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Samstag, 4. November 2017

The Art behind the Coaching Science

What possible can you do much better as a coach except a training plan for swim, cycle and run, so that you made him reaching the finish line for his first Ironman in only 10 hours and 15 minutes?! What is the big philosophy behind?!

As I’ve got this question from the Triathlon Club Manager where my client was member I felt some lack of trust and a certain quantity of frustration. All other guys who started in the same race, racing in the same conditions, were there for their 2nd or 3rd Ironman and were trained over 18 months for their best finish time of ten hours. My client started triathlon 2 years ago and after 3 x IM 70.3 he decided to try the full distance.

My reply to him .... at the end of this post.

All I could say resumes itself to few words: Triathlon Coaching is Art and behind this Art is Science.

Anyway, every Coach or Trainer develops in time his/her personal way of coaching. It is true, a good Coach has his/her merits in the results of his/her athletes, but the most part of the responsibility remains on the athletes’ shoulders. The match has to be the right one, this is one of the keys. When the match is the right one, then the communication is working and the understanding level flows on and from and to both sides of the team Athlete-Coach. To build a team some time is needed. I would say, a real good team needs at least one year together.

On the surface, the triathlon training is very simple: Go swim! Go riding! Go running!

On the deeper level there is much, much more than this. You need both components: the Art and the Science. The Emotion and the Techniques. The Passion and the Determination. And the Experience as Athlete.

Most of athletes entering the journey for a half or full Ironman without a trainer are going on the principle: “More is better.” Years ago, as hobby athlete in this discipline, I tended to believe the same because this was all I heard from the “big guys”. In a country where in 2011-2014 there were at national level only about five women absolving this distance and having almost no idea about training plans, this was all I could get. The joy of being there at the start was the most important thing. The joy of reaching the finish line was a pure emotional luxury and the intensity of that is undescriptible, believe me!

Becoming a coach I had to understand: “Less is more!” And the most available and understandable example I have got those days was: “In a race where you are over 12-14 hours under stress, it is better to eat less than too much. If you eat less, you have plenty of possibilities to refuel. If you eat too much, you have plenty of chances to get sick and to stop the race!” It makes sense, right?

About fitness training sessions (strength, stretching) and progressive load and all the general training principles I learned at the academy in Linz in a much more deeper way than I did during the certification process as Ironman Coach. Although it seems to be the most logical thing on Earth, when you do not study these things you never think about it, so you never bother to understand what, why, how etc.

During a workout your body is under stress, it suffers. Many of you think that repeating that workout, repeating that stress and more, you get the body adapted to it. And this is a huge mistake. Because the body adapts to the stress only during the recovery time being able – supercompensation principle (SUPERCOM) – to become stronger than it was before. This means, the next workout can be longer or more intensive, then you recover, the next workout will be lower in volume and intensity, then you recover, then the next workout will be higher in volume and/or intensity than the pre-previous one. Level 1 of stress – recovery – Level 2 of stress – recovery – Level 1 up to Level 1,5 of stress – recovery – Level 3 of stress – recovery – Level 2 up to Level 2,5 of stress – recovery  - etc. etc. etc.

The recovery session is at least so much important as the workout. When you work all day and are under stress, your energy level decreases. In order to adapt and to put back your energy reserves, you need to stop the work, eat and go to sleep. This is how life works.

Over the weeks, months and years of training (so named macro-, micro-cycles) you have to keep in mind that your body adapts to the stress (volume and intensity), so you have to progressively and permanently increase the stress factor if you want to become faster and more resistant or both. People who are jogging over 2-3 years on the same route, in the same amount of volume and at same intensities are wondering why they do not get thinner or/and faster. Because their body adapted to that stress, get used to it and relaxes, no stimulus is coming, no better results. If you want results, than you have to understand that the body needs a challenge and you can manipulate the way you challenge it by increasing the volume, the intensity and/or the frequency.

This does not mean you increase all these components endless, no way! On the one hand, doing so, you will not resist and the result will be  increased injury risks, overtraining, then depression, then burnout, then end of this journey and start of another journey, where joy is a strange word.

Aside the whole science, the art of training is the optimal combination, the optimal distribution of resources during the season. This means you really need a suitable training plan with all component on it:

-        Fitness

-        Swim

-        Run

-        Cycle

-        Recovery

-        Nutrition

-        Mental training - this if for sure what defines my style.

It would be a good idea to understand the goal of every workout, of every week training, of every microcycle. You need a structure in training and in your whole life, you need to understand the importance of alternate stress with rest, when, how long resting, what recovery means, when to sleep, when to use active recovery and so on. 

To the science behind the art belongs the techniques and the very specific season training plan phases based on the race schedule. You start with basic training (building up power – strength -, endurance and muscular endurance), go on with specific training due to each discipline (techniques), then the race-specific phase (simulations, B and C races), tapering, racing, recovery. This is the general structure without many details here. 

The difference between being an excellent technical coach vs. a good technician and a good “artist” type coach, can be seen on the state of the athletes before start, during the races and after the finish line.

A very good technician can coach bigger groups of athletes at the same time. He understands that every of them is unique, but he doesn’t make substantial differences in their trainings plans which are pretty much fast the same for all of them. 

To use the science and the art of coaching in the same time needs time. A lot of time. 

From my point of view, the art of coaching individuals (triathlon is not a team sport, this is for sure!) comes in when you:
- use the wide holistic range in coaching, 
- treat every single athlete in the way he/she needs,
- clarify very seriously from the beginning the goals, motivation base and races schedule, as well as the communication channels/hours/frequency/kind,
- Educate him/her in order to understand the role of developing the self-awareness for his/her body so that he/she can take the right decisions at the right moment during difficult phases/moments in training/races,
- Introducing them all other components directly in the training plan, so they understand these components belongs to the trainings plan (mental training, recovery with all possible forms of it (active, passive, massage, sauna, sleeping, eating etc.), stretching, strength, mobility, coordination),
Properly manage the recovery issues recognising in due time the first signals of overtraining (so, less is more, again!) if the case (when taking over new athletes you might have this issue with them),
- Adapt the training plan and the stress level to the life style the athlete is having, because most of the hobby triathletes do have a regular job, a family, a business, a household and a lot of other stress streams in their life,
- Respect your life in the same time and set limits.

These are just a few of the ingredients.

So, as every athlete is unique, the same about coaches and trainers.
As I already mentioned, the right matching is one of the most important keys. At the massage school I have learned a golden rule: “If you feel the client who entered your praxis has not the right energy field for you, don’t do it, do not run the massage session with him! Find a way to communicate this to him or, after the first session let him know a second session is not possible anymore and refer him to another specialist. It is bad for you and it is bad for the client, as massage is a energy transfer.”. The same in coaching, believe me! It is a big deal of matching in a way.

My motto is: Let your Mind outside!
So, going back on the question which started this post, I have replied to him: "Hire a holistic coach and find out! :-)" 

Wishing you to find the perfect coach and to have the perfect training season over this winter!

Feed-back and share are welcome, thank you!
 Be flexible, be open minded, put questions!

Good to read:
Off Season for triathletes 
Running in the dark
Maximize your off-season time 

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