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.

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.

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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

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.

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