We are about to start our blog series, where we tell athletes how to be faster, and what not to do. All of which is mainstream advice that has somehow become lost, or drowned out by the message of more PR and marketing by product manufacturers!
At times I'm sent messages that all coincide with one another, and the perfect storm hits in one day. Thus fresh in my mind it's best to put out there, what sparked the need for a new blog series?
We have coaches in our group holding training camps in 15 countries, and I wanted to report that all gave the same feedback about athletes attending their camps. It went like this:
‘Coach you are so right, the biggest distraction at camp for me is that the participants won't take their hand off their watch, and their head out of the data. They are timing their easy swim warm-up, stopping a metre short to take their time. On the bike they have their numbers for both power and heart rate. On the run absolutely the same, and as you are talking to them, they are constantly looking at their wrists. They are just so transfixed. Followers they are.'
It is an epidemic, no matter USA, Mexico, Spain, Cyprus, Australia, Greece, Italy. Wherever the age group camp is you can guarantee one thing, that everybody there will be diving for the one thing that will make sure that their stay in the sport will be short lived - The Data!
The new oil of the sports society, the mantra, ‘Show me the data’!
Friends and most of you are, let me tell you, the data is fools gold. Expensive bullshit on a grand scale. You don't need it!
Let me repeat - you don't need it!
One last time - you don't need it!
I've been involved in data tests probably for longer than any living full time coach. I had my first dose of lactate testing in 1971. We were regularly taking heart rates in my squad in 1974. I was experimenting with power meters in the sports science laboratory as far back in 1980. Yes for bike, and yes before triathlon had really got started. The Australian national swim squad would have a power test in the gym on the bike. In fact one of my swimmers held the record over all the pro bike riders at the Institute Of Sport for 15 second all out blast. He still did when I left swimming for the new sport triathlon. That made me skeptical right there.
However once in triathlon where do you think the manufacturers went to when they wanted triathletes to use power meters? Yes to me, and I used them. I tested with my Triathletes and I looked for any advantage I could get for my athletes over their competitors - and my coaching competitors. I look for advantages and like all of you, I thought I found one!
However after two race seasons, I completely abandoned them, to the waste bin labelled ‘a theoretical great idea but a functional fail’! Just as I had done with lactate testing 12 years earlier.
There has yet to be built a better intrinsic measuring apparatus than that fantastic piece of hardware called your own body. It is so underrated today. Everybody wants you to abandon your own judgement for the AI (artificial intelligence) bullshit that will tell if you are too tired, will ring a bell if you’re going too hard, and when you need to eat. All information that is second hand, and for me, second rate to your own personal intuition.
But here is the problem. Your body being so smart, that when you feed in the information continually from the outside, it shuts down and doesn't produce the diagnostics. You have turned it off. The body stops producing them. The body is not stupid. It does think for itself. Many tests are now showing the age old saying passed down generations ‘use it, or lose it’!
So coach is there a use for all the data? Yes if you’re so lazy that you can't push yourself by yourself. Then yes if you must. However there are many facts I have that prove these things don't help on race day, that I'm not going to list here. However I have the two greatest female athletes at short and long distance in my squad. For a time period I let them have their ‘tools that I must use’ because ‘it's cutting edge technology for performance’. However they got one thing correct, the word ‘cutting’.
Coach: ‘we are cutting out using them as they are hindering your training. They are killing you’.
Both were kind enough to trust me, and both became better athletes because of that decision. Before I get a flood of emails.., Daniela Ryf is the best bike rider in Ironman - only morons will argue against that. In the ITU Nicola Spirig is the wheel they all want to get on to take them to the front pack.
Since that two week period Nicola uses no gadgets, has not been performance tested, has never done a swim time trial, a bike time trial or a run trial outside of a race since she started to be coached by me 13 long years ago.
‘Flash in the pan’ Danni ‘won't last 6 months with him’. She is different, wears a heart rate monitor, however also does no performance tests - except on race day, and wow does she pass with flying colours!
My prescription for those that want to improve and enjoy what they are doing more is go cold turkey, drop the data, and if you want to go full monty, sell your power cranks to your most feared competitor. That will be a bonus for you.
Just the way I see it.