Introducing elite triathlete and Scientific Triathlon coach James Teagle | EP#161
James Teagle is an elite triathlete and a Scientific Triathlon coach. In this episode we discuss his own career and training at the Loughborough Triathlon Performance Centre, as well as his coaching and training advice for age-group triathletes.
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In this Episode you'll learn about:
- The training diary of an elite triathlete.
- Training in a high-performance squad, with the likes of Jodie Stimpson and Tim Don.
- Coaching principles and core values: care, communication, individualisation and more.
- Goal setting, intermediate objectives and process goals.
- The primary reason athletes leave their coaches and come to us instead, and how we want to stand out in the coaching industry.
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About James Teagle
- James is an elite triathlete who has competed at various World and European Championships, both at a Senior and Junior level.
- James trains at the Loughborough Triathlon Performance Centre alongside triathletes such as Jodie Stimpson and other top GB athletes.
- James has also coached triathletes and swimmers locally for several years.
- James is also a coach for Scientific Triathlon! He has been doing this role since early 2018.
- You can check out his coaching profile on the Scientific Triathlon website.
James' triathlon career
- I currently train at the Loughborough Triathlon Performance Centre (LTPC), where the British squad, the British University squad and some of the British para-triathletes train together.
- I currently race World Cups, which is the level just below World Triathlon Series.
I also race Continental Cups, which move around Europe.
This is to qualify for big championships and to get points.
- My main aims are to race Championships. I've raced European Championships before, and as a Junior I raced at this level too.
- In 2018 I was the British Silver medallist at the British Championships, and in 2017 I was racing at European under 23's and winning Gold medals in the relay etc.
- Trying to stick on Kristien Blummenfelt's wheel in Madrid World Cup was probably one of the hardest things I've done so far, but a real highlight of my career.
James' background in triathlon
- The first thing you should know about me is that I'm incredibly competitive and I love racing!
- I started out as a swimmer and quickly progressed to the county squad - City of Leicester.
By the age of 9 I was swimming 10 times per week. I raced in National competitions.
- I grew up disciplined around sport and good at time management.
- At 16 I failed to get my 200m breast stroke National time which was a big heart break, which sets you back a lot at that age.
- Unfortunately the story of how I got into triathlon is a sad one:
A girl in my club had a heart attack in the pool and died. To raise awareness and money around this we did a charity triathlon a Loughborough University.
I ended up winning the triathlon and really enjoyed the race.
- I was terrible on the bike and run, but luckily had the fitness from swimming. I joined Leicester Triathlon Club and there were some great coaches and characters there.
- Within two months of riding a bike I went to the Alps and went up Alp D'Huez in around 52 minutes, it was great but the descent was very scary!
- From there I got into the East Midlands triathlon Academy, which feeds the National squad.
- The first time I tried to qualify for youth relays I crashed, which was really sad, but I managed to qualify the next year and it was my first International competition.
- After doing some lab testing I was invited to Loughborough University to train with the squad.
I selected Loughborough to do my degree in Sports Science so I could continue training there.
- The last 4-5 years have just been working my way up, from Junior Worlds to racing Seniors as I am now.
- Training at the LTPC is amazing, the equipment as well as the time and knowledge that the coaches and staff have is fantastic.
Training at the LTPC
- Loughborough University and British Triathlon have a partnership to create the squad that trains at the LTPC, and it's the World's only integrated triathlon squad.
- I've trained with athletes like Jodie Stimpson and Sophie Coldwell. Adam Bowden has also been down there, Tim Don and Will Clarke also use the centre.
It's amazing being surrounded by that much talent and knowledge, both the athletes and the coaches.
- My degree in sports science also helps inform my training and the coaching that I do.
- I draw most of my experience from the people I've met and the environment I've been in.
The knowledge they have is second to none, and it teaches you ways to apply things in everyday life.
- The main thing I've learnt is the importance of consistency. If you believe your programme is going to work for you (and it is a good programme!), and you consistently stick to it, it will work for you.
Don't look at what other people are doing.
- It's important not to be reactionary to all the new information you hear or learn. Think about each and consider whether it's appropriate to incorporate it into your plan.
Typical winter training week
- I tend to do 5 swim sessions per week: speed, aerobic endurance, CSS (1500m pace), VO2 (400m pace), technique.
Each of these sessions are about 90 minutes, and around 4-5km in length.
- Swimming is so limited by technique - you can be the fittest athlete in the world but if you haven't got a good swim technique you won't be a good swimmer.
- We spend about 12-14 hours per week cycling, depending on the time of year.
