Another Triple Post

February 15th : Only Bad Dreams

“Clear your mind and get a hold on yourself and, as when awakened from sleep and realizing it was only a bad dream upsetting you, wake up and see that what’s there is just like those dreams.” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 6.31

Before he told us to stay woke, he made a similar comment about how getting upset at a dream doesn’t make much sense.

It’s important that when we are upset, we take the time to figure out what exactly is upsetting us. More often than not, we are not reacting to fact, but to our interpretation of the facts. This mistake is a key feature of the fundamental attribution error.

Robbie mentioned over dinner last night that to take things personally is to be self-centeredNot everything is about you…

February 16th : Don’t Make Things Harder Than They Need to Be

Life (and our job) is difficult enough. Let’s not make it harder by getting emotional about insignificant matters or digging in for battles we don’t actually care about. Let’s not let emotion get in the way of Kathēkon, the simple, appropriate actions on the path to virtue. – The Daily Stoic

Similar ideas here. A book that had an early influence on me is Crucial Conversations (and a thank you to Neil Rampe for reminding me to read the sequel, Crucial Confrontations!). I’m paraphrasing, but it speaks of reminding ourselves what the end goal is to our conversations. This helps us stay on path with the responses we use, instead of going off into insults or retreating into silence.

I feel that today’s message in the same spirit. We must be able to separate the message from the messenger. Issues we might have with the latter should not taint how we react to the former. Do your best to always assume benevolence.

When you are part of a team, sometimes you need to be told something you don’t want to hear. Conversely, you might have a teammate that you don’t particularly like. In either case, it’s useful to remember that in the end, we’re all working towards the same goal. This will help us stay focused on succeeding together.

February 17th : The Enemy of Happiness

“It is quite impossible to unite happiness with a yearning for what we don’t have. Happiness has all that it wants, and resembling the well-fed, there shouldn’t be hunger or thirst.” – Epictetus, Discourses, 3.24.17

I’ll be happy when I have a gold medal around my neck.

By this standard, high probability you won’t be happy. Why put your state of mind at risk this way?

Something we’ve already touched before : even if you succeed, you have no guarantee of happiness either.

Sing it, Gnarls.

A big thank you to Robbie for being the connector to the dinner last night. Neil Rampe lived up to and exceeded his reputation of being an amazing individual, both personally and professionally.

  • Share and recreate vs talk and reproduce. A concept from Landmark Worldwide, which had many parallels with the Crucial Conversation stuff. The ability to connect as it is related to effective communication is something I will definitely need as I move forward with The Open Project.

When learning a new skill, you start completely uncoordinated. So many joints and no idea how to make them work in harmony, like an orchestra where nobody has decided on what to play yet. This is when your instructor/coach/conductor works on decreasing the chaos. Set the rules against which the skill will anchor itself.

At this point, you are now a robot. Your skill is confined to the exact manner you know it. This is not robust, since sport is not predictable. New opponent, new environment, new time of day, new equipment…What you need to do now is to reintroduce chaos. This is uncomfortable, but helps teach you how to adapt and intelligently break the rules.

I’m starting to think the same should be said about all learning, really. An apprentice coach needs to be given some instruction, or else they are overwhelmed with information and don’t know what to focus on. Once this is settled, we need to challenge the apprentice by placing them in new situations, with different teams, with language barriers…



Think Before You Act

February 14th

Why did I do that? you’ve probably asked yourself. We all have. How could I have been so stupid? What was I thinking?
You weren’t. That’s the problem. Within that head of yours is all the reason and intelligence you need. It’s making sure that it’s deferred to and utilized that’s the tough part. It’s making sure that your mind is in charge, not your emotions, not your immediate physical sensations, not your surging hormones.
Fix your attention on your intelligence. Let it do its thing. – The Daily Stoic

Hmm. This one surprised me at first. I can certainly agree with the general message : if you stay calm and rational, you won’t make bad choices. Problem is that we always do, even when we were in the best state of mind. How do I then explain the idea that I have “all the reason and intelligence you need”?

I imagine that the proper way of seeing it would be to say : if I come to regret a choice that was made after proper thought, it’s likely because of a new piece of information I didn’t have at the time. I shouldn’t regret this, though, because it can be considered outside of my control. Nobody can be expected to know all relevant information at all times.

