Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Swimming Webinar

I'll be conducting a webinar through TrainingBible Coaching, tomorrow evening, Thursday, February 26th. Here's the info:

Don’t Miss TrainingBible Coaching’s Webinar February 26, 2009

Time: 5pm Pacific, 8pm East Coast
Topic: Learning and Understanding the Three Most Important Technical Aspects of Swimming with Jim Vance

In this Webinar Jim will discuss the key principles to faster speeds in the water, in simple terms, for everyone to understand. If you're wondering why you're not getting any faster in the water, this webinar is for you!

You can find the registration info here...

Hope you all can attend!

Coach Vance

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tri Coaches Round Table - Monday, March 22nd

I will be attending a Triathlon Coaches Round Table in San Diego on Monday evening. Come out and pick my brain, as well as other local coaches. This gives athletes an opportunity to do some informal interviewing of the local coaches to find one which matches your needs and personality. If you're not interested in hiring a coach, you can still come pick our brains on questions about your training and get a group of solid opinions.

Hope to see you all there!

MONDAY, MARCH 2nd at 6:00 pm

Triathlon Coaches Round Table Lecture at Coastal Sports and Wellness

Have a question about triathlon training?

Want to find out what some of the top local triathlon coaches think about specific workouts or how they train their athletes?

We're bringing together some of San Diego's most well-know triathlon coaches for a candid round-table question and answer session at Coastal Sports and Wellness

Not just one or two coaches...

How about four of the top triathlon coaches in the area!

Sergio Borges - Ironguides Training
Mac Brown - coach of the UCSD Triathlon team and current professional triathlete
Mike Plumb - TriPower Multisports head coach and former professional duathlete and triathlete
Jim Vance - two-time World Champion triathlete and an elite coach with TrainingBible Coaching

Bring your questions and prepare to be impressed!

Want more info and reserve a spot?

Coach Vance

Monday, February 23, 2009

Colorado Springs OTC

I'm writing this post from my dorm room here at the OTC. I arrived into Colorado Springs last night, after watching the Tour of California, and stayed with a client of mine here in town. This morning I was up early and reported to the center, and was sitting in a class session most of the day.

It's just three of us coaches, and our instructor, Justin Trolle, (pronounced tro-lay). Today was spent discussing mostly planning and periodization in the AM. In the afternoon we used some cool software programs to analyze swim, bike and run videos of athletes, and discussing the ITU points systems for the upcoming year.

Tomorrow we will be headed out to Boulder to conduct some field tests on some athletes, and learn about some various tests, and how to conduct them. We'll also be hitting a swim session in the early AM, learning from the coaching staff on deck. Later on, we'll go to the lab and work with some of the exercise physiologists and learn from them.

A lot going on. I'm slammed with work to get done as well. Not sure how many updates outside of Twitter I can get done before I leave here, but I'll do my best.

Coach Vance

PS - Was given a book by Justin this afternoon, and I read it tonight, part of the reason I'm so damn busy...reading instead of doing work! It's a short triathlon-coaching book by Dr. John Hellemans, a famous New Zealand triathlon coach. Good read!

Friday, February 20, 2009 Featured Writer

If you frequent at all, you've probably seen some of my recent articles and posts there. They have a section of the website called "Coaches Corner", where many of the prominent coaches in the sport of triathlon post about many training topics and issues, from their perspective. I now am a featured writer for Coaches Corner called, "The Training Bible". Check it out, and even follow the posts here to know when new items are there.

In fact, I have a new article there called, "It's not about the swim, bike or run...Well, not entirely". Here's that article....

I admit it. I stole the basis of that line from Lance. But I like it. It has a real meaning to it, but that meaning is different to each person. For some, it means there is more to be had than just triathlon. I agree with that idea, but with the athletes I work with, I find myself more and more trying to get them to see beyond the simplicity of just the sports, if they want to improve.

Quality performance in races requires swimming, biking and running well, we all agree with this. These are clear physical requirements to perform well, and athletes will endlessly train these physical parameters to try and reach their competitive goals.

