Experience the Difference

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.

 

Machinations have begun in the post-2016 Olympics wash-up.

August 25th, 2016

The most common statement I have seen and heard is, ‘we need to go back to basics, see where that takes us, learn from this experience and make the necessary changes’.
To me, the operative word in that statement is ‘basics’. But what does that actually mean for an athlete? And more importantly, who is saying that? The coaches or the athletes? It depends entirely on who you talk to and from which perspective it is being viewed.
If coming from an athlete’s point of view (which in my opinion, is the ONLY viewpoint to consider) then the basics are really basic and accordingly simple because that is what sport is – SIMPLE.
Start by examining what turned that young, eager child into an athlete at junior, then senior champion level, then enabled that athlete to qualify for the Olympic games.
Ask:

  • What made up their early support network?
  • Was it their Parents, Coach or Squad?
  • What did they do?
  • How did they train, eat and recover to produce their results?

History tells us everything – it is the real indicator of your potential. There is an indication that good training that needs to be in and around the environment in which they were brought up.

You can bet though, most of the reflections and return to ‘basics’ considerations will be about the funding modelling and how the sports directors and ‘support’ coaches, sports scientists and medical staff can justify their personal positions, and in turn, keep their jobs.
I predict there will be more opinions and posturing about justifying the funding, even increasing the funding to create a perception with the ‘powers that be’ that if they pay more money, you will increase the chances to produce more medals in 4 years’ time.
Sorry to burst that bubble, but one thing I know full well by now, after all of these years in elite and professional sport is this, money does not make a champion athlete. Nor is it needed.
Sure, money helps with travel and accommodation for all-important extra competitions and equipment upgrades, but not much else.
The human body is an adaptive organism and all the money in the world won’t make that body any faster, stronger, and leaner or anything else that wins events.
What is needed is a specific training program combined with strict, consistent adherence to the built-in progression within that program. Nothing more and nothing less is needed to create that champion athlete.
Break it down and look at an average elite athlete in a logical way.
Almost every athlete that competes in the majority of Olympic sports is relatively young and driven to achieve excellence in the hopes of pleasing everyone, often to their own detriment.
Because of their age, they often aren’t knowledgeable about what makes an elite athlete, they are however, in possession of unique physical attributes that many others are not.
So where do I see ongoing issues with highly funded programs/systems?
At a minimum, the athletes in these institutes/organisations have at their disposal for unlimited use, the following:

  • Head coach
  • Strength and conditioning coach
  • Sports Scientist
  • Dietitian
  • Masseur
  • Sports Psychologist
  • Physiotherapist
  • Sports physician

Why do I see a problem in this?
All of the above spend considerable amounts of time with, and talking to, each individual athlete. While this is a positive, I know from my extensive experience with professional clubs / teams, institute athletes and individual professional athletes, that while the list of support people talk to the athlete, they spend little time talking to each other. They often fail to devise and deliver a constant and uniform flow of information into the heads of young, impressionable, willing to learn and eager to please athletes.
Every one of the ‘support staff’ looking the athletes has their own perception and interpretation on the needs of each athlete to best further their progress. The outcome is that the majority of the athletes are simply confused and unsure of what is required exactly, at what intensity they should be training, and when and how their training should unfold.
The trouble is, sport is really simple which is what is so alluring about it and exactly why it attracts young athletes to participate in the early years of their lives.
The solution as I see it is this:
Every piece of information needs to be delivered to the athlete in the presence of their coach.
By coach, I mean the person that creates the day-to-day program the athlete follows. They are the only person who will thoroughly understand the daily ups, downs, ebbs and flows that each athlete goes through as they transition toward truly elite capabilities.

Body Image in athletes/people AND Eating Disorder or Athletic Potential?

