Tyler Hamilton Interview: Tyler Hamilton Training and More
By Luke Allingham
Tyler Hamilton Interview: Tyler Hamilton Training and More
Tyler Hamilton was a professional cyclist from the late 1990's to the early 2000's. He raced at the top level with some of the top teams, riding in the world's top bicycle races and claiming for impressive results to his name. After retiring from professional cycling at the end of the 2008 season, he and his wife, Lindsay, began the training company, Tyler Hamilton Training. He started by training some friends and local Boulder athletes. Now in 2013, he has a head coach, Jim Capra, and has athletes ranging from 12 years old to 75 years old. His wife, Lindsay, has been the Vice President of Tyler Hamilton Training since 2011 and is the person behind the scenes of the operation. She handles everything from billing, to the taxes, to legal contracts as well as the company website.
In September of 2012, Hamilton wrote and released a book about his doping throughout his career. Currently he lives in Missoula, Montana with his wife. The couple enjoys hiking, skiing and more. The following interview is an interview with Tyler Hamilton talking about his training business, current life and more.
Luke Allingham- Fill us in on your Tyler Hamilton Training. Tell us about when it began, what it is about and why you decided to start it.
Tyler Hamilton- I started way back in 2009 when I started just helping out some friends, some local athletes here in Boulder. Just because they were out there busting their butts, I was watching them do their training and I didn't necessarily think it was the greatest. I thought they could have been doing other things. I started coaching on the side just for fun and just to see if I was any good at being a coach. I think I did pretty well there and then once I stopped cycling, I just dove right into it; not knowing if I should do it part time or full time. Some coaches have full time jobs and they do it on the side or something like that.
We definitely focus on the greener athletes. When I say athletes, I coach a lot of weekend warriors who have nine to five jobs or are somewhere between 35 and 65 years and have family. Some do riding on the weekends, some race a little bit, others just do it because they love it. Some people just do it to get in shape. A lot of people just do charity rides. They want to get stronger and they enjoy cycling.
I've really enjoyed working with younger athletes, the up and comers. Especially with the younger kids, the learning curve is steep, but you see major, major improvements in a short amount of time and that's really gratifying. I tend to shy away from the professional level right.
Luke- What are some important tools that you use from your professional cycling background?
Tyler- It's all based on stuff that I used to do that me fit. Obviously, we have to adjust everything. Like someone getting ready for an forty-five minute cyclocross race or an hour long criterium isn't the same as getting ready for a three week Tour de France, but it's all stuff that I learned over my career. There was a lot of coaching that I didn't like, but basically all the stuff that worked really well for me. It's like being a teacher, just along what you've learned.
I was in the sport for so long, you don't realize how much you know. But when you have a conversation with a weekend warrior - they don't live and breathe the sport like we did. So, being a professional, that's the top tier of the sport and we learned a lot. We learned a lot, both good and bad, but now it's time to pass on what we learned.
We try to talk to our clients at least once a week via Skype, cell phone, text messages, emails, etc. It's really important to communicate; you can have the best training program in the world, but if the athlete isn't doing it right or you're not communicating with the athlete, then it doesn't work. You really have to be on the same level. I've definitely heard a lot of anger cyclists who are angry at their coaches for lack of communication and I think that is really important. It's a big part of it. So basically, we're not just going to send you a two month program and say "see you later, good luck with it." Communication is definitely key.
Luke- What type of cyclists do you offer training programs to?
Tyler- We prefer the greener, the better, but really all different ages and abilities. Amateur cycling, triathletes, bike racers, or just bike riders. Sometime we get people who don't ride a whole lot outside, but just ride the stationary trainer and just want to get better and stronger. Nine times out of ten, the people are really stoked, and it's great to hear their feedback.
Luke- I know you just mentioned triathletes, but do you offer training for any other sports?
Tyler- No, not yet. It's a possibility in the future, but right now we're happy with the way it has gone so far. We definitely don't want to bite off more than we can chew, but we'll see. I would love to someday work with other sports, but that would involve having some other expertise. But possibly bringing in a running coach, for the triathletes or people just focused on those one particular disciplines.
Luke- Do you factor nutrition into the programs that you design?
Tyler- We try to. We don't give a full nutritional program, but we give a lot of tips and advice when they ask, but it's not included in your schedule like what to eat, etc. Obviously a lot of times when we do speak on the phone, we talk about that. If they want a full nutritional program, we can give them recommendations. That's another thing I've thought about for the future, but right now we're sticking to what we're good at.
