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CoachCast: Optimizing Physiology with Stacy Sims

Brought to you by http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/trainingpeaks/XAlX/~3/bdNQtOJXoiE/

   

Coaches should always strive to build training according to their athletes’ unique physiology, but how many of our training practices are weighted toward the male experience? Are you thinking about how nutrition and hydration affect performance? What about even coaching practices to increase beneficial bacteria in the gut?

Dave sat down with Dr. Stacy Sims to discuss the topics above and many more. They spoke about bad and outdated science that has led to one-size-fits-all training, how hormones affect training in performance in both men and women, and about resources that can help coaches and athletes get to the bottom of claims from supplements and nutrition claims.

Stand-out Quotes

“And the more I got into it and the more I started looking into it, the more I realized that everything that we know in nutrition and sports science and ex-phys is based on a male model. So need to think about, most of half the population really is not male and definitely not 18- to 22-year-old college male athletes. Right?”“If you do fasted training, you increase your reliance on free fatty acids. Sure you do because your body’s in the stress state, it needs metabolism. But, you look at the performance outcomes, the results are equivocal. When you look at the health outcomes, it’s an no-goer and people don’t talk about that.”“[Endurance athletes’] gut microbiome makeup is very, very much the same as a sedentary obese American following the standard American diet. And the reason for that is when you are exercising in that hot, hypoxic environment that your gut is in and you’re feeding it sugar, it encourages the growth of the bacteria that fosters itself on simple sugars. So even if you’re eating clean the rest of the time, you’re just really damaging your gut microbiome and having such an impetus for change when it’s under such distress.”

Resources

Dr. Stacy Sims FacebookDr. Stacy Sims InstagramDr. Stacy Sims TwitterROAR: How to Match Your Food and Fitness to Your Unique Female Physiology for Optimum Performance, Great Health, and a Strong, Lean Body for Life by Dr. Stacy SimsExamine.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 your training principles based on a one-size-fits-all methodology that don’t take your athletes’ unique physiology into account.

Dave Schell:                 

Hey guys, Dave Schell here and on this week’s episode of the TrainingPeaks CoachCast, I sat down with Dr. Stacy Sims, the foremost expert on gender differences in exercise science and nutrition. Some of the things we discussed were how to train female athletes differently than your male athletes, some of the common misconceptions with hydration and nutrition, and the gut biome, which I found extremely fascinating. If you do enjoy my conversation with Stacy, be sure to check her out at this year’s Endurance Coaching Summit in September in Boulder, Colorado. Stacy is one of our keynotes along with Alex Hutchinson, Christie Rwandan, Andy Blow, and much more. Use ECSCoachCast20 for 20% off your ECS registration.

Dave Schell:                 

Welcome to the TrainingPeaks CoachCast. I’m your host Dave Schell and today I have the pleasure of being joined by exercise physiologist, nutrition scientist and author Stacy Sims. Stacy, thanks for joining me today.

Stacy Sims:                  

Thanks for having me.

Dave Schell:                 

So you’ve come to be known as one of the leading experts, if not the leading expert, in sex differences in training, nutrition and health. Um, can you tell us a little bit more about that and what led to your, um, inspiration for studying that?

Stacy Sims:                  

Uh, Gosh, I, you know, I think it’s kind of funny that I’ve been pegged this because I’ve been talking about it for so many years. Um, and I think it’s now just bringing awareness, but when I was kid, I was one of those kids that always asked why, and you just grew up that way. Right? You know, like, why can’t I do that? Why can’t I do that? And as I got involved in sport and started seeing some things that didn’t make sense to me, like, you know, some of the guys were recovering better from certain training programs and me and some of my teammates, and then things by going to Kona, um, and doing the same heat acclimation program as of my other female, um, teammates. And they did fine and I didn’t because they were in a different phase of menstrual cycle. Uh, so there are a whole bunch of different questions that kept coming up that I just kept getting no real reasonable explanation for it from the people that I was asking who were supposed to be the experts. And the more I got into it and the more I started looking into it, uh, the more I realized that everything that we know in nutrition and sports science and ex-phys is based on a male model. Um, and we need to think about, you know, most of half the population really is, uh, not male and definitely not 18 to 22 year old college male athletes. Right? So that’s kind of the drive. It was all selfish, it was definitely selfish. I tried to make myself better, try to make my teammates better, but then I realized that it’s not just about that it’s making everyone who puts hard effort in able to maximize their potential.

Dave Schell:                 

Gotcha. And so you, um, authored the book ROAR: How to Match Your Food, Fitness, um, Food and Fitness to Your Unique Female Physiology for Optimum Performance, Great Health and a Strong Lean Body for Life. So I feel like you just kind of answered what my next question was going to be, which, what was the motivation for that? And it sounds like it was just you wanting to optimize your own performance and realizing that there were some shortcomings, but in researching the book and in your own research, what were some of the biggest surprises to you that like from my perception, I would say that a lot of endurance sport, especially coaches is predominantly male, but they may be coaching a middle-aged woman doing their first IRONMAN. And so what are some of the things that those coaches should know? Like if you could only tell them one thing, what is the biggest thing they need to know about coaching that woman?

