When coaching athletes, there is always a lot to think about on an ongoing weekly and monthly basis. Keeping in mind the goals for the upcoming season, weaknesses and strengths of each athlete, the seasonal focus, current weather conditions, available schedule, current training fatigue and more. So what is the best training focus for one athlete may not be the best focus for another athlete. The goal with each person is to create the most individualized program possible to push personal limits, but to also gear training towards a specific goal, whether the race goal is a short or longer distance event.
Every athlete has specific strengths and weaknesses. The goal of a training program is to figure out both strengths and weaknesses for each athlete depending on their goal. You want to focus on building weaknesses through the off season and base training so that when it is time to work your strengths, you have a stronger system overall. You also try to maintain and slightly improve strengths through the early seasons as well. Strengths and weaknesses can include core strength, threshold power, endurance, mental strength, and technical skills. You may have the mental strength and power to get through an epic day but not have the technical skills to match, or vice versa. Working with each athlete closely is important. Viewing power files, reading notes on feel and fatigue, and analyzing race reports can all provide a way to continually learn about current strengths and weaknesses.
As you learn what is best for everyone to focus on, the goal is then to put it all together into a schedule, week by week, to continually push everyone’s limits. Every person is going to have a threshold for how much training stress he or she can handle, both physically and mentally. It is my job to help each athlete push their thresholds for training to continue to make gains.
Putting the brakes on at times is also important. Some athletes will want to push the limits mentally far beyond their physical limits. There is a fine line between pushing past your physical limits and pushing too far. So for everyone, I rely heavily on trends in heart rates, breathing, feel, speed, and trends in power to determine how much physical fatigue everyone is experiencing. When you are starting to perceive every workout as being hard, especially while working lower heart rate ranges and experiencing sore legs with lower power outputs, you are experiencing greater amounts of training fatigue. After you have pushed the limits far enough, rest and recovering from it all should be the main focus.
So as I sit in front of the computer each week, writing programs, my goal is to create the most individualized programs possible. The goal is to allow each athlete to work at his or her highest potential, continuously pushing the limits, while focusing on his or her goals. If you are consistently working at a higher output both mentally and physically, you will not only have more fun but you will experience more confidence and make the most gains over time.
Mike Schultz, CSCS