3/28/08

Retro Track & Field

This really brought back a flood of memories for me. I used to train at this facility when I first started training for the Decathlon. For all you coaches who have never seen a dirt track and had to drag, rake and line it, you have missed an existential experience. I am happy for Russ, because I know how hard he has worked over the years for an all weather track, but this old track was special. It was cool to see that they had one last meet on the old track. This a newsletter from Russ Smelley the head coach to Friends of Westmont Track & Field:

What a beautiful day we enjoyed here at Westmont for a dual meet with George
Fox University. The setting for our track is dynamic with the mountain
backdrop, the facility looked great and the weather was ideal. It took some
time to get the crushed brick and clay in good condition, but after it was
lined and primed, it provided both teams with a lot of good competition.
Being billed as the last ever crushed brick and clay retro meet, it was
delightful to have the athletes embrace the historical passing of almost 50
years on this facility and that they dressed for the occasion in 70's style.
In a couple of years, the athletes requested a rematch and another theme
meet. I will gladly comply.

For the Warriors, Alison Sharp (FR) had a good day with wins in the discus
(114'2") and shot put(36'11 /1/2") and a second in the hammer (101'6").
Isaac Hayes (FR) won both the 100 yards (10.2) and 220 yards (23.1).
Roslyn Wolfshorndl(FR) made it over 10 hurdles for the first time as she
prepares for a first ever heptathlon later this season. She also placed in
the javelin, high jump and sprint medley relay. Andrew Dixon (JR) pulled
away from his teammates to win the mile(4:27.3) while Ryan Kraft (SR) wore
himself out with a 440 sprint medley relay leg, won the 440 and placed in
the 220. Chris Targoni (JR) did his usual solid duty by placing in the
hammer (138'8"), shot put (43'11") and discus (128'4") Full results at
www.westmont.edu

May I confess that I enjoy working on the track. There will be work to be
done on our future all-weather facility, but there is some romance in
working the crushed brick and clay surface, with a dose of silt and sand, to
the right consistency, trying to keep the surface level and laying down the
lane lines. It is an old craft that has passed its days but it still feels
good to get dusty and dirty in the process. What a pleasure it is to have
such an enduring facility with decades of good memories of competitions
past. The world's most beautiful classroom, the Westmont track, was dressed
up nicely for competition today and my heart was glad to be a part of the
history. Both teams honored its venerable history with an outstanding Track
& Field meet. May you enjoy some good memories yourselves today of great
moments gone by.

In God's grace,

Russell C. Smelley
Westmont Track & Field

Yesterday

Every once in awhile there are days when a workout clicks. Yesterday was one of those days with Venice volleyball. It was the last workout before spring break, it was one of those chamber of commerce Florida spring days with a high blue sky in our weight room without walls (AKA – the Parking Lot). This group of young athletes gets it and yesterday it really clicked. We are nearing the end of a training phase and six of the young ladies are into their second year of training. The concentration and energy was above the norm which is already high. The baseball coach came over to see part of the workout because his assistant had told him how impressed he was with the kids. He was equally impressed. If you came and watched the workout you would see organized chaos, but if you observe closely you will see great quality, teamwork, communication among the athletes and a buy in to a work ethic that creates an atmosphere were champions are inevitable. I think a lot of it traces back to the coach Brian Wheatley who sets a high level of expectation and does not compromise his core beliefs. I am so lucky to be working with these kids, they are very special. I do not know if they will win a championship next year, but they are giving themselves a good opportunity, regardless they are already champs in my book.

Athletic Dark Holes

Some debate on the validity or concept of the dark hole in physics, there is no doubt that they exist in training athletes. Throughout my career I have had athletes disappear into dark holes never to reappear or if they did they were a shadow of their former selves. What is an athletic dark hole? Biased one sided training that emphasizes development of one physical quality to the exclusion of all others. The two biggest and most frequently occurring dark holes are strength training to the exclusion of everything else an emphasis on aerobic work to build a base that then takes away all explosiveness. Neither physical quality is bad unto themselves but without context they possess the potential to kill an athlete. All components of training must be trained during all phases of the training year in the context of the objectives of that phase and the needs of the individual athlete. No physical quality is an end unto itself, they all must interact with the result a synergistic effect producing a highly adaptable athlete.

3/27/08

Connections

Everything is connected. Impossible to isolate one system of the body, when one is working then all are working. You may designate a workout as having a metabolic emphasis or a neural emphasis, but there will be profound effects on all systems of the body not just the “targeted” system. I particularly enjoy swim coaches who have all these neat color coded charts with workouts in very specific heart rate zones designed to target specific energy systems – the body is so much smarter than that, it is always seeking to adapt and preserve homeostasis. It is IMPOSSIBLE to isolate one energy system or for that matter one system of the body whether it is neural, cardio vascular, muscular, or endocrine hormonal. Recognize that there is always a spillover effect, for example 3 x 150 meter sprints at 95% with full recovery will maximally tax all systems of the body. You will be working at greater than VO2 max during a portion of that sprint. Understanding this has great implications, as a coach it took me too long to figure this out. You will find if you grasp the idea that you will need to do less “fitness” oriented training when you realize the cumulative effect of all the components of training.

3/26/08

Awesome Post

This was posted by Seth Godin on his blog today http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/ Great thoughts that apply to everything. It made me think of how often the past several weeks I have been putting out fires

Managing urgencies

Do you have a plan?

A long or medium term plan for your brand or your blog or your career or your project?

