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Most athletes base their goals around specific races. For some runners, it is about qualifying for the Boston Marathon. For others, it is simply setting a personal record at their local 5K or 10K.

However, one thing is certain when preparing for competition: every race is different. Some races feature challenging, tight turns while others challenge athletes with demanding uphills and downhills. There is nearly always a unique challenge athletes should spend time preparing for in training.

There is another unspoken truth in preparing for a running race: most training plans and structured workouts do not account for the unique challenges runners might encounter on race day. It can be difficult to find a training plan that is built to prepare you for a specific course. Instead, most training plans and workouts are simply designed to help you build the proper fitness in order to run the race distance. Proper fitness and conditioning can get the runner mostly ready for the race, but this is not the full solution to having a great race. A runner must develop course-specific skills so they can conquer the unique challenges that the course will throw at them.

Is there a solution?

The solution to building race-specific skills seems straightforward, right?

A runner should begin emulating and training in the exact conditions that they expect to see on race day if they want to be prepared. For example, if a runner expects a marathon course to contain rolling hills, they should plot out their long run to encounter more hills in training. If a runner expects tight turns in a course, they should begin to work that into their training routine, too.

While this solution will help prepare the runner for the course, it is likely pulling the runner away from their training plan and structured workouts. The training plan did not call for repeated hill running so the runner may be left wondering how to incorporate that into a comprehensive plan.

There may even be some risk involved because this additional effort could be adding too much additional training load on the body. Now, the runner is stuck in a tough situation. Do they try to prepare for the course by simulating race conditions or do they try to maximize their fitness by sticking to the training plan?

How to find the balance

There is a way to solve this dilemma. If the runner can comply to their structured workouts while still emulating race conditions, coaches can be confident that they are building the fitness and the skills necessary. An emerging solution to this problem might be running power.

Simply put, running power helps the runner normalize their effort under varying conditions. If a runner chooses to run by power, they can comply to their structured workouts while having the freedom to run on varying terrains.

Let’s take a look at how this works in practice:

First, a runner sets power-based training zones. This process is similar to establishing a set of pace-based zones or heart-rate zones. The principles of run power training should be familiar to anyone who does structured training.

Then, the runner sends a structured workout created on TrainingPeaks to either their Garmin watch or Apple Watch, using an app such as Stryd’s Apple Watch app. A workout may tell the runner to run 16 miles in an easy zone for their long run. Since the runner knows that they have a hilly race coming up, they may choose a route that features a lot of hills. The key difference is that, before running power, a runner may have had a difficult time staying in an easy pace-based zone on the hilly terrain. It is even challenging to use heart rate as a guide if the hills were rolling due to the delay between the runner’s effort and the heart rate value reflecting that change in effort. However, a runner using power could accurately maintain their effort in an easy zone.

What else can you do with run power?

Runners can easily extend the power-based training concept beyond hills, too. Let’s say we have a runner who is preparing for a race with many tight turns. They could emulate this challenge while performing a regularly scheduled interval-based workout. Choose a race level power target for the workout and set up cones to emulate a turn in a race. As the runner slows during a tight corner, they can use their power as a guide to quickly get back to the right intensity and stay compliant to the workout.

This training strategy helps during race day, too. Runners typically slow down and may struggle to find rhythm leaving a tight turn, but training with power helps them learn how to recover and maintain their pace.

In conclusion, structured training is key to achieve proper fitness. However, you do not need to sacrifice structured training when building race-specific skills. As you have likely experienced from your own racing, the unique challenges presented by a course can be endless, and runners will have no issue meeting these challenges if they are willing to design their structured training around these constraints. Running power is a great tool to balance both fitness and skill development when preparing for challenging race conditions.

The post How to use run power for race-specific training appeared first on TrainingPeaks.

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Anyone who has stood at a starting line knows how important confidence can be for athletes embarking on a difficult race. But, as a coach, how do you help instill that confidence in your athletes before race day?

Dr. Nicole Adams has wrestled with that question much of her career as an endurance coach, sports psychologist consultant, and an athlete. Adams recommends working with athletes to develop a healthy confidence, or self efficacy, based on training and preparation. Among other things, one of the tools discussed in this episode is a “confidence resume” or a list of all of the things an athlete has already accomplished in training that has prepared them for race day. 

Stand-out Quotes

“I prefer to think of confidence as a sense of calm, a sense of optimism, but most importantly, confidence is about focusing on the process.”“So instead of trying to have this undefined feeling and aura about you that’s, kind of, this puffed up chest beating, ego-driven confidence, [focus] on the process and [focus] on aspects of your race or your sport that you are in control of.”“As humans, we’re so results-oriented, we’re so outcome-oriented that sometimes we forget that we’re doing this as a hobby that’s something we love. It’s supposed to be fun. And, when you approach a race with the mindset that [you’ve] done the work [you] need to do, [you’re] going to execute to the best of [your] ability in every moment, you really open the door for enjoyment.”

Resources

Surviving the Extremes: What Happens to the Body and Mind at the Limits of Human Endurance by Kenneth KamlerWay of the Peaceful Warrior: A Book That Changes Lives by Dan MillmanPeakSports.com with Dr. Patrick CohnTriathlonMentalCoach.comCSNAthlete.com

Episode Transcript

Introduction:               

On today’s episode of the TrainingPeaks CoachCast, your source for the latest information about the art, science and business of coaching. Are you pushing your athletes to develop their confidence just like their fitness? Maybe it’s time to help them build a confidence resume.

Dave Schell:                 

Hey guys, Dave Schell here. And, on this episode of the TrainingPeaks CoachCast, I sat down with Dr. Nicole Adams. Nicole is a sports psychologist and mental skills coach. We discussed how you can help your athletes build confidence through practice it in training, reflecting on past wins and building a confidence resume. Hope you enjoy.

Dave Schell:                 

Welcome to the TrainingPeaks CoachCast. I am your host Dave Schell and today I am joined by Nicole Adams. Nicole is a coach and a sport psychology consultant. And today we are going to talk about confidence. Nicole, thanks for joining us.

Nicole Adams:              

Thank you so much for having me. It’s a pleasure to be with you today.

Dave Schell:                 

So before we get into talking about confidence and more specifically athlete confidence, can you just tell us a little bit about yourself and your background in sports psychology?

Nicole Adams:              

Yes, definitely. Um, well just to kind of start from the beginning. Um, I was born in South Africa and my family moved to Canada in 1988 where I completed most of my education, but actually came to the United States for my graduate degree and landed myself up in Texas, which is my home, which I very much love. Um, and so here I’m at Texas Tech, I completed a degree in sports psychology, um, under, educational psychology and began working as a coach about eight years ago. Um, so I both coach athletes and do sports psychology consulting and I’m really just, just absolutely love what I do. So, uh, that’s a little bit of a background as to how I got to where I am.

Dave Schell:                 

And so you have your doctorate in educational psychology?

Nicole Adams:              

Yes, that’s correct. So, um, the doctorate has a focus obviously on the educational side and since so much of the research in sports really came out of education, um, it’s really sort of the perfect marriage of the two. Um, you know, if the two sides of sports psychology, which is coming at it from the educational research side, which is where I came from, was very much from educational research and applying it to sport.

Dave Schell:                 

What was it that got you interested in studying psychology?

Nicole Adams:              

Yes. Well, um, you know, I, first of all, so do to give you a little bit of background. Um, I grew up with parents who are both runners. Um, they picked up running kind of in the mid-thirties when there was really a big running boom ind South Africa. And they quickly graduated from running, you know, 5 and 10ks up to ultra marathons. So I was always really fascinated by, um, my parents’ involvement in running and how they, uh, neither of them were very athletic as kids. In fact, they very unathletic and, um, my dad was a smoker, so, uh, you know, so that was sort of like coming from a very different background. Um, but you know, growing up with my parents being so involved in running and especially ultra marathoning, which is sort of a different sport, all its own, I’ve always had this interest in performance in sport and was always very, you know, just very into sport itself. And then, um, long story short, I picked up triathlon in my mid, early to mid twenties, and, um, I did short-distance triathlon for a few years and then really got bit by the IRONMAN bug. And so a friend that I was training with at the time. Um, she knew that I was going into my first IRONMAN. She was a seasoned veteran at IRONMAN and I really looked up to her. Um, I think she could sense that I was, I was really awed by IRONMAN and, and, and very nervous about it. Um, you know, you’re never really do the full distance in training, so there’s that massive unknown going into an IRONMAN or going into any sporting event of that magnitude. And so she kind of picked up on this, you know, Nicole’s really nervous about this race and she shared with me, um, uh, really kind of life changing, uh, article. It was written by Mark Allen. So this is, this is really some years ago because this is 2004. So I think that it was, you know, written for, uh, either XTri.com or InsideTriathlon one of the magazines at the time. And, um, it was five tips on being mentally prepared for IRONMAN. And I had never really seen IRONMAN or sporting event of that magnitude written about in a way that seemed manageable, that seemed, you know, that that just a regular old sort of age group athlete could, you know, could really, um, get, get into the sport and not be overcome by nerves and overtaken by this, you know, the magnitude of the event and really sort of some very practical tips on how to think about your race that wasn’t going to completely overwhelm you. And so reading that article, you know, that was shared by this friend of mine totally changed my perspective on what it means to go into an event like this and to feel a sense of confidence or a sense of calm that was very practical. And, and so it really kind of sparked my interest in studying sports psychology because I realized, you know, this is more than just sort of a more than just theory, there was something really practical behind this. And so from that, from that moment on, it really got the gears turning for me. At the time I was working, I was, I had left undergrad, I had been working for several years, but had always wanted to go back to graduate school and, and um, this really sparked a, you know, sparked my interest in and allowed me to find my calling.

