Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sport Psychology for Junior Rowers

Psychological Skills and Rowing Performance
Sport Psychology for Junior Rowers
By Dr Greg Mondon Presented at the 2000 US Rowing Convention
What percentage of rowing is mental? What percentage of mistakes you’ve made in practice or competition were “mental” mistakes? How much of your practice time do you spend on mental skills?

Your answers to these questions will help you determine whether you need to improve your mental approach to rowing. All sports performance is 100% mental. Your body litarally does not move a muscle without input from your brain. Negative emotional states, anxiety, fear, poor concentration, tension, pain, and outside distractions all interfere with performance.

Elite athletes already know this fact. They have developed, and consistently practice the mental skills needed for optimal performance.

Mental skills are just one part of the performance triad. Physical factors include conditioning and nutrition. Tactical factors include technique and race strategy. Mental skills are the psychlogicasl tools athletes can use to enhance their learning, training, and performance. These skills do not replace physical training, but the can help you ti increase your ability to stay focused, handle adversity, control tension and anxiety, and stay confident in your abilities when performing under pressure.

Once you have developed a program of skills and tools you can use to improve your performance, all you have to do is…

Skills for Finding Peak Performance
Developing skills in the following areas can help you consistently achieve a mental state that is ripe for peak performance.

Self Awareness of ones strengths, limitations, thoughts and feelings teaches you about your performance and yourself.
Clear Goals that focus primarily on the process of performance rather than the outcome.
Energy Management Skills allow you to regulate your energy, aousal, and tension. Learn and practicing effective relaxation and “psyching up” strategies.
Imagery Skills, when done effectively can enhance technique development, competition preparation, and self confidence.
Cognitive Skills such as self talk, focusing skills, and cue words can help you handle distractions and stay in the present.

Once learned these skills can be applied to any performance situation. This program of mental skills will include an honest assessment and evaluation of your current mental strategies and your commitment to improving.

Set “SMARTER” Goals for Better Performnce
What is your mission for the coming competitive season? What vision do you have for the success you want to achieve? What do you like about rowing competitively? What are you going to do today to accomplish this mission?

Top athletes have learnt to stay motivated and focused through a long season, through winter conditioning and through those periods where things just don’t seem to be going their way. One of the tools they use is goal setting. There are a few basic principles to use when setting goals.
OUTCOME GOALS focus on results. Winning a race or qualifying for a regional or national event are outcome goals. These goals can motivate and guide you, but they are not completely under your control.
PROCESS GOALS are the action goals that focus on specific aspects of performance. Process goals are what you fall back on day-tp-day, week-to-week to stay focused. These goals are the core of your mental game.

Use this guide when setting your goals.
S – Specific
M – Measurable
A – Action-oriented
R – Realistic
T – Timely
E – Exciting
R – Recorded

Specific gaols describe exactly what you want to occur. What do you have to do in order to row fast (i.e. what is the process gaol for rowing fast)? That should be your goal. For example, a goal of moving to the start line feeling confident and relaxed (which shall enable you to row better) is more specific that saying, do my best.
Measurable goals can be objectively measured by you or by someone else. Using the above example, you can rate your feeling of confidence and relaxation on a 1-10 scale. Some athletes choose to monitor their pulse as a way of tracking their tension level.
Action-Oriented means that your goal dictates that you do something to achieve an end. Example, if you’re not relaxed at the start line, taking a deep breath and using your self-talk to calm down.
Realistic goals look for a balance between ability and challenge. Easy goals wont motivate you and goals that are too difficult will discourage you.
Timely eans keeping focused on something current that is related to your goal. If your goal is nationals in May, have intermediate, short term and daily goals that take you there.
Exciting! Set goals that have some meaning for you. Let yourself feel good about your performance without regard to outcome.
Record your goals in your mental log. Review. Evaluate and adjust them as needed.

More Goals Setting Basics
Here are some more tips to follow when setting goals.
· Remember that goal setting is a process that takes time, thought and effort. Try to avoid coming up with all your goals in one night.
· Be flexible. If a goal isn’t working make an adjustment.
· Make your goal public. Tell mom, dad, friends, coaches and teammates. Be sure to tell people who will be supportive of your working towards your goals.
· Focus on process goals that are related to directly improving your performance.
· Set goals for practice and competition.
· Use positive language. Only state what you want to do (row well) instead of what you want to avoid (don’t catch a crab).

The Most Important Goal
The absolute most important goal you cans set yourself is self acceptance. No matter how you perform this season, no matter what anybody says about you or your performance, make it your personal goal to accept yourself as a worthy person.

Time Frame for Goal Setting
Long Term goals cover the season or the year. You’ll only need one or two.
Intermediate Goals should cover a week, a month, or a pre season
Short term goals are clear specific and action orientated process goals covering 2-4 days
Daily goals. What are you doing today to achieve your vision? What are you doing right now?

Make fun your goal too!!!

