In a previous article, I outlined the importance of understanding where your relative strengths lie in order to maximize your relative performance as a triathlete. I applied this on two levels:
I want to explore the second of these concepts in a little more depth.
”You’ve got to dance with the girl who brung ya.”
I stole the somewhat cryptic quote above from strength coach Dan John.
Dan is referring to an all too common problem in sports of ignoring your natural strengths. We all pop into this world with some level of uniqueness -- tall, short, long arms, wide shoulders, big head… whatever makes you a little different from the rest is likely something that you can exploit in the world of athletics.
In my last blog post, I offered a quick retrospective on some of the things that I would like to do differently as my squad heads into 2013.
While it’s always good to look back on the past with a critical eye, it is equally important to celebrate the successes -- the changes that we made this year that led to some breakthrough performances. I’ll attempt to recount some of those in this article, so that you, the reader, can apply them to your own 2013 plan and have your own breakthrough year!
It seems that no matter which tapering strategy the coach and athlete decide on, there will almost certainly come a time close to the race when the athlete doubts the strategy. This is perfectly normal. The weird physical sensations that accompany the change in training that the taper brings, coupled with the stress of the situation make for some fertile ground for doubts to spring up. Without a smart strategy and a firm resolve, these doubts often breed dumb decisions.
So, what constitutes a smart taper?
Athletes who use the TrainingPeaks Performance Manager Chart effectively have a potentially huge advantage over their competition in their ability to see the big picture at a glance. A large part of this big picture perspective comes down to being able to track changes in fitness by looking at trends in Chronic Training Load (CTL).
The “little blue line” on your performance manager chart offers a good proxy for your general fitness at any point in your training plan. As such, a common (and generally valid) goal is to see a steady and consistent increase in this CTL number as your training progresses. However, as a coach who looks at a number of these charts over the course of a season, I can tell you with a good level of certainty that there are times when you will actually want to see your little blue line take a nose dive, or put another way, there are times when you will want to make the decision to give up a little short term fitness in the interests of long term results.
As regular readers will know, I’m a big fan of using fatigue curves as an indicator of the relative top end power versus submax endurance strength of an athlete. By looking at how an athlete’s power decays as event duration increases, we are able to make some conclusions as to the endurance capacity of that athlete and we are able to extrapolate down the curve to make some pacing goals/predictions for event durations which the athlete may infrequently attempt. This is especially useful for ironman athletes.
However, despite the usefulness of the fatigue curve, it still only represents a general impression of the athlete’s endurance.
As far as triathlon coaches go, I think I have a fairly homogenous group of athletes that I tend to work with. They are typically guys who have been plugging away with relatively high levels of annual volume for a number of years and have had either inconsistent results or results not in line with they work put in.
Since my sample of athletes are fairly uniform in athletic history, the key to attaining a breakthrough performance for these athletes more often than not comes down to a few slight tweaks to the way they have been doing things.
A few of you may know that I began my college studies with a view to a career in sport psychology. After a few years of study it became clear to me that my mechanistic mindset was far better suited to exercise physiology and so I left matters of the mind behind. Or so I thought…
With the spring season starting up, many athletes will begin to wonder, “How much base training is enough?” or “When is the right time to start some faster workouts?” In terms of the Annual Training Plan, athletes may wonder if they should continue the Base phase or enter the Build phase of training.
In this final article in the Basic Limiters series I want to talk about the most overlooked of the three: mobility.
Mobility is kind of a catch-all phrase that incorporates all aspects of functional flexibility -- the factors that may restrict an athlete’s range of motion in their chosen sport and general functional tasks.
As the third installment in this series on Basic Limiters, I want to explore one of the most important and yet misunderstood abilities that is the prime focus of an athlete’s Base Period.
Athletes vary markedly in the approach they take to early season training, ranging from doing super long endurance building sessions to hitting the trainer for some "bleed through the eyeballs" intensity fests. Both are inappropriate for this time of year and miss the point of general preparation.
So what is the point of general preparation?
In my last article on early season limiters I suggested three potentially performance-limiting factors which are often ignored by the performance oriented athlete but are absolutely integral to building the type of training that will lead to the highest potential level of performance later in the season. In summary these are:
If there is one biomotor ability that sets athletes (from all sports) apart from non-athletes it is basic strength.
The topic of the month here at EC is limiters. When most athletes think about limiters, they think in and around the qualities that go together to make up their events. If Johnny Kona has a functional threshold of 320W and yours is 280W then you might consider that a limiter to your event specific goals. Perhaps it is, however, January is not the time to be thinking about these event specific qualities. January is the time of year to consider some of the more basic and often ignored qualities that go together to make up the qualities that might eventually limit your performance in your specific event.
The topic of conversation this month at EC is race selection. Now is the time of year that athletes are filling in their calendars and deciding what races will occupy 2012.
I don’t think it’s unfair to say that deciding which races best suit your strengths is a bit of a mystery for most.
