Podcast, Training

Jono Hall – Head Coach of Triathlon Canada | EP#224

 March 9, 2020

By  Mikael Eriksson

LISTEN TO THE EPISODE HERE:

​Jonathan "Jono" Hall is the head coach of Triathlon Canada's National Performance Center. As such, he coaches top Canadian athletes such as Tyler Mislawchuk, plus a handful of international world class athletes on the ITU circuit. In this training talk we discuss Jono's coaching philosophy and hear his thoughts on a whole host of topics related to triathlon performance.

In this Episode you'll learn about:

  • Health as the fundamental aspect underpinning all performance
  • Achieving world-class performances on significantly lower volume than most other training groups
  • The cross-over effects between swimming, biking, and running
  • Prescribing lower time at intensity in hard workouts - but making the intensity really count!
  • Four-day microcycles: high intensity, tempo, endurance, recovery

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Shownotes

About Jono Hall

04:20 - 

  • I am currently employed by Triathlon Canada and I am head coach of the national performance center.

    I am Australian but I have been working with several different national federations.
  • Canadian olympic athletes of my squad include Tyler Mislawchuk, Alexis Lepage, Matthew Sharpe and Desirae Ridenour.

    I am also allowed to coach athletes from other nationalities, including Kirsten Kasper (US) and Kevin McDowell (US).

Coaching philosophy

06:17 -

  • I think there is a very strong correlation between staying injury free and being able to perform, and in order to maximize the chances of keeping injury free one should aim for the lowest effective ”dose” of training in order to achieve the target performance outcome.

    Hence, I may prescribe lower volume than many other coaches and my strategy seems to work best for athletes who haven’t been able to stay injury fre or simply not being able to absorb very high volume of training that other coaches have prescribed for them in the past.

    Of course, to be able to be competitive in the olympics, one needs to demonstrate an extraordinary high level off fitness, which require plenty of hard work, but in my opinion, it is all about getting there as ”easily as possible”.

    I also have a very long term perspective, how well will my athletes ”last” during an olympic year, an olympic cycle and 3-4 olympic cycles (i.e. their whole career)?
  • My athletes train between 18-22h per week, 22h is a big week for the athletes in my squad.

    Whenever one of my athletes is being able to perform, I take that as a sign that my philosophy works.
  • In regards to where my coaching philosophy has originated from, if most parts come from my own duathlon career or if it’s more based on coaching experience, I would say that my coaching approach is inspired from a very broad range of different areas.

    I am very careful about using myself as an example, but during the time I was active I tested many fundamentally different training approaches, including a very big volume approach, which I must say I did become rather successful by implementing, but I also tested a low volume approach, which also generated success.

    The major difference between these to where how much more time the low volume approach made available to other areas of life, which I had great benefit from in regards to my athletics performance, both physically and mentally.

    This is the main reason for why I today is advocating a more low volume approach to training, it basically keeps my athletes healthier and happier.

Fundamentals for success in triathlon

15:25 -

  • For me health and wellbeing of the athlete is probably the most important pillars.

    For an athlete to perform at their best, they need to have stability, homeostasis and wellbeing physically and mentally.

    Before I put together a training plan, I am therefore always making sure that the athlete is healthy and satisfied to start with.
  • After health and wellbeing things like ambition, clarity about goals and clarity about what it will take to achieve your goals most likely follow.
  • After all these fundamentals, we can add the training.

The art and science of coaching

17:30 -

  • I really love the science piece of coaching, I very much enjoy exercise physiology, but I have also come to realize that this is only one side of the equation of coaching.

    One can say that coaching is about delivering the science to the athletes in a sustainable and correctly implemented way.
  • The discipline I would say is most science driven would be the cycling, since it’s been rather data driven and easy to predict performance.

    The data that comes from the cycling dictates how much cycling we need to do and at which intensity in order to reach the targets that we have set (performance demands).

    If you have the data from some of the best cyclists on the circuit then you first hand knows what it takes to get there and you can start planning the from those demands to meet those demands.
  • The art piece could then be described as putting the science parts together to fit an individual athlete.
  • I think psychology is the key part of coaching, as a coach one must be able to create confident and belief in the athlete.

    Despite the obvious, many athletes have doubts and tend to talk themselves down.

    As a coach, you must be able to overcome these hurdles and make sure that your athlete is performing at the level they have been training at.

Intensity

26:10 -

  • Intensity forms a big part of my training, I am really careful of the amount, timing and frequency of intensity and I tend to lean towards the careful side.

    A good example would be a run set of 8x400m, which many coaches would say is far to little work to generate a big enough stimulus for the body to later be able to perform at a really high level, but I have found that if you can do these 8 400m intervals with really good quality, then it will generate a big enough stimulus with a far less risk of injury and over training.

    Balancing intensity and rest is also of extreme importance and another thing that I am very diligent about.
  • When we do quality work, we generally do really high quality, we seldom do any training in the medium high intensity spectrum.

Structuring the training

28:45 -

  • My basic principle of planning the training for my athletes is high intensity on day 1, this is the time for my athletes to really try and extend themselves and it could include race pace or even higher than race pace intervals, day 2 I call ”tempo day” and is performed if day one was successful, tempo for me is 85-90 % of threshold, and if we also get that day right the athletes are really fatigued and the only type of training they can absorb in that condition is endurance, day 4 for is recovery oriented.

    This is then repeated during a cycle of typically around 20 days.

    I rarely do intensity across all disciplines.

    The type of intensity and what I am trying to achieve with that particular session dictates if the high intensity session is best suited to be a swim, bike or run session.
  • I think that there is a very large cross over between the different disciplines, for instance, the body does not recognize the difference between if an endurance session is performed by swimming, cycling or running, it’s still endurance for the body.

