When looking to build an athletes ability or potential for events, a coach must look at both the macro and micro levels of the athlete, but also the athletes plan and their race schedule. When looking from both angles, you begin to see a clear picture of where the athlete is and where they want to go. This blog will serve as an inside look of how the day-to-day training and the yearly goals come together to help shape a training plan and athletic results.
Big Picture View
The most important part of actually starting to design an athletes season. What are their goals and where are they starting from. From this point, a coach should be looking at a calendar in a way that periodizes their training between base, build, peak, recovery. These are generic terms that you would find in any strength and conditioning textbook, but they serve a purpose as an athlete can only peak and build for so long. Although we all wish we could constantly build and get better everyday, we often need rest periods mixed in to adapt and prepare for another build in the future. Once the athletes goals and race schedule are put in place, a general idea of how to build the athlete and when should take place. In other words, a yearly idea of what the athlete will be doing begins to take shape.
I’m going to be honest here. You ever go into a science lab and look through a microscope with 20 different zoom levels? That is basically what an athlete is as well. An onion with many layers. At the mid-level view, an athlete will begin to show their strengths and weakness in terms of power, pace, training volume, history, thresholds, v02, etc. This is basically what makes up an athlete at any given time, the things you can see from a general look at weekly data. From this view as a coach, you start to see what you may focus on in the big training blocks of the season. You may start to see that this athlete needs more run volume or swim volume and therefore that will be the dominating focus of the base/build season. Essentially, where an athlete currently is starts to help give the big picture view a focus.
Alright, lets start getting down to the nitty gritty of the athlete and looking at numbers such at FRC/FTP/TTE. These are main indicators of success/limitations for a cyclist and should be kept track of daily or weekly. At different parts of the mid and macro levels, these numbers will be the focus for day-to-day training. They will guide daily workouts and be the main focus for short term improvements. To track this you will be looking at time in training zones, stress put on the body at different parts of the workout, and looking to train specifically for demands that are needed in races or to achieve the next training level. This is where a coach with data analysis comes in to ensure that you are maximizing your day-to-day training and getting the most out of your time.
An area that takes a lot of digging, but can often shed light on bigger things happening within an athletes performance. How much time did they spend above v02 max in a workout, How many watts are contributing to aerobic vs anaerobic, what is the athletes efficiency rating at 80 degrees vs 90 degrees. At this level its easy to get paralysis by analysis. Thats why I would strongly recommend any coach only look at a couple key charts that are useful to the athlete at certain times of the year. This is where it can become very easy to overcoach during the wrong portions of the year… but it can make all the difference in the correct portions of the year.
Painting the Total Picture
Possibly the best thing about all of this is that as you look deeper and deeper into each athlete, they begin to look more and more different. Sure, the big picture view for many athletes is the same. “I want to peak for Summer Months or “X” race”. However, one athlete may be a sprinter while the other may be a TT specialist. As you peel each layer away, you start to see where each athlete is individually and how to best cater to their needs. At that point, you have many different things circulating between big goals and periodization along with daily metrics and weekly focus. Its a handful to keep track of, which is why I often feel that coaching is more of an art than a science. Yes, science guides us in our decisions for maximized results, but how you put that science together is the true key to coaching in my opinion.
As an athlete and a coach get started, there are many different layers that should be peeled back in order to properly build towards the athlete’s goals. By looking at the big picture you can get a good idea of how to train generally speaking, but its only when you start to dig deeper that the true progress can be made. While I understand the need for generalized plans, a customized coaching plan will look at an athlete from many different angles and ensure that progress and performance are matching up with the overall intended outcome of the year.
This weeks blog is going to be straight to the point. Situations that come up routinely as an athlete is prepping for a race which can be fixed in an instant for faster results. I will give a small explanation of each, but this blog should serve as a quick read for instant speed.
#1 The Tires on Your Bike
Everyone is consumed by if you have Zipps, Hed Enve, Flo, Boyd, etc wheels. I will tell you right now that it doesn’t matter what kind of wheels you’re running if they have slow tires on them. Don’t spend thousands on wheels and then put slow tires on them. There is plenty of data out there on slow vs fast tires, but a fast tire can have about a .5-1 mph difference in your overall speed.
#2 The Tubes in Your Tires
We are all used to Butyl tubes because this is what most bike shops sell. However, latex tubes (while a bit more expensive) are available through bike shops or order. Just like the tires on your bike, they can make a difference in speed. They absorb more of the deflections of the road and therefore, keep your tire on the ground. Rolling resistance of a tire comes down with latex which results in faster times.
