British Triathlon’s Head of Physical Preparation Ian Pyper, talks us through his role within the sport, his career journey and the preparation work which goes in to major competitions.
Can you give us some insight into your role of Head of Physical Preparation, and what the role entails?
“Post the Rio Olympics, there is now a slightly different structure within the support staff side of the sport which saw me move to the role of Head of Physical Preparation but I’m still delivering strength and conditioning to some of the athletes based in Leeds and Loughborough. As Head of Physical Preparation this involves primarily supporting the S&C, physiology and nutrition staff with delivery, as well as providing a more strategic view on the S&C delivery across the programme. The Physical Preparation role involves linking and supporting the Head of Performance Support, Head Coach and Performance Director.”
How do you effectively balance the training requirements of the athletes between running, swimming and cycling?
“Each athlete will have an individualised training programme and as a staff group including coaching staff, sports science and the sports medicine team, we will look at how we can best support the athlete in order to deliver that. From an S&C performance improvement aspect, it’s vital that we understand what each athlete is trying to achieve through their overall programme. Depending on the time of year the focus may be different, but it’s all aligned to the same overall goal.
“In terms of piecing together the separate disciplines of triathlon, that comes down to the key discussions between the coaches and the athletes aligned to their key areas for gain. It also has to be balanced with the associated time cost required for making the improvement – including the athletes time and energy. As the athlete could potentially be training for 25-35 hours a week – time is always at a premium!”
Can you give us a bit of a background as to how you came into the role with the EIS and GB Triathlon?
“I did all my education in Scotland, first completing a BSc (Hons) at the University of Edinburgh and then a MSc at the University of Stirling. My time with the EIS started not long after London won the bid for the 2012 Olympics, at which point UK Sport provided funding to support sports who would gain home nations places at the Games. This created two S&C internship positions – one with handball and volleyball and another with table tennis and archery. I was fortunate enough to be offered the table tennis and archery role and was then based in the West Midlands on a 12-month contract. Before the end of that contract a split role opportunity came up with the EIS in Sheffield as programme S&C Lead for table tennis and a multi-sport role with about 10-12 different sports such as hockey, swimming, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby.
“I then worked with hockey, swimming and boxing up until the end of the 2012 cycle, at which point British Triathlon offered me a full-time role as a Performance Scientist and S&C coach through to the Rio 2016 Olympics. This involved a lot of new responsibilities including attendance at more camps and competitions which was great fun and really helped to add a greater depth of understanding of the sport, but more importantly of the athletes and staff as people.”