January 16th and 17th

Never Do Anything Out of Habit

“So in the majority of other things, we address circumstances not in accordance with the right assumptions, but mostly by following wretched habit. Since all that I’ve said is the case, the person in training must seek to rise above, so as to stop seeking out pleasure and steering away from pain; to stop clinging to living and abhorring death; and in the case of property and money, to stop valuing receiving over giving.” – Musonius Rufus, Lectures, 6.25.5-11

This is a BIG one for coaching, and reinforced from watching Chef’s Table with the International Intern Family (oh man, if you like food, pretty visuals, a wonderful score and exploring the minds behind the creations, WATCH THIS SHOW). Even as an athlete, don’t be afraid to ask your coach for the reason behind what he does. S/he should be able to validate every element.

Question everything you do. Never settle for knowledge whose only bearing is the admiration you have for the person who taught it to you. Always be seeking to understand the why behind every decision you make. Keep looking for ways you can improve on your current methods.

Reboot the Real Work

“Let go of the past. We must only begin. Believe me and you will see.” – Epictetus, Discourses, 2.19.34

Most, fearing failure, never start.

Do not fear the discomfort. First, fear is again an attribute we give, and so it is one we can take away. Second, though discomfort is by no means a guarantee of growth, it is only in discomfort that we can have the opportunity to grow. This is as true in training as it is in life.

If you want to do anything well, you will need to experience discomfort. It is an inevitability, and hence does not deserve any more of your mental energy. Accept it, embrace it, and direct your energy to what really matters : growing from this discomfort.


Day off yesterday, but punctuated with a great talk with Stu. Today, training day at the gym.

  • Before even getting into the observations, I ask that everybody reads this fantastic article by Steve Magness. Both athletes and coaches can learn much from the information here on what “mental toughness” really is, and how can develop it. Cristobal and Suzie are two tough suns of beaches, and it’s never a loud spectacle. Quiet Confidence.
  • Patois word of the day : Mawnin
  • Coming back to Jas’ comment about “stiff, not rigid”, what happens when you have too much mobility? When you can’t rely on stiffness to give you the unconscious proprioceptive imput to block your movements at the right moments? How do you purposely stiffen an athlete? If you don’t, you risk injury (as it has happened, in the athlete that caused this discussion). If you go about it from a more conscious method, I suspect you end up with far too much co-contractions (aka Martin). We need to find a strategy to teach make these positions proprioceptively available unconsciously. I suspect reflexive eccentrics might be a solution here.
  • This segways well into the Ferocity ~ Fluidity spectrum. Conscious aggression vs Unconscious rhythm. Stu and I both agree, the best athletes come from the right side of this spectrum. It is much easier to teach attack than flow. I think this might relate back to my concept of Skinny Fast paddlers.
  • No matter what distance you race on, top speed is always a KPI to keep in consideration, even in longer races. Training for top speed develops more than the physiology of speed, a bias towards ferocity. When taught properly, it teaches rhythm, mechanical coordination, fluidity. It’s these elements that are probably what make top speed training valuable in longer distance races.
  • Hanging Band Technique – Creates variability, imposes stability, generates a potentiation effect
  • A “fascial” athlete, as Stu calls them, has something to do with excellent energy return (like a long Achilles tendon, for example), but that would be selling it short. To him, it’s more the idea of having excellent system communication. The connection and coordination these athletes have between all their limbs allow them to direct and focus forces exactly where they want them. This too, I’m sure, backs up the concept of Skinny Fast paddlers.
    • Bonus dot-connecting : Just like with SF paddlers, fascial sprinters don’t necessarily gain much performance from strength training. At least, not in the traditional sense.
  • Could there be a connection between your ability to process cues and your CNS dominance?
    • Sympathetic athletes have trouble integrating new technical details. They also happen to not need much potentiation to perform at the top of their game.
    • Parasympathetic athletes pick up new cues easily. They definitely perform better with some priming.
    • Can’t help but think of PRI and particularly some golden nuggets from Zac Cupple’s blog.
  • Ideally, you want to construct your training program in a way where you start feeling comfortable, at about midway you feel like an idiot who needs to relearn their whole technique, and finish feeling better than you were at midpoint. This concept can (and probably should) be applied at a micro, meso, and macro level.
    • Remember, nothing gained without struggle.
    • I’d argue, and I know Stu would agree, that as you approach a big event and you want to maximize confidence, I’d apply this concept less and less.
  • One unexpected danger of using fancy monitoring tools in the gym : focusing on the wrong things.We must remember that having great gym metrics only gives you the potential to be a great athlete. If you have no technical prowess, you will still be beat (most obvious recent example would be Rousey vs Nunez). Don’t waste mental energy on the small rocks.
    • This can also become dangerous for athlete belief. If they have all the gym metrics because they’ve been putting their effort there, it can become a crutch for their poor results. The athlete ends up believing that since they have all the reasons to believe they should succeed well, failing at that must be the coach’s fault.
  • Finally, a quick moment to remember that we’re all human. An athlete was consistently having some issues with their technique, despite many different cues. This athlete has had previous high level success, so after so many cues, the persistent mistake was determined to be an issue with her body. Indeed, with a laundry list of previous injuries, it was easily justifiable. Well, after consulting with Yoda Dan, we had to reconsider the idea that maybe we hadn’t taken the time to properly explain what we were looking for. It was simply taken for granted, considering her status. Five minutes later, after a small talk, perfect technique. Tunnel vision happens to the best of us. Trusted “second opinions” are worth their weight in gold.
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