The odd part of this is that we all know there is so much more to performance than just physical effort and skill. Confidence, focus, tactics, technical skill, and even diet, nutrition and hydration all play key roles in the sport, as well as many other factors. So why do so many athletes only focus on the physical? How much could be gained by athletes cutting back on the physical and becoming more focused on the other aspects which greatly influence performance.

Read the rest here at XTRI's Training Bible.

Coach Vance

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Open Water Swim Clinics - Feb 28th and March 1

I am conducting 2 open-water swim clinics, on the last weekend of the month in San Diego, one on Saturday, and another on Sunday. If you are entered for SuperFrog, SuperSeal, or Oceanside, this is a great chance to get in the water and learn, refresh and practice the skills you need for those race events! I am only allowing 15 people per clinic, and these always sell-out, so respond quickly.

TrainingBible Open Water Swim Clinic – Presented by Jim Vance

Are you doing well in the pool, but having issues with your open water swimming? Want to make a big leap in your race performance? Come to the TrainingBible Open Water Swim Clinic presented by Jim Vance to learn the skills he used to win 2 Amateur World Titles, and now races professionally with, including 3rd overall at the 2006 Ironman Florida. After this simple clinic, Jim ASSURES you will know the skills to be faster in the open water for your next race, without any more effort than you’re already giving! No matter what your swim ability, fast or novice, this clinic will help you!

Topics Covered:

  • Basic Swim concepts and techniques
  • Breathing
  • Surf Entry
  • Surf Exits
  • Dolphining
  • Sighting
  • Swimming straight in the open water!
  • Currents
  • Turning at buoys
  • Transitioning quickly - out of wetsuits, goggles, etc.
  • Drafting
  • Pack swimming – dealing with crowds
  • Dealing with choppy water, big waves
  • Small tricks of the trade to help you swim FASTER!

COME PREPARED TO SWIM!!! (Bring wetsuit)

Saturday, February 28th, 2009 AND Sunday, March 1, 2009

12:00 PM to 2:00 PM. (Clinic begins at 12PM!)

Where: Ventura Cove at Mission Bay. Click here for directions:

It's right next to the Bahia Hotel, north side of the road. Bring everything to swim in, wetsuit, goggles, etc. Don't forget your chaffing cream, as this will be a workout as well!

Cost: $50 per person, ($40 for TCSD members!)

*********RSVP to reserve your spot, clinic will be capped at 15 people to keep instructional quality high. Email Jim Vance at to reserve your spot. PLEASE BE SURE TO INCLUDE WHICH DATE YOU LIKE TO ATTEND*******

More information about Jim and his coaching/racing background can be found at and

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Insanity of Your Training

This is a recent article I wrote for Competitor Magazine, which is published on their website. Check it out, and feel free to send me your thoughts and responses. Be sure to check out the February issue for my new 9-week training plan for a 5k.

The Insanity of Your Training

Written by Jim Vance

Albert Einstein once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results. If this were a legal definition, many athletes might end up spending time in a padded room.

How many of you reading this have been doing the same training, over and over again, year after year, expecting to get better results? Have the results really gotten any better?

For many self-coached athletes, the term periodization carries no meaning. Periodization is the process of varying your training based upon specific time intervals, to maximize gains in physical performance. In layman's terms, it means to start with general race preparation and move to specific race preparation, as you approach your A-priority event. But despite the success which can be seen from a well-periodized training plan, many self-coached athletes do not change their training in any real capacity during the year.

The new season is here, and this is the perfect time to sit down and figure out a periodization plan for the year. The key is first taking inventory of what happened last season. Without assessing your past training, and utilizing that information to make training decisions this season, you could be destined to repeat the same mistakes, results, and/or injuries.

Read the rest at Competitor.

