BRITE COACHING

TRAIN SMART, CONQUER GOALS. Led by Christine Fletcher, Coach to Spirited Ultra-Endurance Athletes

THE TRAINING LOG

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As a coach to high achievers seeking ultra endurance dominance, the two most asked question I have for my athletes are, “how did you feel?” and “are you motivated to train?”

Sometime ago you signed up for an ultra endurance race, be it a triathlon, a cycling stage race, an adventure race or maybe an ultra-marathon. The nature of the race, doesn’t matter. The countdown to the race doesn’t matter. What does matters is that you had the desire, intention and discipline of doing that event well.  Over the winter months, you went through the motions of training letting the “auto-uploads” log your daily training, thought about a comment you could write but you’ll do it later or just allowed the numbers to speak for themselves assuming that was good enough. Life got full, time was precious and conditions were undesirable for you to find two minutes to write helpful observations in your training log. Winter training seemed to matter less to you. "Champions are built in the off-season” doesn’t apply to you.

The pivotal ingredients to becoming a better, stronger, faster and smarter athlete are daily reflections and the desire to train, full stopNumbers and data help us quantify the dancing body and thinking mind.

How an athlete resonates with the training process is far more important to potential progress than mailing in a half-baked effort. How an athlete applies each training experience to a future session or a target race is far more beneficial than coloring boxes green. Simply going through the physical motions is the perfect path to unpleasant plateaus and staleness.

Training logs are the window into an athlete's mind, heart, emotions, fears, desire, motivation and spirit. Since ultra-endurance athletes spend exhaustive amounts of financial, physical and emotional resources on and in their sport, finding two minutes every day to look inward and reflect seems like a worthy effort given the return on investment. The discipline and habit of logging notes after each session is incredibly more constructive use of time than that five minutes spent creating a social media post about your run stats or FTP results, which are Just Not That Interesting.

We lost a running legend last week, Sir Roger Bannister. Best be sure, Roger did not have a social media feed, an ANT+ Garmin nor any fancy training software. His access to training devices was minimal but his reflections on what it took to run a mile in 4 minutes or less was highly calculated with observations and self-awareness.  We can also be sure he was communicating daily with his mentors and coaches on how each session felt, how his body was recovering, how he was managing injuries and how he would apply his practices when it counts.

Have a look at an example of Bill Rodgers’ 1974 training log https://runningscience.co.za/elite-athletes-training-log/bill-rodgers/

“Leg a little achey.”

“I’m getting back up there!! Ya-hoo”

“Did not run twice today. Too tired.”

Sometimes a few simple words says it all. Sometimes a deep dive into the color is required.  Write whatever helps you express your experience succinctly and with insight. With this new age of smart devices, software programs, entertainment gaming and social media access, athletes tend to escape reflections with technology challenges, Zwift malfunctions, fallen GPS signals, dead batteries or syncing issues.

Knowing and understanding effort is invaluable to athletes seeking performance. Devices help us quantify what was already qualified. When we can accurately bring the two worlds together, we gain a deeper look into the complete experience.

Taking time to write your training observations opens doors not only for your coach to coach you with more insight and understanding of you as a human being with budding athletic potential and goals but it also engages you with the process towards excellence and personal greatness. To recognize, to be aware, to be present in the moment and to connect with the chain of events in a written format is a fundamental part of endurance training.

So I ask you, “How did that feel?” “What was your desire to train today?” Write it. Daily.

IT’S JUST NOT THAT INTERESTING

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What was once a new riveting way to connect and communicate is now very much commonplace. What was once a past time is now irresistible and addictive. Seeking attention and getting accolades feels so good. Checking your account likes and comparing it to others feels productive. But does it really? Is it real? Is your image sustainable? Is it helping you develop into the athlete you initially set out to become? Have you noticed a growing desire for likes on your activities? Do you think people care THAT much? What’s the purpose of being an avid SM poster?

Social media is certainly here to stay and how we use it can dramatically affect our true experience with sport, training sessions, race performances and setting expectations.  Crafty titles on Strava or training selfies occasionally have a time and place, however, one need only observe accomplished and high level performers – elite or Olympic level athletes or business influencers – to notice that their messages are vastly different from the average Joe. They come from a place of passion and perseverance with a confident and sometimes vulnerable voice. Rarely would one sense any form of self-pimping, self-seeking or self-deprecating meaning from true leaders and achievers. What can we glean from them?

As written about this past summer, perseverance comes from passion. When pursued with internal motivation and drive vs. external accolades or attention seeking posts, people (everyone’s included) open space to experience fully the path they are on and the obstacles they will encounter. When all you think about is the title of your next Strava post or your photo shopped post-run Instagram the intention has been lost entirely.

From a coaching standpoint, social media has zero bearing on how an athlete is doing in the larger context of goals. What matters to a coach is rarely, if ever, going to show up on social media. 

So what does matter?