Think before you act, whether its about trying a new training supplement, how to react after a big win or loss, or in the middle of a big race. I can see this applying very much to both athlete AND coach.

Took a bunch of block start videos to look at in slow-mo. I’ll review them with Chidi to get some feedback on my abilities. Excited to do this!

Now on day 7 of using Headspace. Unsure of how much of an effect it has, but that might also be because I consider myself to have a generally calm demeanor. I can’t recall many times feeling like my mind was overwhelmed. That said, I do find that at very least, the simple ritual of taking the time – just 10 minutes – to focus on myself does generally leave me feeling better. Can’t complain with that!

February 12th and 13th

Protect your Peace of Mind

So yes, use Stoicism to manage these difficulties. But don’t forget to ask: Is this really the life I want? Every time you get upset, a little bit of life leaves the body. Are these really the things on which you want to spend that priceless resource? Don’t be afraid to make a change – a big one. – The Daily Stoic

Continuing on the lesson from a week ago, we are reminded that even if bestowed with the invincibility of a stoic mind, one must consider the possibility that there are easier paths to your goals.

Nevermind the fact that most of us do not have that level of invincibility.

This can feel a bit paradoxical. Were we not told previously that we shouldn’t seek to avoid the distractions? I feel that the key difference is the goal you are pursuing. The Zen philosopher, as far as I understand it, is seeking satori. It is a very personal pursuit, and so the best way to achieve it might very well be to migrate to the mountains. A Stoic still has a commitment to the world around him, which will likely imply some level of challenges. It then makes sense for the Stoic to choose the path of least resistance towards achieving his responsibilities to the world. He gets to fulfill his duties as efficiently as possible, and will be prepared for the inevitable challenges that he will face in accomplishing them.

A sound mind will help you put in the hard work through the difficult times, because you will know to perceive these challenges as only that. Here, we ask that you also work smart, so that you only need to work hard when absolutely necessary.

Pleasure Can Become Punishment

It’s important to connect the so-called temptation with its actual effects. Once you understand that indulging might actually be worse than resisting, the urge begins to lose its appeal. In this way, self-control becomes the real pleasure, and the temptation becomes the regret. – The Daily Stoic

It’s very interesting to read this the day after going through this article on willpower (many thanks to Dragan for sharing this!) and resembles much a post I can’t find anymore by my Wu-Tang brother about how sleeping in late is to value the immediate above the future self.

I find the idea of reframing situations that would demand “willpower” as a bargain between your present and future self very cool, and look forward to experimenting with it on myself.

I wonder how this changes (or not) my approach to mental skills training for racing.

Today’s Memento Mori, courtesy of The New Yorker : When Things Go Missing

Training thoughts

  • I found the P&P today quite interesting. After a good warm-up, 30min of self-regulated potentiation. Three options were presented, and the athletes were left to pick which one they felt helped them best, and what rest times they needed. A cool idea to play with more experienced athletes.
  • I don’t find my coaching eye is improving the way I want it to, so I started bringing my iPad to be able to do more slow-mo filming. That said, it was encouraging to hear Forrest, a fellow intern, mention how he felt the same way. That is, until he went to a HS indoor meet, and realized that he was able to see far more things.
  • Self-talk can always be improved, even at the highest levels. Negative spirals happen, even to the bests.
  • re: Regen days, there’s a balance that needs to be struck between doing exercises effectively, without getting to the point of demanding excessive focus.
  • Some athletes are reporting some issues with blocks, but all other acceleration work indicates that they are picking up on all the appropriate principles. If there is a difference, the issue might lie more in the athlete treating the blocks as something special. It shouldn’t, and it isn’t.
    • Solution starts with us, the coaches, treating the blocks no differently. If they see us acting nonchalantly about it, it’ll be easier for them to follow suit.
  • Although it might be easier to teach an athlete on his/her good days, it is probably better to teach on his/her bad days.
  • When planning the next cycle, think of three things :
    • what to stop
    • what to start
    • what to continue
  • Thinking about how one should periodize R&R, and mental skill training…

February 11th

Hero or Nero?

