TRIATHLON & ENDURANCE PERFORMANCE COACH
Mikael is the Founder and Head Coach of Scientific Triathlon, which he started as a blog in 2015. He started out as a runner, and running was also his first focus once he got into coaching. But as his Mikael shifted his own athletic focus to triathlon, his coaching focus soon followed suit.
As an engineer, Mikael always had a great interest for science and understanding the mechanisms behind endurance performance. If we understand performance at a physiological and biomechanical level, training to improve performance becomes much easier.
However, Mikael strongly believes that the science of training or coaching is only one input to coaching decision-making. The other inputs include the athlete’s feedback and experience, as well as the coach’s anecdotal knowledge and experience.
Mikael enjoys the challenge of finding the balance of getting the biggest possible return-on-investment on training time. This requires carefully considering multiple inputs including the athlete's feedback, objectively measured training response and performance, factors external to training like work and family, and using these inputs to always try to improve training planning. Never believing you have the best answer is the key to keep improving.
More than anything, Mikael emphasises the importance of coach-athlete communication. Without great communication, a coaching relationship can never be fully successful. Triathlon is about so much more than just numbers in a training log. It's also about psychology, confidence, and even productivity and time management. And it is only through ongoing, open and honest conversations between the coach and the athlete that an athlete can reach their peak performance.
- Nationality: Finland
- Languages: Swedish (native), English (fluent), Finnish (fluent), Portuguese (basic, but improving), French (basic, and deteriorating)
- Education: Master’s degree (M.Sc., Hons) in engineering (medical physics and technology), Helsinki University of Technology / Aalto University
- Coaching Certification: Finntriathlon Level II, ITCA (International Triathlon Coaching Association)
- Coaching Experience: Started coaching in 2014. Full-time coach since 2017.
- Athletic Accomplishments:
-1st place, Portuguese Olympic Distance National Championships 2020, 30-35 age-group (2nd overall age-grouper)
-1st place 25-29 age-group IRONMAN 70.3 Cascais 2018
-2nd place 25-29 age-group Challenge Lisbon 2019
-Best result: 4h01m in a half distance race (Caminha 2021)
-IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship qualifier 2019 and 2020
-8th place in Finnish Olympic Distance National Championships 2018.
-1st overall age-grouper Powerman Portugal 2020 (10-60-10 duathlon)
-1st place Finnish Swimrun National Championships 2017 (with team-mate Simon Brierley)
I've loved my time training under Scientific Triathlon!
I started working with Mikael to find more consistency, and have someone to rein me in to avoid injury. Mikael and I worked very well together and have become good friends. I feel I can ask Mikael pretty much any question and be confident that I'll get a good answer. The training program is very thorough, customised to me, and clearly very well thought-through. In our ongoing communication, Mikael is always responsive and attentive. On top of all the quality training and performance improvements, I've learnt so much, adding further returns on my investment. It's been a blast!
Coaching has helped me a lot as an athlete and as a person
I was someone that always wanted to go hard all the time, but after I started training with Mikael, we introduced the concepts of consistency and going easy and hard in the right moments. This has helped me a lot as an athlete and also as a person. Coaching has kept me motivated, and the fact that I continue training today even under very difficult situations like moving countries, starting my own business, and the birth of my son is because I had Mikael with me during this journey, always caring and helping me to adapt to these situations with flexibility, empathy, and understanding.
Evidence-based and thoughtful coaching with objective and actionable feedback
What I've gained over the last two years being coached by Mikael has been daily evidence-based and thoughtful coaching, balancing performance aspirations, with the inevitable flexibility needed based on a life outside of sport. Equally important has been honest and respectful back-and-forth communication. This includes daily objective and actionable feedback to my training execution. I get detailed explanations on the "why" behind specific sessions. There is an abundance of open discussion. As an athlete I feel like I own the planning process by participating in it throughout the season.
Personalized training adjusted to my routine, goals, and points for improvement
Mikael provides personalized training adjusted to my routine, goals, and most important points for improvement. Being coached by Mikael has been great. I've learned things like the importance of different types of training stimuli, I learned to do the easy training easy enough, and I also learned to consider the psychological aspects when racing.
Breaking barriers previously thought of as unbreakable
Being coached by Mikael has been highly effective and beneficial, and has allowed me to break barriers previously thought of as unbreakable. The program has detailed and clear instructions, always paired with an explanation of the clear purpose, and the communication is fast, precise, honest and open.