Coach Vance

Saturday, February 14, 2009

TrainingBible Annual Meeting, more blog changes

Got up early this AM, about 4:45 Central Time, (remember, I'm still living on Pacific Time),and was working with the Multisport Madness Jr. Triathlon Team. Lots of amazing abilities, and even a few National Champions on the team. I was there for 2 hours working with 14 of the athletes on their swimming. I filmed them underwater, then did a brief session with them, 7 at a time. The session lasted an hour for each group, then we switched.

I think we made a lot of headway with them, because by the end they were critiquing their own videos based on the things I taught them to look for. Always enjoyable to help out kids. I have some big ideas for the future on that...stay tuned.

I presented this afternoon on Creating Successful Clinics to our coaching staff. It went fairly well, I thought. It really became a combination of teaching our coaches a business sense, teaching skills and coaching practices, both in clinic situations as well as within one-on-one client situations. I really enjoy teaching, especially when it comes to helping people be better athletes and coaches.

Listening to Joe Friel talk today, it's amazing how he always has something new for me to learn, when he gives a talk I've heard him do before! He gave me an autographed copy of his new Triathlete's Training Bible edition, with a cool note inside.

Another change to announce about the blog is that I have imported the blog posts from the Tri Tech Review blog. I have been slow to post to it, and after nearly a year of no posts, and a renewed focus on this blog, I felt it was smart to merge the two blogs. I do plan to continue to work on reviewing technological items in endurance sports, but will instead post them here, and label them as Tri Tech Review on the side labels list. You'll notice the imported posts from that blog are already labeled and inserted on the side. I will probably delete the old blog, and/or redirect the address to here, but not sure yet.

More to come in the coming days of next week alone!...Just a hint of the schedule for you:

- Photo shoot for one of my clients to be the cover girl for the April issue of Competitor Magazine. Why is she on the cover? Because she's a celebrity...I'll let you know more soon.
- Going into the Low Speed Wind Tunnel in San Diego! Photos, videos and more cool stuff that I will post on here.
- Annoucing at Tritonman Triathlon, always a good time!
- Swim Clinic following the event for a group of collegiate athletes.
- Tour of California coming to San Diego for the major Palomar Mountain stage!
- Heading to Colorado Springs to the Olympic Training Center!

And hopefully even more cool stuff to announce soon. Like I said before about getting a twitter account, too much cool stuff going on, not to share with everyone would be horrible!

Coach Vance

Friday, February 13, 2009

Changes to the blog

As you can tell, the blog is evolving to much more than simple posts. I've changed the layout, added an email subscription for those who don't want to miss out but may not be able to check it all the time, and even added Twitter.

The Twitter account was started because I have realized there are so many cool opportunities I've got going on lately, before me, that to not share them with people is a disservice. Also, with my new Blackberry Storm, I will be able to upload photos and videos from my events as they happen.

My Twitter account is jimvance, so if you follow anyone on Twitter, add me in to your list, because I'll have some cool stuff to inform you about. (I can't elaborate yet, but will in the near future).

I thought the blog needed a better look, so let me know what you think.

In Chicago right now, and will be working on some cool updates to the blog soon.

Coach Vance

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Improving an athlete's running, and using technology

I'm a big data guy when it comes to coaching athletes. This does not mean I am strictly numbers, as I believe there is a fine art to coaching. It's not the numbers which are the art, but rather the product of the artistic ways I put together an athlete's training plan. The numbers tell me the effectiveness of my decisions.

I wanted to share a recent client's chart, who began working with me in December, after a disappointing Kona performance. After two months, it is clear that I am doing the right things so far with this athlete, as evidenced by his chart here, with my notations in it to him...

If you click on the image, you can enlarge it to see the remarks more clearly.

The graph is laid out with pace on the left, (y-axis) with the fastest speeds at the bottom, and slower speeds as it goes up. The bottom line, (x-axis), is time getting larger from left at 1 second to over 2 hours on the right.

The solid blue line is the athlete's BEST run pace averages from last year, 2008, minus December, at those corresponding times into a run. The dotted line is the athlete's current run paces for December 2008 to today in 2009, with me as the coach. In this graph, the lower the line, the higher speed the athlete is running on average.

