Becoming a Coach

Is it really Ironman vs USAT ?

I received an email from an athlete / coach that I know. They're USAT Level 1 certified, and they're currently going through the Ironman University offering. The individual in question was quite emphatic about how USAT failed them in their coach certification, and how the Ironman program was superior. 

As our email chain went back and forth, I was told that the Ironman program was more in-depth. That the USAT program only allowed them to learn small portions of periodization. That there aren't enough people racing ITU for USAT to spend time focusing on it. Stating that the testing process for USAT certification was lacking.

Now, I'm not saying that USA Triathlon, or any other national governing body, is better than another in regards to coach certification and education. I'm also not saying that any one singular coaching clinic, once attended and the test passed, makes you a good coach.

That's right. Just going to a clinic, and passing the test, doesn't make you a good coach. It's what you do with that information moving forward that matters. It's how you continue your education that makes a difference. It's seeking out information and working with other coaches with more experience to help you grow professionally.

I'm a coach instructor for US Masters Swimming. I've had USAT level 1 coaches come up after a clinic and state how the session on writing workouts for differing energy systems was really helpful - that it wasn't covered enough in their Level 1 coaching clinic. That might be true, but the truth is you can't cover everything in granular detail in any one coaching clinic. I've had another individual tell me that the Masters coaching clinic was too easy and didn't cover everything in enough detail. Again, what are you doing with the information you learned? Are you taking the details of writing a workout for the anaerobic system and applying it to your athletes? Are you expanding upon the base premise of how those workouts are created, and making your own? Or better yet, are you taking that base level of information and seeking out more data to help you grow your knowledge base?

I've been a professional coach for 6 years. Do I know everything I need to know because I'm USA Triathlon, USA Cycling, USA Swimming / ASCA, and US Masters certified? Not even close. I am constantly learning. It never stops. Heck, most NGB's require that you continue to learn, and enhance your coaching education, to maintain your certification.

It's not all about what you learn in a clinic. It's what you do with the information that you learn.

Workout Wednesday - 19 March 2014

Well, I sure took a hiatus didn't I?  More athletes coming out of hibernation, the ITU racing season getting started - having an athlete racing at ITU Sarasota .....excuses, excuses.

So, back to the grind.  I've been throwing in a little more endurance work for my athletes as of late.  As you might recall, I was pretty heavy on speed and speed endurance / threshold work early on.  I found that most of the athletes at my swim club did a lot of solid aerobic endurance work during the off-season, so it seemed fitting.

A little trip back to the aerobic energy system is in order:

Warm up:
200 swim
200 pull
200 kick (board - no fins)

4 x (75 - 125) on 1:10 - 2:00
Main set:
All on base 100 time + :20 - :30
Cool down
200 easy

This set is SCY and yields 4,000 yards.  The send-offs in the main set are, as stated, are on base 100 time + :30.  So, for example, if your athlete holds 1:10 pace pretty easily under aerobic levels, then his/her 400 send-off is 5:10.  The 300 send-off is 4:00, etc.

You'll notice the 2 x 200's in the middle and end of the round.  I like breaking up a longer set with slightly shorter distances.  Athletes will tend to go a little harder on the 200's - getting a little more rest - but upping the quality of the set that much more.

Drop me a line with any questions - I'm always up for talking about swimming.

Workout Wednesday - 15 January 2014

I had the pleasure of working with one of our Vanguard Endurance athletes yesterday morning.  He's here in Colorado Springs for two months preparing for the upcoming ITU season.  He's swimming with me at my local swim club while here, and after yesterdays practice we were talking about some of our favorite sets.

This one came up in his memory banks from his time swimming at the Olympic Training Center.  He recalls being a bit delirious at the end, but it's really a great workout.

Originally this was a set done in LCM, but as I'm going to have my folks do this one next week, I've adapted it to be SCY and I've changed the rest intervals / send-offs.

This should take about 1:15 - 1:30 in time.  It's a tough main set if done properly.  It's all threshold effort.  Enjoy the lactic acid tolerance.

