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Sonntag, 24. Juni 2018

The Art behind the Coaching Science

What more can you possibly much better do except write a great 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 of it?!

I got this question from the triathlon club manager, where my client was a member I felt some lack of trust and a certain quantity of frustration. All the other six athletes from this club, that were racing in this event, were there for their 2nd or 3rd Ironman and were trained for over 18 months for their best finish time of ten hours. My client was doing his first full distance now in Klagenfurt. The others had spent money on training camps, my client did it at home along the Danube. I told him: "If you have the money and want to go to that training camp, do it. However, it is not a must. Do it only if you think it is crucial for your performance, otherwise it is not the right strategy." 
My client started triathlon 2 years ago and after 3 x IM 70.3 he decided to try the full distance.

My reply to the triathlon club manager .... at the end of this post.

All I could say resumes itself to few words:  

Triathlon Coaching is an Art and behind this Art is Science.

Every coach and trainer develop in time his/her personal way of coaching over time. It is true that a good coach has merits in the results of their athletes, but the most part of the responsibility remains on the athletes’ shoulders. The coach/athlete paring must b the right one, that is one of the keys. When the match is the right one, then the communication is working and the understanding level flows on to the both sides of the team athlete/coach. In order to build a great team you need time together. I would say, a real good team needs at least one year together.

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

However, there is a much deeper level to triathlon training. You need both components: the Art and the Science. The emotion and the techniques. The passion and etermination. And the experience as an athlete.

Most athletes entering the journey of trainig for a half or full Ironman without a trainer are going on the principle: “More is better.” Years ago, as a newer athlete in this discipline, I tended to believe this as well. As this had been what I always heard from the  “Big Guys”. In a country where in 2011-2014 there were 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!

When I became a coach I had to understand that “Less is more!” And the most relatable example is, in a race where you are competing for over 12-14 hours, 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?

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, allowing the body – read about the 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 time is just as important as the workout itself. When you work all day and are under stress, your energy levels decrease. 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 from the same boring repetition. 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  endlessly increase all these components, 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 Master Key behind a training plan. It is about the optimal distribution of resources during the season. This means you really need a suitable training plan with all components on it:
# Strength
# Swimming
# Running
# Cycling
# Recovery
# Fueling & Nutrition
# Mental training - my focus in coaching

It is a great 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 of coaching 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). Then you go on with specific training due to each discipline (techniques), then the race-specific phase (simulations, B and C races), tapering, RACE DAY, recovery. This is the general overview of the training schedle, without going into too 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. It can be simply read on their faces and reactions.
A very good technical trainer 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 your athletes on how to understand the role of developing the self-awareness for their body so that they can take the right decisions at the right moment during difficult phases/moments in training/races and life too,
- Introduce them to all other components of their training plan and make sure they understand the importance of all of them (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 exactly that Master Key that leads to geh deired success. 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 to the question that 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 and racing season!

Feed-back and share are welcome, thank you!
Be flexible, be open minded, put questions! On-line coaching in a very effective way is one of my services.

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

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