Tuesday, July 15, 2014

"Forget illusions of balance..."

Saw this on a slide from Coach Jamie Turner, who is most well known as the coach of Gwen Jorgensen.

"Forget illusions of balance - it's about total commitment!!!"

This is often something athletes and coaches have a hard time with. They aren't willing to give up some of the luxuries in their lives, the things they perceive as the balance side of the triathlon equation. I know even myself as a coach, I can't train a squad in Europe and all over the globe, focusing on the ITU WTS series, because my wife and 3 yr old son are too important to me right now. This is why I started a junior program, where I could meet the commitment, and there is no issue with balance. Someday, I hope to make the next step and coach an ITU focused squad.

For some athletes, (from ITU elites to Ironman age-groupers), they can't totally commit because the risk is just too great, (job, finances, mortgage, family, etc.). But the problem is, without the risk, you can't achieve the reward. That reward is going to those who do totally commit.

Coach Vance

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A Training Day with Formula Endurance

Formula Endurance is my development program, a non-profit I started in 2010, focused mostly on the development of juniors, but also youth and collegiates, U25. In early 2014 we became the first and only program in the US to be both a USA Triathlon High Performance Program, and a USA Swimming Club, helping to maximize the support and opportunities for young athletes, especially as the NCAA Women's Triathlon opportunity grows. No swim club in the country can offer what we can for triathlon development, and no triathlon program offers the amount of support for swim development that we do. With the junior, elite and NCAA versions of the sport being draft-legal, the swim is a vital piece.

This past weekend, a volunteer cycling coach for our program, Nestor Rodriguez, (owner of Studeo DNA), did some filming of one of the triathlon workouts of the team. The team was doing a workout which is as race specific as it gets...

2 rounds of...
300 meter swim
7K draft-legal bike
800 meter run
(all with transitions)
10 min recovery between rounds, each round as hard as they can go.

Here's the footage of what it looked like...Enjoy!

 

Coach Vance

Friday, June 6, 2014

Webinars with Purple Patch Fitness & Matt Dixon

Over the past few months, I did a series of webinars with Coach Matt Dixon, for his Purple Patch Fitness athletes, (PPF), teaching them how to use their power meter to maximize the information from it. I felt honored to have a coach of Matt's stature ask me to help his athletes, as he greatly respects my ability to glean insight from training and racing data, and use that to help athletes become smarter and stronger. I have worked with Matt in his coaching of top pro's Meredith Kessler, Jessie Thomas and others. It was from what we learned about these athletes from the data that got him interested in me helping his age-groupers as well. This is your chance to see what they learned.

Here's more on these webinars...

Webinar #1 -  In this webinar, I share some power files from top PPF pro's, like Jesse Thomas and Emma-Kate Lidbury, as well as other athletes, to help athletes better understand their specificity for training/racing and how to better meet that specificity thru the use of their power meter. You can get the webinar here:  http://coachjimvance.bigcartel.com/product/purple-patch-fitness-webinar-1-training-with-power

Webinar #2 - In this webinar, I share some power files from top PPF pro's, like Jesse Thomas and Emma-Kate Lidbury, as well as other top Ironman pro triathletes, and explain the process how to plan and prepare to race, using your power meter and power data, as well as how to use the power to monitor and make intelligent racing decisions on the fly, as the race progresses. The race plan system I present is excellent for Olympic, 70.3 or full-Ironman distance races. This is probably the most important webinar for an athlete to learn how to effectively use your power meter to perform better. You can get it here:  http://coachjimvance.bigcartel.com/product/purple-patch-fitness-webinar-2-racing-with-power

Webinar #3 - This webinar teaches athletes how to use a power meter to better assess how their race went. With the power data, I discuss how to use the plan that was set, and compare that with what actually happened, in order to make changes for the future for training or preparation, as well as learn how to better execute a race. You can get it here: http://coachjimvance.bigcartel.com/product/purple-patch-fitness-webinar-3-race-analysis

There will be a 4th webinar soon, so stay tuned!

Coach Vance

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Boutique-Style Mentality

Thursday, May 1, 2014

It's not about what you did, it's about what you're doing...

