Success with Stamina
Success with Stamina
A little blog about being a triathlon coach. Here you'll find a little diary about my activities as a coach, the performances of the people I work with and my thoughts and opinions on what makes athletes faster for longer.

'It takes 10 years of extensive training to excel in anything' - Herbert Simon

AndyBby AndyBNov 13th 2009
The concept that it takes 10 years to excel in something is not new. It is well recognised that many hours are needed to create a medal winning performance. In 2001 Istvan Balyi published a paper applying this theory to sport and outlined how these 10 years or 10,000 hours of training should be used in order to develop an athlete to their full potential. Starting with children at the age of 6 he outlined key stages that will help maximise the development of sporting ability. The stages (in brief) are as follows:

FUNdamentals (6-10yr olds) Basic skills which underpin all sports such as agility, balance, co-ordination, speed and the gross motor patterns involved.

Learning to train (male 8-12, female 8-11) further development and mastery of basic sports skills

Training to train (male 12-16, female 11-15) major development of strength and aerobic fitness

Training to compete (male 16-18+, female 15-17+) fine tuning race specific skills and fitness

Training to win (male 18+, female 17+) maximise all physical and technical capabilities

It's an interesting topic for discussion and one I'll revisit in the future but for now, can we apply this to our training?

Many people come into the sport of triathlon later in life having already spent some time practising other sports. This means the technical ability of swimming cycling and running may not be as polished as they could be. However, the mixed demands of training, skill development and racing can conflict with each other such that we never quite make the most of either training or skill development. So do we work on fitness or do we work on skill?

When I did a coaching course with UK Athletics a few years ago I was presented with the idea of using this model of development over the course of a year. Put simply the off season was about learning or relearning basic skills, having fun before going through phases which covered the major development of fitness and strength, fine tuning race skills and speed then racing. So the principle of many years of development could also be applied to training within one year.

If we follow this principle through, for those in the northern hemisphere with a normal 'summer' racing season this would mean that currently you should be having fun and training the basic skills. Spending time on improving swimming ability, learning how to corner or descend on a bike, thinking about running with a quicker smoother technique will all help maximise the fitness work we do later in the year because those skills that underpin performance will be so much better. We will hold our strong swim stroke for longer, go further per stroke, waste less energy, turn better, spend more time pedalling on the bike as we are more confident going downhill and whipping round corners and be able to run faster through a more efficient technique. Most of all at this time it's great to have fun and really enjoy the training you are doing.

This theory of training fits in well with the 'traditional' line of periodisation set out previous by Tudor Bompa and others. It's not the only way to train and I'll talk more about others in the future but for now, go out practise those skills and have fun.
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