Brett Sutton interview (Part1), IM talk episode 240

This is a LONG LONG interview, so I decided to try and summarise the main points that Brett makes in this interview. Please remember he is talking from a long course triathlon point of view, in the most part.

Brett Sutton is lead coach with team TBB.

Has coached (amongst others)

Chrissie Wellington

Sarah Linley

Nicola Spirig

Tim Don

INTRODUCTION: Brett Sutton has coached from age of 15. Left and trained horses, returned. Doesn’t have a stopwatch, doesn’t time anyone. What he tries to do is a little bit different. Has done short and long course, worked with Ben bright and Tim Don for a while. Trained Chrissy Wellington and Nicola Spirig.

Brett believes few know how to coach triathlon well, he says triathlon is unique. The way he organises training very similar, it’s how he puts the mix together that is different. Often athletes overtrain in his opinion, and often athletes trained harder when they were doing their own thing before they hooked up with him. E.g. Chrissie – doesn’t run / bike long, its broken up and switched around. He uses 10 day training cycles not 7. What most jam into 7 they spread into 10. He then gives athletes 2 wild card days where they can put their rest in where they want.

How does he organise it? Training camp situation, loose outline, what do they want to achieve, then – refine – how to achieve it.

Brett insists training is consistent and NOT periodised. He says compared to horses, humans tend to tell u lies. E.g. overtrain. He mentioned Loretta Harrop, who was always injured. When she said she has a bit of a niggle, he called the ambulance! Her idea of backing off was only running 80k a week! As a coach, it is his job is to protect. He then mentioned Darren Smith, premier short course coach. Brett says he doesn’t bark orders, he runs around slowing everyone down!

He watched Chrissie race at Roth, saw her last 5k, knew it hurt her lots. He knew that would cost her. She would not be going that fast if he was still her coach. He then mentioned the fact that she was then not at Hawaii. Breaking records just to make people happy, what’s the point? – it will just shorten your career.

Brett does not agree at all with periodisation! He says we are in an aerobic sport. He saya athletes tend to build up long course miles early in season, then they go on to sharpen them up, at which point they all break! Its 3 sports in one, you must train it as a triathlon. They are not separate sports. Everything is done dependent on what will come next training wise. Its different training for triathlon. NO huge amounts of crazy mileage early season. Certain level of volume is established, which is then held through the year. No taper for races, no stop watch.

Cadence: Doesn’t suit the majority. Likens this to running styles, everyone is different in what works best. Chrissie – 76 cadence, Belinda Granger 92. It’s what suits you. He doesn’t change what suits them best. E.g. Chrissie is more efficient in a big gear.’ I don’t train cycling, I train triathlon’ says Brett. The bike set up in a way that will allow them to run at best efficiency. Test at certain cadences, look at athlete physiology. Chrissie, v strong from hips down. Jodie Swallow, always had ability, but people didn’t understand that triathlon is Not swimming biking and running.

You can’t train triathletes like swimmers. It will affect the way they run. Test training theories out on slower athletes first. E.g. 4 anaerobic sessions a week, one in each sport, DOES NOT WORK!

Technique: Brett says ‘I am the technique guru, but I don’t watch all the top runners, and try and make my athletes like that’. One size fits all programme – DOESNT WORK. He got the sack at one stage for that. Everyone needs to be treated like an individual. Janet Evans – greatest ever distance swimmer – swim immersion man will roll in his grave!! She does none of that!! Need incredible endurance but also incredible strength. If you train too much in one area you will suffer in another area. No one teaches athletes how to ‘play defence’ – how to deal with things when the wheels come off.

How do age groupers be successful? Find good advice. No point in mirroring the technique of the pro’s when you can’t go at that pace. In ironman, everyone will collapse; it’s he who collapses least goes fastest. Stand up, nice cadence, don’t be worried about landing on your forefoot. Swim faster by doing more weights, this is rubbish!

Who cares about technique, if your body can’t handle it you will struggle, no matter how good your technique is. 40 x 100’s… 3.8k, so this is what you train. All sets are overdistance, (compared to race distance) and he says he does not care about the speed.

Brett talked about what athletes USUALLY do in the gym: Super compensation power work, 4-8 reps… endurance training… 3 x 25 reps. Seems a little odd he says 3800 arm movements in the race yet you only do 25..?

Most of his athletes have to go slow, teach them how to be efficient running with low HR. 10bmp above your race HR.

When u get off bike at HR140 training at 170 won’t help you.

The presenters thoughts.

He has the results to prove it.

They don’t believe there is only one way

A lot of people do overtrain

Mental aspect is important, team culture, total faith in your coac

My thoughts:

The one thing that I take away from this interview so far, is the message that Brett shouts loud and clear, that triathlon is not swimming, biking and running, it is triathlon. Therefore the whole approach has to be different.

My coach is ALWAYS telling me this, and I don’t think I listen enough. We all worry so much about our data, the splits, how fast do I cycle a TT, how fast do I run a 5k. But if I reflect for a moment, Phil Graves, outstanding cyclist, is yet to find the correct balance to be successful in triathlon. Take Jodie Swallow, I believe that she has always had talent, but look at the AMAZING results Brett has got working with her this year, she’s now 70.3 world champion!

On a more personal note, I have a friend who I have ALWAYS been chasing as far as running is concerned. She has always had the edge on me. In a running race, I have NEVER beaten her. Yet, in a triathlon, she has never beaten me.

It’s not swimming, cycling and running, its triathlon, and that’s UNIQUE.

you can listen to IM talk podcasts here

2 Comments on “Brett Sutton interview (Part1), IM talk episode 240

  1. I follow what Brett does, and had the incredible opportunity to train with him.What he doesn't say (because he cannot really put this into words) is that each person is unique. When he hands someone a training assignment, it is unique to them, at that moment in time, and is based on where they are at in that moment.Nothing before or after really matters.Sutton doesn't walk around with a big fancy training plan, he makes it up based on what that individual is doing.You are your own best coach, if you are able to listen to your body.When I visited Sutton's camp in Switzerland, there were no heart rate monitors, no watches, and no power meters. Nobody was talking about VO2 max or anything like it.They trained, ate and slept. They had fun. That was the crux of it.It was awesome.

  2. That sounds awesome Clinton, I'm very envious!I did get that message from him, listening to the interview, but was unsure if that was not just my own interpretation. My coaches are trying to drag me away from my data obsession and into the listening to your body approach! Both (Steve Casson and Keith Molloy) at times steal my watch, for that exact reason!! Hope triathlon is still going well for you.

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