Recognizing patterns, winning workouts, making connections, and making it blatantly obvious

I’m generally not interested in the stock market or any business related information, but when former Super Bowl winning coach with the Baltimore Ravens Brian Billick tells you to read a business book, you do it. So I picked up the book Good to Great by Dr. Jim Collins with the hope that I would find a useful nugget or two that was useful.

In studying training, science, leadership, or anything really, I’ve found the key is finding patterns. If a pattern emerges across several different training methods, or across different fields of study, then it’s likely you have come across something worthwhile. The key in learning is recognizing these patterns and making sense of them. One of the best things I did to prepare myself for coaching was to read a lot of training books that had very different opinions and were published at very different times. At first, it’s hard to relate how an almost all interval approach describe in a book published in the 1940’s matches a technical and scientific laden book in the 2000’s. But after reading studying enough material, patterns emerge and it all starts to make sense. One of my oft cited coaching mentors, Tom Tellez, is always fond of telling me how you just have to keep reading and studying until one day it clicks, the fog in your brain clears and you have a clear picture of how to do everything.

So when reading Good to Great, I was struck by several of those patterns. In the book, Dr. Collins used stock market data to identify companies that made a transition from a good company to a great one and then sustained that success for several years. While studying the companies that successfully made that transition, Dr. Collins and his team came to several simple conclusions on why those companies became great while other similar companies did not make the jump. One conclusion, which is seemingly obvious, was that Great companies made more good decisions than bad.

To change or not: Salazar, Ritzenhein, and running form changes

Ritz and his new form:

There is a lot of buzz going around about Dathan Ritzenhein and his form changes. You either fall into one of two camps as Amby Burfoot stated in his blog on the subject: it’s great or insane (his article is here).

I’ve got to observe Salazar working on mechanics twice. I was fortunate enough to watch Salazar work on running mechanics with none other than Paula Radcliffe and Kara Goucher when I was up in Portland for the Nike HS Cross Country Champs last fall with Ryan. They were doing 100m strides on the track while filming it all with a high speed camera. I mostly sat back and observed as that’s my nature, but I couldn’t help but throw in my two cents on some things that I noticed. My “coaching” instincts on mechanics ingrained by Tom Tellez could only be held back for so long.

The 10,000hr rule and why talent and genes matter

The 10,000hr rule and why talent and genes matter:

A decade or so ago, if you asked the top scientists what separated top athlete’s, the answer would be simple, genetics. Fast forward to today and the answer seemingly has shifted to the opposite end of the spectrum, hard work. Two books that came out a year ago, Outliers and The Talent Code, have pushed this shift in thinking. The basic premise of both books was that while talent may play a role, it turns out that circumstance and hard work are the deciding factor. In Outliers, Malclom Gladwell made the case that greats in a variety of activities, from classical musicians to the Beatles, all achieved their greatness not because they were more talented, but because they simply put in more work. The so called 10,000 hour rule has become the latest en vogue thing to cite. The 10,000 hour rule basically states that it takes around that time to master a particular skill. With the rise of both books I saw track coaches at both clinics and in personal conversations start quoting this as if it was the Holy Grail. I’ve witnessed some try and convert that to mileage figures to show that we need X amount of mileage for X time to reach mastery. Stop. Think. And don’t assign this “rule” more importance than it deserves. It’s a rule of thumb, a rough guess, a rough observation that simply states that it takes a while to master a skill, which should be obvious. It’s not a law.

Both books’ ideas caught on because it’s central to the American conscious. The classic American dream basically states that if we work hard enough, anything is possible. Who wants to be told that their gifts and talents are predetermined by genetics like in the 90’s anyways?

Compression Socks

If you’ve been at a road race recently or watched Pro’s like Chris Solinksy or Paula Radcliffe race, you might have noticed the extremely long compression socks that are seemingly popping up everywhere. While Radcliffe was probably the earliest adopter to the compression socks while racing trend, it seems like in the last year the idea of wearing compression socks when running or after running has taken off.

As I’ve mentioned before, “new” trends/ideas seem to go through a cycle of heavy emphasis or de-emphasis before settling into around their likely place. So, where do compression socks fall and more importantly do they work?

Buying into the Program:

I’ve been traveling a lot, and am still on the road, so forgive me for the lack of posts. This past weekend I ran the US 10k road champs in Atlanta, and came away with a solid race, 21st American in 30:28. Having only decided to do this race about 3wks before after focusing on the 1500m, I’m very pleased with how far my endurance has come in a short period of time.

The real topic is one that got brought up in a Sports Leadership class I took that was taught by former Texans and Redskins GM Charley Casserly. In the class, we discussed how to get your athletes to buy into the program. In the same time frame, I listened to an interview by former pro runner Tim Broe in which he discussed his move to High School coaching.

In this interview Broe mentioned that he had to give the HS kids the dull boring work that he hated, like 400m repeats, and that they couldn’t handle/didn’t respond to the type of work he did as a pro, like long aerobic tempos and such. That struck me as strange, because my experience was completely different. Additionally, he said that at first his pro runner status got him credibility but this quickly wore off. While the purpose isn’t to say Broe was right or wrong, as his situation was completely different than mine, but I want to use these two comments as a way to look into an important but overlooked aspect of coaching runners: Getting them to buy in.
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