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!

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.

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

Rest, Reevaluation, and Goal Setting


Rest, reevaluation, and Goal setting

For winter competitive athletes this is a time of peak training.  For those that compete mostly in the summer this is the time for rest, reflection and reevaluation of our future goals and direction.

Rest is just what it says, rest from activity. Rest is either passive or active. There are many parts to rest. I will address them in different contexts. Normal training consists of a few different cycles. The largest context is the four-year Olympic cycle. The shift in focus will change from year to year as the Olympic year approaches. As I change and my goals change, so will my rest requirements change.
Within the Olympic cycle is the yearly cycle that every competitive athlete goes through. The yearly cycle must include periods of rest. I generally finish my competitive season in the middle of March. I then take at least six to eight weeks off of training. During this time, it is important to let my body and mind heal from the intense work I did over the past ten months or so. I take a break in many ways, like catching up on the things I have put off due to my competition and training schedule. I am less active physically; this is my winter. I let the field rest so it can produce again later with more abundance, just as farmers do for their crops. During this time, I can do a number of things. One thing I like to do is to continue a little very easy biking and stretching.
I do nothing intense, everything just for fun! When I was growing up, my parents stressed that I should learn my sport the best I could, but also learn sports I could do for life. For example, I learned to play golf and tennis, and I still enjoy them today. Doing other sports will help me be a better skater because I will have a better, more rounded foundation to draw from. The important principle in active rest is to keep the intensity low. When I am ready to start the training cycle over again, my body and mind will tell me. I cannot force the issue! Starting back too soon or too fast will cause me to burn out again or get injured.
Because I am used to a lot of physical activity, stopping cold turkey will throw me off. It is still important to be active, just not as much and without any real intensity. My body needs the rest, and I must give in to it or suffer in the long run.
One very important element in my training regimen is periodic massage. Muscles need help to recover. One way to assist in recovery is massage. In order to keep up my training volume, I need recovery. The more quickly I recover, the more training volume and intensity are possible. My race results directly correspond to my training volume and intensity. I do self-massage and get great results. I use foam rollers, my hands, and a stick roller for self massage. I also hire a professional masseuse sometimes. I have a pretty good understanding of my own body and what it is going through, but using a trained massage professional brings another helpful dimension to my recovery.
Usually a massage therapist can find hot spots that I was not even aware of. After the therapist has found these spots and worked on them, my body then spends less energy on a “wound” and more energy on my general recovery. Ideally, a massage every week would be the best for me, but that is not always possible or practical.
Another tool that I use to gauge whether I am training to an optimum level is ithlete. I heard about ithlete from a fellow speed skater, researched it, and decided that this was something that might help me decide when to go hard and when to back off on my training. The ithlete device is an application on my smart phone that uses a receiver and my polar heart monitor to measure heart rate variability. I take a measurement immediately after waking in the morning to gauge my readiness to train hard that day. Illness and stress in my life will give me low numbers and tell me that I need rest or to train more easily that day. It reflects all of my life factors, including a very high training load. In the past, I would train right through these times, and my racing suffered as a result. This tool can give me physical feedback and validates the feelings I get when I am on track or over-trained.
When I look at my monthly and yearly training plan, I must plan my rest accordingly. Through trial and error, I have found that after working hard for three weeks I must reduce my intensity and volume and do an active rest week. I will decrease my intensity and volume for a week, so that I may avoid burn out or injury. In the weekly plan, I also include a rest day, usually Sunday. During the week, I will space my intense training out so that there are no two days in a row without a rest or recovery day. For instance, skating is like doing a hard weight workout. I will not do weights one day, then skate the next. That would be counterproductive. I will do a cardio bike recovery workout, swimming, or yoga in between skating and weights. In training, as in life, keeping everything in balance is the key to making progress.

By continually reevaluation our plans and adapting to changed circumstances, we can uncover new ways to enjoy the journey and achieve our 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.

Put your feet up, rest, reevaluate and set new goals.

IMG_0405

 

 

Training Principles Part 8 : Rest (last one)


Training Principles 8 : Rest (last one)

