Allergy season and the athlete

Saturday June 18, 11
As spring moves into summer, allergy season begins for many athletes.
The Weather Network has pollen forecasts that can help you identify potential allergens in your region that are affecting you. Better yet, obtain a referral to a MD specializing in allergies.
If you are suffering from allergies (or taking other medication) and subject to Doping Control, you have to be very vigilant as to what you ingest. Many allergy medications contain ingredients on the WADA banned list. Check with the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport “check your medication” resource or go directly to the Global DRO for Canada (or your country as ingredients may vary based on where the product was purchased).

This week on myTwitter

Thursday May 19, 11

Connections in swimming

Sunday April 10, 11

Every now and again a new idea, or in this case a comparative coaching idea from another sport, yields a reward.

In today’s swim session I tried to import a coaching concept from kayak that I learned about a few years back (ok maybe a decade ago from Dr. Imre Kemecsey) and reapplied Saturday on my coaching session with Vancouver Ocean Sports.  The recycled idea is that of power circles.

The power circle concept is “relatively simple”, as a coach you associate a progression of technical elements with (or through) the relevant joints and muscles AND mental pathways needed to effect that element.  Power circles are an excellent visual mapping tool for sports with complex technical elements executed through multi-segmental movement acting in three or more rotational planes (i.e. canoe-kayak, swimming, xc skiing, gymnastics, dance, etc.).

There are innumerable power circles linking all the physical and technical elements together.  The resulting mental map of a sport’s power circles creates a very robust and flexible web of connections.

The application of this coaching technique is tricky as you have to understand the causal pathways required to effect the technique in question.  Most importantly, you have to know where a movement originates and where that movement ends.  Furthermore, as a coach you can’t rely on  visual demonstration any longer.  You have to develop clear verbal descriptions and engage your athletes in ongoing discussions as they learn the required connections.



Recovery protocols

Wednesday March 30, 11

I have just posted the recovery protocols I have designed for my athletes as a module in the Training Peaks store.

The protocols are available through the EAS linked Training Peaks page;

These protocols are compiled from material delivered at the Canadian Sport Innovation and Technology conferences, Own the Podium Canada high performance workshops, physiotherapists, medical and para-medical team best practices at major games, some common knowledge and new research presented in sport science journals.

Very often the difference between successful and less successful performance has less to do with training and more to do with the behaviour that supports training such as; mental training, tactics, nutrition, technical skills and recovery.

The difference between training 20 hours a week and training 20 hours a week AND investing another 5+ hours on proper recovery is measured in injuries, more positive mental outlook, enhanced skills acquisition and handling higher workloads and performing at peak levels more often.


SpINfo session

Tuesday March 22, 11

This past Saturday I took part in Cycle4 Athlete Development in support of Amy Kirkham an IM/ | 70.3 Pro I coach.

The session I was leading was an indoor bike spin session, but with an educational theme.  This was new for me as I was trying to do a presentation while working out!  As public speaking isn’t hard enough already, this time I was on my bike, I had athletes riding along and walk by Vancouver Bike Show patrons listening in.

On the positive side, it was expected that I would be short of breath and sweating profusely while doing the presentation.  Pre-presentation checklist was more complicated than usual with microphone, remote control, bike, indoor trainer, towels, gels, energy drinks,…

I lead the group through “planning a fitness workout from an energy system perspective”. In a nutshell, after an easy aerobic threshold warm up, we moved from supra-maximal efforts to anaerobic power to aerobic power and aerobic capacity and economy of motion before closing with anaerobic capacity.

I’ll get the slide show posted shortly.

The fundraiser was a great success and Amy will soon be heading of to her initial 70.3 events in the US and Europe.


Glycogen stores

Friday May 14, 10

An athlete as asking me recently about liver and muscle glycogen stores and the impact on performance both pre and post workouts.

Muscle glycogen is used in workouts to perform actions and movements.

