Episode 10- Knowing your athlete- Understanding what behavioral patterns tell us

In this episode of the Magness & Marcus podcast we explore one of the most basic but important concepts in coaching: understanding your athlete. Not in the traditional terms of where their strengths lie or their physiological make up, but instead by their mannerisms, behaviors, motivations and a slew of 'soft' characteristics that help define them as a person.

It's within these subtle cues that we can pick up patterns of behavior that defines the art of coaching. By paying attention to your athletes behaviors, observing them with attention as they go through practice and interact with teammates, we can start to develop a behavioral norm for each athlete. Then, we can use deviations from these norms to understand how an athlete is feeling prior to workouts and what adjustments might need to be made.

In this podcast, we delve into how to identify patterns in athletes, the importance of interacting with athletes during both workout and casual situations, and how treating athletes like adults and giving them responsibility and empowerment can create a team culture and dynamic.

Once again, we hope that you find this podcast informative and thought provoking. A special thanks to all of those who have come up to me and Jon at meets across the country and talked to us about the podcast. If you have any topics you'd like covered, no matter how distant they seem, contact us via twitter:

Thanks a lot,
Steve and Jon

Resources mentioned in this podcast:
Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek

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Episode 9-Interview with Vern Gambetta- Magness & Marcus Show

In our longest episode yet and our first with a guest, Jon and I have an hour long conversation with renowned coach Vern Gambetta. Vern has a unique background as his coaching career spanned from coaching High School all the way to coaching some of the world's best athletes. Similarly, his background is in Track and Field but he ventured out to coaching for MLB teams, Soccer, Swimming, and just about every sport imaginable.

In this in depth conversation, we stay away from the stereotypical topics of training regime's and start with the question of "What makes a great coach?." Keeping the conversation casual and flowing, we traverse through coaching as craftsmanship, why being naive can be beneficial, and how teaching athletes how to compete is an understated component to coaching. From there, we discuss the art of learning how to be uncomfortable, why creating a culture is the most important thing a coach can, and how to transition from the college to professional ranks. We end this section with a discussion on why having an overarching purpose might be the missing ingredient for success.

Forty minutes into it, we finally get to some training and discuss the merits of a Polarized training model, why the 800m, 1500m, and middle distances are some of the most difficult yet interesting to coach. To end with, we discuss the best books for any track and field coach to have.

If you coach anything, or are interested in performance development at any level, you must listen to this podcast. It's one of the favorite ones we've done because it's just three track coaches talking coaching.

I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as we did! And if so, spread the word so that we can have more great guests and cool talks to share with you all!


Steve and Jon

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Resources mentioned in this episode:

AntiFragile  by Nassim Taleb

The Track and Field Omnibook  by Ken Doherty (1980's or earlier edition)

The Sub 2hr marathon- Why Coaches and Scientists don’t understand each other.


This past week at UH I had the pleasure of sitting in on a talk by Dr. Ed Coyle on ‘how fast could we run a marathon.’ Coyle is a well-established researcher, but he’s most well known for his infamous research on Lance Armstrong that showed improved efficiency over his career. Coyle still maintains the validity for this research for some reason, which to many dampens his work, but that’s for another topic.

The reason I’m writing this is because the talk and the discussion after demonstrates a fundamental flaw in the world of sports performance and exercise science.

I sit in this weird in-between zone of scientist and coach. I consider myself more on the coach side, since that’s my primary job, first love, and how I got into this sport, but still I live full time in both worlds. There are a lot of really good scientist and coaches who dip their fingers in both sides and they’re to be commended, but I think my situation is slightly unique in that I’m truly fully engaged in both sides at the same time. I have to be. So it’s these two interacting worlds that I battle.

I’d like to use this post as a learning tool. An almost “A scientists guide to how to interact with coaches.” Then in the next month or so, put up the counter point and produce a guide for how coaches should interact with scientist.

Before we get there, let’s use Coyle’s talk as a framework to understand the disconnect.

Podcast- Drills, Skills, and Sprinting- The role of the neural component in running


In this episode of Magness & Marcus on Coaching, we take on one of the oft-forgotten and misunderstood items in the world of running: the Neural component. Starting off with defining the CNS and motor programming in coaches speak, we take a look at how to integrate this type of work in the realm of distance running. Investigating sprinting, drills, lifting, and ploy's we try and give the listener an understanding of when we implement these items (hint: not thrown in after a workout), how much we need, and what type we need.

Before ending, we get into two of my favorite topics when discussing neural work: Fatigue and priming. CNS or neural fatigue is one of the most misunderstood concepts in the endurance world. As it's a fatigue that we runners don't quite understand. We're used to feeling drained or tired after really long runs or hard workouts which give us this sensation of fatigue. With neural fatigue, our trained senses often betray us. Understanding what neural fatigue feels like and how long it takes to bounce back from is key to understanding how to program this work. Lastly, with priming, we can use neural work like sprinting, hops, or ploys to get the body primed to perform at peak physical performance the next day. After this podcast, you should have a better understanding of how to implement these concepts in your training.

