Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Consistency is an athlete's insurance policy

Without consistency, there is no true peak in performance which can be achieved. The higher the goals, the more important consistency of training is, and there is no magical workout or training plan which can make up for a lack of consistent training.

Consistency may seem hard to do for many athletes, as it requires a HIGH level of commitment. There are plenty of times when training may need to take a back seat, but those with a commitment to consistent training find ways to get it done.

Consistency rewards those athletes who commit to it, because the performance levels reach new heights, many times beyond the athlete's highest expectations. Consistency of training for many months and years also provides an insurance policy to athletes who might have an injury develop, a sickness, or something else which takes them out of the routine for a week or so.

An athlete of mine has been incredibly consistent for the past 18 months, and has been showing abilities which put him in contention for a Kona slot at Ironman Texas. He had a foot injury of tendonitis that cut his running for a week, and his 3 year old daughter spent a week in the hospital with pneumonia, which you can imagine would make training difficult. He has been worried that everything he has worked for is slipping away, but in 2 week's time he is now amazed at how quickly his fitness rebounded, and how little he lost. I told him, "You cashed in the insurance policy your consistency for the past 18 months has provided."

He can't take many more weeks like those two he had, but his consistency helped cover the gap for him, much like an insurance policy.

Consistency rewards athletes who commit to it, in both performance, and in times of injury or other challenges. Commit to it, and get the rewards.

Coach Vance

Monday, March 25, 2013

It's not the race nutrition plan

Many long course triathletes think their race nutrition plan is the problem, when really it is their training and pacing. No nutrition plan or calorie count can make up for poor training and pacing. It's not an eating contest, it's a preparation and execution contest.

Spend your efforts getting training and pacing done right, then address race nutrition.

Coach Vance

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Foundational Workouts

While working with a coach recently, I was reminded of the idea of key workouts, but with a new and better term for them, "Foundational Workouts". This is the same as the key workouts sessions, in meaning, but I like this new term better. The reason is because this workout isn't just key, it is the workout you build the fitness in the weeks ahead on.

Foundational workouts are the workouts you begin your training plan for the week/month/microcycle with, and build on top of them, and around the stress they create. The idea is you should come into these sessions with the least amount of fatigue as possible, in order to maximize the quality of the session for adaptation to the stimulus.

If you're a runner, these sessions are your highest quality runs, like tempo runs and track sessions. It could be a long run, but it is likely that your long run is not the highest quality session, and the goal is simply building basic aerobic endurance, which can be required in a fatigued state, (relatively speaking).

If you're a triathlete, you might have 2 foundational workouts per week, per sport. If you're trying to focus on one sport which might be a weakness, such as cycling, that you might shift the equation to 1 swim, 3 bike,  and 2 run foundational workouts per week. If you have the luxury of being a professional triathlete, you can likely do more than this many in a week.

How do you determine which workouts are the foundational ones? They are the ones which meet the goals of your training focus for the time frame. In the general preparation phase, you're likely focusing on a weakness or general aerobic fitness, while in the later specific phase, it becomes the workouts which best represent the demands of the race.

If you're using TSS, and let's say you want to have a TSS for the bike of 190 in your upcoming 70.3, then in the general preparation phase, you are likely completing rides that are 190 TSS, but at a different intensity than what you would do in the race. As the race day approaches, you will ride more at the specific intensity for the race, at that 190 TSS. In both cases, (general and specific phases), these are foundational sessions, because it is the TSS of 190 you're building performance around.

Many athletes struggle to keep the balance of life and triathlon, and recognition of the foundational workouts from others can help athletes maintain the balance without stressing themselves out about some missed sessions here and there.

Think in terms of foundational workouts, and you will continue to build the quality sessions which are most important to your success, both now and in the weeks/months/seasons ahead.

Good luck!

