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Performance Coaching

Cycling with Barb Morris!

Women in the sport of cycling

Most of the time I don’t even think about it, being the only female on a club group ride. For me it’s normal, it’s how it has been from the start, either being the only one or one of a handful. There was 4 of us in the first White Rock race that I competed in; 2 were National team and 1 was Provincial, and me a newbie. The training rides with the teams were just me and the lads, road trips same and even the races were mixed with Jrs and Masters or Cat 4 men etc. Even at the time I didn’t think too much of it except to complain once in a while about not having the races. For the most part I was there, showing up and sometimes other riders were rude, or looked through me like I was invisible, and definitely didn’t want to finish behind me! but for the most part I was treated as a rider; you get dropped, you work harder and that I expected to have to do.

I was barely into the sport, having come from running where female participation was picking up, when I went to Ottawa for a conference on ‘how to get more women riding and racing bikes’, a theme that continues to this day. And that is finally happening slowly. Yet I’m still the one of only a few who come out, and over the years it seems to be a matter of females feeling intimidated and having a preference to hang out with other females to ride with; being social rather than joining what is considered a ‘hammerfest’. It’s really only a point of view though, I don’t want to call it an excuse except that sometimes it is. An excuse not to put oneself out there, and we females don’t have exclusivity on that front at all, it’s just easier to blame the other folk around. There’s also nothing wrong with being social on rides, especially club rides, that’s all guys do when they ride together 😉 and there’s nothing wrong with going out with a few girlfriends either. All it takes for anyone is just to show up and be prepared. That means having some fitness, having some bike skills, having a love of the sport and where it can take you. Like today, finding a new bakery that has excellent pain au chocolat! When we were training, we would never stop on a ride until it was on the way home and a coffee and muffin were required to fuel that last hour of the ride, the training part was done. That’s a different kind of ride altogether.

What I’m getting at here in a very roundabout way is that I’m treated as a rider, one of the group, when I go out on a club ride. I don’t expect anything different than anyone else and as an adult I can make my choices about how far I want to ride. What I’m saying then is that you, we, I just have to show up, join, learn and communicate with other people in our sport to enjoy it along with them. When you do that, you’ll find a fabulous and diverse group of human beings on bikes!

What’s strong with me, day 22

Coach Be

Recovery week

When I had classes indoors on wattbikes, they would chuckle when I told them it was recovery week since the workout they were about to experience would very likely be hard in one way or another. What is harder though is to get through to how an athlete approaches the workout, their mindset to begin with about what recovery should look like. A close look at the session would indicate that, followed as described and in the parameters for power, that the IF intensity factor is less than 0.75; that is recovery realm.

A number greater than 0.75 will happen when the athlete takes the power up over the top of the suggested range for the intervals in that indoor session. That’s one way to sabotage your recovery ride! Another way is to keep higher power during the recovery intervals between reps., than has been prescribed. The mindset as noted above, when an athlete decides that the workout isn’t worthwhile unless they’re gasping at the end of it, totally depleted.

There’s a reason for the longer, less intense recovery periods as there is with the intensity of the repetitions. Recovery week does not mean reduced intensity most of the time. Taper weeks do not mean a reduction in the intensity of the reps.

The focus is on the recovery aspect as part of a training block, during the week of recovery following a build up. During the session, training the ability to recover quickly as measured by heart rate, both in bpm and in the time it takes to return to aerobic status for example. During a fondo, the rider who can bring their heart rate down time after time following intensity, will last longer (have more endurance; muscular endurance, aerobic endurance) at a higher output than the less trained individual. That may be someone who is strong, has a lot of watts at their disposal, yet without the ability to recover quickly, they are more likely to fade faster than others who can recover faster. I know, I pass a lot of them in the last 20 km up to Whistler!

So take recovery training as being as essential as the rest of your training; bring your Form (TSB) up from the negative Fatigue level (ATL) during Recovery week and Fitness (CTL) will follow.

That’s what’s strong with me day 21

Coach Be

Concepts

Is coaching an art or a science? To recognize this concept, a parallel can be drawn between bike fitters who can look at someone and immediately ‘see’ the body and the bike and what it would take to make the two work together; both in how they could look after this or that is done and how the body will then be able to produce the forward momentum effectively. Compared to another bike fitter, immersed in the angles of the limbs, the height of the seat vs the bars, the stack and the reach, using software and measurements. The former you could say is the artist and the latter, the scientist. Is either the ‘best’ way of doing a bike fit on someone, probably not!

Concepts can be easy or difficult to understand by the person who it’s being presented to depending on what they have as background to relate the concept to.

Take decoupling, ADF, a concept developed by Joe Friel that occurs when the average watts and average heart rate no longer relate due to cardiac drift or to a decline in power without a corresponding decline in the heart rate associated with that power. The aerobic endurance system can be quantified as either sufficient or not based on the amount of decoupling that takes place, it’s a useful metric then, to use.

The science of this, the calculation is made by looking at the values for the first half of a performance, compared to the second half either for an entire ride or for various parts of it, specific intervals.

