Experience the Difference

Coaches….they have a hand in everything, but control nothing!

November 4th, 2018

Disclaimer: This chapter is written purely from a ‘high performance’ athlete/coach viewpoint.

There is only 2 kinds of coaches! 1. Those that have been sacked. OR. 2. Those that will be sacked.

Whether you work for a club or you work for one or a number of individual athletes there will come a time that every one of those ‘employers’ will ask you to leave their employment.

My aim, as a long term high performance coach has been to continually re-invent myself as part of the process to help produce regular high performance results.

In order to preserve that consistency it is always a requirement to add young and talented athletes perpetually.

There, however, comes a point in time that an older coach, whilst they can still see everything that still needs to be executed by athletes to constantly produce exceptional results, that the generational gap between the coach and athlete will become too large.

After all the body hasn’t changed and the very things that worked before will continue to work but in this fast paced, ‘take away’, quick fix mentality, ever changing world, sport that requires patience and consistency for long term good results, the 2 just don’t go hand in hand.

Being an athlete is an arduous, slow, meandering and difficult process.

When doing my absolute best to explain to an athlete, sometimes 40-50 years younger than myself, it can become quickly apparent that we are speaking to glazed over eyes (for that fleeting moment that their eyes are lifted from the hand held screen that they are looking at).

This is very unlike the generally completely receptive athlete that we would have been enunciating with of a similar age 20 or more years previously as we do our best to deliver a plan that we know full well will work.

Chances are we/you are now on totally different wavelengths and the message that we know that the athlete needs to apply, just isn’t completely getting through any more.

When this scenario happens, it is not the fault of the athlete, it is the way that we are trying to install our older terminology on a new society and they don’t get it.

It is now that we need to reconsider our position and let these young, bright and highly talented athletes go to someone closer to their age that they can fully relate to that will ensure that they are coached in a method that makes sense to them.

After all, the goals and aspirations of the athlete is the number one priority. Do the right thing!

Having had the advantage and also the  benefit of observing and working with the head coaches of many professional sporting clubs in Australia, with myself as head of strength and conditioning has given me great ‘first hand’ insight on this subject.I worked for 8 years in the WAFL. (West Australian Football League), 3 years in the NRL (National Rugby League) and 6 years in the NBL (National Basketball League)

In those 17 years observing coaches and coaching methods I had the privilege of working with some really great coaches and some, well, not so great.

There was a constant though and this is irrespective of whether I thought of them as a great coach or not, and that was that their message routinely goes ‘stale’ in the eyes of the athlete, nowadays in as little as 2 years.

So just how many generations apart until it becomes too many?

Providing you, the coach understood that your delivery method needed continual tweaking and have evolved through time, it will still become nigh on impossible to keep pace with the changes in the generations to a point that it is now just too big a gap and the all-important message is now not as readily received as you wish that it was.

In coaching terms, the most difficult generation so far for me has been and still is the Y generation (those born since about 1984) but at the same time is been my most successful from a results point of view.

Why is this?

I recognised early that the generational gap between myself and the Y generation athletes was already too big and my message just wasn’t getting to where I needed it to as consistently as I would like.

At the time that the Y generation started to appear in my squad, the older generations were still around IE: last of the baby boomers and more especially the X generation and all still extremely strong, highly talented and regarded athletes.

I quickly recognised this void between myself and the Y generation so surreptitiously was able to use these ‘older’, senior athletes to mentor and drive the burgeoning Y generation athletes all with my backing.

These up and coming athletes relished that opportunity and fed off them and gained an enormous amount of strength, both physically and mentally just training alongside them.

The extraordinary results from these Y generation athletes continued for many years using this coaching strategy.

Further complications appeared later was when the baby boomer and X generation athletes finished up and the Y generation athletes became the ‘senior’ generation athletes to mentor and guide the later Y generation and moving into the millennials.

This is where it has become very much more difficult for me.

Unlike the more closed off baby boomer and X generations who kept their emotions much closer to their chest, these later generations are much more open with friends and team mates, they are less likely to keep things close to their chest and they generally have much less focus on long term stoic loyalty.

Why I feel that this openness becomes a problem in a team/coaching/training environment is the negative energy that the more constant verbal dissent and complaints creates is a serious issue from a squad synergy and energy point of view.