You can have grand visions for remodeling your house or getting in shape, but if there's a fire in the kitchen, you drop everything and put it out. What choice do you have? The problem, of course, is that most organizations are on fire, most of the time.

I gave a talk the other day, all about the unstoppable slow decline of interruption (traditional) media and the opportunities for rethinking how we communicate with people. At the end of the talk, someone came up and had very nice things to say about what he'd learned. The he leaned over and asked me to help him brainstorm about his brand's upcoming ad campaign, because it was due to his boss on Friday.

Add up enough urgencies and you don't get a fire, you get a career. A career putting out fires never leads to the goal you had in mind all along.

I guess the trick is to make the long term items even more urgent than today's emergencies. Break them into steps and give them deadlines. Measure your people on what they did today in support of where you need to be next month.

If you work in an urgent-only culture, the only solution is to make the right things urgent.

Basic Movements and Connections

I was thinking the other day when I was swimming, what is the basic movement skill of swimming? Yes the core is important, arm position – yes, the kick yes. Someone commented that is common to segment to teach and refine the swimming stroke. I understand that and the need for that at certain times, but isn’t it more basic than that? How about floating? Every year when I visit Michigan at the start of the season I watch Jim Richardson take his swimmers to the diving pool, put front snorkels on so they can keep their head in the water and breathe. Then they work on floating. They play, experimenting with what happens when you move one arm out, raise your head. They quickly realize how connected the body is and how one small movement at one end of the body has a profound effect somewhere else. It is very elementary, very basic but the foundation for all the strokes. Each sport has foundational elements as the basis for advanced technique. After watching volleyball practice the other night, I know I am going to work on opposition and fundamentals of throwing with some of the freshmen. Throwing is a root skill, spiking a volleyball is an advanced skill.

Communication

To quote the famous line from Cool Hand Luke: “What we have here is a failure to communicate.” After reading some of the comments regarding posts from the last week I am a bit concerned that people are reading things into the posts that are not here. Read what I write, not what you think I write, there are no hidden meanings. I am focusing on thoughts, ideas and questions that arise from my work with athletes, questions people ask me or something stimulated from my research. I working hard to not lapse into personal attacks or criticism of training programs I have no experience with and I would hope that you would do the same. This blog is a labor of love for me, I enjoy sharing ideas and stimulating thought. I understand that are many roads to Rome, some are more direct; everyone is entitled to take their own path. If you are unsure of my philosophy or where I am coming from I direct you my web page so that you can understand the background and context of my ideas and thoughts. Learning, teaching and coaching are my passions. I have had the advantage and sometimes the disadvantage of doing this for a long time, I think that gives a perspective that many people new to this field do not have. When I talk about something like the term “core” it is with a historical context, understanding that this term originated with Gaijda and Dominguez in 1983, but it has still not been clearly defined since then. Frankly I think it is this perspective that is missing in the current generation. Most of the ideas that are currently popular and espoused as being new have been around for a very long time. I will end by saying again read what I write not what think I am writing.

3/25/08

Michigan Women’s Swimming

I want to congratulate Jim Richardson, his staff and the swimmers at University of Michigan for their ninth place finish in the NCAA Women’s Championship. This is the fifth year I have helped Jim in designing their Dryland training program. It has been a great learning experience for me. He is a great coach to work with. He is always challenging me and helping me think of new ways to get things done. Jim has done a superb job of correlating the water training with the Dryland training. Unlike many coaches who use the Dryland work as another way to hammer their swimmer, Jim has used it enhance what is happening in water.

Limits

“The only way of finding the limits of the possible is by going beyond them into the impossible.” Arthur C. Clarke English physicist & science fiction author (1917 - 2008) I saw this quote this morning and it reminded of so many things that I have seen in my coaching career. I firmly believe that nothing is impossible. Most of what we think is impossible is because of mental barriers that keep us from achieving what we are capable of doing. I also think that so often we are limited because of what other people say or think. When someone tells me that something won’t work or that I can’t do that because we already tried and it didn’t work, that is more motivation to get it done.

3/23/08

Core?

In the popular press, in the scientific literature, at conferences everyone is talking about and writing about the core. Have we put the cart before the horse here, everyone is using the term core, but has anyone ever accurately defined the term? If there is a concise and accurate definition I have not seen it or been able to find it. It bothers me to see the term “core” used in peer reviewed sports science and sport medicine journals without any accurate definition of the term, perhaps I am being fussy here, but if we want to be accurate in exercise prescription and movement analysis shouldn’t we be more exact in our terminology? Pretend for a minute that you are from another planet sent to the earth to study training methodology – could you figure out what the core was and how it was defined from what we see as best practice and research?

3/21/08

Reductionism

There a tendency to take a reductionist approach to training, there is a focus on a muscle that is weak or not firing, a single exercise that will do it all. It seems to me a more balanced and in some ways sane approach is to look at the whole and see how everything is working together or cooperating. The same is true with exercise or training method selection look for exercises and methods that are synergistic, that help the body make connections. Breaking movements into small parts or focusing on individual muscles will lead to disjointed uncoordinated movement. I think this occurs because it is easier to analyze movements part by part rather than as a whole. As far as isolating muscles that is the way we are taught anatomy. All of this leads us away from the direction we need to go. In movement the whole is significantly greater than the sum of the parts. One must constantly consider the interaction of the three movement constants, the body, gravity and the ground.