I’ve copied the numbers directly from #perfpro, as I think folk will find this useful, more information can be found on Joe Friels blog;

Less than 0% – Excellent aerobic fitness. Power was gained during 2nd half of performance. 
0.00% to 4.99% – Acceptable amount of drift showing good aerobic fitness.
5.00% to 9.99% – Shows signs that possibly more aerobic training is required.
10.00% to 14.99% – Shows signs that more aerobic training is required.
15.00% or higher. More aerobic training is required.

Athletes that use the perfpro Analyzer and Training Peaks will find these numbers calculated for them and the concept becomes a useful monitoring tool based on science; heart rate and power numbers, algorithms. For a coach then the concept is no longer an idea, but a reality; it’s a number! For an athlete that doesn’t yet get the concept, it is still just that, a bit abstract; then I get to explain it so that it becomes an understanding and may even become a goal.

I enjoy doing that! That’s what’s strong with me, Day 20.

Coach Be

Resolving!

Resolving is the verb used when a resolution has been made; that is the act of finding a solution or an answer. Once the answer has been found, it’s resolved! Yet not as simple as that, since resolution is found in legal terms, in picture sharpness or clarity, even the human conditions of courage and tenacity. We often make a resolution at the beginning of the year, that’s what these tweets are all about; I resolved to write what’s strong with me for 30 days, beginning January 1st. Although the different meanings of the word resolution don’t imply that there’s a problem, the word is used to describe the act itself of making a settlement or decision that will fix something.

A resolution is often made in the hope that making one will cause habits to change, will fix what’s wrong in a life of issues. The negativity of it!

Rather then, what would happen if you had a dream, a cause, a goal that has a start, contains a journey and some sort of finish line that would measure what has been attained? How much more satisfying would that be in the doing of it, the enjoyment of it and the fun that could happen along the way.

My goal was to look at the strengths that I have, it came about as a result of an inspiration to work on my strengths and not weaknesses, since at the finish line I would only end up with bunch of strong weaknesses! A great little story about someone I met who had such good eyesight that he could see the detail in a circuit board, find cracks or flaws and be able to quickly fix the issue. He didn’t know how much better his eyesight was than others around him, he thought that everyone could see the way he was able to. Once he discovered his strength, he put it to good use and became a leader and a teacher. That is the power of knowing and using it in the context of a team to benefit the community.

I can be happy and proud of my strengths and the journey with them sounds much more satisfying than focusing on those other things. My strength will lift you up and that’s what I do in coaching. Sometimes I put myself out as a target to aim for, other times it’s to bring an internal focus to life with connections, it can also be the patience and persistence with which I can progress through a picture of the athlete you intend to be, one (pedal) stroke at a time.

Having a ‘look’ on the bike that’s recognizable because of my position and quiet body, smooth pedalling is perfect in another way, that folk recognize me. It amazes me every time to have someone who I haven’t seen in years call out my name on the road or the trail; it makes my day every time to connect with them again! What’s strong with me day 19.

Coach Be

You’ve heard the saying…

.. people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” It’s a great quote frequently attributed to the wrong person, which makes the point!

Regardless of who penned it, it’s a choice I’ve made now that I get it (slow learner). I think that being wrapped up in one’s self can prevent the opportunity to understand that sharing one’s self with another is a gift and that gift is returned.

A good example, giving someone a smile, be it a stranger on the street or someone you know well. That gift is more often than not, given back; and that makes you feel good. The thing about a gift though, is that there is never an expectation that you receive something in return. Sometimes being on the receiving end of a gift, in many people creates a requirement for payback, to stay out of their debt. It can be very hard for those of us brought up that way to enjoy a gift unless we have the chance to reciprocate. Margaret Atwood wrote a great book ‘Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth’ on that subject, I recommend it. There’s a lot more to it than just personal exchanges so have a read.

It is one of the sources that gave me the strength to accept and to let go of the immediate need to return the favour or not to take it in the first place; ‘you shouldn’t have!’ comes to mind. These are often more of the physical type of thing, material entity or money.

In my daily transactions at work, I have many occasions to give something that is less tangible and not even easy to talk about since it’s more about giving an opening to someone else by not being something. Not being judgemental, critical, sharp or unkind. Being sympathetic, compassionate, considerate and thoughtful. I don’t know how another person feels unless they speak it, but somehow the gift is returned in how I feel when I am that way. And that’s what’s strong with me, day 18.

Coach Be

Physical performance

We want it, but have we defined what it is and what it means to us? I can only speak for myself about what it means to me, so I’ll start there; there’s a gradient of physical ability or a ramp, another way to look at it. It starts from the lowest performance that is necessary and I put that at being able to open a door and get up and down from a toilet! Don’t laugh! Will you continue to have the leg and upper body strength to do that as you age because if you don’t keep those physical attributes, you could find yourself in that position.

