Coaching the Champ: Jami Tikkanen

March 20, 2013

Chet Morjaria

"When competing, the only thing left (for the coach) to do is to keep the athlete in the right mind set for success. They need to believe in themselves, and my main role (as the coach) is to upkeep this belief."


Most people know Jami Tikkanen as “Annie’s coach.”

Tikkanen has coached two-time Games champion, Annie Thorisdottir, ever since the summer after the 2009 CrossFit Games. What you probably didn’t know is that Tikkanen started as a competitor. 
In 2009, he traveled to the Northern Ireland Regional to compete for a spot in the Games. There, he faced an unknown athlete from Finland, Mikko Salo, and got hooked on the spirit of the competition.  
"I loved the environment and camaraderie between competitors," he says. 
“While I didn't make the cut to the Games, I met up with Mikko, which led to a cascade of events leading me to where I am now."
The Role of the Coach
“I strongly believe that my role as a coach is to create an environment of success for my athletes, where they can realize their full potential,” Tikkanen says. “When competing, the only thing left to do is to keep the athlete in the right mind set for success. They need to believe in themselves, and my main role is to upkeep this belief.”
When it’s game time, it’s the coach’s job to handle the details so the athlete can focus on the workouts.
“That can be via cueing and encouraging during the workout or formulating plans, talking strategy and keeping them on track with their recovery and nutrition between events. I want my athletes to be able to focus on their job, which is giving their best in each workout. I'll deal with everything else that supports this. This might include cooking eggs at 4 a.m. before the game day or doing soft tissue work late at night," Tikkanen says.
To prepare for the competition, Tikkanen believes athletes need to establish a strong base by following a GPP template such as the kind outlined at the CrossFit Level 1 Seminar.
“My starting point for programming is movement,” Tikkanen explains. “I target my programming specifically to challenge good movement in different conditions and believe skill work should be implemented to every session. I do a lot of my work aiming to address, at least in theory, specific energy systems while understanding that the theory might not be what actually happens in real life. This gives me a systematic approach to developing well-rounded athletes."
To prepare high-level CrossFit athletes for the Games, Tikkanen organizes workouts differently.
“I use block training (Conjugate Sequence System) as my basic template,” he says. “As these athletes already have a high level of GPP and are training at high intensity, focusing on certain physical attributes for four- to eight-week blocks provides the required stimulus to allow for continued progress. We are still doing CrossFit workouts, just modified to target specific adaptations. I also aim to gather as much recovery data as possible from the athletes I work with individually to monitor the intensity and volume in their training.”
Using these concepts, he has created a training plan.
“My goal is to build a multi-year program for competitive CrossFitters, and to collaborate with great coaches such as Carl Paoli and Chad Vaughn to share ideas and to learn,” he says.
So far, he’s satisfied with the results. 
Annie Thorisdottir, Azadeh Boroumand, Jaime Gold, Katrin Tanja Davidsdottir, Frederik Aegidius, and members of CrossFit Rejkjavik have spent time following his training plan, and many have been quite successful.
“For the first few years, I worked exclusively with Annie as I really wanted to focus on her success,” he explains. “While she is still my main athlete, I'm also curious to see what I can do with these other athletes with huge potential. It's an exciting and rewarding journey to share with these committed individuals.”
He adds: “I feel like I'm living the dream, but that dream does not involve days off at the moment. There are so many opportunities out there and I don't have a great track record of saying no to new challenges. On average, I spend two to three days a week at my gym, travel the weekends to teach CrossFit (with the Level 1 Seminar Staff) and sprinkle everything else in between. I also aim to go to Iceland each month to work with Annie. It's all manageable, as I love what I'm doing, and when your work is your passion, it doesn't feel like work.” 
“Oh, and having a supportive girlfriend is a must."