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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Kudos to the Coach

A large part of my professional life entails coach education. The nature of the beast is that I spend way too much time educating & way too little time learning. Granted, every class or individual I teach challenges me on some aspect or another & I gain by going more extensively into that aspect & learning a great deal. I also have a number of resources from which I gain great gobbets of useful information on almost a daily basis. Gone are the days where I would have access to a mentor coach on a regular basis, who could guide my thought process & challenge me to come up with creative solutions to my coaching challenges. Of course there are also my athletes, old & young, fast & not so fast, who are constant sources of learning for me.
However, once in a while I come across an individual who blows me away with their level of expertise, their ability to apply the science creatively, & at the same time have that unfathomable depth of patience, creativity & compassion for the human condition that they can take them lovingly through the hellish process of self-flagellation so that they come out the other end masters of their craft & masters of themselves within their chosen endurance event.
Such a man is my friend Roberto Solano from Costa Rica (; genius, savant, compassionate teacher & uber coach. With little in the way of big buck support, in an economically challenged community, with great vision, resourcefulness, personal investment & drive he has produced 4 Olympians for the London Olympics in 2 different sports (triathlon & marathon) from 3 different countries!!
Roberto I have learned SO much from you & believe that Olympic & World Championship medals for your athletes require only a matter of time. Thank you for all you do for the athletes, our community & for me in my coaching journey.
"¡Felicitaciones por tu √©xito y que √©xito sea tuyo siempre mi amigo!" "Congratulations on your success and may success be yours always my friend"  - I believe & hope  that’s right.
Roberto is a great example to follow – he started with a vision, prepared with extensive formal international training, apprenticed with one of the greatest minds in exercise science, Gre’goire Millet & then dove in practically with athletes in running, cycling, soccer & his 1st love, triathlon, (these are the sports of which I know!). His success is hardly overnight – he has worked hard producing high level junior football (soccer) players, & is managing the coaching & racing of cycling teams also.
Triathlon thanks you Roberto – & I am sure your athletes do also. Keep up the great work & keep showing the world what’s possible.
Thank you also from me – it is an honor & great pleasure to know you & share your journey
Bobby McGee

Monday, April 30, 2012

You can run better

It's early season here in the USA I have started the crazy travel schedule again. My thanks to Adam Zucco & his TrainingBible Coaching crew for hosting me again in Chicago - they do a great job. I do an evening lecture for them & then a compact 90min session with groups of six long course athletes. Below is a note I received to my website this morning:

"Hi Bobby, I just wanted to thank you for coming out to Chicago for a great couple of days. I applied what you spoke to me about after the clinic, and saw immediate results... I can't wait to see the changes in the long term as I apply and practice. Specifically, I ran a 2 mile run off a difficult 4 hour effort on the bike... I kept my HR in Zone 2, but dropped my pace by over a minute! 4 days before, during my long run (on full rest) with the same HR restrictions, I was over a min slower on pace. I look forward to the long term journey in making these changes feel more effortless and "natural"... basically undoing years of crap form! ha Thanks again, and have a great week"

It is immensely gratifying to see all levels of triathlete gain benefit from assessing their run form & taking on the process of tweaking it to gain performance benefits.

So keep working on upping the stride rate safely & go fast!

Bobby McGee

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Some thoughts on warming up for the endurance athlete

I've been missing in action, but no excuses this time! I've been luckily & happily involved in plying my trade all over the country & globe!

Recently a coach & athlete asked me if a "more scientific" warm up, that included "endless lunges" was better than the "old school" method of a jog & some strides.

This was my reply:

Warm up is a tricky one; here’s what I see about warm-up nowadays:

1.     Old school – we felt it was a fixed set of rules

2.     Theoretical – learned from lectures, research & non-human resources (often applied by clever, theoretically trained individuals without ruts in their foreheads from being trackside for 30 years!

3.     Practical – based on the following principles:

a.     What combinations of applied science & experience give the athlete a best chance at success

b.     Individualized, based on athlete type: power-type - plenty of recruitment or endurance type - prolonged aerobic build-up, etc.

c.      Event – shorter the event, the more prolonged the warm up & vice versa

d.     Fitness level – the fitter the athlete is, the longer & more specific the warm-up required

4.     All this being said, make sure that the central system is brought up evenly to operating temp (1*C raise in core temp – therefore longer WU when cold). By even I mean it must be slow enough to ensure that local muscle beds – like quads & calves, do not develop local anaerobic discomfort/thickness. Breathing must get to steady state without a bypass – i.e. heavy breathing then settling, but rather gradually go up aerobically. HR must do the same – i.e. rise steadily, not up, over & then back down. All this done top ensure athlete's best fast-component VO2 kinetics.
5.  Peripherally, once core temp is up, movement must be facilitated & muscle recruited – this includes progressive range of motion activities, (no passive stretching!) & then move up to movements that load beyond the repeated load that is expected in competition – hence the lunges, bounds, hops, strides, etc. This to recruit muscle for efficiency (over & above minimum for safe execution). Then rhythm needs to be established, which is sequential coordinated movement that is reflexive – all this serves to “activate” & potentiate the running motion. Warm up should also include error-proofing drills, like connecting chest to pelvis & with triathletes, overriding the shadow of the other 2 events on the run, like heel walks & crawling

6.       Finally a warm-up is JUST as much mental/emotional, as physical – it should connect the athlete to his body & bring him from whatever other activity & mindset he was in, to one that is optimal for racing this race; a feeling of self-efficacy on every level. A warm up creates focus, optimal arousal & a readiness to deliver a performance commensurate with current fitness & ability or even beyond

Hope this helps – developing the specifics for the individual requires some work, but a walk, a progressive run, some dynamic drills, strides & a prime run are the basic gist of a good pre-race warm up

Bobby McGee

Monday, August 22, 2011

3 Questions regarding mental skills

I have been missing in action from my blog again & with the social media stuff proliferating at a rate of knots in both running & triathlon I am at answering individual requests again.

