Bradley Weiss is the two-time XTERRA World Champion. When he’s not racing on and off-road triathlons around the world you will spot him out training in Stellenbosch or Knysna. Follow him on Instagram at @bsweiss_tri.
Squirt Cycling Products: How did you get into triathlon, find your niche in XTERRA and when did you get serious about the sport, deciding to step up to an elite level?
Brad Weiss: I had a relatively late start to the sport of triathlon and only had my introduction at the age of 19, when my father entered myself and my two brothers into a local sprint distance race. At the time we only owned mountain bikes, so despite this being a road race, we took part on our MTBs. This was rather fitting given my eventual shift to professional off-road triathlon/XTERRA racing.
I competed predominantly in team sports, such as rugby and cricket, while growing up and this helped me develop a very keen sense of healthy competition. From a young age I also loved pushing myself physically. My love of rugby soon got me into the gym and I really thrived on the structure a gym programme gave to my week. I found both the short- and long-term strength/power development was incredibly rewarding and fulfilling. Throughout high school I maintained a very strict gym programme which allowed me to compete in rugby at a very competitive level.
After school however I realized rugby was no longer the sport for me and I was on the hunt for a new release for my competitive drive. Stumbling across triathlon was a complete accident, but it would change the path of my life forever!
I quickly fell in love with the sport, as well as the community surrounding it and simply could not get enough; despite being a rubbish swimmer. The initial development was fast and incredibly addictive, slowly creeping my way up the results sheet until eventually I was good enough to compete for a position on our national age group team. My first international trip was in 2011 where I competed at the ITU Age Group World Championships in Beijing, China. Ultimately, I finished 3rd in the 20-24 age group there. Watching the professional race that year solidified what I already knew, I had to make this sport my life goal!
SCP: Can you tell us a bit about your training programme, what sorts of sets do you do on and off the bike, and how do you back that up with strength and conditioning exercises?
BW: Over the years I have built a phenomenal team around me who have completely taken over the day-to-day decision-making process, allowing me to focus on the simple task of executing each training session, to the best of my ability. I leave the bigger picture in the capable hands of the true professionals.
Ernie Gruhn has been guiding my triathlon journey almost from the very beginning. Ernie is an incredible mind with an unprecedented feel for what an athlete is capable of, having coached some of the world’s highest performing athletes including Elana Meyer. I know I am in the best possible hands with Ernie guiding the ship. Despite him being predominantly my running coach Ernie remains influential in both race selection and periodisation, allowing me to be at my best when it really matters. Ernie is an incredibly conservative coach never pushing his athletes too hard, ensuring we remain smooth and in control of each and every session. There is no glory session, no workout which will take you from zero to hero. I wish it were the case but as the saying goes, “consistency is key”, and there is no coach more fixated on consistency than coach Ernie.
After winning the 2017 XTERRA World Championships I made the decision to switch my focus from off-road XTERRA triathlon back to the on-road format, and the Ironman 70.3 distance in particular. I knew I needed help in making this a successful transition and immediately reached out to Dr Mike Posthumus. He welcomed me with open arms and has been one of the biggest assets in my corner ever since. Mike coaches a host of professional cyclists under the Science2Sport Coaching platform based out of the Sport Science Institute of South Africa, in Cape Town. Despite his limited experience in triathlon coaching specifically, Mike was the perfect person for the job and has been incredibly influential in my career ever since. Using the Training Peaks platform Mike is able to carefully map out my year and ensure we are always heading in the right direction without accumulating any unnecessary fatigue.
While Mike takes care of all my cycling requirements from the day-to-day programming to overall load management and periodisation, I have recently started working with Warwick Cross as my strength and conditioning coach. We have been implementing a velocity-based strength programme; which incorporates both speed and strength elements to ensure I am both the strongest and fastest endurance athlete I can be, while maintaining a big focus on injury prevention. With a background in strength and conditioning in the gym, for rugby purposes in my early days as an athlete, I believe I have brought over a massive competitive advantage into the endurance sports world and it’s one I don’t plan to neglect any time soon.
SCP: How does your mental state, sleep and nutrition affect training and performance?
BW: These are all incredibly important factors when breaking down what constitutes a successful professional athlete and how they ultimately perform come race day! The world of professional sport has become incredibly competitive and in order to perform at the highest level there’s so much more which goes into it that just a good training programme.
