Tag Archives: coaching

IMMT 2016 Training Update – February 29th 2016

I am now already a month into my official training for this seasons’ “A” race, Ironman Mont-Tremblant. My quest for a sub-12 hour Ironman last year at Coeur d’Alene left me a little high-and-dry, or more like HOT-and-dry, with DNF due to the 107(F) degree temps on race day. I am hoping Mother Nature will be a little more cooperative this year in Canada. I will also be hitting Ironman 70.3 Syracuse in June and probably a couple local tune-up races before that.

Snow Blizzard Jonas 2016
Blizzard Jonas 2016

This season I decided to go back to hiring a coach. After self-coaching the last two seasons, I felt I needed a bit of a change and a different perspective on what I have been doing. I have hired Todd Wiley, from Bucks County, PA. Todd has extensive coaching experience and was also a professional triathlete. I had met Todd last year through a strength training workshop he put on with my current strength coach, Fernando Paredes, at Fusion Fitness & Performance and also at a training camp he put on at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid last year.  I have met a number of other very successful triathletes who have been trained by Todd and having nothing but great things say about him. Several of these folks have even qualified for Kona under his guidance. Besides his experience,  Todd is a super nice guy and very easy to work with, which is so important in a coach-athlete relationship. And after working with Todd for the last 4 weeks I can definitely confirm that that is all true. I am definitely looking forward to some great outcomes in my events and also gaining some new coaching knowledge from him too.

Race weight? Not! So after having two vacations in two months(December & January), which I hope to post about soon, I started out my training season a bit on the heavy side. I didn’t hit the 2-bill club, but at the max was about 2 lbs shy of it at 198lbs. This is far-and-above my optimal 170-175 race weight for the season.  I definitely have my work cut out for me. So far I am already down about 10lbs after only 4 solid weeks of training. Progress in the right direction. Keeping tabs on my caloric intake, elimination of microbrew consumption and an increase in training load should bring everything under control well before my B race at Syracuse.

One thing I really like about Coach Todd is that he stresses the importance of strength training integrating it into my weekly training plan. I used to add it to my plan, but would frequently blow it off. Lately though, I have been realizing the importance of it and being accountable to someone else helps to make sure it gets done. I have a good feeling that it will make a huge difference in my results this season. I have been really consistent with it over the last six months and have developed a good foundation to start the season.

Swimming is starting to come around finally after taking 3 months off from the pool. I kind of felt taking that much time off was a mistake since it took me a month or so to get back to where I was prior. Now I finally starting to feel stronger again in the pool. Todd has been integrating some drill work too which has helped bring back some form to my technique.

2016-02-24 18.39.39

I have been spending a good amount of time on the bike trainer this season due to the weather. I did get out for a road ride a couple weeks ago and felt pretty strong out there. I think a lot of the pre-season work I did using TrainerRoad has laid a good foundation on the bike. My initial FTP test earlier this season was pretty low(~220’s), but my last one was up to 237. I am just starting to feel like I am outgrowing my power zones so I think the next test should put me back into the 250’s again.

I have also seen some recent progress in my running. Todd has kept most of my runs so far in the Zone 2 HR range and I am noticing my pace is increasing at the same heart rate. I also think that losing 10 lbs is a big help with that too. I usually do most of my mid-week work on my treadmill due to the lack of daylight and then get outside for my longer runs on Sunday. I definitely looking forward to the time change coming up so I can start breathing in some fresh again.

That’s about all for now. I have been slacking a bit on my blogging but definitely want to get back into the swing of things again. I have a couple posts waiting in the wings on our recent trips to Banff, Canada and Sedona, AZ during the off-season.

Happy Training!

 

 

Ironman University Certified Coach

For anyone still reading this blog, I have to apologize for having been a bit out of communication here over the last few months. Besides the busy holiday season, I had been heads down working through the Ironman University online coaching certification since September. This course pretty much consumed the majority of my free time from September until I submitted my final assessment a few days before the Thanksgiving holiday.

I have to say that the course was very well done, despite all the negative comments it generated from people in the triathlon community. The Ironman folks and the top-level coaches involved in it surely put a lot of time and effort into this online curriculum. The course was very thorough and it covered topics such as Exercise science, kinesiology of each sport, training plans, strength training, nutrition and even touched on the business side of coaching. My wife, who works in the Physical Therapy field, had walked past while I was taking the exercise science module   and said “you are going to know more than me!”. I don’t know about that but, it was very definitive and provided solid core fundamentals about what your body is doing when you are performing.