The 2000m Erg Test

The 2000m Erg Test
By Walter Martindale, M.P.E., ChPC, Coach Development Manager, Rowing New Zealand
Some suggestions for coaching athletes to a best performance. Unfortunately, to be thorough, this gets a bit long… The “basics” of getting a great ergometer test are in “bold” font, like this. The rest of the document provides a “not quite layman’s” description of the “why” behind the basics.

Recent observations of 2000 m ergometer tests have prompted a selector to ask that club and school coaches learn how to prepare an athlete to take an ergometer test. We saw some very heroic starts, followed by struggles to survive.

So – to that end – a primer on taking an ergometer test, with some of the physiology about why these suggestions should help. It’s directed mostly at the athlete, but coaches can relay this information, or just stick to the basics. This is NOT the only way to “take” an ergometer test, but it’s an approach that’s based on physiology, some experience, and some observations.

First, let’s talk about the common statement that ergometers don’t float. Of course they don’t float. That’s not what the ergometer test is about. People who make boats move fast almost always have good ergometer scores – people who have good ergometer scores don’t necessarily make boats move fast. With good technique, they can move a boat fast, but with bad technique, they won’t go as fast as someone who doesn’t quite pull as hard but has good technique. If you aim to have both good technique and a good erg score, you’ll have a better chance to be the fastest in a boat. The ergometer test is simply a snapshot of your physical fitness and toughness, and can tell a coach or a selector a lot about you. The monitor on an ergometer tells the truth – no matter how hard you think you’re pulling, the numbers show you just how effective the efforts are being. After the ergometer test, if you are going through a selection process, no matter at what level, you start off on a better footing if you have cranked out a big ergo score. When you’re training on an ergometer, the more closely you can approximate good technique on the ergometer, the more beneficial carry-over you’ll have to the boat.

The ergometer test is just like the A final of a big regatta.
People need to warm up adequately, run a “race plan” and afterwards do a proper “row down.”

Basic Physiology for coaches and athletes.
Some basic physiology that explains why a good warm-up is important. Biochemists and physiology researchers beware: this is phrased so that non-physiology people can get it. If the following description is badly flawed, I’d like a physiologist to let me know so I can fix it. If the description is a good “glossing over” of what happens, but not complete, I’d like that confirmed. The description is “AIUI” or As I Understand It, from tertiary courses in exercise physiology from the 80s and Level 4 coaching courses in the 90s.

There are three main “energy supply systems” in your muscles. These are called various names by various physiology people, but what will be used in this paper is: “Anaerobic Alactic”, Anaerobic Lactic” and “Aerobic.” The names are based on the chemistry that goes on in the muscle cells, and this naming system is just one. Some characteristics of these systems will be outlined below.

There’s a whole lot of physiology that goes on when a muscle contracts, from the person deciding to move, to the brain deciding which muscles to use, through the nerves to the muscles which get a signal to contract. There is a lot of “stuff” that is still being researched about muscle physiology, but the overall process is relatively well documented. The details are far beyond the scope of this paper (and my knowledge). The “action” chemical in a muscle is called ATP (Adenosine TriPhosphate). Essentially, the ATP, by splitting off one of the phosphates to become Adenosine DiPhosphate+Phosphate+energy (ADP+P+energy), and giving the energy from that split to the muscle fibre, makes the muscle fibre “pull,” making the body move. A resting muscle carries enough ATP for about 4-5 seconds of full-out work, before something else has resupply the ATP. When starting up, the ADP then gets restored to ATP by another system (Creatine Phosphate, or CP) but which only carries enough supply in the muscle for about 10-15 seconds of energy supply to the muscle. It’s called the “Anaerobic Alactic” system because it produces muscle contraction without using oxygen (anaerobic) and without making lactates (alactic).

When a person starts any physical activity cold, the first 10-15 seconds is done on this “anaerobic alactic” energy system – the muscles contract through the conversion of ATP into ADP+P+energy, and the ADP is restored to ATP with a P from CP until the supply of CP essentially runs out. During the time the Alactic system is supplying energy, the “Anaerobic Lactic” (works without oxygen, and does produce lactate) system is starting to supply energy so that the person can continue working at almost the same pace as with the Anaerobic Alactic phase of the session.

One difficulty is that no matter what you’re doing, at whatever effort level, at the start of a session, the “aerobic” system of energy production is essentially asleep. When it’s “warmed up” it produces about 80% of the energy needed for racing, but when it’s cold, it produces nearly nothing – so ALMOST ALL of the energy for the first three to five minutes of ANY activity is “anaerobic” – and causes lactate production.

After about three to five minutes of activity, the aerobic system “realises” (yes, it’s an energy system and shouldn’t be anthropomorphised) it’s going to be needed and starts producing energy, AND, if the work rate is low enough, it starts to use as an energy supply some of the lactate that was produced during the early “anaerobic lactic” part of the exercise – (essentially turning the lactate back to pyruvate, and running it through the TCA cycle and the electron
transport system) – for non-physiology people, suffice to say that the lactates get burned off.

So – after about 10 minutes of activity, your aerobic system is “up and running” and will have burned off most of the lactates produced in the first few minutes of the exercise session (warm-up).

