By Lawrence Fanous
I was prompted to start thinking about this topic and decide to look up a few numbers during my Christmas trip to the USA for my girlfriend’s family Christmas. I was at a Boxing day BBQ (I’m in Florida so it’s a warm Christmas for me) watching some Boxing Day American Football friendly matches and I got into a conversation about the salaries of the players of the top-3 American sports – Football, Basketball and Baseball. I was basically trying to get my head around how these sports afforded to pay each player so much. My flight to Florida pretty much broke the bank!
Professional sport salaries are well-discussed and readily available here in the US. Just a quick internet search reveals the average pay for each of the big-3 - $1.9million NFL, $3.2million MLB and $5.15million NBA in 2013. This seems so normal over here and people even talk about the ‘low’ salaries of some of the lower paid players – the lowest in NBA in 2013 was $373,041, not bad!
So then I decided to have a look at a next-level paid sport, which still has decent pay in the grand scheme of life and especially compared to triathlon. I came across an article on Forbes.com named “how the 92nd Ranked Tennis player in the world earns a comfortable living.” It introduces a player called Michael Russell and his ATP ranking and pay compared to that of the top few players such as Federer, Nadal and Sharapova.
As a summary the article paints a very similar picture to that of a top-100 ranked ITU Triathlon pro, with very high expenses and low income. And how breaking even and scraping by becomes normal at lower-levels of the pro ranks. The story he tells of making it in tennis sounds very close to some of my own, only with larger sums of money involved! He talks about the importance of competing in the smaller competitions to be able to get into the higher echelons of the sport, but how this often requires you to operate at a loss for most of these lower paying events – even when you win. This then allows you to compete at the top events (WTS in triathlon and Grand Slams in tennis) giving you a chance to really further your career.
Russell also describes some of the ways that tennis professionals have to make smart financial decisions to keep going in the face of such high costs of competition. These include locating his home base in an economically-friendly town or city (Loughborough for me – very good for rent), finding the best hotel deals even if they are 10km or so away from the race venue (often having to share with other competitors for me), working with frequent flyer miles to get the best deals and sharing on-site masseuse with other players. His examples still seem like nice problems to have for triathletes as most triathlons do not provide free massage and a lot of pros can’t afford the flights in the first place, never mind collect enough frequent flyer miles to actually use them.
The ATP have also developed a kind of pension scheme for the top-125 players so that their pros can go on to earn after they retire from the sport so that they are no just left by the wayside without any future prospects. Triathlon is a couple of tiers below tennis but I think with the ever-present tag it has of “one of the fastest growing sport in the world” and how it attracts a high percentage of high earners, I think the ITU and WTC can start to look to tennis and beyond as examples of how their pro athletes should be paid.
We are still a long way behind even the tennis players (Russell can clear $200,000 pa) but I think triathlon has the potential to be paying its pros as much tennis players in the future. It will take a change of mentality within the sport, however. The problem at the moment is that triathlon is not seen as a well-paid sport but I think with the ever-growing number of big corporations and high-earning participants I think that it won’t be long before triathlon starts to catch up sports like tennis in terms of pay for its pro athletes – both in sponsorship and prize money. Catching Football, American Football, Basketball and Baseball pay, however… I’m not sure it will ever happen. I might have to change sports!
Read the article here for a good insight into being a pro sportsman. Reduce the £/$/€ accordingly for triathlon!
If you didn't catch the blog article written by Brett Sutton last week, he explained the usefulness of producing strength during training, opposed to during gym sessions http://trisutto.com/strength-training-for-triathlon-2/. Today I stumbled across the following article suggesting five gym sessions per week http://www.t-nation.com/workouts/weight-training-for-endurance-addicts. Both methods can be used to gain strength, but the question is which is more functional for swim, bike, and run and essentially, race performance.
Although some athletes do need specific gym work, especially if they are injury prone, I do think triathlon specific strength sessions are essential, regardless of the athlete and can be more beneficial than gym based work. As Brett importantly points out, a lot of AG and youth athletes have limited time to train so training strength during regular triathlon sessions are very time efficient
Here are examples of how this can be done for each specific sport.
