High Performance Coaching
These week I will share some thoughts/ideas that came out of three days at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. I've been quite busy on the business front -- apologies if your waiting for an email reply. I spend my spare time with Monica and Alexandra. I've also been doing yard work -- gets me away from my desk and into the sun!
If you are looking for Christmas gift ideas then send your congressman a copy of Atlas Shrugged. If you don't get the joke then you MUST read the book.
Financial bail outs, automobile bail outs, housing bail outs... we are close to making the common investment mistake of throwing good money after bad. As well, we're throwing a lot of money! Government does a crappy job with capital allocation. If you want to stimulate the economy then leave: (a) cash with people that are going to spend it; and (b) capital with people that know how to allocate it. You get a lot more bang for your buck when you let the private sector allocate capital and fend for itself.
The Dow is about 40% off its peak, other markets are up to 60% down... property markets are 15-35% down (more if you HAVE to sell). Similar to how inflation was understated during the Great Expansion. The deflationary effects are being understated during the Great Unwinding.
Considering human nature, and the fact that most of my countrymen are grossly over-leveraged... I am going to start moving from a deflation-defensive portfolio to an inflation-defensive portfolio. Just gotta figure out how. Throw your ideas in the comments section for me!
High Performance Coaching
I haven't forgotten about your marathon questions, just pretty darn busy these days with a combination business obligations and the launch of my new coaching website (the developers are ahead of me for the first time in my life).
If you look many sports then you will find that the best high performance coaches are not necessarily the highest performers in their own lives. This is because athletic performance measures a VERY narrow, but highly valued, aspect of human performance
Within my own life, I see myself as a high performer who enjoys teaching, rather than a high performance coach. It's an important distinction -- your kids would be safe with me. I define success on whether your life is better having known me.
There is a fundamental paradox in elite athletics that you have to be willing to completely ruin yourself to achieve your maximum athletic potential -- what a lot of us miss is knowing the appropriate time to take that chance. Similar to many areas in life, a risk maximizing approach leads to disaster, more often than not.
When I meet MDs, PhDs, and coaches involved in elite athletics, I like to challenge them on our role in feeding the self-destructive tendencies in many of our athletes. As Bobby McGee notes, in some cases a coach's true role is giving their athletes the confidence and self-love to leave their addiction behind.
OK with that philosophical opener, I'll toss out the best tidbits from the three days.
What is a level three coach?
If you'd asked me that a week ago, I would have told you... "one level up from level two" and I think that is what nearly every triathlon coach in America thinks. Here's what I was told, and it makes a lot of sense.
A Level Three Coach is:
- a high performance coach
- knowledgeable in draft-legal short course racing
- able to assist an athlete that aspires to Olympic-level competition
As Coach KP noted in Colorado Springs... once you realize those points, there is a clear commitment to supporting the US Olympic program if you apply to become a Level Three coach. I think that is a good thing. I also think that we need to do a far better job communicating to the triathlon membership, as well as the coaches.
The goal of a Level Three coach is to help the US win Olympic medals -- I think that's the fundamental point. Given that 50% of the USAT budget comes from the amateur membership -- we should probably get clarity on that point. From my own point of view, aside from USAT helping to make amateur races insurable, I'm happy to support that goal.
The structure of the elite coaching program is being shifted from a "pull the athletes to Co Springs" to "support the athletes/coaches where they want to train". There is a lot of good stuff happening with ideas about supporting centers-of-excellence around the country. In my experience (colored by global triathlon adventures), this is absolutely the right way to handle it.
One dedicated coach, surrounded by a core group of athletes that will turn up EVERY day... is all it takes to create a world-class program. We've seen that in Christchurch, Victoria, the Gold Coast, Boulder, and wherever Sutto happens to be.
The sports science, sports psychology, testing, biomechanics... all the bolt on services... these are great but it is easy to lose sight of the main point about athletic performance. Programs get results from incentives that encourage athletes to train more than they ever thought possible.
If our goal is Olympic medals that we want as wide a base as possible (recruitment) and a long term vision to build the athletes with potential (long term development). Spending a lot of money sending people to foreign races is a waste of time.
Focus on recruitment, long term development and providing local races for the athletes with potential to win prize money -- don't hand money out -- let the good athletes win it.
Make things hard for the athletes -- if an athlete lacks the passion, or the ability, better for everyone that they drop out early and find an area where they can be successful.
We talked about the ITU points structure -- an area where I was completely clueless. I'm not going to recreate it here but, if you want to coach elites, then I suggest you get someone to teach you about it. It's pretty fundamental.
We talked about standardized testing and I will share these:
Swim -- 200 from a dive (max effort) -- rest one minute -- 800 from a push (best time)
Bike -- continuous 2 min intervals of 10w starting at 150w (men) and 100w (ladies) -- go to failure, track HR
Brick -- Junior targets are 30 minutes at 190w/260w (female/male) then 3K for time -- no more than 15s RI between bike/run. You might say "what about the small people" -- the wattage target isn't fair. Well, ITU racing isn't fair and if you can't hit the target then you'll likely get shelled out the back. Besides, you'll get some of it back on the run TT if you are small.
