#1 pitfall in self coaching

About a week and a half ago I had a little mishap at the gym. I was about to finish my 4th set of squats when I felt this small sting in my groin. It turned out to be a slightly pulled adductor. This whole thing did not come out of the blue. I had already been given an early warnings few days before (small cramp in the same area) and a red flag (tightness in the adductor) after the 3rd set that very same day. Why did I fail to listen to those early warning signals?

IMG_1908The other day I read an article about Do’s and Dont’s of coaching. The punchline “the training session begins the second the athlete walks in the door” caught my attention. The accompanying text discussed about coaches’ need to probe the athlete’s readiness – physical and mental – to define the best training session for the athlete today. I couldn’t help feeling a little sting when thinking about discussions I’ve had with myself at the gym door. The topic has rarely been about should I do the planned session or not. If I have one,  it is to give myself a swift kick in the butt in order to reach the desired state of mind.

Why is it so hard to listen to yourself? And even harder to adjust, or totally alter the plan? For a self coached athlete the time for discussions and plan changes has long passed when you’re at the doorstep of the training facility, all pumped up and ready to go. In general, to me any discomfort related to plan adjustments are related to what the plan stands for. It is the path to an achieved goal – to win something or someone, usually myself. Doing anything less would mean you’re not up to the task. Recognising this personal attribute hopefully helps me in further increasing the built in wiggle room in my own planning. The other side of the coin, equally important one is the nature of the sport. Being a stressed out wreck makes a killer cocktail when combined with heavy sprints or barbel training. I learned this the hard way.

What about those red flags during a training session then? This late mild groin injury of mine is a perfect example of why those red flags are meant to be taken seriously. In a worst case scenario I’d be working my way through a significant adductor tear. The initial recovery and rehab period would probably be two weeks or so. I’d be on the second week now. supercompensationThen I’d face a period, maybe from few weeks to couple of months, trying to get back to the point where I was before the mishap.
Instead of missing a set at the gym and perhaps a tiny bit of super-compensation, I’d be looking at missing several weeks to few months of steady progress. How about that for a trade off.

So heres a mental note to self: In the case of mid session red flag the answer to the question “Should I try to finish the session as planned?” is always “NO!“. End of discussion.




Back in the saddle

It has been good 3 months since Worlds and it seems certain my next competition will not happen until sometime next summer. At the moment it feels like a blessing. I’m struggling with my motivation for training. Life outside the track has drawn my attention. The Real Life.

After Manchester I took a 3 week break from all training. While very much needed to heal the multiple sores, it still was not long enough. The hard hit to the greater trochanter of my right tibia was causing issues, mainly at the insertion and top section of vastus lateralis. The muscle, tendons and the ITB were chronically tight. So instead of rushing into my “usual” SPP cycle I tried to listening to what my body was telling me and building things slow. Well, in all honesty this was not what I had in mind.

During the past several weeks I’ve managed roughly 4 training sessions per week. Getting back to gym has been the easy part, I’ve done more squatting than I have in years! Getting back on the bike… not so easy. From now on I will try to pick up more speed. If not in my training, then at least in writing. Hopefully that will help me in getting out of this slump!

Time trial performance

I’ve had it! No more aero bars for me. And this time I’ll stick with this decision.

Why the outburst? Last year in Manchester I rode my 750m TT on sprint bars. And I just sucked. My time was .5 seconds slower than a year before.  After a quick analysis of the data (the 2013 and 2014 lines in below graph) I managed to convince myself I’d do better
with aero bars. Everyone else rely on them relies on them so why not I.

TT performanceThis year I did ok. Not as well as I wanted to, but ok. In addition it felt like I had a decent start so I was anxious to see my splits. Unfortunatly it seems to take forever for the official results books to appear online. A friend of mine had taken a video of my ride so good, I was able to hand time my sections. The data I got out of it speaks volumes.

The above graph illustrates the average speeds for different 125m sections of the 750m TT.  The green colour line represents this year’s race. As you see my top speed has improved quite a bit, which quite frankly is not a huge surprise considering where the focus of my training has been: 60% of my training volume has been in short sprints. Back in 2013 I spent a lot of time doing 45-60 second efforts to develop my anaerobic capacity. That is the story behind the red tail not declining quite as much as the other two. Comparing the red line to the blue led me to believe I’d be better off with aero bars. Seemed like I was able to hold the speed better when on skies. That was a good theory. Unfortunately 2015 data does not seem to agree with it. Now my current theory is I was better holding the speed towards the end because back then my anaerobic capacity was relatively better than my anaerobic power, not because of the equipment.

TT powerBefore I had the 2015 splits I put together a graph of power duration curves comparing the 2014 ride against this year’s data. There’s one thing to understand when reading this chart: This year I missed a good 4 seconds from the start, due to the recording delay of the SRM. Because of that I’m lacking few data points that would most probably lift the tail of the green line just a bit. If you compare the info from this to the info from the split chart you can clearly see the what an impact of my focus on short sprints have had on the entire speed graph.

Comparing my performance with the competition it is clear that aero bars are not the solution to my biggest problem in the 750m time trial. A 21 second opening lap is not going to cut it, especially when my competition is at 19 seconds. Why the hell I am so slow then? Poor start technique is surely one reason. Another is the gear. Time trial setupEach year I have added one teeth to the chain ring. The third, and final, takes me back to handlebars. My arms are really long. Therefore it is really hard to create a setup in which the base bar is low enough to ensure my torso, which is not that small either, does not act as a sail when trying to collect speed.

So back to sprint bars it is. This time for good! If nothing else, at least I feel at home with them. Something I cannot say about the aero bars.