Coaching masters workouts at a glance

United States Masters Swimming (USMS) recently celebrated its 50th year after getting its start in May of 1970.  Read more HERE on the history of USMS.  I started my masters swimming career in the mid 80's and started coaching in 1991.  Over the past 35 years I have been fortunate to have some great mentors and have learned many things from the athletes I coach.  Writing a good workout takes a bit of planning by the coach and combined with managing the lane flow leads to a great workout for the swimmers.  Here are some thoughts I have on doing just that.

    • How to write the workout
      • Identify the goal of session
        • Free - Sprint, Mid, Distance, Tri/Open water 
        • Stroke/IM
        • Technique
        • Combo 
        • Repeat distances 25’s, 50’s, etc...
        • Aerobic, Anaerobic, both
        • What the pool dictates 
      • Warm up
        • With a 60 minute session, I give them 7 minutes of easy swim, kick, drill on their own.  Masters bodies have many different warm up needs.  Some swim, some talk on the deck but whatever works for them in those 7 minutes.  Speed days I like to give them 15 minutes of general warm up.  Some dryland exercises are also good prior to getting into the pool.
      • Transition set
        • Can really be anything that helps them transition the heart rate up and a technique focus component as well.
      • Main set 1 or 2
        • Depending on the workout goals 1 or 2 main sets is more than enough
      • Cool down
        • I always encourage it but generally leave that to the individual
  • How to explain
    • Written
      • White board - Write legible, write BIG, Use black or blue pen that shows up best for those aging eyes
      • Printed for each lane - Print a copy of the workout that each lane can have.  Helps for those that can not see the white board and those that process by reading what they are doing
      • Pre workout email
      • Find what works best and it might be a combination of all
    • Verbal
      • Group - Talking to the whole group at the beginning of practice to go over goals for the day.  Need a big voice for this!
      • Individual lane - Giving each lane their instructions.  Usually intervals to swim on, number or reps and lane order suggestions.  Make sure FOB knows what to do. More on this later.
      • Individual - Individual instruction, short cues to help swimmers with technique or questions about the set.
    • Visual Demonstration
      • Swimmer - Often very helpful for experienced swimmers in the workout to demonstrate technique or a specific drill.
      • Video - Having swimmers see the correct way to do something is very helpful.  Also, having them see themselves swim so they can make the needed adjustments.
  • How to execute
    • Lane Dynamics
      • Set the lane up for success… managing the flow.  This is one of the things IMO that separates good coaches from great coaches.  A great coach will monitor this and make micro adjustments to swimmers, rest intervals and set objectives to fine tune the session.  I sometimes like to describe lane positions much like riding a bus: Front Of the Bus (FOB), Middle Of the Bus (MOB), Back Of the Bus (BOB).
      • Front Of the Bus (FOB) - This is your lane leader and critical for the lane functioning and flowing well.  Must be reasonably good with the clock, pacing and counting laps.  When giving instructions to the lane/group, make sure FOB is onboard.  If FOB is not good then MOB and BOB have the potential to go astray and lane chaos quite possible.  One thing that helps the whole lane is a set of 25’s or 50’s where everyone in the lane gets to be a FOB, MOB and BOB.  This helps the swimmers appreciate all the work a FOB must do to keep the lane flowing and also gives confidence to the MOB and BOB that if put into a FOB position, they can lead the lane with confidence.
      • Middle Of the Bus (MOB) - The majority of the lane falls here with order TBD based on type of set and who is wearing what. Often swimmers that could lead but would rather follow due to pacing or clock skills. Lots of the MOB and BOB also like to draft as that is easier 2-4 seconds per 100.  Along those lines the MOB can really have some speed variances if you combine the draft + using gear; it is not uncommon for swimmers to have 7-10 second per 100 differences in sustainable speed.  
      • Back Of the Bus (BOB) - Usually the slowest swimmer in the lane, does not want to be in anybody’s way, has no desire to lead, just wants to follow/draft. Having an off day but wants to be a part of the lane.  BOB shares many of the characteristics of MOB but generally just a slower pace that can still function in the lane. Depending on pool dynamics, BOB could be asked to move down a lane and lead if the current lane has too many bodies.  Same goes for a FOB that could be moved up a lane and be a BOB or MOB
      • What are you wearing?  
        • Paddles, Fins, Snorkel, Buoy - Can change flow of lane and swimmer speed 7-10 seconds per 100 and interval capacity 5-10 seconds per 100.  As noted above this has big impacts in the MOB.

