The Art of Unconventional Excellence

I have always been a big fan of sporting autobiographies.

I have just finished reading One Way Road, the autobiography of 3 time Tour de France green jersey winner, Robbie McEwen. And before that, it was I’m Here To Win by 2 time Ironman World Champion, Chris McCormack.

What I loved most about both books (if I had to name one thing), is that both Robbie & ‘Macca’ have experimented with almost every training and/or recovery method known to man. They have, throughout their careers, adopted training methods that weren’t necessarily popular within their sport. In fact, in Macca’s book he writes about studying other sports like bodybuilding & sprinting in an effort to improve.

They did what was right for them, not what was expected of them.

I’ve been unconventional my entire career. So I guess it’s not surprising that during my career, other people have made a point of telling me what I couldn’t do – Chris McCormack.

I think this is perhaps the most important lesson that weekend warriors like you & I can learn. To take the time to learn, read, apply & experiment & not just to follow the crowd..

It is said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing & expecting a different result. And yet many people do just that – blindly following the training program which their favourite professional athlete uses, one which was prescribed for their training buddy or which they found in a magazine.

The same training program will produce different outcomes for different people in light of ~

  • the amount of available time you have to train,
  • what recovery methods used,
  • any worries you (or they) have about money or relationships,
  • the amount of stress you are under at work, and
  • how much sleep you get each night,

all of which will affect your performance & the outcome of your training.

It is little wonder that many people like you become frustrated or de-motivated when their training program doesn’t produce the results they want.

It may be an (overused) cliché but we are all an experiment of one; what works for your training buddy may not work for you. You need to find what does work for you.

It can be uncomfortable, disconcerting & downright lonely on the ‘road less taken’.

Coaches too feel this pressure. Renowned triathlon coach Brett Sutton has said that the hardest thing in coaching is to find a method that is not recognized by the hordes and stick with it.

But Robbie & Macca (as well Chrissie Wellington who was formerly coached by Brett Sutton) have shown that alternate & less popular roads can lead to success ~

 …what makes me good [is] my willingness to take the unconventional route.. ~ Chris McCormack

So my challenge to you is this ~ what part of your training isn’t working for you (whether that is physically, mentally or emotionally)? Is it the amount of time you (think you) need to spend on the bike? Is it that you keep breaking down with injury when your running mileage increases?

Identify what your roadblock is, start researching to see how others overcome it (both in your sport & outside of it) & then start experimenting. And don’t be afraid to try something (that seems) unconventional. You never know where that ‘road less taken’ will lead!

I would love to hear about your pursuit for ‘unconventional excellence’. When did you last try something in your training that was ‘unconventional’ in your sport? 


  1. Jen, I love this idea and am while I’m not currently training for anything sporting, can see how easily this concept translates into all other aspects of life! For me – it’s thinking about small business and how more often than not, success comes from taking the road less travelled and being unconventional.
    It’s amazing how often I hesitate to think along new lines because of that fear of what others might think, or falling into the trap of thinking that you should follow in others footsteps to achieve similar levels of success but not all the time!
    So – thanks for the prompt to think about this
    Jo :)

    • Sparta PT says:

      Hi Jo,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. I’m glad the post resonated with you even though your perspective is very different & you can apply it in your world.

      Isn’t it surprising how similar our fears are? I certainly have held myself back from trying things because of what others might think. And it’s still a fear that I have – and (largely) ignore!

      Best wishes!

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