3/20/08

“More is not enough”

In some ways this a corollary to the activity trap post of yesterday. For too many athletes and coaches more is not enough. Pushing to do more work is not the answer. I used to be like that, more is not enough and is definitely not better. A little bit more often is a better mantra. Be specific and directed with the training to achieve the stated objectives of the training. As my good friend Gary Winckler is fond of saying “Work capacity is not a Biomotor quality.” It is constant choice between: Want to do, Nice to do and Need to do. The majority of training should be in the need to do category. No fluff and extra exercises or garbage miles. Get down to the need to do and target that. What you want to do and what you can do often do not reconcile. There are many things I want to do with my girls volleyball team, but I am one coach with 22 players with limited time. Stay on target with a good plan and a means to evaluate the short term and long term effectiveness of the plan.

3/19/08

The Activity Trap

Many of you have mentioned GPP – General Physical Preparation work in response to the posts on aerobic base. Yes work capacity work is GPP, but be careful. GPP has become another throw away term for mindless work that makes the athlete tired. Every exercise, every session must have a theme that is in concert with the theme of that training block and each session must have specific measurable objectives. Just throwing a bunch of unrelated exercises together and calling it GPP is as bad as slogging, it is just work. Training must have a purpose that fits in the context of the demands of the sport, the demands of the position and the needs of the individual athlete. Beware of the activity trap!

3/18/08

Chasing Numbers

How often in training are we just chasing numbers rather addressing all components of athletic development? Numbers like Max VO2, max bench press, max power clean and 40 yard dash times are numbers – what do they mean? Do they really transfer to performance improvement or are they artifacts, mere curiosities that people have latched onto as being significant? I think we need to challenge conventional wisdom and see where these numbers fit into the big picture of athletic development. There is no doubt that it is easy to get caught up chasing numbers, and see better numbers, but what do those numbers really mean?

3/17/08

Mind Full or Mindful

I was rereading Presentation Zen this weekend, just like any good book it has proved valuable on several levels, first it stimulated me to improve my presentations, second it has proved to be a very good coaching book. After all, what is coaching? It is communicating ideas and concepts. The secret to good coaching is to get the athlete in the proper state of mind, that state is no mind. The athlete does not need to be burdened by verbiage in terms of detailed instructions and long discourses on technical minutiae. That creates a Mind Full, the result is robotic mechanical movement, that has no carryover to competition. To be real and insure optimum transfer training should be Mindful. The athlete should be encouraged to explore movements, to feel what works for them, to be creative, to explore the full palate of possibilities in terms of solving a movement problem. Somehow we need to break away from the mechanistic paint by numbers approach we have taken to teaching movement, step back and look at the big picture and emphasize rhythm, flow and spontaneity. After all we don’t play games in a phone booth, drills for the sake of drills make the athletes robots that cannot create and explore space and time in their sports. I am reminded of the endless “ball skill drills” I see in soccer. Seldom if ever do I see them put into the context of the game. They are just neat looking drills that the player “must master” to be a good player. I saw a combine prep situation where a football player was “rehearsing” the agility test by walking through the movements counting steps. How about filming the drill at full speed, tell him to take less steps and show him the difference before and after. He will figure it out and it will transfer. There is a whole new world out there for those willing to be creative and explore.

3/15/08

TED Presentation by Jill Bolte Taylor

Stroke of insight: Jill Bolte Taylor on TED.com

Neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor had an opportunity few brain scientists would wish for: One morning, she realized she was having a massive stroke. As it happened -- as she felt her brain functions slip away one by one, speech, movement, understanding -- she studied and remembered every moment. This is a powerful story of recovery and awareness -- of how our brains define us and connect us to the world and to one another. (Recorded February 2008 in Monterey, California. Duration: 18:44.)

Watch Jill Bolte Taylor's talk on TED.com, where you can download it, rate it, comment on it and find other talks and performances.

Read more about Jill Bolte Taylor on TED.com.

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This is the transcript of the talk.

I grew up to study the brain because I have a brother who has been diagnosed with a brain disorder, schizophrenia. And as a sister and as a scientist, I wanted to understand, why is it that I can take my dreams, I can connect them to my reality, and I can make my dreams come true -- what is it about my brother's brain and his schizophrenia that he cannot connect his dreams to a common, shared reality, so they instead become delusions?

So I dedicated my career to research into the severe mental illnesses. And I moved from my home state of Indiana to Boston where I was working in the lab of Dr. Francine Benes, in the Harvard Department of Psychiatry. And in the lab, we were asking the question, What are the biological differences between the brains of individuals who would be diagnosed as normal control, as compared to the brains of individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia, schizoaffective, or bipolar disorder?

So we were essentially mapping the microcircuitry of the brain, which cells are communicating with which cells, with which chemicals, and then with what quantities of those chemicals. So there was a lot of meaning in my life because I was performing this kind of research during the day. But then in the evenings and on the weekends I traveled as an advocate for NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

But on the morning of December 10 1996 I woke up to discover that I had a brain disorder of my own. A blood vessel exploded in the left half of my brain. And in the course of four hours I watched my brain completely deteriorate in its ability to process all information. On the morning of the hemorrhage I could not walk, talk, read, write or recall any of my life. I essentially became an infant in a woman's body.

If you've ever seen a human brain, it's obvious that the two hemispheres are completely separate from one another. And I have brought for you a real human brain. [Thanks.] So, this is a real human brain. This is the front of the brain, the back of the brain with a spinal cord hanging down, and this is how it would be positioned inside of my head. And when you look at the brain, it's obvious that the two cerebral cortices are completely separate from one another. For those of you who understand computers, our right hemisphere functions like a parallel processor. While our left hemisphere functions like a serial processor. The two hemispheres do communicate with one another through the corpus collosum, which is made up of some 300 million axonal fibers. But other than that, the two hemispheres are completely separate. Because they process information differently, each hemisphere thinks about different things, they care about different things, and dare I say, they have very different personalities. [Excuse me. Thank you. It's been a joy.]