Coach Vance

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Time to get serious about swimming safety

With the recent deaths in the sport, 26 in the past 2 years in the US alone, the topic of swim safety is becoming more important. The fact I coach many youth and juniors, I feel it important to stand up for them and be their voice. I have an obligation to them even more so than adults, because they trust adults will not put them in dangerous positions.

Gerry Rodrigues is a top swim coach, and here is something he sent me, and I encourage you all to voice your opinion. Gerry has highlighted how to do so. You can read below my email as well...

This past weekend several of our Tower 26 members raced the Alcatraz Triathlon. Additionally other pros and amateurs whom I either: coach, consult with, or attend our camps, also participated. They all did well, receiving a heartfelt congratulations. One reason for their performance is they were prepared. 

Unfortunately, a participant passed away; yet another triathlon related swim death. The water temp was 51-52 according to race officials, however, credible unofficial sources stated it being 49.

It's finally time for me as coach, former open water athlete, and a recognized leader in open water to take a position. In my 31 years of coaching triathletes and 41 years of open water experience, this is my first stand, and it's an important one. If you are unaware of my background, you can find quick details in these links, and in by bio on our web site:


Story on Tower 26 beach workouts: pg 16

I have authored the following piece on our blog, titled: 
"The Open Water Grave". 

I'd like your support in contacting the National Governing Body to voice your concern, IF you agree with my position.

Let them know your name, your affiliation with Tower 26 if any, and your support with what I believe they need to instate. Here's whom to send your emails:

Rob Urbach

President of the board of directors
Bob Wendling

Southwest region chair (regional chair in CA.)
Elizabeth Farnan

Link to find the email for the chair of your Region: 

My email to them:

Rob, Bob and Elizabeth,

I urge you as leaders of the governing body of triathlon to make swim temperature collars, both high and low, a priority. As the head coach of a High Performance Team, coaching many youth and juniors, I believe it is especially important we take action, and proactively prevent the possible death of not just more adults, but children as well. 

The water temperature guidelines from the ITU below are not stringent enough, especially for our juniors, and clearly weren't followed in Alcatraz last week. I realize there are many contributing factors in a serious situation like an athlete dying in a race, but we must do all we can to eliminate the factors we can control. 

I also urge USAT to put in place requirements and standards for race directors and coaches to better prepare the athletes for the conditions they might face on raceday. 

Thank you for your time and consideration. If I can help in this cause, and be a part of the solution, please let me know. 


Jim Vance

This is your chance to help your sport and your fellow triathletes. Please voice your opinion.

Coach Vance

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Mental Engagement of Swimming

I was reading an interview with 2012 Ironman World Champion Pete Jacobs, and this portion really stuck out to me, as some many triathletes struggle with swimming.

TZ: It seems you have no (known) weaknesses now however with your swim strength does this allow you to focus more than the average person on your bike and run? How much of an advantage does this give you?

PJ: Yes, people do tell me that I’m very lucky, and I guess I am, but the reason I swim so well and so little is because I just focus on my technique every single stroke. I have a high awareness of my body and what each muscle is doing so I am my own coach and am constantly tweaking my technique. I swam less than 10km per week leading into Kona last year, and had one of the best swims I’ve ever had because I just sat in the pack and swam efficiently.

This is what it takes to be a great swimmer. I don't care how much time you're willing to put into the pool, open water, weight room, devoted to your diet, etc. If you aren't mentally focused and engaged in what you're doing with your stroke, you will have a crap stroke, and not go as fast as you can. Many athletes take the "Just get to my bike" mentality in the water, as Gerry Rodrigues pointed out in his great blog.

I went from a 2:00 per 100 yard base time in the pool in 2003, to 2006 coming out of the water with the leaders, or just off them, and contrary to common belief, it wasn't because of physical talent. It was because I learned, became a student of the sport and focused every stroke. Like a single song on repeat in my head, I would go thru the same analysis and questions of my stroke and my surroundings as the race would unfold. I got that mentality from what I did in practice/training.

So if you're struggling in the water, maybe the problem is between your ears.

Coach Vance