Have you ever wondered what it is that the pro’s do to make them so much faster that the rest of us don’t? Aside from maybe being a slightly different species of course. Click on through to see what it is that separates the likes of Olympic champion Gwen Jorgenson, Irish Ironman record holder Bryan Mc Crystal or Ironman legend Mark Allen.

1. Investment not sacrifice: I love this idea. I’ve always railed against the idea that Ironman or training is a sacrifice. I’ve thought for years that we are very lucky to be able to compete and train in our sport. So when I heard Olympic triathlon champion Gwen Jorgenson in a Podcast interview after the Olympics being asked about all of the sacrifices she had made to get where she was I was interested in what her answer would be.

She replied to it in a way that I thought put into words perfectly what I felt but had never articulated as well. She said that she never saw what she did as a sacrifice. Whether it was missing social events, going to bed early or being careful about what she ate. She saw everything she did as an investment in herself, her career and her goals. She made the point that if we put away a portion of our salary each month into a savings account we don’t feel like we are sacrificing that money, rather that we are investing it for our future. That was how she looked at her training. I thought it was the perfect way to think about it. After all how long can you go on doing something you see as a sacrifice? Something that is ultimately stopping you doing something else? It’s much easier to stick with something if you see it in a positive light and adding to the quality of your life

2. Marginal gains: Sky cycling team I wrote about this here earlier this year and I actually think some Pro’s could learn from elite amateurs in their preparation of their equipment. I read in Michael Hutchinsons book, Faster, that when WADA and the UCI started to clamp down on drugs use in cycling that teams all of a sudden had a big portion of their budget available to spend and it was only then that they started to look at Marginal gains. Hutchison’s point is that if up until that point they could get a 10% increase chemically why would they look for ten 1% gains elsewhere? He reckoned that up to then some amateur cyclists chased marginal gains much more successfully than most Pro teams. After they had lost the 10% they were forced to look elsewhere and Dave Brailsford and Sky Procycling team led the way with their quest to gain every possible marginal gain. Going so far as to travel with their own pillows and mattresses to races to ensure riders slept well to aid recovery.

4. Professionals show up no matter what: You’re tired? You don’t feel like training? It’s raining or cold out? Suck it up. No one who becomes successful at something only does it when they feel like it or they feel fresh and want to train. Pros show up every day and put in the work. We wouldn’t last long at our jobs if we only showed up when we felt like it. It never occurs to skip a day in work because we’re hungover or stayed up too late. The same thinking can be applied to training. If you’re feeling like a bag of shite because you had some beers last night even though you had a long ride planned for the next morning. Suck it up. If it really matters to you then you will get it done anyway. This was summed up really well in Emma Bilham’s blog here and this was one of the first lessons she learned when she went to train under Brett Sutton’s tutelage.

5. Professionals put in the full day: Just you and I when we show up for our jobs at 9 we don’t go home at 3 just because we’re not having a great day or we are tired. We stay till clocking out time. Pro’s do the same. If they have to go easier to get their long ride done because they are tired that’s what they do.

6. Pro’s are in for the long haul: They don’t look just at a race in three months and train for that. They have short, medium and long term goals. These goal’s might well be as short term as today and they may be as far away as the next Olympic cycle. But they know that if it is a massive goal like the Olympics that they have then it will take years. They don’t expect to be able to do what Alastair Brownlee
does in their first year of racing but they might aspire to achieve what he has achieved over the next five or ten years of their career.

Related Post: What would happen if you had a 100 week training plan?
7. For professionals success or failure is the difference between eating or not eating, of being able to pay the rent or mortgage or not. As a result they think about triathlon differently to most of us because the results have decidedly different consequences. If they don’t perform they don’t eat or pay the rent. Therfore they see every training session differently to how we do. They don’t skip workouts because they don’t feel like going out. They get it done because if they don’t train today then maybe they don’t earn at their next race. Which means they don’t eat. We already have this mindset with our own jobs so it’s probably easier to identify with than we might initially think. If we don’t show up for work we don’t get paid. It’s therefore now easier to understand how Pro’s think about training and apply it to ourselves. Unfortunately we still won’t get paid for showing up for training regardless of how we change our mindset.

9. Pro’s back them selves. I listened to an interview recently with a pro triathlete who told a very interesting story. It was the story of a triathlete who was starting out on a professional career. In order to make ends meet he had to work a part time job but he knew that if he didn’t have to work he could not only train more but more importantly his recovery would be better. He calculated that if he quit part time job he should be able to finish one place higher in his next race and in doing so he would increase the prize money he would take home and he worked out that just the increase would more than replacing current stipend from part time job. So he quit and put himself in 100%. In the next race he did move up that place and replaced the income but that was only the first step as he continued to race and move up the ranks further. Irish Ironman record holder Bryan Mc Crystal is also a big proponent of backing yourself. He often talks about it in his video blogs.

10. Pro’s build routines that are almost boring. I listened to former pro triathlete Paul Huddle talking about Mark Allen in a Legends of Triathlon podcast recently, which incidentally is an excellent resource you should check out. When Huddle was a pro he lived with Mark Allen and said that Mark would do the same workouts week in and week out. He knew they worked and did what them regardless of boredom. In today’s world people have a tendency to jump from one thing to another without giving anything a chance to actually work. In a sport like Ironman physical changes and improvements happen slowly so it’s important to give a training plan a chance to have the desired effects.

11. Strive for tiny daily improvement: Two time Olympian swimmer and Ironman age group world champion Chris Hauth aims every day to improve a tiny amount. He says that while huge goals are motivating and sexy and great to set out with. They are often too far away and too difficult to get our heads around to keep us focused on a daily basis. He chooses instead to just improve one small thing each day. Adding that is a much easier thing to aim for and achieve. He’s also found that adding up all of those small improvements every single day will invariably get you to your bigger goal.