The Path to Strength Through Weakness

September 12th, 2013 by Athletic Mentors

Dan SkiAthletes enjoy year-to-year improvement, and constantly seek ways to achieve gains through changes to things like their training, nutrition, or tactics. But the closer an athlete gets to his or her full potential, the more challenging it becomes to continue the trajectory of improvement. Knowing that you “don’t know what you don’t know” and turning to an experienced coach can make a world of difference. Such was the case with Daniel Yankus, an Athletic Mentors athlete, Elite Team Priority Health cyclist and cross country skier. In his case, working with an experienced coach made for an outstanding season, with several podium finishes in Pro Mountain Bike events and Pro/1/2 road events.

Yankus’ started racing when he was 13, but at 19 took a near decade-long hiatus before coming back to skiing and cycling. His talent was obvious, and he progressed to the top state level of both sports in little more than a year. The first two seasons at that level were educational.

“In cycling, I tried to get used to field size and positioning,” Yankus said. “The next year I transitioned from surviving a race to (occasionally) dictating how things went, while also learning how to become a good teammate.” He also picked up a second place finish that second year, his best result so far.

“I definitely felt I was progressing,” he said.

Dan Yankus BikeBefore the start of his third cycling season, Yankus was determined to try something he’d done for the first time during his preceding ski season: Get some professional coaching. Though he’d gained a lot of understanding about himself and success using a moderately priced training plan service for skiing, a more one-on-one approach was what he was after for cycling.

“I was looking for someone to find my weaknesses. A stand-alone training plan still puts too much control with the athlete,” Yankus said.

Yankus found the interaction he was looking for with AM coach, Terry Ritter.

“Discussing training philosophies and credentials, it became very obvious Terry was the right coach for me.”

He also learned quickly that his limited training knowledge had mislead him in assessing his weaknesses.

“I had always assumed my 3-5 min condition was lacking because I couldn’t recover well after hard efforts of that length in races,” Yankus said. “And, I assumed my aerobic endurance was a strength. In three weeks Terry proved all my assumptions were wrong. I quickly saw race improvements because my workouts now addressed what were really my weaknesses.”

Even though Yankus competes at a high level, he often finds his competitors training noticeably longer than he does for a given week. This is a direct result of a quality versus quantity approach his busy life requires.

“Terry taught me the difference between a workout and a quality workout. He also showed me that some goals were going to be hard to obtain and keep a balance, and my plan reflected that,” Yankus stated.

Being a two-sport athlete, and also enjoying MTB, cyclocross, and time trialing, Yankus needed a coach that could work with that profile.

“Coach Terry has a multi-sport background and strong exercise science knowledge and was able to integrate my two seasons (skiing and cycling) to compliment each other, while also working with my other cycling sports.”

Ultimately, Yankus has enjoyed the interaction and knowledge he’s gained from working with coach Ritter, and looks at it as a multi-year journey.

“Terry really cares about his athletes and wants them to succeed,” Yankus said. “Working with him improved my bike performance, but also my understanding of what my training is supposed to do for me. The investment we have made this season will help my future seasons.”