Last week I was lucky enough to attend a training camp at St Moritz hosted by Brett Sutton and the TriSutto coaches. I got to train alongside a number of triathlon professionals including many Ironman champions and an Olympic gold medalist. Even if I didn’t learn anything else last week it would have been worth the price of admission just to see them train.
The camp was a combination of training, talks and recovery with the program each day really being determined by the fickle mountain weather.
I learned a lot last week and I could go on about it for days but I really think that if you truly want to get a feel for how Brett coaches his athletes and what his training group do you should attend a camp yourself. There are a number of camps hosted each year in various locations and you don’t even need to be very fit to attend them: you’ll be able to train at your level. More information on these camps can be found here.
One of the most important messages that I took away from the week is to listen to your body. Brett doesn’t set out structured programs for his athletes in advance, rather he has an idea as to what they will do on each day and when they meet to swim in the morning he adjusts what each athlete will be doing that day based on how they feel, what they did the day before and what they will be doing the next day. When it comes to the sessions themselves Brett expects his athletes again to listen to their bodies, if they feel fresh they can push and if they are tired they can hold back. Sessions are not prescribed but rather guided – athletes get to choose what they are doing on the day within a range of options. This works because his athletes understand the purpose of each session, and they are self motivated. If the session is a bike strength session then the athlete knows to work on their strength and once they have done enough they stop. His athletes don’t blindly follow a program and end up pushing too hard when they are tired or not hard enough when they are feeling good.
This approach reminds me of something I read in a book by Arthur Lydiard. He was coaching Dick Taylor towards the 10000m in the Olympic games when a group of school pupils stopped to chat to him:
“What’s he doing”?, one asked.
“Repetitions”, Lydiard explained.
They knew all about those. “How many is he going to do?”
“I don’t know”
“What times is he running?”
“I’m not timing him”
They exchanged looks of disbelief. Was Lydiard supposed to be coaching on of New Zealand’s best runners?
Then Lydiard asked, “How far round is this track, anyway?”
They knew then Lydiard did not know what he was talking about.
When Dick finished and joined Lydiard they asked him “How many did you do?”
“I didn’t count them” Dick said.
“What times were you running?”
“I didn’t time them”
Lydiard then decided to explain to the boys before they ran away laughing, that times and numbers were unimportant. What mattered was the effect on Taylor of what he was doing and he knew better than Lydiard what he wanted to do and when he had enough.
Running with Lydiard Paperback – 1 Jul 2001 by Arthur Lydiard (Author), Garth Gilmour (Author) Amazon
Too many of us are slaves to our Garmins, to our watches, to our programs. We chase after a “Green Week” in Training Peaks (which is where you complete every session prescribed during the week) regardless of how we feel and whether we are in good enough shape to achieve the desired outcome of the session. And in so doing, instead of getting fitter / faster we sacrifice our performance, our health and our sanity. I too have behaved that way in the past too but not any more – from now on I will be applying these lessons both to myself and to athletes I coach.