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!

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!

1140_586763424673765_1810058230_n

General Training Principles: Part 2 of 2


General Training Principles Part 2 of 2.

To recap my training regimen has eight parts.

Practicing the sport
Warm-up, cool-down, volume, and intensity
Strength work
Cardiovascular work
Periodization
Stretching
Mental training
Rest

Today I will talk about the first part, practicing my sport—in this case, speed skating. Many of you can do your sport daily, like running or cycling.  I can skate on the ice (when available), rollerblade, do imitation skating on dry land, or use a slide-board.

Recently I learned about a high school cross country progarm that was consistently winning over many decades.  They did not run everyday.  They ran hard about 3 days a week and in-between, they would do recovery work on a bike and swimming.  So even when pratcticing your sport like running everyday is not necessary or even desirable.

By applying the general principles of athletic training to anything that requires commitment, dedication, perseverance, and discipline, you can achieve extraordinary results.

Practicing my sport When I started skating as a youngster, what attracted me was the sport itself and the joy of doing it. We must all remember our roots and our early motivation to get us through the hard work of training.

When I skate and race, I put everything together: strength, endurance, technique, cardio work, mental training, everything. This is my toughest test, as well as my best barometer of progress. Here is where the skate meets the ice.

There is nothing natural about speed skating. It is a purely learned activity that requires a fair amount of strength. Because of the strength required, skaters do not have the luxury of a lot of repetition. In order to skate technically well, a skater cannot be too tired. When I get tired, my technique suffers and thereby my speed. In the United States, we have long track ice at two indoor 400-meter ovals about six months of the year from September through March. If the rink is outdoor the season is even shorter. In Olympic years, we might have ice indoors a month or so longer. It is important to skate, but it is also important to do off-ice imitation skating in the form of inline skating, dry-land training, and slide-board. I am constantly refining my technique to get the maximum speed.

When I skate, I have several types of workouts. One workout is endurance skating: many laps at low intensity concentrating on technique and efficiency. Another workout is at race pace for short distances, typically 400 to 600 meters. We have several types of interval workouts as well, which intersperse hard skating with periodic rests. Then we have sprint workouts where we go all out hard for very short distances, interspersed with long rests. The goal is to refine our technique on the ice, since there is no true substitute, while simulating the different parts of racing. My coach is usually on hand for these sessions to direct and modify training as I go, as well as help to refine technique.

In whatever sport you are engaged in, you must learn to apply some amount of technique. Even something as seemingly simple as cycling can benefit because you can learn more efficient ways of pedaling. In speed skating, technique is extremely important. The faster I want to go, the better I must skate technically. This means striving for great body positioning and the most efficient way to push into the ice. If I have poor technique, I will skate slowly. When I improve my ability to apply my motor to the ice, I go faster and longer with the same effort.

By getting some coaching or going to a clinic for your sport will enhance your experience.

The benefits are worth it, you are worth it!

Your best is yet to come!

Training Cycles, Macro to Micro


Training has its cycles, macro to micro.  The macro cycle starts with the 4 year Olympic cycle. The micro is the cycle within a workout.

We all need to make decisions about how and when to train.  When to go hard, and when to taper off for competition. When to go hard in a workout, when to rest and recover.  Here are some proven guidelines to making those decisions yearly, monthly, weekly, daily and sometimes moment to moment managing our bodies and minds to be our best ever!

There is a reason that the Olympics are every 4 years.  I have been through 2 complete cycles recently now and can attest to the natural flow that it takes.  After an Olympic year we all need a break from the  intense training.  There is a natural need for a less intense season.  Then the build up can continue again towards the next Olympic year.  We all need a break physically, mentally, emotionally, etc.

The speed skating competition season starts in September and ends in March.  After the season is over,  a few weeks off or just recovery work, then off ice training again in preparation for skating in the fall.   Time off consists of recovery work and fun stuff.  I do a lot of low intensity bike work, tennis, golf, swimming, etc.

When training again, increasing gradually, hard for 3 weeks and easy for 1 week. The easy week is very important for the body to have some recovery.  Without a break we are subject to over training and susceptible to injury and illness.

During the competition season I need to be able to peak at the right time.  This requires an easy week or two prior to the competition.  The longer the hard training period the longer the taper prior to the competition.  The taper is done by keeping the intensity but reducing the volume.

In a weekly cycle I train hard all week and take Sundays off.  Sometimes hard training for two days and take an easy recovery day between.  I still need to get in a certain amount of cardio training, strength, and skating in every week.

