Professional Kiwi Triathlete Tony Dodds: Triathlons are a mental sport

New Zealander Tony Dodds, 29, is a fast-up-and-coming player in the international triathlon scene.

Started as a national swimmer

Triathlete Tony Dodds is fast making waves in the international triathlon scene.

Having made the switch from a national swimmer to a triathlete in 2005, Tony has quickly moved to the top, winning the New Zealand Under-23 triathlon championships three times, as well as winning the New Zealand Sprint Championships in both 2010 and 2011.

He has also achieved a number of top placings on the international stage, and has also represented New Zealand at the recent 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

Explained Tony, “I got started as a swimmer. I swum for about five years competitively. And after watching the triathlon at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, I realised that it was a sport that I really wanted to do – but I hated swimming. Then I won my first triathlon and I thought it was cool because I don’t have to spend all my time looking at the black line at the bottom of the pool.”

He added, “And then I kept on going from there. I loved the outdoors. I loved biking and running, but the biggest thing that continues to keep me in triathlon is trying to find out how far I can push myself – the Brownlee brothers are the best in the world because they can push themselves to the absolute limit.”

Triathlons are a “puzzle”

What makes Tony continue to do triathlons, is the “puzzle” of how to be good at swimming, cycling and running – all at the same time. He said, “Swimming, cycling and running are all very different sports; I have no idea who thought of trying to put these three together and at the start when I first did it, it was crazy!”

Continued Tony, “But the biggest thing that attracts me, is that you have to be good enough at swimming in a pool to be able to float, and then be skinny and powerful enough to run, and be strong enough to bike, all at the same time. It is not about being good at one and bad at the other. You have to be smart about it, and that’s what I like.”

Tony, left, came from a swimming background.

A Very Mental Sport

At the same time, Tony sees triathlon as a very mental sport. He said, “Triathlon is definitely very mental. When I went to the Olympics last year, everyone has the same level of fitness but the person that is the most mentally capable and gets his strategy correct on race day will win the race.”

Continued Tony, “Going through each day, not knowing if you are going to be paid, and trying to get to your next race, are some of the biggest challenges of doing triathlon professionally. Anyone can simply train day in and day out, but the mental capacity of doing it in a stressful environment is something else altogether.”

The process of racing

Tony’s most memorable triathlon races throughout his career, he admits, have more to do with the process of racing rather than his race performances itself.

Explained Tony, “There were a couple of races I did very well. I was running with (Javier) Gomez (Spanish triathlete) and the Brownlee brothers (Alastair & Jonny from the United Kingdom) at the front and getting the pace right.”

That had been at the ITU (International Triathlon Union) World Triathlon event in London, 2015.

Group photo with Tony.

Added Tony, “I did that because at that time, they did not really know who I was and they did not know how they were feeling or how hard they were pushing too. So I went out. You have to risk it to get the ‘biscuit!’”

Favourite aspect of triathlons 

What is his favourite aspect of triathlons? Said Tony, “Ooh I love the transitions! I don’t know why but it makes you feel so different. You are using your arms from swimming and suddenly you get on the bike and all the blood is going from your arms to your legs. Then your legs are like, what the hell are you doing to me?”

Added Tony, “And then you get off the bike and your legs feel like jelly. Your legs have a mind of their own and they are thinking, what are you doing to me? Make up your mind. Do you want to swim, or bike, or run? It’s such a weird feeling! And sometimes we laugh about it.”

His Training Regime

Tony swims about 15km a week to train for a triathlon.

With regards to his own training regime, Tony trains for about four to five hours per day, in order to complete at triathlon’s top level. He said, “I do about 1 1/2 hours of swimming followed by about 5-6km of running, then I go home and have a big breakfast.”

He then spends some of his time doing admin emails, and then does about an hour of running drills and exercises. Added Tony, “Then I go back and have another big feed, and I nap in the afternoon because rest is very important. Then I do another session at 5pm. So I do three sessions a day. But to me, being able to eat and rest is the most important part of training because that is the time when you are able to recover and get the benefits of the training session.”

Weekly, Tony’s total mileage is about 15km of swimming, 300km of biking and 80km of running. He said, “It is probably not much for a professional athlete, but that’s because I try and do more specific stuff. Numbers are just numbers and people tend to get caught up in them. This is probably about half of what the Brownlee brothers do.”

Tony today can easily run 10km within 30 minutes off the bike, and swims 1,500m in a speedy 17 minutes.

Does not procrastinate 

But he also admitted that like any normal human being though, there are times when he simply doesn’t feel like training. Said Tony, “Everyday, I feel like that. There is always one session a day when you simply do not feel like it. But what makes me a great professional athlete is that I make myself get up, because I know that someone in Germany or France is going to be doing it. My competitors will train, and if they do it but I don’t, they have got one edge up over me.”

He added, “And during Christmas Day and New Year’s Day too, I got out of the house and trained my ass off – and do you know why? Because I knew that nobody else would be doing it – and so I wanted to get one up over my competitors.”

But for the average athlete out there who is tempted to push the snooze button, Tony stresses that it is important to think about your goals. He said, “I never try and push the snooze button because it mean I am procrastinating.”

Tony urges athletes to think about your goals and why you are doing triathlons.

He added, “But when you are tempted to sleep in, you have to realise what your goal is. And why you are training? What will help you that day? Is sleeping going to help, or will going for training be more beneficial? Are you really that stuffed and exhausted that you need to sleep in? Know what is the best for you.”

His Diet

And does he have a specific diet to stay in tip-top condition? Said Tony, “I take lots of carbs and proteins, as well as protein shakes with milk. I also have dairy and bananas, fruits and vegetables.”

Continued Tony, “But when it comes to eating though, I believe that it is more about the timing of the eating, rather than simply eating well. We try and get in food within 30minutes of a training session or race because that is when the body needs the nutrients the most. But we don’t eat crappy foods like white bread and jam; we stick to whole foods such as wholegrain carbs.”

A triathlon journey that is all worth it

Athletes put themselves through sacrifices and challenges to train for a triathlon, but to Tony, it’s all worth it.

Nevertheless despite the challenges and sacrifices of pursuing sport at the top level, Tony views his triathlon career as a journey that is completely worth it. He said, “Enjoy the journey. You may have a goal in mind and set out to train for a race, but once you complete that race, you think you will leave it at that.”

He added, “But then you think about it, that it was an amazing journey, along the way I have met so many people and had so much fun times and I am really enjoying myself and I am fit and healthy at the same time.”

Click here to read about our training session with Tony.

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