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Coaches Blog

What It Takes

Updated: Apr 21, 2022

When I started Team MPI, I was in the middle of a 3 year "sweet spot of performance" at a high level for an amateur at my age. I even did three full IRONMAN events within 3 months, qualifying for two World Champs in two of those races. Now, yes, that was a great run! However, I paid the price for all that training over the next two years…but that's another article.

So, I have some anecdotal experience with the upper-level amateur training and everything it takes. Since I started Team MPI, I've also worked with countless professional athletes designing and crafting their ever-changing weekly training sessions. This experience with the professional side also gave me a REAL perspective on the HUGE difference between amateur and professional. What did I learn from both experiences? Well, here are some thoughts:

Elite Amateur Athlete

- To rise to the elite amateur ranks, you must train and train a lot. Yes, you can (and should) train smarter, but there are no shortcuts.

- You must train every day of the week. Now some days may be active recovery, yoga, stretching, massage, napping, etc. But it is on your schedule.

- You are always tired as you most likely have work and maybe even a family.

You really have only so much time in a day, so you have to make some tough choices that may impact your family (partner and kids) and friends you don't train with. In much of my IRONMAN season, I trained for 20 hours or more each week. I had a massage every 3 to 4 weeks and spent a lot of time driving to and from training sessions. I woke up typically at 5am, and I was exhausted after long sessions, seemingly every Saturday and Sunday. I sacrificed a lot to achieve those goals.

Professional Athlete

- Take the above and increase it by 50-100%.

- You must also continuously look for sponsors, always perform for sponsors, and actually try to make some money. You MUST be a "brand" ambassador for these partners, and that takes work.

- Your sole focus in life is training and recovery. What you eat matters. How much you sleep matters. You must "put in the time" ALL OF THE TIME.

- The trickiest part for a professional athlete is the recovery and mental state. That's where I've contributed the most with the professionals I've worked for.

- You must be goal-oriented, always driven, and highly competitive to live a professional athlete's life.

So what does it take to be in either of these categories (and they are not the same)?

TENACITY - you never give up, and you always want more.

BULLDOG COMMITMENT - every day, every week, every month. No exceptions.

FIERCELY COMPETITIVE - you're never satisfied, and you always demand more of yourself.

This is what it takes. The successful athletes find joy in all of this and figure out how to use that joy to perform.

Can you enjoy the sport without committing to all this? YES! I do every year now! But if you want to make the jump to the next level, it takes a lot more than a "want." I have mad respect for those that achieve this.


Mark Sortino is a Boise, ID based Coach wi is a USA Triathlon Level III and Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, FIST Certified Bike Fitter, USAT Certified Race Director and Paralympic Coach for Team USA. From brand new Triathletes and MTB-ers to World Championship qualifiers, Mark enjoys working for and with all types of athletes as they pursue their dreams. Mark is also a US Veteran having served 20 years in the US Navy as a Naval Flight Officer and is a graduate of the US Naval Academy. He can be reached at


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