Even within a single workout there are cycles.  After the warmup and into the meat of a workout I cycle between intense work then rest and recovery.  Intervals followed by a set rest or A very hard effort followed by complete rest.  There a number of different kinds of workouts with this in mind depending on what the objective is that I am trying to obtain.  At the end of the workout I finish the cycle by cooling down and stretching.

So what to do with this information?  Set up a training plan for the 4 year cycle, yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily. Revise it accordingly to fit your needs, desires, competitions and reactions to training feedback and recovery.

Remember, work, recovery, rest, repeat.

My ithlete HRV tool helps with determining how hard to train. It helps me to measure my readiness to train hard or take an easy day.

The Native American indians have a philosophy about circles.  Respect the circles and the cycles of life, it will pay great dividends in all areas of your life.

Masters US Single Distance Championships January 2012, photo by Steve Penland

Balance and Priorities


Book signing in Kildeer went very well yesterday with about 30 people attending.  Next event is Saturday 1/24/2015  11am to 1pm at the Road Runner Sports in Naperville, IL

Balance is a fine art.  In speed skating, a 1.1 milimeter blade is the point of contact with the ice. To master balance is the first priority.  Proper skating position, adding power, then repeat with tempo, generating speed.  Managing energy from the fast twitch muscle fibers for the start, acceleration, and high-speed turns, to the slow twitch fibers to keep me in the lowest position for maximum power and efficiency.

These principles are universal to any endeavor physical, mental, etc.

Falls happen to the best of us every now and then.  By pushing limits, chances are greater of a fall but the rewards are higher too.

Falling is part of life, so is pain.  Off balance, out of focus, inefficient, unproductive, exposed to injury and disease.  Balance is just the opposite, focused, productive, efficient, healthy, happy, content and serene.  More sensitive to being off-balance today, I can make necessary more easily now.

learning process like anything else, the benefits are applicable to all areas of my life.  Since they affect all areas of my life then I must give balance the priority that it deserves, top.  Most of us spend about 90% of our time looking over the edge, focusing on the problems to balance. By finding out what works, keep doing it, refining it little by little is the best formula for success.

Priorities are the foundation of good decision-making.  Keeping my priorities straight, with good judgements about where I am, my goals, and how to get there.  If I am confused about my decisions by revisiting my priorities, the decisions become clearer.  Priorities in the order of God first, family second, work third and recreation fourth.

Ever know a few people who are very busy but always seem to have time for the most important things?  This is an example of having priorities straight.  Anything that is urgent, is rarely important, and anything that is important is rarely urgent.  Timing of my actions is just as important as the action itself.

Clear goals, balance, priorities, all help to establish the landscape.  Confident, focused, productive, efficient, happy, healthy, serene, trusting the path.

cropped-dsc_6346.jpg

Goals: Part 1 of 2


Goals: Part 1 of 2

Upcoming book signing appearance:

Road Runner Sports

Kildeer, Il 1/17/2015  11am

At the beginning of every year and the beginning of each season, I set goals.

The importance of goal setting cannot be underestimated. Impossible dreams are accomplished when focusing on goals you can control. Many of our goals are unspoken, they are motivations just under the surface. It is important to get those goals out in the open. There is some risk with that. By telling someone about my goals, even admitting it to myself, then I am responsible and accountable for them. This can be daunting and scary. The goal can be a stretch, the risk is outside of my comfort zone, exposure is tough. By starting towards my goal, if it seems to be unrealistic, then changing my goal is necessary. It is ok to change goals and directions. Sometimes life demands it. When change is needed that I resisted, there was a lesson for me. Life threw me a curve, adapt or suffer the consequences.

Having no target or direction, I will surely hit something, exactly what I do not want. By having a goal, a direction or a target, adjustments are easy. Enjoying the forward motion of my journey as well the direction, hitting my goal because of focus. If the original goal was not where I wanted to go, at least I have made progress in determining my eventual outcome and am farther down the road. It is also important to look at the expectations of my goals and to realize they are my goals, no one but mine. They are my creation. If they become a burden then I must look deeper to the motivation behind the goals. The goal may really belong to someone else. Focusing on goals that leave me feeling recharged rather than drained.

There are a number of steps to take to set up my goals. First I must know what drives me. What I am passionate about? What are my priorities and how I can fulfill them? Joy and passion will keep me coming back to completion of a goal or a positive change for a lifetime.

I have a passion for skating, and skating well. It requires a great deal of work and I am willing to do it. A passion for flying, doing it well, it shows there too. Keeping focused on passion and joy, see where it takes me. With these principles in mind, I can set short, medium and long-term goals.

