Search This Blog

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Quantification Conundrum Part III

Then what the dickens exactly is it that I do to earn a living? Yes there are far wiser & better trained people out there with PhDs who know far more than I do about measurement & even muscle function & human propulsion. There are also many amazing coaches, especially sprint coaches, who have a great number of incredible drills & activities & ways of presenting these that help runners get closer to their innate abilities. I use my understanding of both these worlds & the specific training, & many years of observation & experimentation & a penchant for trying to put research into use every time something new comes to light & seeing if it leads to improved performance with the individual. Of course the communication aspect is huge – the art of taking a primal subconscious activity & trying to teach/alter/replace it intellectually & through visceral experience is what I am most interested in. This can render itself very easily into a “snake oil” scenario of course, but to prevent this, the proof MUST be in the pudding, EVERY, SINGLE, TIME! Athletes must achieve either or all of the following:

1. Reduced recovery time

2. Increased running speed throughout the training spectrum

3. Reduction in injuries

4. Faster racing

Here’s where the science has a hard time quantifying the above:

• Does improved mechanics allow for longer & harder, uninterrupted training? Probably, but the harder, longer continuous training is the cause for the improvement

• Does improved mechanics allow for faster running, (removal of mechanical limiters)? Probably, but it is the impact of this faster running that improves performance through the myriad training responses, like increased rapidity of potassium ion replacement

If we have no complete model, like improved aero-dynamics, or increased K ions, or higher VO2max or extended VVO2 max numbers, or accelerated lactate metabolism that clearly defines the role of mechanics, then we cannot categorically claim that the mechanics made the difference. Or maybe we can! If, in a very short space of time, where the other changes cannot impact performance, we show improvement, then we may be on to something that’ll appease science. As Arthur Lydiard so aptly put it – scientists will eventually show why coaches achieve the results that they do. In the world of high performance sport, science has become more & more crucial to success, but ultimately it is through the willingness of the athlete to experiment with the well- educated & informed coach in search of an edge, or a method to overcome the specific athlete’s limitation that we achieve new standards in performance. Success then is about team, about guts & bravery, about science & experimentation, about striving after ever rising heights, with ever decreasing margins towards ever more ridiculously challenging performances, because that is what is so inherent in the human spirit – to get better. A few will redefine history this way, while the rest of us will strive equally, with less ability, but be on the same continuum, ever searching for the best we can be in the field of our passion, within the confines of our limitations.

Bobby McGee

Friday, April 8, 2011

If you are a triathlete read what Gordo Byrn has to say ALWAYS

Gordo is a good friend & colleague. He is also one of the sanest, most innovative, savvy thinkers in the sport today. His ideas on the technical, managerial, financial & coaching side of the sport are insightful, practical & ilucidatory.

With all that I'm up to I am always cursing myself for not reading enough, especially when it comes to aspects not directly associated with coaching; but when it comes to a Byrn post, I'm always willing to find the time.

You'd think this post of Gordo's (see URL above), would not draw my attention, but it did & it's applicability across the board, from age grouper to professional triathlon entrepreneur is evident.


Bobby McGee 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

“Be prepared to lose your most important races; I did. Many times.”

This said by 200/400m great Michael Johnson. Thanks Simon.

Don't know quite how I feel about this. If it speaks to detaching from outcome, then I'm in total agreement.

The whole issue regarding the weighting of races in terms of importance throughout the course of a season remains a crucial aspect of racing.

I also recommend grading races of course, A, B & C, etc. However the very process of designating a race as the key race of a season very often derails the chances of success of many athletes as they carry the weight of expectation into this race. Placing more importance on a race should hopefully increase the intensity & effectiveness of training leading into the event. This process should also increase commitment & willingness to give that little extra – but it is a very fine line that the majority of athletes overstep & end up with a performance less than expected or wished for as they over-emphasize the importance of the event.

Self-honesty in terms of what your fitness really means is important. It is important to realize that your internal dialogue during key workouts that point to the possibility of such a peak performance being possible is different on race day. This difference is what determines success or failure. Consciously create & practice the mental skills that lead to access of this ability/conditioning – it will not just happen for most athletes.

Accepting & realizing that racing is VERY different to training & having a set of practices that ensure you race to training status (or hopefully a little beyond) is an essential skill.

Finally, many athletes do not have sufficient ability/experience/objectivity/presence of mind to interpret what the quality of their workouts really mean in terms of performance & often over-estimate their capabilities in terms of these workouts – a mistake that top pros do not make. It is often not possible for the average athlete to train at or beyond race intensity to meet the requirements of race day – being fully prepared for the rigors of racing to the max. Despite a lifetime of coaching & many personal competitive endeavors, I still often royally screwed up my pace/effort, focus or some other mental skill on those occasions when I did get out there!

It’s always a journey to match experience with ability. Enjoy the process of self-discovery & never stop searching for that elusive perfect day
Bobby McGee

Wednesday, April 6, 2011