Swim - using equipment combinations such as paddles, band, pull, drag suits, during aerobic swim sets. The duration should be based on your capabilities. We would usually do up to 4km main set for the strongest swimmerS. E.g. 10*400 pull+paddle+band at an easy/steady intensity.
Bike - using a big gear or low cadence on the road or turbo trainer. Cadence (rpm), duration, and intensity can all be manipulated to form a good set or you can simply add seated hills into a ride AT a specific cadence. A good example would be 3-6 *10 minute seated hill reps at a cadence that doesn't disrupt your form with easy spin between. Shorter reps can be left for the turbo so you can focus 100% on each peddle stroke. I recommend 40-60rpm for stronger athletes but no less than 70rpm for youth athletes who should focus mostly on higher cadences.
Run - the easiest and safest way to do this is hill running. It's better to choose a moderate gradient whereby you can still run with good form to reduce injury risk. I also like hiking and stair walking during winter with some athletes using a weighted vest. A good example would be 3-6* 5 min reps @ low- moderate intensity. Using a treadmill set at a gradient is an easy way to control the environment.
One of the biggest considerations before doing this type of work is how strong the athlete is before starting, and their training history. Especially weaker athletes will benefit from doing gym based work before doing specific swim/bike/run strength work. It is essential to be as strong as possible, prior to moving on to race specific training so make sure you use one or both methods early in your season. Frequency of these sessions should not surpass 2-3 sessions per week for each sport, the same goes for gym.
By Andrew Wright
Week 1-6/8 Speed Development. Mobility and Flexibility work. Core stability work.
The first 4 weeks is about firstly getting back into a routine and getting my mind used to training being the main focus of each day. Then it is about making sure that my body is ok to get going again and building foundation blocks to go on and do the big hours closer to my main goals for the year. This would include specific speed development sessions in the pool and on the track/road for running, while on the bike there is little structure and a few sprints are thrown in here and there on some of the rides with hills for strength. There would also be an emphasis on core strength and stability in the lower half of the body. This year I have also started to see a physio who has assessed my flexibility and mobility in various parts of the body and has prescribed me a number of exercises to improve this to maximise my performance in other training.
The first week would be very light and probably not more than 2 disciplines per day just so that I do not over-do things. Then from week 2 I start to put in all the sessions that I would be doing when I am at full training. So at this point the frequency of my training sessions is almost normal but the volume of them is low. The general pattern of when each session is within the training week probably won’t really change through the whole year from now on. However the volume and intensity of each session obviously will and there will probably be a rest day in there to keep my body in good condition for the higher quality sessions. During this first ‘block’ the volumes would increase slightly week to week until I was doing around 25 hours once I really get going and start getting ready to move on to bigger hours and longer sessions.
So an example of the specific sessions I would do would be my Tuesday run session. This would be a session designed to develop my leg speed and power without taking too much out of me as a more normal run session would. After a 20-25min warm up with strides and body mobility work I would do a main set of: 2x(6x200 straight into 200 jog recovery) 3min rest in between each set. The effort of the 200s would be at a pace that was not all-out but comfortably fast – maybe around 3km race pace depending on ability- and fitness-level. So for me I would be looking at around 33-35sec per 200. The important part of this session, however is the recovery. It is done at a jog and not a standstill, so that the recovery is still having an impact on overall fitness. The fact that you are still jogging (and not walking) means that you are teaching your body to work aerobically even in rest and giving the session an aerobic element as well as working on your speed during the actual reps. As I move through this training block the recovery will become more and more important and it will end up becoming more specific in the speed that I will run it – probably building to running at 15km/h (4min/km or 48sec per 200).
Mobility and flexibility work will be done around sessions. So just 10min (mob) before and 10min after (flex/mob) sessions is all I will be doing but this will end up being a lot when you take into account all the sessions that will be done in a week. There may be one or two specific core sessions per week – e.g. one pilates session and one short circuits session.