Dave Schell:                 

That’s great. And I think you bring up such a good point. There’s, I mean, even today, like anytime I work with an athlete that’s doing a first IRONMAN, there is so much nerves. And I would say, especially for the swim, if you walk around the transition area the morning of a race, you just hear so many people saying, “if I survived the swim.” And so as a sports psychologist or a consultant with that or with your own athletes, how do you address something like that for the swim specifically?

Nicole Adams:              

That is such a great question. Um, and I will put myself, you know, directly into that category as well. I was not a swimmer. My background was very far from swimming. Um, I came from a running background. So swimming to me was such an unknown. And in fact, my very first IRONMAN was an ocean swim. It was IRONMAN Brazil. Yes. I had no clue what I was getting myself into. Um, you know, something about a lake, it seems like sort of this closed body of water where somebody could find you if you needed to be found, but that now as certainly, um, you know, I think the swim really does conjure up a lot of nerves, because again, it just seems like a massive unknown. And, um, you know, I think that, uh, one of the biggest things that I try to help my athletes focus on is number one, the work that they’ve put in to get there, you know, call recalling all the hours and the yards in the pool. And, you know, hopefully they’ve had a chance to do some open water swimming as well. And, you know, recalling experiences they’ve had, um, in open water swimming where they were able to, you know, complete a certain distance in an open water swim or, um, being able to sort of be calmly in the water and, you know, just sort of take care of their own little bit of space. And, um, you know, one of the biggest things that I emphasize with athletes, especially those who are newer to the sport, is find yourself a starting position that’s a little away from the melee of people. Um, you know, you don’t necessarily need to line up in the very front group where, um, you know, you might have some more, um, sort of more aggressive, swimmers who are perhaps lifetime swimmers who, um, you know, intend to go out with a sprint and kind of cruise on from there. I really emphasize to them, you know, find yourself a spot a little bit further back where you have a little bit of your own open water and, um, and then you can sort of control, you know, control your first few strokes. You can control how, um, you know, how you ease into the swim. Um, take a little bit of that, you know, the unknowns out of the equation. In other words, not putting yourself directly into the, you know, the front group in the front melee of swimmers. Let them go off and do their thing. Let them blaze the trail for you and you can follow along. Um, you know, if you wait 20 seconds for that front group to get away from you, that’s perfectly okay. That’s 20 seconds you can make up at some other point in the race when it’s calm and when, when things are under your control.

Dave Schell:                 

Right. Yeah, that’s, and I would have to imagine that it also might have a positive impact of if you’re starting to catch swimmers. So maybe you start a little bit behind, but then as you’re warming up and start to catch some of those swimmers that helps build that confidence.

Nicole Adams:              

Without a doubt, you know, allowing yourself to kind of warm up and ease into your race and then just gradually pull the pack back and 9.9 times out of 10. That’s exactly what happens.

Dave Schell:                 

That’s great. So you had mentioned, um, that in Mark Allen’s article just about building confidence. And so when you think about confidence, how would you define it? When it applies to sport?

Nicole Adams:              

Yes. Such an excellent question. Um, you know, first I think we have a perception that confidence is the sort of gift bestowed on us for, for, you know, something that we deserve, a gift that we’re given for, for, you know, talent or, um, you know, whatever, you know, whatever you might want to call it. But that really makes it sort of this intangible, you know, unattainable state of mind. Um, I prefer to think of confidence as a sense of calm, a sense of optimism, but most importantly, confidence is about focusing on the process. So instead of trying to have this sort of, you know, undefined feeling and aura about you that’s, you know, kind of this puffed up, you know, chest, chest beating, um, you know, ego-driven confidence. In fact, confidence is really about focusing on the process and focusing on aspects of your race or your sport that you are in control of.

Dave Schell:                 

We were just talking a little bit about the, those athletes who are worried about starting the swim. So obviously it seems like there’s lots of athletes that maybe lack that confidence. And why do you suppose that is?

Nicole Adams:              

Yes. You know, I think first of all, um, you know, they’re not necessarily sure what’s involved in actually accomplishing this task, especially if you’re new to the sport. The, the idea of a swim, you know, swimming in a body of water surrounded by, um, you know, surrounded by 500 of your fellow athletes or even if you’re in a wave starts, you know, surrounded by 40 to 100 of your fellow athletes can seem incredibly unusual and, um, just difficult to even wrap your head around. So, you know, what I emphasize is first of all, um, you know, thinking about the things that you can do to warm up for, for the swim starts, you know, if that means taking a little jog around, transition, getting your heart rate up and um, you know, kind of getting, getting some of those more nervous breaths under control, that’s one aspect of it. And then another aspect is, is just focusing on the, um, the process and the technique involved, you know, focus on how you want your stroke to feel. How do you want to pace your swim? Do you want it to feel easier at the start and then steadily work up into a rhythm, uh, you know, focus on how you’ll breathe. Will you try to breathe every, um, you know, every other stroke so that you get plenty of oxygen? Um, you know, at first you’re one to get lots of oxygen in. And as you kind of calm down and, and develop a more steady rate, um, you can probably breathe bilaterally, you know, breathe every three strokes. So, you know, focus on those process aspects of the swim and less on the, um, the fears and, and, you know, one of the tricks that I was taught that I think is incredibly helpful is to just count your strokes, you know, distract yourself from the, um, the nerves and, and the magnitude of what’s going on. And just bring it down to the most basic of aspects of swimming, which is counting every stroke. And that seems to kind of focus the mind on something practical and, and most importantly, just keeps you in the moment. You’re not thinking ahead, you’re not thinking too, um, you know, what comes after the swim. You’re just thinking about every moment, every next stroke.

Dave Schell:                 

That’s some really great advice. It’s kind of easy to think about that with the swim. So how might you apply that same technique to cycling or running?

Nicole Adams:              

Yes, absolutely. So, um, you know, on the bike you’re going to have similar types of cues that you’re going to want to focus on. So your confidence is really coming from, um, you know, the training sessions that you’ve done leading into a race where you’ve practiced your pacing, your efforts, practiced your nutrition, you’ve practiced how you want that race day of feel. So you’re going to keep coming back to those same thoughts, which is, you know, am I, am I pedaling smoothly? What kind of cadence am I looking for here today? What’s my optimal race cadence? And ideally, you’re going to have some sort of a number, whether it be an average heart rate or an average power, um, that you’re going to just loosely focus your efforts on. As we know, you know, those numbers, we can’t be a slave to our numbers, but our numbers certainly give us a good range for what’s appropriate for race day. Um, you know, one of the tricks I tell my athletes is to, um, is to run their computers on average power for the first say, um, you know, 20 to 40 minutes on the bike. So they get an idea of where they’re averaging that gives them, um, you know, that gives them sort of a good effort to, to base the first, you know, the first half of the ride on. And so again, you’re bringing it down to the process, which is, um, you know, focus on my cadence, focus on how this should feel. I, in the beginning of the ride, I should really feel, you know, sort of that easy to steady feeling. I shouldn’t be digging deep right now. Um, and then really, really important is keeping your mind constantly on when am I taking my next fuel? Or when am I taking my carbs? When am I taking my water? When am I taking my salt? So that you’re breaking that bike course down into small chunks of, you know, sort of manageable tasks for, and you’re going to be doing something every 5 to 10 minutes. So it doesn’t really allow you a lot of time to think ahead. You’re really taking care of, you know, taking care of yourself in the here and now. And, and similarly, similarly for the run, um, you know, same type of thing when, when an athlete, um, you know, comes out of transition and they’ve got their running shoes on, the first thing they’re going to want to think about is what’s my effort? What kind of an effort do I need to have at this point in the race in order to ensure that I build and build and build and get stronger. So instead of thinking of, you know, oh, I really want to beat “X” time today, or I really want to beat “X” athlete today, you’re bringing it to a personal and internal level, which is what kind of effort do I need to be putting out right now in order to build and stay strong over the course of the run? And of course the other side of that is what kind of fueling do I need to, um, you know, take care of at each aid station. I need to have a plan. Plan out exactly what I’ll do as I arrive at each aid station and, and have it all mapped out for yourself. Um, you know, and thinking of it that way really helps you to again, stay in the moment and really not worry about the outcome or the result of it, but instead just executing the best you can in each moment.

Dave Schell:                 

And so as a coach yourself, is this something that you have your athletes practice in training?

