New Gadget- RunScribe allows for inexpensive biomechanics tracking on the go

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As a self-proclaimed science nerd, I enjoy the data junkie side of our sport. We can track and measure more parameters now then we ever have been able to. While this satisfies the science nerd and research junkie side of me, I'm always left with asking the question of so what? What actionable change do these measurements lead us to.

In the world of quantified self and tracking devices galore, most of them lead to cool data that really doesn't transfer into practical action. So when I came across the RunScribe I reached out to the guys behind it to see if I could check it out.

After testing the device for several months, they are finally up on kickstarter, and I would highly recommend checking it out:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1103510338/runscribe-wearable-for-the-data-driven-athlete


What’s your bias?

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What’s your bias?

            There’s an interesting phenomenon that occurs when we start discussing what is important to a particular outcome, which is very much a result of our innate psychological need to value our knowledge and our selves.  As someone who has his hat in many different areas of sports performance and who recently has been venturing outside the confined world of endurance development, I’ve got to see this effect first hand.

On the training side, if I were to ask a group of traditionally trained strength coaches what they see in the training of endurance athletes, the group would most likely go on about the frustrating resistance of endurance athletes to incorporate strength and conditioning practices, plyometrics, and power work into their regime. If I was to talk to a speed/sprint coach, they’d lament the lack of pure speed work in the program and how endurance coaches were obsessed with “mileage” and have their athletes spend much of their training time using  “bad movement patterns.” The endurance coach would counter with the importance of aerobic development and most likely quote the dearth of performances in the 1990’s in American distance running as evidence against the too low mileage phenomenon.
If we brought sports scientists into the fold, we’d hear about evidence based workouts, perhaps Billat’s 30/30, or the importance of tracking, measuring, and improving parameters like running economy, VO2max, and lactate threshold. While the physiotherapist might say that the lack of foundational movement and dysfunction, or in other words the chassis of the car and not the engine, in most distance runners is what is holding them back.
If you spread yourself around and go to different conferences and engage in quality conversation with different coaches, athletes, and scientist, these themes will come up again and again. It’s not limited to the world of distance running, or even sports, but applies to almost any situation looking to maximize some endeavor.

Some 40+ years ago, athletics coach and author of one of my favorite books "The Mechanics of Athletics" summed up similar thoughts on how different people see performance.

“In his study of athletic performance the modern coach stands at the crossroads of several sciences. Thus, to the physiologist, athletic performance is a phenomenon of cells, humours, tissues and nutrient fluids obeying organic laws. The psychologist sees the athlete as a consciousness and a personality, while to the physicist he suggests a machine unique in its organization, adaptiveness and complexity. To the imaginative coach the borders of these and other specialties are seen to overlap; the techniques of one science become meaningful and illuminating in others.” Geoff Dyson

The point is, the reason there are so many different opinions, reasoning, and justifications, should show how complex performance in any endeavor actually is. But beyond that, it displays a particular fault in human nature, our innate bias towards what we know, do, and experience.

What happens when we take a break from running?...Depression?

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In high school, my coach would often laugh at the duration of my post-season breaks. It normally would constitute a day or two and then back to the mileage grind. In college, things didn't change much as I became notorious for taking maybe 4-5 days off after the season and then being at a 100 mile week within a week or two.

With my collegiate and professional athletes, I mostly mandate a week off or at least of doing whatever you want. The reason for it isn't so much physical, but more so mental. Sometimes athletes need a longer break to mentally get away, so there is a large amount of individual variation.

But still, a frequent question I get is how long should my post season break be. To me, it's this balancing act between detraining and psychological refreshment. We typically focus on the detraining that occurs when you go from running to complete rest.

Instead of giving a firm answer on that subject, or the obligatory "it depends", let's flip the question and see what happens psychologically when you take habitual exercisers and give them a break.

The Process of Endurance Training

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One of my favorite conferences to attend and present at every year is Vern Gambetta's GAIN symposium.

The reason I love it so much is simple. It challenges you. You don't just go to GAIN to nod along and get a pat on the back to reaffirm what you are doing. Instead, you go there to learn, be challenged, and to think outside of your established norms.

The main reason this occurs is because of the man behind the conference, Vern Gambetta. In knowing Vern throughout the years, the biggest thing I've picked up is to seek out people who are "smarter" than you in their field and learn from them. Anytime Vern comes to Houston, I can expect a call and a meet up at the local starbucks for a conversation about the latest trends and developments in training and track. He doesn't just do this with me, he does this wherever he goes, with whatever so called "expert" is in that town.

Because of Vern's immense curiosity, the GAIN conference is an extension of this idea. You have extremely passionate people from all over the world and from a variety of backgrounds. Whether it's a football strength and conditioning coach, a rehab expert in Soccer, US ski team coaches, Premier league soccer conditioning coaches, or even an inspiring elementary school PE teacher, everyone there is there for one reason, to learn.

And because it's not a conference that brings people together who are ingrained in the dogma of your own spot, it forces you to look at what you do from a completely different perspective. It's the questions you get, whether it was Oregon and OTC strength coach Jimmy Radcliffe or continual bug in my ear English conditioning coach James Marshall, that make the difference. The conversations, questions, and evaluation make you reevaluate what you do and see it in a completely different light.

