Thursday, May 27, 2010

Training Enemy #1 - Stress

Ever notice that the more stress you have in your life, the worse your training seems to be? Some athletes face stress and can't seem to keep the workouts consistent even in attempts, instead focusing on the things which stress them more.

Some athletes frustrate themselves to no end if life gets in the way of key workouts they were wanting to accomplish.

Some athletes try to continue their training when facing stress, but lose sleep, develop muscle tension from tensing and handling all the stress, and even change their eating habits. The result ends up being sub-par performances and possible injury.

Here are some tips to fight against stress, and not let it undermine and derail your training and racing.

- Stay organized. When responsibilities and projects mount up, plan your days and your training. If you plan ahead and stay organized, you will more likely finish your workouts successfully.

- Predict stressful times, and adjust training ahead of time so you can better manage them.

- Don't use stress as an excuse to not exercise. If anything, that's the time you need it the most!

- Remember you have lifestyle choices. If there are certain people who cause you stress regularly, avoid them! If it is a job or responsibility, ask yourself if you can live without it. Surround yourself with positivity, and you'll be amazed at how much of a difference it will make in your life.

- When all else fails, get out for a run of 30-40 mins, and make it HARD! There is always room in your day for at least a 30 min hard run. It will do a lot of good for your stress levels and keep your fitness level high, despite not your usual training volume.

- Keep perspective. Sometimes we stress ourselves over the smallest things which at the end of the day, really don't matter as much as we may believe. Try to step back and ask yourself how important the things you stress about are.

Keep these in mind, as the summer is coming, so the racing and training season is ramping up! Keep stress at bay with these tips, and I'm sure you'll notice improved training and performances.

Coach Vance

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Coach Vance Newsletter May 2010

If you're interested in everything going on this month, and next, check out my May 2010 newsletter. Topics include:

- F1 race in San Diego for youth and junior elite triathletes.
- New long course weekend camp in Warner Springs, CA in August!
- FREE USAT Youth clinics in June and July
- Open Water Clinic June
- Speaking at the Global Open-Water Swim Conference
- TriJuniors
- Webinars

Lots of great opportunities for learning and info. Please share with me any ideas in the comments section of topics you'd like to learn more about, or if you're interested in me speaking to athletes in your area, helping them achieve their goals.

Coach Vance

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Overall Fitness Monitoring and Data-Driven Training Decisions

This is an article I wrote which was posted on the blog on Thursday, May 6th. Enjoy!

6 May 2010

By Jim Vance

Are you using WKO+ to its fullest? Sure, you probably look at individual workout files, and see how a session went, but do you see the bigger picture? Do you see quickly and easily if your athlete is progressing at the rate and in the ways you want to see?

WKO+ is known as a popular software program for analyzing power files, and seeing how a specific workout went. Though the software is great for individual workout analysis, this pales in comparison to what a coach can see and how they can better manipulate the training and periodization of the athlete, based on the bigger picture of fitness and performance.

WKO+ allows coaches to see the entire picture of fitness and performance, not just a single session. Most coaches never look past the single session, and therefore miss the opportunity of seeing if the athlete is truly progressing or regressing toward their goals.

After athletes record and log workouts, uploading data from their training devices, we want to look for trends within the data. WKO+ allows coaches and athletes to set-up charts which show the trends of output and performance. Here is an example of a chart I use for some of my cyclists:


The chart shows the trend of the average watts per kilogram by week, that I am tracking for the season of outputs for all rides. I want to make sure I’m seeing the upward trend I want to see, as this athlete prepares for their goal race in October. The continual upward trend shows me if the athlete is progressing as we hope. If we are not seeing this upward trend, then we must make decisions on how to adjust the training, given the data. Data-driven training decisions are the key to avoiding performance plateaus and regression.

This chart below, does the same thing as the previous chart, only it focuses on running and the average run pace for the athlete of all runs, in kilometers per hour, by week of the season.


Again, I want to see an upward trend, and that is what I’m seeing. When I don’t see the trend, I must make decisions as a coach, on how to rectify the trend. Though I may typically think that my training decisions are correct, individual differences in athletes make data-driven decisions much more effective for all athletes we coach.

I believe more in studying the bigger picture of fitness than the smaller, individual workout files. I have been doing this long enough to begin to see a plateau in performance before the athlete can. This is critical, because by the time an athlete tends to notice, the damage is already done. They have lost quite a bit of confidence, and maybe even seen fitness regress.