Nicole Adams:              

Yes, absolutely. Um, you know, we do, um, a certain number of workouts kind of throughout their build that, that um, you know, really are sort of a, um, a test run if you will, um, for a key race. So, um, you know, especially workouts that kind of stretch them a little bit. Um, you know, I’ll really, um, really encourage them to think about those process aspects that would apply well in racing. Um, so in those key workouts, you know, they may be, um, working hard physically, but at the same time they’re mentally staying focused in the moment and what they need to take care of in each moment to ensure that they finished that workout strong, that they come out of that workout feeling like, you know, they could have even done more at the end. I don’t necessarily need them to be emptying the tank. Um, you know, I want them to finish those workouts, feeling a sense of confidence about having executed to the best of their ability. So we do a lot of, you know, kind of focus on execution and, um, they get tired of hearing this. I know I sound like a nag, but it’s constantly, it’s pacing, pacing, pacing, nutrition, nutrition, nutrition. And so that’s really ingrained in them throughout their workouts. And then it’s something that they easily translate into racing.

Dave Schell:                 

So talk to me a little bit about, um, building a confidence resume.

Nicole Adams:              

Yes. Um, so this is, uh, what I think is just a really awesome technique. Um, taught by Dr. Patrick Cohn who’s, um, who has PeakSports.com. Um, Dr. Cohn came up with this notion of writing a confidence resume, which, you know, as the word suggests, a resume is sort of like an accounting of what you’ve done. It’s an accounting of, um, you know, if, uh, if it’s something for your career, it’s, it’s giving people a picture of, of what your career looks like. Your confidence resume is similar. Um, and, and it’s for you, it’s for you only. You write it for yourself. You’re, you’re really recounting all of the work that put in to get to where you are. Each of the key aspects of your training that the boxes that you’ve ticked off. Um, you’ve done your bricks, you’ve done your long rides, you’ve done your long runs and you’ve executed your long swims as necessary. You’ve thrown in a little bit of speed work where necessary. Um, and then the other really important things, um, you know, taking care of all the little aspects, your nutrition, your recovery, so your, your confidence resume is going to list out, you know, after each of my long runs I took in the correct recovery nutrition after each of my long rides, I foam rolled. I, um, you know, I got my massage, you know, once every other week. Um, and then another aspect of it would be your mental preparation. And so in that confidence resume you’re going to write, um, I practiced staying in the moment during my hard workouts or, um, you know, I brought myself after a tough workout that didn’t go the way I wanted it to. I manage to get over that quickly and get onto the next workout the next day. So it’s kind of highlighting all of the things that you’ve done and you’ve accomplished throughout your training. Um, and, and you know, it’s something that you write down. You literally, you know, I like handwriting. I think when you hand write things that really commits at nicely to memory. So write it in your own handwriting and, and reread it. Um, you know, especially say the two weeks leading into a race that’s like your, it’s like your mantra. It’s something you’re going to reread multiple times to keep reminding yourself of all the hard work you’ve put in. And then one last aspect aspect to that I, I encourage athletes to do is to let their spouse or their parents or their coach even contribute some points to their confidence resume. And the reason for that is that so often we overlook our own greatest strengths. We seem to focus on, uh, you know, we seem to focus on certain things, but we really do forget some of our greatest strengths. And our, our support system is there to remind us of those things.

Dave Schell:                 

I absolutely love that and I’m going to steal it. And one idea that kind of popped into my head and I’m, I’m currently coaching somebody to their first IRONMAN and we talked about special needs bags and maybe having a note from, um, a loved one or a friend in your special needs bag to help get you, you know, halfway through the marathon or something like that. And so now I love this idea of the confidence resume where maybe you have that in your special needs bag if you have to kind of go to that well. Such a great idea.

Nicole Adams:              

And further to that, I have an athlete who has two teenage daughters and her daughters think that she is just, uh, they look up to her, you know, as, as being this incredible role model, especially since she’s doing this really, really cool sport that most people think is nuts. Um, so her daughters, write on little little post cards and um, when she packs her gear to go off for a race, she’ll be unpacking her bags and you know, stuffed between like her race kits or whatever. She’ll pull out a little posted note or a postcard written by her daughters. And the look of joy on her face is a little, things like that make an enormous difference to an athlete.

Dave Schell:                 

I can imagine. That’s wonderful. So this is like, I love this. But on the other side of that, is there any value in dealing with adversity and having some of that hardship to help to build up your confidence?

Nicole Adams:              

Oh, tremendously. Um, you know, obviously a really big part of confidence is sort of having the positives and the strengths and um, you know, knowing you’ve done the work and you’ve had these great workouts, however, confidence really becomes robust when you have had to overcome some, some adversity, which every single person, um, you know, has had something in their lives that’s tested them. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be in the sport itself. Obviously when it’s something you’ve overcome in the sport, it is, it’s incredibly helpful. You know, um, how many people have had a flat tire, you know, in a race? And, and in fact, Mark Allen referred to this in his article. He said, what is a flat tire mean in the middle of a race? All it means is that you have to change a tire. It doesn’t mean your race is over. It doesn’t mean you’re the worst triathlete to ever do the sport. It just means you’ve got to change a tire. So, um, you know, drawing on, um, drawing on things, you know, whether it’s a mistake or whether it’s something that was out of your control that’s happened, remembering that you overcame that and adding that to your confidence resume. You know, something along the lines of remember that day when I just felt absolutely terrible in the middle of my long ride and I stopped on the side of the road and I sat there and I thought about my life for 15 minutes, but you know what? I got back on the bike and I completed the ride. That’s huge. Um, you know, nobody that I know of has been able to complete an entire triathlon without having some low moments. And so knowing, knowing that those low moments can occur, but the only thing that you need to worry about is just putting one foot in front of the other and picking yourself back up and keep going because that low moment is going to end. It’s, you know, those tough moments, will have their time, but as long as you keep focused on the here and now and especially keep focused on what can you do in the next moment. Um, so often that’s nutrition related. I find, you know, take in a little bit extra carbs, take in a little bit of salt, take in a little bit of water, um, you know, and pick yourself up and slowly start kind of gaining your momentum again.

Dave Schell:                 

So, beyond just getting the athlete through a race successfully, what other kind of positive impacts can have in confidence have?

Nicole Adams:              

Yes. You know, I think that confidence, this type of confidence, you know, confidence that’s really based on, uh, you know, all the work that you’ve done to prepare and, you know, the, the miles that you’ve done to prepare to get to where you are, racing with that mindset really allows you to, to really enjoy the sport. Um, you know, there’s so much enjoyment to be had when athletes uncouple their self image from their results. Um, I think that we as, whether it’s just, you know, athletes of this nature or, or just as, as humans, you know, we’re so results-oriented, we’re so outcome-oriented that sometimes we forget that we’re doing this as a, as a hobby that’s, you know, something we love. It’s, it’s supposed to be fun. And when you approach a race with the mindset that, you know, I’ve done the work I need to do, I’m going to execute to the best of my ability in every moment, you really kind of open the door for enjoyment. And not just enjoyment, but really long-term engagement in the sport. Because ultimately, you know, I think one gets the most out of the sport when you do it for many, many years because there are so many pieces of the puzzle to figure out and triathlon, you need a lot of, you know, you need a lot of bites at the apple to really feel like you’re on top of it. And, um, so, you know, my hope is that with athletes approaching racing with this type of confidence in mind that they’ll actually get more enjoyment and do it for longer.

Dave Schell:                 

Very cool. Before I let you go, I’m just curious, do you have any other, um, resources if a coach wanted to learn more about, um, either sports psychology or Dr. Patrick Cohn. Do you have any resources there that they could seek out?

Nicole Adams:              

Yes, absolutely. So they should definitely look up Dr. Cohn’s website. Um, it’s PeakSports.com. He’s got just a wealth of resources there. Um, and then, you know, there’s some great books out there. I mean, there is a wealth of literature out there. Um, but, you know, some of my favorite books that I, that really kind of opened my mind to, um, to this type of confidence, you know, confidence that’s calm and optimistic and focusing on the process. Um, one of the books is, um, called “Surviving the Extremes” by Kenneth Kammler. Uh, just a fascinating, um, you know, fascinating kind of recount of, um, athletes who’ve survived some extreme situations, you know, whether it be by design or by accident. Um, that’s a really good one. And then, um, the author Dan Millman, who has written several great books, one of them is “The Way of the Peaceful Warrior.” Um, that’s also, an excellent book to kind of open, open your mind to, um, you know, to looking at confidence differently. Um, and then, you know, not everybody has access, but if you are, um, you know, near to your closest college library or something like that, you know, go and see if you can research some of the, um, you know, the academic research in sports psychology specifically about confidence. And in the sports psychology field, um, we often speak about confidence as self efficacy. Um, the reason being that, you know, the word confidence is really difficult to define. But if you research under self efficacy, you’ll find just a wealth of, um, you know, wealth of information with regards to really practical things that athletes can do to increase their sense of efficacy, to increase their belief in their ability to master, um, you know, master tasks. And so those are just some of the, the ideas that they can look into.

Dave Schell:                 

Fantastic. And what if they had a question for you specifically, would you, could they hit you up on Twitter or Instagram?