You will be able to find more benchmarks on the USAT website shortly.
Sounds like they do a lot of supplemental oxygen training -- 26% and 60% mixtures. I won't get into the specifics but will say that they believe it is important if an elite short course athlete lives at altitude full time.
- Goal is functional mastery NOT reps. Very important to move away from rep targets as athletes will always sacrifice form to hit targets.
- Keep brain engaged and stop when mentally fatigued.
- Start with NO load, have reset points, do movement pattern.
Great line from the sports psychologist -- "The less clothes the athlete wears in competition the greater the chance for an eating disorder. I've never worked with a hockey player that had an eating disorder."
To develop mentally strong people, watch conditional love in your coaching -- proportion time & praise. You might get short term results from tough love but at maximum competition (Olympic Level) -- tough love athletes are much more prone to cracking.
We met Krista Austin in the sports science department and bent her ear for three hours. She is the best sports scientist that I've ever met for translating science to performance. We talked about lactate, altitude, nutrition, depletion training and limits to performance. Highlights:
Capacity to raise lactate is often related to fueling. Athletes that lose top end lactate numbers could be chronically depleted.
She likes to track "fatigue rate" in training as a measure of performance. Similar to decoupling in longer steady state efforts but, for traditional endurance events, up to 2 hours, they might use VO2, or FT, intensity.
It takes 3 mins for lactate to stabilise in the muscles, then a further 2 mins to get out to the blood. Many labs use three minute steps then tie lactate values to the previous step to get around this point. She recommends sampling at the 5 min mark.
To get around issues with athletes blowing off CO2 when straddling during a treadmill fuel test (for lactates) they only plot the last minute of each 5 min step. Good idea for us to test run fueling.
They start quite "high" in terms of intensity with their tests. Might work for elites -- I had reservations about the data shown to me every for some of the national team members. Looked like excessive speed early in the test.
Intermittent Hypoxic Training -- the first sports scientist that I've come across that has concluded that the main pathway for altitude benefits is via exercise in a desaturated state. She has done some really neat work with desaturation in training.
Altitude -- most people need about 300 hours of sleeping at altitude to get the training benefit. Points to a 5-7 week camp being optimal as well as endurance phases (at altitude) alternating with speed/recovery phases at sea level. Not practical for amateurs but very interesting for elites.
We discussed my personal protocol of extended steady with some mod-hard at altitude as well as my preferred altitudes for desaturation training.
VO2 -- interestingly, she said it takes 2-3 years for VO2 to plateau in elites. That's a lot longer than I normally hear.
Functional Strength vs Aerobic Power -- she made an interesting point that a lack of functional strength (gym strength, hill strength, one rep max) can result in athletes falling apart in longer highly intense aerobic efforts. We chatted about the need for athletes to tolerate extended work loads above goal ultraendurance effort in order to sustain race effort. We see this a lot in Ironman when an athlete "ought to" be able to hold a certain wattage but blows up (power/pace peaks aside).
Depletion training -- she talked me through protocols to enhance fat oxidation through depletion in training. I noted that my experience is that there are far greater gains to come from nutrition changes outside of training. I also noted that the self-destructive tendencies of ultraendurance athletes can get out of hand here. She noted that if she uses this technique then it is a specific, rather than chronic, protocol.
Dedydration and Performance -- she made a neat point that (within reason) economy gains from dehydration weight loss can overcome declines in performance. Fits with my observation of managed dehydration in elite competition.
She saw merit in Asker Jeukendrup's approach to nutrition. She notes that athletes with body comp challenges tend to eat the wrong types of food at the wrong times -- it was more than a case of amount of energy. A lot of what she said sounded like Joe Friel. She sees a lack of protein, good fats and veggies in most athletic diets.
For fast men over 155 lbs, I told her that I also like to train the fueling side of things -- i.e. the capacity to easily process fluids and nutrition during extended periods of steady to mod-hard exercise. This is a limiter for high performance long course racing -- but not ITU. Not a focus for her -- makes sense as this is a limiter for 7+ hour competitions.
I'm going to invite Krista to our Boulder Clinic (July 2009) to chat nutrition and exercise physiology. I am also going to get our Boulder Clinic certified so that we can offer CEUs (coaching education units) -- good for qualified coaches as well as making your costs tax deductible. Drop me a line for more info.
We talked about errors in met cart measurements -- Douglas Bag (up to 2%); Parvo (up to 9%); New Leaf (up to 19%).
To have 99% confidence in a lactate measurement -- you need to allow +/- 0.6 mmol.
To have 99% confidence in a HR measurement -- you need to allow +/- 6 bpm.
Therefore, measurement tools should be used as a guide. Refreshing to have an honest talk about the limits of scientific precision.
I will end with a final tip for cold water racing... bring a thermos of warm water to "pre load" the wetsuit before water entry. Avoids all that cold water coming into the suit.
Back next week,