Then, you can do some short sprints of about 10 strokes that activate your nervous system, and not worry too much about accumulating lactates because your body will be using them up again when you bring the pace back down, AND you won’t be going for long enough to cause lactate to start to accumulate and diffuse from the muscle into the blood stream.

Warming up
A warm up should last long enough to get someone starting to sweat on a relatively cool day. If you time your warm up just right, you get to sit still for about 2-3 minutes before you start your race. And – it’s a good idea to sit dead still for about 2-3 minutes before the race – oops – ergometer test. It’s NOT a good idea to sit still for more than about 5 minutes because your body starts to shut down energy systems that it “thinks” aren’t being used any more.

Why all this palaver about lactates and sitting still?
Imagine starting a race without the aerobic system “warmed up.” Because nothing is “warmed up,” your body produces that initial surge of lactate mentioned above, but because you’re racing, your body doesn’t have a chance to clear it off after the aerobic system gets going – because the aerobic system is not producing enough energy even at it’s maximum rate to satisfy the energy needs of the race. To keep up with the energy required for race-pace rowing your anaerobic system has to fill up the shortfall. So – not only are you working REALLY HARD, but you’re making heaps of lactate in your muscle fibres. When your aerobic system finally does get warmed up, your muscles are already choking in “lactates” and you’re accumulating more with every stroke you take. About 3 minutes into the race… er… ergometer test… you feel as if someone has dropped a very large piano on your head – or you wish someone would do that to put you out of your misery. Lactates, over a certain concentration, interfere with muscle contraction, and interfere with the production of more energy – I think it’s one of those evolutionary protective mechanisms that keep you from turning your muscles into an acid pool that eats itself up. “Ergo” – you need to warm up properly for an ergo-test.

The reason for wanting to sit still for 2-3 minutes before starting a test is the Anaerobic Alactic recovery time – when you stop (STOP) moving, your body somehow knows to replenish the energy supply of the ATP-CP system in a big hurry – so you get very nearly complete recovery of the ATP-CP system in 2-3 minutes of REST (this time it’s not Active Rest).

Here’s a suggestion to make your warm up and your race most effective.
Practice good “pre race” nutrition – A regular meal is OK if it’s about 3-4 hours before you start, with the size and greasiness of the meal being reduced, the closer you get to start time. Try to eat very little if anything in the last hour before you race – you want your stomach to be empty before racing, partly so that the stomach doesn’t take any excess blood flow away from your (soon to be) working muscles – and – you don’t want anything in your stomach to come back up to meet you during or shortly after your ergometer test .
Jog for about 5 minutes. Spend about 5 minutes loosening and doing a little stretching to ensure you have full range of motion.
Get on an ergometer – set the drag factor to that which you test at – in NZ it’s 130 for men, 110 for women.
Row 5 minutes at YOUR U2 pace.
Row 5 minutes at YOUR U1 pace.
Stop for a moment, adjust clothing. Row lightly to keep the aerobic system going, and practice two starts, with light rowing between them.
Somewhere, (with or without a start) do a couple of 10-15 stroke “bursts”, but make sure you have at least 10 minutes remaining before your race starts, after the last burst.
Row lightly for 5 minutes after the last 10-15 stroke burst.
With 5 minutes before your start, row lightly for a minute, and then stop – if you need to secure a heart rate chest strap, do it now. If you feel thirsty, dampen your mouth with some water – if you drink water from mid-warm up on, that water will most likely still be in your stomach when you finish your race. (If you’re thirsty during your warm up, you’re dehydrated, and should have been looking after that before warming up. Anything you drink in the 10-15 minutes before you test will most likely not be through your stomach and absorbed into your blood stream before you start, unless you’re consuming a properly formulated sports drink, AND your body is prepared for quickly absorbing fluids, AND you don’t have a “nervous” stomach. A “nervous” stomach essentially shuts down fluid absorption, and lets you see what you’ve eaten or drunk, later.) Learn to recognise the difference between being thirsty and wanting to moisten your mouth and throat because you’re nervous. Drink to prevent getting thirsty, and plan your fluids to avoid being thirsty at race time.
Report to the testing machine. Position your foot stretcher where you like it. Do NOT offer to change the vent setting – it is most likely that whoever is monitoring the test will have already checked that the drag factor is at the planned setting. You can ask to check the drag factor, but don’t even think about moving the vent until you’ve seen if the DF is off. If you are wearing a heart rate chest strap, make sure it is registering properly on whatever device will be recording.
It may or may not be a good idea to do a few strokes before you test – remember that you want to let your Anaerobic Alactic system recover so that you can start strongly, just like in a race.

That’s the warm-up and pre-race preparation.