Nicole Adams:              

Um, I’m not super active on social media, but I would absolutely love, I would love if they would contact me through one or two of my websites. They can find CNSathlete.com or they can find me at TriathlonMentalCoach.com.

Dave Schell:                 

Fantastic. And we’ll link to that in the show notes as well.

Nicole Adams:              

Wonderful. And I look forward to hearing from anybody. Questions, discussion. I’m open to it.

Dave Schell:                 

Awesome. Well, thank you very much for your time. I certainly learned a lot and looking forward to hearing more from you at this year’s Endurance Coaching Summit.

Nicole Adams:              

Wonderful. Thanks so much for having me, Dave. I appreciate it.

Dave Schell:                 

Right. Take care of Nicole.

Nicole Adams:              

You too!

Dave Schell:                 

Hey, guys. Dave here again, and I hope you enjoyed my talk with Dr. Nicole Adams. Nicole will be speaking at this year’s Endurance Coaching Summit. So if you want to hear more, use the code “CoachCast20” to take 20 percent off your in-person or online registration. Until next time.

The post CoachCast: Building Confidence with Nicole Adams appeared first on TrainingPeaks.

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Among the athletes I coach is Bob, a 52-year-old runner whose BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) is to run the Boston Marathon. To get there, Bob will need to complete a qualifying event in less than 3 hours and 30 minutes. His current PR for the distance, which he set recently under my guidance, is 4:37:55.

“Just a bit outside,” as Bob Uecker might say.

Yet when Bob first shared his BHAG with me and asked if I thought it was possible, I told him “yes.” What’s more, I believe that every coach—including you—should give the same answer whenever an athlete articulates a long-term goal that seems unattainable.

Here’s why:

1) No one really knows what’s possible

Athletes do things that are considered impossible all the time. Famous examples like the once daunting and now ho-hum four-minute mile come to mind immediately, but there’s also an infinite number of everyday examples. Heck, I have done things as an athlete that, even as a knowledgeable student of endurance sports, I thought I couldn’t, like smashing an eight-year-old marathon PR at age 46 in my 41st attempt at the distance.

We’ve all heard stories of athletes who achieve something special and afterward call out a former coach for telling them they could never do what they eventually accomplished. How would you like to be one of those called-out coaches? The surest way to avoid such infamy is not to pretend you know what the limit of any athlete’s potential is—because you don’t.

2) In most cases it does no harm and some good to pursue “impossible” long-term goals

What happens when a runner who is genetically incapable of ever achieving a Boston Marathon qualifying time for his or her age group sets a long-term goal to do just that? In my experience, the runner works really hard and consistently to improve and eventually becomes the best runner he or she can be without ever qualifying for Boston. In other words, setting impossible long-term goals is usually good for an athlete’s development—not bad.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that athletes should set impossible long-term goals. But, any athlete whose underlying ambition is to realize 100 percent of his or her potential should at least set goals that are at the lofty end of realistic, because that’s how human motivation works.

Short-term goals are another matter. Athletes who set an impossible goal for their next race tend to overtrain or race too aggressively, and end up performing beneath their current capacity. Short-term goals should be challenging but realistic.

3) Cultivating belief is an important part of a coach’s job

Basketball coach Billy Donovan once said, “Believe in your system and then sell it to your players.” This is good advice, because performance always follows belief.

It’s not enough to give your athletes good training. They will compete far more successfully if you’re able also to get your athletes to believe their training is good, fostering expectations of success through this and other means.

Every athlete, from the least gifted to the most, has limits. That’s no reason to emphasize them. If you want to get the most out of your athletes (and I hope you do!), focus on what they can and could do in your interactions with them, not on what you think they can’t do.

Now, you should never lie to an athlete, and I’m not suggesting that. What I am suggesting is that you always put an optimistic spin on reality while discussing your clients’ goals and aspirations, because they will fulfill more of their limited potential if you do.

Conclusion

Let’s return to Bob, the 4:37 marathoner who dreams of running Boston. I will confess now that when Bob asked me if I thought this goal was possible for him, my answer went beyond a simple “yes.” Knowing that Bob himself recognized it was a long shot, I told him I thought so too. But, I also went on to say that every great athletic feat is a long shot, and there’s no telling how much he could improve if we both worked hard, took things one step at a time, and kept on believing. It was all true.

Make no mistake: I have no problem being the cold voice of reason when necessary, admonishing athletes for completing their recovery sessions too fast, or for skipping their drills, or for ignoring pain’s warnings. But, where their long-term goals are concerned, I prefer to take the attitude taken by Jim Carrey’s character in Dumb and Dumber when the girl he fancied rated his odds of winning her heart at one in a million.

“So you’re saying there’s a chance.”

I recommend you do the same.

The post What To Do When Your Athlete Sets An “Impossible” Goal appeared first on TrainingPeaks.

Try This Preseason Home Strength Workout for Triathletes

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We often think that strength training for triathlon requires heading to the gym, purchasing a laundry list of equipment, or finding space in your pain cave (or studio apartment). It can get quite overwhelming, but that doesn’t have to be the case.

I’ve worked with individuals from around the world to help get them out of pain and increase their performance, both in person and remotely. At first, coaching remotely proved to be challenging because not all gyms are easily accessible, they often lack important equipment, or they even lack the required space to get a proper workout in.

I’ve developed killer home workouts with just a few pieces of relatively cheap and easy-to-store equipment so your athletes can benefit from strength training at home. Here are my preferred home workout equipment and a workout routine that will cost athletes less than $150 and will take up no more space to store than a couple of pairs of boots.

The equipment

Here’s what athletes need to get started:

One to two kettlebellsStrength beginners should have an 8kg and 12kg kettlebellStrength intermediates should have a 12kg and 20kg kettlebellStrength advanced should have a 16kg and 24kg kettlebellOne three-foot-long (1 meter) foam rollerOne lacrosse ball or tennis ballSomething to lay on that will keep you from sliding like a beach towel or a yoga mat

If you’re on a tight budget, start out with just the lighter kettlebells and the foam roller. These will allow you to get a great workout while working on strength and balance until you can purchase the heavier kettlebell.

Choosing the lighter weight may seem unusual, but we need to keep in mind that the cornerstone of increased performance from weight training comes from increased inter and intramuscular coordination. In order to accomplish this, remember that joint position dictates muscle function. That means that great technique using tempo to work on refining technique will develop a stronger mind-muscle connection.

The workout

Dynamic warmup

Start by foam rolling your full body for five to seven minutes total.

Crocodile breathing: 5 breathsSide-lying windmill: 5 times each sideSofa stretch: 30 seconds each sideJump rope: 2×30 seconds using short, quick jumps

Strength training

A1. Kettlebell swings: 3×15 repetitionsA2. Bird dogs: 3×5 repetitions each side (finish 1 side, then the other)

B1. 2-1-1-1 goblet squats: 3×10 repetitionsB2. Reach, roll, lift: 3×5 repetitionsB3. One-arm kettlebell shoulder press: 3×5 repetitions each side

C1. Down dogs: 3×5-7 repetitionsC2. One-arm kettlebell rows: 3×6 repetitions each sideC3. Suitcase carries: 3×20 seconds each side

The movements

Dynamic warmup

Crocodile breathing

This is an important, yet often overlooked, area of our training. Breathing exercises help you learn how to get a great, solid, healthy diaphragmatic breath. Take your time with these, and make sure you’re doing them properly.

Side-lying windmill

This is a fantastic full-body exercise which allows us to hit a number of common trouble spots for triathletes and cyclists: chest, lats, lower back, and glutes. Make sure to match your breath here as you work through the movement as it can significantly boost the positive results.

Sofa stretch

While everyone and their Auntie Anne seem to be trying to stretch their hip flexors, many miss the biggest contributor to anterior pelvic tilt: a tight rectus femoris. Make sure you are paying attention to the cues here and activate your abs while taking full, deep breaths (notice a pattern here in our warmup?) while you keep great posture.

Jump rope

You may be a bit confused as to why this is at the end of the warmup. After a static stretch, we’re after some very basic plyometric exercises. Jumping rope is a true plyometric exercise meaning that, when done correctly, there is a stretch-shortening cycle.

Strength training exercises

Kettlebell swings

This is an incredibly difficult movement for many cyclists and triathletes to master due in large part to the disruption in the posterior chain that we induce with our hard efforts on the bike. Take your time and work to master the movement before you look to increase the weight.

Bird dogs

This is another commonly butchered exercise. The bird dog should be done to bolster spinal stability and strength, not to put your spine through flexion and extension. Take your time and make sure you start at the proper level, which for many is going to be level one.

2-1-1-1 goblet squats

In the pre-season with your first races six to eight weeks away, we want to make sure our strength training is priming us for power, not just strength. In order to do so, we need to teach the muscles how to control our joints and produce power, all without losing stability. This 2-1-1-1 tempo is great for this exact purpose. This video demonstrates a 3-1-3-1 tempo; simply change the tempo to 2-1-1-1.

