Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The 6 Key Components for Performance

There are 6 key components I have found for high performance....

The first 3 are:
1. Preparation
2. Preparation
3. Preparation

Sounds silly, but getting prepared for the race is what it is all about. Training properly, getting the fitness gains and performance levels where they need to be takes a commitment few are willing or able to give, especially at the highest of levels.

The last 3 are:
4. Execution
5. Execution
6. Execution

Sounds silly again, but perfect preparation is meaningless if an athlete doesn't execute properly on race day. For example, watching the ITU WTS San Diego event here this past weekend, I saw a number of excellent runners go out WAY TOO FAST for the first lap of the run, only to blow up and be beaten by athletes who they are better runners than.

We see a lot of execution errors among amateur triathletes, from pacing to nutrition, and even if they did all the perfect training, highest level of fitness, they become their own biggest hurdle. They likely weren't confident enough in their preparation as well, which brings us back to the first 3.

Have excellent preparation, then execute according to that preparation. They go hand in hand, at all levels, from amateurs to high performance.

Coach Vance

Friday, April 12, 2013

Confident my athlete is ready...

I spent the day watching the Collegiate Triathlon Championships, today being the first ever draft-legal championship race. It was exciting, and a great start to an event which will likely grow the sport exponentially in the US and greatly help our US development. 

I had an athlete in the race today, and he is racing tomorrow. He swam great, out in the top 10, about 17 seconds off the lead. He followed the plan, and dropped out at the start of the run. Tomorrow he races the Olympic distance non-drafting, and he is ready to do well tomorrow. How do I know this? Besides using my own intuition as a coach and my own eyes which show me, his data shows me as well. 

Here's his Performance Management Chart for the bike and the run, which has calculated his training stress, (TSS), from each session we've done over the months.

There are some important numbers which help show how much rest is enough, and how much is too much. CTL is the blue line, basically represents his fitness. His loss of "fitness" during the taper was only, but he dropped so much fatigue that the short term training stress, (ATL = pink line), is now less than his CTL value. This difference is positive 1.7. These values help show he has had an excellent taper, and is ready to go for the race tomorrow. 

Is this perfect? No. Will these numbers mean he is going to perform to his absolute best and win the race? No, but they do increase the odds and probability that he will race to his potential at this point in time. There are a number of things that go into racing well, like mental prep, technical skill, and race execution. But so much of performance comes from training, and putting your odds in your favor that you're doing that right should help your confidence as an athlete. We will see tomorrow how he does.

Of course, if you're not using data, then you're just flat out guessing. We are all guessing and making judgments on what the right amount is, especially coaches. At least this guess as a coach is backed with data and evidence, in addition to my intuition, sight and experience.

Coach Vance

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

"Going by Feel" Part 2

As I mentioned in the last post, there is a disconnect among many athletes, high level triathletes especially, that using data or science means you can't go by feel, when actually, going by feel is paramount at the highest level of sport.

When you're trying to eek out the extra half percent to 5 percent, depending on where you sit on the performance continuum, you have to maximize each training day, and a great sense of "feel" for what is best on the day is critical. Everyone is working hard, those are working smartest and getting the most of every session, (BOTH hard AND recovery sessions), are the ones advancing.

Darren Smith, one of the most successful coaches in ITU history, uses his own metrics of having the athlete tell him how they are feeling before each session. They have to have a number to give him, on a scale. This number is 100% feel! It's a metric though that allows Darren to give the right amount of stimulus on the day.

Those of you who don't have a Darren Smith on deck or at your side for each workout need something to help you assess. Knowing your numbers and how they are responding to the training stress you are giving them, is only going to help the feel process, giving more confidence with evidence of what the right decision is, whether to push or back off, what energy system to train, and how much.

Feel is the best way to train for those last few percentages of improvement, but at the highest levels it is crucial to get it right. Margin of error is too small.

Coach Vance

Monday, April 1, 2013

"Going by Feel"?

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana, Reason in Common Sense, The Life of Reason, Vol.1

I sat down with a high level professional triathlete last week to discuss goals and where they are headed with their training. When I asked about power data and Garmin run files, the athlete responded with, "I just go by feel usually, no data."

This athlete is confused, like many out there, that somehow data collection and analysis means you can't trust your gut in what the right training is for you. The truth is, high level athletes must still do a lot of training based on "feel", no matter how much data they have. The stakes are so high for this athlete, that they have to become very much in tune with their body. They can't afford rest days which aren't needed, or a stimulus which sets them back a number of days with deep fatigue or injury, affecting consistency.

The collection and analysis of data for athletes is only going to help the "feel" process, by providing objective feedback to better hone their assessment skills of themselves, and actually build confidence in the training they're doing. It helps them to learn from the past, not making the same mistakes over and over.

When an athlete feels tired, and isn't sure that a workout went well, especially on the bike, the numbers can sometimes show otherwise, that the session was a great success with great performance. Time and speed on a bike is not always going to show that, especially in windy conditions. Or when they feel they aren't sure to push on thru a spell of fatigue, data can help provide some clarity, and ease the stress of a decision like that.

When an athlete also goes back and looks at data over many seasons, they can tell what training they tend to respond well to, and thru the years the body will change and need a new stimulus, and possibly a new stress balance, (intensity/recovery). Again, learning from the past with the objectivity of data, helps to prevent mistakes for the future.

I laugh when I read about coaches not letting their athletes use power meters, or GPS for running. These coaches are either afraid of the truth, (that they will make mistakes), don't know or understand how to use these tools and learn from the data, want their athletes to blindly follow them, and/or are lazy.

Training will never be perfect, but those who use all the resources available to get it as close to perfect as possible are the ones who maximize their potential. True athletic brillance is found with both the art of "feel", and science, in training.

Coach Vance