Thursday, December 27, 2007

Old School vs New School

Another ST inspired post... this time in the form of an email from the grand poobah of ST, Dan Empfield. Dan also started a thread on ST on the same topic, what defines new school / old school coaching, which got some interesting responses. This seems to be a topic that comes up fairly frequently, Paulo also had a posting on this same topic a few weeks ago here

Here was my response to Dan's question:

"If I had to choose a side, I would put myself in the old school camp.

TSS is monitored as a curiosity, but does not drive my programming. My favored metrics are simply duration, overall s-b-r volume and volume of intensity in key workouts. I've looked into other methods of quantification, but I always come back to the basics, for simplicity and effectiveness.

I am very familiar with "new school" methods, through my formal education and my own experimentation over the years. All my athletes use SRMs on their bikes, and GPS units running. I use a web based scheduling tool/log. I've used cyclingpeaks since the beginning, an am familiar with TSS, IF, ATL, CTL, TSB, etc. I regularly troll pubmed for news in sports science. I have access to any testing you could want (although I use very little formal testing). Given all that, I would still describe the core way I deliver my programs as "old school". I trust my own experience and decision making ability over any metrics. I believe coaching is more art than science and will always be that way. I choose to keep my programs simple, and the message to the athletes as far as what to do, and when, also simple. I choose to prescribe training in terms of time and RPE the majority of the time, as I find it most effective. My favored intensity prescription is "steady" or "solid". My athletes all know what that means and they get the job done according to that. I monitor other metrics, but the metrics don't drive the program. I believe the fundamentals of what makes successful endurance athletes haven't changed in decades, and in fact the "new school" often loses the plot of what is important for endurance success by putting too much emphasis on testing, gadgets, monitoring, even taking specificity too far. The three things most important to endurance success are 1- fitness, 2- fitness and 3- fitness. Most athletes barely scratch the surface of their capabilities in terms of basic fitness due to their preconceived notions of what their limits are, and what is possible. I have access to an entire team of support personnel, physiologists, lab techs, psychologists, strength and conditioning specialists, chiros, physios, etc, but I stick to massage and physio/chiro to aid recovery, and generally run the rest of the program myself, as I find most of these "specialist" types don't get it, they don't understand the fundamentals."

Reverse Periodization

So there was some chatter over on ST on periodization. I generally don't post very often on forums - this case reminded me of why... Nevertheless I posted about the term "reverse-periodization" being a mis-nomer, and generally its usage is a pet-peeve of mine. The thread then took a turn for the worse and generally wasn't too productive from that point on.

Paulo has a nice post over on the triathlon book on his thoughts on the whole reverse periodization trend. Rather than replying to the thread on ST in more detail or writing about the topic here, I'll just send you over to his post.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Simon does Slowtwitch

Slowtwitch interviews Simon Whitfield

Written by: Herbert Krabel
Date: Thu Dec 20 2007

"Simon Whitfield won 3 World Cup ITU races in 2007, is ranked second in the World and is currently getting ready for his 3rd trip to the Olympics. He is also a very proud dad and gave Slowtwitch a few minutes of his time.

ST: Simon you had such a great season this year; can you tell us about it?

Simon: I really enjoyed this year, from the birth of our daughter PK in June through to my results and the growth of our training squad. Our squad has grown so much and it's really amazing to be part of it, coach Joel has done an incredible job of directing our training and the expectations we have of each other, no set goes unfinished and we have very high expectations of each other but at the same time we've maintained a sense of fun and camaraderie that I really enjoy. I think our squad will only get better and better as we settle into our routines and the younger guys have a chance to develop. "

Read the rest on

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Colin Jenkins on Belief

Colin has a nice post over on his blog on the importance of belief for an athlete.

"Ask yourself this...How important do you think belief is? Do you believe in yourself? Do you have belief in your teammates or co-workers? Do you have complete belief and confidence in your coach or boss that what they are doing is the best thing for you? The power that believing has can not and should not be underestimated, it has the ability to make a mediocre athlete GREAT, and a great athlete MEDIOCRE. Without having complete confidence and belief in yourself and the people around you, then oneself will never reach their true potential."

Read the rest on Colin's blog

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Chris Jones Interview has an interview with Chris Jones, who until recently was the World Class Performance Head women's coach for British Triathlon. I've met Chris a number of times at ITU events over the years and he always struck me as being very clued into what it takes to succeed in high level triathlon. He has had a very successful career thus far, including a World Championship in 2002.

Going over Chris' results as a coach, it reminded me of a thread over on the slowtwich about the best triathlon coaches in the world. Of course the names of the usual internet coaches are thrown around, but in my mind the top triathlon coaches in world are unknown to most age group type athletes, who don't follow the sport at the highest levels.

A couple highlights of the interview:

AE There have been a lot of changes in the sport since you started including the introduction of lottery funding for the athletes, do you think this has had a positive affect on the sport?

