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Balancing Science and Common Sense

Posted Jun 11 2010 8:38am
I'm 24 days away from starting my dietetic internship and 11 months away from my hopeful and anticipated finish of my last educational part of becoming a Registered Dietitian (of course, the learning never stops). Not sure how stressful and overwhelming it will be to study for the National Registered Dietitian Exam but I really look forward to the next year of my life....one day at a time.

As you can imagine, training for Ironman Wisconsin on Sept 12, 2010, a week after finishing my community nutrition rotation and a few days after starting my food service/production rotation, is going to require time-management and discipline at its finest. My goal for IMWI is to qualify for Kona 2011 so I am creating a training plan that will work on my weakness's, strengthen my strengths and keep me entertained and having fun, all while preventing injury (always a #1 goal with endurance/speed training) and burnout/overtraining. I've managed sports and education all my life, but in years past I didn't have an internship, husband, 3 furry animals (1 of which requires 110% of my time...but I don't mind giving it to him :)), life responsibilities and my favorite, lots of athletes who require a large amount of my time in an effort to help them reach their nutrition and exercise/training/racing goals.

When I read "Coach of the Year" in the Volume 39/No 9, July 2010 issue of Velo News, I felt as if I was reading my own personal philosophy's (which I pass on to my athletes and blog readers)...but in a more thought-out and well-written way.

This article was written about Neal Henderson, who has been coaching Taylor Phinney (4x cycling world champion and cycling superstar), alongside many other successful athletes. I had not heard about him until I read this article but I am so happy that coaches like himself are getting the recognition they deserve.

Although I read (and apply) a lot of scientific research, I often wondered if I would ever be taken seriously by applying many of the in-depth philosophy's/rules of exercise physiology and sports nutrition to the every-day and competitive athlete. Sure, we have all heard of fat burning, base building, anaerobic intervals, plyo's, low sugar sport drinks/gels and strength training, but creating a training and nutrition plan to support balance in the life, and these training and nutrition principles, may have many people feeling overwhelmed and confused. So, as I practiced what I preached on teaching the body to use fat for fuel and minimizing the processed food, sugar and salt in my diet (a more plant-based, vegetarian diet), all while training the body to maximize performance, I continued to feel overwhelmed by sport nutrition companies and forum gossip. For the past few years, I have felt as if the research was out there to support quality training, less nutrition while training and nutrient timing to support glycogen storage and tissue repair (encouraging an increase in lean muscle mass) but misinformation by "coaches" without an exercise physiology background, a lot of experience or coaching degree, non-credentialed "nutritionists" and sport nutrition companies without scientific, double-blind, placebo-controlled research have been convincing athletes that in order to be a more fit or faster individual you need to do lots of mileage, eat a lot on a daily basis and take in a lot of sugar/calories during training.

I hope you enjoy this article as much I did and can take away some of his philosophy's....

5 tips for better performance1) KNOW YOURSELF - get tested in a lab once or twice a year if possible. But more importantly, test yourself in the field on a climb and/or with a power meter. Track your progress over months and years, not on a daily or weekly basis.
2) DON'T BELIEVE THE HYPE - Once you know what kinds of training work for you, stick with it. Use a training log to identify the types of training you did the days and weeks before a good performance. Experiment with new training strategies before low priority events, not big ones.
3) TRAIN INSIDE - Even when the weather is nice outside, specific high intensity intervals can best be done indoors on stationary trainers. You can always warm-up and cool-down outside.
4) TRAIN YOUR BRAIN - Strong legs with a weak brain powering them won't go fast in races. Practice visualization and refocusing and use positive self talk to ride stronger.
5) TEMPER YOUR EFFORT - Save your best and hardest efforts for when you have a number pinned on, not a workout or group ride. You only have so many great efforts available - use them when it counts!

More words from the article:
"Neal is extremely bright and his knowledge of science-based training is on par with anyone in the world," said Taylor Phinney's dad. "He is not stuck on old traditions, but is open-minded and a quick study. He really cares about his athletes, and it shows in their response to him."

"For me, the combination of scientific method and practical training methods is what yields the best results in the real world" said Henderson. "Much of how I train athletes is a result of reading hundreds of papers on training responses in all sorts of conditions, but the actual demands of competition factor into the way any specific training is prescribed"

This was my FAVORITE QUOTE.....
"I try to seek the point of maximum adaptation to the minimum of training stress rather than try to achieve the greatest level of fatigue. Excessive fatigue does not guarantee improvements or adaptation. Finding what I call the 'zone of optimal adaptation' is the place that i like to keep my athletes" said Henderson.
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