Monday, May 30, 2011

Article: Coaching without Periodization

Wayne Goldsmith has posted an thought provoking article entitled "Coaching without Periodisation" on his site Sport Coaching

Many coaches get bogged down with the process of periodization. Planning an athletes's season, including what preparation is necessary for the identified goal competitions, is the most common way for coaches and athletes to plan - i.e. work toward specificity in training, and then plan backwards to today, to build up towards those training and competition objectives.

Another way is to take the approach of where the is athlete currently, what are they capable of today; coaching in the moment, 'in the now' as Brett Sutton has described his approach. Darren Smith also talks about his approach in the comments below the article. This approach has advantages; allowing more time to develop capabilities and skills, which can often take longer than 'planned' to achieve, and give them time to bed in, and stick, ie. make real, significant and stable changes to performance. This way athletes only progress to new training objectives at the right times, rather than a pre-determined '6 week block' or other arbitrary period of time, or worse, progress because they have to 'peak by friday' for an upcoming competition. Many coaches following more 'text-book' approaches don't dedicate enough time to developing any particular capability, and thus limit the athletes' improvement, year over year.

The big idea here is the following:
"The key principle is this: every time we work with an athlete, it is our responsibility to ensure that the training we provide is the optimal stimulus for them – at that moment, at that time and specific to their unique physical and mental status as they exist right now; "
This is where coaching, or 'real coaching', as Dr Sousa would say, comes into play. The art of coaching is being present, 'on deck', observing, and communicating with athletes about what is the right session for the day. Working with the Canadian national team in Victoria, I'd often come to the pool, or training session with an idea of what specific training I wanted to accomplish with the athletes that day, but I would watch the warm up and get a sense of where each athlete was at before setting instructions for the main work of the session. This is why I tend not to write sessions on the white board at the pool, or simply write up one set at a time, in case I decide to change from the session I first had in mind while the athletes are warming up, after having spoken to and observed them, or when they are doing the first main set. I would rather they aren't aware that the set or session has changed, in order to avoid the feeling that they may have 'failed' by not being able to complete the original 'planned' session - which is not the case, it's simply my coaching process to make a decision about what is the right stimulus/amount/type of work on that given day. The method takes into account how the athlete has recovered from the previous days sessions, what they already may have done that day, or have coming up that same day, and what follows the next day. I see these as all in flux based on individual responses and adaptation to the training load, and it's the coaches job to make good decisions about what is the right training for each athlete on any given day. This process is hard to do effectively via distance coaching. The most skilled coaches can be very good at estimating what an athlete should be able to accomplish on a given day within a programme, however these skills are difficult to develop when mostly sitting behind a screen.

Planning is of course important, as much as a coaching process to drive thinking about where an athlete is and how they can progress toward their goal performances, however good coaching is about good decision making, and if the planning process over-rides observation, intuition and experience in the moment, then the 'plot' is being lost.

There are lots of other thought provoking articles on Wayne Goldsmith's site Sport Coaching Brain - it's a great resource for coaches or anyone interested in high performance sport.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

the endgame begins...

Great piece of writing on Cyclesport Mag by Lionel Birnie on the unravelling of the Armstrong storey:
"The Lance Armstrong story is so convoluted, so conflicted. It’s like a tightly knotted piece of string. Myth at one end, truth at the other."
I grew up with cycling watching first Greg Lemond, then Lance win the Tour. I was a fan of both, complete with posters of them on my bedroom walls. I admired Greg for being one of the pioneers bringing North Americans to the front of the traditionally European dominated peloton, and for his innovation in technology from training and racing with an SRM, to aerobars, and aerodynamics. It was a thrill to meet Greg a few years ago when in Minneapolis for the lifetime fitness race. I admired Lance for his approach to racing, the meticulous preparation, including the impressive psychological game ('TSTWKM', etc). I found the later Lance years of the Tour formulaic and too predictable, and as a result stopped following the Tour until recently.

The latest allegations against Armstrong don't change anything for those who have been following the sport since the pre-Lance era. Cycling has been rife with doping for a long time. It's been very impressive that everything has held together for Armstrong for so long. It illustrates how powerful the culture of silence has been within the sport. I'm hopeful that this culture is gradually changing, but not naive to elite sport and the desire to win at all costs, and associated financial incentives. For the sake of young talents like Taylor Phinney, etc, let's hope they can be successful without pharmacological support. It'll be interesting to see if the UCI's recently proposal to ban dopers from team management goes anywhere but if it's not retroactive, it would take a long time to have any chance of affecting cycling culture given the number of former riders who are currently involved with teams, not to mention those staff behind the scenes who play a large role in the implementation of doping programmes.
"Let’s prevent one generation of blatant cheats from becoming the encouragers and enablers of tomorrow."

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

On Kenyans' Recovery

Olly Freeman and Will Clarke recovering between sessions
Back to the last weeks Let's Run week in review from the previous post:

Jordan Rapp @rappstar pointed out another piece from the review on recovery from training:

"The Kenyan model, however, demonstrates a new level of achievement in the field of recovery. After a run and a meal Sally collapses over the couch and does not move until it's time to run again."
from #5 Julia Lucas On Kenyans' Recovery: Sally Kipyego The Dark Fast Cat
Many 'western' elite athletes, especially in a relatively wealthy sport like triathlon, have trouble with this type of recovery - just sitting and doing very little before the next session. Particularly those pros living the triathlon 'lifestyle' who are always on the way to another appointment between training sessions, or another coffee shop visit, and who generally live and breathe triathlon 24/7.

'Recovery' is the latest training buzz word, requiring all sorts of active interventions and devices like compression machines that costs thousands. However doing nothing requires very little energy and the price is right, requiring only the ability to relax and to be content doing so. This is one reason for the 'training camp effect', including altitude camps - being away from the home environment removes many distractions and particularly in the 'boring' camp locations that I favour - there is really very little to do or be done beyond the basics: train, eat, sleep, repeat. Pure focus on doing the training and absorbing the work. Athletes who are based in their home environment more often than away in camps would do well to find ways to incorporate this old school recovery method. Keep it simple.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Week That Was In Running - May 3 - May 9, 2011

Always good stuff from Lets Run's weekly reviews:

Particularly the look at the extraordinary depth at first diamond league meeting over 3000m. Americans who are getting excited about a certain young runner/triathlete who is a 'relatively' good runner and getting lots of attention as such, keep perspective on the depth of east african running. My advice would be to keep working on the swimming to someday make an impact in a major championships or Olympics, i.e. develop the running, but with the aim to eventually win on the world stage in triathlon. There are indeed many athletes who identify as 'runners' who have no real chance at making a major distance final, medalling at a championships, or ever really making a significant living as runners, who might have the potential to be great triathletes and make a career out of it. Most of the federation backed, so-called talent-transfer programmes to get fast runners into triathlon are flawed in execution, but I support the concept of teaching fast runners to swim in order to change the game. If it's done right, 29:30 off the bike won't be fast enough to win in the future. Craig Mottram was watching the London WCS race last year, too bad he didn't give it a try.

The Scottish equivalent to "I am Canadian"?

Yes I am drinking one right now...