Fifty Shades of Pink

I have in the past talked about aspects of motivation and in particular, techniques to help the demotivated athlete rediscover their mojo.

Today, I’m asking a far more fundamental question and propose my own hypothesis.

Why do we do it?

That question is often the starting point for goal setting, if you know why you do, or want to do something, then you are a good way toward setting goals for your achievement and describing the goal or your progression toward it, using SMART objectives. That’s where we can often find our motivation to train – we understand why we do it.

So, just for a few moments, before you read on, ask yourself why you do it. None of us train ‘triathlon’ or train ‘Ironman’ we train our swimming, cycling and running. So, answer that for yourself.

OK, if you have immediately read on to this paragraph, put your hands on your head and stand in the corner of the room. Go on!

So, now we’re alone, here’s what I think.  For the vast majority of us, we do it because we love it.  We love the feeling of moving through water, being out on our bikes, even when the big climbs hurt and we love running, sometimes through the forest but other times just through the paved streets, on our way home.  Is that right for you, or not?

So, if we are doing these things that might be summarised as ‘training’ because we love them, or in some distinctly personal way, gain joy from them, why do we insist on measuring our performance in purely quantitative terms?  We are constantly chasing times, PBs, SBs, PRs, Strava segments, FTP, CSS, KOM, W/Kg, MPH, m/s, m/s/s? If you climb a few places up the finisher rankings well, great but unless you’re a podium contender, is anyone else really taking note of the twenty age group places you’ve gained since the same race last year?

What’s the point? Really?

I hear you trot out that “the you of today is ‘better’ than the you of yesterday”. OK I get that. But is the best way to measure a better you, to know that you ran down ‘Back Lane’ 2 seconds quicker than last time you were out and are now 4th out of those you follow on Strava for that segment? Is that you??

I propose that the better me, is the person that enjoys training today, even more than I enjoyed it yesterday.  If my motive to train is because I enjoy the activities, then surely enjoyment is the key metric to measure my improvement? After all, if I’m enjoying my training, I’m much more likely to want to do my next session and create training consistency, which seems to be the universally agreed predictor for a good race day performance.

Welcome to ER – your new performance metric!

Emotional Response (ER) is the label I’ve given to the joy of training.  It captures the feeling you get while you’re out there, as the sun rises over the hedgerow and it also reflects the feelings of satisfaction and accomplishment you feel when you’ve finished your planned (or unplanned) training session.

So how will we measure it?  I don’t expect yet another numerical scale to do it justice, after all, emotion is personal and the joy you experience from each session is unique.

I propose a colour chart.  What better scale than shades of pink?

screen-shot-2017-02-28-at-13-11-48

The range is personal to you but I’d suggest that when you feel like shouting “again Dad, again!” like a child who’s just gone down a giant water slide for the first time, then your way out there over to the left.  If you spent most of your session and the rest of the morning wondering why you bother, then you’re somewhere over to the right.

If you find yourself over to the right for several sessions, days or weeks, then you’re either heading for, or are already demotivated, feeling a loss of mojo and skipped sessions and inconsistency are almost inevitable.

That might be a good time to talk to your coach about making some changes to your training that might affect the volume, intensity, location, timing, balance or focus of your sessions and overall plan.

If pink is likely to clash with the colour of your favourite tri suit, then make up your own sliding scale to express for your Emotional Response (ER) to your training sessions.

How does that feel?

Paul

GI Tri Coach

Weekly Session Plan 28 February 2017

Download this session plan here: session-plan-108

This week we look at the topical method of polarized training – avoiding the sweet spot just below threshold, in favour of easy, high volume training and some hard efforts at VO2 Max or anaerobic. The intention is to split your sessions between those efforts but here, we’ll sample some of each, within the same session.

Warm Up:

50m easy, 50m steady, 50m race pace

Technical set:

2 x 50m ‘quick catch’ drill (see video demo below)

Main set:

400m easy (focus on good technique but don’t elevate your HR) (30 sec rest)

50m hard (VO2) (30 sec rest)

50m max effort (anaerobic) (60 seconds rest)

Repeat all of the above 1 – 3 more times depending upon speed, fitness and available time

Warm down:

400m     Tempo pace

200m     Steady pace

100m     Easy pace

50m        Very, very easy swimming – how slow can you go while maintaining good form?

Total Volume:

2000m – 4000m

Coaching Points:

Swim easy as EASY and hard as HARD!

Quick Catch Drill Demonstration Video

Weekly Swim Session Plan 21 February 2017

Download and print this session plan here: session-plan-107

This week we look at building swim volume at race pace by introducing a swim of a set duration, with indeterminate distance.  Typically, this is a timed 20-minute (commonly referred to as T20) continuous swim but for Ironman athletes, this can be upped to T30, in either case, counting the lengths and therefore distance swum in that duration.  This session can be repeated at the end of each meso-cycle for those seeking objective data on their progress toward their A-race.

Warm Up:

50m easy, 50m steady, 50m race pace

Technical set:

4 x 50m 6-3-6 drill going up the pool, swim back

Main set:

Swim for 20 minutes, counting the number of lengths swum.

Warm down:

400m     Tempo pace, try to hold best form possible after the T20

200m     Steady pace

100m     Easy pace

50m        Very, very easy swimming – how slow can you go while maintaining good form?

Total Volume:

1900m – 3800m

Coaching Points:

Try to swim consistent 100m splits for the T20 set – as a rough guide, set off fairly easy (6/10), finish fairly hard (8/10) to deliver consistent splits.

