Load management is one of the key areas of training. No doubt about it. If we don’t get that right there’s a lot that can go wrong. I thought it would be good to have a chat about where I go with that.
Right at the start in the title I said that I’m listening. I say that because it’s the key to managing training load. Listening. I listen to training files (yes they speak to me), I listen to what you are saying, I listen to what you are doing, I listen everywhere. Because it’s mostly behaviour that speaks the loudest.
I note where it is in the week that you are at your best. I note where you have the most trouble. Some athletes are shithouse at Monday’s and Tuesday’s. Some are great at those days. Some push sessions forward. Some pull them in early so it takes pressure off later in the week. This is very individual and not a weakness. It’s your personal fingerprint. The way you roll.
I watch what happens on a day off. If you are keen to do a extra session it means I have your load about right. If you can’t wait to get that sleep in I might track fatigue and have to adjust.
I listen to you as you are coming closer to a race. Some athletes just haven’t quite got that confidence in themselves that I have in them and look to reassure themselves at race pace or race distance. A lot of coaches say that’s bad. I don’t. All I say is I’m listening. And what I’m hearing is you need more confidence. So I adjust.
I listen to your health and what it’s saying. If you are getting viruses it’s saying load might be too much. If you are getting niggles it’s telling me we need to strengthen the area.
I listen to what you are noticing. I listen to what you like. I listen to what you don’t like.
So you can see that I can’t really rely on what you are saying As much as what you are doing. Because emotion is masking stuff when it comes to words. The behaviours are where it’s at and where I have to listen the most. By listening to what you do I can constantly adjust on a week to week overall planning basis. If I can see your personal fingerprint I can work with it and guide you in the right direction. Then I can follow that up and prepare you accordingly.
As a coach, you sometimes wonder if your direction and recommendations are being listened to. Do the usual messages of consistency and training with intent, resting, recovering, eating well start to sound trite almost? It’s not matter we take lightly. Delivering a message after all needs to be meaningful and hopefully held in good regard. We see this with messages from the authorities when it comes to warnings about smoking, speeding, and drink driving.
When studying football, coaches look for these precursors that lead to scoring opportunities. Fast play the balls, players in motion off the ball, game plans and players that ca execute those game plans under pressure.
What I have learned over many years is that there are a few key “precursors to performance” that we can rely on in endurance sport and try to replicate for sustainable success.
- The athlete has had a deliberate progression in their racing and training in the lead up. Million dollar performances don’t just pop up out of nowhere. You see them coming. Make sure you are always trying to build to something. Not seeing the next race as make or break.
- The athlete has had hurdles they have had to jump over to get to their best. Being exposed to difficult times, whether it be from injury or life circumstances, gives an athlete great coping skills and new levels of resilience. Their difficulty gives them a thirst for success.
- The athlete is looking after themselves. Or from a counter view, I am yet to see an athlete reach their best by eating poorly, sleeping under 6 hours a night, and generally not taking care of their best assets, their minds and bodies.
- The athlete becomes positive. Self doubt starts giving way to self belief. That comes fro one thing. Seeing improvement in training. Being able to go faster, or go the same pace but for longer, or even go the same pace at a lower heart rate.
- They are in a healthy competitive environment. The language they are constantly hearing is that it’s ok to push yourself to be better.
- Consistency comes to the athlete. As a result of looking after themselves and working on aligning the other forces in their life, sessions start to get done on a regular basis.
Mental skills – what a topic hey. I’ve grappled with this one for over 2 months – the importance of this topic just demanded a lot of thought. It also demands a lot of personal opinion. Something I am not always comfortable with. I dislike the concept of trying to sound like a guru.
In any field we form opinion, and we form it from a variety of sources. Personal experience, other people’s views, study. etc etc. The fact is that there is more information out there than ever before. And it’s all at the tip of our fingers via the internet.
I want to emphasise that I’m not here to give you more and more of the same. I want to do this podcast to give you my experience as a coach of endurance athletes. I want to share with you my methods of working on the development of mental skills.
I want you to come away from this podcast with some clear methods for working on your mental skills as an athlete…. and of course this carries over to life itself
We must remember that success in endurance sport is a multi-faceted area. Similar to motor racing, if it was just the engine it would be simple. It isn’t. It’s engine, suspension, aerodynamics, tyres, hydration, driver skill, mental approach, race tactics etc etc
Time trials aren’t an exercise in going as fast as you can and trying to PB. They are an exercise in being able to practice going fast and thinking about how we perform across the spectrum. How was my skill? What was my mental approach like? What equipment did I use and how did it perform?
Again – don’t just think success is all about the size of the engine. There’s so much more to it than that !
I run a lot of sessions as a coach and deliver many more for you to get done away from the coaches eye.
I believe this could be one of the most important pieces of advice i have given for a while and believe that its critical to your success as an athlete. Get this right and a lot will fall into place.
Training isn’t a race – its an opportunity to prepare for a race. Unfortunately I am seeing athletes still judging the success of a session based on how quick they went or how they “felt”. We all like to be quick in training and feel amazing of course. It gives us comfort that we might be improving. But mostly – it just doesnt work that way.
