The Well-Built Triathlete

The Well-Built Triathlete: Turning Potential into Performance by Matt Dixon. A book review by Doug Morris

Three pages into his book, triathlon coach and former pro athlete Matt Dixon sets a great foundation with his four principles for strong performance: consistency, specificity, progression, and patience. He builds on this foundation with real life examples of successful pros, elite triathletes, and even his own experiences as an elite swimmer. In one of many “Aha!” moments, he explains how one triathlete focused exclusively on motivation and work ethic (to the exclusion of planning and structure), leading to “an accumulation of fatigue and a path of failure.”

To reach self-awareness, Matt recommends balancing of sleep, performance and nutrition, and an awareness of accumulated fatigue. He introduces with an overview and then proceeds to specifics on flexibility for workouts, rest, diet, weight, recovery, race preparedness, and more.

The book includes how to effectively taper, though Matt states that he does not believe in it and provides examples to support his position. As a counterpoint to tapering, he believes that increasing workload, by itself, “provides no emotional or physical benefit or validation.” Without changes, triathletes cannot adapt and progress. “If…training success is built around a simple accumulation of hours, you cannot be maximizing your performance potential.”

Matt addresses many aspects of elite athletes’ mindsets. He strongly promotes the concept of triathlon being a single sport (swim-bike-run), not a combination of three different sports. He provides varied workout examples, and chides triathletes if they do not prepare properly for races by learning how to clean, assemble and maintain their bikes.

The content is high in both quantity and quality for pros and serious age groupers who seek improvement. It will be particularly helpful to those who feel undertrained or insecure about race readiness. Note that some of the “facts” presented are accumulations of anecdotes and examples gleaned from coaching experience rather than from publications in academic journals. Also, the timeframe for great improvements is a multi-year commitment that may not realistic for many people.

Matt encourages triathletes to gain self-awareness about nutrition, rest, and race day readiness, and to actively “think on the process, not outcome.” Matt instructs readers to compare the characteristics of successful triathletes to successful people in a mix of professions, and appropriately points out the similarities. Creating self-awareness within the realm of triathlon will definitely boost your odds of being successful in other aspects of life.

The Well-Built Triathlete: Turning Potential into Performance by Matt Dixon is published by Velopress and sells for $24.95. The foreword is written by Meredith Kessler, who is coached by the author.