Reach, roll, lift

Mid- and lower-traps are constantly needed for our run, bike, and swim, yet these muscles are one of the more challenging areas to train without a lot of equipment. The reach, roll, lift exercise is extremely challenging to do properly as it requires us to keep our head in a neutral position, fire our obliques (muscles that tie our rib cage and hips together), and turn off the large shoulder muscles to allow our mid-back to work. Take your time. Remember, it’s not blowing the exercise just to check it off that is important, it is the technique and firing the correct muscles when and how they should.

One-arm kettlebell shoulder press

This exercise requires great posture and muscular recruitment, something everyone could use more of. If you find this exercise very difficult, work on the reach, roll, lift exercise instead. This is exercise will help you develop the mind/muscle connection and slowly work on getting better overhead movement.

Down dogs

This is an awesome yoga-esque movement that I will often use in place of pushups for my athletes until they are better able to control their shoulder blade movements. Note this exercise is different than the yoga variation as you are intended to hold a plank position.

One-arm kettlebell rows

This is as much a rotary stability exercise as it is a rowing exercise. Keep those hips and that rib cage locked together with your shoulder blade moving on your rib cage.

Suitcase carries

This is a fantastic way to work on posture under fatigue as well as help to work on inter and intramuscular coordination for running. The suitcase carry has quickly become an athlete favorite over the years, in part due to its simplicity and its surprising difficulty.

From start to finish this workout should take you about 30 minutes, and when done properly two to three days a week can help you train and race stronger and faster than before.

If you’re wondering why the exercises are grouped into “A”, “B” and “Cs”, stay tuned for upcoming posts here on TrainingPeaks, or take a deep dive into the Strength Training for Triathlon Success course. Use the code “StrongSeason19” to receive 19 percent off the course.

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CoachCast: Endurance Elasticity with Alex Hutchinson

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You have probably pushed yourself to your limit before during training or racing, but what if you could push further? As science continues to unlock mysteries about human limits and performance potential, evidence supports the idea that maybe our mind is much more important in endurance than we previously believed.

Dave sat down with Alex Hutchinson, New York Times best-selling author of Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, to discuss his career and the findings in his new book. They covered how Hutchinson approaches sports journalism, what science tells us about human endurance, and how athletes can use that information to improve their performance.

Stand-out quotes

“If you’re a beginner, regardless how fast you are, you probably haven’t learned to hold your finger in the flame quite as hard.”It’s not that you learn to suffer once and then you never have to think about it again. It’s a constant process of preparing yourself to suffer and getting ready to deal with higher and higher levels of discomfort. And you have to climb that hill every season and before every race. You don’t just learn it once.”“I think I have some valuable skills in terms of understanding the details of training and recovery and things like that, but that’s not the key differential that separates a good coach from a bad coach. And so I think coaches need to recognize their own strengths in terms of being able to convey enthusiasm and belief to their athletes.”

Resources

Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance by Alex HutchinsonAlex HutchinsonGood to Go: What the Athlete in All of Us Can Learn From the Strange Science of Recovery by Christie AschwandenPassion Paradox: A Guide to Going All In, Finding Success, and Discovering the Benefits of an Unbalanced Life by Brad Stulberg and Steve MagnessPeak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success by Brad Stulberg and Steve MagnessRange: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David EpsteinThe Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance by David EpsteinEndurance Coaching Summit (Use code ECSCoachCast20 for 20 percent off the cost of attendance)

Episode Transcript

Introduction:               

On today’s episode of the TrainingPeaks CoachCast, your source for the latest information about the art, science and business of coaching: You’ve heard the phrase mind over matter before, but if you truly giving your brain the credit it deserves?

Dave Schell:                 

On this episode of the TrainingPeaks CoachCast, I was super excited to sit down with Alex Hutchinson. You might know him from Sweat Science, his column on Outside Magazine Online or you might know him from his recent New York Times bestseller, “Endure: Mind, Body and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance.” Alex and I talked about the role that your brain plays in your athletes’ performance, some different ways you can train that and also some of his recommended resources for you. Alex is going to be one of our keynote speakers at this year’s Endurance Coaching Summit in Boulder, Colorado. We will be sure to include a discount code at the end of the show. Hope you enjoy.

Dave Schell:                 

Welcome to the TrainingPeaks CoachCast. I am your host Dave Shell, and today I have the great pleasure to be joined by Alex Hutchinson. You might know Alex from his column Sweat Science or you might know him from his new 2018 New York Times bestseller, “Endure: Mind, Body and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance.” Alex, thanks for joining us today.

Alex Hutchinson:          

Thanks Dave. It’s great to be here.

Dave Schell:                 

Before we get into it, you haven’t always been a science writer or really based in endurance. So where did you get your start?

Alex Hutchinson:          

Yeah, it’s a long and twisting path. I, uh, I started out as a physicist, actually. I, that’s what I studied in university and, uh, for most of my twenties I worked as a physicist while I was also competing as a, as a middle and long distance runner. And I had, you know, it’s kind of, I wouldn’t say I had like this magical epiphany where, you know, choirs of angels were singing to me, Alex, you know, go become a generalist. But I kind of had the, uh, it was, it was pretty, pretty, uh, a big jump. I was 28 and I’d never done any journalism before, like no student paper. And I just thought, man, journalism seems like a lot of fun. I’m going to go do that. So I left my, what was the time I post-doctoral position with the National Security Agency and went and did a, uh, started at the, at the bottom, did a master’s degree in, in a one year master’s degree in journalism. Then worked at a newspaper in Ottawa, Canada for 16 months doing like general assignment reporting, you know, car crashes and dog fashion shows and things like that. Uh, and then, uh, after that I decided that, after enough of that I decided I want it to be a freelancer. And so that was 2006. And I’m at, you know, initially my beat was, I would write about anything that anyone would pay me to write about. And I did a lot of like accounting. I, you know, for the accounting, Canada’s accounting monthly, writing about accounting news and stuff. But pretty, I started to kind of leverage my two areas of interest and expertise, which were the science, which is what I started out as career wise and, and running or endurance, which was my big passion. And so I gradually started to write more and more about that. And then it ended up almost by accident as my specialty.

Dave Schell:                 

That’s cool. And that’s pretty cool that you found something that you enjoyed doing that you could still use your science background in. So my introduction to you was through your website, SweatScience.com, and I don’t know if it’s because I’m a simpleton, but I’ve always been a big fan of people that can take very complex subjects and turn it into something digestible. And so was that with SweatScience.com kind of your first foray into that or did that come later after you’d had some success with writing?

Alex Hutchinson:          

I started to do some some magazine and newspaper pieces on the science of endurance. And I actually, while I was at the Ottawa citizen, this newspaper, where I started at out at, I had one opportunity to write about running a big long sort of feature piece. And it was about, I wrote about the Kenyans who were coming to the Ottawa marathon in one, one runner in particular, who had won the race the year before. And everyone said, hey, that was the best piece I’ve ever written. And then, so I sort of realized writing about the stuff I cared about would be, sort of, brought out the best in me. And so I started to do a few magazine pieces and then I got a newspaper column called with a newspaper here in Canada called the Globe and Mail where I was writing about the science of exercise. And I just, and, and in order to come up with every two weeks interesting new studies, I had to be looking through journals all the time and sort of reading, uh, you know, all the abstracts and plowing through a whole bunch of ideas. And what I realized is there were only a few, like I could only pick one study every two weeks to write about for the Globe. But I realized there was this whole firehose of interesting new studies coming out all the time that people that, that I was interested in. And I figured, well, I’m not the only person out there who sort of is interested in optimizing performance and, and health for that matter. Um, so I thought, hey, if I’m reading these abstracts anyways, why don’t I just start a blog? Because this was 2008-ish. This is when blogs were like the next big thing. I thought I’ll just start a blog and then all I have to do is like, you know, I’ve gone to the trouble of reading this abstract and you know, maybe getting the paper, the Journal paper from the library to figure out whether it’s something to write about. I just summarized the key point and I know if I were someone else, I would be interested in reading that. So that was how it started as just saying, man, there’s all this information, it’s behind a firewall for most people and they don’t necessarily have time to be combing through. I have this job that asks me to comb through the ongoing firehose of scientific literature on the science of endurance. Why don’t I just, even if I’m not writing an article about all of them, why don’t I just start sharing a few key highlights. Like, Hey, here’s a study that found that ice pads don’t do anything or you know, whatever the case may be.

Dave Schell:                 

And I know that I definitely appreciate it because as he just said, um, so as a coach, I, you hear all the new studies and it’s, it’s very tempting to just jump on to whatever that new trend is. And really the good science would be to go through and verify these things, um, on your own. But a lot of coaches just don’t have time to do that. So I appreciate you taking the time to do that for us.

Alex Hutchinson:          

Yeah. And it, and it’s certainly well over what I’ve seen as the right role has evolved over time to where it started out. I would just sort of uncritically, uh, you know, repeat what the abstracts had said and what I learned as time went on is like I’d realize, oh wait, that’s that abstract that I reported on or that paper that I reported on two years ago, no one has ever reproduced that. And it turns out that was probably wrong. It was probably a, and so now I tried to do a better job at providing context and because I’ve ended up specializing in this, when I see a new study that says, uh, you know, uh, you know, this magical pill is going to make you faster, I remember that five years ago I wrote about several other studies that found that that magical pill doesn’t make you faster. So I have a little more context. So, so it’s, it’s definitely like you said, it’s, you know, it’s tempting to just sort of follow each new trend or new abstract and, there’s a value add for having, having someone put it in context. And I think I’m better at doing that now than I was initially, but it started out, it’s just like, hey, let’s at least just, just be aware of all this great scientific research that people are doing that has relevance to the things that coaches care about.