“Our soul is sometimes a king, and sometimes a tyrant. A king, by attending to what is honorable, protects the good health of the body in its care, and gives it no base or sordid command. But an uncontrolled, desire-fueled, over-indulged soul is turned from a king into that most feared and detested thing – a tyrant.” – Seneca, Moral Letters, 114.24

Whether we want it or not, sporting success comes with power. Power is the ability to influence – influence your training partners, the people who look up to you, even influence your own coach.

The Daily Stoic reminds us that the maxim “Absolute power corrupts absolutely” doesn’t necessarily hold true. Seneca’s own pupil was…less than stellar. Yet later on, we also had BHZ’s favorite, whose writings we’ve already been reflecting on for a while. What seems to mediate this effect is the quality of their character, or as Ryan Holiday puts it :

…what they value, what desires they keep in check, whether their understanding of fairness and justice can counteract the temptations of unlimited wealth and deference.

How do you want to be remembered?

You are who you choose to be.

On a similar note, something I saved from Brett Bartholomew‘s talk a month ago…

I’m sure there’s a Jedi/Force joke here, but I don’t quite have Zac‘s wit yet.

Notes from yesterday

  • Dan feels that DB could have been great for a very long time, but lifestyle ruined him. BS was too analytical, and always felt he needed to be doing more. Contrast those two with Bernard Hopkins, who competed in a sport with arguably even higher risks and bigger temptations. He competed into his fifties, and credits his focus on all the details outside of training.
  • The way you count down a start can affect the rhythm of the piece.
  • Somebody doesn’t want to buy into your culture? “We will miss you when you’re gone.”
  • When watching an uncoordinated athlete, take the time to distinguish whether they are globally uncoordinated, or simply unskilled for the specific task at hand.
  • To develop a technical model, best thing to do is watch the world’s best and find the commonalities.
    • Looking only at Canada (coached by the East), Canada (coached by the West), USA, and China, I can see how a DB coach can get confused. All these teams won gold medals at Worlds, yet the techniques look so different. That said, I do believe there are similarities, if you know where to look.
      • psst…they’re not secret details. In fact, I think they’re so blatant that people undervalue them.
  • Once you have your model, understand that though you are coaching everybody towards it, everybody will exist somewhere along a bandwidth, determined by a multitude of factors.
  • Dan is skeptical about timelines of detraining and residuals, but even if…What/where is the research on retraining?
  • We must remember that studies, by design, focus on only one variable at a time. When trying to apply new knowledge, consider how to modify that information to your context.

Then, some notes from Derek’s talk on all things planning, methodologies and periodization.

I can listen to this man the man behind MB’s head talk all day.
  • A good coach is like a good boat captain. You know where you’re going, you can read the waves and adjust your trajectory, you recognize that you can’t make sharp and sudden turns.
  • Supercompensation?
    • Science doesn’t back this idea up too well…
    • Likely too simplistic considering the complex nature of the human body.
    • For more, I like John Kiely’s thoughts.
  • 1-factor vs 2-factor (see Zatsiorsky’s book), according to Derek
    • 1-factor needs pushes of volume and intensity. Often times, when volume and intensity intersect, injuries occur.
    • 2-factor plans tend to require smaller, but more frequent pressures.
    • Derek has seen 1-factor plans work, but only when it followed the principles of Specificity, Individualization and Variation. That said, he also feels that when you are doing this demonstrably and completely, you aren’t really doing 1-factor periodization anymore…
  • The choosing of daily/weekly loads is arguably the single most important decision a coach makes.
  • In order to be very specific, you have to be general alot.
    • Referred to polarized training, and noticing how coaches from completely opposite worlds came to the same conclusion.
    • For more, see Seiler’s seminal paper.
  • For accomplished athletes with many training years, high and acute transfer may not always come from specific means. This can be very confusing to an inexperienced coach.
  • Don’t confuse specificity with transfer! Specificity leads to transfer, but it is very athlete specific.
  • Key take aways :
    • Figure out your key variables, and cut out the BS.
    • Have a variable to measure readiness.
    • Variation must be systematic, not chaotic.