August 11th, 2016

There is always a lot of talk around this subject, always, but it seems this week it has been brought to the fore. Much of this talk tends to be from a ‘one person’ perspective, describing how one or both of these afflictions have affected them personally.
This seems an appropriate time for me to put forward my observations of seeing and/or coaching many, many hundreds of people suffering these two afflictions over 38 years of coaching.
For most of that time it’s been women that have taken up the largest part of my training squads but these afflictions are by no means female only conditions.
It doesn’t matter what sport we discuss (there’s no difference between the sports) the eating disorders and/or body image issues are the same and in a lot of cases there was no sport to prepare for at all, just everyday people with body issues.
I spent 9 years coaching a squad of in excess 20 track and field and surf athletes. I spent at least 30 years with a squad of more than 25 female body builders and fitness figure competitors.
At all times, in my coaching squad, there is a number of sports that require attention to positive power to weight ratio: cyclists, distance runners, rowers, tennis players, power lifters, gymnasts etc.
Some of the athletes had eating disorders, all of them, 100% of every athlete or person I have ever met or coached has a body image issue to some degree but the toughest to coach were the few that had both, an eating disorder coupled with body image issues.
Now, that body image issues could be as simple as not liking the color of their eyes, the shape of their nose, hair color, the length of their legs in comparison to the length of their body or vice versa, being too fat, too skinny, too short, too tall, too flexible, too inflexible. Body image issues are, in my opinion an every person issue.
Body image issues and eating disorders are very different afflictions but managed well can be used to advantage using coaching strategies that ‘tap’ into the very same psychological attributes that create an eating disorder and apply those same addictive personality traits to the sport of their choosing.
After all, we may as well because that disorder isn’t going anywhere sometime soon. It will remain just below the surface for their entire lives and rear its ugly head from time to time to remind them and everyone around them that it is still here!
Often being involved in a sport that requires a ‘power to weight ratio ‘or extremely low body fat advantage is blamed for bringing on an eating disorder. I don’t see this as the case at all. I have found that if you scratch the surface just a little bit you will in fact find an eating disorder or serious body image issue that has been lurking there forever.
My observations over time are that the addictive personality that makes a person a good athlete is exactly the same attribute that harbors eating disorders and/or serious body image issues.
Experience has shown me over time that when an athlete comes to me with a view to joining our squad and engaging me to coach them, it will emerge during that initial conversation that they’ve had a personal body image issue and/or eating disorder. When I hear this I am openly excited at being given the opportunity to work with that individual. I have seen enough real life evidence and learned through experience that many of my better performing athletes have possessed the addictive personality needed to turn them around and use it to a definite athletic advantage.
If you take a look back over sporting history you will very quickly realise that some of the very best athletes of all time (across a huge variety of sports around the globe) live very close to the edge with regards to some kind of addiction.
It can be one or even a combination of, alcohol, drugs (both illegal and legal, prescription and non-prescription), womanizing, over eating, under eating and gambling. These are all addictive afflictions of some of the most elite athletes around the world across in many sports. From golf to cycling, football and rugby, (all codes), basketball, cricket, track and field, tennis, swimming, gymnastics and skating.
Anyone that knows much about sport will most likely be able to name at least one, if not more, of the sporting elite from each of the above sports that have ingloriously come to grief with an out of sport addiction that they’ve been struggling with and are most likely to continue to struggle with for the rest of their lives. But how much did those afflictions affect their sport at the highest level? That is THE question but in most cases I feel it’s that addictive personality that MAKES them the athlete they turn out to be.
And why not?
They may as well achieve something from their personality trait/s rather than suppress it and have society generalise them into the not normal pigeon hole. So they use that personality to make something of their life while they can. Heaven only knows that your time as an athlete is only a very small percentage of your overall life.
I have seen more talented athletes NOT make it in their sport than actually do make it.
Why? I believe a lot of it is due to peer pressure and societal pressure from the so called experts out there trying so hard to normalise and standardise the elite. I feel those people want everyone to conform to their own deluded view of what an elite individual should look like.
When I take on an athlete I work with them to their advantage, using every tool I can, as my job is to turn them into the best possible athlete they can be.