Whereas the earlier generations most likely had the very same feelings, they were less likely to verbalise their dissent and just got on with what needed to happen and ‘play their role’ as required.

Couple that with the fact that the later generations have little or no interest in hearing “in my day we did it like this” and are seemingly unimpressed and disinterested in history and tradition.

After all the reason that all athletes are training for and competing within their chosen sport now is 100% because of all the previous administrators and athletes that came before them.

If you are reading this and you are from the younger generations, the way I see it is that it is NOT your fault and I am not being critical of you.

I feel it is a combination of many things within your upbringing IE: parenting, educational system, and peers all accepting of mediocre.

You are all so much more capable than you think you are. You all have it in you to be so amazing. Patience and work ethic is key.

For so long, people had their addictive dopamine fix by hard training or alcohol or drugs or smoking and as a sports coach that was what we were dealing with every day of our coaching lives.

Nowadays that dopamine fix is also satisfied by social media and technology.

The fixation on technology is an addiction that is not going to go away so we need to find a way to work with it rather than against it. Easier said than done for someone my age.

So often now, the gaps I now see in post training data are generally not to fix a flat tyre or mechanical issue or a stop to have a drink, (as it most often was in the past) it is much more likely to have been a stop or pause to take a photo for a social media feed or update.

Then, if we relied on many peoples’ social media, post training updates to see how they are doing, you would be led to believe that ‘wow these athletes are amazing and so strong and fast’.

I know better though, that the only reason that session suddenly appeared on social media is that they are happy (no, ecstatic with it). All the other sessions (that don’t appear on social media) that are completed just how they should be, on point and on the schedule. And those are the sessions I like most because they are the ones that make the most positive changes in the long term.

 

The most effortless generation to coach for me was the X generation.

I can only assume that these athletes were the closest in age to me and because I was still older and supposedly wiser than they, I found them extremely receptive to new ideas and methods with respect to their sporting aspirations.

 

Not every athlete or coach can retire within the perfect scenario where they win their last event that they are involved with IE: when everything is rosy and at the top of our/their game.

It certainly can and does happen but more often than not, it doesn’t happen, many hang on longer than they should.

Regardless of the timing, that point to declare that your coaching or athletic career is over, pull up stumps and hand over to the younger athletes and coaches coming through will come and we/you need to recognise that time!

The elite have total belief in themselves. The average want others to believe in them!

October 11th, 2018

One of the things that I have experienced over a long time now, is that by the time that an athlete has progressed to being an elite athlete and have established their career, I have found them a dream to coach.

The elite athlete undeniable self-belief merely needs to be nurtured and supported and providing, as their coach I can keep a lid on their personal expectations and potentially artificially elevated ego, my job as their coach just got easier….for once.

Often, though this self-belief and confidence can be a little skewed and is in need of curtailing from time to time with a quick reality check and some external logical input but I would rather it that way than the opposite.

I rarely hear an elite athlete seeking continual approval for how they go about their training, recovery or competing.

There is so much self-belief in their pre-set processes that good results are merely a formality.

The elite are rarely going into an event in the hope that it will go well.

Instead they go into each event knowing that they will have a good event in the knowledge that every possible attention to detail has been enacted upon with regards to their overall preparation.

Their personal motivation to be consistent and ongoing in their commitment to being held to account to every single aspect of elitism is what sets them apart from the average.

There is an obvious personal empowerment that these athletes derive from knowing that they will almost always perform well because of their continued attention to detail is a refreshing change.

Every aspect of being the elite athlete needs to be personally important enough to make happen and not just the easy bit which is usually the actual training.

It has shown over the years that these ‘elite’ are certainly not always completely correct in their opinion and thoughts regarding their immediate requirements for their current event preparation but it is usually an easy conversation to have and point them to a more practical and productive path.

The most common issue here is that most will want to do exactly what worked before forgetting that it is highly likely that their prospective opposition are continually implementing fresh and new training and preparation strategies.

There is, however always the one that is of the belief they are completely different to every other human being on earth and truly believe that they can achieve highly by not adhering to the tried and tested.

Something I believe is this:

‘If you do what you have always done in this sporting world, you are going backwards’

As an athlete you need to do what everyone else is doing, and especially your opposition but do it better than them.

 

On the other hand the developmental and average athletes spend an inordinate amount of time and energy trying to convince their coach, their friends and most importantly, themselves that they are doing everything perfectly and they are doing well.