Warm up:
300 easy
200 kick
200 pull

8 x 50 on 1:00
Descend 1-4, 5-8

5 x 100 on 1:40
Main set: 
400 @ Tempo pace / effort.  :30 rest
4 x 100 on 1:35
300 @ Tempo pace / effort.  :20 rest
3 x 100 on 1:35
200 @ Tempo pace / effort.  :15 rest
2 x 100 on 1:35

Cool down:

You'll have to adjust the send-offs to accommodate your athletes.  For the 100's, you want approximately :20 rest between each effort.  And if so desired, you can give an extra minute of rest after each set of 100's.  This is a fantastic set for lactic acid tolerance.

Workout Wednesday - 20 November 2013

Last week the focus was on speed.  Going hand-in-hand with speed, is speed endurance.  What's speed endurance?  Well, to put it as simply as possible, it's the ability to maintain a higher intensity over a longer distance.  Most everyone who races Olympic distance races has the ability to swim 1,500 meters.  The question isn't "can you?" but rather "how fast?" Being able to carry more speed over a longer distance is massively helpful - especially if you race ITU.

Workouts of this nature help ensure that, as you make the turn at the half-way point of the swim, you have the ability to maintain your pace and keep up the intensity. The work-rest ratio here doesn't allow for a lot of rest as this is all about being able to improve your lactic acid clearance and tolerance.

This workout was written for long course meters (LCM) and it's about 1 hour to 1:15 in duration.  If you don't have access to a LCM pool, you can easily do this in a SCY pool as it's based completely on your base 100 time.

The key here on the main set is to know your base 100 time, as the goal is to maintain that time (say, 1:20) but have less rest between each send-off as the set progresses.  In this example, if your base 100 meter time is 1:20, then your first round of 6 x 100 would be on the 1:40, the next round on the 1:35, and the last round on the 1:30.

Warm up
300m easy.
10 x 50 on 1:10
Build 25m, maintain for 10m, easy for last 15m
6 x 100 on 2:00
75m hard, 25 easy.

Main set
3 x (6 x 100)
First round: Base time + :20 secs
Second round: Base time + :15 secs
Third round: Base time + :10 secs
1 minute rest between each round.

Cool down
100 / 200m easy.

3300 meters.

Workout Wednesday - 13 November 2013

With too much focus on aerobic effort workouts, your overall swim speed can suffer.  This is an often overlooked aspect to training.  Just like going to the track to work on your running speed, you need to do the same in the pool.  And typically when people do include speed work into their swim training, it often tends to be a "speed endurance" set - a very different type of workout.  This all comes down to the work-rest ratio.

If you think you don't need to work on speed for the swim leg of a triathlon, just have a look at any of the ITU World Triathlon Series events.  The 1,500 meter times are blazing fast.  Even in the age-group category of most races now, times are getting quite quick.  Coming out of the water three or four minutes behind is a tough deficit to overcome in a sprint or Olympic distance event.

With this in mind the workout this week is speed focused.  The work-rest ratio is at least 1:2. Sometimes 1:3 depending on the set.   The key with speed workouts, just like when you go to the track and do 400's and 800's, is to ensure you're able to push maximum effort - a pace much higher than race pace - repeatedly.  Be warned, if the work-rest ratio becomes too narrow, or tight, you're run the risk of the set becoming speed endurance focused.  We'll cover that topic and focus next week.

The focus here is on quality.  Yardage is low, but intensity is high in the primary main set - only 800 yards.  Although, depending on the athlete, this could be upped to 10 rounds of efforts.  The other key here is that form must be maintained.  The efforts should be done as hard as possible but if form falls off the benefit of the set is lost.

This workout is short course yards (SCY) and lasts about an hour in duration.  Again, not a lot of yardage, but a focus on high intensity and quality.  At the end of this workout, if done correctly from an effort standpoint, the muscular fatigue will be pretty high.

Warm up
2 x 150 easy on :30 rest.
6 x 50 on 1:00
Descend 1-3, 4-6

Main set
8 x (25, 50, 25)
25's on :45, 50's on 1:30.
1 min rest after every 2 rounds.
6 x 100 pull with buoy on 2:00
Moderate effort.  Focus on form and mechanics

Cool down
100 / 200 easy.

2100 yards