Dave Schell:                 

And so I’m going to speak to you a little bit about Endure, which is your most recent book, but that’s not your first book. Um, I have another book of yours and I can’t remember the title off the top of my head, but I think it’s “What Comes First: Cardio or Weights”?

Alex Hutchinson:          

I would just like to say that I pitched that book to be titled, uh, “Sweat Science: Training Truths” or I can’t remember the subtitle, but, uh, and the publishing company wanted to appeal to a broader audience and suggested “What Comes First: Cardio or Weights,” which I think turned off a lot of people, more serious exercises because it sounds like it, you know, Oh shit, how do I tone my abs? And it really is meant to be a little bit more of a, uh, sort of hard-nosed scientific look. It’s as well the common questions that people have about fitness.

Dave Schell:                 

Right. And I, and that’s what I love about it, is that it’s, for me, it’s turned into kind of a reference that I, when I have questions about those sorts of things, I can go back and see like at that time, what was the thinking? Um, and so was that just a collection of sort of the blogs off of SweatScience.com or did you dive deeper into that? Um, to create that book?

Alex Hutchinson:          

Yeah, in a lot of ways it was, it was mostly grown from my newspaper column because as you know, as I was saying before, the blogs in a lot of cases were very just sort of, hey, I read this paper, here’s something cool from it. Whereas for the newspaper columns, I was virtually always calling up the scientists involved and calling up some other scientists who weren’t involved in the study and getting a little more context. So, from those newspaper columns, they, I used them as a base and the newspaper column was structured in a way that, you know, every two weeks I would answer a question like, you know, if I’m doing a workout, should I be doing my cardio or my weights first, if I’m doing both, you know, which is better. And I would try and look at the scientific literature and answer those questions. And so then I brought together a lot of those preexisting columns. And then added in total that were like 111 questions and answers in that book. So a lot of them I wrote from scratch, but the idea was in that book was, you know, every, every answer is between 500 and a 1,000 words. So it’s not, uh, it’s not like the ultimate deep dive. It’s, it’s like, okay, just I’m curious about this question, tell me what we know. And, and you know, what that amounts to is you give it 111 versions of like, well, it kind of depends, you know, the answers are seldom as black and white as we hope, but at least, you know, the goal is to say, look, I’m not going to tell you what you need to do. I’m not going to tell you if you should be running in bare feet or I’m not going to tell you if you need to stretch, but I’m going to tell you what the evidence is found so far and you can, you can make up your mind.

Dave Schell:                 

And now, um, so one point SweatScience.com got picked up by Runner’s World, is that correct?

Alex Hutchinson:          

Yeah. And I think it was 2012 they, they invited me to, to move my blog to Runner’s World and he gave me a chance to write a column in the magazine too. So that was a real kind of exciting opportunity. I mean, for a number of reasons. One is that it brought a huge new readership to the, the blog and it allowed me to, sort of, that was the moment that was like, oh, you know, I could actually make a living from this because on the, when I was hosting my Sweat Science on its own, I didn’t take any ads because I just, um, not, you know, fundamentally I guess I like to think that I’m a nice guy. And so if some, if someone sends me a free sample of something or tells me, spends some time telling me about, you know, their product, I have a hard time saying, well, this is a bunch of garbage and no one should do this. So I didn’t, I really didn’t want to be involved in that sort of, uh, necessary quid pro quo. So going to Runner’s World, of course, Runner’s World has ads on it too, but I didn’t, I wasn’t the one making those deals. So Runner’s World, that allowed me to get paid for doing that blog, which I was just doing for free, um, without having to directly take advertising. So it was a really neat opportunity for me.

Dave Schell:                 

It was very cool. And now you’re on Outside and how long, um, how long have you been there?

Alex Hutchinson:          

So in the fall of 2017, I basically moved the blog over to Outside Magazine and that was the main motivation for me at that time was, uh, I wanted to just have a little bit broader palette to paint on as it were. You know, I’m a big fan of running. I run every day, but a certain point you don’t, there’s only so many things you can say about running. And so, um, and Runner’s World was very good about it. They, you know, they let me write about studies that involve cycling and, and you know, hiking and things like that. But a but of, you know, Runner’s World is Runner’s World so their focus is running and so Outside has an interest in running but it also has a broader interest so I’ve been able to sort of explore, uh, a slightly broader range of topics within the still within the same, it actually sort of goes back to what I was doing when Sweat Science was just my own little WordPress blog where I could be a little more broad about the things that I was interested in exploring.

Dave Schell:                 

Yeah. Just before we hopped on the call, I was going through and looking at some of the more recent topics and it’s just fascinating some of the things you write about. Um, one of them was just, I think just being more self aware and can it predict injury prevention, um, and things like that. So it’s very cool that you have that opportunity to write about all things endurance.

Alex Hutchinson:          

Yeah, definitely. It, it keeps it fresher for me that, you know, I can at any given time, there’s a few journals, you know, a list of journals that I’ll go through their contents regularly, but at certain point, and they may be good journals, but you know, after you’ve been reading every issue for a couple of years, it’s like, ah, I’ve kind of, I feel like I’ve kind of dug this well as deep as I can go. So, you know, moving over to Outside, all of a sudden it’s like, oh, you know, there’s a journal called Wilderness and Environmental Medicine. I’m never going to read that for, for Runner’s World. But I read that and it’s like there’s some pretty cool stuff in here about, you know, what it takes to hike across the, you know, hike rim to rim in the Grand Canyon, the characteristics of hikers who do that or I can look at more, you know, like you said, there’s, I, I’ve been really interested lately in some of the more psychology literature like that one you mentioned, which is looked at like, you know, self-regulatory traits like conscientiousness and whether that predicts whether you can end up with an over use injury. And there was an earlier study along similar lines that found people with perfectionism traits were like 16 times more likely to get, you know, running injuries. And we all kind of understand this intuitively, but it’s pretty crazy that you can think about, you know what the study involves, you go to a cross country team, you have them all fill out a pretty simple questionnaire that measures their traits, like perfectionism. And based on those results you can have a really good idea of who’s going to be most likely to end up with a stress fracture. And, and you can, you know, you could imagine that that can start to be useful when you can say, okay, we’ve really got to watch, you know, Bobby here because he’s going to push himself so hard that he’s not going to back off even if he starts to feel some warning signs.

Dave Schell:                 

That’s so interesting because now, I think, I work for TrainingPeaks and we’re a software company for endurance coaches and athletes. And so we placed a lot of emphasis on the devices and the metrics and things like that. And it’s always interesting to me to hear when you take something so simple as just talking to somebody and finding out a little bit about their personality and how that can be a performance predictor or an injury predictor. Um, and so it’s just a good reminder that we need to keep those things as well as this new science.

Alex Hutchinson:          

You know, I think one of the things that over the last, let’s say two or three years, uh, there’s been a lot of recognition that things like perceived effort, maybe even more, let’s call it five years. People have sort of realize that, yeah, it’s great to, to be quantifying, you know, training stress and things like that. But if you, if you have that and you have a sense of like, how hard was that on a scale of one to five or one to ten, um, it’s an even richer information because then you can see, oh, like he’s working the same, but he’s reporting that it’s harder or he’s saying it’s the same effort, but he’s able to absorb more effort or more training stress. So he’s getting fitter. So yeah, just the, the realization that our subjective, uh, responses to questions can not, can replace data, but can supplement data.

Dave Schell:                 

So now your most recent book, which I’ve mentioned several times, is Endure. What was the motivation for that book?

Alex Hutchinson:          

Yeah, I guess it goes back about a decade when I first encountered, uh, Tim Noakes’ is research. So Tim Noakes is the scientist from South Africa who’s, uh, let’s, let’s say, he’s a controversial guy. He’s been at the center of many contract from controversies to put it mildly and stay in it remains at the center of many controversies. Anyway, I started to encounter his work probably about 2007 or so. Uh, his sort of questioning the hydration that oh come on, dehydration isn’t such a big deal and it’s like, what are you talking about? I read in Lore of Running, Tim Noakes’ book in the 90s. I memorized that book and, and you know, hydration is serious. Um, and then I looked at some of his, his sort of looked at deeper under research into his research and realized he had this sort of broader critique of the body-centered view of physical limits and of endurance performance and that he felt that we should, we needed to incorporate the, the brain in that picture and that he had this model called the central governor model, uh, arguing that really when we’re pushing as hard as we can, it’s not that we run into some sort of physical limit where I muscles can’t push any further, it’s our brain decides that’s far enough and you know, for your own safety you shouldn’t go farther. And so that’s an idea that he had emerged in the late nineties, but I didn’t really encounter it until the mid two thousands and when I started to look into this research, I thought this is really fascinating and I thought, I haven’t heard a lot about it. And I also thought, this really gels with my subjective experience of what racing was like. It’s like, why is it that I have a finishing kick at the end of a race? Even when I felt like I was totally out of gas, three quarters through the race and why is it different one week to the next, some days I, you know, have better races than others, even though my fitness hasn’t changed and so on and so on. It’s just really, it really clicked for me. And I decided I wanted to write a book about, you know, Tim Noakes and the revolution in exercise physiology, and this was about 2009 and I went and visited them in South Africa in 2010. And you know, in a, in a perfect world that my book would have come out in 2011. Uh, but, what I found is the deeper I got, uh, the more nuanced picture got. And so, I mean, I remain a huge fan of Noakes’ research. Uh, I’m not sure it’s the final answer. And there’s other people who have, you know, slightly different or dramatically different views and, and they have interesting evidence too. So Endure ended up being, it’s definitely a book about the role of the brain in physical limits, uh, but it’s not just a book about Tim Noakes’ research. So it became a much broader attempt to summarize what we know about not just about what scientists know and what they’re still arguing about rather than just, well, what Tim Noakes knows. And so as a result and ended up taking me know, eight, eight years or something instead of the one or two that I thought it would take me initially.

