Coach Mel: Painless Transition To Training

Ho ho ho!  'Tis the season to start panicking about family engagements, Christmas shopping, lack of mileage and that extra piece of cake someone smuggled on to your plate.  I think a lot of people use Christmas as the final deadline for bad athletic behaviour before turning over a new leaf at 12:01am January 1st with newfound zest for training.  Unfortunately, only very highly tuned engines can go from zero to a hundred in a matter of seconds and this is also true of the human body.  Laying off heavily for a month or two to then go back to a heavy workout regime to try to shed pounds and gain fitness in a matter of days is a recipe for injury and illness.  So, how do we get back to the lean, mean, powerful machines we were in late summer without multiple trips to the garage for repairs?  I will go over some of the details that are so often overlooked that should be implemented before heavy training is on the menu.

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Time To Get Back To Business

November is always my month to reflect on the past season and decide what went right, what went wrong and what's next.  I have always thought to myself that we can all strive to be better at what we do until we are the very, very best.  Even then you may have room to improve.  I created the plan for 2006 under the following guidelines:  what do I need to do in order to become the fastest swimmer, biker and runner in the world.  Obviously, it is a tall order to EVER be the fastest at all of these things.  The important thing is to have the desire to be a lot better and desire is always more powerful than percieved talent or potential.  So, over the past month I have started to think about what to improve, how much do I think I can improve over another season (so as to set my goals appropriately) and how am I going to go about making these improvements.

The Worlds in Hawaii this year were fantastic.  When I completed that race I knew that my year had been planned correctly.  I steadily improved from May to October, winning every race from August to October.  That is exactly how the plan was written.  When I look at my splits in Hawaii, I was fastest cyclist and top five for both the run and the swim.  Good.  To improve I could look to be top three, or top two, or the best for all three disciplines.  That is what I would like to work towards.  So my run and swim will need to improve without sacrificing cycling.  Now I know how to set my process goals.  My outcome goals next year are simple:  defend both the Series and World Championships titles.  Oh, and have a lot of fun doing it!

To that end, I have started working with some other athletes as well.  Last year I found it very rewarding to participate not only in my own success but that of some other aspiring champions.  I have a few spots available for coaching in 2007.  I am accepting athletes for my coaching/mentoring program.  If you are interested, you can contact me through the website.  I apologize in advance if I can't accommodate everyone… I have a very hands on program so I need to handpick a small number of individuals to offer the best programs.

 Thanks so much for reading.  For the rest of the November transition period spend some time making your own goals.  In December, start the process of achieving them.

World Class Performance Points Program

I hate swimming.

Ok, now I that I have said that and made myself feel better, I can now move forward with my new swim performance program designed by Joel Filliol to try and keep me on top of my swim program.

I REALLY hate swimming.

Sorry, just had to slip that one in. In case anyone was wondering, my least favorite part of any triathlon is the soggy appetizer. I am not sure why I became such a hater when it comes to swimming because all I know is the only time I am not really in love with what I am doing is when I am on my way to a pool. This includes the numerous rainy six degree days this winter on the bike and the day I blew to the moon and still had to climb an hour and fifteen minutes up Mt Lemmon AND the day after that when we were running intervals and I couldn’t make my legs go any faster than the I-got-nuthin shuffle. Swimming is still worse. A good day swimming is still crap compared to a bad day biking. However, any day swimming is still better than any day not doing what you love and I guess swimming still gets some love for being part of a triathlon.

Despite my dislike of the discipline, I want to be better. In fact, I want to be just plain GOOD, not just sort of okay. Of course, I still want to be FAST on the bike and run, but I really would like to be a good swimmer and minimize the passing required at the start of races. Unfortunately, the only good way to be a good swimmer is to swim – a lot. The past four weeks I have been swimming an unprecedented amount for me, six practices per week! Unheard of! The results have been promising and as a result, encouraging. So to up the ante, Joel Filliol, head coach at the Pacificsport National Triathlon Training Center upped the ante by creating a little motivational points program for Mel to keep her on her swim game through to Maui…..

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Coach Mel: Sport Specific Technique and Strength Part II

Cadence work mostly increases your heart rate through leg speed and builds speed endurance but not necessarily leg strength. Our next workout will focus on building leg strength. Doing both the cadence work and this on-the-bike strength work together is a great idea, since they will complement each other.

If you are doing long rides outside, I would suggest adding some hills. When you ride the hills, instead of trying to go up it fast, put your bike in a big gear and grind it out at about 60 rpm. This will keep your heart rate down and turn the climb into a leg-press workout to build strength in your climbing-specific muscles. You can do this workout off road with a lot of success. If you need to do your long rides indoors still, I would suggest turning up the resistance for 3-8 minutes with 5 minutes in between to mimic a hill interval workout with low cadence. You can do these intervals both seated and standing but make sure you are comfortable seated because you need to maintain traction on your mountainbike.

On days where you don’t have time to ride for a long period of time, but have been doing gym workouts lifting weights, this time of year might be a good time to turn these workouts into a circuit. I do this workout at home with a ball, wobble board, weights and Powercranks. Powercranks on the trainer are a challenge. They are cranks which are on an individual clutch system which basically means you are single-legged pedaling all the time. You need a fairly high resistance to keep on top of the cranks, so it becomes a strength workout and you also get the benefit of the technique improvements associated with single leg pedaling. Double bonus! If you do not have Powercranks, or you don’t have space at home to do this kind of workout, do it in the gym with a spinning bike or on your trainer doing some single leg intervals instead of just pedaling.