February 10th

Anger is Bad Fuel

Many successful people will try to tell you that anger is a powerful fuel in their lives. (…)
But that’s shortsighted. Such stories ignore the pollution produced as a side effect and the wear and tear it put on the engine. It ignores what happens when that initial anger runs out – and how now more and more must be generated to keep the machine going (until, eventually, the only source left is anger at oneself). “Hate is to great a burden to bear,” Martin Luther King Jr. warned his fellow civil rights leaders in 1967, even though they had every reason to respond to hate with hate.
The same is true for anger – in fact, it’s true for most extreme emotions. They are toxic fuel. There’s plenty of it out in the world, no question, but never worth the costs that come along with it. – The Daily Stoic

A wonderful analogy. The same way that you want to fuel an F1 body with F1-grade food, we should strive to do the same with our minds.

Think of that as you compete. What is fueling your competitive spirit? I’m currently dealing with the consequences of fueling a team with standard unleaded fuel. It worked for a season, but I’m stuck now scrambling to refuel. It’s harder to find, it takes more time to fill the tank, but using the best fuel grade possible will keep that competitive spirit running far smoother, far longer.

February 8th/9th

Did That Make You Feel Better?

The next time you find yourself in the middle of a freakout, or moaning and groaning with flulike symptoms, or crying tears of regret, just ask : Is this actually making me feel better? Is this actually relieving any of the symptoms I wish were gone? – The Daily Stoic

When the team I coach suffers a loss, especially the tight races that could have gone either way, I ask them to take some time to feel the loss. This kind of stress is a unique learning opportunity, and I don’t want to waste it.

There’s also something to be said about catharsis. Not many have reached the level of detachment to be completely unphased by a big sporting loss (well, except maybe for Sulik). Hence, I would much rather have the athletes take care of releasing their built up emotions than bottling them up.

That said, I also tell them that as soon as you can, get over it. Mulling over past mistakes will only serve to heighten tunnel-vision, which can/will cause problems later.

It’s always about balance.

You Don’t Have to Have an Opinion

“We have the power to hold no opinion about a thing and to not let it upset our state of mind – for things have no natural power to shape our judgments.” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 6.52

The book suggests to consider all the terrible things you don’t know about that you would have terrible opinions about. You are unaffected by them, since you are unaware. Hence, you realize that the possibility of not having an opinion on bad things exists, and can learn to act the same way about things you do know.

I must admit, I’m a bit skeptical of this idea. I feel I would rather focus on the idea of understanding that anything we hold an opinion on, we are the ones who gave it the value necessary to be worthy of an opinion. Hence, we can take it away.

Talking to Tyson again was a big highlight, as his experience building Wave Aquatics, and having been part of Sun Devil Aquatics in its heydays, is a wonderful resource.

  • A “performance above all” culture can work short term, but never lasts.
  • Make the key elements of your culture decided by them. All you do after that is enforce what they wanted. Motivational interviewing, anybody?
  • When you meet with the team, don’t put any pressure. You can’t solve it in a one hour session, so don’t try. Simply take the opportunity to explore the ideas and framework your athletes are looking for.
  • Once you have the general ideas, take the time to flesh them out into concrete actions. How does “being a team that helps each other out” actually play out in day to day situations? What does it look like on practice days?
  • Have a hard line for unacceptable behavior, and defend it without exception. You do not want to breed the possibility for exceptionalism.

Then, Boo presentation.

  • Boo’s philosophy on Speed Training Design
    • Planned Balance in Training
    • Prioritizing Speed Development
    • Patience & Progression
    • Absence of Gimmicks and Preconceived Notions
  • Short term Periodization that potentiate high-end speed/power sessions
  • Long term Periodization that potentiate high-end speed/power phases
  • Training the nervous system
    • Quality of work
    • Long rests
    • Manageable volumes
    • Complete opposite of what I often notice : speed work when highly fatigued
  • Related : careful how you sequence speed/power sessions vs more glycolytic/lactic work
  • Speed endurance (an ESD perspective) can also be thought of as coordination maintenance (a neural perspective).
    • Apply a sprint/float/sprint approach
    • You can maintain maxV for about 3s. Play with distance/time variables to maximize this detail.
  • Power phases can be potentiated by MxS phases, but Boo has also seen it work vice-versa.
  • The more advanced the athlete, the lower density of high performance can be done.


  • Consider planning some hard training back to back to help simulate fatigue of multi-day championships.
  • A concept that came up again : women not only can handle, but require more volume than men.
  • Biochemical analysis will always be restricted in its application until results can be gotten more quickly. Trend analysis AFTER the fact can only get you so far.

