Coaching


Mirrors are amazing devices. In my physical training, my coach and I frequently use mirrors to adjust my body position. Yet, I use mirrors in a figurative way as well. A coach is like a mirror. When we can see ourselves through the eyes of a coach, change becomes possible and probable. In contrast, trying to be my own expert has been disastrous for me. Selecting someone who can help me along my path is very important. Such a guide needs to be a good fit. I have had several coaches in my life in speed skating as well as other endeavors and no there is doubt I will have more. This coaching idea can be applied to any part of my life, the principles are universal. I trust that each coach who has come along has been the right one at the right time for my learning process.
The coach-athlete relationship needs to embody a certain synchronicity. Everyone puts out a certain vibration, and I’ve learned that following my gut and being sensitive to that feeling when picking a coach is very important. This will help the relationship grow, flourish, and be good for both of us. That is the goal in a perfect world. The real world is very different, but we must continually strive to obtain what we need.
The first question to ask when considering coaching is, “Am I coach-able?” This will be a rudimentary question for some and a very difficult one for others. I have been at opposite ends of this spectrum in different parts of my life. As a youngster, I attended a few summer camps to learn about skating and training. I had a correspondence relationship with a couple of coaches. One was Dutch and one was Norwegian. We wrote letters that took weeks to deliver. By learning as much as I could, I became my own expert. Because I developed some hard and fast rules for my training, I became unshakable in most of my ideas and was not very coach-able at the time.
Years later as a masters skater, I realized I had a lot of knowledge and expertise. I had wisdom based on my life experiences and was an expert on many things, but there was still some blockage where coaching was concerned. I was not moving forward as well as I could, so I accepted that I could not see myself as well as a coach could. I was becoming open to new ideas about how to do things, and I was now ready to listen to a coach.
My current coach says that I am very coach-able. To me, this means I am willing to hear what she has to say and try it to the best of my ability. I no longer feel that I have to justify what I am doing, just try to do it differently. This attitude has taken a long time to adopt. My ability to do so is connected to my improved self-esteem. The better we feel about ourselves, the easier it is to change. That’s what being coach-able is all about.
The coach-athlete relationship is similar to a family relationship in many ways. In order for it to work well and flourish, it must be given the priority of just below family.
Proximity is important in any relationship. Long distances are possible in coach-athlete relationships, but they can be hard. There is no substitute for looking into someone’s eyes and seeing their body language to get the feedback that a coach needs to make adjustments. Having a coach who can be on the scene is the best arrangement. When you are willing to do the work of finding and fostering a coach-athlete relationship, the benefits outweigh the costs every time.
Communication between a coach and an athlete is the only way an athlete can make progress. In order for the communication to be effective, I must be absolutely honest with myself first, then with my coach. My career in aviation has helped me to see what effective communication can do. To pass on those lessons, I will explain what I know works for me in the coach-athlete relationship.
For effective communication to take place, people must follow some essential steps. First, the idea must be verbalized. This verbalization must be done in a constructive way. The next step is timing. The information must take place when the athlete is attentive. If my coach yells something at me when I am totally focused on my performance, hearing is impossible. As a dad and soccer coach, I remember never to shout anything to the boy with the ball during a game. Talking to the boys without the ball is more effective. In addition, if the athlete is alert and attentive, then he or she has a better chance of hearing what the coach is trying to get across.
Conversely, as an athlete, I need to pay attention to what my coach is trying to get across to me. There is no harm in saying, “ Sorry, I could not hear you, say again?” or “What did you say? I could not listen till now.”
But for true communication to take place, the people involved must have a meaningful exchange. As a coach, you want some insightful response back from your athlete. If my coach tries to convey a point of technique to me, then says “Do you understand?” and I respond with a yes or a nod, she has no way of telling whether any real ideas were exchanged. On the other hand, if I say something meaningful or insightful back or if I physically demonstrate understanding, my coach knows I absorbed her point.
To sum up, it is important to communicate clearly, honestly, and when the listener is available to really listen. Then make sure that something meaningful and insightful is the result of the exchange. Everyone communicates differently. It is up to me, as an athlete, to make sure that I effectively take in what my coach is trying to get across to me. It is in my interest to have a coach and my responsibility to make the relationship work.

Find and foster a coach-athlete relationship and the rewards will great!