Doing the test
START. A usual racing start – a few strokes, shorter than full length, just like in a boat.
REMEMBER TO BREATHE!!!! Most coaches have seen athletes take their first 10 strokes while holding their breath. Not a good idea. What used to work for me was to make sure I blew fully out on the first stroke, forcing me to inhale and keep breathing. Racing or testing, this may help you later in the work piece.
Take a few short, very hard strokes, to get the flywheel started.
Take MAYBE five (5) hard sprint type strokes – these will be using your Anaerobic Alactic “ATP/CP” energy system, and should not cause you problems later in the piece.
Immediately after these (maybe) five strokes, take the pace to your “body of the test” pace, and be very disciplined about staying there. You will have adrenaline and “fresh feeling” going for you early in the piece, but unless you have lots of erg test experience and years of training, it’s easy to overdo the first 500 m.
Treat the test like a race – physiologically speaking, a well trained rower will be fastest in the first 500 because they have less metabolic waste interfering with their performance than later on.
As the test progresses, you need to keep your stroke length, but your body starts to get tired, you can’t push as hard later on as you could in the first 500. So, if you want to keep from fading, you need to increase the stroke rate. Some coaches suggest one “beat” per 500 m.
The second and third 500 (aka the middle thousand) are usually slightly lower in speed because they tend to be run primarily at the “MaxVO2” pace. The closer the Anaerobic Threshold is to the MaxVO2, the faster the person will be able to make it through these two 500 metre segments. The speed profile in international racing (and top level ergometer tests) is dictated by good old muscle and cardiovascular physiology.
The last 500 m – well – how far away from the end of the race do you want to start your closing sprint? If you’re brave, you’ll start bumping the rate up gradually from 500 m out. If you’re REALLY brave, you’ll start hammering it from 600 or 700 out and hang on until you can’t see any more. If you’re more conservative, you’ll try bumping the rate from 300 out, and then complain to yourself that you didn’t start to sprint earlier.
Keep your length as well as you can, creep the stroke rate up, and see if you have energy to try to break the foot plate in the middle of each drive. Listen to the flywheel and make it zing.
At the end – when you’ve finished – try your hardest to stay upright. Most people who crash to the floor and gasp and roll about after they’ve tested are overacting – sure – they’re tired and everything hurts, but a lot more people fall off ergometers than fall out of boats at the end of a really hard 2000 m race. If you have the energy to writhe about showing off how much pain you’re in, you have enough energy to stay sitting (possibly slumped over) and breathe in lots and lots of air. Usually the person monitoring your test will assist you in getting your feet out of the stretchers, and usually there will be someone else around to help you get up on your feet again. If you pass out at the end of a test, the people around you had better be ready to catch you so that you don’t sprain an ankle or knee falling across the ergometer rail with your toe strapped in, but if you’re conscious, and can stay up, it’s a lot safer get your feet out properly.

After the test
After your test – coaches, selectors, and “testers” all know that you’re tired, hurting, and will have trouble moving, but the worst thing you can do for yourself, particularly if you have racing the next day, is sit still. As SOON AS YOU CAN MOVE again, start moving… We know very well that you don’t want to move, but you’ll be able to eventually, and you NEED to move. The best thing you can do for yourself is row an ergometer for another 15-20 minutes. Lightly – of course – at “U3” or “Active Recovery” pace – or somewhere between 40 and 60% of race speed. Yes. That’s slow.

What happens to the metabolic wastes that you produce during a race? They are cleared from your body by a variety of mechanisms. The heart muscle can use lactate as a source of energy, so it tends to take a small amount of the lactate out of the blood. The heart itself doesn’t use much blood (it has its own circulation, from the “coronary arteries,” that fill up thanks to back pressure from the other arteries after the heart’s valves have shut after the stroke. The liver clears out some of the lactate by turning it back into something useful, but again, this is a slow
process. If you just sit still after a race, and do no “AR” work, you MIGHT return to normal blood lactate levels in TWO DAYS. Not an ideal situation if you have to race the next day. Of course, it’s not really the lactate that’s the problem; it’s the fact that your muscles have become acidified by the production of the lactate that is a big part of the problem.

Rowing lightly for about 20 minutes uses up most of the lactates. When you’re working REALLY HARD, your muscles need more energy than the aerobic system can provide, and the chemical system that makes the extra energy (anaerobic glycolysis, or the anaerobic lactic system) gets “clogged” at the end of its reaction chain by the end product of the chain “Pyruvate”. So – to unclog itself, the body takes this pyruvate molecule and breaks a hydrogen molecule off it to make it into “Lactate” (plus a Hydrogen ion – which is what makes things get “acid”). The Lactate and Hydrogen float around in the muscle and diffuse into the blood stream (this isn’t exactly what happens, but that’s way beyond the need-to-know for this article). Then researchers stick you with a lancet (usually at the earlobe in RowingNZ) and test your lactate levels, but that’s another story. If you keep active, the muscles need energy. A very convenient way to make this energy available quickly is to take the lactate and hydrogen that you made while you were working very hard, smunch them back together to make Pyruvate, shove it through the TCA system and the Electron Transport System, and get a whole heap of ATP for your muscle to use while you do your “row down.” Essentially, using the muscles that produced the lactates will clear off the lactates much faster than will running or something, because the lactates are mostly in the muscles that produced them – you use the muscles, and you burn off the lactates.