Our right hemisphere is all about this present moment. It's all about right here right now. Our right hemisphere, it thinks in pictures and it learns kinesthetically through the movement of our bodies. Information in the form of energy streams in simultaneously through all of our sensory systems. And then it explodes into this enormous collage of what this present moment looks like. What this present moment smells like and tastes like, what it feels like and what it sounds like. I am an energy being connected to the energy all around me through the consciousness of my right hemisphere. We are energy beings connected to one another through the consciousness of our right hemispheres as one human family. And right here, right now, all we are brothers and sisters on this planet, here to make the world a better place. And in this moment we are perfect. We are whole. And we are beautiful.

My left hemisphere is a very different place. Our left hemisphere thinks linearly and methodically. Our left hemisphere is all about the past, and it's all about the future. Our left hemisphere is designed to take that enormous collage of the present moment. And start picking details and more details and more details about those details. It then categorizes and organizes all that information. Associates it with everything in the past we've ever learned and projects into the future all of our possibilities. And our left hemisphere thinks in language. It's that ongoing brain chatter that connects me and my internal world to my external world. It's that little voice that says to me, "Hey, you gotta remember to pick up bananas on your way home, and eat 'em in the morning." It's that calculating intelligence that reminds me when I have to do my laundry. But perhaps most important, it's that little voice that says to me, "I am. I am." And as soon as my left hemisphere says to me "I am," I become separate. I become a single solid individual separate from the energy flow around me and separate from you.

And this was the portion of my brain that I lost on the morning of my stroke.

On the morning of the stroke, I woke up to a pounding pain behind my left eye. And it was the kind of pain, caustic pain, that you get when you bite into ice cream. And it just gripped me and then it released me. Then it just gripped me and then released me. And it was very unusual for me to experience any kind of pain, so I thought OK, I'll just start my normal routine. So I got up and I jumped onto my cardio glider, which is a full-body exercise machine. And I'm jamming away on this thing, and I'm realizing that my hands looked like primitive claws grasping onto the bar. I thought "that's very peculiar" and I looked down at my body and I thought, "whoa, I'm a weird-looking thing." And it was as though my consciousness had shifted away from my normal perception of reality, where I'm the person on the machine having the experience, to some esoteric space where I'm witnessing myself having this experience.

And it was all every peculiar and my headache was just getting worse, so I get off the machine, and I'm walking across my living room floor, and I realize that everything inside of my body has slowed way down. And every step is very rigid and very deliberate. There's no fluidity to my pace, and there's this constriction in my area of perceptions so I'm just focused on internal systems. And I'm standing in my bathroom getting ready to step into the shower and I could actually hear the dialog inside of my body. I heard a little voice saying, "OK, you muscles, you gotta contract, you muscles you relax."

And I lost my balance and I'm propped up against the wall. And I look down at my arm and I realize that I can no longer define the boundaries of my body. I can't define where I begin and where I end. Because the atoms and the molecules of my arm blended with the atoms and molecules of the wall. And all I could detect was this energy. Energy. And I'm asking myself, "What is wrong with me, what is going on?" And in that moment, my brain chatter, my left hemisphere brain chatter went totally silent. Just like someone took a remote control and pushed the mute button and -- total silence.

And at first I was shocked to find myself inside of a silent mind. But then I was immediately captivated by the magnificence of energy around me. And because I could no longer identify the boundaries of my body, I felt enormous and expansive. I felt at one with all the energy that was, and it was beautiful there.

Then all of a sudden my left hemisphere comes back online and it says to me, "Hey! we got a problem, we got a problem, we gotta get some help." So it's like, OK, OK, I got a problem, but then I immediately drifted right back out into the consciousness, and I affectionately referred to this space as La La Land. But it was beautiful there. Imagine what it would be like to be totally disconnected from your brain chatter that connects you to the external world. So here I am in this space and any stress related to my, to my job, it was gone. And I felt lighter in my body. And imagine all of the relationships in the external world and the many stressors related to any of those, they were gone. I felt a sense of peacefulness. And imagine what it would feel like to lose 37 years of emotional baggage! I felt euphoria. Euphoria was beautiful -- and then my left hemisphere comes online and it says "Hey! you've got to pay attention, we've got to get help," and I'm thinking, "I got to get help, I gotta focus." So I get out of the shower and I mechanically dress and I'm walking around my apartment, and I'm thinking, "I gotta get to work, I gotta get to work, can I drive? can I drive?"

And in that moment my right arm went totally paralyzed by my side. And I realized, "Oh my gosh! I'm having a stroke! I'm having a stroke!" And the next thing my brain says to me is, "Wow! This is so cool. This is so cool. How many brain scientists have the opportunity to study their own brain from the inside out?"

And then it crosses my mind: "But I'm a very busy woman. I don't have time for a stroke!" So I'm like, "OK, I can't stop the stroke from happening so I'll do this for a week or two, and then I'll get back to my routine, OK."

So I gotta call help, I gotta call work. I couldn't remember the number at work, so I remembered, in my office I had a business card with my number on it. So I go in my business room, I pull out a 3-inch stack of business cards. And I'm looking at the card on top, and even though I could see clearly in my mind's eye what my business card looked like, I couldn't tell if this was my card or not, because all I could see were pixels. And the pixels of the words blended with the pixels of the background and the pixels of the symbols, and I just couldn't tell. And I would wait for what I call a wave of clarity. And in that moment, I would be able to reattach to normal reality and I could tell, that's not the card, that's not the card, that's not the card. It took me 45 minutes to get one inch down inside of that stack of cards.