Ironman University Curriculum Menu
Ironman University Curriculum Menu

I was also very impressed by the lack of sponsor influence in the nutrition module. Ironman is part of a corporation that has many corporate sponsors, so I figured the nutrition part of the course would be heavily influenced by these sponsors. Much to my surprise, it was not at all. The nutrition advice they gave was very sensible and based on the most current common sense nutrition concepts. I surely thought they would be pushing Chocolate Milk and Gatorade down my throat, but they did no such thing.

Another area that impressed me was the strength training module. I thought that they would be prescribing the traditional bodybuilding-style weight training which isolates specific muscles. Instead, they provide some good functional and stabilization movements that work the entire body, which I now know is most effective for endurance sports. Thanks to my strength coach Fernando Paredes. Several of the exercises they listed in their database were ones that my strength coach prescribes.

Overall, the course drove home many standard concepts that are used by many of the top coaches in the business. The coaches driving the course content were Troy Jacobson, Lance Watson, Matt Dixon, and Paula Newby-Fraser. Basically, the best in the business! They also identified some of the different philosophies that the master coaches so that you can have some alternative approaches to add to your coaching toolbox. In addition to the great course content, they also provided numerous handouts and worksheets that you can use and refer to later on as you work through developing training plans for your athletes.

The online program also worked pretty well the entire time. The only exception was the one time when it crashed on me, which just happened to be on question 35 of 50 during Part 1 of the final assessment test. AAAHHH!!! I was flipping out when that happened!  I was quickly in touch with a support person for IMU and she gracefully calmed me down and helped me through it. Fortunately, the questions were pretty much the same the second time I went through it and I remembered my original answers. If you are thinking of taking this class, you may want to jot down your answers while taking the during the assessment portion.

The final assessment consists of a 50 question multiple choice online test for Part 1 and an offline, subjective, long answer style test in a MS Word Document for Part 2. The multiple choice portion was not an easy off-the-top-of-the-head type test. Many of the questions required me to dig back into my handouts and notes to derive the proper answers.  The Part 2 assessment basically has you build the majority of a season training plan for a given athlete profile provided in a completed athlete questionnaire. This second part took me a relatively long time to complete due to looking things up and analyzing the athletes profile. You will surely need to know your stuff to complete this part. I was exhausted by the time I was done here. They do give you a second attempt at it if you don’t do well on the first try. I surely didn’t want to have to do that again. So, I was relieved when a week or so later I received an email indicating that I had passed!

ronman University Coaching Certificate
Ironman University Coaching Certificate

I don’t know if I will ever actually coach anyone other than myself, but I believe the course was worth the $599 I paid just for all the knowledge I gained and the materials that I received. Hiring a coach can cost from $130/month and up. Multiply that by 6 months and you are already over $600. So if I only coach myself for another season I would have already broke even. Maybe if a friend decided to do a triathlon and they ask me to coach them I will, but I don’t know if I will put it out there to the general public. For now, I want to continue to learn and gain more information from other experienced coaches in the field.

If you are self-coached triathlete reading this and considering taking the Ironman Univeristy I would highly recommend this course just for the vast amount of knowledge it provides. I have to say it was not as easy as I thought it would be either. Although they do not require it, You really need to have some experience training and racing in triathlon to draw on for this class. If you don’t you will struggle a bit. This really came into play during Part II of the final assessment when you have to create the majority of a full season training plan for a given athlete. I spent an entire week on this alone and handed it in a few hours before my course deadline was reached.

IRONMAN Certified Coach
IRONMAN Certified Coach

Why I Decided to Try Ironman University

When the Ironman/WTC folks announced their new “Ironman University” coaching program there was a ton of negative comments posted all over the web and social media. The program was slated as a 14-day online program that would make you a coach, capable of training athletes to complete an Ironman event. With no prerequisites required either. So, basically anybody off the street could plop down $600(now $700), complete the course and become an Ironman-certified coach.

I have to admit, I am as cynical of WTC as many others are since they are just a corporation mainly out to make money for shareholders. Many of the negative comments were things similar to what Coach Brett Sutton had stated: “14 hours of online study does not make you a coach, and it sure as hell shouldn’t qualify you to take on athletes preparing for the biggest endurance test of their lives.” Yeah, no shit Sherlock! Obviously you are not going to become a Brett Sutton or Matt Dixon after completing 14 hours of online training. But what is really necessary to help someone reach their Ironman goals? Many people succeed with no coaching whatsoever.