To shorten the story, erging for 15-20 minutes, lightly, will make you feel about 10000% better in a much shorter time, than will sitting on your “duff” and waiting until you feel better. Counterintuitive, perhaps, but true.

Technique during an ergometer test:
Effective rowing technique is effective rowing technique – if you row “well,” and have the physical conditioning, it will show up in a good ergometer score and in good times on the water. If you are very strong, and don’t row so well, you may be able to get a good ergometer score but on water speed may suffer. If you are very good in rowing technique but not so strong, you may not get the good ergometer scores, and you won’t catch the people who row well AND have good ergometer scores.

Some people learn to row ergometers differently from how they row a boat. In some circles, this is believed to provide a better ergometer score. In other circles, people change the technique on an erg (pulling to their neck, for example) for the purpose of developing just a little more strength in the hope that it will transfer to the boat. Unfortunately, when doing a NZ selection ergometer test, this may not be to your benefit, because selectors watch you pull your test, and spend some time being judgmental about a person’s rowing potential because of what you do on the ergometer.

Having a pull that’s too low, or over your head, or looking too unconventional will probably not
help, unless you manage to “beast” the test, and pull a 5:40 for men, or a 6:40 for women.
Row as much like a boat as you can, and try to leave nothing behind – your 20 minute recovery will help you get ready for the next day’s training, trialling, or whatever comes up. Of course – if you have more time to spend doing recovery work, keep going for up to an hour, but at a low pace.

Understanding of, and experience with long-term build-up programs for high performance female and male rowers

Understanding of, and experience with long-term build-up programs for high performance female and male rowers
By Dr Theodor Korner, Rowing Association of the German Democratic Republic, Berlin August 22, 1989


1. Competition as the goal of training and long term build up
2. Factors determining performance in competition
3. The choice of training means and methods based on a physiological analysis of rowing races
4. Selection and application of training means and methods
5. Long term build up
6. Training of talented children
7. Training of talented youths
8. Training of talented juniors
9. Training of adults with a long term build up of performance
10. Long Term build up training for 18 year old novices
11. Periodization of the annual training programme
12. References
13. Abbreviations
14. Glossary

4. Selection and application of training means and methods

The physiological processes relavent to a rowing race are applied to the different forms of training depending on the selection of particular training methods:
- workouts over short distances with maximal speed, such as start sequences or speed training of maximal 10-12 strokes, are alactic. The alactic capacity is important for racing. This part of the training process is highly responsive based on a small potential that is limited by the size of energy depots and the primary involvement of FTF. Therefore this kind of training should be applied for short periods only and to a carefully dosed extent. The development of this capacity in relation to the entire competition is limited though effective in combination with the aerobic potential
- The training of the anaerobic – lactic component is also directed mainly towards competition. Although the size of the lactic ability is also limited it can be trained to a much higher degree than the alactic capacity. Lactic and aerobic capacities should be trained proportionally. As mentioned earlier, and exaggerated lactic training of the racing stages between 250m and 1000m does influence the aerobic capacity. On the other hand, a high aerobic capacity will not be utilized to its full extent during a race if it is not supplemented by anaerobic capacity.
- In the light of the entire training process the aerobic capacity is most important and determining component to be trained.

It is possible to develop aerobic capacity using different methods as can be seen from several successful crews. Although the literature suggests various stimulus thresholds for training, it is generally recommended to work around the aerobic threshold of 4mM.

In the context of this conference I was asked about methods of endurance training in the long term build up in the GDR. For more than 20 years we are practicing aerobic training in the boat in form of extensive long distance training of relatively high volume, and at the aerobic threshold (2mM lactate). The average volume of training session is about 20-25km long distance training (90-120min) with one break to turn around. The average boat speed is selected so that the athlete can keep it constant over the entire training distance. The rating is mostly between 18 and 20 strokes per min, the heart rate 140-160 per min (35-40 beats per 15 sec), and blood lactate about 2mM (Table 1)

The minor differences between different boats result from the specific character of each boat category, their difference in speed, and the resulting feature of the impulse during each stroke.

The heart rate is taken several times during a training session. Lacate levels are checked every 1-2 weeks. The coach checks the speed of the boat by seeking times at defined check points.

This type of extensive training at a steady work load requires a relatively high volume of work. If sufficient time (4-5 hours) for the recovery is allowed, it is possible to conduct two sessions of this type per day. Towards the end of the training session the average boat speed decreases slightly because the rower gets tired. The heart rate, however, remains constant at the required level. On the other hand, if the boat speed is kept constant the heart rate and lactate will ride. We have kept the heart rate constant to allow a second session a day.

As the energy basis of this type of general endurance training is primarily fat, energy stress are not depleted and replenished before the next training session. The result of such training as the aerobic threshold (blood lactate ot 2mM) are:
- highly economical performance of movements
- a well developed oxygen transport system (VO2 capacity of blood to bind oxygen)
- a well developed mitochondrial utilization of oxygen, and
- fat deposits within muscle fiber bundles (as observed by muscle biopsy).

