Loss and Conduct on the Roads

Dealing with tragedy is something every human being has to deal with at some stage in their lifetime. Losing a loved one causes a deep unparalleled pain that if not adequately addressed can have powerful implications on the rest of your life.
Having been through some tragedy already in life, I have found myself facing another lose. Although not a close loved one an athlete lost their life in a cycling accident recently and I can’t speak for all coaches, but I myself see my athletes as an extended family. In turn feeling the full effects of the incident. As coaches we put our heart and soul into what we love doing. Losing a friend is one thing and losing an athlete another both no greater loss than the other, compounding thoughts and feelings around the situation. I can’t lie it has been hard to get work done and I did set out to write this blog about appropriate action and how to conduct yourself on the roads whilst riding. Now I find myself writing about loss, tragedy and effects of it, so this blog is probably more about myself than you readers and part of facing things head-on to proceed with living for the now.
As a coach I want confident riders on the roads, confidence breeds empowerment and with empowerment comes attributes that will help keep a clearer more alert thought process while undertaking an activity that has potential to be stressful. This incident has forced me to not only re-evaluate what’s most important in life. It has made me re-evaluate my coaching values and methods to empower athletes with the right attributes to instil confidence in themselves and their capabilities aiding in safer riding to reduce the risk of this ever happening again. Not being able to put a stamp of guarantee on rider safety doesn’t sit well with me knowing that I cannot and will not ever be able to, so skill acquisition, education and the safest training environment I can provide is what I’ll do my best to provide for any athlete, coach or person I have the pleasure of dealing with in this circus we call life.
I’ll finish off with what I intended to say in the first place. Please consider all aspects of your training rides from clothing to time of day, number of lights to careful consideration of your route. Control what you can control. If you have an accident due to unpreparedness or lack of consideration then I’m sorry to say that the blame will fall solely on yourself. Something we overlook these days is courtesy and consideration to other road users. A simple wave of the hand to another person on the road has the power to change that person’s entire day let alone their thoughts and feelings towards cyclists. Have ownership of your actions and hold others accountable. Tell a friend they shouldn’t ride if their light isn’t bright enough, better yet send them home. Tell a stranger (politely) that they are hard to see dressed completely in black, they will more than likely appreciate it.
If anything remember this whether you’re in the right or wrong, as a cyclist you will always come off second best.

Stay safe, lots of love and if you need help ASK.

Why we do what we do.

This blog isn’t about how much we love the sport or how seeing people achieve their set goals makes us happier than achieving our own goals, you all know how passionate we are about our work and we do love it. This blog is more about the thought and reasoning behind our weekly structure and programming.
I was once told very early in my coaching career to coach with purpose, make sure every session has a purpose towards an end target. It doesn’t matter if it’s to reach a personal best or just to keep healthy each session needs a purpose, recovery, strength, power, aerobic capacity, burn off last nights desert. Adding to this the modern day lifestyle most of us lead can make it difficult to find the balance needed to effectively implement a successful fitness regime, hence this is where coaches come into their element.
For those of you that have known us for a while you would have noticed that our weekly structure hasn’t changed much over the years. We’ve found that this structure seems to fit well with the demands of exercising and day to day life in general. Run groups always have a different session plan, but are set in what’s trying to be achieved ie. Strength, power, speed endurance, speed and no session per week will work the same element as to not over do it on any given component in order to avoid injury. The same goes for swim squads. As most only come to one bike session per week it’s designed to fit in with the current training phase for upcoming races.
As with our weekly sessions, programming works on the same principles. Every session has been thought about in order for you to reach that end gaol, the big picture is always at the forefront of the design of each days training. Every macro, meso and micro cycle has been planned out in order for the athlete to perform at their best taking into account their environment, ability and timeframe. It is a juggling act that most coaches revel in, it’s a challenge to fit everything in that is needed to be done to sustain progress without injury whilst keeping on top of work and family life and it’s a challenge that we’ll gladly take on.
I hope this gives you a little insight into what we do and that it’s not all coffee shops and bike rides (which I do love).
Stay Safe,
Coach Ben

The Group Dynamic

I truly believe in the benefits of group training not only does it boost motivation to get you out there, you will generally push that extra bit further. To many times, especially now that it’s getting colder the alarm goes off we hit the snooze button a few times and then finally roll over and go back to sleep knowing that if nothing has been organised (weather with a couple of mates or a training group) no one will be waiting for you to go training, no harm, no foul. If you know some one else is going to be there we’re out of bed not wanting to let our training buddies down, hence the boost in motivation. Funny how it’s fine to let ourselves down, but not our mates.

Agreed group training may not be for everybody and there is certain mental aspects of group sessions that should be given some thought before undertaking a lot of group training. Group training will help you to push the limits as far as you are willing to take it. Using group training for a purpose has to be at the forefront of your motivation i.e. working on speed, endurance, power, etc. not going out just to smash your mates. Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone is the only way to improve performance, but in saying that pushing the body to the extreme can lead to a break down in form so having the self awareness of technique whilst under pressure is imperative.

