Know Your Coach: Ben Hammond

Ben Hammond is a bike fitter, coach and former professional triathlete. His years of experience coupled with advanced studies in sports science and movement allow him to help his athletes drive their training and performance.

Tell us about your athletic/sport background.

I started out as a runner when I was young and my coach at the time was Rob Higley, who had spent a lot of time helping the likes of Greg Bennett and also Canada's Simon Whitfield (Olympic gold medallist, Sydney 2000) when he was living in Sydney. Rob had told me that we had very similar running techniques and builds which made me an instant fan boy.

Following the Olympics I was hooked and got straight into triathlon so would have been about 12 years old. I ended up getting to race Simon in probably around 2009/2010 in Kelowna, Canada and told him this story afterwards. He absolutely demolished me in the race but was great to be on the start line with him.

You went on to acquire formal background in sport with bike fit certification and sports degrees.

I've always had the desire to work in some capacity within a sporting environment. For a while I ran a private bike fitting studio while I was still racing to supplement the big bucks (lol) I was earning in triathlon.

After high school I actually started a Bachelor of Nutrition and Dietetics and dropped out after a year to go and race in Europe. Once I got there however I was in this tiny little German town and quickly realised there was only so many hours a day you could train and Netflix didn't exist. At that point I commenced a Bachelors in Exercise & Sport Science, and am now going down the PhD route in Human Movement Science.

Education and learning has always fascinated me and the process of research and learning and writing is something I enjoy. I understood the importance of formal qualifications post-racing but it wasn't the driving factor to do it.

How did you get involved with MX Endurance?

Getting involved is a happy coincidence that goes back to early 2012. At the time Macca was aiming to make the Olympic team for London and we were both racing in the Oceania Championships down in Devonport, Tasmania which was an automatic qualifier. We were both on the last plane into the airport and then I had an hours bus ride to where the race was. Unfortunately the plane was delayed and I missed the bus. I'd met Chris in passing before and saw him at the car rental stand picking up some keys and asked if he could give me a lift. He'd only rented a shoebox of a car but he went back to the counter and actually upgraded to a bigger one so he could fit me in. That trip was the first time I got to know him well.

Later that year he was running a 2-day camp for my tri club with the help of Evan and Nicole Gallagher who are mutual friends of ours. I was doing bike fits at the time and they invited me to do a talk on the importance of fittings and help out with the camp. After the camp we went out for dinner and he was telling me about MX Endurance and the first camp they were running in Miami with over 100 people. I asked who was helping him run it and it was just going to be Azza (Aaron Franklin) and himself. I laughed, called him a bunch of names and was on the next plane to Miami for the first MX camp, then another month later to Phuket where I ended up living for a couple of years and working with Chris at Thanyapura.

Tell us more about yourself.

Outside of this arena I've got a little 14-month old girl, Andi. My wife (Brooke) and I have another on the way, due in November.

I work now for a company called Hudl which is the largest video analysis platform for sport in the world. You name a professional sporting team from anywhere in the world and they're very likely a customer. I manage our team in Asia-Pacific that is responsible for the education, training and support of all Elite teams in our region (think the All Blacks, Wallabies, AFL teams etc.).

What kind of athletes do you coach?

I coach athletes who get shit done and don't make excuses. I've only got a small stable but they're all self-motivators, and talk to me honestly and with that comes full faith from my side that they'll do the work. I love working with the athletes I have and to some degree, they're all very similar in the way the approach their training which makes my life a lot easier.

How do you describe your coaching style?

I like to give athletes the opportunity to succeed for themselves. I'm not a coach who obsesses over every minor detail. There needs to be a degree of flexibility.

I use data to drive a lot of the decisions I make but I generally don't go into a huge amount of detail with the athletes. I've seen too many times athletes obsess over a watt here or a watt there and it drives me insane. Not a lot of people know but I worked at Today's Plan from almost the very beginning when we were sitting in a small shed on top of the CEO's garage. I spoke to athletes and coaches on a daily basis and the things in their mind that they stressed about from an analytical standpoint were absolutely insane and also completely pointless.

Physiological markers and zones are not defined by a single watt and getting it wrong by a couple of % isn't the end of the world, and the data that we use to measure all of this isn't accurate to that point either.

Sorry, I went on a bit of a tangent there! Back to the question, I would describe my coaching style as one which promotes a bit of self-reflection on training from athletes, allows some freedoms with execution, data-driven without being data-obsessed, and I will pull your head in when I need to.

It’s really easy to get caught up in numbers that don’t necessarily mean much. Without the right guidance, all this data can very quickly become a hindrance to training leading to paralysis-by-analysis. The biggest challenge is gaining actionable insights from all that “noise”, and that's what Ben provides for his athletes. Get in touch with Ben.