Monday, February 25, 2013

Triathlon Science - Release Date March 8th

Order Triathlon Science Here

A 2-year project I worked on with Joe Friel and a host of incredible minds and names in endurance sports, comes to fruition on March 8th, 2013. I wrote one chapter, and edited each chapter, (more than once!) It was a huge project, but one that I am extremely proud of, as there has NEVER been a book like this. 

This book takes a look at what science and research has to tell us about EVERY aspect of the sport, and how we can apply that information to training. We went and got the best and brightest, coaches, MD's, PhD's and more, and had them write for us. It is an amazing compilation, and I believe most national governing bodies for the sport will make this 600+ page book their textbook for coaching education courses.

Here's a list of some of the contributors, which is impressive in its own right:

Bob Seebohar
Matt Fitzgerald
Bruce Mason
Dave Pease
Ross Tucker 
Neal Henderson 
John Post, MD
George Dallam
Gale Bernhardt
Hunter Allen
David Warden
Stephen McGregor 
and more...

Here's some of the reviews already...
“The scientific information discussed in Triathlon Science will give every reader a deeper understanding of the how and why behind a training program. It is a great resource for coaches and athletes alike.”
Linda Cleveland-- Coach Development Manager USA Triathlon

Triathlon Science is invaluable for any athlete looking to decipher the vast information available and achieve immediate results.”
Adam Zucco-- Triathlon Coach 2009 USAT Developmental Coach of the Year, Five-Time Hawaii Ironman Finisher

“Joe Friel is a founding father of our sport, so you can be confident that Triathlon Science will be a valuable addition to your triathlon library.”
Gordon Byrn-- Founder of EnduranceCorner.Com, 2002 Ultra Man World Champion

Hope you get a chance to enjoy this great book, and send me your thoughts on it. I'm already working on book #2!

Coach Vance

Sunday, February 24, 2013

SWOLF Metric

Continuing with the topic of training metrics, one of the big ones in swimming is SWOLF, which is short for swim golf. Here's an article I wrote for a few seasons ago about swim golf, before the coaching world shortened it to SWOLF. I've also linked the other 2 parts to the series, which was called "Dance with the Water."

In the first part of "Dance with the Water", we discussed the idea that an athlete must listen to the signals the water gives, like a dancer, following the lead of their partner. Move to your own beat, and not in rhythm with the water, and you're bound to struggle with your swimming.
The first step in listening to the water is giving it the chance to speak. The water loves to talk, especially over a game of golf. Yes, you read that sentence correctly. The water speaks a lot to athletes, over a game of swim golf.
Swim golf is played with the water, where athletes complete a single 50-yard or 50-meter interval and count the strokes taken within the 50, adding that number to the time it takes to complete the lap. For example, if you complete the interval in 45 seconds, with 40 strokes, your golf score would be 85 (45 + 40 = 85). Just like in regular golf, the lower the score the better the performance.
If you complete the first interval as you normally swim, it establishes a baseline score—like a handicap in golf. From there, you can change one thing to focus on, and see how the score is affected.

How to Improve Your "Golf" Game

There are three ways you can improve your score:
  • Take less strokes
  • Swim a faster time
  • Lower both your stroke count and your time
If athletes complete multiple intervals at a low to moderate intensity with one minute of recovery between each, they can eliminate intensity and fatigue as a variable in performance and focus on technical variables which affect the score. This could be any number of things depending on the athlete, but once an athlete experiments or changes one aspect of their stroke, they get objective feedback from the water. The water speaks to them and tells them which modifications improved the score and which were not helping.
Completing up to 12 of these intervals can help the water tell you a lot. If you continue to experiment and use this as a tool for learning what the water tells you about your stroke, you can focus on the technical aspects that help you dance with the water. From there, you can transfer that knowledge to race day.
Try this exercise in your next swim workout and see what you learn from the water, and your technique. If you like this exercise, you can find it and many other effective tools for improving your swimming in mySwim Training Plans, which teach athletes how to listen to and dance with the water. The plans include descriptions and videos of drills (iPod compatible), as well as workouts, four days per week—perfect for the triathlete trying to learn!
Check out Part 3 of the "Dance with the Water" series, which covers more about the drills and concepts in the plans, including rolling over, to help make athletes faster at swimming. Best of luck!
Coach Vance

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Peak Power and Pace Metric

The best average power or an athlete can produce for a given amount of is their Peak Power. The term was called Critical Power for many years, and you might still find it called that, but now as coaches we are calling it Peak Power, or P, but you might see Critical Power expressed as CP.