There are endless combinations of swimming sets to create workouts.  Combining that with good lane management will help give the swimmers you coach the best possible experience.

Articles, blogs, books and videos

Winter time is certainly a time to let our body and mind recharge a bit.  Slowing down is a good thing and often times this leads to an increase in reading more.  Here are some links to blogs, instructional videos, articles, books, etc... that you may find helpful as you continue to build your knowledge base.  Some may just be reminders, others new information that may trigger further exploration. Enjoy : )
Books:
Peak Performance, The Well Built Triathlete, Think Again, The Passion Paradox, Essentialism, The Culture Code, The Circadian Code, A Reenchanted World, Enlightenment Now, How Bad Do You Want It
Videos and Blogs:

How competitive swimmers can maximize their time in the pool

Running Biomechanics with Bobby McGee (video)

 

 

A New Kind of 1/2 Ironman

This year I completed my 55th year around the sun and I am grateful for that.  Many times in the past, I have had some fun, fitness challenges on or near my birthday.  This year I decided to try a new kind of 1/2 Ironman.  I looked at my last 1/2 IM in 2016 at the Boulder 70.3 and the times for each event: Swim 29+, Bike 2:13 and run 1:44.  The challenge this year was to see what distance I could cover, or power I could sustain in the same amount of time, while having very relaxed transition times to enjoy some yummy food and conversation with my wife, Sharon.

The day started off with some warm up exercises using  Crossover Symmetry bands to prep for my swim. December in Colorado = no open water swimming but I planned to hop on my Vasa Ergometer and knockout 30 minutes.

I set the SwimErg resistance at damper door level 1 (out of 7 settings) to start out easier and swam Freestyle for 30 minutes. Note that I used a low arm recovery instead of a higher arm recovery that I would use in the water.  This helps prevent shoulder impingement.  My plan was to gently progress the Freestyle effort every 10 minutes.  Here is a snapshot of the SwimErg's Power Meter at the end of the 30 minutes:
• Distance:1682M
• Pace: 1:47/100M
• Stroke Rate: 43 Strokes Per Minute (SPM)
• Average Power: 62 Watts
Swim training on the Vasa Swim Erg is wonderful, especially with the Ant+ Power Meter.  I can monitor my current power and it is always challenging to keep the Left/Right power balance as close as possible.  I can adjust the Damper Door settings for more resistance when needed and I play with different SPM to dial in my optimal, sustainable power.
I was very pleased with that outcome, especially since the previous month I'd only been in the water 3 times, did some maintenance work on the Vasa, plus core and crossover symmetry bands for strength and injury prevention.

A good start to the morning and now it was time for some coffee and birthday cake.  Sharon makes my favorite cake every birthday...carrot cake with cream cheese frosting.  A couple cups of coffee and yummy cake as we chatted away the morning until I was ready to ride.

The roads and air temperature were not ideal so it was time for the trainer.  2 hours and 14 minutes was the goal.  Since I could not measure distance on my resistance trainer, I looked at my average and normalized power in watts (W) from 2016: 181 and 187 respectively.  So the goal would be a short 5 minute ramp up then try to dial in a solid zone 3 power effort in the 80-85% of current Functional Threshold Power (FTP).  Current FTP is 246W so that would have me targeting between 187-223W.  I quickly found myself hovering around 195-200W and decided this would be a good attempt to hold for the duration.  Fueled by the earlier coffee and carrot cake the time just flew by.  I did have some music piped in through my AirPods (thanks mom for the birthday present).  Given this was a new way to approach a 1/2 IM along with my leisurely transitions, what better fuel than water and a few more little pieces of...you guessed it, carrot cake!

Bike stats for those interested in the details: 2 hours 14 minutes, average power 201W, normalized power 202W, 91% of ride in zone 3  with IF at .82 Some HR data as well avg. HR 123, Max 136

With the bike done and feeling really great about the effort it was time for a shower!  Yes, another benefit to this new kind of 1/2 IM, you get to shower after the ride, have a light brunch, stretch and take a short nap before the run.