All with a degree of insincerity that is so easy to see through.

The amount of times I have had to listen to an athlete doing their absolute best to explain to me in ‘exacting’ detail just how well they have trained, how great their nutrition is and how well they are looking after themselves is in the thousands.

Very often this long winded explanation is not supported by their data (and they know it).

The impassioned veracity that this explanation often takes and the detail to which these athletes can go to is extraordinary.

If only they approached their training and overall preparation with as much tenacity and doggedness.

The eyes and body language say it all.

I feel I can almost see each person’s entire life but most notably, their overall health and fitness directly through the eyes along with careful attention to their body language.

It is so easy to see when someone is expressing their thoughts with purpose rather than with conviction.

 

Most likely my responses will be one of these:

  1. If I don’t feel that you are completely ready for your next target event, then I won’t be letting you do it. Why? Because, regardless of them imploring that they are doing well. I will remind them about now too, that you are not just representing yourself when you compete, because you represent me, your coach, your training squad and your family meaning that if I feel that any part of you or your support network will be not suitably represented by your lack of preparedness, you are not on this time around.
  2. Or let them do the event. This will show yourself, myself and everyone else exactly how well you are going, regardless of your desire to convince me and all around you that you are doing everything to the letter and doing well.

We all know full well that it is not me that you are trying to convince that all is well with your own attention to detail, it is in fact yourself.

People can sound and look so, so convincing in this scenario.

I judge people by what they do rather than by what they say. Words are just that, ‘words’.

The human mind is a very powerful thing.

You/we all spend a long time in our own heads, I suggest you make that a nice place to spend a long time.

Please remember this, just because you think it, doesn’t make it so.

If enough time is spent on self-satisfying yourself and self-support and personal back slapping, then it is highly likely that it is possible to be totally incontrovertible to have yourself believe you are doing really well when the reality is that you are not.

From the outside looking in, that is not what I see.

That is a complicated way of saying, please don’t believe your own bullshit.

The result that you achieve in your next event will be an exact replica of your input and attention to your training whether you are a professional, elite, age group or ‘weekend warrior’ athlete.

After reading all of my thoughts here it is up to you now to decide which category you feel you fit into.

Are you the ‘elite’ or are you not quite in the elite category yet?

Commitment: ‘Either you do or you don’t, there is no in between’

August 6th, 2018

Prompted to think more deeply about this question by recent experiences, I am now more puzzled than ever about commitment and what it really is! So what is it?

I don’t believe that commitment can be only applied to just one aspect of one’s life such as sport because, in my experience, sport mirrors the remainder of life. So there is a fair chance that if you lack long term commitment to your sport, it is highly likely that you will also lack long term commitment to your work, your friends and your family.

The dictionary definition of commitment is pretty well summed up as:

Noun

  1. The act of committing, pledging, or engaging oneself.
  2. A pledge, vow, undertaking or promise: obligation

I notice with interest that no dictionary definition specifies exactly how long that commitment needs to be consistently applied to satisfy the definition that you are committed!

From my point of view I believe this is where my confusion stems from in that every definition now seems ambiguous because there is no start and finish time.

Does one day of commitment classify you as committed? OR, does it require that you commit to an entire career to be classified as a committed person? I know which I think it is!

If there is a benefit of me now being in my 41st year of coaching, I have seen a lot of changes across the generations, and the generational diversity in the interpretation of ‘commitment’ is one of these changes that has been and continues to be an extreme challenge as a high performance coach.

Just like many of life’s many variables, the personal perception of commitment and what that very word ‘commitment’ means, seems to be extremely fickle and as such, different for each individual.

I have my own comprehension of commitment and just how that applies to every aspect of life. Accordingly, when applied to sport my definition seems vastly different from most others that I now come in contact with.

To find a potential athlete or indeed, an established athlete with the attitude to maximal personal commitment that mirrors my own, especially in these last few years is becoming less and less commonplace.

Some appear capable of remaining ‘committed’ for a day, a week, a month or even multiple months, in fact some shock me with their enthusiastic ‘commitment’ for that short while in the early stages of training, only to just ‘ghost’ away without a trace or message or any contact in any way.

Many people ‘commit’ to an event sometime into the near or not so near future by either qualifying for, and/or simply paying the registration fee.

