Aging and Training - Redux

last year I wrote about the impact of aging and training and how recovery, and intensity, change as we become older. You can read the entire post at the provided link here if you'd like to get a little background. But, in summary, our recovery periods can begin take longer as we age, and our ability to do the work levels we once found sustainable can / will begin to diminish. Dealing with these inevitable factors of life can be difficult for some. Myself included.

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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.

Training and Nutrition

As individuals are now deep into base-building, moving on to race specific training, or in some cases are already beginning their racing season, nutrition is an important topic that shouldn't be overlooked in regards to successful triathlon training.  Not just race-day nutrition.  But your overall nutritional plan.

I'm talking about properly fueling your body to train, recover, and race.  Triathlon training is not a diet.  Don't cut carbs.  Don't eat fewer calories that you're expending.

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Does Being a Successful Athlete Make One A Good Coach?

Just because someone was a pro or elite athlete doesn’t mean they can turn that around and apply sound training philosophies to someone else.  I’m not saying it can’t happen. There are great coaches out there that used to perform at the top level that I completely respect.  But that shouldn’t be your single determining factor.

It's not hard to throw volume at someone and build the endurance to finish an Ironman. But, creating a plan that builds endurance while incorporating quality and intensity to reduce the effects of the physiological limiters of the athlete.  A plan that provides improvements in economy – all while ensuring that periodization is dialed in.  This is what you need to see.

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Hey Coach!

I'm heading off to a USAT Coaching Clinic this upcoming weekend.  I thought long and hard about signing up - did I really want to start coaching people?  Did I think I could really help somebody become faster, more efficient, and improve?  I think I can.  While I've been self-coached (mostly) for most of my triathlon career, I did swim competitively up into the college ranks.  I've been coached by a number of individuals, and I'd like to think that I know what to do, what not to do, and how to work with people to get the most out of their time.  I've trained with a lot of top-flight athletes, a number of whom have qualified for Kona, and know what their time, training, and sacrifices have entailed.  All of this information hasn't gone to waste.

I've actually built 1/2 Ironman training plans for a number of individuals.  I have to say I really had a good time creating them.  I found it fascinating to delve into their previous performances so I could better understand their abilities.  I enjoyed working with them to get an idea of what their schedules look like, how much time they could devote to training, and how this all impacted their overall goals.  It was actually quite a bit of fun working with them to understand their running and swimming pace so I could formulate speedwork on the track, and targeted swimming workouts.

Building an overall training plan, with periodization, pull back weeks, and taper, as well as incorporating strategically placed races, is more complicated than I originally thought.  There's a nice challenge that goes along with this process.  No two plans are alike.  Sure there may be a template that is used, but to do things correctly there's a lot of personalization involved.

What I found to be the critical piece of the training puzzle was working with these individuals to incorporate training into their real-life existence.  These folks work for a living.  One has multiple kids. Training has to be scheduled into windows of opportunity.  Quality workouts need to be the norm.  As I work full time, and train in whatever spare time I can muster during the week, I found that a key to building these plans was understanding how much time was available for training.  Then, and only then, can a truly personalized plan be formulated.

I just don't see how, via some coaching services I've seen online, filling out a web-form with minimal information can yield a detailed training plan that is tailored to the individual.  A cookie cutter approach isn't the best solution here.  There are of course some coaching services that are detailed and thorough, but some just don't look to be worth the price of admission.

But I digress.  At the end of the day, it's thrilling for me to see people get excited about training for a big race.  To listen to someone become animated, looking forward to long brick workouts, four hour training rides, and speedwork, is really satisfying.

As I said, I've built some 1/2 Iron plans. My biggest challenge to date, however, is building a training plan for my wife.

JL asked me to build a sprint triathlon training plan for her.  Not a problem!  This was going to be great, as I know what her paces are, I know what her schedule is, and I can easily customize a plan for her for the summer race she's targeting.  This was before she decided to take most of the winter off from training.  So, I'm going back to the drawing board on this one.

Looking at the agenda for the upcoming clinic it looks like a very full 3 days of training this weekend.  I'll try to provide an overview of the sessions when I return next week.