Sleep is the foundation for recovery and should be made a priority when training to reach optimum performance. This is a time your body is able to focus on repairing the repetitive ‘breakdown’ of muscles from the training effect. I prioritize a minimum of 8 to 9 hours of sleep every night, and if this is not possible, because of an early morning training commitment, I will try and get a 1-hour nap in during the day.
The quality of sleep is even more important for me. I try to sleep in as dark an environment as possible (with no blue light infiltration) and I have gotten into the habit of sleeping with earplugs. These help to limit sleep disturbances – never underestimate the power of good sleep!
Then my nutrition philosophy is very simple, whole REAL foods are important with adequate complete proteins and enough carbohydrates to allow my body to recover from one training session to the next. Complete proteins ensure I receive an adequate amount of essential amino acids (EAA), which are the building blocks of protein and are necessary for building and repairing muscles/tissue in our bodies. They also aid the body in the production of important hormones and the enzymes responsible for healthy bones, cartilage and blood.
I try to avoid any processed foods and really make a conscious effort to eliminate added sugar from my diet, with my main sugar source coming from dairy and other whole food carbohydrate sources. I do not restrict whole carbohydrates, only processed/refined carbs.
The topic of mental state is an interesting one. I’ve always had the privilege of having a relatively positive mindset, believing 100% in my ability and having the utmost confidence in the team I choose to surround myself with. I truly believe that as an athlete I need to trust and fully commit to the training philosophies of my coaches. If there is a weakness in trust, I cannot reach the true potential of the training outcomes. The coach/athlete relationship is a two-way working relationship and it is as much my responsibility to execute what my coaches have prescribed as it is theirs to try and draw the best from me. With this in mind, it allows me to fully submit to the process of training and the result is heightened confidence when approaching a race or even a new training block.
Mental state is not something you obtain but more something you acquire and create, and in general these are the building blocks that allow me to create a positive mental state for myself: confidence, trust, positivity and commitment.
SCP: What products do you use in training and racing?
BW: The products I swear by are an accumulation of tried and tested products which I’ve built up trust in over my last decade of racing. First and foremost is Squirt Cycling Products; there are very few products that actively work to better my equipment. Squirt Chain Lube is one of those products and is basically an added warranty to my bikes. The epitome of ‘dynamite comes in small packages’, it is small enough to take everywhere and there is not a single race that I compete in that I do not use this product on my drivetrain.
Additionally, I’ve come across multiple nutrition supplements along the way. Nuun Hydration is my go-to electrolyte drink. Not a day goes by that I don’t use Nuun in some way – whether it be hydrating on the bike or simply after a workout as part of my recovery.
Rush Natural Nutrition is another good favourite. They supply a whole food source of energy in the form of a training bar. Rush Natural Nutrition bars contain high energy food sources like dates, chia seeds and nuts, it is almost an instant source of energy when training and far more effective and healthier for the gut than what an artificial energy gel can offer.
When it comes to my profession of swim, bike and run these are my favourite go-to products. I’m lucky enough to have great supporting sponsors that stay true to my beliefs as an athlete and provide some of the best products that the current market has to offer:
Swim: ROKA Sports, their wetsuits are industry leading and my current favourite product is their MAVERIK x2 Wetsuit, it literally took me from mid-pack swimmer to front pack swimmer.
Bikes: It’s no secret that Specialized has some of the best bikes the market has to offer. The Specialized S-Works Epic and Specialized S-Works Shiv Disk with SRAM RED e-Tap AXS are my favourite race bikes.
Run: PUMA has a wide range of products for all levels and interests. Their recent refocus to performance products have really excited me and their PUMA Ultraride Running Shoes are my current favourite.
SCP: What three elements to improve your cycling do you recommend?
BW: Strength training, periodisation for conditioning and CONSISTENCY.
SCP: Are there any products you can recommend to help riders improve their performance and keep hitting their cycling targets?
BW: Although there is an ever-growing market of products designed to improve your cycling, there is no purchasable product that will take you from zero to hero. I always advise people to invest in creating a sustainable environment for themselves. There is no ‘quick fix to greatness’; it takes years of commitment and a lifestyle change.
My biggest advice to anyone striving to be their best is thus to find a way to make their training environment sustainable, if it is not sustainable it cannot be consistent. Find a way to make it enjoyable and fun for everyone involved. If it steals too much from family time, find a way to include your family. A happy environment is a successful environment and I really believe that to keep improving performance, sustainability and consistency are of utmost importance. Love what you do, and if you can find a way to enjoy the process, you’ll keep hitting those milestones and the results will show. Just remember to have fun!