Kiwi Tony Dodds has been a professional triathlete for 12-years.
He represented New Zealand at one Olympic Games, two Commonwealth Games and at his best was ranked in the top 15 in the world.
Not bad for a quiet farm boy from Wanaka.
Fresh off his retirement from life as a professional triathlete, we asked Tony what were the 5 most important lessons he wishes he’d known as a young man embarking on a career in one of the worlds toughest sports.
Here’s what he had to say.
1. Tony Dodd’s Is A Brand
While this is not something most of us give much thought to, we each are our own brand. The clothes we wear, our hairstyle, actions and many more little things present us to our peers, coworkers and the world.
How we’re perceived is often based on these daily choices we make.
When I was starting out, I didn’t understand marketing and I certainly didn’t know that Tony Dodd’s was a brand that needed building.
As my career developed, I began to see the importance of ‘the brand’ as it impacted my ability to earn a living, especially via sponsorships.
This side of my job – sponsorships, giving-back, talks etc – easily took up as much time as the training. I wish I had known this so I could have planned my branding as well as my training.
2. A Balanced Life Is Important
As a professional athlete, I lived a very selfish existence. Training has to come first and by doing that I would sometimes push away friends, activities and hobbies that are vital for happiness and balance in life.
Looking back, I wish hadn’t taken myself so seriously. Yes, triathlon was my job and yes, I had to make enough money to support myself, but triathlon – at the highest level – has a shelf life. Friends, family and hobbies don’t and need attention too.
3. You Are What You Eat
I was 17 when I started Triathlon. I trained so hard but often forgot about nutrition, recovery. I thought that if I just trained hard, I would reap the benefits but there’s more to the equation than that.
As I got older and performance increases became harder to come by, I began to play with nutrition.
I significantly changed my diet and moved away from a high-carb processed diet to a wholefoods based approach, eating at the right times around training and cutting sugar out.
I became a much better all-around athlete as a result.
Not only did I become a better athlete, I became a healthier and more energised person.
4. Specificity Of Training Is Important
While triathlon is made up of swimming, cycling and running, triathlon is still one sport.
When I started, I was swimming like a swimmer, cycling like a cyclist and running like a runner thinking that that is how I would succeed.
Unfortunately, that is not how you prepare for a triathlon, where balancing the various training stresses and learning the unique transitional (swim to bike, bike to run) skills are important.
5. Hills Are Speedwork In Disguise
As Ben mentioned in his last post, hills are speedwork in disguise. Triathlon is very much a strength sport and it’s usually the strongest (not fastest) athlete who wins.
If you don’t want to go to the gym, or you simply don’t have the time, do hill training!
A large majority of my time in later years was spent training on hills, in the mountains and aiming to achieve as much elevation gain as possible.
Speed can only get you so far, but strength training will take you home!
I hope you enjoyed these great lessons from an accomplished athlete.
If you’d like to work with Tony, please sign up for a free trial of our programme.
Tony has a deep understanding of what it takes to perform at the highest level and is passionate about helping our athletes get the best of themselves.