Training With Tony Dodds, a professional Kiwi triathlete

Tony Dodds, 29, is fast making waves in the international triathlon scene.

Born in Wanaka, a resort town in New Zealand’s South Island, Tony became a professional triathlete in 2005 and since then, he has quickly made his way to the top, winning the New Zealand Under-23 Champion on three occasions, as well as emerging victorious in the New Zealand Sprint Championships in 2010 and 2011. He has also represented New Zealand in the recent 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio De Janerio, Brazil.

We had the chance to meet Tony Dodds.

Tony had been in Singapore to conduct training sessions for Coached

Recently Tony had been in Singapore, where he had helped to conduct a couple of training sessions for Coached, a boutique fitness company led by a former Kiwi triathlete, Ben Pulham.

Tony and Ben had first met each other when they had been both in the professional triathlon circuit – Ben had been in the twilight of his career and Tony had been just starting out with his.

I had been introduced to Tony at Coached’s Botanic Gardens Strength Training session last Tuesday. This had been Tony’s first-ever visit to Singapore.

Quipped Tony, on the Singapore weather, “Singapore is such an eye opener! The humidity is a killer. So I don’t know how you guys train here. But Singapore is a great place, it’s very busy and different from New Zealand. I like to find out how you all train around this, but meeting up at a place like this (Botanic Gardens) is great ‘cause it motivates each one of you to come and do it.”

Observing how we had trained and shared tips

Coached’s Ben Pulham and Tony.

At the Tuesday session, Tony was observing how we were training, giving us a few tips and pointers along the way. Occasionally, he would for example, tell runners to lift their chin up or to correct their running form in other ways.

As well, he would also encourage runners by saying ‘good’ or ‘well done’ as we had been completing the prescribed hill loops.

Then after the session Tony took some questions about training tips and strategies. He shared a range of tips with the runners and triathletes present, from breathing strategies, to swimming and running effectively.

In order to run well, the way that you lean forward when you are running is important. Tony said, “Lean forward when going uphill because that gets the momentum that you need. Lean from the ankles and not the hips too. Fall into your stride and let the momentum roll through the hips.”

And when you are swimming in water with low visibility, which is often the case in triathlon races in Singapore, Tony suggests following people. He said, “We look for white water and follow the feet of the person swimming in front of you. Keep tapping their feet so that you know they are there. Also practise sighting by keeping your head up and watching where you are going; it takes time and experience though.”

Tony also shared some tips for the triathlon swim.

Added Tony, “But if there are swimmers who are of a similar level around you, then you can also do drafting. (Drafting is a common tactic in professional triathlon racing and it means that you are swimming very close to the person in front of you and using their momentum and energy to propel you forward). I find that it benefits me and my swimming times can improve by a about 20 per cent.”

Tony also shared with us, the importance of race execution and having a strong mind. He said, “Practising good race execution and building the effort through the race, helps. It is one thing to have good fitness levels too, but if you are not strong mentally, that will go against you. The Brownlee brothers are willing to push themselves until they literally black out; that is why they are so good.”

And to Tony, training and racing consistently are the key to doing well at triathlon. He said, “If you really want to make it in triathlon, be consistent. You need to come up with a plan and stick to it, rather than train at the last minute. Consistently and persistence pays off all the time and a hardworking athlete will always be a talented athlete.”

Train and race consistently if you want to do well at triathlon.

Tony also shared with Coached members that his training is very heart-rate based. He said, “I put a tape over my watch so that I cannot see anything but my heart rate. Of course there is some training at race pace but there is a time and a place for that. I do not go into my hard zone unless I really have to.”

Tony also took charge of a functional drills set

We met up with Tony again at the Kallang Practice Track two days later, and Coach Ben had put him in charge of a functional drills cum Speed Run session. Tony then brought us through a series of drills, some of which were similar to what Ben Pulham goes through with Coached, such as the High Knees and the A-Skip drills.

But others had been rather different, for example, Tony took us down to the field and slowly transformed the ‘fast feet’ drill, which we usually do with Coach Ben, from a mere drill, into accelerating with an efficient running stride. This had been quite eye-opening.

(See the video for more insights).

Tony incorporates such running drills into his own training sessions, on a regular basis. This is because to Tony, doing such drills on a regular basis are important in terms of training an athlete’s core strength and conditioning, and at the same time to reduce the chances of injuries.

I had thought that his sharing had been quite interesting and enlightening, and I wonder whether these drills would be incorporated into our regular Coached training sessions.

The track session then ended with Tony instructing us to use the running drills and form that we had just learnt, and run round the 400m track at our race pace. And he corrected any runner who may have lapsed into an incorrect running form, before eventually calling it a day – to everyone’s relief.

Click here for my interview with Tony.

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