Recently, I was at the pool at UC-San Diego, doing final preps before starting practice for the University City High School swimming programs, and an elderly female asked me about my swimming background. The conversation went something like this...

Her: "So did you swim here at UC-San Diego?"
Me: "No, I didn't swim in college. I ran track and cross country at the University of Nebraska."
Her: "Did you swim in high school?"
Me: "No, I was too busy with track and cross country."
Her: "So how can you coach swimming?"
Me: "I learned it. I know the technical aspects, and I understand training stimulus, specificity and periodization, how to read athletes, follow data to see how to adjust the stimulus."
Her: "But you never swam?"
Me: "I swam for years as an adult, ma'am, training for triathlons."
Her: "But how can you coach swimming if you never competed in swimming?"

There is an old school belief that if you didn't come from the sport at a young age, and grow to be some elite athlete at it, you can't know how to coach it. When I was a youngster, I was learning, but I wasn't learning at the rate I have been as an adult. I know what it is like to compete at a high level in many different sports, from running to cycling to triathlon. I know what it is like to suffer through a large training load, and commit to high goals. I have been mentored by some of the top coaches and athletes in all of endurance sports, from Peter Reid, Greg Welch, Joe Friel, Bobby McGee, Gerry Rodrigues, Mike Holman, Bob Seebohar, Cliff English and many more.

I coached the Elite Women's National Winter Tri Champion a few years ago, and I have never cross-country skied or snow-shoed a day in my life. But I understand training stress, specificity and how to monitor for those two to match.

It's not about what I did as a kid, it's about what I know as an adult. It's actually an advantage, I believe, (and I was also told this once by Gerry Rodrigues), that I didn't come from the background of a swimmer, because I see the world of swimming differently than those who did. I come with a different skill set, and I'm not stuck in old school beliefs like the woman had.

So far the girls swim team at UC High is enjoying probably it's best season ever, undefeated and just clinched the Eastern League Championship this week, which is only it's 3rd since 1992. We've had one school record broken twice, (100 freestyle in 56.31 and 55.80), and there very well may be more records to come. The boys have a ways to go, they mostly swim as water polo supplement training, but the improvement is clear so far.

I took the UC High swim coach job because I was confident I could apply the principles I've learned about training effect, specificity and periodization, and apply them to swimming as a single sport. Would I be perfect and make all the right decisions? No, but that's a standard no coach can meet in any sport or at any level. But you only get better with experience, and training decisions seem to be easier once you have that experience to draw on. I challenged myself with swimming, and it seems I had good reason to be confident.

I was confident because it's not about I did as a kid or in the past at all, it's about what I'm doing right now. As an athlete, you should have the same confidence, especially if you're using your experience to draw from.

Good luck.

Coach Vance

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Stop It! - 16 Things You Likely Do and Need to Stop

1. Stop ignoring recovery. What you eat, how much you sleep, the beers, it all affects you. The intensity you go on easy workouts is also vital.

2. Stop doing everyone else's workouts, and start focusing on what workouts YOU need. Sometimes, (in fact many times), that means you need to train alone. Peer pressure is no way to train effectively. If you train with a lot of egos, let them go. Limit group workouts to those which are in line with your goals and specific needs. This especially includes recovery workouts. (See #1).

3. Stop sabotaging your training. When life gets stressful, skipping workouts because you're not in the mood only brings about more stress and frustration with training and lack of results. Training is your escape, keep it that way. Skipping that transition run because you think you're too tired, is a missed opportunity to build confidence with a great run, or to learn to better pace your bike.

4. Stop ignoring your weight. If you aren't thin, you aren't as fast as you can be. I'm not saying you should look anorexic, but to think those 10 lbs you could lose aren't affecting your performance, is ignoring the obvious. If you're 20+lbs over an ideal race weight, there is no training plan or lightweight bike that can overcome that handicap. The weight also means higher risk for injuries, which can sabotage your training. (See #3).

5. Stop ignoring your diet. (See #1 and #4).

6. Stop obsessing about volume. If it really mattered, the athlete who did the most volume would win every race. Ultraman competitors would be the best Ironman and sprint racers. It's about the quality of training you can do. You're not training for the Tour de France.

