Category Archives: Coach Rants

Coach Rants: Follow the plan.

Wildflower bikeThe conversation goes something like this:

Athlete: “I had a lousy race. I’m injured. I’m feeling tired. I’m not getting faster.” [take your pick]

Coach: “Ok. Well, let’s review what you’ve been doing in your training. How did that ten-mile run go last week?”


Athlete: “Well, actually . . . I ran twenty.”

Coach: “You did what?”

Athlete: “Uh, I ran twenty miles.”

Coach: “But your plan said ten.”

Athlete: “I know. But I felt so good that day!”

There’s a reason the athlete felt so good up to that point. They had followed the plan. They had had adequate rest. They had not unintentionally performed back-to-back high-stress workouts.

The percentage of injuries/burnout/poor race performances that could have been avoided had the athlete followed the plan is a cringe-worthy number.

So as we begin a new race season, let’s review common practices that sabotage a well-designed training plan:

  • Going longer/farther than indicated
  • Adding more workouts than indicated
  • Going harder than indicated
  • Doing unplanned races
  • Doing any/all of the above and not telling the coach

I suspect that legions of coached athletes could check off multiple sabotaging practices on this list.

Tell me I’m not right.

We write your plans to ensure your workouts are of the proper duration, intensity and frequency, and that you have adequately scheduled rest to help you achieve your athletic goals and do it injury-free.

So, if in doubt, keep it simple. Follow the plan.

Coach Rants: Hear you nothing that I say?

Ironman bikeThe conversation goes something like this:

Athlete:  “I want an individual training plan, specific to me and my fitness level, so I can train smart.”

Coach:  “Excellent. Let’s  talk about your workouts. We’ll set up a periodized plan—”

Athlete:  “Can I still go on group rides?”

Coach:  “Group rides, hmm . . .”

Athlete:  “I heard that’s how you get fast in cycling.”

Coach:  “Well, you do ride at the speed of the group. . . .”

Athlete:  “And my group is fast! We did a three-hour threshold ride on Saturday. Total hammerfest!”

Coach:  “Actually, if you held that pace for three hours, it wasn’t a threshold ride. You did a hard tempo ride.”

Athlete:  “But it was a great workout!”

Coach:  “I’m sure it was a great workout, but you weren’t going hard enough for it to be a threshold workout—a workout where your body makes a physiological adaptation to the workload, increasing lactate tolerance.  A lactate threshold pace is one you could only hold for one hour max.”

Athlete:  “Oh, ok. Makes sense. Got it.”

Coach:  “In fact, not only are group rides normally too slow for a threshold workout, but they’re usually too fast for the low intensity workouts you need, too—the ones designed to build oxygen carrying capability and teach your body to metabolize fat for fuel more efficiently.”

Athlete:  “So depending on the time of year, there’s a good chance the group ride’s pace isn’t the best pace for me.

[Insert clouds parting, a chorus of angels, and a slow smile breaking across the coach’s face.]

Coach:  “Exactly. Unless you specifically need a tempo workout, there’s a good chance you’ll be going either too fast or too slow for your given workout on the day.”

Athlete:  “Got it. Loud and clear. Really, this makes too much sense.”

Coach:  “Great. So let’s talk about that periodized plan—”

Athlete:  “Can I still go on group rides?”

Coach:  Sigh . . .

Coach Rants: When an athlete says, “I want to go fast!”

Great run formAthletes who have worked with us over several seasons and have done their training as indicated, have usually enjoyed steady improvement and done so without injury. But when we sit down at the end of the year to plan for the coming season, many times the conversation goes something like this:

Athlete: “But this year, I want to go fast!”

Coach: “Oh! You want to go fast? Well, I wish you would have told me sooner because I’ve written all of your training programs thinking you wanted to go slow. In fact, I’ve withheld key workouts from your programs, silver bullets every one of them, that contain the secrets for going fast.”

Of course, we never say this. But does anyone honestly think we’re not trying our darnedest to write the best program for them given their ability level, time constraints, and goals to allow them to achieve the fastest possible times and do so without injury?

“But I want to be fast. And right now, please.”

Ok. Here it is.

The secret.

How you go fast.*

  1. Low intensity workouts to build oxygen carrying capability and teach your body to metabolize fat for fuel more efficiently.
  2. Tempo workouts to build strength and prepare the body for harder workouts to come.
  3. Threshold workouts to increase lactate tolerance.
  4. Rest.
  5. Repeat.

The time required to go fast takes weeks, months, and years of consistent, smart training.

There is no magic 8-week plan.

There is no special track workout.

It’s consistency and patience.

And just in case you’re skimming, let’s make that clear. CONSISTENCY AND PATIENCE are the keys to going fast.


*This is a short article, so technique is not mentioned. But obviously, addressing run technique, pedaling mechanics and bike fit, and swim stroke technique all play parts in the “going fast” equation, especially in swimming. So in addition to following your coach’s training plan to the letter, as we know you are doing, improving technique in each discipline will help you become a more efficient athlete. And an efficient athlete who trains properly is going to see the results they are looking for.