In the meantime, for 45 minutes the hemorrhage is getting bigger in my left hemisphere. I do not understand numbers, I do not understand the telephone, but it's the only plan I have. So I take the phone pad and I put it right here, I'd take the business card, I'd put it right here, and I'm matching the shape of the squiggles on the card to the shape of the squiggles on the phone pad. But then I would drift back out into La La Land, and not remember when I come back if I'd already dialed those numbers.

So I had to wield my paralyzed arm like a stump, and cover the numbers as I went along and pushed them, so that as I would come back to normal reality I'd be able to tell, yes, I've already dialed that number. Eventually the whole number gets dialed, and I'm listening to the phone, and my colleague picks up the phone and he says to me, "Whoo woo wooo woo woo." [laughter] And I think to myself, "Oh my gosh, he sounds like a golden retriever!" And so I say to him, clear in my mind I say to him. "This is Jill! I need help!" And what comes out of my voice is, "Whoo woo wooo woo woo." I'm thinking, "Oh my gosh, I sound like a golden retriever." So I couldn't know, I didn't know that I couldn't speak or understand language until I tried.

So he recognizes that I need help, and he gets me help. And a little while later, I am riding in an ambulance from one hospital across Boston to Mass General Hospital. And I curl up into a little fetal ball. And just like a balloon with the last bit of air just, just right out of the balloon I felt my energy lift and I felt my spirit surrender. And in that moment I knew that I was no longer the choreographer of my life. And either the doctors rescue my body and give me a second chance at life or this was perhaps my moment of transition.

When I awoke later that afternoon I was shocked to discover that I was still alive. When I felt my spirit surrender, I said goodbye to my life, and my mind is now suspended between two very opposite planes of reality. Stimulation coming in through my sensory systems felt like pure pain. Light burned my brain like wildfire and sounds were so loud and chaotic that I could not pick a voice out from the background noise and I just wanted to escape. Because I could not identify the position of my body in space, I felt enormous and expensive, like a genie just liberated from her bottle. And my spirit soared free like a great whale gliding through the sea of silent euphoria. Harmonic. I remember thinking there's no way I would ever be able to squeeze the enormousness of myself back inside this tiny little body.

But I realized "But I'm still alive! I'm still alive and I have found Nirvana. And if I have found Nirvana and I'm still alive, then everyone who is alive can find Nirvana." I picture a world filled with beautiful, peaceful, compassionate, loving people who knew that they could come to this space at any time. And that they could purposely choose to step to the right of their left hemispheres and find this peace. And then I realized what a tremendous gift this experience could be, what a stroke of insight this could be to how we live our lives. And it motivated my to recover.

Two and a half weeks after the hemorrhage, the surgeons went in and they removed a blood clot the size of a golf ball that was pushing on my language centers. Here I am with my mama, who's a true angel in my life. It took me eight years to completely recover.

So who are we? We are the life force power of the universe, with manual dexterity and two cognitive minds. And we have the power to choose, moment by moment, who and how we want to be in the world. Right here right now, I can step into the consciousness of my right hemisphere where we are -- I am -- the life force power of the universe, and the life force power of the 50 trillion beautiful molecular geniuses that make up my form. At one with all that is. Or I can choose to step into the consciousness of my left hemisphere. where I become a single individual, a solid, separate from the flow, separate from you. I am Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, intellectual, neuroanatomist. These are the "we" inside of me.

Which would you choose? Which do you choose? And when? I believe that the more time we spend choosing to run the deep inner peace circuitry of our right hemispheres, the more peace we will project into the world and the more peaceful our planet will be. And I thought that was an idea worth spreading.

3/14/08

Quick Fixes

In Athletic Development, just like in life there are no quick fixes. A shortcut in one area will usually lead to roadblock in another area. To develop an athlete’s physical qualities takes time. There is a simple paradigm regarding time to adaptation, I have found nothing in my 39 years of coaching to refute this paradigm. The paradigm for time to adaptation is:

Flexibility – Day to day

Strength – Week to Week

Speed – Month to Month

Work Capacity – Year to Year

Building and rebuilding an athlete is a cumulative time consuming process that demands systematic, sequential, and progressive application of training. Remember the body is smart so give it increasingly difficult movement problems to solve and it will continue to adapt.

3/13/08

More on “Aerobic Base”

I asked Jack Blatherwick to address his viewpoint on establishing an aerobic base. Jack is with the Washington Capitols and was conditioning coach for six American Olympic Ice Hockey teams including the 1980 “Miracle Team”). The following is his response:

Establishing an aerobic base

by Jack Blatherwick, Ph.D

This question comes up often: is it appropriate for young sprinters and athletes in sprint-interval team sports to establish an aerobic base with long, slow distances?

With few exceptions -- perhaps professional athletes recovering from an intense season -- the answer is "NO," for the following reasons:

1) The word "base" is used inappropriately quite often. For sprinters, of course the most important base would be speed -- in concert with strength and power. It is a waste of time -- and perhaps counterproductive -- to train with long slow distances. Aerobic/cardiovascular fitness is essential for all young athletes, of course. The important question is how to acquire it.

For most team sports the definition of endurance (or "in shape") would include ... the ability to compete just as FAST and SKILLFULLY at the end of a game as at the beginning. The key words (FAST, SKILLFULLY) should determine how one would train for an endurance base in these sports.

