TRIATHLON & ENDURANCE PERFORMANCE COACH
David has been a full-time triathlon coach since 2015, and a Scientific Triathlon coach since early 2020. As well as being on the Scientific Triathlon coaching team, David is also our Customer Support Manager. David is from Belgium, and lives in the south of France.
David has been a full-time triathlon coach since 2015, and has plenty of personal experience in short and long distance triathlon, consistently finishing at the front of overall age-group fields, despite coming into the sport a bit later in life, in his late 20s.
As an athlete, David has qualified for and participated in both the IRONMAN and IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships. David was coached by double Ironman World Champion Luc van Lierde for several years, which was the starting point for David's own coaching career, giving him great insights into triathlon performance and development, and the coaching skills required to make a difference.
Communication is the key for David. Open and honest communication allows him to understand the athlete's individual needs and to adjust the training plans accordingly to achieve and exceed their goals. David's coaching is also characterised by a focus on understanding the underlying physiology of performance and how the training can harness physiology to improve performance. And also, by an emphasis on understanding the athlete's psychology and what makes them tick, in order to be able to truly adapt the training to each individual not just physiologically but also psychologically.
- Nationality: Belgium (currently living in France)
- Languages: Dutch (native), English (fluent), French (fluent), German (basic)
- Education: Master’s degree in Criminology (Ghent University)
- Coaching Certification: Brevet Fédéral Triathlon 5 (FFTRI – Fédération Française Triathlon)
- Coaching Experience: Started coaching in 2014. Full-time coach since 2015. Scientific Triathlon coach since early 2020.
- Athletic Accomplishments:
-262th place (next time a lot better...): IRONMAN World Championship Kona, Hawaii 2019
-15th overall, 3rd AG 35-39: National French Championships Half Distance 2019
-1st place: Olympic Distance Revel, France
-12th overall, 3rd AG 35-39: Ironman Malaysia 2018 (Qualification for IRONMAN World Championships)
-5th overall and best marathon, 3rd AG 35-39: Extreme triathlon Altriman Pyrenees, full distance (5000+ meters elevation gain bike, 800+ meters elevation gain run)
-9th overall, 2nd AG 35-39: Frenchman full distance
-Ironman 70.3 World Championships Zell am See, Austria 2015
David helped me train more efficiently
David helped me use my time more efficiently. I actually trained fewer hours than prior seasons but felt stronger, more prepared, and less stressed. I work night shifts and David helped me schedule things around my work and life in a healthy and productive way. David was amazing in how quickly he responded to my questions and how available and flexible he was. Not only that, but he was able to figure out where my individual strengths and weaknesses are and to then focus on the areas of training that were most beneficial for me.
Extremely positive coaching experience with continued progress in all three disciplines!
Working with David has been an extremely positive coaching experience for me and helped me make continued progress in all three disciplines throughout the season. David is really great about talking about the plan for the next block of training along with the "why" and how it relates to the overall structure/goal for the season. He uses his knowledge, data and science, and the athlete's feedback to create a plan that works on the areas that will be most impactful for a particular athlete to improve. He's also always available if I have any questions.
Running faster, avoiding injuries and staying motivated!
My coaching relationship with David is my second experience with remote coaching. I was hesitant to sign up at the beginning, since my previous experience was called "individual coaching" but it was a weekly training program coming from a workout database. However, being coached by David turned out to be a completely different experience. I really feel David knows who I am as a runner, and the ongoing communication with him is fantastic! He is really following my training every day and takes my individual weaknesses into consideration to run faster, avoid injuries and keep me motivated to train.
Get To Know David
Where are you from and where do you live?
I'm from Belgium, but I live in the south of France, between Toulouse and Carcassonne since 2016.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I usually get up around 6am. I actually start working immediately, while having coffee (Ricoré). The first thing I do is to start looking through my athletes' feedback and workouts on Training Peaks so I'm on top of that. Then I would usually have breakfast with my wife around 7:30, and after that I'll do a morning workout myself. Later I also usually do an afternoon workout. Between and around that I'm working, with most of that work being communicating with my athletes and planning their training. Outside of that, I'm also walking our two dogs, spend time with my wife and I'm the cook at home, so that's the private life going on next to coaching and my own training.
NB: When we first moved to France we had a Bed & Breakfast and I was cooking for our guests. so I have some experience from that. My cooking is mostly focused on just eating really healthy food with lots of vegetables.
What's your favourite workout?
Definitely a long ride in the mountains, mostly aerobic, but using the terrain to add some playful intensity variations. Also longer trail runs, around 1.5-2 hours.
What's your least favourite or most dreaded workout?
I'm not a big fan of high-intensity stuff because it's so hard... but of course I need it from time to time so I still do it. And testing is also not my favourite thing to do.
What (if anything) do you listen to when training?