I’d like to be and plan to be on the upper side of that ramp with strong legs and able to wrestle open the heaviest of doors. I know it’s not a given and I’m very grateful to be able to train following a couple of incidents that could have derailed me. Targeted training elicits a biological physical response with the application of stress and then particular adaptation improves performance, health and durability.

I plan to be riding a bike forever, I plan to be able to walk forever. I recognize now, that the level of performance is unique to each of us and that what I’ve experienced in the past may not be there in the future. But as long as I continue to train, look for and find the level, then I can be happy with my performance, always. The meaning is what I choose to make of it and I believe that we are all happier with improved performance, it’s what I do and that’s what’s strong with me, day 17.

Coach Be

Exploring

This may seem to start off topic, but I’ll get to the exploring in a bit. A few years ago I was shown point of view, pov, and that has made a profound difference in the way that I look and understand things around me. The demonstration was this; a couple of people sitting opposite each other with a mug on the table between them. One says “there’s no handle on that mug”, the other says “yes there is! you’re wrong”. Both are convinced that they are right and the other is not only wrong but making it up, trying to pull the wool over their eyes, trying to deceive them. What do you think? Could it be that one is sitting on the side that has the handle, and the other is sitting on the side that doesn’t. So they are both right! Neither is trying to deceive and neither is wrong. It’s a point of view and it is a way to understand someone who insists that they are right, they are convinced that they are and you can’t tell them any different. When you look at it through their eyes, you can see their point of view and you can both be right, you’re not wrong and you don’t need to insist that you are right and they’re not. So simple.

Moving on; I’m with a friend who is driving and we are going to a place that I go to all the time. They start to drive on a different road that I’m pretty sure (because that’s not the way I go) will take longer or have more traffic on it. Do I tell them they’re going the wrong way? If I did, I will find out that that’s the way they always go!! Unbelievable, right? How can it be that their route is better than mine. Well here’s where the exploring comes in.

When I give myself a chance to imagine that there is more than one way to get somewhere and that I can enjoy the different view on this route, find out another way to get to the same place or find one that might be useful another time to get somewhere I hadn’t noticed before, then I’m now open and exploring the possibilities. Instead of closing down, being narrow minded or stuck in my way of being and doing, I am now free to be what I want, feel the way I choose and have freedom to think about people and things from a new point of view.

The wonderful thing that comes of this is to be able to explore. On the bike I’ll often take a day that is meant to find out where some of those roads that I’ve passed by, where they go, where they will lead me. Sometimes it’s a short dead end and other times it takes me to a village, a view or a coffee shop I never knew was there! Another thing I love about that is then sharing it with other folk on another ride and they do the same with me. My world becomes more expansive and my brain creates new pathways that store the memory of the location, how I got there and what I found.

And all because I chose to look at a different point of view. That’s what’s strong with me on day 16.

Coach Be

In the game or a spectator?

The concept is easy while getting in the game may not be, for you. In your sport and life, are you watching what is going on from a place of being on the sidelines; it being safer to comment, critique, enjoy from the outside rather than participate and have others do that to you (as you imagine).

What is the Game, what are you watching? It can happen when you’re oblivious or unaware and let yourself drift along in life and in your sport without commitment. That can lead to frustration, deplete your resources and wondering why things aren’t happening the way you want them to, why you’re not adapting, getting stronger and what’s the point anyway! Commitment is hard, isn’t it? Or is it? What is commitment but a call to action, to take the first step, follow it with a second and finding out what you can do, what you’re capable of physically and mentally. Committing to be in the game, get some skin in it, be it, will open you up to the possibilities , the endless possibilities.

When I find myself commentating, I notice, focus and get back in the game. And that’s what’s strong with me, day 15.

Coach Be

Resilience

It’s a bit of a buzz word right now, since we need buckets of it. By definition, it’s the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back after difficult life events. Can you be happy again, successful again, build again, enjoy life again after suddenly being cut off at the knees.

What I’ve found in my work is that people have so many stories to tell about things that have happened to them and yet there they are! Someone whose wife found him unconscious and blue and she performed CPR on him, and there he is completing 7 minutes on the exercise stress test. When you think that you’ve had your fair share of things happen to you physically and financially, it could take it’s toll mentally. So what is it about resilience that makes us strong in the face of that. What is it that has made me strong and choose to be happy?

Human beings strive! It’s in our nature. Did you know that Strava is a Swedish word for strive? There I am, collecting data on an app with motivation in it’s name, inspiration as its reason for being, that has passion behind it’s purpose. Sounds like my values.

Adversity is in the way I look at it and how I see it and there’s something to be said about that being perfect right here, right now. Is it a stretch to believe that it will all work out? When I’m in the middle of it, it’s hard to imagine that it’s perfect, that I can accept what has happened and adapt, with help from others. The crucial part. I am very fortunate and grateful to have the community around me and every day I feel as though I’m the luckiest person around, the luckiest person on the planet!

If you believe it will work out, you’ll see opportunities. If you believe it won’t, you’ll see obstacles.

On day 14, I have resilience and that’s what’s strong with me.

Coach Be

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