2) Regarding team sports that require skill and athleticism, the mistake made by many fitness coaches is to "compartmentalize" the training into separate workouts -- aerobic endurance, anaerobic power, anaerobic endurance, skill, agility, strength, etc. etc. etc. Of course in a game, all of these attributes are required at the same time, so we should be looking for more ways to incorporate the various elements into "integrated workouts."

Compartmentalizing the metabolic training is analogous to isolating each muscle separately in our strength workouts, and it is just as non-productive.

Attempting to identify which portion of the endurance and performance in a team sport is "aerobic" or "anaerobic" often leads to compartmentalized training. Athletes who follow this mythical tradition in preparing for a season, invariably will say, "I did a lot of endurance training this summer, but I don't feel like I'm in HOCKEY SHAPE or GAME SHAPE." Their terminology is much more profound than the Latin words (aerobic/anaerobic), and should cause us to re-think our training advice.

Furthermore, anaerobic interval training is highly aerobic, and can be a more intense cardiovascular workout than what fitness gurus would call a "cardio" workout. College hockey players doing six weeks of dryland training composed of "anaerobic intervals" for quickness and power made greater gains in aerobic and cardiovascular measures than if they had trained with aerobic distances for the same period (see Overspeed.Info and click to Recent Articles).

3) Establishing a metabolic base: It is well known from scientific research, that much of the supply of energy during an anaerobic workout is aerobic. Note: the only way an anaerobic workout could be truly anaerobic is if we didn't breathe!!! Oxygen utilization is high, and slow twitch muscle fibers are supplied with carbohydrate from lactate produced in fast-twitch, glycolytic fibers. This process is called the Cori cycle (do a Google search) and for team sports like hockey, basketball, soccer, lacrosse, football, etc. this is the metabolic "base" upon which endurance is built.

4) There is a neuromuscular consequence for everything we do -- including endurance workouts. This means we are forming habits at all times -- physiological habits that might be very difficult to break. If marathoners do too much long distance training, they establish a comfort zone, running below their anaerobic threshold. To improve times, they must run faster, of course, above their threshold -- and there are quite severe respiratory and cardiovascular consequences. This is a physiological habit, not a psychological one, and "speed" work must incorporate intervals to elevate the comfort zone.

Patterns of slow strides are imprinted just as "permanently" into our neuromuscular memory as the quick strides that a sprinter would like to record. Just as a golfer would not intend to include repetition after repetition of "bad" swings when he practices, neither would a sprinter.

5) Recent research shows that "game-like" endurance training is highly productive for team sports. Most coaches would have as their goal for training … "to prepare my team to compete faster, more skillfully, without decrement for a longer time."

Given this, it is obvious we should re-think our compartmentalized approach and add "overspeed practice." This means pushing the team out of their present comfort zone -- to perform skills and make read-react decisions at a faster pace, using appropriate intervals. Then, as the training season progresses, increase the length of the intervals and total length of the overspeed practice.

This approach certainly does not include long, slow distances, because "slow" is not part of the mission.

Building an Aerobic Base

For some strange reason the myth that you must build an aerobic base for sprinting still lives. All over the country now as high school track practice is starting sprint coaches are working hard to get their sprinters ready. I have had several emails in the past ten days asking me about the need to build an aerobic base for sprinters. It is not necessary to build an aerobic base, you need to build a work capacity base, not an aerobic base. Taking a group of sprinters and running then for 30 or 40 minutes continuously will have no positive effect on their development. In fact everything about that is negative: 1) The kids get turned off, they are in the sprints because they are faster and explosive – fast, explosive people do not tolerate running slow 2) Irrefutable empirical and scientific evidence tells us that continuous slow aerobic work significantly compromises explosiveness. Very simply said, you are what you train to be – if you train slow, you will be slow! To get fast you must train fast. Start by teaching good running and acceleration mechanics. Get them functionally strong, do something fast every day. For more on this see my book, Athletic Development, this is a recurrent theme throughout the book. Once again I invoke the mantra, train your athletes to be adaptable rather than adapted. Incidentally the same concept holds true for you soccer, field hockey and basketball coaches out there. This will be a whole topic in our Apprentorship program. It is a huge problem today and the genesis of many injuries. This is a topic for another blog.

3/12/08

UNC Visit

I spent the day yesterday at University of North Carolina, one of my favorite places to visit, beautiful campus and great people. What a combination. Visited with Anson Dorrance who just the day before was named to the US Soccer Hall of Fame, Greg Gatz, Director of Strength and Conditioning for Olympic Sports and Jonas Sahratian, the conditioning coach for men’s basketball. I was there on business to demonstrate and get their input on a monitoring system for a company I am consulting with, but after we sat around and talked shop. Great people, between Anson, Greg and Jonas I was in awe of the number of championship teams they have worked with. I am a big admirer of Anson Dorrance and what he has done at UNC, it was fun talking about sustained excellence with him yesterday. It is easy to talk about, which many people do, but to live it as he has done throughout his career is amazing. The intensity and commitment necessary is difficult to comprehend. The kind of sustained excellence they have achieved is not a chance occurrence. He is always looking for the edge. There are many factors for their continued success but I think one of the biggest is that players are held accountable. That is not very fashionable today, but it is something that is essential for success. It is always uplifting to be around the people that I visited yesterday. They got me fired up!