In my last article in our How to Qualify series I looked at how some typical benchmark workouts may progress across the course of the qualifying year for an athlete who is on track for a Kona slot. In this piece, we’re going to dive into these benchmarks in a little more depth to look at some of the implications of being strong in some benchmarks while struggling to hit others.
I’ll address such questions as:
In my last article in our How to Qualify for Kona series I talked about some of the general levels of fitness that I typically encounter among athletes who qualify. Many of these measures of fitness are a little abstract, especially for those not super familiar with WKO+ or my own method of performance modeling: CTL, VO2 score, etc.
In this piece I want to bring some of those numbers down to a rubber meets the road perspective so that we can begin to answer the most basic of questions –- what sort of training sets/sessions should an athlete be able to accomplish to indicate they are in Kona shape?
I am currently reading what I consider to be one of the best books on training theory and practice that I have ever put my hands on. If you knew just how many books on these topics that I have put my hands on over the years, this is no small feat! Surprisingly the subject of the book is neither swim, bike nor run training. It is a book on strength training: Practical Programming for Strength Training (Rippetoe and Kilgore).
Now, before you get up on your specificity high horse, hear me out on this one.
In a recent article I looked at some of the differences in training responses that I’ve witnessed for different athletic “types.” I concluded that there are some differences in how quickly various athletes respond to a training stimulus that are related to genetic type. While we can’t do a whole lot to change our genetics, there is another factor that dramatically affects how we respond to training over which we have much greater control.
Last week I talked about the different improvement curves that I’ve observed for different types of athletes. I identified three basic athlete types: the natural, the realist and the worker.
As part of our new “How to Qualify for Kona” section that recently kicked off, I’m going to put some of those observations into the context of what it means to different types of athletes looking to qualify for Kona.
“It takes Different Strokes to rule the world” – Different Strokes theme
While I had to confess my complete lack of qualification in talking on last month’s subject of time management, things have come full circle this month to a topic that I am intimately familiar with: the relationship between training load and top performance.
“Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.” – Albert Camus
As you’ve probably figured, it’s time management month here at EC. I’ve deliberately held off in writing a piece on time management because, well, to be honest, time management (at least in its traditional sense) has to be one of the areas that I am one of the least qualified of the entire EC team to comment! Not so much because I think I manage my time poorly but more because I don’t have a lot of experience in juggling a lot of activities into my waking hours. See, the issue is I value my non-waking hours far too much.
by Alan Couzens, MS (Sports Science)
In the last article that I wrote on the importance of functional flexibility, I looked at flexibility demands in the freestyle stroke. I suggested that, in order to be able to "swim like a swimmer" there are certain flexibility pre-requisites that must be attained. Levels of flexibility that most adult who do not fall into the category of life-long swimmers, do not typically have.
In this piece I want to follow up on the last with a few practical exercises that you can use to improve shoulder mobility and improve your swim stroke.
In my last article on functional flexibility I touched on the importance of flexibility in the swimming stroke. To be certain, there are folks who are technically limited in their swimming by errors made in body position and recovery, entry and catch mechanics. It has also been my experience that many, while knowing what to do, are limited in their ability to do by limitations in their flexibility, especially among older athletes without a swim background.
I want to go into a little more depth in this piece on probably the most important area of the stroke where flexibility limitations can come into play -- the catch.
As a follow up to my last article on putting the "go fast when the race is slow" strategy into practice, I was asked by one of the guys to offer thoughts on how effective his own pacing strategy was in that race. Since there were a few additional lessons that came out of it, Gordo suggested a follow up post may be in order.
A bit of a departure from my series on flexibility this week to indulge one of my guilty pleasures: Power File Analysis!
In April we were fortunate to have a number of ECers and friends of EC racing the Oceanside 70.3. A group of these came in with quite similar bike splits and seemed like a great opportunity for a case study.
The early part of the season is the perfect time to work on all of those "little extras" that tend to fall by the wayside once the hours of SBRing start to creep up. One of those little extras that is actually integral to achieving your season’s goals is injury prevention via appropriate flexibility training.
In keeping with the training camps theme of the month, I thought it might be apt to write a short piece on some of the key workouts that I like to include in my athletes' plans during the course of a big week.
With EC’s recent Tucson camp (and the picture of Petro’s nutritional strategy as shown in the picture) fresh in my mind I thought it might be a good time to chat about one of the less considered elements in training camp planning: nutrition.
“Extreme volume in music very often disguises a lack of actually important content.”
In the last article that I wrote on season planning, I offered some thoughts on the optimal way to plan your training stress to have you arriving at your goal performance level. In the article prior to that, I talked a little about the way that I phase an athlete’s year to optimally address their personal weaknesses. In this final installment, I’m going to bring those two concepts together and show how these elements go into determining the actual training volume and intensity that we plan for each week.
“It's not the load that breaks you down, it's the way you carry it."
In the last two articles of this series I’ve offered some thoughts on setting realistic performance goals for the coming season and how to go about coming up with some checkpoints to let you know that you’re on track.