From Prof to Pro: The Science and Soul of Matt Hanson (part 1 of 2)

You’d be forgiven if you thought Matt Hanson was a robot. As a former sports science professor, Hanson is all about metrics, analysis, and everything science when it comes to being a coach and an athlete. His sharp focus, goal-oriented nature, and critical thinking skills from an extensive background in academics, means that if he wants to accomplish something, he will make a plan and execute it to the letter. But, it was his reckoning with the other side, the not-so-measurable qualitative, the why as opposed to how, that has made Hanson the record-setting, competitive force that he is in long-distance triathlon.  

Matt Hanson in the water looking focused.Photo by Kenny Withrow,  Matts pick: Clear Magic

Only six months away from tenure, Hanson made the life-changing decision to walk away from academics and into the world of professional triathlon. It was a calculated move based on promising and impressive results (including an age group Kona qualification at his first-ever Ironman) but his first few years as a full-time professional were more challenging than he expected. While Hanson’s mind is one of his greatest assets, it proved to be an unforeseen stumbling block as a new pro.

“The focus had shifted from [triathlon being] a hobby to now being the way I was trying to support my family,” Hanson says. “I was so results-focused. I was thinking in a race ‘if I can pass this guy that’s another $1000’,” he recalls.

Matt Hanson racing on his bike.Photo by Deborah Castellanos

After a DNF at Ironman Cairns, Hanson said the long plane ride home to the USA was emotionally “uncomfortable” but also a time to reflect. Looking back over the previous twelve-month period, with financial considerations and lackluster results, Hanson came to a realization:

“I had gone away from what got me to the point where I was: executing the game plan, finding out how deep I can push myself, being a competitor, and letting the results sort themselves at the end. For me, the process focus gives much better results than a results focus.”

When he arrived home, he didn’t just change his mindset, he changed everything to support his mental shift, including his coach - and it worked. Hanson raced five times in the remaining few months of the season, three of which landed him back on the podium, including a win. Having a process-focused mindset reaffirmed why he was doing triathlon, brought back the fun, and the results followed. And they have continued to follow with a top ten world ranking from the Professional Triathlon Organisation, ten titles and countless podiums, top-end sponsors to back it all up, and a thriving coaching business with thirteen affiliated coaches working under his banner. Check out Matt Hanson Racing if you are looking for help with your training.

Matt Hanson wearing THEMAGIC5 gogglesPhoto by Deborah Castellanos, Matts pick: Blue Magic Mirror Gold

Hanson is clear that he approaches training, the how, very quantitatively but being a process-focused athlete also means consciously staying connected to why he is doing what he is doing. And that’s where it’s clear Hanson and his prominence in the sport isn’t just all science, it’s driven by a whole lot of soul.

We are proud to officially welcome Matt Hanson to our strong team of ambassadors.

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