    Of course there are peripheral muscular components that are part of the endurance build up, but in the ITU, the times aren’t that long.

    When looking at individual sports, the typically train around 20-22h per week, so why should triathletes train 30-35h? We can achieve the same intensity stimulus on the body with the same amount of time, we only need to spread it out over three different disciplines.
  • I continuously change the original plan that I have made up depending on objective and subjective measurements from my athletes, this could for instance be that the athlete isn’t recovered enough to do a certain session and then that particular session needs to be switched out or removed.

    I do these types of changes every day and many times several times a day, it takes a while for the athletes to be comfortable not knowing exactly what the plan will be for the upcoming days or weeks, but it has turned out to work very well.

Prescribing sessions

45:25 -

  • How I prescribe the details of sessions depends on the disciplines, in swimming I prescribe the sessions by pace and on the bike by power and perceived effort.

    On the bike I also look at how the power is produced (a large force or acceleration component).
  • On the run I have just started using power but I am not yet convinced of the benefit of it, but I also use HR and a lot pace.
  • I think you need to anchor your training plan somewhere to certain pace goals, in Tokyo, I believe one needs to be able to run between 29:15-29:30 in order to win a gold medal, and this is in extreme conditions, following this, I calculate what type of workouts my athletes need to be able to perform in roder to deliver such a performance in Tokyo.
  • I have rather recently started to make sure that all the easy training is really easy, and for this HR can be a useful tool (I set a HR ceiling).

Periodization

55:20 -

  • I use the race calendar to periodize and plan the training for my athletes.

    However, I consider it a privilege to be able to plan a season for a few specific races, it presumes that one is already qualified for events like the World Championships or the Olympics.

    Consequently, for most of my athletes I need to create a plan that will enable them to perform at a high level at multiple times during the season.

    One must remember that there are no guarantees within triathlon, and as a coach you need to plan for any eventualities.
  • I am a big fan of block training and arranging my training into specific focus blocks, but this also requires that you have a rather set race schedule.
  • To answer the question if I periodize my training the answer is for sure yes but most people would call it a rather untraditional approach to periodization.
  • I am a big fan of block training and arranging my training into specific focus blocks, but this also requires that you have a rather set race schedule.

Nutrition

1:00:50

  • I think nutrition is critical, and over the years I have realized just how important it is.
  • I have always said that in order to become a really good triathlete, you need to be a fantastic runner, and that comes with a special body type (lean and with low muscle mass), and one way of reaching that specific body type is via nutrition.
  • All my athletes have access to nutritionists and dietists to ensure that they are getting this part right.
  • I think there is a huge potential within the field of nutrition for improving performance, and I don’t think I have discovered anywhere near the true potentials that lie undetected within this field.

Recovery

1:04:20 -

  • I think recovery can be divided into two parts: physical and mentally.
  • Recovery never takes away the fatigue, it just speeds up the process.
  • My athletes are given a few recovery modalities that they can choose from, and most of them chose to engage in some kind of body work, like massage.

    I think the most important part is that the athletes believe that what they are doing to recover actually is working, if they truly believe that they are sufficiently recovered then they tend to hit the targets on the sessions to a larger extent.

Final questions

1:07:10 -

  • I think that today pretty much everything is overhyped, there is no piece of equipment that stands out as specifically overhyped or useful.

    Since I am a coach I am naturally a strong believer in coaching and I think that should be one of your first priorities.
  • I think the most common mistake among age groupers are the belief that they need to train much more than what is really necessary, which ultimately can lead to over training.

    I am the person who says try and do a little less and see if that will make you better.
  • My final piece of advice to age groupers would be to first ensure health and well being and then you can add training on top of that.

Rapid fire questions

1:10:30

  • What is your favorite book, blog or resource related to endurance sport? At the moment I am reading a book related to strategy.
  • What is a personal habit that has helped to achieve you success? I surround myself around people that are smarter than myself and I connect the messages from these persons into triathlon training.
  • What do you wish you had done differently or known earlier in your career? Two things, first, I wish I had been more diligent about rest earlier in my triathlon career, second, I wish somebody had told me how competitive the coaching business can be.

Mikael Eriksson

I am a full-time triathlon coach, founder of Scientific Triathlon, and host of the top-rated podcast That Triathlon Show. I am from Finland but live in Lisbon, Portugal. Please contact me if you have feedback on the podcast or want to make suggestions for improvement or send in a question for a Q&A episode. If you are a long-time listener and appreciate the value the podcast brings, please consider taking a couple of minutes for leaving a rating and review on iTunes/Apple Podcasts, or wherever else you can think of leaving a rating and review.

Mikael Eriksson

ReCENT EPISODES:

October 5, 2020

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  • I do *not* see Jono and Arild to be at polar opposites. I hear both of them looking for ways to maximise every session and adjusting on the fly for each athlete to achieve goals. At first, it can sound like they differ quite a bit, i.e. on volume, but think about it. They are both saying that there’s a relationship between staying injury-free and being able to perform. Both are looking to maximise the chances of keeping injury free, with effective doses of training in order to achieve the target performance outcome. Jono is *not* saying *not* to do volume, he’s just looking for ways to ensure health and wellbeing for longevity. Also, both of them are using polarised training and various objective and subjective data, pretty much in the same way, or at least with the same intention. Jono is just much more clear about not “doubling-down” and duplicating work. Cross-over is *real*! FastLabs talks about this all the time; physiological energy systems don’t care about the modality of training. Only peripheral muscular (and neurological) components need extra consideration regarding distribution of work between disciplines.

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