I know a lot about nutrition, but I could still probably learn a lot before I start giving someone a whole nutritional program. But definitely in the future, expect to see something like that.
Luke- What training advice would you give to the younger riders who are on development teams or who are gunning for a spot on a pro team?
Tyler- The biggest thing for the young riders is be aware your ability is. Just have fun and enjoy it. It's a beautiful sport. I remember when I first started out, there were a lot of talented kids who were just taking it way too seriously. They were really strong on the bike, but they just too it way too seriously and we saw over time, they just burnt out. It's important for all levels, even if you're in the Pro Tour, you have to be having fun and enjoy it. Yeah, you have to be serious and focused, but never forget to have fun with it. I think that is super, super important.
There is just so much to learn. I am still learning today how to coach. There is a lot to know and some people go out and do miles without putting a whole lot of thought into it. Then there isn't a whole of of specific work done on the bike during those two hours. A lot of people just waste their time. It is nice to go out and not have a plan, that's good for your head, if you've had a hard day, it always feels better after a bike ride. If they're trying to increase fitness level or do specific work, interval training is something that I can't enough how important that it. Having structure to your training is extremely important. I think it's important to have some sort of coach or have some sort of training program.
Luke- How involved are you in the training - are you a coach, trainer, adviser, etc.?
Tyler- I just oversee everything. Jim Capra is the head coach, I oversee his work. I also oversee the clients; I'll talk to them occasionally, but it's not like I am hands-on anymore like I was for the first two and a half years. Due to time restraints I wasn't really able to do that anymore. So, I basically oversee Jim as the general manager or president.
But it's been great. Jim Capra has been doing a fantastic job. I coached him for a long time, for over two years. He asks a lot of questions and he's really good with people. Whenever I talk to the clients, they all tell me how much they like Jim Capra as the head coach. We're very lucky to have him on board.
Luke- What if one of your clients/athletes tells you he or she is thinking of using PEDs? How would you counsel this person in terms of the effects on his/her training program, expectations and overall health?
Tyler- Well, straight away, I'd talk them out of it. If they still couldn't give me a straight answer whether they were going to listen to me, I'd stop working with them. If for some reason they had a huge gain in fitness or something out of the ordinary, I'd definitely question it. Obviously I've learned a lot from my past, so the last person I want to work with is someone who is doping. That is why I have stayed on the greener side of cycling. Ideally, I just don't want to be working with someone at that level. Nobody who I coach is going to make the same mistakes I did. It's hard though, you never know. You can't control every athlete. It's hard, but hopefully they can learn from all my mistakes.
Luke- How is Tyler Hamilton Training different from other training companies such as Chris Carmichael Training?
Tyler- I don't really follow Carmichael Training at all. I don't know how he coaches his athletes. What I do know, just from my client feedback, they say what makes us different is that we have a lot of communication with the clients. It's a lot of work for say, two weeks of training, it's a lot of work. There is not cookie cutter program, each individual has their own customized program. It's a lot of work, but we communicated with the clients. Schedules are always changing, energy levels are always changing, their busy at work or a meeting goes over and they don't get to ride or workout on that Wednesday, then that can change the next four or five days. We communicate with the client and adjust to it. We give them the biggest bang for their buck. They're athletes and they're spending a lot of money on this training and we want them to get the best out of it.
Again, you can have a great program, but you're always adjusting, you're constantly adjusting it. Athletes are getting sick or getting injured, you have to adjust. Having the client-coach relationship is super important to us. We're just a phone call away, and that's really important to the clients. We love feedback, we're always looking to improve.
Luke- What are your long-term goals for your training business?
Tyler- We're definitely looking still to grow. Like we talked about before, we're looking to get some other for the other sports for running, swimming, possibly nutrition. We'll see, there are other things I'd like to pursue. This coaching company is something I'd love to do for the rest of my life, but I'd also like to do some thing outside of cycling. I want to give back to the sport of cycling, but I'd also like to do some other things as well. We only live once, I don't want to look watch in twenty years and regret it.
Luke- Anything closing comments on your training company?
Tyler- Our youngest client is twelve and our oldest client is seventy-five. It just goes to show that all different ages and abilities, all different shape and sizes and all different goals. Some have multiple sclerosis, some do the handle cycles. That's another thing, I really enjoy the variety, and the enthusiasm.
Luke- According to your website, you've been doing some guest speaking? Tell us about that.