I can trust the process and the program
Having someone with a lot of knowledge helping me towards my goals like Mikael makes me feel confident that I can trust the process and the program. This reduces a lot of stress I would otherwise have, planning the workouts myself. I also appreciate the very good communication.
Training adjusted to life, great communication, and better results!
Mikael takes time to get to know not just my athletic goals but how those are seated among my professional and family roles. He helps me realistically adjust training when necessary, so I can relax and enjoy the training rather than spending my own time to create my own plan... and I’m getting better results! I appreciate every bit of positive feedback and teaching about how to do the workout better next time. Mikael’s prompt and clear communication is one of his greatest assets.
Objectivity, knowledge, and long-term planning
The greatest benefits of being coached by Mikael have been the objectivity, knowledge, and long-term big picture view of planning and programming. Also, Mikael listens to and integrates feedback and thoughts of the athlete into the training. I've had many coaches and know even more. You go above and beyond all of them. Keep it up!
Mikael's coaching in 3-5 words
Personal and adaptable performance engineering
Get To Know Mikael
Where are you from and where do you live?
I'm a Swedish-speaking Finn from the Åland Islands, Finland. I lived in Helsinki for 8 years during university and the early years of my career. In October 2017 when I made coaching my full-time job I moved to Lisbon, Portugal, and have been here ever since.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I'm an early riser, and get up at 5:15am to have breakfast and prepare for swim squad. I swim with my triathlon team here in Portugal (Sporting Clube de Portugal) almost every weekday morning from 6:30-8:00, and then come home to start my workday between 8:30 and 9:00. I work from home, so my day is spent in my home office / pain cave, where a lot of time goes to my coaching work, but I also make time for creating a weekly podcast (That Triathlon Show) and of course the general roles and responsibilities of running a business. At some point in the afternoon I usually do a bike or run workout, then start my evening work shift, which ends at 19:15, when I have dinner with my partner, we watch some Netflix, and bedtime is at 21:00-21:30 to be ready for next day.
What's your favourite workout?
When my fitness is there, I love a long road run that is either progressive (e.g. a 30 km run progressing from Zone 1 to open half marathon pace) or has a bunch of tempo/marathon pace work in it (e.g. 30 km with 4 x 5 km @ marathon pace). I need to be fit enough for these workouts to be enjoyable though, but when you nail them, it's a really special feeling.
What's your least favourite or most dreaded workout?
I don't particularly enjoy the super sharp anaerobic work, like a run or ride that includes 6-8 x 30 seconds all-out with long rest, or a swim that contains a bunch of all-out 50s with long rest. I'm just rubbish at that kind of workout, which also means I don't particularly enjoy it.
What (if anything) do you listen to when training?
I am of course a big podcast fan, so I do listen to podcasts quite often. A lot of them are of course triathlon and endurance sports related, and a couple of my favourites are Pro Tri News and Science of Ultra (the latter sadly discontinued, but the content is evergreen). As a football player and fan growing up, I still follow the English Premier League to some extent, and in particular my favourite team Arsenal Football Club, so I listen to a couple of Arsenal-related podcasts as well. For harder workouts I favour music, and listen to everything from pop to symphonic metal, but a few of my favourites include Muse, Bon Jovi, Nickelback, Within Temptation, Imagine Dragons, Pentatonix, and the list goes on.
What's your favourite book, blog or resource related to triathlon or endurance sport?
I'm extremely biased, but I created That Triathlon Show to be the exact resource I wish there was out there at the time before I started, and still find it useful to go back and listen to certain guests time and time again. So the podcast That Triathlon Show, without a doubt!
What's your favourite food and beverage?
My favourite food is one that I learnt to love here in Portugal, octopus. I prefer it à lagareiro, which means baked in the oven on a bed o f potatoes with a very generous amount of olive oil and garlic. Ideally it comes with a nice Portuguese red wine and a bolo de bolacha (a delicious cake) for dessert.
What do you like to do when you're not coaching or training yourself?
I like being in the outdoors, hiking for example. It's been a while, but I am also a big fan of doing winter sports like cross-country skiing and alpine skiing. I also enjoy travelling, particularly on the Iberian peninsula (there's so much to see and do here that getting onto a long-haul flight doesn't seem very appealing). And I enjoy cooking a nice dinner or going out to eat at a nice restaurant.
If you could have dinner with any three people dead or alive, who would it be?
