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Excellence or popularity, it’s your choice

15 April 2010 2 Comments

It really doesn’t matter what field of work or sport we’re involved in. We will very often have to make a choice between doing what we feel is best, or doing that which will gain most popularity. It seems that teenagers are the age group where this dilema is faced most often.

It’s been a long time since I was a teenager, but I can still remember making decisions which were really wrong at the time, just so that I remained popular in my peer group. Being popular is pretty important for a teenager.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve valued doing what I feel is right, far more than being popular. I once read the saying, “I’d rather be disliked for who I am, than to be liked for who I am not”. As a coach I have had pressure put on me at times to change what we do to suit an individual. It just doesn’t happen.

I’m not the only one who knows the right way to do something. There are many right ways. There are many wrong ways. The results suggest that the “way” we’re using is “one of the right ways”. 

I’ve recently been amused by the postings on coaching, on a triathlon chat site. Lots of readers just read it and don’t comment. About half a dozen posters, who for reasons known only to themselves will not identify themselves, and post under invented tags. These “mystery men”, the keyboard captains, are making sweeping statements about how an athlete should be coached. Because of their annonyminity, it would be easy to assume that, their statements are neither backed by qualifications or results.

One poster suggested a coach should not have a triathlete practice kicking, or catch up drill. We regularly do these drills and many more in developing our swimmers. They are part of a balanced plan designed to help our swimmers become more comfortable in the water. To have a better balanced position in the water. Good swimmers can kick, triathlon swimmers don’t need to kick much, but they must be able to do it efficiently to maintain good body position.

It’s a simple formular, better body position = less drag = faster times.

The catch-up drill is another chance for a novice swimmer to become more balanced in the water. Most novice swimmers have trouble holding a relaxed arm out in front for a split second, without grabbing at the water. “Catch up” teaches this by allowing the swimmer to become relaxed and balanced in the water. Then the actual catch (probably the most important part of a triathlete’s stroke) can be trained with this drill.

Better balance + better catch = less drag + more propulsion = better times.

The same genius suggests that triathletes should not do high cadence cycling. As a squad, over a weeks work, the average cadence would probably be 80-85rpm (this takes into account, hills, strength intervals, aerobic spinning etc) 80-85rpm seems to be the most common cadence for Ironman triathletes to time trial at. We would average that over a week.

When we do “lactic tolerence” or “VO2 max” intervals, our cadence will go as high as 120-140rpm. This is how it’s done. Even though on race day, we’ll never get to those revs. One of the missing links in the average triathlete’s fitness, is the well rounded effect gained by doing some very high cadence, high intensity intervals. This is only 10-15% of the athletes work.

Large aerobic base + strength work = endurance + high VO2 max + high lactic tolerence + high AT = faster bike splits    

One of the sad things about triathlon chat sites is the fact that fat, unfit, totally inexperienced people can post training advice. Or worse, criticise those who are out there actually working in the field producing results in a wide range of athetes of all abilities and age groups.

There has to be a reason why a poster would use an alias?


  • Jimmy C said:

    AP i got to the bottom of page 2 on that “coaching” thread and decided that there was more chaff than wheat- anything i wrote would be shot down-so i didnt bother. Half the time they dont realise they are all looking at the same thing from just a minor difference of perspectives.

    As soon as people realise there is no magical “way” and just fucking train (JFT) and training consistently in a way that :

    a. targets PASSIONATE goals
    b. suits your LIFESTYLE
    c.is FUN and
    d.you can ABSORB

    they are on the way.

    The Iron Chef and Gabrielle Gate probably dont agree on how to cook the perfect soup but I bet both turn out tasting great. Why would the Iron Chef tell him cooking with snails is wrong- just cause he doesnt do it?

    Triathlon coaching doesnt have to be like living in a 1950 Communist Dictatorship where everyone follows a Red Book. Listening to some of the clown on there you would think such a book exists hidden under a rock in Cronulla.

    This is the problem with western thinking too often -that there has to be a constant search for right and wrong rather than shades of grey……….

    ok back into the shadows for me now

  • Jeff Collier said:

    Alan you certainly don’t have to justify your coaching methods to anyone except the smart athletes that choose you as their coach.Keep up the good work !

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