Stacy Sims:                  

Uh, so gosh, there’s so many things. I don’t know if I can disseminate down to one. I mean basically start with the typical three week on, one week off training model. That’s not appropriate for women. It was researched and designed on male athletes and their inherent sex differences from birth, from muscle enzyme activity to recover availability from a time standpoint, nutrient timing, um, adaptations, even things like heart rate variability is different between menstrual cycle phases. And when you get to like the mid- to late-forties where hormones really start to purr debate, this is where you’ll see the biggest issues that come up. And the fact that you might have a training program you think is dialed in for your athlete, then all of a sudden they’re not responding. So the undercurrent there is really tracking menstrual cycle for one, understanding how the woman that you’re working with recovers, and it’s not that she’s being lazy or she’s tired. There’s just certain days during the menstrual cycle phase where they’re spot on because physiology is letting them be that way. And other times where they’re really just fighting against a brick wall because of these perturbations in hormones that aren’t going to allow them to access top end, they’re not going to recover as well, their sleep’s going to be interrupted. And if you start looking in a patterning over two to three months, you’ll be able to dial in training versus the physiology. So on a really fantastic push through days, you’d get in some fantastic training sets, which is what you want for adaptation. And then, you know, like around ovulation or the few days before a period starts when when women feel a bit flat, you know, not to push the high intensity. You can work with it and get some really gains without overtraining or over pushing your athlete.

Dave Schell:                 

So again, going back to these males who may be coaching a woman, I feel like this is kind of probably an uncomfortable conversation to have, but it’s definitely an important conversation to have. So do you have any tips on how to kind of broach the subject?

Stacy Sims:                  

Yeah. So, um, last week the same question came up when I was presenting to the New Zealand Rugby Union high performance coaches. And I’m in a room full of guys that are very much in a patriarchal system. So the idea of asking their athletes, oh, do you have a menstrual cycle? So it’s really, you know, when you have the intake form for your athlete, one of the questions is, is your cycle regular? Right? And so it’s not necessarily the conversation you’re having, it’s just a point to note. Um, if that even feels uncomfortable, then you can even put down do you track your cycle because there’s apps out there. And the one that I’m sure people have heard me talk about is a favorite is the fitter woman app because it was designed for their recreational to sub-elite female athlete. But there’s also coaches version. So the coaches version, you can look in and see all your athletes who are tracking and see what phase they’re in, how their mood is, how they’re, um, sleep metrics, or heart rate variability, all their wellness. So you can see if they’re not doing well or if their period is misaligned or they’re not recovering well without having to go into that really in depth conversation that is a bit uncomfortable. Um, but yeah, it’s more of getting the awareness out there. So the male coaches know that this is a significant issue to discuss. Um, and having the awareness out there where women don’t feel uncomfortable having that conversation with a male coach. Because one of the other things, especially in endurance athletics is when a woman becomes amenorrheic or loses her period and that is the first sign that something is amiss between training and nutrition is when you get into a low energy state or you’re not recovering well, you have too much cortisol, then your periods becomes irregular. Because your endocrine system is the first thing to go see your hormones really start to flat line and bottom out and then you lose your menstrual cycle. And if you’re keeping track and you can see that happening, then you can look and see, well I need to back down a little bit here. Maybe I need to increase my recovery food intake here. So it’s a really powerful tool to keep athletes healthy because if they’re amenorrheic they’re more susceptible to poor performance, injury, bone stress fractures, a soft tissue injury, poor sleep, um, just all sorts of things that, that we think is over training in the endurance scope. But really it comes down to there’s this misstep and this is low energy availability and there’s this hormone dysfunction. And if we can stop it before it gets too far down in the track then we don’t go through all that, oh my gosh, I’m glad I’m tired and I need to take a significant time off to recover.

Dave Schell:                 

So you mentioned the menstrual cycle and kind of working with that in training, and you’ve kind of touched on it a little bit, but I guess can you just tell us what is, what would be the proper way to approach that? Um, both leading up to ovulation and post ovulation.

Stacy Sims:                  

So we’re, we’re assuming that people are tracking and they know that, um, the length of their cycles. So if we look, textbook period is day one is the first day bleeding and leading up to around day 13, which is around, ovulation with the upsurge of estrogen. Uh, and then you have a little bit of estrogen. Progesterone and estrogen start to come up until day 28, which is the last day of the cycle because the hormones dropping, you start to bleed. But we know that a period can, or a cycle is anywhere from 32 or 28 to 32 regular to 28 to 40 days. And if you haven’t had an a period in 40 days, then you know there’s something wrong. Um, and it’s a misnomer that a woman has a period every month. Like most women will skip a period every once while. So it’s more like there’s eight periods in a typical year. So it’s not like you’re going to end up being on a regular basis, having one every 28 days. But knowing how regular you are, even if it is a little bit irregular, so your regular irregularity can really help you get insight. Um, and that’s the first thing. It’s like when you know that your cycle is 32 days, right? Boom, 32 days, then you can track it in the first two weeks leading up to ovulation is low hormone phase. This is where you can access carbohydrate, well hit high intensity, your core temperatures lower. You have more sodium circulating in the body. Um, your recovery time is, is less than in the high hormone phase. Then as estrogen goes up for ovulation, some women feel bulletproof and if you’re a woman who feels bulletproof, they can use that day, right? Get in the gym, get on the bike and do hard VO2 efforts. Get on a track, do your 10, eight-hundreds, you know, just really maximize that day for that really super strong training, stress and recover because that’s a, you know, it’s like a bulletproof day where you’re like, I’m going to nail everything. And the idea of training is to go out, stress the body and overcome that stress. And then when you start to get into the high hormone phase where estrogen is inhibiting carbohydrate utilizations, you can’t quite hit those high intensities estrogen. Also up regulates Serotonin in the brain. So you start to get some brain fog. Progesterone increases the core temperature. So your time to fatigue is, is shortened. Um, heat tolerance is a little bit less. You have less water in the blood, so your, your ability to get enough blood to the working tissues a little bit dampened. Um, so understanding that physiology can help you dial in the training to hit those really hard days. But the flip side of it as well is understanding the physiology means that when you get to those five to seven days before the period starts where physiologically you’re little bit impeded from performance. You can put in specific nutrition practices and recovery practices to overcome that. So you shouldn’t think of it as, I can’t race am I, you know, the day before my period, I can’t hit these intervals. It’s just knowing what’s happening. So you can do things like take a glucose tablet on the, on a, on the track when you’re in those few days before your period starts. So, yeah, it’s, it sounds complex, but when you start really looking from that high point and seeing what the cycle is and, and over the course of three months really understanding the days that you feel good and the days you feel a bit flat, then you can match the training to that.