It is important that the threshold of the stimulus is always reached in order to prevent the long distance training from becoming marathon training (Fig 12)

Training stimuli can also be directed with a change of the boat category or the structural features of the stroke (i.e. the way of giving the impulse). To try and elevate the intensity of long distance training to the anaerobic threshold (4mM lactate) results in complex consequences. During long term long distance training as a constant rating of 20-22, the boat speed increases mainly as a result of a change in the structure of the stroke (higher input of strength, change in the strength-time curve, changed usage of the various muscle fibers, higher speed during the drive). As a result, the training volume decreases and recovery times increase.

In the GDR, long distance rowing as a method to train the aerobic capacity, starts with 10-15km per training session for young talent in children’s rowing groups. Once the athletes are 14-15 years old, the volume of each training session sis increased to 20km and further until the senior age where the training volume is maintained.

The training stimulus is originates from the increasing boat speed as the result of a steadily increasing stroke efficiency. Impressive results can be achieved in competitions out of this effective long distance training and without special lactic or alactic workouts. For these reasons the alactic and lactic training generally does not start shortly before the racing season (April). The long distance training is continued throughout the racing season, Long distance training compromises about 90% of the entire work on the water while about 4% is intensive work (including races).

Some thoughts to the structural features of the rowing stroke during endurance training. Both Roth & Schwanitz examined the effect of different strength-time curves used in training on the cellular adaptations of muscles during long term, long distance training. Applying the same defined training conditions, they found four typical strength-time curves in training which they represented schematically as forms A, B, C and D (Fig 13).

The different types of impulse are characterized by equal areas and differently increasing slopes (A and B are retarded while C and D are steep). This means that although the test persons conduct the same total work or impulse. They do it using different characteristic strength-time curves. The work by Roth & Schwanitz showed that under conditions of identical cyclic movements the different strength-time curves shown in Fig 1 caused different demands on the energy supply. While the A and B type of impulse pattern had the tendency to emphasize aerobic adaptation impulse pattern C and D let to a more anaerobic adaptation.

Similar conclusions can also be drawn from experimental results addressing the demands on the oxygen transport system and the metabolism. As the slope of the strength-time curve increases, VO2 heart rate and blood lactate rise in parallel. Table 2 and Fig 14)

Dependent on the characteristics of the impulse applied during the rowing training (strength endurance training), different morphological and metabolic adaptations can occur. These adaptations take place independently of the distribution of the various muscle fiber types and the intended methodological aim.

In practical terms it is important, whether to emphasize the first or middle part of the drive, or whether the athlete trains in the single or eight. The knowledge of the above will help the coach to avoid unwanted training results.

I should not forget to mention general fitness training. All aerobic training sessions like jogging, cross country skiing, swimming or others, are organized methodically and based on the same principle of long distance rowing (2mM lactate).

The general strength endurance training takes up a special part in the training process as a whole. The exercises are characterized to train local strength endurance abilities (leg, back, and abdominal muscles). During the perpetration period we normally have 203 sessions a week. The intensity is directed by the number of repetitions of each exercise, the sum of the repetitions of all exercises, and the speed of movements. In general, there are 10-12 exercises each with 300-400 repetitions of a maximal frequency of 30reps/min. Blood lactate and hearty rate may increase slightly (up to 4mM after completion of exercises).

The above describes how the intensity of training sessions for special and general fitness influences the entire training process. It is necessary to organize and guide these complex effects in a proper way.

5. Long term build up

6. Training of Talented Children

Te first stage of the long term build up begins with the training of 10-14 yaer old children. Their training depends on their situation at school, and emphasizes:
- the early and continuous guarantee for a squad of suitably trained children through developing love and bond to rowing
- te development of rowing skills and abilities ad their application in competitions.
- The increased development of the basic, general foundations of sport as prerequisite for the later development or rowing performances (coordination, fitness and motor skills and abilities).

The annual ratio of general training to rowing training should be 60 : 40% (Table 3)

7. Training of Talented Youths

Centres for high performance (KJS) enable the coordication of sport and school. In these centrres there are two groups of athletes aged 14-15.
a) those who have been a member of the childrens rowing program and thus are more educated already in rowing, and
b) newly recruited athletes who show good general athletic condition but have not yet rowed. They have to catch up quickly with those in the first group with regards to their rowing skills and abilities. Athletes of both groups are normally at about the same level when they are 15-16 years old.

In general, athletes at this stage have to be educated further in their competitive sculling technique. Competitons are conducted in all sculling categories. More emphasis is put on the 1x and 4x. The technique for sweep rowing at a competitive level is not taught until the athletes are 15016 years old. At regattas for 16 year old rowers there only two events in sweep oar categories. Special fitness training for rowing is achieved mainly by the long distance method, with a proportion of aerobic and anaerobic training of 90:5%. Strength training is done in form of a strength endurance weight circuit. The technique for lifting maximal weights is taught with power exercises (50-60% of maximal strength). The general fitness training aims for the development of general technical sport skills, conditional and coordinative abilities. It includes gaes, joggin, calisthenics, cross country skiing, etc.

