Performance Improvements and Success Stories

Recently I've written a couple of blog posts discussing the importance of improving athlete limiters and the proper development of energy systems. The goal being to ensure not only the improvement of said limiters of an athlete but to further develop their strengths as well. With that in mind I thought it was time that we highlighted a few of our athletes here at Podium Training Systems to show not only the scope of racing that happens amongst our athletes, but also the type of improvements and success they've had and how we achieved those gains.

I reached out to a small number of my athletes to see if they would be willing to share their experiences over the past season or two and provide me with what they felt were their biggest improvements.

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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.

Athlete Race Recap From The Gold Coast Triathlon

Podium Training Systems athlete Danny Weiss at the Gold Coast Triathlon in Port Washington, New York this past weekend.  Danny is gearing up for USAT Age Group Nationals, and then the Toughman Half Iron triathlon.  Danny was kind enough to whip up a race report for us.......


I had a strong couple of weeks leading up to the race, with a couple of break-through track sessions. My coach, David, really enforced a solid down week leading up to the race (but with a good amount of pops of speed work), so I was feeling rested but also fast for the race.

Swim - Chaotic to say the least. There was a tremendous discrepancy in terms of the swim course. So much so that David (who was also racing with me and is in my age-group) suggested we step out of the mob till they figure it out. Great advice as I was getting a bit caught up in negative energy. I can't say that they ever came to a consensus on the swim course but eventually it was my waves time to start.  I am a strong swimmer and always get in the front of the pack for the start of the race. I did the same but was really unclear on exactly where to swim. I figured I would just follow the wave before me or perhaps another swimmer in my heat.  Gun goes off and I am feeling particularly strong. So much so that I take the lead in my wave which is great but also a bit disconcerting as I am not clear where to swim. In the end, I end up doing what it seems like everyone else is doing before me and exit the water in first place for my age-group.

T1 - I have been working on speeding this up, practicing it a bunch. I got my wetsuit off rather quickly, although I did have to sit down which I intend to do away with eventually.  I have also been working on keeping my shoes on the bike for a quick transition.  I exit the transition area and am on my bike.  Slip one foot in my shoe but than really struggle to get the other foot. David goes whizzing by me with "get moving."  I finally get it in, determine it was not too much wasted time and off I go.

A quick 11 mile bike ride.  In the past I have struggled with never getting my heart-rate down on these super sprints and being tapped out for the run, so I pushed on the bike but also allowed my HR to come down a bit. Within a few minutes I really felt great on bike, whizzing by lots of people and enjoying my brand new Cervelo P2!

Into T2 and I got a bit screwed up.  Normally I am able to get out of my shoes very easily, leaving them on the bike but misjudged the bike dismount this time. I end up with one foot still clicked in on the bike and the other one slipped out. I do a hobble to the bike rack with one bike shoe on and barefoot on the other side, feeling a bit foolish but not too worried. Quick T2. Grab my hat, race belt and slip on my shoes

I feel good on the run, not great but good. I tell myself that its only 3 miles and go for it. Very quickly my legs come around and I know I am having a good race. For me, it always comes down to the run. It seems to be all or nothing. I can either keep a nice pace or it feels like I am running through sludge. 1 mile becomes two and before I know it I am heading into the finish chute. Pick up my youngest Son as I go by and run across the finish line holding him.

I end up taking six minutes off my last years time...really really happy!

Place 4th in my age-group (last year I was 20th), missing 3rd by 18 seconds. I immediately start questioning where I could have picked up those seconds and start bumming myself out.  At some point I have to remind myself that I just took off a tremendous amount of time off last years results (well at least my wife reminds me as much),  I have improved significantly (thanks in no small part to David-  who won his age-group by the way) and celebrate what I have just done...which I do with a massive breakfast..A nice way to spend fathers day.
 
 
Thanks, Danny!  Taking six minutes off your sprint triathlon time is massive.  Proof that the hard work you're putting into your season is really paying off.  Congrats!