#3 Clean Your Drivetrain
A clean drivetrain (chain, cassette, crank, pulleys) can help save 5-10 watts. This takes about 10-20 minutes to clean, and can help in your bikes efficiency. It also looks better which must be worth something right?
#4 Fast Transitions in Triathlon
While we often look at building fitness and ability to perform aerobically for our endurance athletes, transitions is an easy place to make up a ton of time with little practice. I’ve seen athletes miss out on podiums or wins because of slow transitions. If you can set up your equipment to be 100% ready and put things on while moving (race belt, hat, etc)… you can get faster with little work.
#5 No-Tie Run Laces
I understand some individuals don’t like the feel with these, but if you haven’t tried them, they are essentially laces that keep your shoes tied, but are flexible enough to fit your foot in the shoe easily. These can cut down 20-30 seconds in transition and help you to a faster time overall.
As you go through Cycling or Triathlon training, without a doubt a coach will help you maximize your overall fitness and performance. With that being said though, there are small things that add up to a faster time overall. these five tips should help you save a couple minutes off your next race and have you feeling better about your overall results as well.
Generally speaking, every athlete I’ve worked with will at some point tell me they feel awful before a big race. To be honest, when first starting in this industry this often made me nervous as I wanted the athlete to feel great all the time. However, after realizing that both the coach and athlete have a job to do, I’ve come to recognize this message from the athlete as a clear sign that they are in fact ready to race. While the athlete will be questioning their abilities, from a coaching perspective, this shows that the athlete is ready to peak for their event. I will touch on the reasons why below.
Breaking the Body Down
I’m going to keep this very simple. In order for the body to adapt and grow, it must be stressed beyond its normal capacity. This process requires the body to break down in order for the athlete to build up. When going into a peak for performance, the body will be breaking down in a specific manner which is often accompanied by a lot of stress. The peak stress often takes place 10-16 days before an athletes “A” race. As an athlete, this is often symbolized in a workout that was supposed to be longer or more intense, and you just not being able to even consider meeting the objective. So close to the race, this often means you begin to question if you are fit and this leads to the difficult conversations with your coach. This is normal.
It will often take an athlete 5-6 days to fully recover (dependent on build and fitness level). So, when going into a 10 day taper for example, the athlete won’t feel great until about 4-5 days before their event. This takes a lot of trust from an athletes perspective, but the reason why its important is because you can only maintain peak form and fitness for so long. If for example you started feeling awful 3 weeks ago and shut it down, you would risk recovering too early and then lose fitness and possibly even become stale before the big day. Therefore, this peak requires a close eye from your coach, but also the trust from an athlete. At no point should an athlete be pushing through extreme fatigue, but if it is being managed correctly, then most of the time you should be feeling a bit rough 2-3 weeks prior to your big race.
When Should You Feel Great?
Ideally you’ll start feeling great roughly 3-4 days before the race. You want your entire build to peak out for 7 days with the race day being located somewhere within that time frame. When referencing the week of peak, I’m simply using the experience I’ve obtained by working with many athletes over the past years. Generally speaking, the best results I’ve seen as a coach come from athletes that only start telling me they feel great within the week of the race, not before.
What to Expect During Build
The reason I wanted to address this is because as athletes come in with big goals, they often have the idea of becoming a machine and feeling invincible as they near competition. That simply isn’t how it works. Sure you’ll have some days where you feel like you’re unstoppable, but for the final build before the race, you’re more likely to feel like garbage than an amazing athlete. This often eats away at the athletes mind and begins to play tricks. It even played tricks on my mind as a coach when I was first beginning. However, after having dealt with this on hundreds of occasions, its now a welcomed sign in my eyes as I know the athlete has put in the work and now all they have to do is rest and enjoy a strong peak for their big race.
Fitness building requires the body to break down. In order to adapt and become stronger, you must break down your body so it can build higher. With a big race as the seasons goal, this often means that you will feel awful leading into it so you can feel amazing on race day. You must trust the process and the coach in this situation. While it can be hard to do, often times a coach should have data on your build and be able to justify their plan. If you can trust the process and let the body recover, you should experience one of your best races to date and successfully make it through the peak build!
For further listening, please follow the link to hear what our sports psychologist has to say on the mentality of.tapering:https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/pod-016-the-taper-effect/id1032003448?i=1000353401773&mt=2
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