Tyler- Yeah, that's been fun. I've been talking to kids all the way to adults. I've been talking to schools, organizations, etc. It's been fun to talk about all of my experiences - the good, the bad and the ugly. I'm 41 years old, but I've kind of lived a full life already. I've gone to the highest of highs and some of the lowest of lows. I have a lot of experiences to share and it's fun. I definitely enjoy working with the students. I kind of feel like it is an obligation for me to share my experiences, share what I've learned and also those times where, looking back now, it's easier to see where things went wrong. I share those times where I could have made the right decision and some of the feelings I had so that they can avoid it in the future.
Luke- Can you give us an update on where you're at in life currently? Such as where you're living, what some of your current hobbies are, etc.
Tyler- Sure. I live in Missoula, Montana now, we moved up here last May and what a great town. It's kind of a small town on the map, only a couple people live here. People are so relaxed here, they really welcomed us into the community. I feel really lucky and fortunate that we live here today.
I'm busy with work at Tyler Hamilton Training also with doing some speaking here and there. Recently I've been spending a lot of time traveling for the book, "The Secret Race." I've been all over the world over the past couple months. I've been to Denmark, Germany, London, I'm heading back to France in March and that's been fun, but it's been a busy few months for my wife and I. We haven't necessarily gotten down to like a daily, normal lifestyle here. When we are here, we can get into the day to day things. We get out and hike a lot, there a ski area called the Montana Snowbowl about twenty minutes from here and that's great skiing. We enjoy doing that.
I do some woodworking. I've actually kind of just picked up that hobby. It's a lot of fun, I like it. It's good therapy, actually. It's good for the head. I just get out there, crank the tunes and either whittle away or do whatever. I pretty much just stick to the hand tools. I definitely try to wear my mask or I get back headaches from all the sawdust. I have a lot of projects that I'm about eighty to ninety done with, but none of them finished. There's a lot of beautiful wood up here and I try to take recycled wood, basically something that has been chopped down. I've been working with a lot of big stumps. It's great; I don't think I'm very good at it though, but I enjoy it.
Luke- Do you still follow cycling in regards to watching the major races such as the Tour de France, keeping up on pro cycling news, etc? What interests you the most now that you've retired?
Tyler- I follow the sport at kind of an arm's length, so to speak. I follow it enough to kind of know what's going on, but I think I saw one stage of the Tour this year. I love to just check in late in the day to see who won the stage and kind of what happened. I have other focuses now, I'm not basically glued to the television in July, but I do follow it. I love the sport and I think it's the most beautiful sport in the world. I also think it's the hardest sport in the world, so what those guys are doing over there is impressive. It's a full time commitment, so my hat's off to them. It's nice to follow it, it's nice to follow some of the races that I used to do, but again, it's from arm's length.
Also, more on the recent track, we're in the off season now, so not a whole lot of racing is going on, but I'm definitely concerned for the sport. A lot has happened in the last six months and I'm worried about it. It's a worry in the back of my head. I don't enjoy seeing the sport where it is today. A lot has happened, and some of that is my own responsibility, maybe that's some of the reason why. The sport definitely needs to make some changes and the sooner that happens the better. It hasn't happened yet, so it doesn't sit well with me, but the sooner those things can happen, the sooner the sport can get back on the right track. I think they'll figure that out, hopefully sooner rather than later, but I think they'll eventually figure it out. The right changes will be made and if there's anything I can do, I will do it because it means a lot to me.
Luke- Your book, The Secret Race, has been popular within the cycling world since it was released. Are you pleased with the response that you've seen from the public?
Tyler- I'm absolutely pleased. I had no real expectations. For me, it was just getting the truth down on paper. It was the only way I could really tell the whole story, there's a lot in the story and the only way to tell it was to write a book. I was just happy to be done with the book and finally have it out there and if people are interested, they can read it. If they're not, no big deal. For me it was important to tell the story the right way. It feels good to just open up and tell the whole truth.
Luke- Can you talk a little bit about how you view your cycling career as a whole? What do you take away from this period of your life, and do you look at life differently now? Can you give us some insight on this?
Tyler- I used to be a professional cyclist. What a great experience it was, with a lot a of highs and a lot of lows. I learned a lot from it. I used to be a cyclists and that's about it. If you come and look around, there's no memorabilia from back in the day. It's something I used to do. I don't focus on any of my achievements. I was a professional cyclists, I rode at the top level, in the biggest races in the world. I had some successes, plenty of failures, learned a lot from it and it's all great. In terms of results and all that, they can void all of my results from my whole career if they want. I don't look at my results and focus on that stuff anymore. If they're going to take away Lance's seven Tour victories away, white out my name as well. It's no problem. They're just memories.