Finally, Derek’s talk on youth development

  • Only two goals to development
    • Keep them healthy.
    • Prepare them for high performance training.
    • Dylan Armstrong went through 6 years of gym work before even starting to do true maximal strength work. Think about that.
  • Take the time to write out your YTP.
    • Elite coaches rarely do so, but…
      • they’ve done it often before, so it’s more automatic
      • they recognize the fluidity of planning, so writing it down becomes less required.
  • Can be worth writing down a more macro training philosophy to help guide an organization with multiple coaches. Acts as a “cheat sheet”.
  • 6 beginner mistakes6-mistakes

February 7th : PM

  • One of the athletes said this to his dad, who is participating in the ACP and relayed it to me : “I didn’t know you could feel so good doing track.” He got so used to feeling beat up, sore, nagging injuries…Crying shame, but very encouraging to hear this!
    • On that note, my boy IK getting some love from one of the athletes, who must be one of the most genuinely nice guys at Altis.
  • Going back to AM, and his alien-like ability to control his muscle tension. This full control over The Switch can also be seen in his personality. One of the most intensely focused athletes, but incredibly down to earth and friendly between sets. Not only does he inhabit the two extremes, but Andreas also says that he can turn that switch on and off multiple times within a workout!
    • I can’t help but think back to FTMP.
  • Talking to Tyson Wellock re: the existence of pusher/puller equivalents in swimming and nordic skiing : he definitely seems to believe there is. Interestingly enough, he also seems to have come to the same conclusion as Stu and I : “pullers” seem to be the better athletes.
    • I think I’m on to something.
  • I asked a question about coaching education, and sparked a very long conversation. Stu later said that the best coaches eventually all come to the same conclusion, and enjoy the idea of coaching other coaches.
    • As I work on creating a better club culture back home, I need to make a point of developing a system to create the next generation of coaches. 22D has a shortage of good coaches, and as Derek, Kevin, Boo and Dan all alluded to, the future of any sport depends on it.
    • Make sure you pick coaches who are willing to learn. Start by creating the workout plan for them, then shadowing their creation process, and finally letting them lead.
    • Daily briefings on the tasks of the day help the junior coaches learn by osmosis.
  • Careful of #FOMO. Take time away from accumulating information so that you can focus on synthesizing. You’ll arguably gain more from this.
  • A good way of judging a training center is to look at consistency (or not) of mistakes.
    • If there IS consistency, there’s an error in the center’s coaching system.
    • If there ISN’T, you’re likely seeing the athlete’s individual faults. This is what you want.
  • Coach the little stuff just as strictly and intently as the big stuff. These are missed opportunities to create more context.
  • Athletes considered to lack stiffness also tend to have postural issues (in sprinting, often seen as being very backside).
    • Remember, “fascial” athletes are interpreted as having great “body communication”. Bad posture = bad communication? I think so.
  • Yoda : “The more reductionist I got, the more issues I had.”
  • Boo’s training mistakes : Using “security blanket” workouts, and looking for level 3 solutions to level 1 problems.
  • Some ideas on creating cultures that foster excellence
    • Cultivate positive peer pressure. Make the system difficult. Make them earn their sense of accomplishment.
    • Ensure your training group bonds, even if it’s against you.
      • Kamloops group made training in the ammunition bunker into a badge of honor.
    • Senior athletes help set and police the junior athletes.
    • Altis is very strict on who they let into their program.
      • Reminds me of “slow to hire, quick to fire”

February 7th : AM

Fear is a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

“Many are harmed by fear itself, and many may have come to their fate while dreading fate.” – Seneca, Oedipus, 992

Lets play out an example.

  1. You need to win your next race.
  2. You look to control every detail possible.
  3. You can’t help but wonder if there are things you forgot to consider.
  4. You get anxious.
  5. You’re a smart athlete, and recognize that anxiety is a bad thing. You need to control this.
  6. You get anxious when you realize you can’t stop being anxious.
  7. Implode.

The issue starts with the fact that our starting point is something that we ultimately can’t control. Things would play out differently if your focus is on yourself. The list of things to work on is still exhaustive, but comparatively less infinite. In addition, ultimately, the goal (growth, instead of victory) is less rigid, black-or-white. It implies inaccessibility, yet is still something to strive for.

