2020: The Season That Never Was?
This blog post will be my first in quite a while. Over the past 10 years, I have gone out of my way to maintain a low (nearly non-existent!) profile to ensure that my coaching load remained at a very manageable 12 or so athletes. Between parenthood, my work as a teacher and everything else that life has thrown into the mix, there is only so much time in the day, and I found that taking on any more than about a dozen athletes only led to the watering down the individualized services I was able to provide by compromising my ability to form the personal connections with the people I trained. The foundation of a good coach/athlete relationship is an open-line of communication, which in turn leads to trust, mutual respect and progress. The nuts and bolts (i.e. workouts) required to take an athlete from point A to point B over the course of an annual build up are the easiest part of my job; the science of training is now well known by anyone who has put their time in and paid attention. It is the appropriate application of this science that is the hard part. Athletes are not machines. The reality for most athletes is that...
They lead busy lives
They must juggle work and family obligations while doing their best to train
They are forced to deal with the occasional illness or unexpected injury
They experience the emotional ups and downs that go hand-in-hand with long training cycles and racing
The list could go on and on here, but you get the point. Working with athletes is a complex endeavor and requires experience and insight that is only gained, like endurance, through lots of time and hard work.
Enter the Art of Coaching
I have been working professionly with athletes for over 20 years now. Those 20 years have been a continual work in progress and I hope that the next 20 years are as well. Like any line of work, or living organism for that matter, adaptation and evolution are critical to survival and success. Just the other day, I was cringing when I looked back at some of my race day pictures from one of my favorite 70.3 races of all time: Timberman Triathlon (god how I miss that race...). With the exception of just a few of the elites, many of us, myself definitely included, were riding in what would now be considered very slow, relatively upright positions. I attribute much of the gains we have seen in long course triathlon performance these days to the readily available science that we now have on how to best go about reducing CdA (drag coefficient) via bike positioning, clothing and gear selection, etc. Had we only known then what everyone knows now*... (sigh)
*Interested in learning a little more about the impact that your position and gear selection has on your bike split? Check this video out.
Back to the point at hand: True experience is gained through both success and failure. By reflecting upon what went wrong, and figuring out how, and why, something does not work, we learn what not to do. As both athlete and coach, I do not look back at any of my failures with disdain; they have all been instrumental parts of the learning curve that have allowed me to attain the degree of know-how that I currently possess. It is this same know-how that enables me to easily identify the mistakes I see so many athletes taking when approaching the training process, and is the instrumental reason that I have decided to become more active with this blog, and multisport coaching, once more.
But What About the Title of This Blog Post?
Many athletes have made a big mistake by looking at 2020 as a "lost" or "wasted" season. To the contrary: 2020 has provided everyone with a unique, and extremely valuable opportunity to hone their approach to all elements of their athletic preparation and lay the foundation for what could be the best season(s) of their lives. Whether it be making the bike position and gear selection changes that will help you to lower your CdA and save you valuable watts, changing your swim mechanics in order to gain efficiency in the water, revising your dietary practices in order to attain an optimal body composition for your given sport, or completely revamping your approach to your training as a whole, the COVID-19 disruption has forced a reprieve from racing, which in turn means we all have plenty of time to focus solely upon a gradual revision of the way we go about doing things. Adaption requires an ultra consistent, and progressive increase in stress load. The more slowly, or gradually, we make those changes, the easier it is for the body to adapt and benefit from the stress that we throw at it. The year 2020, in my book, is the season for change and adaptation. Make the most of this opportunity, instead of squandering it, and you're setting yourself up for the performances of your life in 2021 and beyond. For what it's worth, this is how I am approaching my own training; the Ironman 70.3 World Championship happens to be taking place in Utah next September. Can a 45 year old go faster in 2021 than he did 12 years prior? Only time will tell, but the work has begun and I am once again loving the process. I look forward to applying all that I've learned over the years to my own preparation and would love to share that knowledge to help you as well. I'm back in a position where my schedule now allows me to take on additional athletes, so feel free to reach out if you'd like to have a conversation about the potential for our working together as we all look forward to a return to racing next year.