Above all, the lesson I take away every year is surround yourself with passionate, inquisitive people. It doesn't matter what aspect of life, if you seek out people passionate about what they are doing, you will learn and grow.

I was fortunate enough to give two presentations there. Below you will find one of my presentations entitled, The Process of Endurance Training.

As I've grown as a coach, I've realized that it's the process that counts. As I tried to outline in my book, I'm not here to tell you how to paint by numbers and create a training plan. Instead, my goal as a coach and educator is to teach you the process behind developing a plan.

So in this presentation, I go through how to create a model for development and apply that to your sport and your athletes.

One of my other mentors, Tom Tellez, liked telling me when I was a 20yr old coaching newbie, that the goal as a coach was to learn as much as you can. It will be confusing at first and it won't always make sense. But as you devour more information, you begin to create a model of how the body works in your head. Once you develop the model, the training becomes automatic and you can sift through new information with ease and plan and develop athletes much more efficiently.

So it's with these thoughts in mind, that I hope to share with you how I have developed my ever evolving model of endurance training.

Soccer as the Battle between Endurance and Speed.

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Looking at the world cup and soccer as the Battle between Endurance and Speed.

With the world cup wrapping up, I figured it was a good time to throw some soccer, or football for our non-American centric readers, into the mix. Soccer, believe it or not, was my first sport. I grew up playing soccer and at a reasonably high level for a pre-teen kid, doing the whole select/travel team soccer thing for a few years. Although most of my success was due to two things: 1. Deciding it was a good idea to train myself to kick with both feet when I was around 10 and 2. The ability to sprint faster and run at that speed for a lot longer than anyone else we played against.

My soccer career came to an abrupt halt because I ran too fast. My HS coach said I could only do one if I wanted to be great at something, and he thought I could be great at running. Thankfully, I think I made the right choice in terms of talent maximization.

Enough of my trip down nostalgia lane, the point isn’t to reminisce about my could have been soccer career, instead it’s to use soccer as a backdrop for conditioning. You see in sports like soccer, which have a heavy endurance and speed component, there’s always a debate on how much endurance work and how much speed work needs to be done.

I’ve long made the argument that if you want to understand athletic performance, talk to a track coach. Not a “athletic performance” coach or one of those guys at your local gym, but a track coach. Not sprint coach or distance coach, but someone who understands sprints to distance to throws to jumps.

Why? Because you have to understand all aspects of speed, power production, strength, endurance, and recovery from a training and technical standpoint. And from a training design standpoint, only swim coaches rival distance coaches in their love of training theory and design. And more importantly in their ability to understand how to put together interval sets and workouts that attack different adaptations (which is a lost art).

What’s the point?

It’s time for an ill-informed, distance runner biased, look at conditioning on the soccer pitch, or really any field at all.

Why tapering can be a dangerous thing!

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Getting fit is the easy part. Getting fit at the right time is what makes our sport difficult.

While we spend the majority of the time getting race ready, often times we let all of that training go to waste by messing up the final preparation for the race. It's probably the most nerve racking part of designing training is often the last few weeks. For the athlete it brings on questioning of whether you are prepared, anxiety over whether all of this work will pay off, and a growing mismatch between how e feel and how we expect to feel.

 From a coaches perspective, it should be simple. The large bulk of the work is done and now it’s time to soak in the rewards. However, it’s also the time when as coaches, we probably do the most second-guessing, over-analyzing, and flat out search for perfecting the training before our athlete runs. In fact, there are some coaches who completely eschew the traditional taper, like Scott Simmons, and I can see their reasoning.

In the end, it’s a conundrum of doing enough to feel like we’re doing something, but resting enough so that we are rested and recovered going in. While we won’y go into a full fledge discussion on tapering, I want to examine a few concepts.

When looking at a taper, the three things I’m concerned with are getting the legs feeling right, which I use the concept of “muscle tension” to do, getting the mindset right, and getting the physiology/fatigue right.

In the research world, a traditional taper involves a large reduction in volume and a maintenance or increase in intensity. This generally works well in the research, but often fails to translate in real life practice with higher level athletes.

Why the mismatch?
1.     One reason is psychology.  Runners are hardwired for routine.
2.     The physiology is different for highly trained vs. recreational, and multi-peaks versus one off peaks

How your perceptions influence reality

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            The last time I mentioned dating in my blog, I got the most hits in my blogs history thanks to my spiel about breaking up with a girl because she did crossfit. So I figured I should use that same tactic again, to attract more visitors who don’t find my scientific treatise on various studies as interesting as my love life.

I’m just kidding…well sort of…in this blog I want to switch gears slightly from the normal training based ones, and look at something that relates in a very real but somewhat roundabout way. Bare with me and I promise I’ll connect it all back to running and training, or at least do my best to try to…

            How we perceive the world around us directly influences everything we do. Whether we frame a challenge as positive or negative can directly manipulate and influence the outcome of that challenge. If we see ourselves as someone who has little willpower, we’ll likely have a self-fulfilling prophecy and suffer in the willpower department. And it goes beyond how we see ourselves, but also how we perceive objects, other people, and how they perceive us. All of this wonderful feedback from the periphery of the world helps to decipher what decisions we make, actions we take, and bias we hold on to so tightly. Before getting into a philosophical diatribe on the human mind and the way the world works, let’s start with a story about myself.

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