British Cycling coaching experts joined forces with triathlon last weekend as Head of Nutrition, Nigel Mitchell, and Coaching and Education officer, Andy Kirkland, were guests of Gatorade at the Triathlon Show at Sandown Park, Surrey.
Nigel joined top triathlon coaches Simon Ward and Jack Maitland in an open forum for athletes and coaches held in the Gatorade G-Series Pro Theatre, while Andy presented on the winning philosophy of British Cycling: “The aggregation of marginal gains”.
This philosophy focuses on the significant benefit that can be gained through the culmination of getting a lot of small things right. A common misconception is that this simply means using the best equipment, however setting the right environment early in a rider’s development is equally important as their emotional/psychological skill sets are as significant to training as the physical components of performance.
Andy commented “It was a privilege to be on the same stage as people like Jack and Nigel. Gatorade had arranged a great line-up over the weekend and the coaches and triathletes who attended got the benefit of world class expertise.”
In common with British Cycling, Jack Maitland is in the business of developing winners, heading up the High Performance Triathlon Squad based at Leeds Metropolitan University. His group includes Alistair and Jonny Brownlee who have won four world championships since 2009 between them. Simon is a highly successful Long-Distance triathlon coach working with athletes from age-group to elite level.
Jack highlighted the importance of having a base for his squad of 16 senior and five junior athletes, saying: “this environment helps athletes to work together to push each other to their limits. Quality training partners are essential for athletes to reach their potential. As Alistair and Jonny are such fast runners it is important to have quality runners in their group; most triathletes just can’t run fast enough for them.”
All the coaches agreed that it was important to start focusing on performance when athletes are around 14-15 years old, so that they can learn good habits and develop effective technique. Simon does most of his coaching on a remote basis and he highlighted the importance of treating all athletes on an individual basis: “Many of my athletes are high achievers who wish to put everything into both their sport and jobs. It’s a must to balance both so that neither is unduly compromised”.
The Triathlon Show was awash with the most up-to-date technology and training aids, but all agreed that it was important to reach for the low hanging fruit first. That is to do the basics right first and then reach for the sweetest looking fruit only when the foundations have been built. A very important lesson for coaches and athletes alike.
After the open forum, Nigel was joined by Gatorade Sport Science Advisor Matt Evans to talk about the nutritional demands of endurance sport. Matt spoke on the basics of sports nutrition such as including sodium to fluid to add to the desire to drink.
Nigel then discussed the nutritional demands of the Tour de France riders in Team Sky. A number of key messages came from Nigel’s presentation. With a good balanced diet and nutritional plan it was not a major problem to meet the energy requirements of the race, even though they reached nearly 8000 Kcal on days with the toughest stages. Something often neglected or unknown by a lot of riders is the importance of keeping the gut and intestines healthy and working effectively.
Key to this is to develop and source high quality sports food supplements with traceable origins at every stage of manufacture (to minimise the chance of committing a doping offence). The British Cycling and Team Sky partnership with Gatorade was developed because they could supply the best products and expertise available.
Nigel said that a big favourite of the riders is raw vegetable juice which includes things like beetroot, broccoli, celery, and pineapple to add sweetness. Not only did this food supply valuable energy, it had an alkalising affect on the gut, helping keep it healthy. Homemade rice cakes were also a favourite with the riders.
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