First, my grandfather (on my mother's side) who passed away before I was born, and I really wish I could have known. Second, Jon Bon Jovi. I am really interested in his thoughts on passion and productivity, and longevity in a tough industry like music. And finally, Bill Gates. I find him a super interesting and in many ways impressive person, where the philanthropic part obviously stands out, so with these three persons I think dinner would last well into the morning hours.
What's your educational background?
I've got a master's degree (M.Sc.) in biomedical engineering from Aalto University (formerly Helsinki University of Technology). My focus within the degree was largely on the intersection of applied mathematics and physics, computer science, and statistics.
What's your sporting background? Do you still race actively?
I've never been a great athlete myself to be honest. As a kid, I played football (soccer) from age six to 19, and was very passionate about it, although not very good at it. Then I got into marathon running and road running, but aged 17 my debut marathon was in a time of 3h56m, so I didn't exactly show lots of running or endurance potential either. After running for several years (and really getting into it) I stumbled into a triathlon as cross-training as I was battling a knee injury from running. This was in 2015, and I haven't really looked back since. I do still race actively, and in 2022 and beyond I have some fun goals I want to achieve, like doing a sub-4h half distance race (current PB is 4:01) and a sub-9h full distance race.
Who are your coaching role models or coaches you've learnt a lot from?
The coaches I've learnt the most from are without a doubt the ones I interact with on almost a daily basis - my fellow Scientific Triathlon coaches James Teagle, Lachlan Kerin, David Dhooge and Ailbhe Carroll. It is amazing to work in an environment where I have people like them around to challenge me and help me develop my thinking and coaching skills. I've also learnt a lot from my own personal coach, David Tilbury-Davis, and as a more external inspiration and role model, I would say Arild Tveiten of the Norwegian National Team is somebody I have learnt a lot from.
What types of athletes do you coach?
Through my coaching career I have worked with athletes of all levels, from complete beginners with absolutely no background in triathlon or even endurance sports, to professional triathletes and cyclists. Currently, my roster (which I limit to at most ten athletes at any one time) consists of primarily what I would call intermediate and advanced age-group athletes, as well as a few professional and aspiring professional athletes. In terms of taking on new athletes, I'm mostly allocating any new slots on my roster to professional or aspiring professional athletes.
What do you expect from athletes you coach?
I expect athletes to be honest with me and with themselves, and communicate openly about anything that is or may be relevant for my ability to coach them. I also expect athletes to when they set a goal and make a commitment to it, show that commitment in the way they approach their training and other preparations. And finally, I expect athletes to be self-motivated. Of course, everybody has rough patches, and when this happens my role as a coach can be (sometimes) to help motivate the athlete. However, for the vast majority of time, I believe that motivation should come from within the athlete, not from the coach. I'd much rather have to hold an athlete back than to push them and motivate them.
What should athletes expect of you?
They can expect that I treat my role and responsibilities as their coach very professionally, and have the utmost respect and appreciation for how privileged I am to be a part of their athletic journey. They can expect that I am somebody they can always turn to for support and that I communicate well and in a timely manner with them. They can expect that I really care for them, as athletes and as persons. And finally, they can expect that I am constantly trying to improve my coaching knowledge and practice, to the benefit of my athletes, and I will invest a lot in myself, my development, and my learning with this in mind.
What are your special interests or areas of expertise within coaching, training, physiology and sports science?
What I'm really intrigued by is if and how one can identify an individual's bottlenecks or performance limiters. This is of course a big, big question, and nobody knows the exact answer to it of course, although science is starting to make some headway here in recent years. But there's still a lot that remains to be discovered. The other big question I'm grappling with is what the best ways to measure and monitor load and response to load are, as well as identifying what is the minimum load required for improving performance for a given individual. Related to this second question, I am involved in an academic project headed by the Western University of Health Sciences (Oregon, US), so more to follow on that one. Finally, I am really interested in the actual coaching aspect of coaching. For example, how different way of phrasing the same question to an athlete can generate very different answers, how different ways of presenting a training program or intervention result in different levels of buy in, and so on.
Describe your coaching in three to five words
- Performance engineering
Schedule A Free Discovery Call
Interested in hiring Mikael as your coach?
Contact us here, or email email@example.com to set up a free, no-obligation discovery call with Mikael to see if working with him seems like a good fit.
Please note that Mikael is currently only accepting professional and aspiring professional athletes.