To me, that very action of registering for an event should be the ultimate catalyst to total commitment for the preparation to that event with a desire to be in the absolute best possible shape come event day.

Upon qualifying or registering for the upcoming event, these are some questions that you should ask yourself that will assist you in the lead up to that event.

  1. What to expect as far as required physical attributes, (IE: skill set, speed, strength endurance or whatever your chosen sports’ demands are)?
  2. What you need to do and who can help you best prepare (be it a coach and/or who to train with during this entire preparation)?
  3. And how to go about applying all of those into your current life and lifestyle?
  4. Is it going to require some adjustments to your current lifestyle?

This upcoming event should trigger the utmost commitment to yourself, your coach, your teammates that you should be able to rely upon to further your sporting dream.

In this scenario, commitment becomes a two way street, you committed to them because you need them to improve, and them committed to you as by them helping you, you improve, and in turn, your commitment to them helps them improve.

My own take on this is simple, IE: if you are committed to the process, then you are obliged to remain so until the event is completed or if you are a long term athlete, you remain committed until the end of your career and you are now retired from the sport.

So to be a better athlete than you currently are you need the following list of commitments:

Commitment to the exact training as required

Commitment to your nutrition

Commitment to your rest and recovery processes between sessions

Commitment to your squad (if you have one)

Commitment to your coach (if you have one)

Commitment to your family and friends because you will need them when things get a bit tough from time to time.

By committing to all of these processes, you give yourself the best possible opportunity of success and that will be your commitment to excellence.

Without this level of commitment your results are likely to be very irregular at best.

If, however you happen to be that type of person/athlete that is only capable of committing to something for that short time, then you may need to line that short attention span of yours up with upcoming events that are close by in terms of calendar.

Then be happy with the likely sub optimal results based on the fact that your lead into that event was far shorter and less focused than the many long term fully committed athletes that you are likely to compete against.

Continued commitment breeds respect, so if respect is something you desire in your life, I suggest you remain steadfastly committed to everything that is important to you.

Your Sporting Career, it’s OVER before you know it !

June 30th, 2018

The best days in your sport will come and go more quickly than you expect and when it does end, you will realise that it only took up such a small percentage of your entire life, so I urge you to make the most of your most productive and competitive days while you can, when you can because it will be gone very quickly, and likely never to return.

And just like that, it’s gone!

Now in my 41st year of being a high performance coach, something I have never adjusted to over time is seeing obviously talented athletes that have completed their all-important first couple of years of involvement into their chosen sport suddenly choose to give it away and very often just as they are about to seemingly realise their sporting potential.

From what I could foresee with many of them, both with athletes that I had coached and just as many that I didn’t coach, so many of those athletes clearly had the sporting world at their feet but for reasons only known to them, chose to quit the sport and in most cases, never to be seen again in the sport.

This actually upsets me to see this. I know just how hard it is to attain that level of output and performance, then to let it go just like that is so disappointing.

So, take it from me, if you are intending to be your absolute best in your chosen sport, please do it now if you possibly can because you only get one good shot at it in each person’s lifetime. It is one hell of a long way back if you stop training.

Of course many just fall out of love with their sport and that is reason enough to give it up, talented or not, if you don’t love it, it won’t happen.

Then, I have seen ever so many good athletes not make it to the top of their sport because of a variety of reasons but primarily because there is many that thought, ‘no worries I am young and right now I want to join my friends, have a bit of fun, travel, party, stay up late and so on now and I will get back and pick up my sport later when it suits me’.

When that small number of them do make the attempt to return they quickly discover that the motivation and work ethic to return doesn’t very often mirror the sports’ requirements AND if you do come back later, remember this, that the athletes that did continue in the sport are now much further ahead of you than they were because they have had the time to continually gain strength and speed while you had been away ‘living it up’.

Now you aren’t as close to them as you were before or were hoping to be after a short time training again.

When you are young…ish it is easy to get caught up thinking that how you feel right now is how you will always feel and that it will be easy to pick up at a similar level to where you are currently at and move forward from there again as you are inclined.

It is no mean feat to once again to commence the re-conditioning, fitness, strength and speed development after a prolonged lay off, and the discipline required to make all of that happen doesn’t come easily.

There is obviously things out of your control that may require that you take weeks, months or even years away from your sport and that is just how life is at times.

