Jonas Colting – The master of Athletic Longevity

“I don’t follow a set training schedule. I try to dictate my training by opposites,” says Jonas Colting, two-time Ultraman champion and one of the world’s top long-distance triathletes.

A native of Sweden, Colting is perhaps one of the most interesting and resourceful professional triathletes around, having developed a successful ‘side industry’ around his athletic career.

Professional athlete, writer, coach and motivational speaker all make up Colting’s daily lifestyle and he was kind enough to answer our questions in between these commitments.

CRANK: Jonas, what have you been up to so far in 2011?

Jonas Colting: Not much in terms of racing since I’ve been busy building my business venture in Sweden. It mostly consists of corporate speaking and corporate coaching but also a fair bit of writing.

My third book came out in December. I also have some lingering problems stemming from a degenerative disc in my back. But I’ve been training really well and just had two great weeks in Colorado with Gordo Byrn and his squad at Endurance Corner! And I won my first race for the year when I got back. Now I’m focusing on the one-day aquathon in Stockholm.

CRANK: To the uninitiated, could you give an insight into the depth of competition that is the European triathlon circuit?

JC: I’m pretty sure that triathlon, at the top level, is getting more and more competitive all over the world. Not just in Europe. But sure, the depth of talent stemming from the European countries is amazing! And not just in Ironman racing but even more so in ITU racing.

We’ve noticed a huge influx in triathlon here in Sweden and Scandinavia over the past years. Races are really filling up and everyone is getting involved.

CRANK: Judging by your website, you market yourself extremely well. What advice would you give elite triathletes in terms of attracting sponsors and subsequently keeping those sponsors happy?

JC: The best is to win very big races! That takes care of the marketing and visibility. But since that’s only reserved for the “Maccas” and “Peter Reids” of the sport the second best is to win odd but spectacular races, races that make an interesting story or that make great footage and some drama.

I’ve always done a lot of extracurricular work around the sport, such as public and corporate speaking and writing, and that adds to the general awareness and heightens my profile. And that makes sponsors happy. I also started doing camps at an early point in my career, building relationships with the amateur weekend warrior!

CRANK: While you are primarily a professional triathlete, you also have some interesting side ventures as well. Tell us about these and how you got them started.

JC: I always enjoyed writing and I also enjoyed enthusing and motivating people. So it was a natural step to use the knowledge I gained from the sport and spreading it to a larger audience.

Seminars and public speaking make up the bulk of my work these days and logically, the bulk of my income too. Working out and doing triathlons are the closest to my heart though.

What I enjoy the most are hosting camps, especially cycling tours, and moving forward in a point-to-point direction.

CRANK: In our 2010 interview with Brad Kearns, he mentions the term “intuition” as a critical part of an athletes training approach. After reading your various articles and blogs, you certainly seem to use a similar approach in your training. What are your comments on ‘intuitive training’?

JC: I read Brad Kearns’ first book “Can You Make a Living Doing That?” at an early point in my career and his approach influenced me. At the same time I read Phil Maffetone’s book on health and fitness and they further developed my view of the training process as something holistic. I believe that too many athletes are married to their schedules and gadgets. And it limits them in so many ways! They don’t listen to their bodies and they don’t tap into the knowledge of perceived effort that could blow the roof off of what they think is their maximum level of fitness at races.

I don’t follow a set schedule. Nor do I use any gadgets except my Polar and that’s only for heart rate and altitude. I try to dictate my training by opposites. I e, going long and moderate mixed with workouts that are shorter but really hard! Strength is always a component and should be triathlon specific. I push massive gears on the bike, run very hilly courses and swim a lot of butterfly and with paddles. Stuff like that.

And I don’t use a training log like other people. I find that even a log like Training Peaks is a blunt tool to use. I try to avoid using only quantitative measurements as a guideline but more so what kind of quality any given workout provided. And by quality I mean stuff like specificity, purpose, flow, willingness, energy, etc.

A workout is not successful if it’s forced upon a tired body and is a steady decline of energy and speed.

CRANK: I read a great article about you recently where you explain how you are able live ‘Primal’ while being an elite athlete. Tell us about your ‘Primal Walk’ concept. How often do you do this and what are the benefits for triathletes?

JC: Typical swim, bike and run training is performance enhancing. I also do a lot of training that is “health enhancing”. Since health is the backbone of athletic prowess, it needs to be built and maintained in the same way any skill is maintained.

I do it a lot during the off-season in which I don’t have any races coming up. The fall and winter, typically. The benefit is functionality, hormonal stimulation and general strength and agility.

CRANK: What is your take on the concept of ‘barefoot’ running and how often do you incorporate it into your daily regimen?

JC: I really like it! For all my primal walks, unless there’s snow on the ground, I use barefoot shoes like the Vibram Five Fingers. I also run in them a few times per week. It’s great for lower leg strength and running technique.

CRANK: It is always amazing to see how many top athletes come from Nordic countries and manage to perform extremely well in more temperate surroundings. Do you think that an extended winter period is beneficial for you instead of chasing the ‘Endless Summer’?

JC: I do. I enjoy the variety of seasons and nothing actually wears me down as much as hot and sunny weather had. I never had any problem dealing with harsh conditions in training. I see inclement weather as rather charming! The only concern I see in the winter is the lack of daylight but my headlamp gets a lot of usage. And it’s compensated in the summer when the sun shines a lot!

CRANK: What are the benefits of training on a cyclo-cross bike?

JC: You get to see a lot more roads and routes you wouldn’t be training on with your road bike!

CRANK: With us being a South African website and you having visited SA in the past, what were your impressions of the country? How long were you here for and how did you do in the ‘Mykonos Midnight Mile’?

JC: I’ve been to SA twice and enjoyed myself both times. A beautiful country filled with spectacular views and surroundings!

Ha ha, yes I finished 2nd in the swim at Mykonos even though I was sick as a dog during the day, due to sunstroke. But I couldn’t resist the temptation to swim naked!