What matters is how an athlete truly feels in mind and body be it energy, sleep, motivation to train, fears, mind games, disruption to schedule, accountability, compliance, consistency, willingness to go deep, and injury resistance.  The juicy details are difficult to articulate because you must look under the hood vs. living on dopamine hits every 5 minutes. What matters takes thought and deep cognitive energy.  

Here’s what we all know to be true…

When the gun goes you are the only one on the line. No followers, no cheerleaders, no arch nemesis. It is only after the gun goes when athletes realize how well prepared they are for the mental fortitude required to give their best effort on the day that counts. Imagine dedicating your entire social media time and creative title crafting to mentally preparing for race day and execution planning? Imagine the possibilities.

Let social media serve you instead of hold you hostage. Far more inspiring and admirable are athletes that post to help others, spread important messages or share real life experiences. Frankly, no one really cares that much about your watts, how far you ran or what ungodly hours you swim.  People care about authentic experiences that not only enriched your life but theirs too.

 

What's Your Word?

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A friend of mine asked me what my goals were for 2018.  She wisely suggested we write them out, put ourselves out there, make them sticky and give them life. Her note to me was heartfelt. It was only after much self reflection, awareness and inward observations that she did come up with her word to encapsulate her theme for 2018.  Everything would flow from that word, that essence, that feeling she wanted to create for herself day in, day out. 

 

 

Contemplations like this always make me think of Brite athletes as they diligently train for races, balance family, be responsible at work and nurture intimate relationships. How do we pull it all together? How do we create the life we truly want to live? How can we live out our passion while being there for all the special moments, meetings, celebrations and people in our lives?  How can we become more present for both our training and everything else that matters?  How can we commit to greatness and all the elements that are part of that ecosystem including failure and letting go? There may not be one simple answer but surely connecting to an essence, a purpose and perhaps a word will set us on our way. 

 

If we do nothing else in the early days of 2018, we can at least ask ourselves how we can BE more vs. DO more. So may I ask you, what is your word(s)?

 

"We are far more than what we do...we need to be more...more authentic...more honest...more present...more grounded...let the doing flow from there. When that happens extraordinary things happen." - Dr. Michael Gervais, Sports Psychologist and Entrepreneur (Compete to Create).

 

Productive Failure & Excellence

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Athletes~

Today focuses on two areas that were swirling in my head whilst on a bike ride. Typically ideas are generated from recent athlete interactions, performance observations, training peaks logs or my own experiences. Hopefully you resonate with one of the paragraphs below.

PRODUCTIVE FAILURE

In theoretical terms, I have always understood that when things don’t go to “plan” there are always lessons to take away from it. You’ve been told by many that failure is the best way to learn. But isn’t that true only if we actually understand the lesson and apply it? If you are one of the lucky few that never repeat mistakes twice, I commend you. The failure-lesson paradigm suggests we make smarter decisions and choose differently based on our “failed” experience. 

It’s only when my hair started to turn grey that this “failure as growth” concept started to really sink in at a deeper level. I get it now. Applied to athletics, true learning, authentic skill development and fitness gains come almost exclusively from intense struggle, discomfort and failure. You can apply this anyway you want and you will this is in fact true. 

I was reading about a world class surfer - Nic Lamb. Surfing is a skill and sport I admire and would surely fail at numerous times before competency was even a consideration. He talked about seeking waves that scare him, stepping outside his comfort zone and getting comfortable being uncomfortable.  His mindset is “the opposite of complacency.”  Times when Lamb is supremely challenged (and maybe fails at an attempt) are the most valuable. He is stressed physically and psychologically which magnify areas he needs to work on. 

Another term for all this is called Productive Failure - be highly challenged, maybe fail, examine the problem, figure out a solution, improve next time, acquire the new skill. 

Great quote by Vern Gambetta, one of USA’s top track and field coaches:

"if you fail, fail forward, get up and keep moving. No need to try harder, try different but keep trying.”

EXCELLENCE

Here we are in the thick of the summer. Athletes are racing ferociously, training intently and maybe getting a bit obsessive about having everything just "so”.  Perfection, to me, is frustrating.  Excellence is a great substitute for perfectionists. Excellence means you are doing your best right now. Excellence means you are accepting yourself (your performance, your watts, your pace, your speed) whether or not you are achieving said “outcome.” 

Focusing on excellence is hard work, takes focus and may never get easier.  So maybe the real question is about your ability to excel? How good can you be? How fast can you become? How happy can you live? How responsible? How cultural? How healthy? How authentic? How humble? How evolved? 

TRAINING & RACING in the HEAT

Forecast looks warm for this weekend. Pay careful and close attention to your heat regulation & dissipation, hydration, and output. For those of you racing, keep in mind that by continually cooling the body, you will optimize blood flow to the gut to digest calories as well as to the working muscles to maintain workload. The key is to manage your heat load throughout the day. 

Be the one to take the sponge and ice from aid stations. Wear and re-apply sunscreen (in hair too) - this can be a life saver. Use cool water on muscles, armpits, hands and groin. Keep hands cool by carrying ice or a sponge. Did anyone see Jan Frodeno dunk his entire head in the ice bucket at an aid station in Kona? When asked about how he manages heat in the marathon:

"Walking through aid stations. And taking in heaps and heaps and heaps of liquid. Even stopping at one or the other ice boxes and throwing sponges over myself.”