  • Family is the primary factor here where it could all be back on you to lend support to a family member or members for illnesses, sicknesses or other factors out of their control and as you will know I have a ‘family first’ focus at all times so when placed in that position, it is totally unavoidable that your sporting aspirations will need to go on hold in this situation.
  • Injury is something that can seriously impede your progress and many times this is used as the excuse/reason for stopping their sport altogether.

Most injuries seem like the end of the world at the time but from my experience, don’t last as long as it seems that it will and in fact offer up the positive opportunity to work on other aspects in your sport that you wouldn’t normally do.

Having the occasional injury isn’t always the catastrophe that it appears to be when that injury is sustained.

  • Employment and especially work location are also potential impediments to having that required tunnel visioned approach to your sport that high level output depends upon.

Trying to work quality training into obscure work hours can be difficult but not insurmountable.

Whereas trying to fit quality training into your day when you work remotely and/or travel often into big cities does, however does create much more of a quality training problem.

  • Financial constraints are a dominant excuse that is used for giving sport away. Sport of any kind requires an enormous financial investment and without some external support can prove very difficult.

Event entry, travel, equipment purchase and ongoing repairs, recovery procedures, treatments, coaching fees are just some of the ongoing costs to being an athlete but if you can find your way around these issues and remain in the sport it is so worth it.

So, if high level sport is your chosen thing, then please leave no stone unturned to stay in the sport as long as you can, you will be so pleased you did.

If it is important enough, you WILL find a way.

Do it now, while you are able.

Dont Fear Mistakes

June 23rd, 2018

Don’t Fear Mistakes

(Aberration, Blunder, Faux Pas, Bungle, Misconception, Delusion) call it what you like but if you did any of these means the same thing…..YOU have stuffed up!

I would always rather coach someone who makes mistakes along the way because that is a good sign that they challenge themselves and making mistakes gives learning/growing opportunities, more so than someone that ‘plays it safe’ and won’t test themselves and is happy to remain at that ‘safe’ level.

Every time you have an adverse result or lose or a bad training session you are presented with an opportunity to learn and to grow as a person and as an athlete.

It is really only a dumb mistake if you mess something up more than once the same way and you didn’t learn from it.

There is no-one that has never made mistakes along the way, be it in life, business or sport. I should know, I have made plenty.

When applied to the sporting environment there is many ways where it could be considered that an athlete has ‘made a mistake’.

By not attending to even just one of the following WILL affect your future results, guaranteed.

So if you mess up on any of the following it could easily be described as a ‘mistake’ in your sport.

  1. Not adhering to the set training program is a classic mistake. The most common ways that athletes get this wrong are they don’t get the entire session done (do too little), or Do significantly more than the session that is set (do too much). or Do more intensity or speed than is set. OR go too slow. As a coach I have the back of the athletes I coach and I expect the same from them to me. Complete the sessions as set as that makes your next week easy to plan and set.
  2. Seeing your weekly training program and only choosing and completing the sessions that you will ‘like’. Remember, the sessions that are uncomfortable to complete will likely give you the best long term outcome.
  3. Not eating correctly……every meal. The single most uncomplicated thing you will ever do in your life whether you are an athlete or not is eat correctly. It is not hard to have the right things in your fridge and pantry and know what and when to eat based on your training and sleeping regime. Eating correctly requires you to be organised, just as you would as you plan your training sessions.
  4. Not attending to your recovery regime. This is entirely up to you. Eating, drinking, stretching, foam rolling, self-massage, the occasional professional massage, and adequate rest, all ongoing, do it before you think you need it, not just when something feels tight or sore or you feel unhealthy.
  5. Racing underprepared….and being surprised by the result. One thing I always say to people I have coached over the past 40+ years is that you should never be surprised by your event result. Your result will always mirror your current training input and output. The only things that can impact on this is equipment failure that can’t be planned for.
  6. Focusing totally on numbers in your training and your racing. Sure data has a place but it is a mistake to solely focus on data as this will likely give you very variable results. Heart rate and perceived exertion and current effort level are just as important, even more so than data on event day when you are required to go with the winning move or break or you will be left behind. If you have done the work, you should be there or thereabouts.
  7. Thinking that ‘near enough is good enough’. I sound like a cracked record (those of you who know what a record is these days) to my squad because I bang on about this all of the time. Attention to detail at all costs. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that near enough is good, because it is not.
  8. Not factoring in enough family, relationship, friend time. You need your support network around forever so nurture the people that are part of your life 24/7. All work and no play will likely wear thin on your loved ones and the tension and negative energy that this will likely create in and around your home will hamper your recovery and general long term enjoyment of your chosen sport.
  9. And the number one biggest mistake is to expect others to do all or many of these important things for you.

