Updated: Nov 14
Welcome to my first monthly (or sporadically, whenever I get around to it) blog post and newsletter where I proselytize about some of the things I'm reading, watching, and listening to in the endurance space.
There is a lot of information available to us in the internet world. Much of it is good and some of it is bad. As a triathlon coach with a degree in Kinesiology, I try to stay up to date on coaching science and triathlon news. I use my education and experience in the sporting world to think critically before disseminating information to my athletes.
It's impossible to see or listen to everything, so by no means is this newsletter a comprehensive list of what's available. It doesn't necessarily include the hottest trends! Instead, it is a line up of what is on my nightstand and what I listen to or watch while I'm running, riding, or driving in the car. I'll draw a few nuggets from each article or episode that struck me as relevant and pass it on to those interested. You are welcome to agree or disagree. Regardless, I encourage you to listen and read for yourself.
Knowledge is power. I hope that some of this material and my own reflections help push back the boundaries of ignorance just a little.
Triathlon Video of the Month 📺
I don't watch all the That Triathlon Life youtube videos... but I do watch a lot of them. This won't be the last one I share either. What I love most about this video isn't the artsy cinematography or Eric's soft, smooth, narrating voice (though both are top-notch A++). What I love is his hearkening back to the COVID days and how that reminded him of the pure essence of triathlon.
The sport is amazingly simple in that regard: human-powered locomotion in the great outdoors and exploring creation. It reminded me of when my wife, Alli, and I would drive around South Texas to find rivers and lakes to swim in during the summer of 2020. At one spot we found, we had to park on the side of a bridge, then wade/swim for about 200 meters before the tributary turned a corner and opened into a massive expanse of water that we could easily swim 400 meter repeats in.
I rode 200 miles that summer on the hottest day of the year without even having completed a 100 mile ride yet because... what else was I going to do with all the free time I had?
Alli and I went camping with no one else around. Shoot, we got up at 3:30 AM on the longest day of the year so we could bike up a 15 mile climb and I could propose on the highest road in Texas while the sun rose!
Adventure and exploration are my two favorite things about fitness and Eric nails it.
Endurance Book of the Month 📚
Behind the Stare: The Pulse and Character of Professional European Cyclocross
It's an obscure book recommended to me by my own coach and mentor, Kurt Perham. The takeaway? I'm not totally sure but I'll do my best to throw a few down on paper:
Europeans LOVE cyclocross. It's a spectator, not a participant sport, in Belgium. Thousands upon thousands of fans show up to stand in the cold rain every week to watch their heroes race around a muddy field. They drink and jeer and it's the highlight of their Saturday. Here in the USA, cyclocross is a thing, but much like all our endurance sports, it's more participant-based than spectator-based.
If you want to compete against the best, you have to move to Europe. Despite this book being written 15 years prior, it's remarkably similar to the recent Outside Online article about getting more Americans into the Tour de France. My favorite quote is on page 280 talking about American cyclocross legend, Jonathan Page - "Ironically, he doesn't enjoy the commercial fruits that his American counterparts seem to be reaping, he abides by a certain ethos that, in the end, seems worthy and commendable: to commit to measuring oneself against the world's best is not so far from victory."
Elite sport is hard. A single concept that is driven home throughout the text is that elite cyclocross is a sport of suffering. This really is true of all elite sport, at least in the endurance world. We often look at athletes as physically gifted and talented. And that they are. But they're also incredibly mentally gifted and talented. They are REALLY good at suffering. And they've trained not just their body, but more importantly their mind, to be resilient and embrace pain. It's part of the job. Part of their life. They find comfort in discomfort.
You can pick up your own copy of the book on Amazon HERE
Ironically, he doesn't enjoy the commercial fruits that his American counterparts seem to be reaping, he abides by a certain ethos that, in the end, seems worthy and commendable: to commit to measuring oneself against the world's best is not so far from victory.
Podcast of the Month🦻
The Daily Stoic on Optimizing versus Maximizing with Kate Courtney
I listened to this podcast with Kate Courtney last fall. Kate is an absolute legend in the sport of mountain biking. Even though she's still in her 20's, she has achieved amazing success by winning the World Championship in her first year racing professionally and winning the World Cup overall the following year. But the tough part of being on top is that the only way to go is down. She's struggled a little the last few years and she is able to reflect on that and her failure at the Olympic Games in 2021. It's easy to see her performances and think she's got it all made. But the reality is that she has experienced massive disappointment in her time as an elite athlete.
The most fascinating part of her conversation for me was a little nugget she dropped about Optimizing versus Maximizing. Her point is incredibly applicable to age group athletes trying to get faster while juggling a ton of responsibilities.
OPTIMIZING she describes as doing the key things that make the biggest difference in training/recovery/performance.
MAXIMIZING is trying to find and control every little detail that can contribute to performance.
The problem is that most of us don't have the time or energy to maximize!
Focus on optimizing the key tenants that contribute to performance:
Metabolic and hormonal health
Sleep as much as you can
The subtleties of how many watts or reps at which pace or power are important, but far less so if the pillars above aren't taken care of first.
Scientific Article of the Month 🤓
Quantifying the Extent to Which Successful Juniors and Successful Seniors are Two Disparate Populations: A Systematic Review and Synthesis of Findings
Long-term athlete development (LTAD) is a topic that fascinates me. The question of when? How much? How hard? Are never more pertinent than dealing with youth and junior development. Perhaps the scariest thing of all is that ultimately, you are shaping and impacting a person's life, for better or for worse. You can dive into the study yourself if you wish. It's a long read but not super complicated. The main takeaway is that successful juniors and successful elite athletes are NOT the same population. It dispels the myth that you have to achieve certain junior benchmarks and milestones if you want to have any hope of being an elite athlete. It also draws into question the whole theory behind talent ID and different performance criteria that National Federations use to select juniors for big races. The sample size for the review was over 60,000 athletes across a range of sports. An "N" certainly much larger than one!
My personal viewpoint on athlete development is governed by my Rule #1: You have to love training. If I'm working with a young athlete, or really any athlete for that matter, the first goal is to get them to LOVE training. Because ultimately, if you want to be a great athlete, you are going to have to train a lot. You're going to have to train a lot for many, many years. A weekly schedule of 12-15 hours a week, which is a big load for a normal age grouper, is not going to cut it for a 23-year-old triathlete who wants to go to the Olympics. Endurance sports favor longevity and the best way to achieve longevity is to prevent burnout. I don't think burnout is tied to volume as much as it is to intensity, and the volume of intensity. Some intensity in the form of speed development is absolutely crucial, but the ins and outs of how much volume and intensity aren't for the scope of this article. My main goal with a young person is to prepare them physically to handle the workloads that will be necessary to achieve success as an elite athlete.
The balance of how to do this while making sure they have an identity outside of sport is extremely delicate. It is not an exact science and it is closely tied to the internal motivation of the athlete and their cognitive development and level of ownership.
"Thus, to improve athletes' long-term senior performance, youth training strategies should primarily focus on the expansion of youth athletes' potential for future long-term performance improvement through adulthood, rather than primarily seeking to accelerate their short-term junior performance."
If you made it this far, thanks for reading! I hope you took the time to read or listen to at least one of the sources I listed above. If not, then I hope my ramblings at least served to prompt a deep thought or two on your part. I love this stuff and I love thinking about it when I'm out training or traveling to events.
If you have some material you think might interest me, please send me an email and I will happily add it to my ever-growing list of material.
If you are interested in coaching or consultations, please reach out and I'd love to see if myself or one of our Paragon coaches can help you SUFFER FASTER.
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