This is expressed with a number after it, that represents the time period it is referring to, in minutes. If we are to discuss an athlete’s best power output for 1 minute, we would express this as their P1.

An important power metric for a half-ironman athlete would be P120, or their best 2 hour power output, as that is a race specific value. An Ironman athlete would want to look more at P180, or even P240, (although you won’t find that value common). A more common peak power value that is tracked is 30 minutes, since athletes tend to have a lot of 30 minute samples to track. 

This metric is also used with pace in running, known as Peak Pace. It is expressed the same way, just average pace is used instead of average watts. I would recommend athletes and coaches track this value in a small unit, such as kph, (kilometers per hour), or even m/s, (meters per second), rather than mph. This smaller unit allows us to see small changes better, as going 1 mile per hour faster is tough to do. 

Start tracking these values and you'll begin to understand when you're fit and where your weaknesses are. You can especially gain valuable insight when you place these into your PMC chart in WKO+, and track the trend of improvement, (or lack there of), such as here, where an athlete prepping for a 70.3 is seeing many of the pace values specific to that performance show he is ready to perform well...

Click on image to enlarge

Coach Vance

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Burnout is Underrated

I find many athletes throw around the word, "burnout", or some variation of it. Many talk about it like it is a disease to avoid, which could send your life into an abyss. The truth is, many athletes never approach actual burnout, where it would truly affect them for years to come. Burnout gets a bad rap, and many athletes don't realize how valuable risking burnout is.

It's likely that many reading this blog are beginning to get excited for the 2013 season, and near the end of last season they were ready for the end of it. That's not burnout, but it does show an emotional commitment. True burnout is when you've committed to the point where you just can no longer commit to the same level as in the past, for good.

Simon Whitfield used a common phrase in his build-up to Beijing, "Be obsessed." It paid off, as after winning Olympic gold in 2000, he had a rough race in Athens 2004, before riding that obsession to a silver, (nearly gold again), in Beijing. It takes a level of obsession and commitment to reach your potential as an athlete.

In the end, when I hear athletes speak of a fear of burnout, that usually means they are scared to reach their potential, because the commitment level required to reach their potential means a risk of burnout. When the commitment level is that high, it is hard not to succeed.

To walk away from the sport due to burnout likely means you've come very close to meeting your potential, and that should feel a lot more satisfying than walking away and feeling like you could have given more than you did.

In short, don't fear burnout...risk it.

Coach Vance

Friday, February 1, 2013

What is Power Exactly?

Since I'm focusing on metrics lately, I figure it is probably important to discuss what power actually is, since many athletes may not really understand it.

If you’re reading this blog, it’s likely because you have purchased a power meter and want to know how to use it to maximize your training. One of the biggest things you’re probably wondering is, “What is power exactly?” and “How does the power meter actually calculate it?”

Remember that HR is an input metric? Power is an output metric, and one of the most important output metrics there is for training.  Power is a work rate, measured in watts. Work is the basis here, and it is important to understand the actual work being done is the movement of your body and bike.

When you apply a force to the bike through the pedals and crank arms, the bike moves you. If you apply a force and don’t move, no work has actually been done. In other words, force times distance equals work. We can express this with the following equation where Work is W, Force is F, and D is distance:

W = F x D

We know that Power is a work rate, so the equation for work simply needs to be divided by time to be a rate. This gives us:

P = (F x D)/T

If you think back to all the story problems you did in elementary school, you know that distance is equal to rate of speed, or velocity, times the time you travel at that speed, or:

D = V x T

Now comes the algebra you have always wondered if you would ever actually use in your lifetime outside of school. We will substitute this equation for D into the Work equation:

P = [F x (V x T)]/T

Now we have Time on the top and bottom of the fraction, which allows them to cancel each other out. This leaves us with:

P = [F x (V)]

And this leaves us with our basic equation to define power:

P = F x V

In basic terms, this means power is equal to the force you apply, times the speed at which you apply it. When riding our bike, this means how hard you press on the pedals, and how fast you turn the pedals. Power meters measure or estimate the force we apply, based on the brand and model you use, and then simply use the cadence value to multiple and get the work rate.

The more fit the athlete, the higher the work rate they can produce, or the more efficiently they can produce a certain work rate, (watts). 

Coach Vance