Run GO time and I am heading outside to one of my favorite local running spots at Rivers Edge Natural Area which was restored after the Big Thompson Flood in 2013.  The gray morning turned to mostly sunny skies so if I timed it right, 1 hour and 44 minutes of running would finish up as the sun was setting behind the Rocky Mountains.  I took off from the house and the first mile or so was on city streets until I made it to Rivers Edge; from there, I ran on frozen dirt and snowpack on twisting paths around the ponds.

I found a good rhythm and used a run/walk strategy similar to when I race.  I have found that short walk breaks at aid stations allow me to get more of what I need in my body than on my body.  Plus the short walk break is a nice reset.  I took short walk breaks at 3, 6, 8.5 and 11 mile mark and topped off the brunch fuel tank with some water and a caffeinated gel.  Don't get too caught up in the numbers.  My heart rate monitor took 6 minutes to sort itself out hence the 187 HR reading.  I don't think I ever saw my heart rate that high even in my 20's.

I really enjoyed my birthday workout, I needed a new kind of challenge during a challenging year.  But to tell you the truth, I believe that just moving everyday is what's most important!

Some days it might be a walk and light stretching.  Other days like today might focus on mental and physical endurance.  Our bodies respond well to daily movement and in Colorado we have so many beautiful places to move while enjoying nature.  It's never too late to start moving and sometimes the hardest part can quite often be getting started.  To borrow a quote from Cris Dobrosielski at Monumental Results: "Small consistent change, over a significant period of time, leads to Monumental Results."  The consistency in movement and daily choices are the most important pieces to long term physical and mental health.

As I head into my 31st year of coaching, I truly appreciate my mentors, coaches and athletes.  In 2021, I hope to continue learning, questioning and challenging how we train...so I can help YOU Train Smart and Race Fast!

Please reach out if you would like to schedule a FREE 20 minute consultation.

Coach Eric

 

The time is now to Plan

Training for triathlon or any sport for that matter requires an athlete to balance training with work, family, social, etc… At times this can be overwhelming trying to fit in the necessary training to reach your goals.  For starters, one of the first things to do is make a plan for you.  Those that fail to plan, plan to fail. This is where self coached athletes often get in trouble as they end up doing whatever workout suits them for the day or other peoples workouts that are not specific to address their strengths and weaknesses. Whether you are self coached athlete or have a coach, make sure you have a plan!

Articles, Blogs, Podcasts, Books, etc…

Photo credit: Josh Brewer
Here are some links to blogs, instructional videos, articles, books, etc... that you may find helpful as you continue to build your knowledge base.  Some may just be reminders, others new knowledge to consider giving a try.  Enjoy : )

How competitive swimmers can maximize their time in the pool

Running Biomechanics with Bobby McGee (video)

Books:

The Talent Code

How Bad do you Want it

Primal Endurance

Advanced Marathoning

Daniels Running Formula

 

 

Spring = Time to Ride Outside

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With some great Spring weather this past weekend the roads were full of cyclists getting off the trainers and outside again.

Here are some things that may help you stay a bit safer:

1. Ride even more defensively.  Motorists have been used to not seeing a lot of bike traffic during winter and need to adjust to you again.

2. Make yourself visible!!! Flashing lights on the back of bike are helpful along with your awesome cycling kit.

3. Take it easy in the corners.  There is still quite a bit of sand and other debris on the road from winter.

4. Ride with Aloha and use some common sense.  When overtaking a cyclist or group of cyclists say hello, on your left, good morning/afternoon, etc... It can be startling when getting passed and may help prevent the cyclist(s) your are passing from crashing into you.

5. Staying as far to the right side of the road as you feel comfortable and conditions allow for. When 2 abreast, please make frequent checks behind and single up when in doubt.  While it is legal to ride 2 abreast, doing so when conditions are not safe (lots of traffic, no bike lane, narrow to no shoulder) puts you at more risk!

6. Make sure to check your bike for any loose bolts, working breaks, lube up the chain and good tires before hitting the roads.

7. In addition to #3 above, when turning or changing lanes, use hand signals so those behind and traffic ahead understands the path you are going to take.

There are plenty more things to add, but this is a good start to getting you rolling on the roads again.  16 days until Spring is officially here!

Train Smart Race Fast - Coach Eric

First Race of 2017 in da Books

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It is always good to get the first race of the season done.  Let's you know how your training has been going so far both good and not so good and often times can be a great motivator for the remaining part of the year.

