Meet The World’s Best Long-Course Coach
North American triathletes might not recognize Dan Lorang’s name, but they’ll recognize the names of his world-title winning athletes: Jan Frodeno and Anne Haug. Our European correspondent profiles the first coach to train both male and female winners of the Ironman World Championship title in the same year.
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The first time that Jan Frodeno met his coach, Dan Lorang, was in December of 2012. “Frodo” had already won an Olympic medal in 2008 in Beijing, and finished sixth in the 2012 Olympic Games in London. He hadn’t yet secured any of the three Ironman World Championships he would later be known for. The day the two met, the future king of Kona showed up at the pool with a cold.
“He wanted to jump in the water and participate in the training session, but I saw that he was sick,” Lorang recalled. “I asked him to take his stuff and go home and to get healthy before training, because that was not good for his health.”
The day after being sent home from the pool, Frodeno visited Lorang in his office. He asked him if he was keen to coach him. His goals were short-distance races first, but then he wanted to step up to long-distance triathlons and win the Ironman World Championship.
“I said OK, it will take a couple of years, and we will be ready in 2015,” Lorang remembered.
Lorang, of course, proved right: Frodeno won his first Ironman world title in October 2015. And much of that, Frodeno says, has been thanks to Lorang’s coaching—and his approach. Lorang has “put me on the straight and narrow,” Frodeno said. “His biggest ability is to slow me down, something that no one before has ever done.”
His biggest ability is to slow me down, something that no one before has ever done.
When they met, Lorang didn’t have a track record of athletes winning on the Big Island; 2012 was actually his second year as a triathlon coach for the German Federation (DTU). In October 2011, he was appointed as regional coach for the Baden-Württemberg region, based in Freiburg. In 2012, he was called to the national center in Saarbrücken (Bavaria) to coach the under-23 team after the London Games. Frodeno was the only elite athlete he had for the 2013 season.
Despite a “late” official appointment as a triathlon coach, Lorang cut his teeth in triathlons when he was still studying Sports Science at the University of Munich. One of his friends from the course, a woman named Anne Haug, asked him to help her with her training—she was just starting to do triathlons as an amateur and was struggling with some injuries.
Fast forward and Anne Haug is now an Ironman world champion herself, winning her first Kona title in 2019. She did so on the same day that Frodeno, who’s still coached by Lorang (as is Haug), won his third crown. This is a very big deal, as no two athletes, coached by the same coach (one female, one male) have won on the Big Island in the same edition of the Ironman World Championships.
Haug has now been coached by Lorang for more than 15 years, Frodeno for eight.
“I met Dan at university, and we had a triathlon class together,” Haug said. “He saw me and thought I can do better with structured training. It was 15 years ago, and he was right. His philosophy is not a short-time success, but a slowly sustainable build-up. The health, wellbeing, and the goal of his athletes have the highest priority. He has a fantastic eye to read athletes and bring the best out of everyone with very individual training methods.”
While Haug went on to specialize in rehab and prevention, Lorang decided to focus on high performance.
It was not the first time he followed his path according to his passions.
Born in Luxembourg City in 1979, Lorang played soccer for nine years in school before becoming passionate about strength and conditioning. At 19, he decided to move to Munich, not only because of the university’s reputation, but because he didn’t want to go home every weekend.
His first choice of studies was not sports, but civil engineering—in which he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 2002. In Germany, he raced bikes for six years at an amateur level, because he wanted to feel for “the effect of fatigue and what it takes to train 20-25 hours per week,” he said. “I didn’t know how to do it, and I didn’t have a coach to help me there, so I decided to get the knowledge from the books and speaking with people. I made many mistakes, but it was an important experience.”
In between his training and studies, he also found time to work in an engineering studio to make some money. Coincidentally, it turned out that the studio owners were also avid cyclists, and one of them had studied sports science.
“They were quite involved in the topic, and when I mentioned that I wanted to change to sports science, they supported me and allowed me to work there as long as I wanted,” he said.
While working there, Lorang was impressed with the passion and work ethic of his boss. “He was often working late, but I never saw him complaining, and he had a lot of passion. I also wanted to find a job where I had the same passion, and, for sure, that wasn’t civil engineering.”
In 2003 he enrolled with his eye on a sports science diploma; it took him five years to complete.
“Even when I changed from engineering to sports, my parents always believed in me and thought I knew what I was doing,” Lorang said. “They just trusted I was going my way. And I knew that if I was falling down, there were people who could pick me up and give me support.”
The feeling of being supported and guided that he received from his family (and later from his wife Angie) was something that Lorang says he has applied to his coaching philosophy and methodology.
“That gave me the idea of how people and athletes should develop. Not telling them all they should do, but guide them and give them the possibility to find the best way for them. And of course, if there is a fallback, give them support to get back on their feet.”
Despite his immense passion and knowledge for sports, things took a while before falling into place. During his sports science studies (and up until 2010), Lorang ran a coaching company with a business partner that coached amateur and some professional athletes. Then, in 2009, he started to work with a clinic in Basel, Switzerland, which was involved with the professional cycling team Cervélo.
The team was disbanded at the end of the 2010 season, and in 2011 Lorang landed a job as product manager for a company developing fitness devices in Germany called LMT. That experience lasted around 10 months, and in October, he was offered his first job with the German Triathlon Federation.
Lorang coached the national team until the end of the 2016 Olympics. Since then, he’s been coaching the professional cycling team BORA-Hansgrohe and continued to work with professional triathletes at the highest level (Frodeno, Haug, Sarah True, Justus Nieschlag, and Frederic Funk, and in the past David McNamee.)
“Sport has always been a big part of my life,” Lorang said. “The emotions I saw on TV in big events like the Olympics always moved something deep in me, and those were the experiences I wanted to have and be part of. Both when I was training and went deeper into training, but also when I worked with other people and helped them to become better.”
Lorang has accomplished so much in such a short coaching career, but he has done so with humility and an unmatched openness to other coaches who are looking for guidance.
Lorang now lives in Unterwasser (Germany) with his wife Angie and his son Henry. As well as cycling and triathlon, he’s interested in many other sports: he consults the German Biathlon Federation and various soccer teams. His main goal in coaching remains to guide people as much as they need to and share his knowledge with athletes and coaches.
“His qualities as a coach are his calmness, loyalty, honesty, and incredible knowledge about training science,” Haug said. “But the best thing about him is that he’s not only a world-class coach but also a world-class human being and real friend.”
Dan Lorang’s Top Tips
1. Stress less. “Don´t do high-intensity training under stress. It makes no sense to add intensive training to your life if you are surrounded by a lot of stress. In this case do easy sessions to relax your body and to help your immune system to stabilize itself.”
2. Heavy, then long. “After an intensive training day, do a long aerobic workout the day after. You will have a great aerobic booster by this combination. After that two-day block, take a rest day and give your body the time to recover.
3. Mix it up. “Include in your bike training different cadences to activate different movement patterns and different muscle fibers. This will also help you to find your individual optimal race cadence.”
4. Go up. “Use short uphill runs to train your VO2max instead of flat high intensity runs. The load for your bones is less high and the effect for your VO2max bigger.”
5. Check in. “Use a heart-rate monitor during the swim to analyze the metabolic impact of your swim sessions and to control the intensity, especially during long intervals greater than three minutes.”