CJ I think any injection of funding into any sport will have a positive affect at first. The BTF's world class programme is a world class resource for athletes and coaches to use, I believe that funding is there to support athletes who want to reach their true potential. This is recognised at a junior level and up to under-23s. I am not sure we should be providing just anybody with a wage. I look at it this way; if you train to be a doctor or a teacher you get very little help, you earn a living when you are qualified. We have a six-year window to support and fund athletes to reach international performances in sport. We are a world class resource to support all athletes at the highest level, but once they are at this level it must be down to individual athletes to be professional and earn their living from the sport and sponsorship.

I also think that in the UK we give funding at a low level; if we talk about programmes and funding levels in other countries, like Australia and New Zealand, you have to be at a very high level before getting any support. At times we are in danger of sending out the wrong message by over-supporting. It is still about huge personal sacrifice; hunger and individual desire are what it takes to be able to deal with the training and adversity that comes with training to be a full time athlete.

I agree with what Chris says about funding here. Assisting athletes getting to the top level is key. Not very often certainly, but I have seen one or two athletes who were over-funded in relation to their commitment and desire to succeed at the highest levels. As Chris says sacrifice, hunger and individual desire have to be foremost, as well as being able to deal with the training and adversity... bang on.

AE What are your predictions for the 2008 Olympic triathlon, male and female?

CJ In the men’s race; Gomez, Don and Whitfield. In the women’s; Snowsill and Fernandez. The opportunity is for the rest of the world to chase the bronze medal.

Ok, not bad, he just got the order of the mens wrong...

Read the full interview on

News Item: Life outside in the fittest metropolis, Victoria, B.C.

Matt Villano
Friday, December 14, 2007

Fitness in Victoria, British Columbia's provincial capital, is a way of life. The picturesque city at the southern end of Vancouver Island was designated the "fittest" metropolis in Canada in 2001, and today as many as 10 percent of locals ride their bikes to work. Government officials also estimate that 30 percent of Victorians are "active," which they define as working out at least three times per week. Apparently, this is twice the national average. In the context of this lifestyle, it's no wonder Victoria resident Simon Whitfield is an international athletic superstar. The Australian native won a gold medal in the triathlon at the 2000 summer Olympics in Sydney, a gold medal at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, England, and finished 11th in the triathlon at the 2004 games in Athens. He recently took time out from training for next year's Olympics in Beijing to share some of his favorite spots to practice his sport.

More at

Ahhhh... CANADIAN NATIVE (with an Aussi Dad)

Monday, December 10, 2007

News Item:Triathletes run away from the pack

Brian Drewry, Times Colonist
Published: Monday, December 10, 2007
Some of Canada's top triathletes showed why they're just that at Saturday's 4th Annual Stewart Mountain 10-Mile Cross-Country Challenge.
Stefan Jakobsen of Nanaimo and Kirsten Sweetland of Victoria used their impressive running ability to win the men's and women's divisions of the 10-mile (16.1 kilometres) event.

More at

Saturday, December 8, 2007

NY Times Article

NY Times Article

“All maximum performances are actually pseudo-maximum performances,” Dr. Morgan said. “You are always capable of doing more than you are doing.”

“The old adage, no pain no gain comes into play here,” Dr. Morgan said. “In point of fact, maximum performance is associated with pain.”

“There is some fatigue in muscle, I’m not suggesting muscles don’t get fatigued,” Dr. Noakes said. “I’m suggesting that the brain can make the muscles work harder if it wanted to.”

Triathlon Book posting on swimming

Over on The Triathlon Book blog, Paulo has posted a couple articles on swimming, and in one of them he quotes me from an article I did for triathletemag

Its been some time since I wrote that article for Triathlete Mag on workouts for an off season swim focus, however my thoughts haven't changed with respect to the value of traditional swimming drills that many triathletes and swimmers do in an effort to improve their technique. Much like time spent stretching, many athletes spend time doing drills without ever improving their technique.

My position is essentially that good swimming technique has a lot more to do with fitness than most athletes understand or want to accept. The fundamental technical issue for all swimmers, the catch/propulsion, requires very good fitness to establish and maintain at race intensities and under load.

Its a lot harder to put in the miles over time than to piddle up and down the pool doing drills, so I guess thats why many athletes focus so much on traditional swimming drills, they seen as a short cut to faster swimming. Everyone wants to believe there is a way to get meaningfully faster without simply working harder, but traditional drills aren't the ticket to faster swim splits.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Quote of the Day:

"In analyzing American distance running, I have learned what I need to establish as a runner, what steps I must take, and what mind set I must have to become an elite runner. I must have the same attitude as did one of America's best distance runners Steve Prefontaine who once said: "I don't run a race to see who is the fastest, but to see who has the most guts." This is what will make Americans great runners. This is what will make them heroes for eternity."

-Ryan Shay, concluding a 10 page paper he wrote for his freshman English class at Notre Dame (which Ryan's fathers has graciously shared with the community).

The Buddha Principle

"Believe nothing.
No matter where you read it,
Or who said it,
Even if I have said it,
Unless it agrees with your own reason
And your own common sense."

~ Buddha, 6th century bce Indian mystic and founder of Buddhism
from The Dhammapada