There is some discussion as to whether muscle glycogen can migrate in workouts (i.e. inactive muscle to active muscle), but nothing to substantiate it, so we assume very little migration at best. When muscle glycogen drops too low, muscles can’t relax between contractions anymore (i.e. no more fast movements, slower and slower, and slower…)

Liver glycogen is used to replace or maintain blood glucose levels (i.e. that drop overnight or during workouts to maintain blood glucose levels in the brain as working muscles import glucose as fuel). Blood glucose levels are essential to maintaining brain function, including execution of technical skills, using tactics, emotion management, remembering the workout, how many laps, etc.

In refueling after a workout, your snack should reflect the nature of the workout to some degree. Low intensity workouts can be more carbs (>80% or more complex carbohydrates- a mix of short through long chain carbs) and less protein, while higher intensity workouts can have more protein as you can burn up to 10% of your total calories from protein. Given that protein can be converted to carbs over a slightly longer time, higher intensity exercise recovery snacks can be up to 30% protein. Ideally protein should be from quickly and fully digestible protein sources (i.e. eggs, dairy, lean animal meats).

There is a two hour window post workout where glycogen can be synthesized very fast, enough to replenish all you lost plus a little extra. If you miss this window, it can be another 48 hours to reload or you can risk bonking in your workouts.

The idea is to “slowly fill the tank” as muscles can only take in so much glucose at a time. Excess glucose in the blood may trigger an insulin response where insulin is released, fat metabolism is shut down and fat storage increased. Not ideal for maintaining lean mass or replenishing glycogen.

Protein eaten earlier in the refueling can be used to rebuild blood amino acid levels, rebuild damaged tissues and over time converted to carbohydrates. Some theories suggest that eating higher protein post workout results in slower carb/glycogen release, minimal insulin response and maximal glycogen synthesis. No solid proof on that theory either. However, many high performance coaches and athletes swear by its results for promoting fat losses and optimal lean muscle mass retention.

So in summary-

  • EAT proper post workout nutrition (0.5-1.0 g/kg carbohydrate (CHO) + 0.3-0.4 g/kg protein (PRO)) spread over the 2 hours post workout in 10-15 min blocks
  • i.e. 0.125 g/kg CHO + 0.05 g/kg PRO every 15 min) either in liquid or solid form.
  • High quality protein (i.e. whey protein) and more branch chain amino acids (BCAA) earlier in the refuelling window is better.
  • CHO should be balance of short , medium and long chain.
  • 2 bagels with peanut butter eaten in quarters every 15 min for two hours will do the trick after a long (2-3+ hours) or intense (1:00+ hours) workout

If you don’t refuel, intensity and possibly even duration of workouts has to be reduced. All speeds get pulled back to to 40-50% peak aerobic levels and skill levels drop increasing the risk of both injuries and accidents.

technique corrections

Friday May 14, 10

A quick post on sport technique coaching-

Improving / correcting technique is a tricky task, especially in experienced athletes.  “Experienced” can mean high performance athletes or simply athletes who have been training a long time.  Either way they have built up habits and motor patterns.

If we think about “good” technique being;

  • minimal risk of injuries; to the athlete from overuse and other sources
  • optimal stability; both within the athlete and the athlete relative to the environment
  • optimal efficacy; it does the intended task whether moving through water, on land, on a bike, in a kayak, etc.
  • optimal efficiency; energy consumed to work performed
  • optimal for the integrations of other required elements; starts, turns and navigation in swimming, drafting and pacing on a bike, surfing in a surfski, etc.)

Very often a technical problem has a cause that may not be apparent.  A skilled technical coach addresses the cause of the problem, not just the symptoms.

I was taught by a very skilled technical coach in canoe that to source out a technical problem you often have to look two or more joints closer to the core.

Where things get complicated is that a technical problem may have multiple compensations in other joints and movements to mimic “good technique“.  If we were to use algebra to express this;

A is good technique

A’ is a copy of good technique that has a technique problem B needing compensations C, D and E

thus A’=B+C+D+E

To an unskilled coach it may appears by fixing problem B, or A’-B becomes A

Where in reality A’-B= C + D + E

So by fixing one problem, the coach and athlete are left dealing with compensations C, D and E.

Part of the art of coaching is seeing the good technique, identifying the underlying problems AND the compensations in place then planning and implementing a successful intervention that promotes learning.