Here is my coach giving me split times on the backstretch and encouragement!

Here is my coach giving me split times on the back-stretch and encouragement!

My Guest Blog Post on rundamentalist.com


Bruce Conner is an inspirational athlete, who has now qualified for four US Olympic trials at the age 19, 49, 53 and 57. He is breaking down the age barrier in the competitive sport of speed skating and he is faster now than when he was a teenager…whilst also excelling in his career as a 747. Bruce Conner is an inspirational athlete, who has now qualified for four US Olympic trials at the age 19, 49, 53 and 57. He is breaking down the age barrier in the competitive sport of speed skating and he is faster now than when he was a teenager…whilst also excelling in his career as a 747 pilot! I had the pleasure to meet Bruce recently and he has kindly agreed to share an excerpt from his excellent book ‘Faster as a Master’ with Rundamentalists followers… .. http://www.rundamentalists.com/2015/03/15/how-to-bring-your-a-game-every-time/

Photo by Steve Penland

Photo by Steve Penland

Intuitive Training Revisited


The 15 months since my last US Olympic trials at age 57 has been very different for me.

I am not focused on a goal.  I have tried to be sensitive to what my mind, body, and spirit are telling me.

For those of you who are driven by goals this may be foreign to you, it was to me at first.  For those of you who do not set distinct goals you may be able to relate better.

Here is where I am and what I have learned.

I am healthier than ever before, stronger than ever, better rested, and my spirit is calmer.

Since I have not been training in such a goal oriented driven way I have allowed my mind, body and spirit to guide me in what to do.

When I feel like moving, I do.  When I feel the need to rest, I rest.  When I feel like pushing hard, I push.  When I need to have fun, I keep it light.

Some of my training helps with sleep management because of my 3-4 trips to asia per month.

Building a luge track in the snow for my grandkids was a blast, a workout, and a memorable.

Shoveling snow was not a chore but a way to move and be productive.

Playing cardio tennis helped me to reconnect to a fun way to move.

Skating a few times this year in Milwaukee helps me to reconnect to my love of skating, my skating family, and humbles me every time as to how hard skating fast really is.

Weight training at the gym is fun because I can push hard if I want to or not.  It is pretty cool that I found that I like to push just for the sake of pushing.

This intuitive training wisdom comes from within, I must be sensitive and pay attention.

The result will allow me to create a future of health, happiness, balance, and grace.

I have the ability to create my own future of health and well being and I take responsibilty for it.  My best is yet to come, so is yours!  Break down your self limiting beliefs, journey towards wholeness, and have fun!

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Cardiovascular Training


Anytime I move, my heart starts raising its rate to keep up with my workload. Virtually, all of my training has a cardiovascular component to it. A couple of times a week, I do some pure cardio work to train my heart and lungs.

When I am on the ice, I can consider it a strength and cardio workout. Even skating slow laps requires a great deal of strength, and my heart rate increases to a high level before long. I do two types of specific cardio work, mostly on a stationary bike sometimes on the ice or slideboard.

One type of workout is interval training. The other is extensive tempo. The difference is that interval training is of a higher intensity but with rest between the efforts. The extensive tempo training is doing something at a lower intensity but continuously for a longer time frame.

An example of an interval workout would be running 400 meters pretty hard so that you are breathing heavily at the end, then resting by jogging 200 meters, then repeating. This was the workout we did when I was in high school as a freshman running cross-country, and we repeated this cycle about 12 times or more in a workout. It takes about an hour to do this part of the workout.

An extensive tempo workout would be running for the same hour or longer but at a slower pace continuously. Both types of workouts have benefits for your heart and lungs. If you are not in very good condition you must remember to increase your volume and intensity very slowly!  Otherwise, you will get injured and have to stop or scale back your training.  Even if you are in great shape, increase slowly!

To get the full benefits of cardio training, you should use both methods each week. Many times, my coach schedules an extensive tempo bike workout in the evening after an intense morning workout on the ice to help flush out the byproducts that built up earlier. This way I get the benefit of the flush as well as the cardio training for my heart. Swimming is also a great non-weight-bearing exercise that can help with heart and lung capacity. I can do tempo, intervals, or recovery work by swimming.

Here is a video of the end of an interval workout on my stationary bike that I sent to my coach Nancy Swider-Peltz, Sr who was in Germany at the time.