Athletic Development

AthleticDevelopmentI’m having a relaxing morning up in North Yorkshire watching Soccer AM due to my foot flaring up (perhaps more on this later) and deciding to have a slightly easier weekend to try and let it settle down. It got me thinking about something Russell and I discussed on our rides this week.  Alan Couzens posted a blog about the hours done by people posting certain Ironman Times. This prompted a discussion on Tri Talk which Russell had contributed to. With stuff like this you get a lot of people arguing that you can do it on less. This clearly misses the point, yes you can but on average people do more. I think often there’s this clinging to the hope or believing what people want to believe – ie there is an easier way. Well you may be darn lucky but if you want to maximise your chance of being lucky you need to put the work in.

So I got thinking about my complete athletic history. I’ve used estimates in the above and have tried to be conservative. Remarkably I sit pretty  much with the results Alan posted. I got under 10 hours in my first season with around 11,000 hours and less than 2,500 of Tri Specific. I got below 9:30 having clocked about 12,000.

Another point Alan makes is that you have to back yourself despite the fact you may get poorer results for a while. This is me for the past few years. I’ve not raced as well as I did in 2006/7. I am backing myself and practising patience. This is something Scott said to me after Epic Italy. I asked him whether there was any advice he’d given on my training and changes I should make. He said that I was probably doing the right thing I just had to be patient.

I took a look at my Tri Training over the years:


The top line is number of number of weeks clocking certain hours – blue 0 – 10, red 10-20, yellow 20-30, green 30-40, purple 40-50, orange 50-60 and rather optimistically there as a column for over 60 hrs. I’ve managed that the odd time for 7 consecutive days but never for a Monday to Sunday.

The ride length is number of rides of certain length. It’s in miles and in case it’s not that clear it goes 0-40, 40-80, 80-120, 120-160, 160-200, 200-240.

There’s a pretty rapid progression mainly on the riding which was my weakest discipline. The amount of work put in clearly drops off in 2008 and mirrors a slight slump in my performances. Now with the chance to reflect and having had a good long break I wouldn’t be surprised if I was run down, over trained (whatever you want to call it). In 2006/7 there’s real consistency in my weekly training. In 2008 there are more big weeks (50+) but the bulk of the weeks sit in the 10-20 hour range. A real sign of fluctuating motivation and energy levels. This year the motivation is back massively I despite several months out I’m heading to complete a better year of training than last year. Should set me up for next year.

I remember in 2004 riding 147 miles and not being able to face an extra 3 miles to get to 150. I’ve moved on since then and to me shows how you reap the benefits of putting the work in over a period of years. Now, even after a big break, completing that extra 3 miles would be a no brainer ;o)

Some of you may have read Triathlete Europe magazine which has just been released. Like the American version it’s a great magazine. However,there was on article that really annoyed me  and in fact stopped me dropping off to sleep as I thought about it. It was written by some Dr. and thus had the air of being scientific. Early in the article he said that 60-70% of your potential is genetic. Well apart from the fact thats thats seriously demotivating it’s also got to be bullshit.

  1. What research did he quote to back it up ? none
  2. How would said research ever be performed ? I’ve no idea
  3. What the hell does it means 60-70% of what ? He says potential ? Hows that measured. Just think about the phrase and try and reword it. 60-70% of my potential best performance is genetic ? Surely all my “potential” is down to my genetics ?

I could go on. Lets face it there may be the odd star athlete out there that does exceptionally little work (compared to his peers) but in my experience the people I meet that do well work hard for it. At the Tri club we’ve a new(ish) member thats getting good performances in his first couple of years of Triathlon. I’m sure some people look at him and say he’s got natural talent etc… Well he may have but what I see is a guy that never leaves the pool early, never doesn’t complete a set, will stay a little longer to get just two extra lengths. If he has a spare hour he’ll nip out on his bike or do an extra run. Yes he looks a “natural talent’, yes he gets good results and yes he works hard for it, these things are not unrelated. Perhaps it is genetic – it’s down to his make up that means his first thought is to put the extra work in.

It’s commonly touted that sporting excellence comes down to genetics and natural talent. I would hazard a guess that very few people achieve their sporting potential sitting on their arses. So whatever your genes get our there and put the work in and see what you can achieve.

Foot niggles will wait for a later post.

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