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What are the biggest differences in how an age-grouper should train versus a pro?
The biggest difference is that amateur athletes have more pieces to the puzzle. The stress on their systems comes not just from training but also from work and family commitments, so the training plan needs to account for this. Amateurs need to make sure to remove most junk miles from their training to have a positive impact on their lifestyle. I see too many athletes have triathlon and training take over their life for X number of months, then they can’t sustain the time commitment and fall out of the sport.
I like to have my athletes have various time commitments to the sport. Fluctuating this allows the person to achieve his or her racing goals while maintaining their family and professional work lives. Amateur athletes need to work the same systems as professionals, just in a different balance. Getting the body fitness to a point where one can then increase the intensity level is the same between the two levels of athletes. Professionals hold a high intensity level over a long interval. Professional racing is about responding to the plays of the “field” more so than an amateur race, which is about racing within and pacing.
Olympian Matty Reed races on the pro circuit in addition to coaching triathletes of all abilities through his company MR Performance (Mattyreed.com).