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Tough Training – Ten Reasons Why Training has to be Tougher than Competition









Finding competing hard?

Think racing is too challenging?

Struggling to perform when and where it really matters?

Guess what?

You’re not training tough enough.

Here’s Ten Reasons Why your Training has to be Tougher than the Competition you are preparing for.

Reason 1: The unexpected happens.

The nature of competition is that the unexpected will happen.

A great competitor will expect the unexpected, have anticipated how to manage it effectively, know how to overcome it completely and have planned and prepared to deal with whatever challenge comes along. If your training program only deals with what can reasonably be expected – what statistically is most likely to occur, you may be competitive but you will rarely win.

Winners expect to win regardless of what happens on the field of battle. Not only that, but they train to be the unexpected: to be the competitor who does things that no one thought possible and in doing so give themselves a clear winning advantage.

Reason 2: Confidence counts.

Nothing, that is nothing, gives an athlete confidence like knowing with absolute certainty that they have consistently out-prepared everyone they will face in their targeted competition. You can talk it up. You can tell them how great they look in the gym. You can try to convince them they have improved and that they are ready for anything but for the most part the only person getting motivated from your motivation talks is you.

Athletes need evidence – real evidence that they can be successful and the only currency they will bank on is knowing that their preparation has been uncompromisingly perfect in every detail.

Reason 3: The emotional aspects of competing.

If competition was only about being physically ready, then coaching would be easy. But it’s not. The emotional aspects of competition are what determines success or failure. In professional sport and among the serious competitors in the Olympic sports, physical preparation techniques and training methods are remarkably similar the world over.

The real competitive advantage comes when athletes can maintain composure, control and calm during competition and do their “job” regardless of the situation. And the capacity to do this in competition comes from practicing to do this in training.

Reason 4: T.U.F.

All sports have a strong technical aspect. But being able to execute good technique at training is not enough.

Winning in competition means performing with technical excellence under fatigue, under pressure, at high speeds and doing it repeatedly. If you have only practiced executing the technical elements of your sport when fresh – typically during the first 25% of your training session – then you are not practicing to execute the skills of your sport under competition conditions.

T.U.F. Training – Technique Under Fatigue – means practicing technique and skills at training in conditions and circumstances which simulate and even exceed the demands of competition. Try the TUF training checklist:

  • Can the athlete execute the skill accurately and proficiently?
  • Can they maintain technical proficiency at high speeds?
  • Can they maintain technical proficiency at high speeds when they are fatigued?
  • Can they maintain technical proficiency at high speeds when they are fatigued and under pressure?
  • Can they maintain technical proficiency at high speeds when they are fatigued and under pressure….consistently?

Reason 5: It’s never about the minimum.

Winning in competition is never about doing the minimum. That’s what the couch, a bag of potato chips and a six pack of beer is for. You want to give the minimum standard, forget winning.

Your game goes for 90 minutes, prepare to compete at competition intensity levels for 100, 120 or 150 minutes.

Need to run 5 kilometres in competition at your best pace, then prepare to run 6, 7 or 10 kilometres in training at the same pace.

Need to do something perfectly 5 times to win? Practice doing it 50 times. Or 100 times. Or 1000 times.

But give the minimum standard in training and expect the minimum result in competition.

Reason 6: There’s a difference between winning and not winning.

There’s a difference between winning and not winning and it holds true whether you’re an athlete or a coach…winners find a way to win. And they find a way to win because their preparation has been meticulous in every detail – they have planned to win – not just to compete.

Coach, ask yourself this question….”what did we do today in training that will give us a winning advantage?”. 

And this “did my coaching make a difference today – did my coaching directly contribute to us winning at our next competition”.

Coaches will often claim that winning comes down to quality decision making – i.e. when athletes make the right decision to do the right thing at the right time.