7. Stop ignoring the swim. The higher your goals, the more it matters.

8. Stop ignoring your warm-ups for your workouts and races. The older you are, and the higher your goals, the more it matters. It's like sabotage. (See #3)

9. Stop ignoring your cool-down sets, they are vital to proper recovery. (See #1) Poor recovery sabotages training and racing. (See #3).

10. Stop ignoring technology in your training. You use technology in every aspect of your life, from your iPhone/Android to your laptop and software at your job or at home. Why is it so hard to believe power and pace data can help your training and racing on a daily basis? (See #3).

11. Stop thinking you need a faster/newer/better bike. You need to get training right. (See #1 thru #10).

12. Stop paying a coach if you're not going to do the training as they write it. (See #3)

13. Stop being negative with yourself. There is nothing anyone or any coach can tell you that will supersede what you say to yourself. If you don't believe in yourself when you toe that start line, the result is pretty much already determined.

14. Stop focusing on the competition, and start focusing on yourself, and how to execute your training and racing better. (See #1 thru #13)

15. Stop doing the same thing over and over. The body responds best to variance in training. If you've been doing the same things over and over for years, and aren't happy with the results, or notice a plateau, it's time to address the real issue.

16. Stop thinking salt and electrolyte losses cause cramps, there's no scientific proof of this. The people who promote this are the ones trying to sell it to you. Get fitter, and you'll cramp less. Get training right, you'll get fitter. Stop shoving so much salt into your gut during races, and you'll likely get rid of all that GI distress you've been bothered by in races.

Bonus tip...
17. Stop thinking Ironman is the only important race in triathlon. It's far from it.

Coach Vance

Thursday, February 27, 2014

CTL and Consistency of Training

I was approached by TrainingPeaks after they read some things from me on consistency, that they wanted me to provide for them. I accepted and wrote an article for them using the PMC as a way to show the affects of consistency in training, and how performance looks for an athlete with inconsistent training. This is the result, and I think if like data and training, you'll enjoy it.

The #1 Rule of Endurance Training

Amidst the intervals, data, devices, diets and all the other ways that athletes are trying to “gain an edge” in endurance training, it can be easy to forget the basics. The number one most important rule of training, which is often forgotten, is consistency. There is no training program or workout any coach can devise that can make up for a lack of consistency in training. The higher your goals are as an athlete, the more important consistency is.

As a coach, I repeatedly see the differences in performance and improvement between the athlete who is consistent in their training and the athlete who isn’t. You lose fitness at a rate of almost three times as fast as you gain it, so missing a workout or two may not hurt you, but miss a few on a regular basis and you will have a hard time making performance gains. You have to make training a daily priority.

Chronic Training Load

One of the best ways to see how consistent you are in your training is to follow your Chronic Training Load (CTL) in your Performance Management Chart (PMC). The PMC is a Premium feature within TrainingPeaks® and is also available in TrainingPeaks WKO+.
Read the rest of the article here at TrainingPeaks.com
Coach Vance

Friday, February 14, 2014

Ironman Bike CTL and FTP (Part 2)

In my last post I discussed a CTL range for athletes to achieve based on their bike FTP in watts. One of the flaws with the chart, (or perhaps one of the variables I need to have athletes cross-reference), is the FTP of the athlete.

The higher the FTP of the athlete, the faster they are in general. I had an athlete who got 2nd in their age group at Kona recently email me, and his CTL only reached 18% of his FTP, which was 330 watts.

This athlete was obviously able to get more speed from their aerobic endurance efforts than the typical rider, because riding at zone 2 during a race will obviously be a higher speed for them than an athlete at an FTP of 280 or lower, since their general aerodynamic differences are minimal.

So were my guidelines off? No, I had people on the other side of the spectrum too, at over 40%, who were quite successful.

Bottom line, there are many different approaches, because of the many different skill sets, training time availability, and personal training/performance histories of individual athletes. My hope is you'll look at your past CTL/FTP ratio in your training and racing, and use it as a benchmark to make better training decisions in the future, whether that is to raise or lower your bike CTL.

Coach Vance

Friday, January 31, 2014

How High of CTL for Ironman Bike?

