Secrets of the Pros
Chris Sansom

Filmmaker, photographer, triathlete and recent convert to the world of mountain running, Chris Sansom has worked with some of the biggest names in ultra running and Triathlon. What secrets has he learned from those at the cutting edge of training and competition?

When you work with professional athletes for a living you can’t help but pick up a few tips of the trade here and there. Let’s face it, whether we run purely for enjoyment, to best our own PBs or if we’re running for a podium, it’s hard not to put professional athletes on a pedestal. It’s also easy to forget that as much as we share an interest in running, the life of a professional is very different to the life of an amateur runner. Where we might struggle to find the time to hit our mileage goals during a busy week at work or when the kids are keeping you up at night, for the professionals, getting those miles in IS their job! It sounds obvious, but I’m not really sure we think about it like that enough.

So next time you’re berating yourself for running a relaxing bath instead of a drizzly 10k just remember you’ve probably already had your workout – at least in terms of stress.

I don’t shoot many races, but earlier this year I was shooting for Red Bull Ultra Runner Tom Evans at UTMB Snowdon. It’s safe to say Tom dominated the race, finishing well clear of the field and coming out looking like he’d done a steady 5k. As we walked back to the car park countless spectators and competitors congratulated Tom on his performance. When asked time and time again ‘did you really RUN the whole 50k?’ Tom would humbly explain ‘yes, but it is my job! I bet I couldn’t do your job as well as you do either!’

I’d say that’s the biggest secret of the pros that I’ve found. It is their job. While the rest of us head out in the mornings to a workplace, home office or other work location, for a professional athlete working out is literally their 9-5. In fact, I don’t know a lot of athletes who work anywhere near the same hours as your run of the mill office worker. And when they aren’t exercising? They are resting! I mean real feet up, Netflix bingeing, bed by 10 resting!

As much as I love seeing top level athletes doing what they do best, seeing the way they rest and recover has always struck me as the thing that really separates them from us!

It sounds obvious when you think about it but it’s so easy to get sucked into feeling like you HAVE to hit your weekly mileage goals without appreciating that for most of us our priorities are bound to be different. Those weeks where you are just struggling to get the essentials done, it’s OK to let your training slip a little. Ultimately stress is stress. A bad day at work or a blowout with your partner can actually have the same chemical impact on your body as a tough session. So next time you’re berating yourself for running a relaxing bath instead of a drizzly 10k just remember you’ve probably already had your workout – at least in terms of stress.

Rest is the thing that really separates the pros from us mere mortals. I’ve actually got to know a few incredible age groupers over the years who’s weekly training can rival seasoned pros. Usually these are people with a lot more flexibility in their work lives than most, but it usually comes down to them burning the candle at both ends to fit in their training miles around their already busy lives. Don’t get me wrong, some people manage this just fine – everyone’s different after all – but the importance of adequate rest and recovery can’t be overstated

The life of a professional isn’t all glitz, glam and sponsored posts. For 90% of professional athletes the love of the sport is all that keeps them going

Ultimately training comes down to overload and adaptation. You can put in all the hours you want but if your body doesn’t have time to rest and rebuild those sessions could be inefficient or even wasted entirely. It’s a tricky thing to balance but even just a 20-30 minute afternoon nap can help to bridge that gap between training hours and recovery time. I’ve been working with Olympic Triathletes Alistair and Jonny Brownlee for the past 4 years and I’ve seen first-hand how they prioritise rest. Whether that’s a session in compression boots after a long ride or an afternoon with feet up playing on the Xbox. As much as I love seeing top level athletes doing what they do best, seeing the way they rest and recover has always struck me as the thing that really separates them from us!

Don’t trust social media. I say this with a somewhat unique view on the world of social media. In fact, social media is a huge part of my job so I’ll make no excuses for being very much part of the problem not the solution in that regard. The truth is I really don’t know that many pros that are super involved with social media. Most have their posts planned out for them by sponsors or social media managers. I work with plenty who adore their sponsors but more than a few who end up pushing products they just don’t believe in. I’m not saying that to denigrate anyone, just to point out that – as I’m sure you already know – not everything on social media is what it’s cracked up to be. Most of the pros I know make genuine kit choices based on the opinions of friends and peers – a pretty solid tactic for any of us! Lastly on the topic of social media it’s not just professionals who can give you a bit of a warped perspective on what kit to buy. Essentially, I look at social media like this – if the person praising a product hasn’t paid for it, their opinion isn’t really that useful!

The truth is I really don’t know that many pros that are super involved with social media. Most have their posts planned out for them by sponsors or social media managers

At the end of the day, we all run because we love it, that might be the challenge of something as unique as an OMM or just the escape we feel in a steady 5k at the end of a long day. We love it enough to make time for it even around our busy lives. That’s what really separates us from the professionals.

For 90% of professional athletes the love of the sport is all that keeps them going.

Still, the life of a professional isn’t all glitz, glam and sponsored posts. For 90% of professional athletes the love of the sport is all that keeps them going. Sure, it pays the bills, but if that was all that mattered, I’m sure we’d see a lot more athletes finding a well-paid 9-5 and living a lot more comfortably. They are full time professionals for one reason – they love the sport. That’s the biggest thing I’ve learned from the pros. Do it because you love it!

Filmmaker, photographer, triathlete and recent convert to the world of mountain running, Chris Sansom has worked with some of the biggest names in ultra running and Triathlon. What secrets has he learned from those at the cutting edge of training and competition?

