Sport BC Master’s Athlete of the Year!

Friday March 9, 12

EAS and RTC triathlete Stephanie Kieffer won the Sport BC Master’s Athlete of the Year award for 2011.

Steph had a great season winning BC, Canadian and World Championships titles in 2011. These were the icing on a multi year campaign where she collected two more age group Triathlon World Championship Gold medals, an age group Triathlon World Championship Bronze and an overall Canadian National Age Group Championship win.

Congrats Stephanie.

Here is a special athlete ProD video for you; 


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.



Weekend recap

Tuesday June 8, 10

Athletes I work with were racing all over BC this past weekend- a 10 km running race in White Rock BC and a half Iron triathlon in Oliver.

All did exceptionally well for early season efforts, so way to go everyone!

At the Sandcasle 10 k results and write up

 7   34:12.87  3:26  Facundo CHERNIKOFF  3M2529 
 9   35:20.07  3:33  Robert JOHNSON      5M2529
11   35:40.79  3:35  Clarke LIND         6M2529
14   36:12.60  3:38  Ricardo ESTRADA     2M3539
20   37:44.06  3:47  Martina WAN         2F2529
25   38:35.88  3:52  Rob EAKIN           9M2529 
53   41:49.80  4:11  Stephanie KIEFFER   1F4044 

And at the Oliver Half-Iron, Amy posted a best ever half iron finishing second overall for women, Amanda continues her come back to running form and Lindsey finished her first Half!

OA CAT NAME TIME SWIM BIKE RUN 13 1W2529 Amy Kirkham 4:32:50 31:32:00 2:31:06 1:25:45 313 4W5054 Amanda Barlow 5:37:47 40:03:00 3:00:01 1:49:56 410 29W3034 Lindsey Liddiard 5:47:46 34:55:00 3:05:40 1:59:00

Congrats Team!

competitor or opponent?

Friday May 21, 10

[intro- a few years back I heard Frank Dick (OBE) speak at a Sports Leadership Conference)  about the difference between competitors and opponents.  Listening to the trash talk and behaviour of some athletes at different events I thought it would be a good lesson to share, paraphrased into my own words but inspired from his talk]

Athletes need to know the difference between competitors and opponents. And more importantly, knowing that any individual can be one or the other and when to consider yourself and those around you as such.

A competitor is some in a competition the same time as you. There is a degree of mutual respect and friendship brought about by the event. If they take a long hard pull to drop the pack, you take your turn and don’t drop them in return. You’ll encourage them as they will you. You hold your line and give them room on turns. If they do the lion’s share of the work, you don’t out sprint them at the finish.

An opponent is someone you see to be defeated. You are looking for the ideal opportunities to do this as it sends a message that “I am the strongest- Do Not mess, with me. I can put you down anytime I want”. It is about sovereign authority and establishing yourself in the sport hierarchy. Not only do you have to defeat them, you have to do so decisively. If you see them struggling, you push harder and exploit any weaknesses you know or see. If they take a hard pull and drop the pack, you drop them when they fatigue or try to rest from their effort. You don’t encourage them, unless you’re using them for your purpose. You’ll force them wide on turns and do not give way on turns. If they are dumb enough to do all the work and save nothing for the finish, you will out sprint them. They take a wrong turn, you push harder. They miss a hydration station or drop a water bottle, you enjoy your next drink even more.

As Frank put it- when you have your foot on an opponents neck, you don’t back off on the pressure to give them a chance. You push down harder.

When are people competitors and when are they opponents? When it counts. A tiny nothing event doesn’t necessitate making opponents. An Olympic final does- as a triathlete you may choose to have competitors for the swim and bike, and then opponents on the run.

Cultivate your fellow competitors to help you in defeating your opponents. When the time is right for you, change your mindset and prepare to deal with your opponents in a subtle yet respectful manner. If you treat someone as an opponent too much or at the wrong times, they will cease to see you as a competitor and only an opponent.

A very important consideration in this is that the collective memory of a group, whether parents, spectators, collection of competitors, etc. can also label you as an opponent and this is not a good thing.

While you may be able to handle one or two opponents at a time, maybe even three, the social policing in a group may have the entire field viewing you as an opponent. This is a huge threat to your ability to compete to win as there is no way you can overcome so many individuals working together against you.

As an aside, if you can battle the entire field at an event, you were already outclassing your competition and you should be seeking out more suitable competitions and competitors, go pick on someone your own size!

Beforeand after an event  is not the time to recognize opponents. The sports ‘arena’ defines where opponents are found, nothing else.

Always respect that Olympic and World champions know when, how and who to make competitors into opponents.


Friday May 21, 10

Here’s something for you to integrate into your mental training / technical preparation during training and competitions. For lack of a better word, we’ll call it transitioning. Similar to T1 and T2 transitions in triathlon, it defines anytime you have to change from one technique or skill to another.

Ideally, we want to make transitioning as smooth and as effective as possible. To do this you need to know when to begin preparing for your transition. If you wait too long you risk technical mistakes that can cost you time (i.e. turns in the pool), put you at risk (i.e. corner in cycling) or result in missed opportunities (i.e. surfing waves in a surfski, an acceleration to pick up a good draft on the bike or swim). If you begin transitioning too early, the second skill may be inappropriate for your current needs.

What we will work on is taking two separate skills and learning how to prepare for transitioning at the right time and the right place. Each skill will be unique in this way and influenced by your local environment (i.e. weather, terrain, other athletes, fatigue, etc.).

Early on in skill acquisition, every skill is considered as a unique process. Eventually we want to merge skills into a ‘complex’ of multiple overlapping skills. For example, think about pushing off the wall at the start of a fast 100. Run it through in your head then read on…

In this example, swimmers with less experience processes the push off the wall into a streamline kick then into free swimming in discrete steps;

  1. stand at wall
  2. time to go
  3. get feet on wall
  4. push off wall
  5. stop pushing off wall
  6. get in streamline position
  7. begin kick
  8. stop kick
  9. stop streamline
  10. begin swimming

As a swimmer acquires more experience, transitioning between steps 1-7 becomes a smoother, more efficient push off into a skill ‘complex‘ which is more like this;

  1. anticipate time to go by lifting feet up into place and dropping head, shoulders and hips ready to leave wall at correct time, with hips, shoulder, head and arms already in streamline position
  2. push off wall into streamline position while stabilizing core / torso ready to engage kick
  3. engage kick to full effectiveness through first breakout strokes
  4. from breakout strokes initiate breathing and correct technique for distance and effort required
  • all while focusing on technical cues from coach!

While this is a simple example familiar to many, it can also be applied in turns, coming back along a line of riders in a paceline to take your turn at the back.

Some key areas in triathlon this can make a huge difference are open water starts, sighting, turns, T1 and T2, changing gears on the bike, preparing for hill climbs, fast downhill descending, and so many more.

So, to take your skills to the next level by working on transitioning!

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.