Dave Schell:                 

I’ve been diving into it and I think I’m about three quarters of the way through at this point. And it really is fascinating in that, um, so I guess what I’m saying, one is I’m, I’m glad that you didn’t just phone it in and that she did take the time to put it together because like, it’s just so fascinating to learn about a lot of these things. Um, and so just hearing that the brain, it’s almost like a protective mechanism at times. Um, and if you can find ways to I guess, hack that you might be able to eke out a little bit more performance in certain situations.

Alex Hutchinson:          

Yeah. And, and you know, the truth is, and I don’t mean just spoil any endings or anything like that, but the truth is that hacking it is harder than it, than you might hope. One thing that’s sort of conspicuously absent from the book is this sort of here’s the seven things you should do that will allow you to reset your central governor. Um, because the, because it’s very, it turns out to be much harder than I sort of expected to be able to reset it. But I, to me it’s still a really, I mean, and there are, there are some ideas in there about how you can learn to sort of get past that central governor. But, to me, the fundamental thing is the idea itself because I think there’s something very limiting about running a race and having the mindset of like, okay, that’s as fast as I could run. That’s what my body is capable of. Versus running a race and believing that, okay, that’s what I was able to do today, but if I can learn to push a little bit harder, I can, I can run faster next week, uh, or swim and bike faster as the case may be. Um, so, you know, I think it’s an important insight and you know, you can draw some parallels to the learning literature where, where they’ve, you know, there, there’s all this talk about things like grit and learning mindset and growth mindset where if you believe you can get better at things that you, you’re more likely to do the work that makes you get better at things. Whereas if you believe, it’s just like, well, either I’m smart or I’m not, then you don’t bother studying hard. And I think that there’s, there’s real parallels in, in athletics. And if you, if you, if you realize that you’re, you know, quote unquote physical limits depend on a lot on on, uh, or aren’t set in stone and, and can be moved, then you’re much more likely to do the work that both the physical and mental work to try and move those limits.

Dave Schell:                 

One thing I found interesting is the notion of kind of training pain or training your tolerance to pain, and I, that’s definitely something that I’ve experienced, I’ve experienced with athletes as well, is that with the newer athlete, they might be, they just don’t know how to suffer at that point. And so they’re wanting, maybe in their mind they’re thinking, okay, well if I do this, I’m going to get faster, but I’m going to be comfortable at this higher pace where the reality is that no, you’re going to get faster, but it’s still gonna hurt like hell. And that’s where you really break through those limits. And so what did you learn in, in writing this book about that kind of training pain and the need to suffer?

Alex Hutchinson:          

The pain thing has been really, really interesting to me. Partly because it goes back to one of those, well those questions that at least among my friends always came up on Sunday long runs or whatever. It’s like who suffers more in a marathon? Is it, you know Eliud Kipchoge running for two hours or is it Joe Schmo running for four hours? Cause Joe Schmo is out there for twice as long and you know, so he must be, you know, those lucky elite marathoners who are only out there for two hours and without meaning to sound too like elitist about it. My response has always been yeah but Eliud Kipchoge knows how to suffer, how to absolutely keep himself on the knife edge for all those two hours. And for the most part it’s not, it’s maybe not proportional to speed. Cause some, there are some very experienced and tough athletes who, who might be running four hour marathons, but it’s proportional to experience. If you’re a beginner, regardless how fast you are, you probably haven’t learned to hold your finger in the flame quite as hard. And so this is, this is something that I’ve been arguing about with friends for, you know, 30 years or 25 years. But it was fascinating to dive into this literature on athletes and pain tolerance and realize, oh yeah, there’s, there’s pretty good evidence that, okay, first of all, if you, if you compare athletes and non athletes, um, and you do pain tests on them, they all have the same pain sensitivity. So it’s not like athletes have been calloused pain. They feel pain just like everyone else, but they’re willing to tolerate much, much higher level. So they’ve learned to tolerate pain. But then the really fascinating detail to me was the evidence that looked at trained athletes, elite athletes, the study I’m thinking of was in swimmers at different points in their season. And they found that as they approached their, their goal race, their pain tolerance as tested with a, you know, uh, uh, with a blood pressure cuff cutting off circulation to their arm, they were willing to tolerate more and more pain as they got closer to their goal race. And then their pain tolerance dropped to its lowest level during their off season. And so what this tells me, it’s not like it’s, it’s not that you learn to suffer once and then you never have to think about it again. It’s that it’s a constant, constant process of preparing yourself to suffer and dealing, getting ready to deal with higher and higher levels of discomfort. And you have to climb that hill every season. And before every race, you don’t just learn it once.

Dave Schell:                 

So one thing is, I was reading the book, something that kind of popped into my head and it’s something that I found, it’s kind of an interesting phenomena that I’ve noticed over the last several years, and it’s with athletes, there’s, they’re kind of gravitating towards these longer and longer events such as IRONMAN or ultra running or a triple IRONMAN and things like that. And so as I was reading the book, one thing, I think at some point you talked about the joy of suffering and I’ve always wondered if there’s just kind of this primal need or this desire to suffer. And so do you think there’s anything to that with these people that really the whole goal of the race is just to see what you can endure?

Alex Hutchinson:          

Yeah, I do think that I’ve come around to that point of view and I started thinking about this at a conference and, and, and one of the presenters said something along the lines of like, let’s be honest, most successful athletes probably, endurance athletes probably have a, a hint of benign masochism that day at, at, at some level. They’re not, they’re not out there, you know, tying themselves up with the, with barbed wire or anything. But at some level they kind of enjoy the, the suffering and, and this sort of, I, this got me thinking and it got me think cause it as well as thinking about endurance performance as a generalist, I also think about health and like how to get people exercising more and want, you know, one of the great mysteries for people who are in the habit of exercising every day or most days is why doesn’t everybody else do this? You know, it just feels so good. You just, I mean it’s, it’s so wonderful to be in this, this routine of getting out there and pushing your body and just feeling healthy. Why don’t other people do this? And, finally it’s sort of a occurred to me. It’s like maybe other people experience the same things as I do differently. You know, like, um, hey, actually it sort of reminds me I have a four year old daughter who, you know, will say that this food is too spicy and I’ll be like, it’s a glass of water, it’s not spicy. And she’ll say to me, you don’t know my body. You can’t tell me what my body feels. My body might feel differently than yours. And I’m like, no, it’s seriously, it’s a glass of water. But sort of digression there. But, but it’s kind of like with exercise, it’s like, oh, it feels so good to have been out for a run. It’s like, well, maybe for other people that just feels downright bad. And there’s something about me that makes me enjoy, what feels good to me is actually the discomfort that’s inherent in, you know, serious endurance exercise. Right? Like, let’s be honest. It is uncomfortable. And so why do I enjoy it? I Dunno. Maybe, maybe I’ll have a streak of benign masochism so maybe that’s the next frontier of like under, you know, personality psychology is not who gets injured. It’s like who is likely to become an endurance athlete in the first place and did they get dropped on their heads as kids or something like that.

Dave Schell:                 

That’s really interesting you say that because that’s always been one of my, um, theories is that I feel like people who maybe endured some hardship early in life or had to deal with something like they are more likely to succeed in sport because they’re the ones that can deal with hardship, I guess.

Alex Hutchinson:          

Yeah. Well it’s interesting there is some research with some research with British Olympians, uh, it was published in the last couple of years where they, they looked at like medalists versus near medalists and the people who really made it to the top, they all had what some, what they called childhood trauma. And now the trauma may have just been, you know, parents separating or, or, you know, went through something that was, that they perceived as a challenge in their lives. And that left them maybe with a bit of a chip on their shoulder. And I was actually doing an article a couple of weeks or maybe a month or two ago about what it takes to, uh, to, there was a study about the best predictors for success in the Ranger’s physical fitness tests. So I was talking to some people in the special forces, like how do you know if someone’s going to get through, you know, a special forces training or selection, whether it’s Navy Seal or whatever. And they’re like, yeah, you know, like obviously you need to be able to do some pull ups, but uh, being able to do a lot of pull ups or whatever the physical test may be only gets you so far. And one of the guys I talked to who, who is a former Navy Seal trainer, he said, yeah, we, there’s basically three things and they have, if you’ve got two of these three things, you’re, you’re pretty good candidate of making it through. And the three things were, if I remember correctly, your parents were separated. Uh, you were, uh, a varsity athlete in high school at least, and you’d been kicked out of school at least once. So it’s a mix of things like you have to have the physical characteristics, but maybe some sort of, like you said, some sort of chip on your shoulder.