Every one of these things is YOUR individual responsibly.

YOU do the required training, at the required time and intensity, YOU prepare and consume the correct nutrition, YOU attend to your recovery, and YOU attend to the minutest details that are required every session, every meal, and every day.

If you are not making mistakes, you are simply not trying, don’t fear making mistakes, but don’t keep making them.

How to make your season in your off season

May 16th, 2017

As the racing season for many age group athletes nears an end and temperatures dip it is hard to maintain motivation to keep a consistent training regime. With no races in sight and the warmth of bed seeming so much more appealing then diving head first into a pool at 5am many triathletes fall off the bandwagon, let their bike gather dust and trade their running shoes for slippers. However, the off season is the most critical time for triathletes to reset, reflect, refocus and set goals for the next season. To ensure their goals are met when the new season rolls around it is important to begin building their base through the off season.   

End of season self-analysis and next season planning

With the completion of the Straddie Salute triathlon festival on North Stradbroke Island, Saturday 20th April and for you in WA the Busselton 70.3 7th May, it has signified the end of the triathlon season in southern Australia.

Although off season for some signifies a time to hide your swim gear in the back of the cupboard behind the brooms and umbrellas, forget about your tyre pressure and charging you Garmin before the mornings ride and retiring your runners it is actually an opportunity for all athletes to reflect on their season’s performance. All you triathletes out there have now been handed the opportunity to self-analyse your own performances and review your development throughout the season just completed. It’s critical to let your body and mind have a break to freshen up. Within that time decide what you need to do in order to improve, or change in your training, mindset and technique and in turn output, by the commencement of the new 2017/18 season.

The off season is THE time to make some subtle changes to everything you did in the past in order to make you a more rounded athlete that will give you better results into the next season.

The list of things to consider are:

 

Overall health

If you desire to be a better athlete than you currently are, then you will need to address you overall health as this will ultimately determine how well you recover from training and racing and long term, how long you will remain in the sport.  Analyse just when it is that leads into the time that you seem to break down, get sick or simply lose that desire to do what is required.

 

Swim strength/speed

What specifically is affecting your performance? Technique or fitness or is it your lack of love of swimming? If you can identify what is holding you back in swimming what can you do to work towards changing your mindset and skill level around swimming? Most local pools will run an adult squad alongside their junior squads which are run by swim coaches. Not only can this be a fantastic may to improve your swim technique, strength and speed but it can be a great source of motivation to make those 5:30am dive ins more pleasurable and make you accountable for your swims.

 

Bike skills and strength

Do you know how much time can be saved with better bike skills? Cornering, gearing choices, remaining as aero as possible for as long as possible. Think of this, if you are in an event that has 20 corners in it on the bike leg and you improve your corning technique you can expect to save at least 1 second (or more) each and every corner, you have just improved your bike time by at least 20 seconds with no extra effort.

 

Bike fit

Having a professional bike fit WILL give you the most effective ‘bang for your buck’ as far as comfort and strength and then, being able to run off the bike much more efficiently than anything else. Bike fit alone will save you time and make you more comfortable in every aspect of cycling and/or triathlon. EliteSportz uses the world renowned Retul 3D bike fit technology system to place you in the best possible position based on all of your personal anatomical variables that are unique to you.

 

Run speed and technique

What hurts when you run and do you know why? All aspects of endurance sport are improved with consistency of training with a purpose and progression plan, no more so than with the run. Without a very clear and precise progression plan, it is the run that will likely give you the most injuries in the first few years of training but with attention to your technique and strength over time the run will likely be the most enjoyable for many years to come.

 

Transition training

I cannot count the amount of times I have seen an athlete miss a podium spot by 30 seconds or less. Then later I look at the race splits and see that that same athlete spent longer in transition than the others in their race.  Work on your transitions and you will gain some ‘free’ time in your next race.