- At this time of year (December) I do a long tempo session as the main session. It's usually a 3 hour ride, with an hour at LT1 (3 hour hard ride pace). This aims to increase the amount of fat burning capacity you have as an athlete.
- Although the bike has a massive influence, the race is won or lost on the run, so the long tempo ride is trying to help you go for longer and use less carbohydrate stores.
- We also do 2 one hour rides every week, which are neuromuscular and more like recovery rides.
- We also do a 2 hour ride and 2 3-4 hour ride for basic aerobic conditioning.
- The one hour rides are Level 1 recovery rides. The longer rides are Level 2 which is just below LT1 - they're consistent and you stay within that zone.
You need to fuel correctly in these sessions to make sure you don't impact your swim and run sessions, which are often more intense.
- A lot of our bike sessions are group based, and we do train a lot outside. In the UK it's between 0-10 degrees, so we tend to ride outside.
We ride in groups but no more than 4 in a group to stop people getting cold.
- We do a bit of training inside - for example if we're limited by time the more neuromuscular recovery rides may be inside on a turbo.
- At the end of last season I was trying to qualify for European Duathlon Championships and I irritated my lateral miniscus.
It wasn't a major injury but it could have become one, so I had to pull back on run training.
- Prior to this I was running around 100km per week, which is what I'm slowly working my way back up to.
- I currently do an interval session and a speed session on a Tuesday.
This is basically a bit of a fartlek, trying to maintain fitness.
- The main session each week is a 60 minute LT1 tempo session. It's either around a hilly park or along a flat road, depending what I'm trying to get out the session.
- Each day we run 30-60 minutes. When I'm back to full running fitness it's around 7.5 hours running per week in total.
- We also gym twice a week to ensure that we don't get injured and are able to cope with the training.
- In total I train 25-30 hours per week, especially in winter when I'm building base mileage and fitness.
Differences between winter and summer training weeks
- The main difference is that the intensity goes up, and the volume comes down slightly.
- The run sessions become more intense, and we start running around 10km-5km pace.
We may do a VO2 max session if required, based on lab testing results.
- Cycling becomes more intense - we start doing chain gangs or critical power sessions (3 minute hard effort, 2 minutes easy). We also continue LT1-2 stuff to maintain fitness.
- In swimming we include an open water session instead of a VO2 session to make it more race specific.
- Swimming also becomes faster and more intense towards race season.
- To be honest, I can't really tell you much as I'm waiting for British Triathlon to bring out the selection policies!
- My main aim is to qualify for World's in the under 23 category but as an elite.
The hardest part will be the competitors I'm racing against. Britain is quite good at triathlon so the competition is high!
- British Triathlon's selection policy dictates you need to show you can achieve a top 10 at World's, which I've shown the past three years but not yet been selected.
- My secondary aim is to compete in a 70.3 in the pro field. I've not done this distance before but I'm looking forward to a new challenge.
- I have a Spanish and French team so I'll be racing for them, in addition to some other races.
James' coaching core values
- When you're a coach, communication is key. You need to be able to communicate your ideas and what you hope to achieve with your athletes.
This helps the athlete to have a clear understanding of what they need to do each session.
- You also need to communicate with your athlete to see how they found the session and how they feel. If the athlete thinks something needs to be tweaked, you need to understand why they feel that way.
- As a coach, you need to have a purpose behind everything you're doing. It's best if everything is individual and specific to one person, as no two athletes are the same.
- Coaching must also always be athlete first. They are the key thing, so they must be prioritised at all times.
- With online coaching, there are several layers:
We use Training Peaks to communicate sessions. It's important to then monitor the sessions as the athlete completes them, assessing the important metrics such as power and heart rate.
You also need a form of messaging such as WhatsApp or Email. Making sure the athlete knows you're there for them, and any questions they have you can respond quickly.
- I also use phone or Skype calls with my athletes. These are generally 30-45 minutes in length but it allows the athlete to ask questions and you can offer guidance and explanations for the training plan.
It helps the athlete understand how they're performing, and the purpose of each session.
We tend to go over the structure of plans during these calls, both the annual plans but also the quarterly and micro cycles.
- I also like to check in and make sure my athletes are enjoying the training. Triathlon is a tough endurance sport so the athlete needs to be enjoying what they're doing.
Planning the layers of training
- When I start working with an athlete I will go through an excel document which is basically: swimming, cycling, running, other (gym etc).
I get them to list three things they need to improve in each area.
- We then look at what their aims are and try and prioritise them.