This year I kicked things off at the Colorado Triathlon at Boulder Rez and hosted by the folks from Without Limits.  I decided this year was a good time to take a break from the longer races so doing the sprint here was a perfect way to start.

THE SWIM - Just going to say it... one of my worst ever in 31 years in terms of how I felt in the water.  Bottom line, I could NOT get enough air and felt like I was gasping for it within 3 minutes after starting.  From talking to a few other athletes and coaches I think I may have it figured out due to the late allergies we have been having here.  Race week was filled with lots of sneezing and runny noses.   I think combining that with the compression of my race kit and wetsuit was enough to create that very uncomfortable feeling of not getting air.  So, I went into damage control on the swim and thought to myself, "what would I tell my clients to do"?  Roll over on your back and do some backstroke.  I did this for a while and it helped a bit, but I was still not feeling 100%.  At one point I even stopped when nobody was behind me and made some adjustments to my wetsuit and tried to calm my breathing down.  I decided to just relax as best I could the remainder of the swim and alternated freestyle and backstroke most of the second half of the swim.  Eventually I was happy to hit the beach and start running up to T1.

THE BIKE- After a quick change it was time to roll.  It took me until Jay Rd for my breathing to finally settle down and I found a good, strong and steady rhythm on the ride. Turning off Hwy 36 onto Neva Rd you can really let things rip all the way down to 63rd. St.  Last year racing on this section of course during IM Boulder 70.3 a couple of cars were not playing nice.  Today, no problems as we flew along.  Quick right turn onto 63rd, back to Diagonal and The Rez.  It was really fun to be riding for less than 45 minutes and roll into T2 knowing it was only a 5K run.

THE RUN - Started off trying to get some leg turnover and after about 1/4 mile found my rhythm.  With an out-and-back course you get to see who is running fast behind you and shortly after the turn I noticed a couple guys that were moving quicker than I was.  So the goal was not to let them catch me.  Good intentions here but with about 200 yards to go, sure enough I got passed by these two.  I glanced down and one of them had a "51" on his calf.... CRAP... I had to dig even deeper.  I picked up my turnover and got in behind them for about 10 seconds.  The last right turn into the finish was up ahead about 30 yards and I told myself go now...beat those guys into the corner.  I was able to get around them both just before the corner and did not look back as we made our way to the finish line.  I was able to hang on and stay ahead of both of them by a couple of seconds.  After catching my breath I congratulated them both and thanked them for the push.  Come to find out as results were posted that we were racing for 1st and 2nd in the 50-54 age group without knowing it at the time!

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POST RACE - I had a chance to catch up with some friends I coach at FAST Masters, and some other athletes I have gotten to know over the past 5 years and we discussed our day out on the course.  A couple things I was reminded of:

1.  If you are not having a good swim, try not to panic and find a way to get yourself settled down.

2. Never give up & always give your best for the day!

Big thanks to Patrick Ray at Rocky Mountain Multisport for keeping my bike dialed in, Vasa Inc for turning me on to the Vasa Ergometer  (my swimming secret weapon)
and all the competitors who raced on a beautiful Colorado morning.

Fall… a time to ponder.

 

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2011 Europe bike trip: 3000+ miles/4 months and a lot of time to ponder life!

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As we prepare to set our clocks back this weekend, fall is always a great reminder to slow down a bit and take inventory of the past year.  I find myself reading more and seeking out quite time to just think... or not.  A good friend of mine had forwarded along some quotes he liked and I thought, why keep those to myself.

Below are some that have been around and others you may find new to you along with an original from yours truly.  I hope 1 or 2 of these resonate with you and be just what you needed at this moment in time.

"We all need empty hours in our lives or we will have no time to create our dream" - Robert Coles

"The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison." - Ann Wigmore

"Your attitude determines your altitude.  The better the attitude, the higher you will soar in all things you choose to pursue with a passion" - Coach Eric Neilsen

"Simplicity and harmony are the ultimate conditions to be attained in all things". - Horace Fletcher

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"Draw a circle around yourself - invite people in or keep them out. We are the creators of our social geometry.  Calculate your volume". - Rachel Wolchin

"Don't limit your challenges, challenge your limits". - unknown

"A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others". - Ayn Rand

"The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential... these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence". - Confucius

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"Believe those who are seeking the truth; doubt those who find it". ~André Gide
"The obscure we see eventually. The completely obvious, it seems, takes longer". ~Edward R. Murrow
"Just as the old, looking back, idealize the past, so the young, looking forward, idealize the future. Illusion is the stuff of memory — and is at the heart of hope". ~Dr. Idel Dreimer

"Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it". - Charles R. Swindoll

Simple pre-swim preparation

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Mother nature is in control of the weather.

