I had a fantastic opportunity to sit down for a chat with Michael Lyons and he gladly shared his values for coaching and strategies for triathletes as well as athletes in general.
Michael Lyons wears many hats, from coaching to working as a sports commentator and brand owner of compression recovery boots called Sports Recovery Systems. The compression boots is used by athletes and patients who might be recovering from illnesses. He came to Asia over 20 years ago and have been coaching triathletes and endurance athletics ever since.
Growing up in New Zealand, outdoor activities was very much part of everyday life. Recess and lunchtime would involve playing sports before getting back to class. The availability of various sports meant that Michael was exposed to cross country running, golf, rugby etc. However, it was triathlons that became his sport for life after rugby.
Michael was fortunate that early in his childhood, he met great coaches along the way which taught him valuable lessons that he still holds onto today. One of these coaches was his school PE teacher. His PE teacher was known to be strict and tough on the students, many of them fear him. One of these values came about when there was a school cross country race with a cut off time of 25 minutes. Michael did not make the cut off time. The PE teacher made him and those who didn’t redo the race on the same day and they made it. This taught him a valuable lesson in life, upholding high standards for others to attain, to which he is grateful for.
His PE teacher also set Michael on a career path without realising when he chose Michael to represent the school in a walking race as another student was injured. While he did not do well in this competition, the event led him to meet legendary coach Arthur Lydiard. Arthur Lydiard was revolutionary in his coaching and this chance meeting made such a strong impression on young Michael that it set him on the course of coaching later on in his life.
Arthur Lydiard said to Michael:” Do something everyday.” That…is still with Michael until today.
Michael studied Arthur’s competitive philosophies and the formula of 87% strength endurance,9% threshold,4% VO2 max. He found that it to work well for triathletes. While Arthur Lydiard found the sweet spot of 160km for runners a week. Michael says the distance is not for all individuals and not for those living in Singapore running outdoors. The humidity in Singapore does not allow the body to cool down unlike in temperate climates.
Michael focuses on strength endurance training with his athletes:
Runners: Run on off-road terrains with elevation like MacRitchie Reservoir. For those who can’t run, brisk walking on such terrain has more benefits than flat grounds.
Bikers: On a bike, ride on a bigger gear up a long hill or on a resistance bike to overlay strength training for cycling.
Swimmers: use paddles or wear a cotton t-shirt to for resistance.
While most athletes seek coaches for better performance in the form of timing, Michael encourages athletes to look into other aspects as well. He believes the individual should look at their body type and body age instead of chronological age, have realistic expectations with a longer time line and a focus on fitness for life. The average improvement for athletes following the program for 6 months is 25 minutes over a half iron man distance.
The Expectations of Improvements in Different Athletes
-Beginner athletes getting started after a long hiatus of post-surgery. Start with time instead of distance. Jog walk or brisk walk for 15 minutes instead of looking at distance covered. Keep goals achievable with the mindset of wanting to do more the next day.
-Athletes who have not been working out as much prior and start a program will see significant improvements within 3 to 6 months. Thereafter, improvements will be marginal gains. The
-Athletes post injury and those who have plateaued will need to approach training as investments for future gains instead of focusing on immediate improvements.
-Those that have plateaued are advised to train slower. Most people are training too fast. Training slower puts their strength endurance in a better place, the foundation threshold for VO2.
“Respect the Distance of Races”
|Sprint Distance||6-8 hours a week|
|Standard/Olympic Distance||8-12 hours a week|
|70.3||12-15 hours a week|
|Podium Finishers||12-20 hours a week|
|Full Iron Man Distance||16-24 hours a week|
These are average hours require for training to be used as a guide. The worst thing an athlete can do is to overstretch.
Michael’s main pointers:
1) Correct bio-mechanical imbalances.
2) Work on longer time frames for goals, 18 months to 2.5 years instead of weeks, for longevity.
3) Check in on recovery. Sleep before midnight, use active compression that enhances blood flow on tired muscles and elevate.
4) Look closely at diet, mental state, transition timing etc for marginal gains.
5) During Ramadan or fasting, work on swim technique, run drills, strength and conditioning work indoors without a huge drain on hydration. This becomes a healthy approach to having an off-season as there are so many races in Asia, there isn’t any off-season.
6) Encourage cross-training for athletes who are runners to swimming and biking, vice versa during their off season.
The key for triathletes is to balance all aspects of the sports. It would be difficult to be great in all three movements.
Michael hopes that through their community, the athletes they work with will keep the coaching values alive by being leaders in their own community and lend a helping hand to those in need, and being inclusive working with different nationalities.
The other difficult aspect as a coach is getting athletes to accept that as they get older, they may not get faster. The mental shift needs to be made from attaining peak performance to allowing the sport to enhance the quality of life and keep fit for as long as you can.
Find Michael Lyons here: