The Donkey vs The Stallion

Mathieu O’Halloran, www.matohalloran.blogspot.com

Triathlon combines 3 sports that in essence have various distances in a distinct event. From sprints through middle distance and up to endurance, some athletes are inherently better for particular durations.

From a very young age, it is quite vivid how some develop and excel at a particular length of races. Sometimes it can be physical, other times it is physiological and sometimes a mixture of both!

In laymen’s term it would be the difference between: a ‘donkey’ athlete and a ‘stallion’ athlete.


The donkey athletes are characterized with being more comfortable with longer/steadier efforts. The scientifically correct term for their muscle composite is “slowtwitch” fibers that are very aerobic. They have limited explosive force and not very dynamic. They often need to start slower to finish faster. Like a diesel engine, they need to get up and running to achieve full flight.

Donkey athletes are often limited by their biggest asset: their economic style or technique that tends to have a limited range of motion. It does however help them cover longer distances at an up tempo rhythm, very often in a negative split manner.

They will probably suffer from poor flexibility; and might not appear very athletic. They will majorly have an ectomorphic or endomorph physique with a subpar muscle definition.

These physical traits can also be accompanied by a laid back personality that goes with the flow, at its own pace and has a better emotional consistency.



The stallion athletes are more suited to shorter efforts that require a deeper explosion and high velocity. They will need a bit more rest between efforts to wind it up again repetitively. They are characterized for the better part, by a bulky and defined muscle structure that is primarily “fast-twitch” fibers and have the ability to fire rapidly!

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They are often more naturally supple with a more elastic range of motion, which in the end, is a dis-advantage over longer distances. Their technique is good but a bit overdone, of which makes them notorious for starting too fast and finishing slower.


They will be prone to inconsistency during big training blocks and most-likely prone to injuries.Their personality can often be opposed to the donkeys: a bit more aggressive, less patient and moody.




While this above is a polarization, there are some hybrid “freak athletes” who have the ability to become speed endurance phenom’s– it can come from a mix of personality and body. Such an individual with the body of a sprinter that has learned to extend their abilities through resilience and with an enduring mentality that has done the work for the distance.


It can also come from an individual with the fiery mentality of a sprinter but with an average biology. They have been able to get the most out of themselves over time, with proper bio-mechanics,the consistent ability to push their natural engine to the edge and maintain it there!




In the end, genetics do play a major role in what distance an athlete excels in. The determining factor will be the ability to correctly apply the specific methodology to the given physicality for the specific duration of competition.



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