Tuesday, September 24, 2013

USAT meets CFE

What a weekend. It felt as if I was in a whole new world. Before I even get started, I want everyone to know that the purpose of this weekend was an opportunity for me to learn and hear a different perspective. This how we grow. I want to be a very solid coach and attending this certification seminar is so that I can understand every training protocol.

So what did I do this past weekend? I attended the USAT Level one coaches certification seminar, it was quite eye opening. Eye opening in a way that I realized this is what being a coach is all about. I was listening and learning, yet deciphering what was presented to me. I knew the perspective from the top USAT level coaches would be completely different from CFE, but I don't think I was entirely ready. As a coach looking to get better, it was truly a growth experience.

It was very difficult for me to wrap my head around the programming prescription. Obviously, I teach and believe in an opposite end of the spectrum type of training. Yet at the same time, I respect the traditional way of training. It works. I get it. Kona Ironman champions and podium finishes, but does that mean it's the way to go? Does that mean all other methods are "unsafe" and won't work? Is that amount of time a necessity for ALL age group athletes?

Certainly a tough vibe. Literally sitting in a room for 2 whole days with folks who had very little exposure to CFE. It probably felt similar to what many traditional athletes feel when they sit thru one of our seminars. I was a freak. "Genetic potential" was an answer I received quite frequently in regards to my capability for completing events. I even mentioned my athletes success. I wasn't there to prove anything. Anyways, here's the scoop from me going into the traditional community and comparing it to my coaching model...

USAT (Traditional)
  • Periodization, Base/Build/Peak/Taper/Recovery 
  • Protocol 1 - 36 weeks maximum 
  • 12 - 32 Hours (Sprint to Ironman) 
  • Taper 3 weeks "Fitness Fall Off" 
  • Volume - Intensity - Skill 
  • Durability thru volume 
  • Measurements - Heart Rate/Power/RPE
  • Sport specificity 
  • Cycles and offseason 
  • No periodization 
  • 4 Strength and Conditioning, 3 - 6 Sport Specific (6 for Ironman Distance) 
  • Protocol year round  
  • 7 - 12 hours training volume 
  • Taper 5 days 
  • Skill - Intensity - Volume 
  • Durability thru strength
  • Measurements - RPE/Pace/Technique  
  • Generalist approach 
  • No cycles, but planning 
I raised questions throughout Saturday. I more wanted to be a fly on the wall and soak in the information, but asking was important. I still think my head is still spinning. The biggest questions I had was in regards to the run technique where they taught a knee drive and hip extension verses the posture, fall and pull. In addition, I questioned the strength being taken out or very little in the build period. Skill and strength were quite neglected. The idea was to focus on the mechanics where it didn't get in the way of building aerobic base. High importance on that matter. The answers I mostly got referred to the specificity of the sport and the "aerobic" conditioning needed. Obviously I was going to have these discrepancies and the question I raised next is do you think a strength and conditioning protocol athlete will ever be on the podium at Kona? The answer was "It'll never happen." 

This is where I wonder. Because what I do know is that CFE and Traditional training both work. I don't think I'll ever classify one as being "better" anymore, but just different. I have my reasons for liking CFE because it involves... 
- less time and very similar results 
- stronger athletes and faster recovery 
- training the aerobic system thru various intervals

What I also know thru testing and
experience is that...
- my athletes continue to get faster
- they stay injury free
- recovery very quick after events
- start and finish races strong
- train based in skill and strength

In my eyes, this is way safer for the "general population" and for someone wanting that incredible experience in less time training this method can get you there. I won't deny that some people just want to run. It's fun. I love it too, but not everyone has that kind of time or is that type of person. My main take away is that there's no one way for everyone.  I happen to think my coaching style and training method is a great way to train. 

CrossFit gets a bad wrap for being "unsafe," but when done right its quite effective. We truly do focus on the technique first to develop a durable athlete. Durability where are athletes are less susceptible to injury. If we can get the mechanics right and develop strong connective tissue I believe (and based off my learning) that athletes can go the distance. One of our head coaches at CFE always says, "The only distance you have to travel is between your ears." If we can be confident trust the training both ways work.

The question will continue to spin thru my head. Can an elite athlete get to Kona on a technique, strength and conditioning and interval approach? I plan to keep testing. I know I can get there. I am confident in that. I'm sure others are testing too. Jumping into triathlon just two years ago, I have seen progress and improvements at every distance. I cannot forget the fact that finish times with all our athlete in the CrossFit Hilton Head Endurance program have drop dramatically. Maybe it's because they were not running as much before? But most likely I know its because technique and strength has been developed.

All these questions will remain. A friend of mine on the Island put it best and reminded me that "no one thing is better, it just happens to be what you think." Research and evidence can point us in the right direction. Above all, I took away so much from the weekend. The mental skills and sport psychology lecture was a great perspective. I got plenty of ideas in the sport mechanics lectures as well as programming. No matter the coach or the philosophy we can always learn something. It's about being open and keeping up with the things/research around you.

I'll continue to focus my coaching at the technique level first while targeting mobility. Then we'll add some intensity to test technique and at that point let's take it out a little further by adding the volume.

Thank you for your attention. Quick announcement. New website coming soon where you can catch all the blog action and hear more about my new business www.firecoachingconsulting.com. Less than two weeks we'll be up and running!!

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