Dave Schell:                 

Yeah, yeah. I could totally see that. In your research, did you find anything that people could do, especially the coaches that are listening, are there things that will help to train people’s pain tolerance or, kind of, DIY brain training that you came across?

Alex Hutchinson:          

Yeah, so I, you know, I spent a bunch of time looking into, into brain endurance training, which is this emerging idea of, you know, basically training your capacity to stay on task and on focus over long periods of time and fight against mental fatigue. And that’s, maybe that’s a topic for another time. I guess, but I would say is, I don’t think that’s necessarily, I think it works, but it’s not necessarily ready for prime time or easy to integrate into normal training. If there was one thing I was going to say that people should be looking into now and that’s not, it doesn’t require sophisticated equipment or anything like that. Uh, it’s actually a traditional sports psychology technique called motivational self talk, which is really at it’s essence is just first of all, becoming aware of the internal monologue in an athlete’s head. So if you’re in a race and you’re saying, you know, this sucks, why am I doing this? I hate this or, or this, or if you’re thinking, I always, you know, get dropped in the, you know, the second half of the race and this, these guys are going to leave me in the dust or whatever. That’s a real problem. And that, and that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy because it changes how your brain perceives the effort that you’re undergoing. It makes things feel harder and that makes you more likely to slow down or give up. And so if you can learn to replace those, that negative self talk with more positive self talk, like I’m ready to do this, I can, I, I’ve trained for this, I can keep pushing. There’s been some really fascinating research that shows that really works. And so when you zoom out and think about what, what does that really about? It’s about instilling belief. And so from a coach’s perspective, I think this is, this is one of the, I dunno, maybe this is the biggest, maybe I’m exaggerating, but one of the biggest roles of a coach. Uh, you know, sure, a coach can tell you what intervals to do, but I think the best coaches are successful at instilling in their athletes a belief that they have done what’s required to be successful, uh, and, and that they’re going to be successful. And so for coaches, I think it’s a really challenging thing because if you’re an honest coach, you’re not necessarily going to say, I have discovered the secret magic that is gonna make you the fastest athlete in the world. And if you do exactly this, you will become invincible and you’ll be able to fly because that’s not true. So you, you have to be honest with your athletes, but at the same time, convey to them the work that you’ve done to, to make sure that you’re giving them the best possible advice. Doesn’t mean you know everything and that you have all the answers, but it means you’ve done your due diligence that they’re going to be as well prepared or better prepared than anyone else that they’re facing and that you’re going to set them up for success. So, sorry, I’m sort of rambling here, but I guess I really think that’s an important role for coaches is to get the athletes to buy into what you’re doing and and share your conviction and your enthusiasm that, that you’re doing the best possible preparation.

Dave Schell:                 

Yeah, and I totally agree with who there that, as you’re talking about that, I was thinking about with some of the athletes that I’ve worked with, and I’ve always had the thought that if they didn’t believe in the training, it didn’t matter how well trained they were. If they start out, showed up at the start line doubting what they’ve been doing to prepare, they’ve already kind of lost. And it sounds like that’s kind of what you were saying right there is that really, if you can get that athlete to buy in and to trust in the process, then that will set them up for success.

Alex Hutchinson:          

Yeah. And, and you know, like good coaches have been saying this for years, right? Like we’ve always understood this, but it was fascinating to me to, to see some science that, that kind of backs that up and says, yeah, the role of belief is really important. And of course it’s not trivial to instill belief in athletes that, that that’s a specific skill set that, so, so for instance, I will say I don’t coach athletes. I think I have some, some valuable skills in terms of understanding the details of training and recovery and things like that. But that’s not the key differential that separates a good coach from a bad coach. And so I think coaches need to, uh, recognize their own strengths in terms of being able to convey enthusiasm and belief to their athletes.

Dave Schell:                 

That’s great. Really good advice. So on that note, do you have any, if you were to talk to a coach with that in mind about, um, being able to instill belief and get buy in from the athlete, is there anything you’ve come across that you would recommend for a coach either, um, go watch or listen to or read?

Alex Hutchinson:          

Yeah, so I guess a recent stuff that I found interesting. There’s a book by Christie Aschwanden called “Good to Go” about the signs of athletic recovery. It just came out in February and it’s, it, you know what, it’s a, it’ll be a challenging read for coaches because, uh, essentially the message in a lot of cases is here’s 12 chapters on different recovery techniques. And the conclusion is there’s very scanty evidence for almost all of those things. So how does a coach, I mean, this, to me, and this is getting back to what I saying before, this is one of the fundamental challenges that faces coaches. How do you assimilate that information, continue to give good advice to athletes without filling them with doubt, um, uh, about the things they’re doing. And so, but I think it’s better to be armed with the information then to sort of keep your head in the sand and just pretend that just cause we’ve been doing something in the past, it must work. So I think that’s a good, uh, a good book to read to get a sense of what the current state of knowledge is about recovery, which is, we all, as we all know, is one of the fundamental challenges of, of you know, endurance training and performance. Um, you know, and read it with an open mind and, and it doesn’t mean that you need to then abandon everything you’ve been doing, but take a critical look at some of your routines and figure it out. Cause what Christie’s booked also does do is highlight some of the things that she thinks are important, uh, about broader recovery, uh, giving your body some downtime, giving your mind some downtime. Equally importantly, getting away from stress. And so there may be some tweaks you can make to the recovery routines you use that emphasize those things instead of maybe fixating on, you know, clearing lactic acid out of the blood, which is kind of a, a paradigm that it doesn’t really have much evidence behind it. So, so yeah, “Good to Go” by Christie. Aschwanden I would say is a useful and challenging read. Um, there’s another new book by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magnus, which is less specific to sports. It’s called the “Passion Paradox”. And it’s followup to their book from two years ago “Peak Performance”, uh, Steve Magnus is probably familiar to many listeners, he’s a prominent track coach and Brad Stulberg is, uh, a journalist who writes about, uh, performance, high performance. So they’re very thought provoking guys and they’re very good at laying out a whole bunch of complex ideas in a clear and simple way. So that in the “Passion Paradox” is kind of gets into, um, something that triathletes should certainly be familiar with, which is the idea of how you balance you know, a passionate that can become all consuming without having it take over your life and become a negative factor in your life. So I think that’s a useful one to read. And the third and final plug I’ll give is for a book that I haven’t read yet. Um, it’s due out at the end of May. It’s called “Range” by David Epstein and it’s about, it’s, it’s kind of a, a push back against the idea that we all need 10,000 hours to master any given domain and we have to start when we’re three, if we’re going to be successful instead it’s a praise, yeah, maybe it’s a good book for triathletes in the sense that it’s a, it’s a praise of mastering different domains and that it’ll make you better at all the things you try if you’re, if you’re not just a pure specialist. Anyway. David Epstein, his book “The Sports Gene” from I guess six years ago is to my mind, the best sports science book I’ve ever read. So I’m, I’m very excited to check out “Range” next month.

Dave Schell:                 

Yeah, I wasn’t aware of that one coming out, but I’m a big fan of, uh, “The Sports Gene” as well. Um, so thank you very much for your time. You’re going to be, um, one of our keynotes at the 2019 Endurance Coaching Summit in September, so we will see you there. Uh, before I let you go, any thoughts on what your next book will be?

Alex Hutchinson:          

Yeah, I’ll put it this way. I can answer that I’m very excited about the Summit. The next book I’m really struggling with. I gave myself a deadline of December, 2018 to figure out a topic, but that blew by without any, uh, change. The problem is that because I spent like 10 years in the last book, I’m, I’m a little bit gun shy about picking another topic and thinking, oh, is this interesting enough for another 10 years? So yeah, I think probably the plan for the next year is to do some sort of long-form magazine journalism and give myself a chance to dip my toe into a few different topics and see if there’s one that really grabs me. The truth is right now, I, I really, really have no idea.

Dave Schell:                 

Well, we’ll be keeping an eye out for it and I look forward to seeing you in September.

Alex Hutchinson:          

Awesome. I look forward to seeing you then.

Dave Schell:                 

All right. Take care, Alex.

Dave Schell:                 

Hey guys, Dave here again. I hope you enjoyed my talk with Alex Hutchinson. I hope you learned a lot because I know, I sure did. Be sure to check him out at this year’s Endurance Coaching Summit and use “ECSCoachCast20” to take 20% off your Endurance Coaching Summit registration or the Endurance Coaching Summit online. Until next time.

The post CoachCast: Endurance Elasticity with Alex Hutchinson appeared first on TrainingPeaks.

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