Group training brings people of varying abilities together. Different levels of fitness, different phases in training, rookies to the more experienced athlete so having a target on some ones back is great to use as a benchmark it shouldn’t be the be all or end all, remember what the ‘purpose’ of the session is. Keep the big picture in mind being faster than the next person in training means nothing if you fail to achieve your ultimate goal.

Not only being a lot more enjoyable than going through the motions on your own sessions the social aspect and sense of community is an immensely satisfying feeling and if your crazy like a lot of us triathletes are pushing yourself and your mates to breaking point and being able to laugh about it afterwards is also another rewarding feeling of comradery and achievement. You’ll be amazed at how far you can go with the support and encouragement of your fellow training buddies.

So in conclusion use group training for the right reasons, have fun whilst training with friends and be respectful of every one out there giving it a crack.

Enjoy life friends, Coach Ben.

Maintenance over Winter

With not much happening over the coming months it’s time to start thinking about maintenance. By maintenance I mean a couple of things, the first being maintaining the fitness and skills that you have worked so hard on for so many months leading into your ‘A’ race. This is especially important if you have aspirations of improving on your times the following season. It’s easy to stay indoors when the temperature drops outside, then slipping out of a once regular training schedule in to something more sporadic and inconsistent. Consistency is key to everything. It doesn’t take long to loose what you have built up, only 2-3 weeks of inconsistent training and your going to feel a big drop in performance. So instead of improving on last season’s success huge chunks of time are spent on regaining what you already once had and by then the season is in full swing. By the end of the season you will only see marginal improvements from the previous one and so the cycle starts over again. It doesn’t make sense does it?

Secondly if for nothing else just to stay healthy and active. Keep the body moving, don’t give it the chance to slip into bad habits. Just be active, don’t worry about volume or intensity just get out there and enjoy life. Run beside the kids while there riding, dust off the old mountain bike, brave the cold water of the ocean, explore on the bike. Whatever you do it will go a long way to maintaining your fitness and skill set that next season’s goals will be closer than you can ever imagine by the time your ready to get serious again.

For whatever reason, a new and improved goal for next season or keeping healthy to hold those winter kilos off, maintenance through the off season will go along way in helping you achieve any goal you may set yourself.

Here at SMART Coaching we have designed a membership program that will help with your maintenance and have you ready and prepped for anything you have set your mind on doing next season. Giving you the quality sessions that will keep you in touch with your skill set and allowing you the flexibility of not having to conform to a rigid training regime. Check it out on the website.

Coach Ben

Taper Time!

Yes, the time has arrived to back off the intensity and volume of training to start preparing for the big day. Here is a couple of things to think about the days or weeks leading into race day.

Nutrition/Diet-Be diligent at taper time your body is used to a higher volume of exercise and intensity so you can get away with a few diet slip ups here and there, the odd piece of slice or extra scoop of ice cream, because you know more than likely you’ll easily burn it off during your next session. During taper you are accustomed to this mind set making it easy for you to continue eating the way you have been during peak training phases. It would be terrible to rock up on the start line with an extra couple kilograms to tow around, so be mindful about what your eating especially at taper time.

Intensity-Just because it’s taper time doesn’t mean every session from now on is at aerobic pace. Don’t get to complacent some speed work still needs to be done in order to keep the engine firing. I was once told you still need a bit of sting in the legs on race day. I didn’t understand it for a long time, but over the years have learnt that having to many light days made me feel lethargic and slow come race day when asking my body for the extra revs it just wasn’t there.

Visualisation-Use the spare time to visualise your race go over and over the race in your head, prepare mentally. It’s not just physical. This may help to calm the nerves as the mindset changes from training for an event to performing on race day.

Taper is different for everybody. It may take some trial and error to get right be smart about it, don’t do anything out of the norm and enjoy the down time.

Coach Ben

Peta Alexopoulos

Peta Alexopoulos

Coaching program undertaken: One-on-one coaching

I initially contacted Belinda Johnson for some one-on-one swim coaching as I wanted to complete a swim leg in a sprint triathlon.

We had three months of dedicated training, twice a week which consisted mostly of stroke correction and ocean swimming techniques. By the end of this training block I completed my first ever ocean swim in a team at the Trial Bay sprint triathlon.

After completing my first triathlon race I was curious about the other two disciplines of triathlon; riding and running. I was keen to complete all three. Having never ridden a bike and with limited running experience, we had a bit of work to do. Belinda guided me through the purchase of my road bike, cleats and a timing watch and I opted for further one-on-one training with Belinda in conjunction with a few group sessions.

My goal was to not only learn how to ride and run but to become competitive and complete the same sprint triathlon in full by the following year. I completed the race (and several others along the way) with Belinda supporting and encouraging me all the way.

