Podcast, Training

Training talk with Blair Cartmell | EP#285

 May 10, 2021

By  Mikael Eriksson


Blair Cartmell is a Scottish triathlon coach working as a Junior National Coach with British Triathlon in addition to running his own coaching business. Blair's coaching resume is of a very high level, including currently being the coach of George Goodwin (3rd at the PTO Championships in Daytona in 2020), holding the lead coach position of the Triathlon Scotland performance Centre at Stirling University, as well as being a national coach for Scotland's home Commonwealth games in 2014.

In this Episode you'll learn about:

  • Blair's coaching philosophy
  • How to achieve consistency in training
  • Intensity management
  • Group training environments
  • Learning how to race by putting yourself on the startline
  • Top tips for age-group athletes

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03:40 -

  • My name is Blair Cartmel, I am 35 years old and originally from Scotland.

    I have been involved in triathlon for quite some time, both as an athlete but mostly as a coach.

    As part of my coaching career, I have coached the Scottish triathlon team, at several Universities as well as privately.

    Mostly I am coaching triathletes active on the ITU circuit but I do coach some long and middle distance athletes as well.

    Currently I am coaching George Goodwin who had a breakthrough performance at Challenge Daytona last year where he placed third.

Coaching philosophy

08:15 -

  • I try and keep things as simple as possible and make sure to do the basics as good as possible.
  • I am not extremely obsessed with data, generally I am quite a ”feel based coach”.
  • Otherwise I do implement a quite polarized approach to training, prescribing plenty of volume in order to develop the aerobic system.

Long-term consistency

15:00 -

  • When dealing with young athletes (which I have dealt with quite much over the years), it is very important to educate them on the process, like for instance stay off (hard) training if the they have a day where they feel a little bit under the weather.
  • When it comes to periodization, I am not a big fan of doing two to three weeks hard and then one easy week.

    I rather see a more spread out distribution of the training over the weeks.

    Also, in many cases I let the athletes themselves decide what type of periodization they prefer in order to stay focused and motivated in the lon run.
  • Another aspect of ensuring consistency in the long run is to make sure to very rarely completely empty the tank during training sessions, I rather extend the time spent at a certain intensity instead of raising intensity (I use to say to my athletes that it for instance is more important to be able to run 5k @ 15:00 instad of being able to do 5x1k @ 2:50).

Squad training vs training alone

33:25 -

  • When you have a good squad, that is a very inspiring environment and can be massively beneficial.

    I have seen plenty of athletes developed very much from being in a very good and competitive squad.

    However, the down side of it can be that many athletes may push too hard on occasions when they are not supposed to only because others in the group are.

Biggest coaching influences

43:20 -

  • Darren Smith was the first person who coached me and he has inspired me massively over the years.

    For instance, he had a very minimalistic approach, advocating simplicity.

    Also, he did like video feedback, which is something that I have implemented myself to a very large extent.

Reflecting over my own coaching career

52:15 -

  • In my early years, I tended to ”sweat too much over small stuff”, which I have learnt not to do over the years.

    This is also something that many (especially high performing) athletes tend to do, which often doesn’t lead to anything positive.
  • Nowadays, I also try and really enjoy the journey and don’t get too obsessed with the performance aspects, it is a very fun job and I try and be more and more present with that.

Top three advice to age groupers

56:25 -

  • Only because there is a session put in on TP, it doesn’t have to be done (especially not exactly as it was prescribed).
  • Don’t be a slave to numbers and make sure to make decisions that you feel good about.
  • Enjoy the journey!

Rapid fire questions

01:01:20 -

  • What is your favorite book, blog or resource related to endurance sports? Right now I like the Twitter page of ”La Flam Route”.
  • What is your favorite piece of gear or equipment? My mountainbike and my (one person) lightweight tent!
  • What is a personal habit that has helped you achieve success? Being reliable and consistent.


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.

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