coaching, Training, triathlon

Notes from Day 3 of USA Triathlon’s Elite Coaching Mentorship Program

Ken Axford – Observation of Elite Athletes’ Swimming Session and Swim Discussion

Coach Ken Axford coaching elite (Hunter Kemper in orange cap, near side).

Coach behavior: chit chat and loose on deck before workout begins; very active during workout with “signals” organized with the athletes beforehand so he can give them feedback during a long swim set without them stopping; method of delivery confident yet not overbearing, respectful, providing evidence and reasons as to “why” for every drill and set; there is purpose and something for each athlete to focus on for each swim set; very engaged throughout

Good swimmers hold their form when they’re tired.

Tuesday and Wednesday Elite Squad swim workouts

BPA = best possible average

Bike handling “push the bike away” drill: take body as far as you can to one side of the bike, coast and then steer; hear the side wall of the tire on the ground

Cycling mentality: race your way into shape. In triathlon if you do that you race your way out of shape.

Tempo blocks – work up to 6 X 10 minute intervals

Threshold blocks (never more than 30 minutes) – work up to 6 X 5 minute intervals from 6 X 3 minutes

All elites on long runs are doing the cycle of 9 minutes run, 1 minute walk. Walking is also worked into tempo runs as well.

There is always dynamic warm up before running.

One brick a week generally works well.

Workout plans done based on time not mileage.


Melissa Mantak – Developing an Elite Squad: Balancing Elite and Age Group Performance and the

Different Performance Models

“Late Starters” and “Career Changers” – because triathlon is in its infancy as an Olympic sport, there are initiatives to help guide athletes that didn’t start triathlon until their teens or twenties

Important for youth to experience racing at high levels to get used to the pressure and to learn how to get to the place where the pressure is more of a non-factor.

In assessing an athlete’s capacity to be an elite, you must consider: Do they have the time for it and the ability?

You bring on athletes to a squad for different reasons. Must think about the chemistry of the group. Compatibility is very important.

The cross support between age groupers and elites provides for great interaction among a squad. Inspiration and motivation carries across the board. (e.g., Siri Lindley’s group)

Discussion around why the US’s best ITU athletes are all coached by International coaches. US triathlon coaching education is behind the curve.

There is support available ($) for those wanting to develop elite squads but it has to be 99% your initiative to start and to maintain it.

In running squad you must balance Team Dynamics vs. Individual Needs (with various adaptation rates) – all makes for a tough balance.

–2013 ITU Science & Triathlon Coaching–

Case Study of Elite Britain Tri Team in Leeds: atmosphere of extreme competition; exceptional athletes w/ exceptional coaching; exceptional attention to detail (e.g., Malcolm Brown leading up to 2012 London games, once a month he would go to the hotel the team would be staying in during the Olympics to meet the staff, get used to the food, stay a night, etc. – went to great extents in attempt to “control the environment”!); use Alter G for speed work; would bring in outside athletes to “stir the pot” that were great champions to challenge the team; Always training in rain and cold (mental toughness); no culture of ENTITLEMENT; intentional effort to empower the athletes to be decision makers (discussion around the controversy of when Johnny took his penalty during the Olympics); Manages the “noise” around the athletes; Alistair has a friend be the filter of all communication and only brought him the important stuff; feeling of we are “in it together”; always show confidence even when you’re not; team went to Switzerland and higher altitude; “old school” mentality: no power meters so athletes could not obsess over it.

The Alistair and Johnny dynamic was one of love but extreme competition. Before Olympics, Alistair was in a boot for 10 weeks and only did 3 races and 10 run workouts before winning the Gold Medal. He did lots of aqua jogging and used the Alter G.

Case Study of Darren Smith’s squad: works with a lot of the career changes and late starters; has a very robust pre-screening process (which includes financial, behavioral, potential to improve, motivation, coachability, skills, etc.); creates a culture of respect; doesn’t do a lot of training competitions; does a complete synthesis of racing skills day-in and day-out; uses respiratory work and accelerometers; no power meters or LT testing; does NOT use periodization


Melissa Mantak – Periodization and Long Term Planning for the Elite Triathlete

You need to plan – you need to be flexible – and you need to change it up!

It’s important to create a plan and to have confidence in it. Include your athletes in the planning and remember to be flexible with it.

There is no such thing as spending too much time with the basics. There is no detail too small.

The dosage of hard efforts is important to get right (within the workout, within the week, etc.).

Before Gwen Jorgensen was full-time triathlete, MM remembers being at the airport with a team of professionals and the other athletes were napping and Gwen at the time was still an accountant so she was working. This impedes ability to recover!

Tudor Bompa and the concept of Super-compensation

Detraining or Reversibility (e.g., When coaching Matt Chrabot, she emphasized rest too much – the goal is enough recovery not too much to where you detrain!)

General rule of thumb is not very much taper with elites because they will detrain very quickly.

Bike skills one of the most important things to plan for in ITU racing.

What type of RESPONDER is your athlete?

  • Fast adapter – low volume: responds quickly to hard training doses but can only handle small amounts
  • Fast Adapter – high volume: responds quickly to hard training and can handle
  • Slow Adapter – low volume of intensity: typical Ironman athlete… responds slowly to hard training doses but can only handle small amounts
  • Slow Adapter – high volume of intensity: responds slowly to hard training and can handle a lot

Don’t pigeon-hole your athletes into these categories as they will move through them sometimes as they progress.

Concept of non-linear training is that you never have one system that falls behind. Keep the critical energy systems moving year-round.

One drawback to traditional periodization is that it’s an oversimplified planning model.

No one best model for all individuals.

Emphasis or “Block” periodization (a non-linear) – Verkhoshansky and Issurin

Laying out a yearly plan is not derived from scientific research. Periodization is not a science. Apply the principles of planning and “change it up” frequently.

Look up Jon Kailey – Periodization and Paradigms in the 21st century – most important thing is to CHANGE IT UP! Conclusions: high volume and threshold is the foundation of the plan all year.

Nordic ski and biathlon German model of periodization: similar conclusions of the need for aerobic volume and interval training.


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