3/10/08

CSPAN Q&A with Robert Compton

Last night the CSPAN Q&A was very interesting. It featured an entrepreneur/venture capitalist Robert Compton, who has taken an interest in education. His thesis is that the current generation of American children and those going forward will not be able to compete with the Chinese and Indian children who are receiving more rigorous education in science and math. Much of the program was centered on a documentary he produced comparing two American high school seniors from Carmel Indiana to their counterparts in India and China. It certainly was though provoking and got the wheels turning. He game down on the time “wasted” in competitive athletics, but did advocate physical education. If you get a chance look at it or download the podcast, it will get you thinking.

Interview
Q&A with Robert Compton
C-SPAN, Q&A
Washington, District of Columbia (United States)
ID: 204250 - 03/06/2008 - 1:00 - $19.95


Compton, Robert A.

Filmmaker


Venture capitalist Robert Compton's travels to India in 2005 and 2006 laid the groundwork for his decisions to author a blog, publish a book called Blogging Through India, and produce a documentary called Two Million Minutes: A Global Examination. Two million minutes is roughly four years, the amount of time high school students have to prepare for life. The documentary compares and contrasts the education experiences of six students; two from each of the countries of India, China, and the United States. It includes statistics on the amount of time spent in the classroom, the influence of the student's parents on their decisions to pursue a certain career, and the degree to which those choices impact their free time during their high school years. Robert Compton talked about his documentary film and the education community's response. Video clips were shown.

3/8/08

Mediocrity

Seth Godin posted this on his site the other day. It certainly resonated with me, hopefully it will make you think.

The forces of mediocrity

Seth Godin

Maybe it should be, "the forces for mediocrity"...

There's a myth that all you need to do is outline your vision and prove it's right—then, quite suddenly, people will line up and support you.

In fact, the opposite is true. Remarkable visions and genuine insight are always met with resistance. And when you start to make progress, your efforts are met with even more resistance. Products, services, career paths... whatever it is, the forces for mediocrity will align to stop you, forgiving no errors and never backing down until it's over.

If it were any other way, it would be easy. And if it were any other way, everyone would do it and your work would ultimately be devalued. The yin and yang are clear: without people pushing against your quest to do something worth talking about, it's unlikely it would be worth the journey. Persist.

3/7/08

Bear Bryant Quote

I saw this quote on my Google homepage the other day - Good advice for all of of us!
"When you make a mistake, there are only three things you should ever do about it: admit it, learn from it, and don't repeat it.
" Paul "Bear" Bryant, I Ain't Never Been Nothing but a Winner

Stephan Widmer Interview

Stephan Widmer is the Head Coach Queensland State Swimming Centre. I first met Stephan in 1999 at training camp in Australia. I was able to visit with him again this past spring and catch up. The opportunity to watch him coach a session last May was one of the highlights of the last year for me. He was trained in Switzerland in a classical physical/coaching curriculum with a great blend of practical exposure to teaching methodology and sport science. You certainly see this reflected in his coaching.

What are most essential requirements for a successful conditioning program?
A passionate & visionary coach!!!

What are the most common mistakes in conditioning?
Too much focus on too many details.

What is "functional training" from your point of view?
Learn about specific requirements of your sport in general and for the individual? Then create very specific learning opportunities and progression levels for your athletes.

What do you do to make training more functional?
I utilize the information from swimming specific muscular skeletal screenings, my own experience and my S&C coach’s expertise to create the next level of functional training.

How important is specificity?
I only focus on training the swimming specific muscles:

· Swimming specific injury prevention like shoulders

· Make the propulsive muscles stronger and more powerful

· Create a functional range of motion (ROM): joint flexibility and stability

· improvement and body awareness

What aspect of conditioning athletes is most difficult and how haveyou tried to address it?
Strength improvement in the gym whilst swimming at race specific pace in the pool (speed drops off too much). Lower rep methods.

With the plethora of information available how can you determine what is best?
Great experience, believe in my intuition and a good amount of courage!

Where do you stand on nature versus nurture? How much difference can
training make?
A talented athlete will never achieve her/his potential without great guidance!!!

What is the sure sign that a self proclaimed conditioning guru is not a good source of advice?

They don’t talk about the athletes, but about themselves! Everything we do should better our athletes! Therefore I’d like all my coaching and support staff focusing on them.

What do you differently with the female athlete in terms of conditioning?
More focus on strength development then with the male athletes.

What has been the biggest innovation in training that you have seen during the course of your career and where is the biggest room for innovation in training athletes?
Process driven coaching and the study of human behaviour, especially the motivation psychology!

What's the biggest issue in training athletes today?
The new generation likes to have success over night! And they forget that they have to stop to only dream, but wake up and work hard for success! Resilience is not a strength of this generation.

Who has been a role model in your career and why?
Scott Volkers taught me to believe in myself and how to create belief in my athletes!

What are the biggest professional challenges that you have had to face?
To get my athletes to keep up with me and passion to break constantly through to the next level – without stopping at an already achieved mark! This is my nature and probably as well my biggest slip-up!

What do you enjoy most about what you do? Dislike?
Seeing an athlete’s smile after accomplishing their dreams! Seeing an athlete’s Tear after not accomplishing their dreams!

Did there come a time in your career where you were faced with a "fork
in the road?" If so, do you ever revisit the decision you made or
didn't make?
I have been twice at a cross road of giving up coaching in my short career of 13 years. I keep on looking for alternative professional solutions for myself and in the improving my skills in non-coaching areas as well. But I won’t move on from coaching in the next 5 years.

What inspired you to get into the field you are in?
As a 12 year old swimmer I was already dreaming about becoming a swimming coach one fine day – not knowing that it wasn’t a profession in my country of origin (Switzerland).