As I described in my Race Outcome Model there are so many more components to your race outcome than how quick you went. To give a few examples, this list is just a short sample of the things you can get out of a session :
- Mental strength
- Equipment choices
- Nutrition (Pre, during and post session)
- Strength up hills
- Bike skills
- Coping with bad Weather
Every single session is an opportunity to test yourself. It isn’t a race where you get an outcome. It is a series of mini challenges that you can test your skills and knowledge in.
A few examples :
- TT’s…. A great chance to handle pre-race nerves. Good chance to see where your speed/endurance was at. How was your pacing? What equipment did you use? When you weren’t going as quick as you hoped how did you manage your mindset mid-TT? How did you justify it in your mind post-TT?
- Long ride ….. an athlete used the training opportunity to have a full dress rehearsal and found the wind knocked around their equipment preference of a rear disc and front 808. What a great outcome !
- Another athlete was doing their long ride also in prep for an upcoming race and was turned around by a road closure. Mid-ride they had to adapt and overcome. Their run off was lonely, hot and hard. Just what the race will deliver and they got the opportunity to experience before the day.
Your race outcome will definitely be dictated largely by your fitness. But it will also be dictated by many other things that you can prepare for. When you are reflecting on your sessions, think through what you learnt as well as how fast you went !!!
From a weather perspective this summer has been a challenging one. Heat and humidity really sucks it out of you at times and I have had to adjust intensity expectations more than a few times. We can drink all the electrolytes in the world and physically adjust, but in the end, the oppressive environmental factors means the Rating of Perceived Exertion punches up through the roof higher than we think. In that respect I’m pleased I can refer back to data and the data is speaking improvement on the whole despite basically feeling a bit rough from disturbed sleep and hot sessions. In raw terms, you might feel like rubbish but your improvement might not. Just adjust the correlation between “feelings” and “real”.
We can put this to good use of course. How many times does it happen that you experience heat in a race and it literally makes your feel like crap. You start to slow and readjust your personal expectations as to a result. Let’s use this time to practice holding pace and power while feeling the RPE climbing due to the heat. What can be a hardship can be a strategic cutting edge against your opposition. Turn it around and bring it in. Let’s face it, we still have at least a month to go of it.
T5 – As a general rule if I prescribe T5 I will be looking for a top end level. It will have a long period of rest assigned to it also so you can have a good go at the intervals. At a minimum it will be 1:1 work:rest. When doing these have a real go and see if you can better your power / pace for that distance or length of interval. If you are doing a bike set on a smart trainer then switch “erg” off and rip in. I’d prefer you to see if you can set a new level and experience failure in the other reps than protect yourself and hold all reps at an even level.
T4 – this zone is all about race specificity and developing strength at that pace / power / heart rate over a period of time. Holding all intervals at the prescribed zone is the outcome I’ll be looking for is a full set at that level.
Notice I left the “Happy” bit off? I did that for a reason. It doesn’t have to be happy all the time. It can be sad too. It can be exciting, or fun, or challenging, or hard work, or any number of descriptions.
The new year is just another flip of the page. Another chance to commit to discipline and excellence and just not putting expectations on yourself other than through the process.
I’ve been thinking deeply this past couple of weeks….. End of 2018 and all. Creativity and innovation is a big part of who I am as a coach and how I work. Pushing deeper into what works. This isn’t an easy task when the topic of individuality arises. It lays a different scenario over each training paradigm. But the one thing you always have to remember is that the basic foundations always work.
I’ve been doing a lot of reading and note-taking. I have a folder of work that I always read to remind me of the foundations. Swim coach Bill Sweetenham always provides a lot of inspiration as does my stuff from Jamie Turner. Then we have the coaching coffees with Mick Delamotte just talking endlessly about our athletes and experiences. All of it creating a picture.
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
One thing that always happens with me in this type of innovation work is the “aha” moment where you see something that just resonates. The above quote is one such aha moment. I found it on Twitter of all things. Home of the quote. Joel Filliol presented it as a way of saying to his athletes “think different”. Don’t change. Rebuild yourself.
Buckminster Fuller was a pretty interesting guy. An architect with a passion for social issues, he was also an inventor. He invented the Geodesic dome infact in the early 1900’s. An architect who works in a world of designing buildings that are all the same has to think laterally for his breakthroughs.
The quote above for me is an epiphany of sorts. It reminds me that as a human working with other humans in the area of change that one has to think outside the box. Build the athlete that you need to get them to their goals.
I always say to athletes it’s not what you do it’s the way that you do it. Think differently. Step onto the training grounds with attitude and joy. Be a student of your game. Do what old mate Bucky Fuller suggests and don’t fight yourself.
In this podcast we chat with 5 year HPT athlete and Red Bull Defiance debutante Matt Lester. In the chat we discuss his background and what led him to this race, how he deals personally with fatigue and fear, and how he has prepared for his biggest challenge yet, the famed Red Bull Defiance race in Wanaka, New Zealand.