Triathlon is ONE sport

July 19th, 2016

Over the years, I have seen so much written about triathlon and now, with the prevalence of the many different social media platforms available, it feels like you can’t turn around without reading something about the sport. I see on T-shirts and blogs about how tough triathlon is, so many of them saying “as if one sport isn’t hard enough!”
In my opinion, it is not three sports, triathlon is one sport and if you are not training with that thought in mind, then you are doing it all wrong.
Riding after a hard swim and running after a hard bike is tough to do well but if you want to be a good triathlete you NEED to find a way to be able to do that.
Like anything good in life, triathlon takes time and consistency to achieve.
Of the many thousands of triathlons around the world each year, only a very, very, small percentage of them are won by an athlete who is strong in only one of the legs.
You do not need to be the best swimmer, bike rider, or runner to do well in triathlon. What you need is consistency across the 3 disciplines.
I remember when triathlon started back in the 1970’s, we described triathletes as fair weather athletes. In those formative days of triathlon, many took up the sport because they wanted to be competitive at a sport, normally coming from a background in one of the three disciplines but they were not highly competitive at any one in particular.
They were described as fair weather athletes because it always seemed that once the cold and rain set in during the WA winter, these athletes put all of their equipment away and were not to be seen again until the sun re-appeared in September or October.
In those early days, the triathletes were being coached by swim coaches for the swim, cycle coaches for the bike, and track or distance running coaches for the run.
What a disaster that was, both then and even now. Exact specificity will still not be successful unless the program design is by one person/coach under the premise that triathlon is ONE sport.
Oh how things have changed… or at least by now, should have changed. I still see many triathletes being coached by individual coaches across the three disciplines, or, are self-coached. This means separate coaches for swim squad, group bike rides and run sessions.
So, what is wrong with that?
To me, that is a question that could take all day to answer. However, I will explain as best I can.
Managing training at the required intensity means coping well with the inevitable fatigue from the separate components of triathlon – this will determine just how far you will be able to go in the sport.
For example:
Swim: In a triathlon event, across every distance, the start is explosive (for at least 200m, and sometimes as much as 400m) with little to no opportunity for a pre-race swim warm-up.
Invariably, I see that many swim programs have a warm-up for the ‘main-set’ that is anything up to 2000m or 20-30min of swimming with some drills. Then, there always seems to be an ‘optimal’ kilometre quota put on athletes each week and if that amount of kilometres isn’t achieved, then that will be the reason the swim isn’t improving.
From my point of view, that is a totally illogical and flawed ‘theory’. For a start, it isn’t taking into account individual physiology and each individual response to the type and volume of training stimuli. It is usually aimed at the small percentage of athletes that do, in fact benefit greatly by swimming, say 40km, each week.
As with all coaching, specificity is key. Just because it works for one person is not reason enough to ASSUME it will work for the next person (unless that next person just happens to have the same parents as the first person, then it may well have a benefit).
Bike: The bike takes the longest amount of time to master but with consistency, it delivers the most consistent improvements over time. Swim and run speed can be improved over weeks and months with intricate program design but the bike improves consistently over months and years.
Social media is always full of theories about ideal cadence, ideal watts per kg, how to ride into the wind, how to ride with the wind, etc. Most of these theories seem to appear after the analysis of a particular elite athletes’ post-race data and whatever he or she did during a good race result ‘must be the ideal’ way to approach an event. If coaching were that simple, there would be a mass sprint finish to every race finish line because everyone would apply that principle and the same result would always be there. Correct? Nup.
That theory is only possible when applied to a machine but not one bit possible with the adaptive organism that is the human body.
What I do know is, in order to be able to run well off the bike, you need to be able to ride at a tempo that controls your race position (on a good day, even improve that position) in the race based on your swim, while still allowing good run speed and enough endurance to finish strongly.
Contrary to a lot of belief out there, I feel that in triathlon, a good bike leg won’t win you many races throughout your career, however a bad bike leg will certainly lose you plenty.
Understanding yourself and your personal capabilities on the bike is the key to putting together a good bike leg during a triathlon. Knowing exactly what your body will give you (based on your knowledge of yourself in previous races and training sessions) is something that takes time to fully understand.
I am still yet to see a triathlete who competes well in road ITT events be able to transfer that road time trialing speed and strength into a triathlon setting where a good swim and a strong run is required to maintain the consistency across all three disciplines.
Run: If you want to do well in triathlon, you will need to learn and practice pacing. If you can’t run efficiently off the hard bike leg, your results are, I expect, going to be a disappointment to you.
Running often and efficiently are key. Listen to your feet. The quieter your feet are, the more efficiently you are running. The quieter your feet are, the more forward momentum, less ground contact time, and vertical movement you are creating.
First thing to do is get rid of the headphones. You need to hear your feet and as you can’t use them during a race learn to train without them. So many people wait for a change of music tempo to change their run tempo. You don’t have the music to help you change tempo during your racing when you need it most so I suggest you practice without it in training.
Just so there is no confusion, I have talked about the swim, the bike, and the run separately which looks like it is in fact 3 sports that make up a TRIathlon. Yes there are three components to the sport, BUT everything needs to fit into each other. Just as power-lifting has 3 disciplines (IE: bench press, deadlift, and squat), someone that is only strong at one of or even two of the lifts will NOT win the event because the winner lifts the most total weight across the 3 lifts.
Consistency and repetition are key to being able to adhere to the tight progression plan that needs to be built into the program design. Without both of these, it would be expected that your outcome come race day will be, ‘I hope it goes well’ rather than knowing that it will go well.
What I am experiencing more and more is that athletes are expecting and almost ‘wanting’ triathlon training programs to be more complicated than I feel they need to be. From my personal coaching perspective, I have seen and continue to see and hear ‘frustrations’ from athletes that think that my philosophy is way too simple to be effective, and who continue to look for other (more complicated) ways to do the same training.
Of course there are many ways to achieve results from a coaching perspective, but my suggestion is to keep everything as simple as is possible. So long as you have your endurance for your chosen event at an appropriate level and you have the top end speed for your chosen event, then that is all you need.
No need to add anything else once everything is in place.
If something works for that particular individual, it will always work, over, and over, and over again.