My goals must be admitted by me first. Then I must announce them out loud. Then they must be shared with others that are important to my success. This can be difficult, but in order to move forward there must not be seen and unseen roadblocks to progress. There are many conscious and unconscious barriers to progress. By recognizing them as they come up, ignoring them, going around, or over them.

Goals must be realistic, measurable, have definite time frames, reviewed from time to time, and adjusted as necessary. Goals are classified as short, medium, and long-range. If one of my goals is to build self-esteem through setting and achieving goals, then I must do esteem-able things. The direction and end are important, but ultimately it is the journey that is the most valuable.

Next weeks post will be a conclusion to my discussion about goals. Stay tuned…..

Steps to the goals

Steps to the goals

Steps to the goals

Injuries


Injuries

As far as injuries are concerned, my policy is prevention, prevention, prevention. I observe a number of basic principles when it comes to injury prevention and management. The first is listening to my body and learning to respond to it quickly and appropriately. Every time I train, I create some injury. Through the work I do, I deliberately break down my body. Our bodies respond by rebuilding themselves stronger than before. By managing minor, self-inflicted injuries (my training), I will grow stronger over time. Building up tolerance by increasing very slowly is crucial. For example, if I am going to run a marathon this year, I would need to have a base to start from. I would need to demonstrate consistent mileage without injury on the kinds of running surface I would be training and racing on. Injuries generally occur because the body is not responding well to the increase or not recovering quickly enough to do the increased volume.
Using the proper equipment can help prevent injuries. Analyzing body mechanics is another important tool for injury prevention. Using a professional trainer can be indispensable in this area. A trainer can show me how to set up a stationary bike to avoid injuring myself over the long term. A trainer can show me the proper way to lift weights to avoid injury and to gain the most benefit. Using a lower weight with good mechanics and low injury potential is more productive than using a higher weight that might look better to my friends but risk injury. Competing with others in the gym while lifting weights will be counterproductive in the long run. In fact, I apply this principle to almost all physical activity.
Longevity as an athlete is dependent on body mechanics. To increase my chances of a long, productive life, I treat myself as a finely tuned athlete at maximum performance. Poor body mechanics can set me up for injuries—sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly over time. It is up to me. Using proper technique, for whatever activity, is essential to perform efficiently and to prevent injury. I believe in getting expert advice on as many of my activities as possible so as not to shortchange myself with an injury.
Goals then come into play. If I cannot increase my workload as quickly as I want because it would possibly cause an injury, then I must revise my goals. I may need to scale back to run a half marathon this year and a full marathon next year. This would be realistic.
I am not in the results business. I must keep moving my feet and trusting that the results are what they are. This includes injuries. If I really believe I am exactly in the place where I am supposed to be, then the lesson for me is waiting in whatever process I am engaged in. There will always be a timely solution and a gift from the issue. With this in mind, if I do sustain an injury, I can try many different solutions for my recovery. I know that being proactively involved in the process will help me to heal as quickly as possible.
Poor nutrition, unrealistic goals, misplaced priorities, uncontrolled ego—each of these can play a part in causing injuries. When an injury occurs, look at all the factors that surround it. Have I tried my own solutions? Is my injury beyond my help? Do I need a professional?
The acronym RICE stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. This is the rule of first aid to follow immediately after an injury. After the initial shock wears off, I can then evaluate what to do next.
When I am injured, I have a whole host of resources to draw from. First is myself. I am the only true expert on my body. No else lives in my body or my head but me. Am I getting out of my own way? When analyzing a situation involving injury, I must stick with the facts as they are, not as I would like them be. No drama or minimizing. What kind of pain is it, and how is it affecting me?
I am not best judge of myself, so I use people around me to provide a mirror to see myself more clearly. For example, when I walked into my physical therapist’s office not too long ago, she told me within 10 seconds that I looked tired and asked me what was wrong. Because I was wearing my fatigue on the outside, she could plainly evaluate me and provide feedback.
Every injury teaches me a lesson. Protecting something that is weak only makes it weaker. Many times, a physical symptom is a manifestation of a deeper emotional issue that is surfacing and crying out to be dealt with. The underlying issue may not be evident for some time, but it is always there for me. Everything happens for a reason, and it is my job to figure out the lesson. Sometimes God is telling me to slow down, to change my thinking, to be more sensitive, or to be there for someone else. To think about the higher purpose, recognize it, accept it, and act upon it is the key.

I tell an in depth story in my book that deals with my knee surgery three months before the Olympic Trials and demonstrates all these principles and what I learned, good and bad.

One day after Knee surgery July 2009, 3 months before US Olympic trials.

One day after Knee surgery July 2009, 3 months before US Olympic trials.