November 22, 2008

Putting On The Coaching hat

I've been reading a bunch of stuff lately (see the previous post), but not all if it has been pure candy. I try to read some relevant stuff too. Physiology, biomechanics, stuff that is important to both my day to day job and the performance of my athletes (which is my day to day job - a potential infinite loop of hilarity).

Anyway, there is some good stuff out there from coaches across the spectrum of spots (gotta read it all). I just read some very interesting stuff on the influence of the brain on fatigue and There is also some junk out there as well. A few coaches are pushing ideas and their own theories that are based more on ego than real science. I won't throw them out now, but may later...guess it depends on the quality of my coffee tomorrow. A couple of observations

1. Lots of coaches claim to have the next silver bullet of performance. This year it seems to be Tabata Intervals. Roughly, its a set of 6-8 intervals of 20 seconds ON, 10 seconds OFF performed at about 170% of VO2max (power i presume as the study had them on a cycling ergometer - though they are usually described as 'all out' by those referencing). I've been using them for about a year now intermittently (yep, one of the sheep) and can say that they are both effective and too easy. I haven't done them in the run up to a competition, but my athletes seem to like them. They are hard, but they aren't as hard as some other workouts I do. The argument is that those doing Tabatas had a 14% improvement in VO2 and a 28% improvement in anaerobic capacity over the course of a 6-week study doing these 2 or 3 times a week, while those exercising at 70% of VO2 only showed improvement in their VO2 (53 to 58 ml/kg). It just seems to me that doing a block of these 2 or 3 times a week isn't sufficient to make performance gain - think about it this way...6 sets of 20s is only 2minutes of workload - so although intensity factor is very high, total training stress is very low. Then again, as an interval model they are a valid approach. Then again so is Peak Power. Think of Peak Power as VO2 power. The strategem is to do your peak power for 60% of your T-max (maximum sustained duration at peak power). While a solid approach to High Intensity Training (HIT) I think that the Thibault approach is much more elegant. Dr Thibault has built a model for improving your VO2 power by working across a range of intensities (85-110% of VO2power) and durations (45s - 6:30m). I like it because it offers both a standardized approach and a wide variety of workout options to keep athletes motivated.

2. The next big 'revelation' is the move away from periodization in training. Carl Foster of ACSM asserts that no reliable studies validate the periodized training plan approach. While I haven't read the reference material he drew from, I did look around a bit and found an interesting look at the relative volume of training done at Lactate Threshold at an ACSM Annual conference, chaired by Carl Foster, that could certainly be a backstop to the idea of eliminating periodization if for no other reason than to minimize training time spent at higher intensities. That study, lead by Stephen Seiler, looked at polarizing training (increasing volume of low intensity and essentially decreasing threshold level work) and the positive results that came as a result. My worry is that athletes will simply hear that periodization is out and use it to justify an increase in volume of intensity (defined by me as Level 4/LT and above) that will ultimately lead to stagnation or perhaps overtraining.

Anyway, this idea of ego-centric coaching was all brought home recently on a series of threads authored by a coach with a great list of acronyms and accomplishments behind his name (which is a HUGE pet peeve of mine!!!!) but a complete lack both perspective and couth (sp?). He went on and on about how doctors are, basically, inept and dangerous, how chiropractic will be the wave of the future, and what a jerk another coach is for posting an educational link that happened to also be revenue generating for the other coach. It was distasteful and tacky. That he followed it up by telling this group (that includes many accomplished coaches, PhD's, etc) that the next big thing ("you heard it here first") was having trainers partner with doctors to help both gain credability. What? My first job out of college in 1995 was working as a trainer/exercise therapist in a clinical setting with chronically ill patients - yea...almost 15 years ago!

I guess my point is that each of you should really try and see the big picture with your training. Don't look at the next 'new' thing as the path to greatness. Don't presume that because someone has a lot of letters behind their name that they know what they are talking about. Challenge your sources. Ask questions. Don't settle...

No comments:

Post a Comment