Improving Your Bike To Run Efficiency

It's June, and as the triathlon season is kicking into high gear some of us are getting into race specific workouts.  Check out my USA Triathlon article - on the USAT Multipsport Zone site - on how to Improve Bike To Run Efficiency With A Brick Workout.

This is my take on how to integrate a "better" brick workout into your race specific training to help improve your bike to run adaptation.   

A Weekend Of "Extreme" Cross Training

This past Memorial Day weekend I was in Colorado Springs working with my coaching mentor.  He's a Level 3 USAT coach and has been a wealth of knowledge for me as I progress up the coaching ranks.  I'm in constant contact with him and the time I spend working with him is invaluable.  A weekend of coaching and training was just what I needed.

It was a great 4-day weekend for my wife, JL, and I.  Amazing running and riding.  Great food.  Stunning outdoor atmosphere and views.  The takeaways for me, however, were the lessons learned as an athlete – and how these lessons will impact my personal training as well as the training of my athletes.  There is much to cover, but I'll try to keep this short and highlight the primary events that resonate from the weekend.

The Bike
We had two serious mountain bike training rides while I was in Colorado Springs.  Living on the east coast, I now understand that what I used to think was mountain biking is really "trail riding".  (No offense to any of my friends that mountain bike here on the east coast).

Damn.

The technical skills that can be gained are immeasurable.  I’ve never worked that hard to control my bike.  Ever.  I have to admit that when I got back to the east coast and went out for a ride on my TT bike…..well…..I was never so comfortable throwing that rig around corners at speed.  I didn’t once think about taking a quick turn, or navigating around potholes or gravel.  My confidence in being able to control my rig was completely boosted.

Additionally, the effort involved and required is amazing.  Two hours on a road bike can yield anywhere up to 40 miles for a training ride.  Two hours on the mountain bike up near Ramparts Reservoir?  12 miles.  Huge aerobic workout (especially at 9,000 feet of altitude).  I almost can’t wait for the off-season to get here so I can mountain bike more.  And have I mentioned the technical skills required?  Let's just say that I dug in, on more than one occasion, like Wile E.Coyote .  My new nickname may or may not be “Digger Dave.”

The climbing while we rode was amazing.  There’s nothing like mountain biking to work on your climbing skills.  I've never been so happy to be riding a triple crank-set than this past weekend.  As mentioned, we covered 12 miles on our Friday ride.  In those 12 miles we climbed 2,500 feet.  I was shattered.  Well, it's tough to say if I was shattered from the climbing or the aforementioned crashing like a cartoon character.

Those of you who do serious mountain biking are well aware of the benefits (and pure enjoyment) of getting a little dirty while you ride.  Those of you who aren’t –this is something to really consider.  The gains in technical ability and climbing strength are huge.  The “hills” back east seemed easy in comparison.  That’s not to say they didn't require effort, but they certainly seemed much more manageable.

The Incline
If any of you have been to Colorado Springs, you know what The Incline is.  One mile of hill work - at an average grade of 41% (and a maximum grade of 68%).  There are people that do this climb (and then run down the 2.5 mile trail back to the parking lot) on an almost daily basis.  The benefit of this workout was obvious as soon as I went on my first run back on the east coast, the hilly sections didn’t seem so bad.  At all.  In comparison, they were speed-bumps.

Hill-work.  We all know it’s important, and, just like speed-work this needs to be included regularly in a workout plan.  I realize this is completely obvious, but running The Incline made me realize how much more I need to add hill-work into my (and my athletes’) plans.

At the top of the incline, my coaching mentor immediately asked me the question: Why, if his PE (perceived effort) was the same, was his heart rate 10 beats lower than it should have been?

I had the answer, but was slow to get it out due to being exhausted and trying to suck in oxygen at 9,000 feet.

What do you think the answer is? Would love to your thoughts on this in the comments below.