 

Race planning

The importance of choosing races that suit your physiology and level of fitness should not be underestimated. By now you should know what length of race suits you best and enjoy most. Keep in mind all of the other variables as well, terrain, type of swim, time of year as all of these will affect the conditions that you will be racing in.

 

Race scheduling

It is important to always remember that racing too often makes you slower and offers no opportunity to work towards increasing strength and speed primarily because you are continually recovering from a race only then to be preparing and tapering for your next race. Look at allowing time between events to continually improve the things that you have identified as the areas of your sport to continually pay attention to.

 

Race skills

Swim and run drafting, bike pacing, surging – do you know what to do and when to apply these important aspects of a race? Mental work, where and when do you drift in a race? Are you able to re-focus quickly? Are you putting into practice being able to ‘stay in the moment’ with ease?

Every one of the points above requires specific training just as you would swim, ride and run practice, so too do you need to pay specific attention to all of these ‘one percenters’ that go into creating that athlete that always seems to go well on any given day.

Please feel free to get in touch with EliteSportz Specialist whilst you have this personal review/ down time, lets work on what you feel is letting you down, and lets get prepared and plug the gaps so next season is as much fun, with the results you are wanting to achieve?

 

 

Fuelling the athlete body 

April 11th, 2017

Fresh is best. Prepare your own food. Control your own intake.

In a previous article I wrote that, as a full time coach, it has proved to be far easier to have committed athletes swim, ride or run in really rough conditions. Hot, cold, wet, windy, early, late….They will get it done and most of the time do it well, but have them eat well all of the time……that is the real challenge!

Bear in mind, that it is your body that does the work and makes you the athlete that you desire to be.

Picture yourself in this scenario: you have just bought an up-and-coming race horse at auction for $100,000+ and you have entrusted that horse to a trainer (horse coach) to house, feed and train that horse to be the champion athlete that you feel it can be otherwise you wouldn’t have made such a big investment in the first place.

You soon discover that the horse trainer is giving your big investment (your potential champion new horse) fizzy drinks and other high sugar food and drink in conjunction with factory made burgers and other mass produced, low nutrient food……think how you would feel about that?

Sound familiar? If not yourself, I expect that you will know many people that claim to be athletes that feed themselves along those lines.

How long would you expect their careers to be, feeding the body like that, not to mention the ongoing inability of the body to fully recover between training sessions?

So what should your race horse with all of this natural potential and ability be fed to ensure the very best possible chances of sporting success?

A quick Google search on this topic states: “since proper gut function is essential to the health and well-being of the horse, fibre-rich forage should be considered the foundation of a racehorse’s feeding program. Racehorses should be fed 7-9kg per day of clean hay such as oaten hay.”

And/OR: For a horse to race to its ability, it needs the proper nutritional intake to allow for maximum effort. This requires a specialized diet that is balanced and is adequate in quantity and quality to maintain the horse in top form.

While I completely accept that the duration of most horse races is less than 4 minutes which makes the intensity extremely high compared to triathlons and most running events, the principle of train, recovery, repeat is the same regardless of the length of the event.

So how does this differ from human athletes that have all the potential in the world to achieve great results compared to that of a champion racehorse? Obviously, the type of food will be different, however those 2 quick Google search items clearly highlighted some key factors:

  • Gut health and function is all important to health and well being
  • Clean, fibre rich food is essential
  • The need for a proper nutritional intake to allow for maximum effort
  • The requirement to consume a specialized diet, unique to the individual that is balanced and adequate in both quality and quantity.

It is evident that for success, there is no mention of the inclusion of high sugar, ‘dead food’, low nutrient value, or fast food. It is solely based on quality, clean, high-nutrient value food.

In my opinion….the single most uncomplicated thing you will ever do in your life is to eat properly for both your sport and for your health.

If you are healthy, you will recover faster, race stronger and faster. That is guaranteed.

Hypothetically, if you live until you are 90 years old (currently, many people are living longer than this) you will most likely eat 130,000 meals in your lifetime. That is an inordinate amount of opportunities to provide the body with high quality, clean food and nutrients.

Over the past few years, an increasing number of athletes have approached me who have chosen to lead vegetarian or even vegan lifestyles whilst still maintaining elite athlete status.

While adhering to the vegetarian/vegan lifestyle does certainly present some challenges surrounding planning and preparation, we have proved countless times that lifestyle choice does not hinder elite sport like it was once believed.

