I’m in Hawaii, and the countdown to Kona is getting down to hours now. The training is done and dusted and now my sole focus is on the big race. In this situation, you may wonder – what does an elite athlete actually do? Talk high-level strategy with my coach? Do advanced yogic stretches whilst eating goji berries in an oxygen tent? Nah! The answer is… go back to the basics. When the pressure is on, the best thing to do in almost every case, is to focus on the basics – the simple stuff that forms a foundation for everything we do.
Talking strength and conditioning with Kriss Hendy
I’m fortunate to have an incredible team supporting me. Last week my coach, Dan Plews, shared some wise advice about the secret to reaching your goals – whether they’re training goals, performance goals or life goals. This week, I’ve asked my strength and conditioning coach, Kriss Hendy, to talk about what he thinks are the most important aspects of strength and conditioning.
In this interview he talks about the importance of going back to the basics and getting them right, glute activation and how to have a long and successful sporting career. Once again, my manager, Shawn Smith, asks the questions. It’s good stuff and I’ve highlighted some of the points that I think are really key.
Kriss has played a big part in getting me ready on the Road to Kona. I think you’ll find his input valuable as you head towards your own big race. Enjoy!
The view from the top
Shawn: Kriss, how are things in Byron Bay?
Kriss: I’m sitting in my office and looking out over Byron Bay and the countryside.
Shawn: I’m sitting in my office looking out over concrete and buildings. Sounds like you’re doing it tough! Let’s talk Tim Berkel and strength and conditioning. You’ve known Berks for quite a while, but like Dan Plews, you’ve really come on board later in his preparation for the World Champs in Kona. Have there been major changes to Tim’s strength and conditioning work since you’ve been working together?
Kriss: You can’t change too much or you’ll just disrupt things, especially at this stage of Tim’s preparation. But Tim’s attitude towards training has always been great. I mean, he’s a soldier – you tell him to do something and he does it! With Tim, it hasn’t been about making major changes, it’s just been refining things with him. It’s about being an ear for him. I’ll listen and then make a few suggestions.
Back to the fundamentals
Shawn: Given that Tim’s had some back and hip issues in the past – how did you approach those things and try to alleviate the problems?
Kriss: I was lucky enough to have watched Tim train for quite a while before we really started working together. With Tim, it’s just the small stuff. In terms of approaching the issues, you start off by watching how he moves, how he trains, especially in the gym. You put him under load, start adding some weight and see how he reacts to that. And then it’s about tweaking things. As you get to know each other and interact, the better you get to know him, the more you understand what his issues are.
Shawn: The back and hip stuff was the problem though?
Kriss: Tim came to me with some lower back issues and so it was glaringly obvious that we needed to address those things. We did that and since then he hasn’t had much trouble with them at all. But the key was working on the fundamentals – doing them well and being consistent. The main thing Tim and I have talked about since then is making sure he’s maintaining it – working on those fundamentals two or three times a week. Moving forward we’ll look at developing his strength further.
Shawn: Were there other things that needed to be addressed, apart from the issues that he came to you with?
Kriss: There was a lack of glute activation, especially when he was running. That’s not an unusual issue for triathletes at any level. With Tim, under load you could also start to see a bit of muscular imbalance. Again, it’s not unusual to find discrepancies there, even in an athlete as strong and able as Berks. We look to strengthen those weak muscle groups, not to the extreme, but we regularly target those muscle groups – the glutes and hamstrings.
How to pump up the power
Shawn: How much of a difference can that make performance-wise?
Kriss: The thing that stands out to me is that you have someone like Berks, with all he’s already able to do and yet his body’s still not firing on all cylinders. If he was able to tap into all that potential – by activating, by balancing – there’s no end to how much more power he could generate.
Cyclists are always looking for that extra wattage, that extra power, that 1-3 watts. Back in the gym, doing that simple stuff, those fundamentals – doing them right, doing them well and doing them regularly… Let me just say… there’s no end to what you can achieve just by doing those fundamentals right.
With Tim, now he looks so much stronger on the run. He’s more upright, he looks more solid and I think it comes back to those simple movements in the gym.
Final Kona preparation
Shawn: So, from your perspective, what should the last few days before Kona look like for Tim?
Kriss: For Berks, the work is done. I was watching him at the Sunshine Coast 70.3 and I thought, “He’s a different animal now.” Since Boulder he’s gone from strength to strength. To look at him physiologically… he’s a specimen right now! Leading up to Kona now, it’s just about doing some basic activation work – making sure he’s got mobility and flexibility, so he feels physically good on the start line. Sound body, sound mind – that’s what we’re looking for going into Kona.
Solid advice for a long career
Shawn: Anything else you want to say to the many triathletes of all levels who will read this?
Kriss: Strength and conditioning is background – it’s about trying to build a strong base. It’s about routine and being consistent. You talk about longevity within a sport. Sure, Tim’s peaking towards Kona, there’s no doubt about that, but we’re also thinking next year, the year after. He’s got years left in his career and the question is – what will they look like?
For all of us, the reality is that our bodies do break down, they are breaking down as we get older. So, it’s important to get into the right routine now and maintain that routine, so we’re staying on an even keel and progressing year in and year out. Get the fundamentals right, do them consistently and not only will you develop balance and power, but you’ll have longevity as well.
Thanks to Kriss for some great input and to Shawn for asking the questions. Two final comments from me…
Firstly, I’ve been doing this stuff for a long time now and worked with all sorts of fitness trainers and conditioning coaches. The fitness and personal training industry has exploded and it seems everyone wants a personal trainer. There are some great people out there, but there are also some dodgy trainers as well.
When it comes to finding a trainer or a strength and conditioning coach, obviously you want to find someone who has the qualifications, but it’s also important to find someone, like Kriss, who listens – someone who will take the time to watch what you do and get to know you. You need someone you can respect and who understands what you’re trying to achieve.
Secondly, when you’re trying to sort out problems – whether it’s physical or training-related, with most issues the solution will begin by going back to the basics. As Kriss said, if you’re not moving right to begin with, that’s going to translate into power issues and more importantly, body issues. The thing I’ve learned from my own experience is – get the fundamentals right and there’s no limit to the results that you can produce.
Get back to basics and go hard!
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