Many coaches make training decisions based upon tradition. “We always do six weeks of base work,” or “We must do eight weeks of VO2 max training,” for example. This is training by tradition, not by data. What if the data shows your athletes already have the aerobic base they need by week four? What if after five weeks of VO2 max intervals, your athletes are at a plateau? These are lost weeks where a coach could switch the training focus to other areas of weakness, and make the athlete ready for even better performance. This is data-driven decision making, and WKO+ is a key tool for seeing this.

Set up your charts in WKO+ to look at the bigger picture of the season. Many coaches pay attention to the Performance Management Chart, (PMC), and it’s a good tool for monitoring, but it is not the only one for monitoring fitness and adaptations.

In the next article, I will discuss how you can adapt the PMC for better overall monitoring of fitness thru the season.

Jim Vance is a USAT Level 2 and Elite Coach for TrainingBible Coaching. You can see many of his webinars on WKO+ at and follow his writings and training advice at his coaching blog, Questions or comments can be sent

Improve Your Bike Splits Talk Now Available for Download

If you missed the talk at Hi-Tech Bikes on how to improve bike performance, (climbing, power, cadence, pacing, cornering and descending), it is now available for download:

You can retrieve all my talks there from this year, if you've missed one and want to learn.

A few testimonials from tonight's talk...
"Thanks so much for a very informative talk! I can't wait to put my new knowledge to use! :)" - Michelle on Facebook
@jimvance that was an awesome talk @ hi tech bikes tonight. - Trasie on Twitter
GREAT information tonight, Jim. THANKS!!! - Tracy on Facebook

Coach Vance

Friday, May 7, 2010

Cramping - Questions and Answers

I received the following email, and thought it was a great question for a post...


Question for you. Last week I did a Sprint, my second of the season. The water was 64 degrees but I had a wetsuit on. Both my calves cramped up very early into the swim. This has never happened before and I have been doing the shorter races for 20 years. Any thoughts?


Thanks for the email. No one can be 100% certain what causes cramps and how to prevent them entirely, but here are a few things to consider from my experience..

1. Salt is not the cause. Don't believe the companies who want to market that to you.
2. Electrolytes as a whole are grossly overrated and overconsumed by athletes. Since this happened so early in the race, and it was such a short race, I doubt salt or electrolytes played any role. I know you didn't mention that, but I wanted to quickly confront that line of thinking.
3. Early in the year, coaches get approached by a lot of athletes worried about the cramping they are facing. By middle of the season, these emails dwindle. In the last 1/3rd of the season, I don't get emails about cramping. This signifies the real possibility that cramping is fitness related, on the whole.
4. Think about the muscles which cramp for you. Chances are, they are muscles which are normally tight, even when not under stress. I find these muscles are predisposed to cramping, since they already fight tension. If you were tensing your muscles during the swim, from perhaps the cooler water temps, it makes sense this would cause some cramping. I think this is even more likely if you were pointing your toes, kicking hard during the swim.

Of course, some will disagree, but the more I research this, the more I believe those 4 things.

Best of luck!

Coach Vance

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Most Dangerous Word in the Nutrition and Food Industry

There is a very dangerous word in the food and nutrition industry. I see it in marketing ads, on labels and packages, and I hear it come out of the mouths of many people, almost like they have been hypnotized or brainwashed. The word may surprise you, but it shouldn't. The word is "Healthy".

There is no more deceptive and dangerous word for kids, parents, athletes or anyone else. Why? Because there is no clinical or legal definition of the word in the food and nutrition industry. There is no standard to measure against. The FDA has no legal ground to stand on and say what a company must prove or do to use the word when describing products.

I see companies naming themselves "Healthy....", as if because they name themselves that, the highly-processed foods they sell are suddenly not-processed.

I see bread companies use the word when describing the grains of their breads, as if it would still be healthy for someone with a gluten allergy. And of course, we can cite plenty of studies to show bread is not a "healthy" food for anyone.

Same with milk brands, who despite the fact they pour tons of high-fructose corn-syrup into their flavored milks, will spout about the healthiness of the calcium it provides.

We see it with yogurt, breakfast cereals, drinks, and plenty of other foods. Heck, we even see it in some of our sports supplement and nutrition products.

Don't be a blind or brainwashed sheep, falling for the word "Healthy". Understand first and foremost what the word means to you, your family, and your goals. Then read the ingredients, understand the product better, and decide for yourself if it meets the definition of "Healthy".

Coach Vance