Coachcast Episode 2 Season 5 With Natasha Van Der Merwe

NVDM’s Secrets to Training Triathletes with Natasha van der Merwe

BY TrainingPeaks CoachCast Host Dirk Friel

Taking lessons learned as a former pro triathlete and tennis player and coach, Natasha van der Merwe talks about how her coaching business has developed a diverse group of fast athletes and a strong community.

Originally from South Africa, founder, CEO and head coach Natasha van der Merwe has built a unique coaching business in Austin, Texas.

NVDM Coaching has seen explosive growth over the last two years, and while catering to athletes of all abilities, many have gone on to win age groups or podium spots in a number of Ironman races. Van der Merwe and her coaching staff have also developed a special knack for helping athletes build a lifestyle around their sport through careful training management, testing and periodization.

Listen in as she and Dirk Friel dive into training methodologies, tips for success and how pulling back the focus from race results to personal development leads to better athletes.

Standout Quotes

“We really try to bring athletes in — and [even] the ones that are really serious — and so we have to have a long-term approach. And let’s make this a very enjoyable lifestyle. We talk about how all the tools that we’ve learned through the sport of triathlon, which is why I love it so much, how it carries over into every other part of our lives.”

On lessons learned from being a pro athlete: “The first one, and I think I’m dealing with that with a couple of athletes right now, is the nutrition, right? We know that everyone is so focused on power-to-weight and trying to get lean because they know and feel like, “Hey, I’m going to be faster.” And so maybe they’re not fueling their workouts correctly for that reason. The one big thing we address right away is, are you fueling your workouts correctly for performance, for recovery, and it’s tied to burnout and injury.

And so it’s…we highly value that, and sadly, I made that mistake in the beginning of my career. I came in as a tennis player, and for me, I definitely felt out of place. I wasn’t this lean athlete, and I struggled with that in the beginning of my career. I was able to come through that, and I feel like that’s definitely a powerful tool that I have in my pocket, is to say, “Hey, this was what I did; these were the results.” And that’s probably why I didn’t — actually, I know — is why I didn’t have the results I could have had because I was training without any fuel or just making these silly mistakes as it pertains to fueling. I made these changes, and I felt like I could train all day, and I never got hurt and I was performing to my capability.”

“The last year [of my career] was my best year because I was after personal development. I wasn’t after race results anymore. I was after, “How could I be the best athlete, and what did that look like?” And then, in turn, I saw myself becoming the best person and the best coach. And so we try to kind of hit that early on.”

“I learned this from a coach who used to separate his long runs. He only did a long run workout — it was a marathon coach — you only did a long run workout every other week, not every week. So, you know, in typical programs where they progress week one, week two, week three, de-load, week one, week two, week three, de-load…we don’t in the final few weeks. What we do with our training is if we have a very long specific Ironman bike workout, we don’t have a long run. It’s just too much load on the weekend for the athlete. We actually have a shorter run on that weekend, and then the next weekend, we have a long specific run, and maybe there’s like an hour at race pace going into the long run, but then it’s a shorter bike. And so the load on the weekends never actually progresses week after week. They actually are even all the way through, and it’s allowed athletes to stay a lot fresher.”

“Typically, what we like to do, and we’ve found success with, is we reverse periodize. So we go fast before we go far. And the reason is when the volume is low, we have a better opportunity to increase our VO2 increase our FTP because our limitation is always going to be at what is that FTP? You’re always going to race at a percentage of that. So if we can push that up while we are still fresh and while the volume of Ironman training is not in our legs, we’re going to do that and then learn how to extend it at a percentage of our FTP from there.”

Natasha van der Merwe Online

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Coachcast Host Dirk Friel
About TrainingPeaks CoachCast Host Dirk Friel

Dirk Friel is the host of the TrainingPeaks CoachCast and Co-Founder of TrainingPeaks. He is a lifelong athlete with a passion for cycling and ski mountaineering and firmly believes in goal setting, dedicated deliberate training and coaching for all. Learn more about his work at TrainingPeaks and follow his adventures on Instagram @dirkfriel.

Visit TrainingPeaks CoachCast Host Dirk Friel's Coach Profile