Is failure ever valuable?
Fail, fail better, fail even better. Failing - if used wisely - can teach resilience!

Which changes now taking place in your field that should be
encouraged, and which resisted?

Bio feed back: precise measurement of training reps or sets to challenge the athlete to the next level: rep by rep.

· If every Rep is executed at a 1% better level, then the Set ends up being a better one!

· If every Set is executed at a better level, then the Training Session ends up being a better one!

· If every Training Session is executed at a better level, then the Training Week ends up being a better one!

· If every Training Week is executed at a better level, then the Season ends up being a better one!

The essentials of S&C training are to help athletes achieve their maximal physical performance potential without incurring injuries. Strength training provides many important benefits that cannot be achieved by any other exercise or activity.

Good luck: I hope you enjoy all the wonderful benefits of a safe and effective strength training program.

Swimmingly fast, Stephan WIDMER - Head Coach – State Swimming Centre

3/5/08

GAIN Apprentorship Faculty

The apprentorship is a combination of an apprentice experience and a mentoring experience. In my career I was fortunate to be an apprentice coach and was mentored by some great coaching role models. My thought with this program was to combine the two experiences into an apprentorship. This is a combination of hands on experiential learning coupled with the conceptual foundations designed to develop leaders in the emerging field of athletic development. With that in mind we are quite fortunate to have a faculty with a myriad of experiences both practical and academic. Look at this video to meet this outstanding group of professionals.

video

3/4/08

Slogging

Slogging is not in the Oxford dictionary so don’t bother looking it up. It appears disguised as training, usually included as integral part of warm-up or disguised as aerobic work. I am beginning to think it is a disease. It consists of thousands of very percussive negative foot contacts repeated very slowly. Slogging is slower than jogging. Yesterday I was driving by one of the Major League baseball complexes here where I live when I saw a painful sight up ahead on the sidewalk. There were eight big guys (pitchers) slogging along doing their “flush run” to remove the lactic acid after they pitched. All I could think of was why? It was a flashback to 1986, I thought that we had progressed from this. What does this have to with pitching or anything for that matter? It is certainly not preparing for the ballistic explosive movements involved in pitching. It is not removing lactate because that was metabolized in the time it took them to walk off the mound. Slogging will make you slow and compromise explosiveness. So why do it? It occupies time. If you slog eventually it will compromise velocity. It is a simple proposition you are what you train to be. If you train slow, sooner not later, the body will adapt and you will be slower. Instead use short sprints, in place jumps, short shuttle runs, power endurance circuits, intervals with short rest on a slide board, all would be better use of time than slogging. If you feel you need to do aerobic work then find a mode that allows the pitcher to work with a degree of intensity and that is low impact. If you do aerobic work I recommend nothing over twenty minutes and no more than one out of every six workouts. Remember the goal is create adaptable rather than adapted athletes. Slogging is not even good for general fitness, it creates more problems than it solves.

3/3/08

Simplicity Yields Complexity

Yesterday was the birthday of Theodor Geisel, AKA Dr Seuss. The following from yesterdays Writers Almanac made me think again of how simplicity yields complexity.

He went on to publish a series of fairly successful books for older children, and then, in 1955, an educational specialist asked him if he would write a book to help children learn how to read. Seuss was given a list of 300 words that most first-graders know, and he had to write the book using only those words. Seuss wasn't sure he could do it, but as he looked over the list, two words jumped out at him: "cat" and "hat."

Seuss spent the next nine months writing what would become The Cat in the Hat (1957). That book is 1,702 words long, but it uses only 220 different words. Parents and teachers immediately began using it to teach children to read, and within the first year of its publication it was selling 12,000 copies a month.

A few years later, Seuss's publisher bet him $50 that he could not write a book using only 50 different words. Seuss won the bet with his book Green Eggs and Ham (1960), which uses exactly 50 different words, and only one of those words has more than one syllable: the word "anywhere." It became the fourth best-selling children's hardcover book of all time.

In movement we should be able to do the same. Think of combining reaching, bending, pushing, pulling, running, jumping and throwing – the movement equivalent of Green Eggs and Ham.

Innovation and Change

I am fascinated by innovation in any field and constantly challenged by change, so when I read the article “Fast and Furious” by Grant Wahl in the February 22 issue of Sport Illustrated, I was both fascinated and captured. Think of this you have a court with defined dimensions, you have ten players and two baskets ten feet high, a shoot clock and a set of rules in a game that is over a 100 years old, how do you change or innovate given those constraints? Vance Walberg did and in the process has started an offensive trend that is spreading fast to all levels of basketball. Back to basics, seeing the same thing through different eyes is the secret of innovation. Walberg the innovator of this offense says this: “The biggest strength of this offense is I feel we’re teaching kids how to play basketball instead of how to run plays.” This article really got me thinking. Are we all too stuck in old paradigms to try new things, to see the world with different eyes? It made me think of Frans Bosch and Roland Klomp who took a relatively primal activity like running and looked at it differently, they certainly have got us all thinking. What other opportunities are out there for innovation in sport and training? Unfortunately too much attention is directed to technology and not enough has focused on the human element. Think of it, how did American football start? Someone picked up the rugby ball and passed it forward. Who will be the next person to pick up the ball, pass it forward and lead change? As Patton said there are clear choices:”You can lead, follow or get out of the way.” I do not know about you, I want to lead, I want to innovate and change, find better more efficient ways to make the athletes I work with better.

3/1/08

Reading


Several people have asked me to comment on what I am reading. Most of my reading in the area of training has been research studies in journals. This is what I have read since the first of the year: