We had the chance to interview Pro-Triathlon-Coach Utz Brenner during our training camp on Fuerteventura.
Sebastian: Utz, you have worked for IBM in your “previous life” (if I may say so). How important was doing sports for you at that time? What were the triggers for a change to become a pro-coach?
Utz: Sport has always been an important part of my life. I begin doing triathlon due to a bet 25 years ago.
The trigger to leave the IBM was simply that I was no longer 100% enthusiastically about it and wanted to face new challenges. I grew into the task of being a trainer. But it always gave me great pleasure to work with people.
Sebastian: Many people follow standardized training plans and are eager to achieve results that are supposed to be achieved by following such a plan. You focus on the individual (as an athlete) and his/her uniqueness (steps4). That requires a high amount of empathy and the willingness to try out new things (and it’s surely time-intensive as a coach). What drives you? How do you know that you’ve made the right decision to be a coach?
Utz: My impression is that there are very good standardized plans. Furthermore, it is important to me that every coach follows his conviction and when looking around, they reach great results with it. It is my belief, that every athlete is an individual and needs different training contents and speeches. A trusted exchange between athlete and coach is the decisive factor for me. On this basis, with good feedback from the athlete, with concentrated, structured work and a motivating goal, sustainable success will be reached. What should not be forgotten is that I learn every single day from my athletes and in dialogues with other coaches.
Sebastian: On the one hand, you use this style of coaching tailored to the athlete and his / her situation and on the other hand you play out your analytical strengths for your athletes. From day to day, using collected data, you tailor training plans and build up people to achieve their goals. Is that the future of coaching? Or, what do you wish for to improve your style of coaching?
Utz: Yes, I’m a big fan of mathematics – I really appreciate working with these facts. My primary concern is the personal feedback of my athletes. For example, I learned much by Daniela Sämmler. The numbers of power meters on the bike or the technical data while running, they alone don’t make an athlete any faster. But to interpret them correctly and to develop them further in the joint dialogue with the athlete, that’s what makes an athlete faster. Yes, I believe the development will continue and the athletes will have extra expectations towards us trainers.
My wish certainly is that data will become even more available and possibly be send in “real-time” e.g. during a race.
Sebastian: In order to complete your integrated approach, you also work in the area of bike fitting and place your customers / athletes correctly on their bikes. How often do you do this with your athletes during a season? Which parameters do you check? How do you test different equipment?
Utz: We have to distinguish in this case, with a professional, 30 seconds can decide whether he or she gets on the podium of a race or not. That is why you are permanently working on the bike fit. For the different distances, different positions are defined. These are constantly being checked with new equipment and new training impressions / tests and corrected if necessary. The main parameters are the knee-, hip- and arm angle and beyond that also that the power arrives directly at the pedal.
Sebastian: You have once again registered for a long distance this year. That means, to prepare yourself, you have to train yourself a little bit, too. From an aerodynamic perspective, the bike and the cyclist are an overall system. As what kind of animal would you describe yourself? (And why)? And, which other animal would you watch to get aerodynamic tips?
Utz: If we look at the adaptation in nature, I would take a look towards the sea. I think of a real favorite, but for my own personal “safety” I prefer not to tell ;-). From an aerodynamic perspective, I would choose a position that has good aerodynamic values but is also comfortable enough that I will be able to run a good marathon.
Otherwise, I will race the long distance with good friends and with the goal to healthy reach the finish line and eat a second later 😉
Sebastian: Last question: I want to ask you as someone who is going to compete in his first long distance this year and is just starting to build up a knowledge base: which aerodynamic tip can you as a professional give me? (Maybe something I can try myself)
Utz: There are some. First, as mentioned above, I would pay attention to comfort for a long distance. On this basis, I would work out the optimum overall package with e.g. helmet. For the bike, I would make sure that you use aerodynamic wheels with the fastest tires (nearly new), that you’ve got a flat frame bottle with you and at the front a flat aerodynamic bottle. Then put all brake and shift cables inwards. Next, clean the bike constantly and use the best lubricants.