February 6th cont’d

Biggest training take-away today is to consider maintaining a higher density pattern with females during deload weeks. This continues the theme that because of their lower absolute outputs, they can usually handle more volume.

Best opening ACP poolside today! Only four attendees this time, but generally people that come with more experience. Less shyness, better questions. It also helps that Derek Evely can talk for days, with entertaining and educational stories. Maybe he’s read Made to Stick. More likely, he’s just really passionate.

  • Altis prides itself on enabling a certain level of autonomy in their athletes, as demonstrated in the self-directed nature of the warm-ups.
  • Previously, the sprinters were just one big mass. Now, they’ve been split into smaller groups. A big part of this was because athletes had a (natural) tendency to always default to the senior coaches. By creating smaller groups, cohesion enhanced, and also allowed the junior coaches to take on more leadership.
    • I think I already do this, but I probably need to do it more, and better.
  • High strung athletes, with frequent crying meltdowns, seem to respond well to walks. 15 minute walk, with the coach, prior to every workout. Don’t force the conversation. It starts off awkward with lots of silence, but over time all the athletes ended up more open, more relaxed, and performing better.
    • Similar story is Andreas learning much from the athletes he worked with from chatting with them while they were in the hot tub. The combo of informal, organic, still in the perimeter of training time, probably allowed for lowered guard. Conversation would just flow out.
    • Anti-thesis to this would be scheduled meeting to talk with coach. This often brings the defenses way up.
  • The idea of “master the basics” lives on a spectrum. Don’t start using drills meant for beginners with your advanced athletes.
    • e.g. gymnastics for pole vaulters. Great for beginners who need to learn proprioception through the air, while tumbling and inverted. No longer specific enough for somebody who is world class and has been doing it for years.
  • A reminder that the human adaptive system is a complex. The best way to advance is to probe with “safe-to-fail” experiments, sense the response, and act/adjust accordingly.
    • Derek’s thrower who got much transfer from a cycle of heavy squats.
    • “…but MxS doesn’t transfer!”
    • Maybe fault of new loading pattern?
    • Maybe psychological factor?
    • Who knows, but it worked.
  • One of the hardest things to figure out is accommodation, i.e. when do your drills/exercises/loading schemes stop invoking adaptation.
    • You don’t want to vary too often (though some react well to this!), because you might be cutting your adaptations short.
    • You definitely don’t want to vary too little, because accommodation is a real thing.
    • Hack : identify your tools with the highest transfer. After peaking with it, purposely stop using it to resensitize to its transfer, so that you may get some adaptations again for a later peak.
  • Stu has already alluded to the idea that there are more ways to progress than simply Volume and Intensity. He suggests playing with exercise selection, looking at maximizing skill transfer. Derek also suggests looking into density patterns.
  • Dan has a good way to gather hints that it’s time for a change : are your athletes no longer mindful of their training? Are they bored? Might be time.
  • There’s a special quality of learning that can only happen when you hit peak form. How else are you supposed to feel the specific coordination patterns of these new forces and velocities your body has previously never hit?
    • For this reason, consider peaking as often as you can manage. This varies much depending on the event you’re doing. The simpler it is, the more often you can do it (throws ~ sprints, and I’d argue middle distance is even tougher).

February 6th

Don’t Seek Out Strife

“I don’t agree with those who plunge headlong into the middle of the flood and who, accepting a turbulent life, struggle daily in great spirit with difficult circumstances. The wise person will endure that, but won’t choose it – choosing to be at peace, rather than at war.” – Seneca, Moral Letters, 28.7

It has become a cliché to quote Theodore Roosevelt’s “Man in the Arena” speech, which lionizes “the one whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly…” compared with the critic who sits on the sidelines. (…)

Yes, the man in the arena is admirable. As is the soldier and the politician and the businesswoman and all the other occupations. But, and this is a big but, only if we’re in the arena for the right reasons. – The Daily Stoic

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. This would be a misuse of the invincibility that stoicism can provide. Any action you take should still be directed towards the greater good.

I see this play out mostly in competition calendar decisions. Sure, you can do all the races, but do you need to? Why are you doing all these races?