Everyone Is An Expert

February 5th, 2016

It seems that anyone who has competed in a sport these days and is not making a good enough living from their chosen sport suddenly becomes a ‘coach’.

Coaching any sport at any level is an extremely complex relationship between coach and athlete and conversely between athlete and coach. I should know, I have been a full time coach for the past 33 years. What we as coaches read in post training session feedback and data and then what we see with our own eyes are often very different things.

Combine that with the reality that an athlete’s genetic physiology ultimately determines what type of training that they, as adaptive organisms will adapt to. It makes sense that it is almost impossible to ‘coach’ any athlete to a high level in their sport without actually seeing them with your own eyes from time to time, but in order for any athlete to proceed to a high level of competition at least weekly.

The very thing that motivates me every day to leave my bed at 4am is the same today as it was back in 1986 – to spend time with my committed athletes.

As an aspiring track sprinter in my teens I had an experience with an Olympic athlete turned coach. The information I received as a 15, 16 and 17 year old athlete was incorrect and I subsequently ended my sprinting career at 17 because of that incorrect information. He WAS an Olympic athlete after all and I thought ‘surely he knows his stuff’. Nup – he didn’t and it wasn’t until I started my studies that I realised….too late now.

My path to becoming a professional coach started in 1977. I had just left high school and I had already decided that I wanted a career in high level sport as a professional athlete or as a head coach of elite athletes, whichever came first. I didn’t know how good I could be (no-one ever does at that age), if nothing else I had mental ability and strength but as for even which sport would best suit me, cricket, track and field, cycling or Australian rules football. I was no better than ok at all of them, exceptional at none.

Throughout my school years I always helped out the sports coaches and often took some of the ‘less skilled’ for extra drills. This training was to help them maintain their positions on our school sporting teams.

Little did I know then but that in itself was to formulate and begin to mould me into the coach I have become.