Dave Schell:                 

Okay, awesome. So beyond periods and menstrual cycles, what are some of the other major differences between men and women’s physiology that coaches should be aware of?

Stacy Sims:                  

Um, so I mean like when we think about it, we have sex differences from birth, but the first conversation that should be happening is around the onset of puberty. Because this is where you start to really see these changes happen. These sex differences happen. So when you get the exposure of testosterone, boys lean up, they get fitter, they get faster, stronger, they have more hemoglobin, their lung size is increased, their heart is increased, cardiac output is greater. So when you look at it from the estrogen and progesterone aspect for women, their Q angle, the angle between the hip, the knee, that widens. So learning how to rerun and running mechanics, it’s really super important because the center of gravity changes that bone in, in girls grows a lot faster but not yet quite as dense. The muscle stability isn’t quite there. So you’ll see people who don’t know how to run very well when they start going through puberty. And maybe that’s a learned habit all the way through. So looking at running mechanics, super important to prevent injury, um, knowing that like with swimming and such, the shoulder girdle and the angle of the shoulders to the hips is narrower in women than men. So the rotation aspects, center, gravity aspects, all those things, the technique becomes really important. And then we’ll, let me think about recovery as well. So we know that in that acute recovery phase, it takes about 45 minutes for women to come back down to baseline. But men have between three and 18 hours. So really nailing down that recovery window from nutrient point of view. And the reason for that is we always hear about getting some protein and carbohydrate in right after exercise, right? For muscle protein synthesis, glycogen rate replenishment, and I’ve always prefaced and looked at the research saying if you get the protein in first, then it opens your window up a little bit longer because of insulin sensitivities that you can pull more carbohydrate and for your next meal. But the other critical sex difference is that women need more leucine circulating in the brain because the feedback mechanism for muscle protein synthesis starts in the brain and it’s a bit dampened if leucine levels are lower in a woman’s brain than in the men’s brain. So even if you’re getting an adequate hit, a protein with amino acids circulating in the blood, it still doesn’t trigger that muscle protein synthesis as strongly as if you were to have a really significant amount of leucine circulating and hitting the brain and and replenishing the brain stores. So this is where that recovery window becomes really important, getting that big hit of protein for women so that you’re getting it in circulation into the brain. Whereas that recovery window that’s a little bit longer in men, they can afford for a little bit of delay, smaller amount of protein, and smaller doses across the way, we’ll still get into the muscles and trigger that muscle protein synthesis. But for women, you need a larger amount in a shorter period of time for the brain and the muscle.

Dave Schell:                 

Wow. That’s fascinating. I had no idea.

Stacy Sims:                  

Yeah.

Dave Schell:                 

That’s pretty crazy. Um, some other things, like in reading your book, I saw some other things that I wasn’t sure if it was sex specific, so I wanted to ask you about some of those things. Um, first off you talked a little bit about fasted training and that’s very en vogue right now. Lots of people doing fasted training. You advise against it in the book saying that, if I recall correctly, it kind of wreaks havoc on your hormones. Is that just for women or for men as well?

Stacy Sims:                  

So, remembering also that, and I’ll take a step back before I really get in depth with this question, that the fasting research and the low carbohydrate, high fat research, all that started in the clinical population. So we know it works really well in obese individuals who need to lose weight for surgery. We know it works really well for people who need insulin control cause they’re prediabetic or their diabetics without control. And then the misstep is that research has been called into the athletic environment. Now when we look at the athletic environment, the research that’s coming out now does not include exercise. So they’ll take individuals and they’ll have them do, you know, intermittent fasting, but they won’t look at the effects of exercise on that intermittent fasting. Because when we were doing fasting, the idea is to change the telomere length, to have some autophagy so that your body’s repairing itself. But these are exact same things that happen in exercise. So for doubling it up, we don’t know if it is an additive effect where they cancel each other out or if it’s a negative effect. So that’s the first thing to think about. Now the second thing to think about is this hormone millea. So when we talk about fasting and going exercising without eating, your baseline levels of cortisol are already elevated. Um, now for women with elevation of Cortisol, you are really playing with this interchange of estrogen and progesterone, and to a point testosterone. In order to keep cortisol elevated, estrogen and progesterone start to be flat lined so that the steroids can come over and work to get that cortisol going and to keep going. And when you have that elevation in Cortisol, it can interact with thyroid, thyroid function, downregulation of thyroid. If you have a downregulation of thyroid, um, then you also have a, a reduction in your resting metabolic rate. You also have this flat lining of your sex hormones again. And we think you know, this leads to a amenorrheic. So that all comes down to this energy availability standpoint. So for women it’s really critical not too fast because the outcomes of low energy availability for exercise is significantly more detrimental to overall health than it is in men. Now we look at in a male model and we see fasting and it’s not quite as detrimental because men don’t need as much carbohydrate circulating as women do in a daily basis. So if you’re going fasting and you’re doing some fasted training, what we do know is in the general scope, if you’re trying to lose weight as a man, if you go and do a fasted cycling session, then you eat. We do know for sure that you won’t overcompensate and you’ll actually stay in an energy deficit. So if you’re trying to lose weight, that’ll be okay. But for this high level of all these endurance athletes that are perpetually teetering on this energy availability standpoint, to me it’s a stop gap. No one should be doing that fasted training, male or female. For women, primarily the hormone aspect and the down regulation of thyroid and resting metabolic rate. But for men getting into low energy state, it reduces testosterone. So as difficult as it is for conversation for women to say, I don’t have a period or I do have a period, men do not talk about testosterone. So if they get into this low energy state and their testosterone starts to drop, rarely do they bring it up. And we know that with lower testosterone, you’re not going to recover well, you’re going to put on body fat, you’re going to get tired, fatigued, you’re not going to adapt. So when we look across the board at fasting, the outcomes of fasted training in the exercise, in particular exercise for a race point of view, neither sex benefits and you can read Volak’s stuff, right? And it’s like, well, if you do fasted training, you increase your reliance on free fatty acids. Sure you do because your body’s in the stress state, it needs metabolism. But you look at the performance outcomes, the results are equivocal. When you look at the health outcomes, it’s an no-goer and people don’t talk about that.