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Coach Mel: Sport Specific Technique and Strength Part I

Now that January is in full swing, it is time to start thinking about a bit more sport-specificity. However, for most of us, the weather is, if not worse, not much better than the past couple months. During the winter, sports that are more winter-enjoyable can fill our activity plate, but since the season sneaks up on us quickly it is time to narrow our focus a little bit. While we continue the staples of indoor training I have some ideas on how we can build a bit more cycling work into the program without plugging in yet another movie and mindlessly spinning on the trainer.

I think that strength training should continue through January and February, but I like to make the training more sport specific by doing some of the strength work on the bike, adding little workouts to increase the amount of cycling volume I am doing and turning my routine for core and limb strength into a circuit routine. I will give you some ideas in two parts that will allow you to continue to work on your technique for cycling and still address muscle imbalances that you might be targeting, while at the same time building some volume on the bike. The good thing about these workouts is that they also will improve your technique. I think a lot of people overlook how beneficial a nice, smooth pedal stroke and quiet upper body can be for your cycling.

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Coach Mel: Preparation for a Successful Season

Winter, for those of us in the Northern hemisphere, is the time of year to reconnect with your non-racing friends, reflect on the past season, and build some enthusiasm for the upcoming year. At the same time, you want to give your body a break. Since this time last year you will have completed hundreds of hours of training and racing, so it is important to take some time off to regenerate not only your muscles, but also your nervous system. You need a mental and a physical break in order to be at your peak training potential.

Since our Xterra season does not end until the end of October, I think it is beneficial to take at least two weeks completely off, meaning NO training. Sometimes this needs to be even longer, depending on your level of burnout. I usually go by feel. If I really don’t FEEL like training, I don’t do it. I wait until I really want to go to a workout or for a ride and until then I drink coffee, hang out and do yoga. This period of time varies from year to year and will vary from one person to another. I think that during this break is a good time to start thinking about what your goals are going to be for the next season.

During this training break, create two lists of goals. The first list should be your Outcome Goals, i.e. what are the results you would like to get (what place in a certain race or what time for a 10km). The second list should be your Process Goals, i.e. how you are going to achieve those goals (what skills do you need to develop, injuries to clear up, muscle imbalances to correct, techniques to improve). For example, one of my goals for 2006 is to defend my world title. In order to do this, I have three process goals. The first is to lower my race weight, the second is to improve my swim technique and the third is to work on my technical skills on my mountain bike in the winter. I invite you guys to share your goals on the forum so that you can all inspire each other next season and help each other achieve that success!

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In Her Words: Melanie McQuaid On Rivalry

This report filed August 25, 2005 on http://www.insidetri.com

(Jamie Whitmore and Melanie McQuaid have waged a seesaw war over the past three years of Xterra – Whitmore capturing the world championship on the strength of her run in 2004 and McQuaid using her vicious bike skills to take the world title in 2003. Who will prevail in Maui, at the 2005 world championships on October 23rd? Here, Melanie writes about how a strong rivalry can force competitors to improve beyond perceived limits.)

A rivalry exists when one strives to obtain something simultaneously with another – something which only one can possess. In sport, there can be only one winner, which is why sport inspires some of the greatest rivalries in history. A great rivalry is something quite special. It allows competing athletes to create a history in the sport beyond themselves. It allows their actions, their efforts, and their heart to be permanently recorded with the spirit of sportsmanship and competitiveness. I can think of some great rivalries which will forever be linked with that sport: Armstrong v. Ullrich (cycling); Evert v. Navratilova (tennis); Allan v. Scott (triathlon). The story of their competition remains vivid beyond the victories, and I feel proud that within the sport of Xterra for the last three years I have participated in my own rivalry, McQuaid vs. Whitmore. Having close competition can be one of the greatest ways to explore your own ability as an athlete, and it can make even your losses become some of the best races of your career.

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I Thought I Would Be Faster ???

Okay, the mystery of a fast bike split has just been solved by me? train specific!!! Well, knowing that sounds really lame, the solution really is that simple. Just because you consider yourself a strong cyclist does not mean you will blaze the bike split at any triathlon. How many incredible roadies never quite made it in mountain bike? How many rock star triathletes have not lived up to potential at Xterra? These aren’t indications of lack of talent, just lack of specificity. So for all of you mountain bikers in the audience wanting to time trial better, I have learned some things which may help you?.. Continue reading “I Thought I Would Be Faster ???”

The Never Ending Cold?

Nothing makes an athlete more grumpy than a cold. Taking time off to lay in bed feeling miserable is not quality rest, it is pure torture. Especially while you watch your training partners out training, getting fitter and winning races while you struggle to even turn the pedals. This spring, I had two MONTHS of alternating sick in bed a few days, feeling miserable a few days, a few days of crappy training, then one positive training day, only to find myself back in bed sick. It has been a nightmare. Lots of people I know have told stories about themselves or co-workers dealing with nightmarish flu bugs and allergies this season, but this experience has been something altogether new for me. Now, two months after my first symptoms of a cold, I am finally on antibiotics, but hopefully this is the last step to getting healthy. Continue reading “The Never Ending Cold?”

Running, Running, and not going anywhere??

I have a history of being a swimmer, then a runner, then a cyclist, and finally a triathlete. Years of training have added up to good fitness for a triathlete, but along the way I lost some of my form as a runner. Without good technique for any sport, you will be less successful, thus, in the interest of better technique and efficiency, I added treadmill training to my regimen? Continue reading “Running, Running, and not going anywhere??”