When recounting his race, he gave much credit to his habit of walking through many aid stations on the run. He explained that slowing down to take in the hydration and nutrition and letting his core temperature cool down was just like his Olympic distance days when he trained running speed intervals on the track.

 

 

Athletic Success

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Athletes~

 

You can expect another two or three emails like this - athlete-centric and performance-based - over the next 6 days. 

Then I’ll spare you all more emails however I do hope you can all take away a nugget of information that sticks and helps ground you in the heat of the moment.

 

If you care to read or re-read any of last weeks’, please visit http://brite.coach/new-blog/ (People, Pods & Reads).

I continue to add more athletes to this list so please do visit my website for the back log of entries.

 

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Monday, July 24th

Athletic Success

The greatest challenge I face as a coach of endurance athletes is managing ‘athlete fatigue' levels and how it directly impacts and relates to consistency in training. What I have noticed is that athletes who successfully manage fatigue are more consistent with their training (and happier) and ultimately experience overall athletic success. By athletic success I mean their capacity to do the workouts as intended (volume and / or intensity) in training as well as having the ability to execute during races with a performance they are proud (usually fostered by confidence, self-belief and sans ego).

Whether your athletic career is built on the next 6 days, 6 weeks, 6 months or 6 years, every day presents an opportunity to develop constructive athletic behaviours. The ultimate goal is to manage the influx of stress load (fatigue) with sufficient recovery thereby allowing your true and honest fitness to rise (growth).

I’ll be brief on a few of the points that contribute to athletic success…

Chasing Fitness. 

Strava has really helps us out here, right? If you find yourself always chasing trophies, KOM’s or QOM’s, segment wins, personal bests in workouts or comparing yourself against “faster” athletes in a workout, save your energy. Rewards will be short-lived and completely delusional. If comparison is your game of choice, consider how little you truly know about that person and their training, athletic history, sleep patterns, life stressors, sacrifices, nutrition, family and genetics. Instead of chasing (that action alone is a stressor), focus on consistency in repeating efforts (back it up day in day out) and zooming out when the minutiae of irrelevant details cloud your vision. What actions, behaviours and efforts really affects your long-term goals? Focus there.

Training Partners. 

Choose your training partners wisely. Really consider who you are spending those long training hours with and what it is about them that brings out the best athletic behaviours in you. Think of the energy they create in your body and even in a group dynamic. Over the years, I have had a small handful of people would be considered as my go-to training partners. I gravitate to them because they are mentally strong, fun, can sometimes go with the flow, don’t race me and rarely try to change my focus for the day. In return, I offer them the same respect.  Whether we train side by side or just share the road together, we are in sync and equally committed to the work we have to do. 

Surround yourself by those that bring out the best in you. You will undoubtedly return the favour. 

Chasing Averages.

If you follow Hunter Allen’s Power-based Training Handbook to plan workouts or exclusively use numbers in the absence of what your body gives you on the day to direct your training (and then add 5-10% to the intensity), you will crack at some point.  This is speaking to those that use a power meter on their bike [or pace in running]. Prior to knowing what your average was for a ride or run, athletes tend to think they are always riding or running harder than they actually were. When we chase, our perception of effort is off kilter and usually inflated. 


This concept is especially important in racing longer endurance events. If you chase an average watt range (say 180-190watts), the majority of your ride will be well over that range and you’ll fail to notice the power spikes you are using to manipulate your average.  In other words, you are burning costly matches. At some point in the near future, your legs will shut off and watt averages won’t be the deciding factor for a performance.  I would rather hear you report that while your watts were steady, your perception of effort was much lower. That’s economy.

Use this week, to set up your devices so the readings give you all the information to mange your effort. Remove all the punchy, testing, ego driven spikes (unless they are planned into your training). Pay close attention to how you feel at what effort. Feel is an invaluable sensation…especially if the power meter drops out or garmin dies….the road is still there for you. The same road you may’ve ridden a billion times.

Be Deliberate.

Purpose feels good. Intention feels right. Very fit athletes have insatiable capacity to train a bit too hard. When done over and over and over, the recovery requirement increases dramatically and the training benefits are reduced significantly. 

If this is race week for you, your “training” is done. It’s time to let the fitness rise to the surface. If this is an important training block for you, color inside the lines of the workout, more is not always better. If you are recovering from a race, be deliberate with your recovery techniques. In all cases, your body will get stronger with consistency.

The final three points are maybe obvious but must be mentioned:
 

    • Sleep (see http://brite.coach/new-blog/20162017/047/0720/having-the-courage-to-rest). 

 

    • Life stress. Consciously choosing to do less in order to achieve more…thank you Seth Godin:

http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2017/01/more-and-less.html

http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2011/12/the-more-or-less-approach-to-getting-and-keeping-a-job.html

 

    • Nutrition. Eat real food with minimal ingredients.