With this athlete, we have focused on basic turnover, and improving running technique while doing some simple aerobic base work. In other words, I am working the two ends of the spectrum, (high-end turnover and base aerobic work), with a movement toward the middle as we go thru the season, being more specific to the A-priority races for this athlete.

The basic turnover work we have focused on has been some quarters on the track, at 5K pace, just trying to be smooth, never dipping into any real intensity. We have also been doing some training I call "Goal Mile". This is why the athlete is faster thru 5 minutes than in the previous season; the athlete never worked enough on basic turnover, instead just pounding out the miles.

The range of 6-40 minutes shows the athlete was faster last year. This makes sense, because the athlete raced plenty of Olympic distance and road races last year. This year, we have not raced once. I believe as soon as we have him do an Olympic distance race or 10K, this region of the graph will change dramatically.

The 40-90 minutes range of the graph is where the athlete has really shown A LOT OF IMPROVEMENT. Simply focusing on technique, this athlete is running faster thru this range. We have not done a single run over 90 mins yet this year, because it is too early to be pounding out hard miles. However, I believe that this athlete will see the continued trend of improvement once we get there.

This is something data gives us and tells us graphically. So many people don't want to use data and technology in their training, claiming it takes away from training. I honestly believe when you have all these tools to help you be more precise, and maximize the training time and performance, if you don't use them as a coach or athlete, it's a bit irresponsible. Of course, this is all relative to the goals of the athlete.

I don't think athletes need to be looking at these devices all the time, but coaches need data to see the real story of the athlete. This is just another case where it tells me as a coach if we are progressing toward this athlete's goals properly, and if my "art of coaching" is painting the picture we want to see.

Coach Vance

Monday, February 9, 2009

A must read if training with power

In the spirit of training with technology, here is a book which is a must read if you plan to train and race with power. If you've ever considered a power meter, but wouldn't know where to start, or fear you won't make the most of the investment, then buy this book! Much cheaper to buy this book and learn than buy a power meter and learn.

Training and Racing with a Power Meter
This book is simple, and explains the basics of what power is, and why it is effective for training cycling, and how to understand your training and the body's response to it. It also discusses the different power meters available and the advantages and disadvantages of each brand.

If you're serious about your training and performance, then buy and read this book. It will become a regular reference tool for you.

Coach Vance

Talk at B+L tonight

Tonight I am speaking at B+L on Training With Technology. Using technology to get faster is the point of the talk. It's at the B+L in San Diego, Point Loma area, and begins at 6:15.

Hope to see you there!

Coach Vance

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Labels for posts

In an effort to make this blog more of resource for athletes seeking information, I went back and labeled every post and added a "Labels" gadget on the right hand side. This will allow easier reference for athletes who are looking for more specific topics.

Articles - These are articles I've written, which normally are posted on other sites, but are linked to those.
Athletes - Any post where I recognize or make reference to some of the athletes I'm coaching.
Books - References to any books I recommend.
Clinics - Any post about upcoming or past clinics I've conducted or participated in.
Coaching - Topics and posts which I would consider relevant to those coming here seeking information from a coach. (This post will be labeled under coaching.)
For sale - Anything which is for sale, and of interest to athletes.
Power - Any post which discusses power and using power meters.
Swim - Any post which discusses swimming.
Training Plans - Any post which discusses training plans I've written, or the response from athletes about them.

As you can guess, some of these will overlap, but it's a good start for those of you coming to this blog late, and wanting to find information relevant to your questions.

Coach Vance

Friday, February 6, 2009

Preparing for the XTERRA/Mountain Bike Season

If you're getting ready to race mountain bikes or XTERRA this season, then your ability to ride a mountain bike will be the biggest determining factor of your success. Swimming and running well will help, but plenty of fast swim-runners have failed miserably at XTERRA's championship events, when they faced more complete triathletes, with good to exceptional mountain bike skills.

A few years ago, 3-time XTERRA World Champion Conrad Stoltz recommended the following book, and it seriously changed the way I rode a mountain bike. You will not find a better, more complete, easily read, book on mountain biking. It will teach you the basics and challenge you to ride better with simple drills and ways of thinking while on the bike.

