Leeds, triathlon mecca? The method of the Brownlee brothers

Before the arrival of the Brownlees, no one knew Leeds for developing elite triathletes. With their domination on the ITU circuit, the Brownlees gave visibility to the Leeds Triathlon Center. It has subsequently developed and hosted several athletes being able to compete with the best in the world. How did Malcolm Brown, Jack Maitland and British Tri manage to create such a successful structure in achieving athletic excellenceHere is a brief explanation from Malcolm Brown:

Leadership and coaching 

The coaches that are at the origin of the Center have experience and know what it takes to want to reach the highest levels of performance. They made mistakes that allowed them to learn a lot in the past.

In the case of Leeds, there are two coaches as mentioned earlier. Malcolm Brown points out that to work together, they must have the same beliefs and values in sport and not have a lot of ego in order to let their athletes shine.

He mentions the importance of empowering athletes to make their own decisions and be independent, since this seems to be the culture of the triathlon, a sport where it is often necessary to make important decisions in competitive situations during races. It should not be forgotten thatat this level, some athletes will need more coaching than others.

The coaches encourage athletes to continue their education.

Coaches must be curious and learn more about what it takes to be a coach, independently of the level they are at.

Have experience in a sport related to triathlon.

An open philosophy allows different groups from the Center to train together and prevent an « overheated » atmosphere from establishing itself in the high-performance group.

Environment: structure 

The structure was built over several years; it is a relatively long process.

Few technologies and low expenses: They regularly ask themselves what is essential to the athlete based on his or her level.

They provide the missing elements as and when they are needed. For example, physio, nutritionist, physical trainer etc.

Environment: Culture 

The culture is not based on titles won; it is rather based on merit. Athletes must earn the right to go to competitions / training camps abroad or obtain additional services.

Group training is essential.

Dont forget that you must love what you do.

Young athletes should learn from older and more experienced onesThe older athletes have a lot of experience to share and maturity to convey.

Leeds is cold, hilly and it rains regularly. In a way, it has to build character. The grass is not greener elsewhere, it is different.

Brown does not believe that the transition from junior / U23 / Senior must be long. If you do not make an impact quickly among seniors, you will never succeed. Starting from the age of 19-20 years you have to do large volumes of training and hard work (it’s even more so among men).

The support team has world-class expertise, experience, and is ready to commit long term. Members attach importance to smaller tasks (washing, transporting bags etc). They go above and beyond the call of duty.

Training: the Brownlee model

The plan was established based on a development period of 8 years which would eventually lead them to the 2012 London Olympics.

They had a clear vision of where they wanted to go as well as on the technical model /performance benchmarks (run 10k in 28min00sec800m in 1min56sec and 200m in 26sec.).

They had a clear vision of the training methods to get there.

They evaluated their athletes.

They evaluated what it took to be the best in the competition.

They set priorities according to their ages and levels.

Alistair had a nice progression to 10k « off the bike« in particular between 19 and 21 years oldduring which he cut 2min.

Approximately 50% of training hours were attributed to cycling, about 25% to running and 25% to swimming. They do a lot of easy / steady work or, in other words, at low intensity. High intensity workouts averaged only 5 sessions per week for all three sports combined (however this depends on the time of year).

Here’s what a typical week looks like:


Here is the video of Malcolm Brown explains all this in more detail:

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