Dave Schell:                 

Thank you. That’s, uh…

Stacy Sims:                  

Long winded.

Dave Schell:                 

No, that’s fantastic. It’s, it’s again more information that, you know, there’s so many trends and everybody wants to hop on whatever the latest and greatest, I don’t know if I want to say fad, but whatever the, whatever the going thing is at the moment. And so it’s, it’s great to hear that, you know, maybe there are some downsides to it. And it sounds like there are. Um, so another question I have for you, and this is another thing that is definitely something I’ve dealt with in the past and it’s the need for salt supplementation and taking salt tablets. And somewhere in the book you say that you emphatically say no. Regardless of where the race is, it’s hot, humid. So are there any situations where you would say salt supplementation is necessary or would you say no, your body does a good enough job at regulating that, that you don’t need to supplement outside of a sport drink.

Stacy Sims:                  

A sports drink doesn’t have enough sodium to actually help. And so when you think about it from a high touch of nutrition, if you pay enough attention to your nutrition, like you do your bike fit, your running shoes, you are training right then you should be fine. It, we see this upsurge of I need sodium, I need sodium, I need salt tablets. Because when people get on a race course, they tend to use what’s on the race course or they tend to use what so and so told them to use. And most of the time it’s engineered nutrition, right? So we hear the gels, the chomps, the typical sports drinks, none of those hydrate. A lot of them effectively dehydrate because they’re too concentrated. So they sit in your small intestines and increase the pressure and your body’s response for increased pressure is to pull water into the small intestines. So then people are like, oh gosh, I feel really awful. I don’t want to eat. I feel bloated. Oh, I must be retaining water. I need a salt tablet because I’m going to cramp. I need to redistribute this water. Then they’re adding the salt tablet into the situation and the sodium chloride is an issue in the exercise and the state as well. The body has a tenfold decrease in its ability to absorb chloride during exercise, so you’re contributing extra ions that can’t necessarily be absorbed and you’re increasing the amount of pure sodium that the gut necessarily can’t handle. So you’re adding onto this bloatedness and extra effective dehydration from carbohydrate. You’re adding the sodium onto it and it can definitely shoot you right to the porta potty and cause the cramping. So when we look at it from that high point, the body is really good at regulating and unless you have, you know, the syndrome for inappropriate or aldosterone secretion predisposed to hyponatremia. So yeah, if you know that or you’ve experienced hyponatremia in the past, then there can be a time and a place, but if you are using food and fluid that has sodium in it, then you are fine. It’s when you don’t match your nutrition for what your physiology needs. So that’s what I mean. Like a typical sports drink doesn’t have enough sodium in it to help with all that fluid absorption. It’s too high in carbohydrate. And then when you’re looking at the gels and the chomps, they have a little bit of sodium, but not enough to counter what your body needs. And a lot of people like, oh, I’m a heavy sweater. I sweat X amount of sodium per hour. That doesn’t mean anything. Like these sweat rates and the sweat composition, that doesn’t mean anything. If you had a salty meal the night before, your sweat, sodium is going to be higher. If you’re in the high hormone phase as a woman, your sweat sodium is going to be higher. If you are a trained athlete who just starts to go to the heat, your sweat sodium is going to be higher because your body is, you know, trying to get into this equilibrium state. Um, so again, if you know that you have syndrome of inappropriate aldosterone secretion, which is what Tim Noakes talks about, you know, all the water logged stuff, it’s a small population, but people do have it. And then again, if you’re a woman in the high hormone phase and you’re tetering right on that hyponatremic, salt your food that you’re eating leading into race, make sure that you’re eating salted food while you’re racing and then you don’t need salt tablets.

Dave Schell:                 

And when you say salted food with like pretzels, a lot of times that IRONMAN pretzels on course, and is that enough salt?

Stacy Sims:                  

Yeah, you can suck the salt right off the pretzel if you want to. But you know, like, um, uh, yeah, the soft pretzels that a lot of people have. Like I have athletes in T-2 before they start running, they’ll have a soft, really salty pretzel they take with them. So then they get like that pretty bland, easy to digest white bread with lots of salt and they’re like best thing ever.

Dave Schell:                 

Oh, I bet. What is, you said that um, sports drinks, especially a lot of the most popular ones on the market, they don’t do a good job at hydration. But you also said that the, they don’t have enough sodium to help anyway. So what is the role of sodium in a sports drinks? Let’s say that, let’s say Osmo, which you created, correct?

Stacy Sims:                  

Yep.

Dave Schell:                 

Okay.