Brian Lopes is one of the most successful mountain bikers ever, and he teamed up with Lee McCormack on this book, to teach the skills he uses to be one of the best ever.

You can buy the book here:
Mastering Mountain Bike Skills

Here's a photo diagram from the book which explains how to do a bunny hop: (Click to enlarge)

This is one example of the diagrams found in the book. They do a great job of breaking down complex skills into simple steps.

Make this your best season ever in XTERRA or on the mountain bike racing circuit, and READ THIS BOOK!

Coach Vance

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Roll-Over to Swim Faster

I wrote an article on a great drill which is included in my Supplemental Swim Training Plan, and teaches the concept of "pressure". This is something so many athletes lack in their stroke, and why I wrote the article, as well as created the training plans. There is a YouTube video of the drill in the article as well, for better demonstration. Enjoy!

As complex as it may seem at times, swimming fast is just a matter of displacing yourself past the most amount of water you can, and reducing drag to maximize the distance you go with the displacement. This is simple in idea, but complex in execution.

One of the biggest flaws in swim coaching is most coaches don't understand how to relate to a beginning swimmer. Concepts and actions which seem simple to coaches are like astrophysics to novices. Sometimes the wording used by coaches is more complex than it needs to be. For example, most coaches use the term "catch" to describe how to gather water to displace in the stroke. If you're a novice swimmer, catching something which is fluid can seem rather puzzling. It's hard to conceptualize catching water. A better term is "pressure".

"Pressure" is something we can all conceptualize and sense when we are swimming, more so than "catch". Athletes want to feel pressure in the palm of the hand, as well as on the accompanying forearm...

Read the rest of the article at

Coach Vance

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

New Max Sports and Fitness Issue Article

If you haven't seen the latest issue of Max Sports and Fitness, check it out...

You can read the article here:

Good advice in the article...

Coach Vance

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Chicago Clinic Post

Here is a post from an athlete who attended the clinic in Chicago. I had no idea she was blogging for a major website...kinda cool. You can see what she got out of the clinic.

Coach Vance

Monday, February 2, 2009

What do you want a coach for?

Sorry for the lagging on posts, but I've been in Chicago for a weekend of clinics, presenting to both athletes and coaches. Actually, I'm still here and leaving in a short while. We had some great turnouts and excellent, positive feedback from them, and I am excited to bring the athlete clinic to San Diego soon.

One of the interesting things which happened this weekend at the coach's clinic came from my presentation. I presented some evidence and some ideas which challenged what many coaches do and think. I did much the same at the athlete clinic, and the athletes responded fairly well with a sense of understanding and trying eagerly to learn and apply the concepts I was teaching them. (I was doing underwater swimming analysis.)

When I came to the coach's clinic to present, the coaches were there to learn, just like the athletes. They were looking for coaching, on coaching. It was funny though, how it seemed the coaches wanted to hear me confirm more of what they're doing, rather than challenging them on it, with the things I presented to them.

I won't get into the specifics, as you'll have to attend a clinic to hear that. But I will say it was clear that at first, they did not like what I was telling them. When I sat back and thought more about that, I realized a lot athletes respond the same way, although it may not have been for swimming, since many triathletes feel weak in that area. The areas they feel they are strong in though, they tend to seem stubborn, and not want to listen. This is obviously not every triathlete, but many.

It lead me to thinking that from now on, when an athlete comes to me, or I am working with an athlete who doesn't want to try new things I am showing them, I will ask them, "What do you want a coach for?"

So many athletes continue to train the same way, never changing. It seems too risky to them to change. They seem to want me to just confirm that for the past time they've spent in the sport, they haven't been wasting time doing anything which might be incorrect. I don't want to call it arrogance, but they seem to be resistant to the idea that there could be a better way.

So if you're about to get a coach, or have a coach now and feel apprehensive about the things they have you doing, I will ask you, what do you want a coach for?

Coach Vance