You are in control of your attitude and the choices you make.

Prone to being cold in the water, here are a couple tips that may help your next swimming experience be a little less chilly.

1. Exercise before getting in - A few lunges, squats, arm circles, rotator cuff exercises, bouncing on toes, etc... with clothes on.  Then quick entry to pool.

2. Warm beverages before, during and after swimming.  Coffee, Tea, water & lemon.

3. Wear 2 caps

4. Break out the neoprene - tops, bottoms, or both.  Added insulation a good thing.

5. KICK MORE - Bigger muscles, bigger energy use = more heat generated.  Added bonus, you may even go faster and who doesn't want to do that.

This should get you started and I am happy to expand more just drop me a note at eric@coachneilsen.com

Make it a great day!

Coach Eric

Cars and cyclists: Why can’t we just get along?

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I am writing this post to help keep our wonderful roads in Colorado safer for cyclists and motorists.  I would like to thank Bryan VanMeveren of VanMeveren Law Group for meeting with me to discuss this.  He recently completed a comprehensive book focusing on Colorado bike law this is now available for free download on his website: http://www.vanmeverenlaw.com

A little background on myself, I have been riding a bike as long as I can remember and hope to stay in the saddle as long as possible.  The past couple months I have had 3 incidents on the road that have put my life at risk more than I am comfortable with. The number 3 being the main focus point of this article.

3 feet = 1 yard, 36 inches, metric 91.44 centimeters, .91 meters.  Motorists by law are required to give cyclists a minimum of 3 feet from the widest part of their vehicle, trailer, etc. when passing a cyclists on the road.   This can be a challenge on roads without a designated bike lane, but with a little planning, one can minimize the stress for both motorist and cyclists.

Motorists, 3 simple things you can do when passing a cyclist:

  1. Slow down or speed up based on road, traffic conditions
  2. Move left and pass with at least 3 feet of clearance
  3. Return to lane after safe pass

If you like more technical reading that supports the above:

42-4-1003. Overtaking a vehicle on the left

  • (1)  The following rules shall govern the overtaking and passing of vehicles proceeding in the same direction, subject to the limitations, exceptions, and special rules stated in this section and sections 42-4-1004 to 42-4-1008:
    • (a)  The driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle proceeding in the same direction shall pass to the left of the vehicle at a safe distance and shall not again drive to the right side of the roadway until safely clear of the overtaken vehicle.
    • (b)  The driver of a motor vehicle overtaking a bicyclist proceeding in the same direction shall allow the bicyclist at least a three-foot separation between the right side of the driver's vehicle, including all mirrors or other projections, and the left side of the bicyclist at all times.
    • (c)  Except when overtaking and passing on the right is permitted, the driver of an overtaken vehicle shall give way to the right in favor of the overtaking vehicle on audible signal and shall not increase the speed of the driver's vehicle until completely passed by the overtaking vehicle.
  • (2)  Any person who violates any provision of this section commits a class A traffic infraction.

Cyclists, 3 simple things you can do to help stay safer on the road:

  1. Be visible both at day and night.  So many great bike lights and reflective, bright gear is now available.  It would be so great to see all cyclists riding with a flashing light on the back of their bikes all of the time.
  2. Use hand signals when turning or coming to stop.  Drivers are not psychic and a hand signal can go a long way to helping the motorist better understand your intended direction of travel.
  3. Obey the law!  Seems simple, but blowing through stop signs at intersections with cars present is NOT SMART!  While you are allowed to ride two abreast on the road you shall not impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic and, on a laned roadway, shall ride within a single lane. Use some common sense.  Two abreast on low traffic, back county road probably going to be okay.  Two abreast on high traffic or winding road, NOT A GOOD IDEA! and good idea to single up.

Cars and cyclists can continue to get along if both parties use some basic common sense and obey the rules of the road.  When I lived in Hawaii, we would say... "Ride with Aloha".