Stacy Sims:                  

A while ago. I’m not involved with them anymore. But anyway, yeah, so that’s not a typical sports drinks. So if you look at Scratch, you look at Osmo, you look at the Nuun Endurance, those aren’t what I call the typical sports drinks. They’re designed to be functional hydration where it’s lower carbohydrate, a little bit higher sodium and some potassium. So it works with your physiology for fluid absorption. And the mistake people make with those types of drinks is they’ll double up the scoops trying to think about it as calories and then it’s a moot point. It’s not a functional hydration anymore. All they’re doing is they’re having calories in the bottle and that’s not what it’s about. It’s about functional hydration. The reason why they took off is because people weren’t experiencing bloating. They weren’t feeling overly dehydrated because what they were drinking was actually going to hydrate them. When we think about a typical sports drink, you know, Gatorade now sponsors IRONMAN. So you have have Gatorade Endurance on the course. That’s a five to six percent solution. Now when you look at a five or six, five to six percent solution, um, the carbohydrate content in those are more about exogenous carbohydrate, their worry is that we’re going to hit the wall so we need carbohydrate. So there’s a little bit of sodium in there to enhance the palette because your palette changes as you become dehydrated and you start to crave salt. So the sodium in there isn’t for fluid absorption. It’s to encourage you to drink more. So they want you to drink more of their drink. But if you’re drinking more of their drink and putting more of this excess carbohydrate in the gut, you get that sloshing. So when you’re thinking about what am I drinking, is it functional for my physiology? You go with the lower carbohydrates, higher sodium, and that’s all about working with the gut for fluid absorption. Then your body’s not overly stressed. Cause we also forget that when you start exercising, you have such a huge blood flow diversion away from the gut. So you have a hot and low oxygen environment that your cells are trying to work in. So if you’re putting stuff in that doesn’t work with physiology, again, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Your body’s going to have to work even harder while you’re exercising to get the nutrition that it needs.

Dave Schell:                 

So why won’t pain water just work as far as hydration?

Stacy Sims:                  

So this is where we get into the nuances of the small intestine. The small intestine is where 95% of all your fluid absorption takes place. And it’s very particular to the solution that comes in it. So from a science standpoint, the optimal pressure in there comes from a solution that’s 200 to 250 milliosmoles. When you start gravitating below or above that, you start having some dysfunction. So plain water, yeah, there’s almost no pressure exerted from it. So you’re pulling in something that might be 10 or 11 milliosmoles, doesn’t exert pressure. Your body’s like, what do I do with it? It pulls out from other places to bring the pressure up so that it can be absorbed. And then when you’re looking at the other side of the things and you’re taking in a typical sports drink that sits around 300, 360 milliosmoles, it’s way above what it can do. So then the body responds by pulling water into dilute it. Plain water doesn’t hydrate because your body has to find sodium or excrete it because it’s like, whoa, it’s too much because we don’t have plain water in the body. You think about it, we all a solution of, of electrolytes and glucose, amino acids. And then when you have too much your body’s like well I don’t know what to do with this, I better dilute otherwise, you know, it’s just going to sit here. And the longer something sits in the gut, the more predisposed you are to having gut issues.

Dave Schell:                 

So one of the things that I, and maybe I’m off, but I think one of the things you’re famous for saying is hydration in the bottle, food in the pocket.

Stacy Sims:                  

Yep. That’s pretty much it, yeah.

Dave Schell:                 

And so one thing that I’ve always wondered about is I feel like, okay, well, so I’m drinking hydration, I’m drinking, uh, a solution. That’s what is it? Four percent is what we’re aiming for

Stacy Sims:                  

At the most, yeah. One and a half to four. Yup.

Dave Schell:                 

Okay. So I’m drinking something that’s going to hydrate me, but then I’m eating real food, but once it gets in my stomach, it’s all kind of mixed together. So how does your body deal with that is one thing I’ve always been curious about, is it separating that fluid out and then digesting the solid food separately?

Stacy Sims:                  

Sort of, so we have different pressure response and pressure sensors in the stomach and those pressure sensors are responsible for what is allowable into the small intestines. So if you have a big bolus of fluid, then you’re going to have a very strong stimulus to dump it into the small intestines. When you have this mix of food and fluid, the receptors of pressure aren’t quite stimulated. But then you had the sensors for protein, fat, and carbohydrate. So your body titrates out those macronutrients at a rate that won’t overwhelm the intestines. So if you’re drinking, that’s one type of receptor that activates things to get into the small intestines. And when you’re eating, the macronutrients affect other feedback mechanisms to titrate into the small intestines. So the stomach is very smart, it’s like the gateway to the intestines and you don’t want to like break down the gate. So it’s like, okay, we’ll have a little bit here and a little bit there and a little bit here and a little bit there, not to overwhelm. And in the sports sports market, you’re overloaded with the same amount of carbohydrate, right? Maltodextrin, fructose, glucose. And so those macro nutrient receptors are like, whoa, we got to get rid of some of this. So it over overloads the gates and then overloads the intestine.

Dave Schell:                 

All right. I guess I’ll start eating real food.

Stacy Sims:                  

Good.

Dave Schell:                 

You have convinced me. Yeah, definitely. So while we’re on the subject of the gut, um, one thing that I’ve just recently heard about and then I, uh, read a little bit about it in your book is the gut biome and this idea of these, these, um, beneficial bacterial colonies and it, it sounds like science fiction, like it sounds crazy that you could have these little bacteria that influence your mood and your cravings and things like that. And that’s real, that’s what we’re finding. Is that correct?

Stacy Sims:                  

Yeah, yeah, for sure. I spend two full lectures on this in my nutrition class and I get all the kids, I shouldn’t say kids cause they’re university students, but they get all excited because like your typical gut microbiome makeup is stable by the time you’re age three. And then what you can do is you can alter the ratios. And we know that endurance athletes who have a high sugar intake of training food end up with the same gut microbiome, low diversity, high incidents of what we call from acuities, which is associated with the obesity. Um, so their gut microbiome makeup is very, very much the same as a sedentary obese American following the standard American diet. And the reason for that is when you are exercising in that hot hypoxic environment that your gut is in and you’re feeding it sugar, it encourages the growth of the bacteria that fosters itself on simple sugars. So even if you’re eating clean the rest of the time, you’re just really damaging your gut microbiome and having such an impetus for change when it’s under such distress. So we know that again, eating real food is going to help with that diversity and the more diverse your food, the greater the diversity of the gut. If you have a very diverse microbiome, then you’re less susceptible to injury, less susceptible to anxiety, less susceptible for chronic public burdens diseases like cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes. Um, and I mean, one of the famous case studies that came out a couple of years ago was about this woman who had a lot of c-difficile infections and antibiotics weren’t working, so she had to have a fecal transplant and she had her daughter as a donor and before the transplant she was very thin and had been whole life. But afterwards she gained 30 pounds she couldn’t lose. And she kept gaining weight and they’re like, what is going on? And it’s because her daughter was obese. So the bacteria that she, um, actually had transplanted in her was in the ratio to perpetuate obesity. And she can’t change that unless she has another fecal transplant. So it is so interesting and the science is changing so rapidly and most of it again, is in clinical population. But what we know is exercise perturbs things so much. So you do have to be super careful what you’re eating and drinking and started to feel yourself during exercise to have that overall good health.

Dave Schell:                 

Wow, that’s, that’s pretty unbelievable. I, you can’t really see my here because I’ve got the mic in front of my face, but I’ve just been sitting here slack jawed because, for the record, what is a fecal transplant?

Stacy Sims:                  

So when people need to have like complete microbiome change, then the donor donates a stool sample and it gets spun down and cleaned and then, um, is transferred through the anus to the next person. So it really is a transplant of fecal matter from one person to another in a very medical clean way. Um, and it’s the last resort really for people have such severe bacterial infections of the gut.

Dave Schell:                 

Wow. That’s, that’s crazy. And it’s exciting to see what will come of it in the next five years, you know?

Stacy Sims:                  

I know.

Dave Schell:                 

Wow. Um, so just have a couple more questions for you before I let you go. Um, the other thing that I was really interested in is the effect of antioxidants on recovery. It’s like, yeah, that’s one of those things where it’s like you look around, you look at all the packaged food and they’re touting uh, antioxidants, antioxidants, and it seems like the best thing going right now. But it sounds like it might be counterproductive for adaptation.

Stacy Sims:                  

Yup. So, um, when we’re looking at adaptation, again, the whole reason we go training is to stress the body, right? So we’re stressing everything from the oxidation system, the inneraerobic system, everything that has to do with creating change in the muscle and the lungs and the heart and everything. And one of the critical adaptations is in the Mitochondria. So the oxygen powerhouses of the cells and in order to get quote stronger, they need to understand what oxidation is and put into place steps to overcome it rapidly. If you take an antioxidant, the Mitochondria doesn’t learn that because it has an exogenous thing that’s going to come and remove the free radicals. So you are dampening down your adaptations, just going to take you longer to get fit. So if you’re thinking about, you know, all these post-exercise smoothies and supplements, then everything that has such high concentration of antioxidants, you’re like leaving so much performance potential on the table. Have it like five, six hours after you exercise. Sure. But don’t have it right after exercise because again, you’re reducing your body’s adaptation process and when you’re looking at getting antioxidants, get it from food, because there’s a study that came out three weeks ago looking at people who used real food to meet their recommendations for antioxidants, phytonutrients, magnesium, selenium, all those things versus supplements and those people who used supplements had a greater incidence of cardiovascular disease, muscle wasting, upper respiratory track infections, all of these things that people take supplements for, those people who got it at a real food, were healthy as. So again, we are not as smart as Mother Nature and we don’t know what the cofactors are in food that make things work. So when we start nutrient sciencing it and putting it in a pill form or powder form, we really don’t know the longterm effects of how it’s going to know going to affect our bodies are adaptations or responses or overall health. Um, so yeah, at the antioxidant thing has been really interesting cause it’s been around for lots and lots and lots and lots of decades. But it’s starting to get that trigger and pull because there’s such as push now of, you know, improve your gut health, improve, m, you know, your telemere, get a antioxidants in, get these certain supplements, get prebiotics, probiotics, all these things that come in pill form. We should be getting it from real food.

Dave Schell:                 

On that note, going back to the gut biome probiotics, that’s a big industry now as well.

Stacy Sims:                  

I know.

Dave Schell:                 

So are there any reputable sources for getting them in a pill form or what is the best way to get them via food?

Stacy Sims:                  

Nope.

Dave Schell:                 

Wait a minute. No? There is not a good pill form?

Stacy Sims:                  

Not a good pill form. No, for many reasons. Many reasons. So, you know, we have all this, um, antibacterial resistance, right? Because there’s all these antibiotics that are out there and people are developing resistance. So the probiotics that are out there, there are a few things that aren’t well known. One, most of the strains are coming from maybe two or three companies. So they’re very much commonplace. The other thing are things like, um, the bacteria longus, which is a very common, uh, bacillus strain that’s in so many over the counter probiotics actually causes chronic fatigue in women. Um, and then the other thing to remember is when you take it in a pill form, it gets in the stomach acid. It doesn’t really get into the gut. It goes through such a large digestive process that where you want to make instigated changes mid colon and that doesn’t even get there. The way that you get there is by real food. So you are eating probiotic fermented foods, right? And then you’re also eating really fiberous prebiotic food that is food for the bacteria that’s in your gut. And the more diverse your food sources are, the better diversity there is in your gut. Because the digestion and the nutrient uptake is in that mid colon aspect and that’s where the, the precursor of good gut biome comes from. So taking a pill, does nothing.

Dave Schell:                 

Wow. Okay. So a ton of yogurt. Are the standard yogurts out there, like some of the big names, tout that they have probiotics and prebiotics and I guess just probiotics. Are those good sources or do I need to find something that’s like not raw milk but something more organic or like really seek something out that’s not just on my standard store shelf?

Stacy Sims:                  

Um, no, you can use the standard yogurts that’s fine. They all have the same bacterial strains because that’s what feed on the milk sugars. So you know, if you were to leave milk out and it becomes yogurt, which is how you make yogurt at home, right? You heat the milk and then you let it sit overnight. The bacteria that eats the milk sugar lacto bacillus and the bifidus stuff that’s already in all the yogurts. So it’s a natural production of the milk sugars, which is great. But you also want to look for more diversity. So you can go for something like Kefir or Sauerkraut, Kimchi or the other fermented foods where the bacteria that’s fermenting are a little bit different.

Dave Schell:                 

Okay.

Stacy Sims:                  

Um, so yeah, again, that’s the real food aspect. Right?

Dave Schell:                 

Very cool. That is awesome. So before I let you go, I like, I’ve learned so much already and I can’t wait to see you at the Endurance Coaching Summit in September. Um, but before I let you go today, I’m just curious if you have any recommended reading or podcasts for the coaches that are listening, um, to learn more about some of the things we talked about today, besides your own book.

Stacy Sims:                  

Besides my own book, um, so like to vet things if it works or not, right. You’re looking at all the different caffeine, probiotics, prebiotics, all the supplements that come up, techniques that come up. The website examine.com is fantastic. Examine.com. Um, it’s a group of scientists that were doing their Ph.D. together and they started writing these reviews. So it’s very, you have the deep science and then it has what the human nature is. So it gives you that quick look. So it’s a really good one. Um, they don’t do sex differences, which is unfortunate, but they’re working that way. So that’s a really fantastic resources. Um, we’re starting to put more stuff out through the female athlete health symposiums and conferences. There’s one in Boston that I am presenting at and going into next week. So there are a lot of resources through the Harvard Med and through, um, Whispa, which is a working group in New Zealand. So there are lots of resources of information there too. Um, and then my social media, I’m always putting stuff up that is little short tidbits or um, new new research that’s coming out.

Dave Schell:                 

Okay. And so you have your own Facebook page?

Stacy Sims:                  

And Instagram and Twitter.

Dave Schell:                 

And so where would people find you on Twitter?

Stacy Sims:                  

Um, all across the board, it’s just Dr. Stacy Sims.

Dave Schell:                 

Perfect. Awesome. Thank you very much. We’ll put that in the show notes so that people can find you and follow you. Thank you for your time. I learned a ton and like I said, see you in September.

Stacy Sims:                  

Yeah, thanks for having me.

Dave Schell:                 

Yeah. Take care.

Dave Schell:                 

Hey guys, Dave here again. I hope you my conversation with Stacy. I have to say that I learned so much from her. It’s going to be really exciting to hear her at this year’s Endurance Coaching Summit. Again, use “ECSCoachCast20” to get 20 percent off your registration. Hope to see you there. Until next time.

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The Whole Picture: Nutrition

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This is Part Four of a five-part series on total load, the cumulative training and life stress an athlete experiences while training. Read Part One, Part Two, and Part Three to get the full story.

There are innumerable articles on sports nutrition on the TrainingPeaks blog and elsewhere, but rather than recover that ground, let’s focus on nutritional practices that detract from an athlete’s ability to train hard and recover quickly. As in other articles in this series, we’ll be using heart rate variability (HRV) studies to illustrate how these practices manifest by producing a stress response in the body. HRV is a valuable tool for athletes, as it allows a daily assessment of total stress which can be used to gauge current state of recovery, as well as what kind of training your body is ready for.

Three most common factors that create nutritional stress in athletes are:

DehydrationAlcoholInflammation

Dehydration

Anyone who has exercised for more than a couple of hours in a warm environment may have noticed that their heart rate may continue to increase despite remaining at the same pace or power. Joe Friel describes this phenomenon as “heart rate decoupling,” and one of its causes is reduced stroke volume of the heart brought on by dehydration.

Any upward trend in heart rate while maintaining the same load on the body indicates a shift from parasympathetic to sympathetic dominance and an acute increase in stress. If the stress state brought on by dehydration continues, then recovery is delayed relative to an athlete who is adequately hydrated.

In 2014, researchers from universities in Chile studied the effect of dehydration, both on HRV and on resting metabolic rate (RMR). RMR, or the rate that your body consumes energy in a resting state, is known to stay at a high level after intensive exercise, and the researchers wanted to see whether this was also impacted by dehydration.

Fourteen male college-level athletes were weighed, had their HRV and resting metabolic rate measured, and had their urine tested. The athletes were asked to exercise intensively in 32C (90F) environment with circuit training exercises for one minute bursts with one minute of rest in between for 45 minutes total. The aim of this was to dehydrate the athletes by 3.5 percent of their body weight or about 2.5 kg (5.5 lbs) for an 80 kg (176 lbs) athlete.

The athletes were then split into two equal groups, one of which received 1.5 times the amount of fluid they had lost (rehydration group), while the other group rested in a dehydrated state (dehydration group). They found that:

Heart Rate Variability (HRV) was significantly lower in the dehydration groupResting metabolic rate was much higher in the dehydration group

The decreased HRV may indicate a delayed return to the “rest and digest” state that we need to rebuild and restore the body’s reserves.