This particular coach asked some very pointed questions & I thought the answers may have a universal appeal to athletes & coaches alike. It is good to know that coaches are taking on this level of work & passing it on to those who need it most – the athlete in order to enhance performance

I want to thank you again for taking the time to teach those of us who attended the USAT Level 1 clinic back in April. I learned a lot from your presentations, and from your book, Magical Running. I felt very lucky to be able to talk to you one-on-one after your running lecture on that Friday night, and really learned a lot from you, which I have taken and directly applied to the athletes I work with. 

After having put in practice those things in your lectures, reading your books, and watching your instructional DVD, I have a few questions, and was wondering if you would be kind enough to share your expertise and experiences with me?

I have 3 questions for you:

  1. What is the biggest obstacle that you see in athletes that keep them back from mentally allowing themselves to achieve to their full abilities?
Bobby: hmm, it varies by athlete, but I see a LOT of assessments where the athletes are poor at mental imagery. I also see a lack of professionalism around their participation compared to their jobs – careless, thoughtless mistakes of all kinds. I’d also say that athletes have a poor sense of what they really are capable of – either expecting too much from really ineffectual training or talking themselves out of a performance they are capable of by being so focused on outcome, or being freaked out & therefore not specifically focused on execution. This leads into a very poor consciousness of what they are thinking, what they might be thinking & having a handle on the process of creating a race mindset from what they currently have. Lack of knowledge of why they are anxious and what they can do about & with it other than attempts at denial & suppression – both disastrous, is why they race poorly. They care too much and they don’t know (define/understand)what it is they care about. They don’t understand how they feel, dislike it, try to avoid it & think it’s abnormal & fail to progress in managing the sensations, as they never directly address them in even the most basic sense of acknowledgement of sensation. So instead of each ensuing race providing an accumulative learning process, they either just remain ineffectual, or worse (& more commonly), they grow progressively worse as poor performance after poor performance accumulates in a paradigm of, “I really am a poor racer”.
  1. How often do you tell your athletes (those who don't seek you out for mental coaching), that you are also focusing in on coaching their mental approach?
Bobby: You know with me this is kind of moot, as I assess them when they come on board & each quality session & race is approached from a mental aspect as well as a physical aspect & as training progresses I ensure an awareness of where training may have failed mentally & expect a culture of awareness & honesty surrounding race performances where there is agreement post-race as to whether successes or failures were partly mental, partly physical or wholly either.
  1. What is the biggest mistake you have seen coaches make when working with an athlete’s psyche?
Bobby: Couple of things – either a rah-rah aggressive football-type pre-game psych-up job, or mostly a plethora of platitudes & over-simplified, non-specific statements, made too late, without tool/process support & insufficient time to create something of permanence or likelihood of inculcation for race day. This stems from a lack of true understanding or training on the coach’s behalf & often a fear of confrontation & the resultant unwillingness to say & then work with them (on an ongoing basis) on the really hard stuff

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Great qoute

“Prove to yourself that you can do it. Prove that you were always who you thought you were, not who they said you had to be.”
Rachel Snyder

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Q & A with Triathlon Training

I was approached by the German magazine, triathlon training -, to do a brief Q & A. Here's the gist of my answers:
1. What is your training-philosophy (the motto of your coaching)?
Probably individuation – person 1st, athlete 2nd. In Endurance sports the athlete must be balanced, healthy & happy to achieve to their potential. I see my most success when I work with the person as a unique set of needs & requirements – the training part is the easiest, the heart & soul is complex & requires so much more from the coach than simply knowledge.
2. Which moment was the most emotional of your whole career as a coach?
As a coach I’d say when  Josia Thungwane, won Olympic gold in the marathon in Atlanta in 1996. As a triathlon coach probably when Barb Lindquist convincingly won the 1st USA trials event for Olympic selection for the Athens Games. She had failed to make the team in 2000 & we had worked towards making the team in the 1st trials event & she did.
3. What do you think about the doping-problem in triathlon sport, how serious is it?
This is hard to tell – I have been involved in triathlon since 1984 & have seen many things. If one understands human physiology it’s not too farfetched to believe that we probably do have a problem – but the greater prevalence in other sports indicates that the ITU is doing a fine job.
4. What is the major challenge for a triathlon coach?
It really depends on the individual athlete. I’d distinguish between long course & draft legal. My areas of greatest expertise lie in running & sport psychology & as far as these are concerned races are mostly won on the run & it would seem that if the run is the athlete’s limiter, it would be the hardest to impact. The run takes both a longer period of time to impact positively, than many athletes are willing to give & also requires trust, as unlike pure running, the triathlete cannot train sufficiently for the run & a huge modicum of trust is required on race day, that the run will be there. This challenge erodes the confidence of many triathletes. In triathlon in general the balancing of training to achieve the best result is always the challenge
5. Which are the three most important characteristics/qualities of a triathlon coach?
Hmm, as one involved with coach education & coaching, that’s a tough question. Probably:
1.       A deep understanding of the demands of competition & the mind of the athlete
2.       Patience
3.       Compassion & empathy while understanding that success is predicated on the athlete’s ability to suffer
Bobby McGee is the author of Magical Running, A Unique Path to Running Fulfillment, & Run Workouts for Runners & Triathletes. He has also produced a very useful DVD, Triathlon, The Run, that explains running mechanics & the drills required to improve performance. More information can be found on his website,