It’s not the workout that wins…you have to win the workout.

It’s not the workout that wins…you have to win the workout.

One of the greatest myths in sport is that it is the workout that wins.

That is, that the secret to sporting success lies in how you manipulate volume, intensity and frequency.

Coaches spend years and years crafting their workouts, building invincible programs and creating the perfect combination of work and rest that will deliver them and their athletes the success they dream of.

And it is largely a myth.

It is not the workout that wins…you have to win the workout.

It’s not what you do….it’s how you do it.

The “secret’ set, the “wonder-workout”, the “magic-session” – it all means the same thing…that coaches are convinced that all it takes to be successful is to come up with the magic formula based on training physiology. The on-line coaching industry is full of this: “Buy our unique workouts and you will see amazing results” etc etc.

A well crafted workout, with a lot of thought behind the physiology of the training sets, reps, drills, etc that is performed poorly is a bad workout.

Whereas, a workout which may lack the precision of a finely tuned training activity designed by someone with a strong knowledge of sports science but is a workout which engages the heart and mind of every athlete so that all activities are performed with passion, precision and perfection is a great workout.

Of course, the ideal situation is to create an effective workout based on sound physiological principles but one which also engages the athletes so that they give their best to the full extent of their potential: i.e. the science and the art of coaching working in harmony.


The big assumption behind all workouts.

There is an underlying assumption in all workouts: the one premise that all workouts are designed on: that the athletes will complete the training session as it was written.

When coaches write a workout, they write it assuming that the athletes will complete the workout with same intent behind it’s design. No coach writes a workout thinking, “This is what I want the athletes to do but I know most of them will not do it this way”.


A coach writes a workout for a track sprinter. On paper, the workout reads:

  • Warm up: 1000 metres easy
  • Drills: 8 x High knee drills with walk back recovery
  • Run throughs: 6 x 40 metres increasing in speed from 400 metre speed to 100 metre speed progressively over the set. Walk back recovery.
  • Main set: 4 x 80 metres at 200 metre pace on 3 minutes. 5 minute rest. 4 x 120 metres at 200 metre pace on 3 minutes 30.
  • Cool down: 1000 metres easy.

The underlying assumptions are:

  • Warm-up: Completed with relaxation and rhythm, focusing on breathing and ease of movement.
  • Drills: Each stride completed with technical excellence and rhythm and flow.
  • Run throughs: Each repeat done with technical excellence and at precisely the target pace.
  • Main set: All efforts completed with technical excellence, rhythm and flow with a focus on breathing and ease of movement as the distance increases, i.e. technique under fatigue.
  • Cool down: Completed with relaxation and rhythm, focusing on breathing and ease of movement.

It is not the workout that determines the success of the athlete: it is how the athlete is intrinsically driven to complete every activity in their training program to the best of their ability.

And this is why the concepts of engagement and motivationare so important: without doubt the two most important concepts in effective coaching.

Engagement and Motivation: The Coach’s Best Friends.

All the things that are written about sport science, exercise physiology, training aids, fitness equipment…all the “what” stuff are of limited value without understanding engagement and motivation.

Engagement can be defined as the ability of a coach to create a performance environment where every athlete wants to give more than can reasonably be expected.

Motivation is the desire: the fire that drives an athlete towards a goal or achievement.

So, the key to great coaching is not sports science and it’s not actually coaching per se: it’s providing athletes with the environment and opportunity to express their engagement and motivation through their training: through the way they complete their workouts.

And this lays the foundation for a critical concept in successful coaching….win the workout.

Win the Workout philosophy:

The logic of the Win the Workout philosophy is pretty simple:

  1. If you want to be the best in the world or the best in your competition;
  2. You must be the best in your own Club or training squad and
  3. Therefore you must be the best in each training session and workout.

Think about this for a moment. It makes sense.

You can’t be the best in your football competition or the best in the national swimming championships or the best in the state school athletics championships without first being the best in your team or lane or squad or group.


Sorry coaches….but the truth is you are all doing pretty much the same things.

Not many coaches who read this bit will accept it but, the truth is, you are all doing pretty much the same things.

Whether it be consciously or sub-consciously, the reality is that with so much free information available through the Internet, books, conferences, workshops, seminars, coaching courses etc – everyone in your sport more or less knows what everyone else in your sport knows. Your workouts are no longer your “magic-secret” to success because everyone in your sport has either seen them, has heard about them, knows about them, has tried them and in some cases has even improved on them.

And this means… is not your workouts that will determine the success of your athletes, your team, your program or you!

Your success, now, more than ever, is totally reliant on your ability to create an environment where win the workout, i.e. an environment built on athlete engagement and motivation is the core philosophy of your athletes.


This is what a Winning Culture is all about.

Many people talk about wanting to create a Winning Culture. They spend a lot of time and resources trying to create it, build it, grow it and sustain it.

Having a Winning Culture means that every athlete – and for that matter every person involved in your program – is totally, uncompromisingly and completely engaged with the program and is motivated to complete everything they do consistently to a higher standard than anyone of their competitors.

Your coaches want to out-coach every coach in the competition.

Your team manager wants to out-manage every manager in the competition.

Everyone strives to be the best in their role….the cumulative effect resulting in excellence across every aspect of your organisation.

Winning cultures grow when one person or a small group of people make the commitment to consistently out prepare, in every way, their opposition.

You can’t force a winning culture. You can’t run a motivation session and make it happen. You can’t buy t-shirts with slogans on them and turn your culture into a winning culture.

All it takes is one person.

It starts with one person: one person with a complete sense of engagement and the absolute motivation to do whatever it takes to be the best.

In other words, it starts with you, coach.  It starts with your own engagement and motivation and with your ability to provide the environment for others to be similarly engaged and motivated: it starts when you make the commitment to “win the workout”.



  1. Workouts do not win: athletes win by winning the workouts.
  2. Winning the workouts is a culture: a core philosophy which, if embraced by everyone in your program, is an unstoppable force.
  3. Creating and sustaining a winning culture: one which is built on the win the workout philosophy begins and ends with the coach and the coach’s ability to create an environment where engagement and motivation are the central, driving forces behind success.


Wayne Goldsmith


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