I was eventually diagnosed with a congenital back condition, ankylosing spondylitis in 1978. Made sense why my back was always sore. So seeing that I couldn’t fulfil my ultimate dream of being a professional athlete because of my injury it made it to be an easy decision to become a professional/career coach!

At that stage I looked at courses that were available to me to learn how to be a coach – any sort of coach. There was nothing, anywhere. There were university degrees that could help me to become a physical education teacher at a school. Not something I wanted as I am not very good with coaching and teaching children.

I wanted to coach adults and developmental athletes to an elite/professional level.

What and how to do this was now a dilemma as I wanted knowledge and experience, it was totally up to me as there was going to be no-one to learn from and/or mentor me. Once I made that decision to pursue that career path I then started to read and research whatever I could on developing the human body from all sorts of varied stimuli.  From training and varied dietary methods, and as it turned out the most useful was  reading many expedition accounts from early explorers in Australia and mountaineering in various parts of the world, all of which are exploits that place the human body under enormous amounts of stress, both physically and emotionally. I feel I learnt much about what the human body can do and adapt to and just how resilient it really is from reading and applying much of this information.

During this learning phase of my career I would often ask myself – “How much do you need to learn and how long does it take to be a ‘professional’ in a chosen field?”

Looking at occupations that the public view as professionals, it was clear to me the answer to that question is an absolute minimum of 6 years of studying, observing, continual application of varied methods before anyone could be considered to be an expert and a professional in whatever field you have chosen.

So my dilemma! I was a minimum of 6 years away from coaching at a level that mirrored the personal goal that I had set for myself.

The other major problem I had was – “How do I learn?”  There was no-one around to learn from or mentor me, no-one I could just drop in on and observe methods and ideas like aspiring coaches can now. These days there is any amount of coaches in any sport or aspect of sports that are only too willing to nurture and mentor prospective coaches that have a particular interest. Back then I was a country boy in a community with no professional coaches to speak of. The onus was on me to teach myself and to develop my own techniques and methods.

I had a farming upbringing so I had been taught mechanics and welding and all things to do with repairing machinery and cars and all things practical. The next 6 months or so was spent designing and building strength training and various testing equipment and installed it in a room my house.

It was from this room that I started to apply training techniques and methods that I read about in books and magazines. (No internet in those days). I worked as a mechanic during the day and by night I studied and devoured fitness and training and coaching information and applied it both to myself and a series of ‘guinea pig’ clients that I could ‘try’ methods and perceived ideas out on for extended periods of time.

I did this ‘testing’ in blocks of 6 weeks at a time on each of these people. Over the ensuing 6 years I gained first-hand knowledge of what works and what most likely doesn’t even though the ‘theory’ indicated that it ‘should’ work.

By now it was 1983 and triathlon was still in its real infancy but I felt I had an understanding of most of the fundamental training methods and techniques that I could make a reasonable difference to peoples’ lives.

It was only at this point after 6 years of trial and error, self-education, developing techniques and periodization methods that I figured I was ‘professional’ enough and knowledgeable enough to charge for my time and my knowledge.

I have been a ‘career’ coach for all of my adult life and maybe I have an ‘old timer’ view on things. But my question to everyone reading this is, –  “when did writing a program and emailing it to an athlete or writing a program on a web portal and delivering it that way get called COACHING?”. There is a big difference between racing/competing experience in a sport and then coaching that sport, the two things are rarely comparable or compatible. It is so important to remember that just because someone has managed to obtain a good result for themselves in an event doesn’t mean that they can transfer that to you just by calling themselves a ‘coach’.

coach

Free Speed? Does it exist? How do I get it?

January 20th, 2016

Free Speed? Does it exist, how do you get it?

Or – How can almost no extra effort result in a better time?

All of the definitions of the word ‘free’ would suggest that you have received something for no personal input.

The world I have lived in has never worked like that for me. I have always received exactly nothing for no input from myself.

Having been around triathlon for over 35 years I have seen and helped many hundreds of people prepare for their first triathlon. Invariably that first ever triathlon for each person is a very short sprint distance triathlon or even shorter.