The researchers’ recommendation is to consume approximately 150 percent of the fluid lost during exercise to ensure a fully hydrated state and to use electrolyte supplements for extended workouts. This is especially true in a hot environment in order to minimize the dehydration contribution to total load.

Alcohol

Although dehydration would also be the first, and perhaps the only reason, that athletes typically think of for not consuming alcoholic drinks, there are, in fact, several ways in which alcohol adds to the total stress load of the body:

Hydration. Alcohol is a diuretic, i.e. it makes you lose more fluid than the drink contains. If that fluid is not replaced, the drink may create extra stress and delay recovery.Refueling. Replacement of glycogen, the preferred muscle fuel, is vital after exercise, but studies show it takes nearly twice as long to replace in athletes who have consumed alcohol.Muscle rebuilding. Alcohol suppresses the protein synthesis needed to repair and strengthen muscles, impairing your adaptation to training. It also delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).Sleep. A drink or two might help you fall asleep more quickly if your mind is active, but alcohol also interferes with your sleep quality, particularly REM sleep later in the night. Memories are stored during REM sleep, hence part of the reason why people say they can’t remember what happened the previous night. Additional consequences include the reduced ability to concentrate the next day and an increased risk of injury in sports requiring precise coordination.

There aren’t many studies relating alcohol consumption and heart rate variability, but one took a closer look at the all-encompassing SDNN measure of HRV. They showed that HRV declined with increasing weekly alcohol consumption:

https://9097bca1a75e8bb2e831365d-hrvfitltd.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Image-1-1.png

This data shows a minimal impact for the recommended two small drinks per day, but by the time research subjects were consuming twice that amount, HRV was reduced by around 10 percent. Doubling consumption again reduces HRV by a very significant 25 percent compared to consuming no alcohol at all.

There are several adjustments that can help minimize the impact of alcohol on recovery:

Try to leave as much time as possible between finishing training and having an alcoholic drink. Fit in a recovery drink with carbs in between (contrary to popular opinion, beer and wine do not contain useful quantities of carbs for athletes).Drink water or soft drinks to reduce the effective alcohol concentration to three percent. That means alternating pints of beer with pints of water, or drinking three glasses of water for each glass of wine.Eat salty snacks. Studies have found reduced impact of alcohol when taken together with salt, as the salt helps retain water.Pre-event abstinence. You’ve spent weeks and months preparing to give your best at a competition, so don’t jeopardize performance by drinking in the three to four days leading up to it.

Inflammation

Inflammation is the body’s mechanism for managing repair, and therefore, in principle, a good thing. For example, inflammation is necessary for muscle growth as it participates in protein breakdown, removal of damaged muscle fibres, and production of prostaglandins. However, a lot of the time the body is struggling with low grade chronic inflammation that adds to total load.

Inflammation is a stress response driven by the sympathetic nervous system but regulated or “turned down” by the parasympathetic nervous system that we measure with HRV. What does this have to do with nutrition you may ask? Well, take a look at this example of ithlete HRV readings taken by leading HRV researcher Dr. Andrew Flatt during a week when he relaxed his usual healthy diet in favour of high glycaemic, highly processed, and refined foods known to promote inflammation:

https://hrvtraining.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/050812_1446_howtoincrea1.png?w=640

As well as significant daily drops in HRV during the week, his overall baseline also reduced without having done any training. Dr. Flatt’s conclusion was that: “Eating foods that promote inflammation in the body creates stress that your body must deal with. In dealing with this stress we reduce our ability to adapt and recover from training.”

Nutritionally, one of the most common factors driving chronic inflammation is an imbalance between Omega-3 and Omega-6 fat sources, with the latter being both more common in a pro-inflammatory processed food diet. The answer could be to increase dietary quantities of Omega-3 fats, preferably from wild fatty fish; farmed fatty fish has very little Omega-3 due to its altered diet. Trans-fats are also known to be pro-inflammatory and are found in foods such as pastries, doughnuts, margarine, and other snack foods.

Foods that reduce inflammation include fruits (especially berries) and green vegetables, olive oil, ginger, garlic, turmeric, organic meat and fish, and green tea. Studies have also shown the Mediterranean diet to be associated with higher levels of HRV and overall health.

Conclusion

In this article, we reviewed mechanisms and evidence that nutritional practices common amongst age group athletes create a stress load that the body has to bear in addition to training. This extra load delays recovery and prevents the athlete from training as hard and effectively as they might to gain maximum adaptations and performance.

The good news is that all of these factors are relatively easily managed, and that regular HRV monitoring provides an overall health barometer to help identify what is working.

In the final part of this series, we will be looking at how sleep (or more commonly, the lack of it) contributes to total load in the athlete.

The next article in this five-part series will take a closer look at how sleep contributes to total load.

References:

IOC consensus statement: dietary supplements and the high-performance athlete. Maughan RJ, et al. Br J Sports Med., 2018Periodized Nutrition for Athletes. Asker E Jeukendrup. Sports Med., 2017Heart-rate variability: a biomarker to study the influence of nutrition on physiological and psychological health? Hayley A. Young and David Benton. Behavioural Pharmacology., 201Hydration status after exercise affect resting metabolic rate and heart rate Variability. Mauricio Castro-Sepúlveda, et al. Nutr Hosp., 2015Relations between alcohol consumption, heart rate, and heart rate variability in men. J M Ryan and L G Howes. Heart., 2002

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How to use run power for race-specific training

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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.

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CoachCast: Building Confidence with Nicole Adams

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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.

What To Do When Your Athlete Sets An “Impossible” Goal

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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.

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