I don't listen too much to anything while training. Mostly if it's an indoor bike session. If it's an easy session I try to listen to a podcast, and if it's a hard session I like to listen to electronic music to get some push from the music. I like artists like Paul Kalkbrenner for example, but usually I just put on a Daily Mix on Spotify.
What's your favourite book, blog or resource related to triathlon or endurance sport?
The podcasts "That Triathlon Show" and "On Coaching" with Steve Magness and Jonathan Marcus. The book "Science of running" by Steve Magness, "Endure" by Alex Hutchinson, and "Science of winning" by Jan Olbrecht. There are some other books around psychology and communication that I like as well, for example "Coaching Athletes To Be Their Best: Motivational Interviewing In Sports".
What's your favourite food and beverage?
Well, as a Belgian I really like steak and fries. That's really big in Belgium. I don't like beer though... I live in France so I also got into cheese and red wine, that's something I really like, in moderation, one glass a couple of times per week.
What do you like to do when you're not coaching or training yourself?
I have to admit that coaching and practising sports is pretty much my life, it's a way of life for me. But when I'm not doing that I'm into cooking, and I really like to travel. But travel is usually combined with a race. I also like being out in nature, and being at home with my dogs and my wife.
If you could have dinner with any three people dead or alive, who would it be?
This is a difficult one, I had to really think about it. Two of them are athletes and were my heroes when I grew up. I was really into athletics, so I would say Carl Lewis, and I also used to be into Formula One, so Michael Schumacher. And as a third one I would say Barrack Obama. I think he is somebody who inspires people.
What's your educational background?
I have a Master's degree (from University of Ghent, in 2006) in criminology, so that includes a lot of psychology coursework. Not formal education per se, but before I started my degree I was in the army for two years. After I moved to France I got a federal degree in triathlon, it's like a certificate. In October 2021 I'm going to start another university degree, in high-performance sports. But of course outside of formal education, to be always learning is very important to me.
What's your sporting background? Do you still race actively?
When I was young I was really into athletics, I was a sprinter and did long jump, and was pretty good at it. After injuries and moving for university I started doing more endurance sports. I'm 40 now, and I started triathlon around 27, and have been in the sport ever since. I'm racing actively, and improving year by year. I'm mostly focusing on long-distance races, even though I do some sprints and Olympic distance races as preparation for my more important races. My best Ironman is 9h12m, and I'd like to go sub-9 in one of my future races.
NB: David's best 100m time was somewhere between 11-12 seconds when he was 16-18 years old.
Who are your coaching role models or coaches you've learnt a lot from?
I try to gain information from everywhere! When I started training I was coached by Luc van Lierde for 4 years, which helped inspire me to go into coaching myself. I learnt a lot from him about things like lactate testing, he was also working with Jan Olbrecht around that. I learnt a lot of the fundamentals from Luc. I've also learnt a lot from Steve Magness' books and podcasts. I think he is a really good coach who knows what he's doing. Also, the podcast interviews with David Tilbury-Davis on That Triathlon Show have been really interesting on topics like specificity, creativity, and athlete autonomy.
What types of athletes do you coach?
Currently I mostly coach triathletes, but I also coach some runners, from the 10k to the marathon. In the past I've also coached cyclists and trail runners. The athletes I coach include a mix of males and females, ages range from athletes in their 20s to 50s, and ability levels range from people quite new to the sport to World Championship qualifiers. Currently I don't coach any professional athletes but I would like to do that as well.
What do you expect from athletes you coach?
The main thing is very good communication. The athletes need to be honest and they should always give good feedback on their training sessions, I really need this from my athletes. It is also very important that the athletes really try to be consistent in training. This doesn't mean that they can never miss a workout, but if they do, they should let me know so we can discuss any changes to the schedule. They should not start rearranging their workouts without me knowing. Changes should always be communicated and discussed. Finally, I want athletes to have confidence in their plan but also be aware that the plan can be discussed together to instill that confidence.
What should athletes expect of you?
They should expect that I will be there for them and that I'm investing my time and my knowledge in them. And that I will do everything that I can and use everything that I know to get them to progress and reach the goals they want to reach. Also, that I will always keep learning and keep updating and upgrading my knowledge about coaching and training. And finally, athletes can expect that I am very happy to involve them in the process of figuring out the best plan forward if the athlete likes to be involved.
What are your special interests or areas of expertise within coaching, training, physiology and sports science?
My special interest is actually mostly general sport science - how the body works, metabolism... The last few years I'm trying to really really understand this and understand how to create training based on the basics of how the body works. Another interest is the communication part and psychology part of coaching. I like to figure out how the athlete thinks? Coaching is about a lot more than creating sessions and training plans. There is also the much human side. Understanding the athlete and trying to build a good relationship. In this, communication is really important, and I try to dig deep into the athlete's mind and understand them to optimise how I communicate with the athletes.
Describe your coaching in three to five words
One way of doing this is "One size doesn't fit all"...
But to list a few different words I have
- Long-term planning (if this counts as one word)
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