Now a large number of those first time athletes become smitten by this sport from their very first race and the discussion about their first triathlon experience is generally reasonably predictable.

While they are always so pleased to have completed their race, they invariably make comments on how they would have improved their time if they ‘didn’t do this then’, ‘put in more effort here’, and ‘spent less time standing or dawdling’ here and there.

As we all know every triathlon has a start line and a finish line. Once you move over that start line you are IN the race and need to keep moving as quickly towards that damn finish line as you possibly can. So simple this sport.

The organising team who provide all of the infrastructure and the course for you to race each time will have the course marked out at ‘exactly’ the correct distance for your race. The lines that they took to measure the course will be the distance over that particular course.

Any deviations away from that ‘ideal’ line or any inefficiencies during your race and you just made your race longer and in so doing, slower!

The following tips will give you the best opportunity to improve your next triathlon race time at no extra cost to you… IE: Free.

Pre-Race:  Learn how to put your wetsuit on properly if a wetsuit swim. An incorrectly fitted wetsuit will hinder your swim. Make sure that there is no space between the wetsuit and your skin, especially in the armpits.

Swim:  I feel that the swim will give you the largest amount of ‘free speed’ if you practice well. Swimming in a perfectly straight line from buoy to buoy will give you a massive advantage. Don’t worry about speed. Just swim straight. I have seen many a fast pool swimmer have slower race times than others that are slower than them in a pool simply because they rely on the dark line at the bottom of the pool and the lane ropes to guide the lines they swim and not practice open water swimming and sighting.

Learn to draft efficiently either on the hip of other swimmers or their feet.

As you move to T1 those of you who are very big kickers during your swim are very likely to be slower initially as you stand because your body has been horizontal will be sending a great deal of blood to your heavily kicking legs meaning less blood flow to your head once you stand up causing head spins and dizziness. Because of this dizziness it usually takes the athlete a little longer to find their feet and be able to run into T2.

If this happens to you, gradually develop more upper body strength for your swim in order to kick less.

Learn to have your wetsuit off your upper body by the time you reach your bike.

T1: It seems logical but actually finding your bike in amongst all of the other hundreds or, sometimes, thousands of bikes is harder than it seems.

Make sure you have something in your mind that will guide you to the location of your bike.

Have your transition organised with everything laid out in the logical order that you will access everything.

Don’t bob up and down as you access items that are required for your bike leg! If you bend down, then stay down and do everything that you need to while bent over, before standing back up. Every time you bend over to pick something up and stand up takes at least 4-5 seconds. Do it 2-3 times or even more that I have seen many people do and you have just added 10+ seconds to your T1. Practice this.

Bike: Check out the position of the bike mount line and decide what gear will suit you best to start on and pre-set that gear on your bike before you rack it.

Cornering. Choosing lines. Triathletes who have come into the sport late will invariably take some time to develop their bike handling skills. Choosing the fastest possible line through each corner without braking and moving quickly back to your race tempo will take much time off your bike split. EG: if a bike course has say? 20 corners in it and you save 2 seconds each corner, you just shaved 40 seconds off your time merely by improving your bike handling skills.

Many triathlon bike courses have a turnaround cone (or multiples) somewhere in the middle of a road. With these you need to gear down as you come into the corner so you can ‘power’ out of it and return to your race tempo as quickly as possible. If you remain ‘over geared’ you will take longer to return to race tempo and so lose precious seconds again.

On your entry to T2 remove your feet from your shoes and leave them clipped on your bike (practice this on your own until you feel comfortable with this) as this will save you many more seconds as you rack your bike to put on your running shoes. As with T1 bend down just the once to save more time. You should be able to grab your hat or visor and put it on as you run from transition.

Run: Looking ahead of where you are to again choose lines that will make your run as short as possible (obviously without getting in the way of other competitors or coming off the designated run course) but cut the apex of corners where you can will make your run as efficient as is possible.

All of this requires constant practice and continual concentration throughout your race.

Andrew2