So ask yourself,  “Did I set training activities today which challenged my athletes to find ways of winning by solving problems in training – quickly, accurately and under pressure and fatigue conditions?”. If not, then how is it going to possible for them to do it when the stakes are high and they need to find a way of winning in competition?

Practice winning by delivering winning practices!

Reason 7: Never giving your opponents a chance.

There are two types of people in sport.

Those passionate about participation and all the great, wholesome, healthy, community enriching aspects of sport and those who are just as passionate about performance.

Those in the participation group will tell you that sport is all about fun, community, kindness, peace, love and happiness: about people being outdoors and enjoying life.

The reality for the performance group is that sport – if you want to succeed – is ruthless. It’s about winning and being dedicated to and single minded about winning. It’s about consistently competing to the best of your ability.

And it’s about realising that your opponents do not care how you feel, they don’t want you to enjoy the competitive experience, they don’t give a fig about your dreams……they want to beat you and if possible – beat you badly.

That’s why tough training is so critical. You must prepare to a level that does not give your opponent – regardless of their talent, their resources, their gym programs or their coaching support – any possible chance of victory.

Reason 8: Overcoming difficulty and adversity.

There is a myth about sport and feeling good. People who know nothing about performance will tell you that you need to manage yourself so that when you wake up on the morning of competition, you need to feel fresh, unfatigued, uninjured and full of energy after a great night’s sleep.

The reality is you have to train and prepare to win anywhere, anytime against anyone and in any situation.

High performance sport is not a handicap event!

Your opponents will try to defeat you no matter how badly you feel, how little sleep you’ve hard, if you’ve got a runny nose, your girlfriend left you, you’ve got a sore hamstring or if you are just feeling tired. You have to teach athletes to overcome any challenge, any difficulty and any form of adversity and still emerge victorious.

There is no magic pill you can take on the morning of the big race or the championship game which will make all your troubles, worries, aches and pains go away……the real magic is in consistent quality of your preparation.

Reason 9: Being able to meet every competitive situation you will face.

The purpose of training is to prepare to be physically, mentally, technically, tactically and every other way ready to meet and overcome the demands of every competitive situation you will face. As competition is about performing at your best regardless of how hard, tough and terrible the situation may be, training should be – must be more challenging and more demanding than any competition could ever be.

Simple as that. Anything less is preparing to fail.

Reason 10: Leading the way.

Winners change sport. Because they are thinking things and doing things no one else is doing – they win. It is those coaches and athletes who are consistently and radically pushing the limits of what’s known who lead the sport into the unknown.

Want to be mediocre? Think and do what everyone else is doing. Train to what you think the current limits are, then back off. Play it safe. Don’t work any harder or any different to everyone else.

Want to be the best? Then forge the future by ensuring you and your athletes are preparing at levels previously not even dreamed of.

Leaders lead – leaders win.



  1. Want to win? Want to be successful? Then make your training more challenging and more demanding – physically, mentally, technically, tactically, environmentally and every other possible way harder than the competition you are preparing for;
  2. Leave nothing to chance. By ensuring your training is tougher than the competition you are targeting you stop relying on the big three performance pretenders…Luck, Chance and Hope. These are not effective coaching strategies at any level of any sport!
  3. Nothing gives athletes more confidence than knowing – with certainty – that they are prepared to meet the challenges and demands of their competition. Talk is cheap and all the motivation and pep talks in the world are worthless without consistently preparing at a level higher than that of your targeted competition;
  4. Forget about being voted The Most Popular Coach in The World…winning is about Performing when and where it really matters and this means consistently preparing harder and tougher than your opposition. If creating an honest, committed coaching environment where motivated people do their best to get results means that occasionally things get a little heated then so be it. Act ethically, act professionally, act with compassion but get the job done!

Wayne Goldsmith


1 Comment

  • Excelsior Posted March 28, 2013 12:32 am

    I used to think that toughness training was doing more than the next guy. Then I learnt that it was doing more of the right things well. A big difference. It is easy to get caught in a volume trap.

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