training, sweat, hurt and family sacrifice paid off in spades. I was strong, confident (although I was waiting to hit the wall on the marathon but it never came!), and had soooo much fun out there, which was something I wasnt sure would happen. Ive had the most content stupid smile on my face since I finished.
So let me say to you thank you. Thank you for providing a service that helps Average Athleeets like me live the dream of becoming an ironman. Thank you for the words of wisdom and common sense in your blogs and podcasts. Thank you for reminding us that you have to believe you can do it. Your program just worked for me mate, so thank you.
Thanks Marc Loeliger”