I now attend group sessions with the other SMART triathletes including the KICKR and Pilates classes, brick sessions, ocean swimming and of course the swim squad where it all began for me. I still continue with my weekly personal coaching sessions which I rotate across the three disciplines.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time working with Belinda. Her amazing wealth of knowledge of all three disciplines of triathlon coupled with her professional and selfless attitude toward her athletes is one in a million.

My husband and children have since also enjoyed working with both Belinda and Ben Johnson in group sessions, one-on-one sessions and the SMART kid’s triathlon clinics run in the school holidays.

Laura Cook

Laura Cook

Coaching program undertaken: TBA

As a professional triathlete and full-time university student, Ben and Belinda Johnson from SMART Coaching have helped me achieve all the goals I have set for myself in the last two years.

The group training environment that Ben and Belinda have created is second to none. The amount of support and encouragement available not only from them but from everyone who is a part of the SMART Coaching team is exceptional. I believe this is one of the reasons that each and every one of the SMART Coaching athletes has improved incredibly in the last two to three years.

Each program is tailored specifically to the individual and a wide range of sessions are available weekly. These include Pilates, swim squads, indoor bike trainer sessions, run groups and weekend training camps.

One of the best things about Ben and Belinda is that they are very invested in every one of their athletes who range from people are new to triathlon, use training as a hobby, like the social aspect of group training or are athletes who want to improve and achieve results at an elite level in swimming, cycling, running or triathlon.

I cannot fault SMART Coaching’s approach to helping me further my triathlon career and I put the results I have achieved, including gaining my professional license down to the hard work, commitment and unwavering support of both Ben and Belinda.

Mark Collins

Mark Collins

Coaching program undertaken: TBA

I’ve been involved in triathlon for a number of years now. I started training with SMART Coaching in 2016 and I went from being a mid-pack competitor to challenging for the podium in my age group which was ultimately my goal. I was able to achieve this in under 12 months.

Ben and Belinda have been fantastic at providing a customised training program that is tailored for me. They have considered my goals and provided me with a flexible approach to my training that allows me to balance my family life as well as a very busy small business. Most importantly, it allows me to train with a fantastic group of people, which makes the training and races even more enjoyable.

Simone Plews

Simone Plews

I joined the SMART Coaching team in 2015 seeking some training guidance for the bike leg in a Half Ironman team and potentially stepping up from sprint distance triathlons.

Belinda was extremely helpful and knowledgeable about triathlon training and excited to be part of the challenge I’d set myself. One of the things that most impressed me was that she understood the pressures I faced as a mother of two young children who worked full-time.

She designed a program for me around my work hours and family life that was both manageable and rewarding. It included indoor bike sessions, swim squads, run groups and triathlon-specific training weekends.

In the past two years, I’ve trained with a range of athletes as part of the SMART Coaching team and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the support and encouragement we’ve received along the way. It doesn’t matter if you are starting out in the sport of triathlon or training for an Ironman – everyone is made to feel welcome and a valued member of the team.

My SMART journey has seen me improve my bike leg times considerably over the 2015 and 2016 Port Macquarie 70.3 events and complete my first half ironman distance event – the 2017 Tweed Enduro.

I had the perfect race on the day despite challenging weather conditions and I can’t thank Belinda and Ben enough for having faith in me and helping me to tick off a goal that I had thought was beyond my capabilities.

Belinda and Ben are both generous with their time and advice and genuinely care about their athletes. Their personalised service guides you along your chosen journey and gives you the push needed. I can’t recommend the SMART Coaching team highly enough.

The Swim Leg in Triathlon – “It’s not important”

The Swim Leg in Triathlon – “It’s not important”

Wrong. So little emphasis is put on the swim leg in a triathlon by so many triathletes these days, especially the long course/endurance competitors. The swim leg is extremely important.

How many times have you done a massive bike or run set, absolutely busted yourself, collapsed after it and just wanted to lie there and not move. A lot of us have been there. We do get up though, we have our favourite recovery food/drink and we get on with the day, work, housework, gardening, etc. you’re tired, but you can still function. Swimming – it’s a whole different story. After a big swim session, day-to-day functioning just doesn’t happen, all you want to do is sleep all day. This just shows the impact that swimming has on our energy levels.

One of the best feelings in a triathlon is running down the chute to T1 feeling fresh and not being out of breath, reduced to a shuffle thinking ‘I’ve got to ride now’. Half way through the bike leg and you’re still trying to get your breathing under control. All because you didn’t place enough importance on your swim training.

Yes it is the shortest of all the legs, but the swim should be given the respect it deserves. You don’t need to add extra sessions in. Just make the swim sessions that you’re doing, count. Quality over quantity. Do that and you will set yourself up for a great race. As the old saying goes ‘You can’t win it in the swim, but you can loose it’.

Happy and safe triathlon adventures,
Coach Ben