If you're using TrainingPeaks software to train for your Ironman event, you likely are using their Performance Management Chart, (PMC). Chronic Training Load, or CTL, is one of the key metrics in the chart. It's the long term Training Stress Score, (TSS), average. How long is long term? The default setting is 6 weeks, as a 42 day rolling average.

So when you upload your data from your ride, the software reads the samples from the data and compares those with your FTP to calculate how stressful the ride was, and then takes that score and averages it with the previous 41 days. I actually use the software to keep a separate PMC just for cycling.

The question many have when they train for an Ironman event is, "How high should my bike CTL get?" The answer to this question is, (like almost all training questions), related to your goals for the event. For example, if your goal is to simply finish the race, then a lower CTL is fine, but if you're trying to qualify for Kona, or win your age group, then you likely need a much higher CTL. If you're a pro, trying to earn a paycheck, or win the race, you should probably be even higher than what the top age grouper is achieving. If you're trying to win Kona as a pro, then you likely need an even higher CTL.

If you're looking for a bike-only CTL value to achieve in your training, the number is likely going to be related to your FTP value. Why? Because usually, the higher the FTP of the athlete, the higher the performance goal. Here's a chart for you to use based on your goals, and what I have found to be the tendency among the different types of athletes.


With sharing this chart, there are 4 important things to keep in mind...

1. This is just a guideline for PEAK CTL VALUES, mostly for seasonal planning purposes. Because of that, there will be people who don't fall into these guidelines, but I do find a majority of athletes do. I don't find there is much need to list a mid-pack athlete, since they vary the most in terms of background and training styles.

2. Your swim, bike and run skill will also play a role in whether or not you would achieve these goals. Again, this is a guideline for your bike training, knowing how much is enough, or a range of what might be enough.

3. The course an athlete races for their goal event is a big determinant of the value one should achieve as well. For the Kona Qualifier Pro and Pro Podium at Kona, that is course specific to Kona. The Age Group Kona Qualifer is general for all courses, since age groupers qualify at many different individual races. There is a big difference between qualifying at Ironman Lanzarote and Ironman Florida.

4. Your FTP will likely, (and should), improve throughout the season. For some it will improve more than others. This means your initial CTL value goal will likely change a little, so give yourself a range, or be prepared to adjust it as the season goes.

How can you use this information? Look at the end of your season, what your FTP was, the peak CTL value you achieved, and what your goal was for the event, and see how well you lined up with this chart. (Please share in the comments your results as well). You can then use this information to better assess your training, set new or different bike CTL goals for your upcoming events, and use those goals to help motivate you in your training.

Lastly, CTL doesn't win races, performance does. No awards or Kona slots for who had the highest CTL. Don't get hung up on CTL. Make sure you are seeing the performance gains you want in your training first and foremost. It's all about balancing training stress, this is just a guide to use and better understand your training, so you can improve it.

Good luck!

Coach Vance


Thursday, January 23, 2014

3 days off from running?

I coach a runner who really enjoys snowboarding. This athlete will travel to Mammoth Mountain on a monthly basis, trying to catch great powder. This athlete has modest goals for running, and certainly is only motivated by the desire to improve, not a specific race.

One of the issues which we discussed is that during these typical 3-day trips, it is important that they run at least one time during the 3 days. The athlete claims the weekend spent snowboarding is taxing on the legs and not really a rest day, which I understand and agree with. But in the sense of training and specificity, you need to keep running consistently to improve.

To better define consistency, I would say you should not have a 3-day break from running. You can get away with 2 days once a month, maybe twice, but once you go beyond that, you are beginning to lose opportunities to improve, and affect your consistency. If you have very high, competitive goals, I would reduce that number to not missing 2 days in a row of running.

If you're injured, that's a different story. But even then, if you can keep your injury healing time down to 2 days, maybe 3, you're not losing much fitness if you've been consistent. Once you go beyond that, bad news. So when you see an injury coming, give it the attention and therapy it needs right away, and you can better keep your consistency, and not lose fitness.

Remember, you lose fitness about 3 times faster than you gain it. 2 days off can help you recover and stay healthy, but once you get to 3 days off, you're losing fitness.

Coach Vance