Inigo Mujika, carrying out a performance test.

Inigo Mujika, carrying out a performance test. (Photo: Inigo Mujika)

You have mostly worked with endurance athletes. What basic differences do you find with respect to working with speed or strength athletes?

It is true that I have worked with triathletes, cyclists, runners, rowers and other endurance athletes, but I have also worked a lot with footballers, water polo players, and even tennis players and motocross riders, all intermittent type of activities requiring a specific preparation very different to that of endurance athletes. It is also true that I have never worked directly with sprinters, so I am not in a position to evaluate the differences in working with them. In any case, not all endurance athletes are equal, nor are all sprinters or team sport athletes. I think the particular characteristics of each athlete are much more determinant than those of the sport itself when establishing the way to work with them.

What is more motivating, training professional or recreational athletes?

I have been involved in high level sport for a long time, and the truth is that I like it and I still find it as motivating as the first day. Sharing training and competition experiences with the athletes I work with is very enriching, both when things go well and when they turn out wrong. However, I have been helping recreational athletes attain their goals through my work at USP Araba Sport Clinic for two and a half years now, and although those goals may seem more modest and less motivating, I am enjoying it. As an example, it is very nice to see and share the satisfaction of an athlete who has just started in triathlon and finsihes their first race, or a runner who manages to go under a certain time in a marathon, no matter how modest that time may be. I consider them all athletes and I try to help them reach their aims, whatever their performance level.

Although you have worked with Euskaltel Euskadi cycling team and Athletic Club Bilbao, we know you better for being the coach of the Llanos brothers and Ainhoa Murua. What is your take on the evolution of these triathletes since they work with you?

It’s already been ten years working with Hektor and Eneko, and eight with Ainhoa… I wouldn’t know where to start: the first years in the Olympic distance with Hektor and Eneko, the World Cups, the fight for the Olympic spots, the move to the Ironman distance, the long distance and Xterra world titles, Ainhoa’s constant evolution, her two Olympic participations, the victories in Zarautz. Considering that we are talking about elite sport, results are most important, they speak for themselves and they are available for anyone who wishes to analyze then. Perhaps it should be the athletes themselves who should answer this question.

Personally, what is more satisfying to you, your work as a lecturer, as a researcher or as a coach?

I enjoy all three very much. I consider myself mostly a sport scientist, a researcher, but research is not very useful if it stays within academia and does not bring about benefits to society. In this case, those benefits would be on the one hand the transmission of knowledge to the students and all those people attending my lectures, and on the other the practical application of the research results to try to help athletes to continue improving. I think I am privileged to be able to carry out all three activities and enjoy with them.

Has training science evolved a lot these past few years? In what sense?

I think there has been a significant growth of sport science in general these past few years. From my point of view, this growth is reflected in the number of scientific journals related with sport, the number of articles published in them and the impact factors of these journals that have been growing gradually; also, in the creation of training centers in most countries, and in the number of sport scientists and sport training specialists both in those training centers and the majority of professional sport teams. Athletic success is much more likely to be achieved if an athlete or team follow a program based on scientific principles of training than if they adopt a training strategy based on trial and error.

We often hear people say that all elite athletes are doping; what would you say to those who think that way?

I would tell them to prove it, and if they can’t, to respect the work of those athletes.

What are the basic pillars of training?

Training itself, which requires not only knowing what to do but also why it is done, and recovery, which probably requires much more extensive knowledge. Performance improvement in any sport requires careful and systematic planning, the application of adequate training and nutritional programs and a progression free of injury and illness. Unless we get the training and recovery cycles right, our work is doomed to failure.

Is it necessary to take nutritional supplements to attain maximal performance?

It depends. Each athlete is different and I don’t think general rules can be applied in this area, neither to suggest that all athletes should take supplements, nor to suggest the opposite. There are a lot of things to consider, and I am not only talking about the demands of the sport and the athlete’s nutritional habits. Psychological aspects, the “culture” of the sport, social and even financial aspects also need to be analyzed. This issue is more complex than it may seem at first glance.

Roughly, what would be your recommendations for an endurance athlete wanting to improve their performance?

I think the best I can do is refer to what I said regarding the basic pillars of training. That, and establishing reasonable goals that allow them to progess and at the same time stay motivated to keep working and improving day after day.


MUJIKA, I. Encuentro con Iñigo Mujika. Sportraining Magazine 38: 39, 2011.

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