For example, if you're an Ironman athlete and your bike is the weakest, it has to be the priority. Due to the time limitations of most age groupers, the bike is where a lot of the energy is spent.
- We then plan a macro cycle around the A races they have for the year.
We work out where the base block will be, and each micro cycle, but also what the point of each micro cycle will be.
- I generally suggest the sessions I think the athlete needs to do, and the reasons for each session and how I'd like them to execute them.
Hopefully the athlete then follows through with this!
- Each micro phase has an aim, and I think it's important the athlete knows the aim to help the achieve their goals.
- Process goals are things you're trying to achieve and tick off - we establish them at the start using the spreadsheet described above.
For example, if cycling if a priority we work out how we can make sure we tick off your process goals. We then move to the next discipline.
- If you're a new athlete, you may tick off your process goals very quickly. However if you're a more experienced athlete, they may take a bit more time to achieve.
- Process goals allow us to measure progress and see where you are improving across the disciplines.
Hopefully the process goals lead to you achieving your main goal.
- Process goals are usually outcome goals, but they can also be more subjective measures.
- An example process goal if you're doing a draft legal Olympic distance race:
Main goal: win the race.
Process goal: swim a 4:30 400m. Therefore I need to improve stroke mechanics. Therefore I need to catch more water using my forearm as a paddle.
- This makes the athlete think and reflect on their strengths and weaknesses, and have increased awareness of what each and every workout is for.
Rapid fire quick tips
What would be your top pieces of advice for age group athletes wanting to improve their swimming?
- It depends on the level. For beginners, it's important to have someone take a look at your stroke and improve your technique.
- For more advanced athletes, really thinking about what you're doing in the pool and how you make the most of your time.
What would your top pieces of advice be for age group athletes wanting to improve their bike?
- The main thing is preparation and ensure your equipment is working.
What would your top pieces of advice be for age group athletes wanting to improve their run?
- The key thing is mobility and injury prevention. This is often ignored but it is what will help you improve as it helps improve consistency.
Top tips for race day execution?
- Have a plan! Don't go into any race without knowing what you want to get out of it and how you're going to achieve that.
- Plans can be fluid and you can't be too detailed as it will depend on external factors, but the more detailed you can be the better chance you'll have at achieving your aims.
Top pieces of advice for overall triathlon improvement?
- Have an idea of what you're trying to achieve in every session.
What are common mistake that age group triathletes make?
- Be honest and realistic about how much time you have available for training.
What is something you learnt as an athlete, and as a coach, in 2018?
- Take more ownership of getting the most out of training and racing. I work alongside my coach and he's there as more of an advisor. It wouldn't work for every athlete but I feel I have the experience to do that and it works for me.
- As a coach, be on it with the communication with your athlete! Be honest with them so they can be honest with you.
Coaching with James at Scientific Triathlon
- I'm looking to take on more athletes through Scientific Triathlon.
- We offer a 45 minute non-obligation call to go through everything and assess how I can help you, and what you can benefit from through coaching.
- From there, we move forwards and start building your annual plan.
- We have bi-weekly meetings and unlimited communication in between.
Rapid fire questions
- What is your favourite book, blog or resource related to triathlon?
- The people I've come across have been more beneficial than any book or blog I've ever read.
- What is your favourite piece of gear or equipment?
- My running shoes, running gives you freedom and ability to explore and it's so easy to do.
- What is a personal habit that has helped you achieve success?
- Resilience and creating challenges.
A note from MIkael
- James cares so much about the athletes he coaches, and puts them first always. He has the 'give a damn' factor, which is important for the Scientific Triathlon brand.
- James also has great communication skills, which is so important in the coach-athlete relationship. The back and forth discussion with the coach is so helpful for the athlete to grow and improve their execution of training.
- Coaching is about growing and changing and improving, and James understands and embodies this. He has a competitive nature and he is very determined and ambitious, which translates into his coaching. This attitude means you are always striving to improve.
- James also has a wealth of knowledge from being a world class athletes himself, and being surrounded by other world class athletes and coaches in his training environment.
Links, resources and contact
Links and resources mentioned
- Scientific Triathlon Coaching - check out James' coaching profile and apply
Connect with James Teagle
- James' Instagram - @james_teagle
- James' Twitter - @james_teagle
Connect with host Mikael Eriksson
Hi! I'm your host Mikael,
I am a full-time triathlon coach and an ambitious age-group triathlete. My goal is podium at the Finnish national championships within the next few years.
I first started the website Scientific Triathlon in autumn 2015 as a passion project to share my learnings with a larger triathlon audience. Later on, in early 2017 I started the podcast That Triathlon Show.
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