I would hope that any person looking to hire a coach for an Ironman event would consider their other qualifications besides just completing the Ironman University curriculum. But, there are many peopIe out there coaching with probably less training than that. It also depends on what the athletes’ goals and their budget are. Not everyone can afford to hire Brett Sutton if all they want to do is cross the finish line in 16 hours and 59 minutes. On the other hand, I really think that WTC should have some type of requirement as to IU attendees having finished at least an Ironman or two to show they have at least have some experience and been through the rigors of completing the event.

I decided to try to take a more positive look at this course. I have been coaching myself for the past couple years after having been coached for a few years before that. My coach had passed along much his knowledge to me and I read everything I can get my hands on to build as much knowledge as I can about the sport. I have attended workshops on things like ChiRunning and functional strength training to expand on that knowledge. I would love to be able to coach other people in triathlon someday. This would be a great way to give back to the sport that has done so much for me personally. For now I just want to accumulate as much knowledge and experience as I can about the sport. Much of the knowledge I gain I put into practice myself to determine what really works and what does not.

Ironman University Curriculum Menu
Ironman University Curriculum Menu

I have also been investigating what I would need to do become a certified coach. USA Triathlon is the typical standard certification that most coaches mention in addition to their experience.  Well, in order to attend a level 1 USA Triathon coaching clinic, One requirement is that you have to have a reference from someone that you have already coached. Huh? So, basically you have to have already coached someone with NO Qualification before attending level 1? Wouldn’t it be better to provide some education before certification?  Why isn’t anyone complaining about that? So how do I learn the things I need to learn in order to coach someone so that I can get certified?

The USA Triathlon certification is also ~$550 plus it requires you to travel to a major city and pay for lodging for at couple nights. Surely an investment of over $1000. If I do consider pursing this coaching thing going forward, I would still look to complete this, but I obviously have to have some kind of education and experience in coaching first. I don’t see USAT providing any education before certification.

The Ironman course seems pretty expensive at $600, but I considered what I would pay for a coach at around $150/month for one season for 6 months…$900. You also have a curriculum put together by 5 of THE BEST coaches in the business and access to their knowledge. Even if I am only using this knowledge for myself, why wouldn’t I do this just for coaching myself?

I also frequently help guide friends who are training for Ironman or other triathlons. Having a good base knowledge of triathlon coaching in addition to my personal experience would highly benefit them as well. Some friends are just downloading random training plans off the web, so I would think my little bit of knowledge that can be customized for an individual would be better than that.

The convenience of the online medium for the Ironman course is also bonus. I can complete this course on my schedule at my pace and not have to fly somewhere to attend in person. I don’t know where the “14 day” piece comes in, since you have 90 days to complete the course work. Perhaps they are referring to the 12 modules included in the course, plus maybe a couple extra days? Not sure really.

Despite all the negativity about Ironman University on the web, I have decided to pursue this. Even if I gain some valuble knowledge for only coaching myself, it will be well worth the $600. If it also provides me with the ability to help some friends get through their first race and get me a Level 1 USAT certification down the road, than even better. What is wrong with learning, especially if you can learn from some of the best in the business. You have to start somewhere and I think that this is a good opportunity to do that.

First Impressions

The Ironman University course was opened up for use late in August and I have been using the tool for a few weeks now. It is obviously, full of Ironman propaganda, but it so far chock full of well laid out information. It also has good exercises along the way to demonstrate and further reinforce the concepts it teaches. There are also handouts for each section, with sample questions and area to make notes.

I have to say I am pretty impressed with it. Technically it works pretty well too. The only bug I ran into was when I had to exit the course in the middle of section and then tried to come back to that point later. It just showed a blank white window, so I had to start the section over again. Not a bid deal since it was probably good to reinforce that again.

Some of the areas that I am curious to see about is about teaching topics like swimming technique and nutrition. Swimming is a complex beast and I would not feel comfortable teaching someone who was not a good swimmer(like I was in 2008) to become one. This is something that should be left to someone more highly qualified for sure. I am also curious to see if they try injecting their sponsors, like Chocolate Milk, into the nutrition curriculum. I have seen enough evidence about dairy and especially milk, to know that this is NOT a food that belongs in a healthy diet. That goes double when pour a bunch of sugary chocolate syrup in it too. Stay tuned for future posts about the program as I make my way through the course.