The Deliberate Practice Model

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
  • Adaptability
  • Pacing 
  • Nutrition (Pre, during and post session)
  • Strength up hills 
  • Technique 
  • 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 !!! 

“Managing” the heat

 

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.

T4 / T5

 

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.

New Year

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.

Change

 

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.”

Buckminster Fuller
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.

Podcast 5 – An Interview with Matt Lester

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.

Written by Comments Off on Podcast 5 – An Interview with Matt Lester Posted in Podcast

Knowing

Telling us what’s wrong isn’t telling us what’s right.

Social media thrives on this. “The Hook”.  Tell em what’s wrong. Then say you know the answer.

Optimal Performance

Optimal performance derives from holistic wellbeing and knowing your identity and core motivations. Taking care of your wellbeing, allows you to function at your full potential

This is one of the biggest issues facing an adult athlete with big work and family responsibilities as well as the plethora of information pouring into your lives via social media. The way forward is backward. Peeling back some of the layers and placing an emphasis on who you are and what makes you tick will unlock a lot of answers for you and allow you to see training and racing in much purer light than just another achievement you are seeking. 

Behavioural Observations

Coaching is quite a personal thing. You have to really allow yourself in and commit 100% to the athletes you work with. It’s both demanding and rewarding. Sometimes – actually most times – you don’t know how you should deal with the stuff people go through. But as a coaching mate says “the only way out is in”.

This morning I wrote a post on Facebook. Not something I have done for a long time as I haven’t felt comfortable with that medium recently. On that post I wrote about the experiences one has as a coach. I literally see it all. The good, the bad and the ugly. It can be quite humbling and can absolutely distract you from what is happening.

What I have learnt is that with all the noise that seems to be in our way, the behaviours are what we should be looking at. Not what they are saying, but what they are doing. If I have but one piece of advice to give it is to not be distracted by words or stories. Observe the behaviours.

 

Building the Athlete

How I like to develop an athlete is a question I get occasionally. There’s so much information out there now that it becomes difficult to see the forest for the trees. So the answer to the question “How do you develop an athlete?” becomes a question of my personal coaching philosophy. I highlight that this piece of writing is directed toward the age group athlete. High Performance has different nuances.

Philosophy
There’s a bit of a thing with coaching that you’re a “science” coach or an “art” coach. I don’t believe in this. I lean towards the art side but am definitely always working with science.
Generally as a coach I am not driven by numbers, but am guided by them. I think this comes from my experience in the sport from the 1980’s and competing without them. Basically, there’s a time to have them and a time not to have them. At HPT we will take Garmins away from the athlete at times to help build “feel”. Devices can definitely help us become faster, but also I tend to think it can take some of the beauty away from sport at times.
I work on the basic philosophy that I want to enable the athlete to reach their full potential. A lot of the time that is by helping the athlete get out of their own way.
What am I building?
First and foremost I take the approach that I am building an endurance athlete that can do most endurance events at any one time. Any one of my triathletes should be able to take on a 70.3 distance triathlon, a half marathon, a long bike race, a long swim, etc etc.
If they wanted to step the distance up to Ironman or marathon, well that should only take a specific 12-16 week block to build some longer km in the legs.
The Raw Materials
What am I trying to develop:
  • Aerobic Fitness – everything you do as an endurance athlete relies on the basic premise that you are aerobically “fit”
  • Strength – you need the strength to be able to withstand being on your feet for a long time, climb hills, swim in open water, ride or run into headwinds.
  • Endurance – at any point in time i want you to be able to swim for an hour straight, do a 3-4 hour ride, run for 1.5 to 2 hours.
  • Technique – poor technique can the root of all evil, however movement patterns are very entrenched in the age group athlete. I like to work on efficiency and making sure the technique isnt causing injury. technique should be a holistic approach to having enough strength, flexibility and range of motion to allow the body what it needs to do.
  • Resilience – I want the athlete to be resilient to the many obstacles that are thrown their way. Busy work weeks, family demands, etc etc. i want you to be able to continue to train in and around those challenges by adjusting your program – not throwing a week away.
  • Mental toughness – if you aren’t mentally tough, then endurance sports may not be for you. I work with you constantly on this and mostly in the area of believing in yourself. Most athletes are tough in sessions. Most don’t give up. Most get out of bed early. Not a lot will have the self belief but to say to the world “I am an endurance athlete”. They are too worried about what people will think of them.
  • Consistency – to continue a steady “build” in fitness its critical to get traction on your weekly training load. If one week it goes up and the next week it goes down, well its very hard to establish a decent overload / adaptation cycle. I would rather a consistent 10 hour week than 15 hours one week and 5 the next.
  • Communication – a key skill in being coached is the ability to communicate. It’s hard to read minds, but this definitely needs to be a key coaching skill if you are to be any good at this game.
  • Patience – probably the best thing you can have in endurance sport. Maybe a sign of the times that we are generally not as good at it these days?
  • Honesty – for some reason, athletes will hide things from their coach. I am looking for complete and open honesty.
  • Daring – I like athletes that have a crack, as long as they know the consequences. We can play it safe all the time but I would prefer that you occasionally test the waters.
Periodisation
A bit of a buzzword in triathlon. As far as periodisation goes I either work in base mode or race prep mode. Base will be predominantly aerobic but with a small amount of intensity. Race prep mode will have more intervals at race specific pace / power / speed. Come off a race and its back to base.
Build, build, build, recovery is a preference, but if the consistency isn’t there we will wait for the fatigue levels to build enough to warrant an adaptation week.
Some athletes can withstand a lot of fatigue in a build and some cant. Its a matter of applying what is right for the individual.
Execution of the Coaching Process 
All of the above is okay, but what we are dealing with is real people with real lives and many different backgrounds. What works with one doesn’t work with the other. I try to display a huge amount of empathy and take the long road to development by taking it back a few steps to sort things out so they don’t re-occur. Telling an athlete “my way or the highway” can be an easy and quick path, but I will leave it to the ego-driven.
As a coach I am malleable and observe deeply over a period of time. Then I work towards long-term sustainable success with the athlete, which in turn makes you a better person all up.
Hopefully this helps you understand what I am trying to do with you as we work together towards success.