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Brett Sutton: “The Ability To Adapt Is Critical”

Are you a slave to your training schedule? While consistency is important, the ability to adapt is also critical, explains Brett Sutton.

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Legendary triathlon coach Brett Sutton writes about what he calls an endemic in the sport of triathlon. Are you a slave to your training schedule? Does missing a session get you down? Sutton says that while consistency is important, the ability to adapt is also critical. This article originally appeared at

Since we launched the platform one of the aspects of our program has been to offer a select few coaching slots once held for pros to age-group athletes. The deal was that while we’d modify their training to fit their lifestyle, they would be treated the same as any of my squad athletesno pampering, no fudging and no holding hands.

What I have found has been very enlightening to me personally, in that rather than find people needing to be pushed or soft when it came to challenging themselves it’s the complete opposite.

These ‘AGers’ are no different in mentality to the best athletes I have had. They are driven self starters who would do or get up at anytime to fit whatever painful session coach has decided to give them.

Meanwhile, they are all working high stress jobs while juggling their family commitments also.

Despite this, all are so determined to meet their triathlon goals that they have at times, at least to me, made their lives worse. Now I know they will all totally disagree with me on this, but the anxiety I’ve seen from age-group athletes when they have had to miss a session because of a work commitment is a real cause for concern.

It’s as if they have lost something of true importance. This can affect their mentality in a negative way, destabilize their week and undermine their future training.

Now what is important to understand here is that while consistency is important, the ability to adapt is also critical. If I was analyzing a pro athlete and thought they were mentally tired or physically stressed on a particular day, I would have no problem completely changing the session.

So the frustration shown by age-group athletes about something that regularly changes for pros is simply mind blowing. This attitude not only hurts their search for performance, but also curtails the time they will spend in our sport.

Now until this season I thought nothing of it, but on deeper viewing of the age-group scene I can see that for high achievers this could be endemic in triathlon.

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I have spent the last three months trying to re-educate this group that missing a session or two has no physical negative to a long term plan and that pushing through doesn’t enhance performance, it hinders it. Same goes for the seemingly preferred solutioncramming the missed session in somewhere down the line. Just doesn’t work.

The negatives of such behavior far outweigh the positives, and it is my coaching opinion that a broader life view must be taken.

Therefore, it begs the question, are you one of these poor souls who have now become slaves to your program?

Does missing a session because of work, what you are actually paid to do, throw you into a mini depression?

Do we find you on a turbo at 3:30am catching up on the session missed as you were closing a business deal?

If so, here is some advice that I’ve handed out to my own hyper crew:

Go to the bathroom and have a good look in the mirror. Next, ask yourself this:

Do I consider myself a person of above or below average intelligence?

If the answer is ‘Above’ give yourself a good slap in the face and wake up to yourself.

If the answer is ‘Below’ then you can also give your face a good slap.


For underestimating your own ability. The reality is you can’t be a triathlete unless you’re already succeeding in something else in your life.

We at believe there is no fundamental difference in gaining performance between age groupers or pros.

Only circumstances and the speed at which one does certain tasks. We encourage no one to be slaves to anything. Enjoy your chosen sport. It’s a great one. But to be successful you need to work with your circumstances, not fight them. Because if you’re fighting them they’ll eventually win and one day you’ll be with a group of people and the subject of triathlon will come up and you will say, ‘yeah, I used to do that!’ instead of still enjoying your hobby.

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