Interview with Natascha Badmann

18. August 2016

Natascha Badmann's career is unusual to say the least. Unathletic and overweight, she became a mother at the age of 17. Six years later, she met the then Swiss national triathlon coach, Toni Hasler, and it changed her life forever. She turned into a truly exceptional talent on the triathlon long distance, won six times in Hawaii, and also became a multiple duathlon world champion.

Even today, at almost 50, you can still compete with the best. In your eyes, what are the three most important factors that lead to success?

Many years ago, my life partner and coach Toni Hasler and I illustrated our success and created the Four Pillars of Success. In addition to training, it includes nutrition, equipment, and mental training. We also organise lectures and seminars on these topics. If only 3 factors were permitted, then I think these would be my search for the perfect race, the meticulously detailed work, and the love of the sport.

Nevertheless, I would like to talk a little bit about the Four Pillars of Success. When it comes to training and nutrition, Toni is without a doubt one of the most important factors. He knows exactly when he may or must challenge me , and when my body needs to get some rest. Only in this way was it possible for me to compete in triathlons for 25 years at the highest level. What’s more, he is quite simply an incredibly good cook. He adapts our menus to my training and my physical well-being. For example, if he knows that the last bike ride was tough and small inflammations could potentially cause my body discomfort, then he doesn’t just cook simple vegetables, but the kind that have anti-inflammatory properties. I find it impressive that the various lentil colours each have their own nutritional properties, for example.

The next important factor is my equipment, which has led me to success over the years. We always try to ensure that I have the best equipment available. Even if we are sometimes unable to work out a partnership with the outfitter. We then prefer to buy the equipment instead of working with something else. With my size, age, and weight, it is not always easy to find suitable equipment. However, we invest a lot of time and patience in tinkering around and doing research.

The last factor is mental training. My experiences have brought me to where I am today. I have been able to learn a lot in my life and I am very grateful for this. I have worked a lot on myself and know who I am. Every day I invest time in my mental training. I try to collect as many beautiful thoughts as possible for the day and also consciously think of them time and again. In the morning when I get up, I have three reasons why this can be a really great day and in the evening I look back and capture the beautiful moments. I do this for my training as well as everyday life. It may sound a little like "Pollyannaism or positivity bias". However, I think every reader will have noticed at some point that when something small goes wrong, it can turn the whole day into a bad experience. We often get hung up on the small things. We are quick to criticise but slow to appreciate the beautiful and good things in life. For that reason, it is important that I cheat my mind and focus on the good things.

You are known for your mental strength. What runs through your head during a race? How do you respond to any negative thoughts that pop up?

Now that would take a very long time to describe everything. I'm not a sprinter. At times, my races can last up to 10 hours. Then a great many thoughts go through my mind. Staying focused over this long period of time is the greatest challenge in our sport. And sometimes it is also important to mentally leave the race in order to switch off briefly. But not for too long, which brings us to the next challenge: finding the balance between focus and mental recovery. I have images and thoughts that I can "call up” for different situations. If my subconscious slowly starts telling me "... ufff, today it’s really tough", then that is a signal for me to consciously think of a gazelle, for example, leaping effortlessly through the country. Now this is just a small example and sounds pretty "easy" to do. However, a lot of training is needed to get the sub-optimal thoughts to disappear and make space for the beneficial thoughts. Our brain works constantly and thinks about a lot, but we can only think one thought at a time and I take advantage of this trait. All of this I learnt in Toni’s mental seminars, which I still keep attending even after all these years and can only recommend.




You managed to go the distance from non-athlete to world class athlete. With which three tips can anyone, regardless of their performance level, improve themselves and achieve higher goals?

If it were that simple, I would probably earn incredible amounts of money with this advice. However, an important point that gets constantly overlooked is as follows: Before training, you should think of 3 reasons as to why you are doing this training now. These reasons should be positive. If this is not the case, then you should take the time to sit down and think about why you are even doing this sport. What feelings make you feel great and what fires you up for training or a competition that makes you do it over and over again. These feelings should spur you on and be the reasons why you do your daily training. Even I don’t complete every training session with a smile on my face. There are somewhat "sub-optimal" days but the majority of my training is simply full of happiness and joy. As far as I am concerned, improving performance predominantly starts in the head. And this is something everyone can learn.

For over 20 years, you have been involved in the triathlon scene where you have experienced a lot, not to mention the development of the triathlon sport. How has the requirements profile of athletes developed over the course of time?

It is impressive how the equipment and bodies of the athletes have changed. The performance density has become enormous. Today, even "hobby athletes" with a job and family train for 25 hours and the professional athletes literally fly over the Ironman distance. Just a few weeks ago, Jan Frodeno set a new record. When I started, I never would have dreamed that a person is capable of such a performance. Faster, higher, further ... the sport is mirroring society.




Foto: ZVG