Rest is just what it says, rest from activity. Rest is either passive or active. There are many parts to rest. I will address them in different contexts. Normal training consists of a few different cycles. The largest context is the four-year Olympic cycle. The shift in focus will change from year to year as the Olympic year approaches. As I change and my goals change, so will my rest requirements change.
Within the Olympic cycle is the yearly cycle that every competitive athlete goes through. The yearly cycle must include periods of rest. I generally finish my competitive season in the middle of March. I then take at least six to eight weeks off of training. During this time, it is important to let my body and mind heal from the intense work I did over the past ten months or so. I take a break in many ways, like catching up on the things I have put off due to my competition and training schedule. I am less active physically; this is my winter. I let the field rest so it can produce again later with more abundance, just as farmers do for their crops. During this time, I can do a number of things. One thing I like to do is to continue a little very easy biking and stretching.
I do nothing intense, everything just for fun! When I was growing up, my parents stressed that I should learn my sport the best I could, but also learn sports I could do for life. For example, I learned to play golf and tennis, and I still enjoy them today. Doing other sports will help me be a better skater because I will have a better, more rounded foundation to draw from. The important principle in active rest is to keep the intensity low. When I am ready to start the training cycle over again, my body and mind will tell me. I cannot force the issue! Starting back too soon or too fast will cause me to burn out again or get injured.
Because I am used to a lot of physical activity, stopping cold turkey will throw me off. It is still important to be active, just not as much and without any real intensity. My body needs the rest, and I must give in to it or suffer in the long run.
One very important element in my training regimen is periodic massage. Muscles need help to recover. One way to assist in recovery is massage. In order to keep up my training volume, I need recovery. The more quickly I recover, the more training volume and intensity are possible. My race results directly correspond to my training volume and intensity. I do self-massage and get great results. I use foam rollers, my hands, and a stick roller for self massage. I also hire a professional masseuse sometimes. I have a pretty good understanding of my own body and what it is going through, but using a trained massage professional brings another helpful dimension to my recovery.
Usually a massage therapist can find hot spots that I was not even aware of. After the therapist has found these spots and worked on them, my body then spends less energy on a “wound” and more energy on my general recovery. Ideally, a massage every week would be the best for me, but that is not always possible or practical.
Another tool that I use to gauge whether I am training to an optimum level is ithlete. I heard about ithlete from a fellow speed skater, researched it, and decided that this was something that might help me decide when to go hard and when to back off on my training. The ithlete device is an application on my smart phone that uses a receiver and my polar heart monitor to measure heart rate variability. I take a measurement immediately after waking in the morning to gauge my readiness to train hard that day. Illness and stress in my life will give me low numbers and tell me that I need rest or to train more easily that day. It reflects all of my life factors, including a very high training load. In the past, I would train right through these times, and my racing suffered as a result. This tool can give me physical feedback and validates the feelings I get when I am on track or over-trained.
When I look at my monthly training plan, I must plan my rest accordingly. Through trial and error, I have found that after working hard for three weeks I must reduce my intensity and volume and do an active rest week. I will decrease my intensity and volume for a week, so that I may avoid burn out or injury. In the weekly plan, I also include a rest day, usually Sunday. During the week, I will space my intense training out so that there are no two days in a row without a rest or recovery day. For instance, skating is like doing a hard weight workout. I will not do weights one day, then skate the next. That would be counterproductive. I will do a cardio bike recovery workout, swimming, or yoga in between skating and weights. In training, as in life, keeping everything in balance is the key to making progress.

Build the motor and learn how to apply it to your endeavor. Utilize the principles of practice, warm-up, cool-down, volume, intensity, strength, cardio, periodization, stretching, mental training, and rest.

Now I must take a hint from my dog Lilly and play.

Bruce and our dog Lilly on our front deck,  she is a Yellow Lab mix 95 lbs, about 3 years old and adopted. Who resuced who?

Bruce and our dog Lilly on our front deck, she is a Yellow Lab mix 95 lbs, about 3 years old and adopted. Who resuced who?

The Zen of Intense Training


The Zen of Intense Training.  To be zen, enlightened, in a state of total focus where mind and body are together.  This is my journey.

Having trained for many years I can recall many times I have reached this state of zen.  A long run in the forest on a trail, a hard stair workout by a waterfall, a leisurely bike ride after the end of a hard skate.

This is what I strive for.  It is the joy of the work itself.  My head, body and heart are one.

When the intensity is cranked up, I feel it.  Being totally focused on the task, this is when it works.  When racing, I am totally focused.  By training this way I am preparing for the intense race conditions.  Train to race, race like I train.  This is the connection of all of me and the Zen of intense work.

Keeping my priorities straight for this intense work is the key.  When I train, I train hard.  I work up to it gradually within each workout as well as over the course of my season and years.

The payoff is incredible.  Making progress is very rewarding.  The way I feel during and after make the work a joy.

Having trouble with being able to train hard?  If you need to prioritize, take out the volume and put in the intensity.  Work up to it gradually, and enjoy the zen of intense training.

Stair climbing at the waterfall near Inzell Germany

Stair climbing at the waterfall near Inzell Germany

Intuitive Training


Now that my Olympics are over (the US Olympic Speed Skating Trials).  I celebrated the achievement and journey.  I took some time off to rest and reflect.

What now?  I woke up a few days ago with an itch to move.  I am built to move, and I heard the call.

My need to move is similar to my need to eat.  Intuitive eating is eating when I am hungry.  I have no lofty goals right now but I still need to feed myself and move.

So my goals are simple now.  I will pay attention to what my body and mind tell me.  When I feel the need to move and push, I will listen and obey.  This wisdom comes from within.

Each week, one skate, one weight workout, one cardio bike workout, then some recovery work like swimming, tennis (indoor for now) and golf when the weather is better.  All this is fun to me.  No outside goals or pressure for achievement.  If I feel like pushing hard, I will, just for the enjoyment.  It feeds my deep down need to move and be active.

Then, I pay attention to the next lesson.

Today the Conners and Bergers get together to celebrate the engagement of my daughter Jamie Conner to Jamison Berger.  Their wedding is planned for March 2015.  We will also recognize Jamie and my son Brad’s birthdays.

Next month I will transition back to the 747-400 flying out of Chicago again.

I have a lot to look forward to.

After the trials with my coach Nancy Swider-Peltz, Sr, and two time Olympian Brian Hansen.

After the trials with my coach Nancy Swider-Peltz, Sr, and two time Olympian Brian Hansen.