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

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