When you work with professional athletes for a living you can’t help but pick up a few tips of the trade here and there. Let’s face it, whether we run purely for enjoyment, to best our own PBs or if we’re running for a podium, it’s hard not to put professional athletes on a pedestal. It’s also easy to forget that as much as we share an interest in running, the life of a professional is very different to the life of an amateur runner. Where we might struggle to find the time to hit our mileage goals during a busy week at work or when the kids are keeping you up at night, for the professionals, getting those miles in IS their job! It sounds obvious, but I’m not really sure we think about it like that enough.

So next time you’re berating yourself for running a relaxing bath instead of a drizzly 10k just remember you’ve probably already had your workout – at least in terms of stress.

I don’t shoot many races, but earlier this year I was shooting for Red Bull Ultra Runner Tom Evans at UTMB Snowdon. It’s safe to say Tom dominated the race, finishing well clear of the field and coming out looking like he’d done a steady 5k. As we walked back to the car park countless spectators and competitors congratulated Tom on his performance. When asked time and time again ‘did you really RUN the whole 50k?’ Tom would humbly explain ‘yes, but it is my job! I bet I couldn’t do your job as well as you do either!’

I’d say that’s the biggest secret of the pros that I’ve found. It is their job. While the rest of us head out in the mornings to a workplace, home office or other work location, for a professional athlete working out is literally their 9-5. In fact, I don’t know a lot of athletes who work anywhere near the same hours as your run of the mill office worker. And when they aren’t exercising? They are resting! I mean real feet up, Netflix bingeing, bed by 10 resting!

As much as I love seeing top level athletes doing what they do best, seeing the way they rest and recover has always struck me as the thing that really separates them from us!

It sounds obvious when you think about it but it’s so easy to get sucked into feeling like you HAVE to hit your weekly mileage goals without appreciating that for most of us our priorities are bound to be different. Those weeks where you are just struggling to get the essentials done, it’s OK to let your training slip a little. Ultimately stress is stress. A bad day at work or a blowout with your partner can actually have the same chemical impact on your body as a tough session. So next time you’re berating yourself for running a relaxing bath instead of a drizzly 10k just remember you’ve probably already had your workout – at least in terms of stress.

Rest is the thing that really separates the pros from us mere mortals. I’ve actually got to know a few incredible age groupers over the years who’s weekly training can rival seasoned pros. Usually these are people with a lot more flexibility in their work lives than most, but it usually comes down to them burning the candle at both ends to fit in their training miles around their already busy lives. Don’t get me wrong, some people manage this just fine – everyone’s different after all – but the importance of adequate rest and recovery can’t be overstated

The life of a professional isn’t all glitz, glam and sponsored posts. For 90% of professional athletes the love of the sport is all that keeps them going

Ultimately training comes down to overload and adaptation. You can put in all the hours you want but if your body doesn’t have time to rest and rebuild those sessions could be inefficient or even wasted entirely. It’s a tricky thing to balance but even just a 20-30 minute afternoon nap can help to bridge that gap between training hours and recovery time. I’ve been working with Olympic Triathletes Alistair and Jonny Brownlee for the past 4 years and I’ve seen first-hand how they prioritise rest. Whether that’s a session in compression boots after a long ride or an afternoon with feet up playing on the Xbox. As much as I love seeing top level athletes doing what they do best, seeing the way they rest and recover has always struck me as the thing that really separates them from us!

Don’t trust social media. I say this with a somewhat unique view on the world of social media. In fact, social media is a huge part of my job so I’ll make no excuses for being very much part of the problem not the solution in that regard. The truth is I really don’t know that many pros that are super involved with social media. Most have their posts planned out for them by sponsors or social media managers. I work with plenty who adore their sponsors but more than a few who end up pushing products they just don’t believe in. I’m not saying that to denigrate anyone, just to point out that – as I’m sure you already know – not everything on social media is what it’s cracked up to be. Most of the pros I know make genuine kit choices based on the opinions of friends and peers – a pretty solid tactic for any of us! Lastly on the topic of social media it’s not just professionals who can give you a bit of a warped perspective on what kit to buy. Essentially, I look at social media like this – if the person praising a product hasn’t paid for it, their opinion isn’t really that useful!

The truth is I really don’t know that many pros that are super involved with social media. Most have their posts planned out for them by sponsors or social media managers

At the end of the day, we all run because we love it, that might be the challenge of something as unique as an OMM or just the escape we feel in a steady 5k at the end of a long day. We love it enough to make time for it even around our busy lives. That’s what really separates us from the professionals.

For 90% of professional athletes the love of the sport is all that keeps them going.

Still, the life of a professional isn’t all glitz, glam and sponsored posts. For 90% of professional athletes the love of the sport is all that keeps them going. Sure, it pays the bills, but if that was all that mattered, I’m sure we’d see a lot more athletes finding a well-paid 9-5 and living a lot more comfortably. They are full time professionals for one reason – they love the sport. That’s the biggest thing I’ve learned from the pros. Do it because you love it!

Chris is a professional sports photographer and film maker, two-time finalist on ITVs Ninja Warrior UK and fan of all things active. Working with a variety of international brands, national associations, multiple olympic and world champions Chris spends his spare time trying to keep fit around a young family
Chris is a professional sports photographer and film maker, two-time finalist on ITVs Ninja Warrior UK and fan of all things active. Working with a variety of international brands, national associations, multiple olympic and world champions Chris spends his spare time trying to keep fit around a young family

If you have a story to tell, whether it’s from the OMM, another race or challenge or just how you use our kit, get in touch! Just pop an email to james@team-ark.com and who knows, you might just earn yourself some free kit!

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