What I mean by good, clean high quality nutrient rich food is this:

  • Fresh is best.
  • If the food has been alive recently then it will deliver your body the highest and best possible nutrients. The closer that food is to having been picked or prepared, the better it will be for your body.
  • Whenever possible, purchase all of the ingredients yourself and prepare those ingredients into your own food. That way you have total control of your nutritional intake and not leaving it to chance if someone else prepares your food.

Attention needs to be made towards daily energy expenditure as there are not many sports that do not have a requirement to maintain a high power to weight ratio.

If you are too light, you will likely lack strength, power and therefore speed.

If you are too heavy, you will likely fatigue far earlier than you would like to.

Your personal ideal weight ‘sweet spot’ is unique to you based on your physiological strengths and weaknesses and your attention needs to be focused on exactly that.

In my next article I will expand on this and give much more detailed and specific information on when, what, why and how much to consume.

Tapering for success

March 29th, 2017

On social media these days I see so much information about the ‘perfect’ way to taper for an event.

Simultaneously, I see just as many athletes’ post-race reports that mention ‘I got my taper wrong in the lead-up and had I got that right I would have had raced to my true potential with a better result for myself’. We will never know if that statement was true or false.

Just like every other part of an event preparation where the human body is involved, there is no one method to ‘taper’ that will suit 2 individuals, let alone each one of you out there. That ‘broad brush’ approach does not work in any aspect of event preparation.

To achieve the best possible result for yourself requires a very careful, precise and individualistic set of procedures based on many factors must be implemented.

An important note, that what you did last time (if there was a last time) that seemed to work, may not work at all this time around.

After preparing athletes for a large range of sports events for over 40 consecutive years and having ‘tapered’ athletes for thousands of events from as short as a 60 metre sprint to multiple day adventure races and everything in between.

I completely believe that, the shorter the taper the better, regardless of the length of the chosen event, a well-planned taper is a requirement.

Generally speaking, races are completed at a lower intensity than the targeted training required to prepare for that event adequately.

So what is a taper and what should a taper achieve?

  • A taper is put in place that athletes feel less fatigued both physically and mentally in the days leading into the chosen event.
  • Typically a taper involves a decrease of training volume in the lead-up to a race or an event
  • If the taper is implemented successfully, athletes feel fresher and more energetic by race day.

The longer that you have trained for, the more conditioned you will be to that all important training and recovery regime and in so doing will require less length of a taper in the lead-up to your event.

If you are diligent in the application to the detail of your post training recovery procedures and are aware of how you feel between your sessions you will know how long your taper should be at this point of your preparation. Reading your body is key. The body continually sends messages to your brain and you need to take notice of the messages that you are being sent.

If you are unsure of your present condition and fitness level and how you are tracking with your preparation for your next event, then I suggest that you add an extra day of taper so that when you stand on the start line you will have no residual fatigue to deal with regardless of your fitness level.

For the well-conditioned athlete a long taper is likely to have you feeling heavy and lethargic on the start line which is likely to hinder your race day performance.

Tapering mistakes I see

  1. The number one mistake I continue to see is that when many athletes commence a taper, they simultaneously increase their food intake.
  2. The problem with this is that the moment you reduce your training volume and/or intensity the body will automatically store more glycogen because you are not using the stored energy that the body is familiar with.
  3.  This means that the body doesn’t need any extra food as it can only store so much anyway. This is the exact scenario that will leave you feeling very heavy and possibly lethargic come event start time.
  4. Tapering for too long. The body craves movement and a long taper removes a lot of important event specific movement patterns that are needed during the event.
  5. Doing limited or no physical training at times that the body is accustomed to. A complete day off is good 48 hours before the event but every other day I feel you should do something albeit shorter whilst maintaining the higher intensity that the body is used to.

I feel that the poor old ‘I got my taper wrong’ gets the blame for a lot of poor or worse than expected performance levels in races for all of the above reasons, (too long, too short, incorrect diet) when the real reason that you are likely to have a worse than expected event is in the months leading up to the event where your overall preparation in training sessions were inadequate for your expected outcome.

Some observations I have made are that I have never witnessed a great event result from a very long taper.

Some of the best event results I have seen are by athletes that had no taper at all in their preparation.

Somewhere between those two extremes is the correct amount of time to taper for your upcoming event/s.