8. Training of Talented Juniors

The aim at this stage is the successful participation at national and international junior championships in the boat categories of the FISA. Athletes specialize in either sculling or sweep aor rowing when they are 17 years old.
The coaching is directed towards perfect rowing technique. In addition to their special boat category, all rowers master the 1x and 2- at the competitive level. This enables individual training and testing of rowing skills and abilities.

To develop conditional abilities, the volume of specific training increases, using long distance training as the main method. Competitions start in April. The ratio of aerobic to anaerobic training is 95 : 5%, and strength endurance takes up most of the strength training. Maximal strength training is introduced for the first time as a bloc of 4 – 6 weeks training during winter. General fitness, conditional and coordinative training is conducted all year round, especially in winter. Training means are determined as in all other age groups.

9. Training of adults with a long term build up of performance

The rates at which training demands increase are determined through permanently controlled adaptation of the stimulating levels of training volume and intensity. The GDR training system is extensive in principle. This demands a relatively extensive, medium sized stimulus. The aerobic capacity is established slowly but stable, and at a high level.

10. Long term build up of training for 18 year old novices

The following represents the main goals, methods and means of a 4 year build up program for 18-year old novices, according to experiences made in the GDR.

Training objectives for the different years:

1st Year: Build up of the technical and conditional basis for rowing at the competitive level

2nd Year: Reaching top national Senior B level, and approaching the top class at the national Senior A level

3rd Year: Stabilization of performance at the national top level, and approaching international level

4th Year: Achieving and stabilization of performance at international level

The following is an example of a build up program according to my personal experiences as a coach and that of other coaches.

Four year programme for 18 year old novices to international top class rower

First Training Season: Creating the bases for rowing technique and fitness at the competitive level

Second training season: Achieving top national class senior B, and approaching top national senior A level

Third training season: Stabilization of performances at the national top level, and approaching international level

Fourth training season: Achieving and stabilization of performance at the international level

11. Periodisation of the annual training program

The process of training and development of performance has to be planned systematically and in the long term. Such training plan needs to consider natural laws of growth and maturation of athletes, the phases of development of the athlete’s ability to perform, as well as the peak of the athlete’s performance.

The principles of periodization make use of aim oriented development of the sporting abilities towards a peak performance using the most suitable and appropriate developmental stages of the training year. Periodization considered the following:

- the developmental stage of a squad of a particular age group with regards to morphology and function
- the present level of rowing skills and abilities, as well as training means and methods required for further development
- the changing time periods in training effect on performance
- the right combination and succession of training means and methods, and
- the external conditions according to the time of the year (winter, summer, ice and day light).

Periodization of an annual training program is shown in the following example.

Example of an annual training program for Senior A (European conditions)

Both training objectives and the amount of time necessary for their achievement (see Table showing an annual training program), require that the preparation period is further sub divided into smaller sections, often referred to as macrocycles (Harre, D. Matwejew). These sections span over several weeks (meso cycle) and contain several complete micro cycles, i.e. training plans on a weekly, daily, or training sessional basis.

If there are two training sessions per day their order of succession is also important for the overall work load. Aerobic training sessions can succeed each other without any problems. An aerobic work loads following an intensive wok load (strength endurance, lactic training session) does even provide and advantage in assisting the removal of lactate. In contrast, it is not advisable to plan several successive work outs with intensive work loads (strength endurance, lactic rowing session), as both the removal of lactate and restoration of energy stores are not yet completed.

In the light of an entire training program and its periodization, the aerobic training is obviously the central part of long term and annual training processes.

Our own experiences as well as those of Matwejew, Roth and Harre, point out that the endurance capacity requires extraordinarily long-term morphological and functional changes and adaptations of the athlete. The volume and intensity of these long term processes need to be planned, secured and developed carefully, using the appropriate dosage and stimulation throughout the entire training program.

1. Korner & Schwanitz “Rudern”, Sportverlag, Berlin, 1985
2. Training von A-Z, Sportverlag, Berlin
3. Harre, D: “Trainingslehre”, Sportverlag, Berlin
4. Martejew: “Die periodisierung des sportlichen Trainings”, Sportverlag Berlin
5. Roth, W., Schwanitz, P., Pas, P.: “Untersuching zur Gestaltung differenter Kraft-Zeit-Verlaufe”, in “Medizin und Sport” 2.1987.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Developing Your Coaching Philosophy

Developing Your Coaching Philosophy

In this months' CPD article we are introducing the concept of developing a personal coaching philosophy. A much underutilised concept, coaches rarely take the time to stop and fully consider what their own guiding principles to coaching are and how these will provide the underpinning foundations for their coaching practices.

The development of a coaching philosophy will be shaped by a multitude of factors and experiences will be personal to each coach, with coaches required to reflect on current practices and personal values. Ultimately whether a coaching philosophy is pinned to the fridge door or is stored as a mental note, it can be the single most important influence on how you work and crucially develop as a coach.

Why Coach?