6-3-6 demonstration video

Weekly Swim Session Plan 14 February 2017

Download and print this session plan here: session-plan-106

Having worked on stroke length and stroke rate over the past two weeks, this week, we are going to look at intensity.  Getting an elevated heart rate, seems just the theme for today!

Warm Up:

50m easy, 50m steady, 50m race pace

Technical set:

2 x 50m Doggy Paddle Drill up the pool, swim back

2 x 50m 1-finger drill up the pool, swim back with full hand

Main set:

200m (timed) For each repetition, aim to swim > 1 second faster than the previous repetition!

X 8 – 12 repetitions

Warm down:

100m – 300m (4 – 12 lengths) easy cool down

Total Volume:

2050m – 3050m

Coaching Points:

Doggy Paddle Drill Demo Video

Closed Fist drill ( 1 finger drill) Demo Video

Extending the index finger (one finger drill) when executing ‘closed fist’ as demonstrated, allows greater precision on hand entry and better hand – arm alignment, while maintaining the benefits of high-elbow, ‘early vertical forearm’ drilling.

Pacing – as always, don’t go out too hard, or you’ll struggle to reduce your times.  Try to swim evenly over the whole 200m repetition, only gradually decreasing times between reps.  Don’t put in all of your potential speed too early! Use combinations of better alignment (reduced drag), stroke length (effective catch and pull) and stroke rate (faster turnover), to realise your gains over the whole set.

Weekly Swim Session Plan 7 February 2017

 

Download and print this session plan here: session-plan-105

This week, we look at the alternate to increased stroke length, high stroke rate!  Just ‘swimming faster’ is going to feel difficult for swimmers with long, powerful strokes.  Easing back on power but making a higher number of strokes (the swimming equivalent of spinning a low gear on your bike) is remarkably effective in choppy open water conditions, where long strokes can become unbalanced.

Warm Up:

50m easy, 50m steady, 50m race pace

Technical set:

2 x 50m sculling up the pool, swim back (use a pull buoy to isolate the kick if one is available)

2 x 50m quick catch drill

Main set:

100m     High stroke rate freestyle

100m     Normal to long stroke length

X 8 – 12 repetitions

Warm down:

100m – 300m (4 – 12 lengths) easy cool down

Total Volume:

2050m – 3050m

Coaching Points:

Sculling drill demonstration                 Quick catch drill demonstration

To up the tempo of your stroke, think about faster core rotations (rather than arm movements). The recovering and pulling arms will automatically keep pace with the torso.

Setting up the catch for an effective pull is essential for any stroke rate but it’s even more important when adopting a high stroke-rate open water style, given that pull power is slightly reduced to avoid exhaustion!

High stroke rate context video

Lovin’ It

As a coach, I am a great believer in athletes performing high quality training sessions. I don’t remember the last time I heard any coach promoting the proliferation of junk mileage, so that in itself isn’t really worth writing about.

What I have in mind is the departure from time to time, from all the structure. Getting away from the metrics of distance, time, speed, pace, cadence, heart rate, stroke length, wattage and personal best performances.

No, sometimes, you have to switch to an entirely new qualitative paradigm – Joy.

If you’re training for an Ironman, depending upon your base level of fitness and experience at the distance, you’ll be training for anything between eighteen and twenty-four weeks, putting in ten to sixteen hours, or even more for some people.  I know some athletes who can tell you to the metre how much swimming, cycling and running they did in 2016.  What I’m left wondering though, is what proportion of those they actually enjoyed.

When we start in this great sport, most of us have a background in one of the three – not everyone but most.  That original sport – let’s say it was running, you did because you loved it.  Maybe you worked your way up to a marathon? You ran and ran and ran because you loved it. Right? Do you remember that time?

Eventually though, you looked for something else, either something more, or something different.  And here we are, on the GI Tri Coach blog…

Training for triathlon, particularly Ironman, is an arduous task.  It usually involves at least one sport that really, deep down, you just tolerate, or endure.  You grind through sessions without loving it, ever dreaming about it, or even looking forward to it.  That’s usually where it starts.  You’re not really looking forward to a session but you do it anyway. Reluctantly.  Eventually though, you pluck up the courage to do it – you skip the session.  Soon enough you don’t only skip the session you hated but another one, that you used to quite like and before long, your training plan looks like a chess board and motivation is something you’re now finding hard to define, let alone locate.

That might sound entirely familiar to you but hopefully, not quite yet.

One of the things I have been doing with athletes lately, is breaking down the structure.  Taking away performance targets or even session durations. Not all the time of course but once in a while – on a lighter week.

I have for years now, used this technique when re-building from scratch, trying to recover an athlete from despondency but lately I have used it with the most consistent and capable athletes.

Why?  Because even the best athletes need a break. Not a break from training but a break from expectation.

When did you last feel the love for your sport?  Swimming through the water, feeling it rush over your body as you slip through a hole in the water so narrow, you thought you’d lost weight?  Ridden toward the low sun and the only sounds were the tyres on the road surface, the chain over your gears and your rhythmic breath and the only thought in your mind was “wow, I love this bike!”?  Been running down a trail, the light casting shadows on the path as it passed though the bare winter branches, birdsong up ahead only mildly obscured by the crunch of your shoes beneath?  The sheer joy of it all.

If you’re planning to go out training this weekend. Try one of those sessions above.

Feel the joy!

It might help you keep to your rigid training schedule for another few weeks, until once more, you say “no more” to structure and “yes please” to lovin’ it!

Paul

GI Tri Coach