As always, let us know if you have any topics you want to hear covered or comments on any of our shows,

Steve & Jon

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Resources you might want to check out:

The Neuromechanics of Human Movement by Roger Enoka

A brief rant against VO2max and vVo2max

Excuse me while I go on a brief seemingly anti-science rant. Which might be a bit surprising given the name of this blog and my background, but since the topic is VO2max, it might be expected.

You see, I have a long history with VO2max, as evidenced by this article here. It’s not that I think the parameter is useless, it’s just that it’s overemphasized. We can measure it and have been able to measure it for almost a century. Therefore, it must be important.

Even now, it’s the cornerstone of what people perceive to be endurance in the exercise science world. It’s reach extends far outside of that though, as you’ll hear soccer players, weekend warriors, crossfit gurus, and so forth all talking about and asking about how to increase Vo2max. It’s not how to increase endurance. It’s how to improve their VO2max.

As if it matters.

Podcast- The Evolution of a Coach- How to figure out what actually matters


After a one week hiatus, Jon and I are back for our longest episode of the Magness & Marcus podcast yet. In this one, we meander through a wide range of topics with the central theme of looking at how we have evolved as coaches and to try to take away lessons from what that evolution means.

Perhaps most interesting to me was tracking what we focused on in educating ourselves. What we found is that we have followed similar paths of first diving head first into the fundamentals of coaching with classic training texts like Lydiard, Daniels, and Cerutty before adding in a touch of science to understand why those methods worked. Then once the foundation was there, we've both branched out to focusing on concepts that on the surface are only vaguely related to coaching. In the podcast we try to go through why this progression tends to occur and what it means.

After laying out our progression as coaches from a learning standpoint, we discuss how our coaching practices have changed over the years. Jon tells a great story of one of his coaching mentors, Rob Conner of Portland, and how he came to see that having less control is often the way to go. Instead of trying to micromanage every single factor of training, giving the athletes autonomy to make some of those decisions can lead to better engagement and in the end better performance.

While there are a number of other topics covered, I'd highly recommend this episode for any young coach. Hopefully you can learn from our mistakes along the way!

Thanks for listening,

Steve & Jon

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Books mentioned in the podcast:
Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek

Daniels Running Formula by Jack Daniels

Better Training For Distance Runners by Peter Coe

Run, Run, Run by Fred Wilt

The Mechanics of Athletics by Geoff Dyson

Resetting your set point- Changing perspectives to get to the next level

Perspective changers- Resetting your set point.

That  ‘barely keeping it together’ feeling that we normally expect to come and go as our life becomes a little chaotic, doesn’t really go away in life. At first this was a bit concerning, as I think we have this idealized image in our head of having everything go according to plan and for us to be in some blissful state of optimal balance where our challenges and our ability complete them match up perfectly. This sense of 'barely holding it together' is our minds way of making sure we are just stressed enough to get the work done. It's a signaling mechanism. If we were in a constant state of balance that means our ambition or challenges are just a bit too low. Or at least that's what I tell myself, so I’ve kind of come to terms with and embraced this feeling to a degree.

So when you are sitting in your class for your grad program on a lovely Monday evening and the profs pull a group assignment where we essentially have to go through and report our degree of progress on the two major projects due in the class (a big writing assignment due in 3 weeks, and reading a book that will result in a big writing assignment in may), things get a bit interesting. If not, for the sole reason that now the professors and the other 20 people in the class, now know that you are that ‘slacker’ who hasn’t started a single thing on either…

(TO be fair to myself, my not starting the book yet was intentional, as I try to be an avid reader with a somewhat sucky memory, and if I read through the book now, I’d probably have forgotten most of it by the May time frame. Also if any of my profs are reading this, don't hate me...)

It’s not because I actually enjoy waiting until the last minute to get things done; in fact I prefer the opposite. But when compartmentalizing and prioritizing work, this is how it kind of fell.

And maybe there is a degree of arrogance or a type of lassez faire ‘not caring’ coping mechanism involved but to me the real reason is perspective.

Just as we pace ourselves in a race, and sometimes misjudge, when we do projects we tend to invoke some sort of pacing strategy. Just as we enter a race and know that if it’s a mile, it will take me roughly 4 minutes and change to finish, we do the same with projects. And just like races, the degree of certainty in our calculations on how long it will take us to pull it off is related to our fitness, abilities, and experience.

What happens in a race is we have this kind of pre-race template for our expectations of how things are supposed to go. In other words we have a norm or set point and everything is compared to this. The same concept applies to almost all of life. We compare things to some norm.

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