All sorts of people from a variety of backgrounds take up coaching for many different reasons. Knowing why you want to coach will help you to appreciate the different roles and responsibilities of a coach. It will also encourage you to reflect on your own attitudes, beliefs and motives within your coaching practice. This will help you to establish your own coaching philosophy on what you feel is important in coaching.

It is useful to reflect on this at times, as it can help you to make the right decisions. You may however find, that as you gather more experience of coaching your beliefs change. If this is the case, you will need to modify your philosophy accordingly.

When establishing your coaching philosophy you should also consider your motives for becoming a coach. For example, why do you want to get into coaching? For yourself or for others, or a combination of the two? Are you more interested in the long-term development of riders or short-term success? Is your burning ambition to coach a team to win medals at the Olympic Games or simply to help riders improve their skill levels?

Remember that your riders may not necessarily share the same motives as you. For instance, just because you consider some riders to be good enough to join the club team does not necessarily mean that they will want to. Their motives for taking part may simply be to get fit or have fun.

Whatever your reason for taking up coaching, you should always adopt a rider-centred approach. This means acting in the interests of your riders, not your own. If your only reason for becoming a coach is personal satisfaction and gain, you are unlikely to be effective and will soon become disappointed and frustrated.

How Should I Coach?

There are many expectations of you as a coach. One of these is that you will behave safely, responsibly, ethically and equitably. The way in which you behave will reflect your general attitude to coaching and, in the modern coaching environment, there is a need to ensure that you conduct yourself in line with acceptable good practice. This should be consistent with the principles of the British Cycling Code of Conduct.

There is not necessarily one correct way to coach. There are many different ways in which safe, responsible and ethical coaching can be achieved. To be an effective coach you need to be able to draw on an appropriate set of behaviours and act according to the context in which you are operating. Your coaching should always put the riders first, ie it should be rider-centred. This means empowering riders by involving them in making decisions regarding their development and actively encouraging them to take part in their own learning. It requires you to provide leadership, offer guidance, share decision-making and generally guide riders towards selecting and achieving their personal goals.

The way you coach will be influenced by a number of factors, including the following:
• Your coaching motives - The reasons why you take up coaching will undoubtedly affect how you coach. For example, if you wish to see young people develop socially and learn new skills, you will adopt a supportive, educational approach to coaching and place an emphasis on personal development rather than competitive success.
• The riders - If you adopt a rider-centred approach, as is recommended, you should adapt your coaching style to meet the specific needs of your riders.
• The situation - There are some situations in which a particular style of coaching is more appropriate than another. In certain contexts for example, where safety is an important issue, it might be more appropriate to adopt an autocratic and instructional approach to coaching, in order to maintain control and ensure that accidents do not happen and riders behave in an appropriate manner.
• Your personality - Coaches are human beings and, therefore, have individual personalities. Some coaches maybe extroverted, outgoing and lively in their approach to coaching, while others may be more introverted and go about their coaching in a quiet, calm manner. In truth, personality does not matter, provided that appropriate actions and behaviours are maintained, which relate to the situation.
• Your knowledge - The more knowledgeable you are as a coach, the more options you will have available to you to plan and deliver effective sessions. Knowledge will also help you to feel confident and create a positive environment for your riders. A coach lacking in knowledge may come across as low in confidence and may be perceived as lacking skills or the ability of knowing how to deal with certain situations.
As the above illustrates, the context in which a coach operates exists as a result of a number of issues and principles. As a coach, you must seek to identify your own answers to the questions associated with coaching, and create your own set of well thought-out values and strategies to apply during your coaching sessions. These are the backbone of your coaching philosophy.

Coaching Philosophy

It is important for every coach to develop a personal coaching philosophy. Your coaching is strongly influenced by your coaching philosophy, which is what you feel is important in coaching. It is a set of guiding principles that reflects your personal beliefs, values, motives for coaching and your choice of how you will conduct yourself as a coach. It may provide answers for difficult situations in the future, will reflect your interpretation of what constitutes good coaching practice, and is based on your thoughts and actions regarding issues such as:
• your role in relation to riders and others associated with your sessions, such as parents, other coaches, officials and administrators
• the extent to which your riders are responsible for their own behaviour and development, setting goals and contributing to the design of the programme
• the relative importance of the outcome of competition in relation to the long-term development and well-being of riders
• the importance of adhering to the rules, the meaning of fair play and the use of banned substances to enhance performance
• the intensity of training and competition for children and young people
• the need for a single-minded commitment or the importance of balance in the riders' lives.
Reflecting on what coaching means to you, and why you do it, is important because this information will give valuable insights into your coaching - how you coach now and how you would like to coach in the future. You need to focus on your coaching goals and philosophy, and examine your behaviour to determine what sort of coach you want to become. You may also want to check whether your coaching reflects your philosophy. Are your aims and values apparent in the way you coach?

You may not yet have thought about your philosophy and beliefs (or values) - usually you develop them as you extend your knowledge, interact with people and gain wide-ranging experiences through life. Your philosophy and beliefs will affect your decisions and subsequent effectiveness. Therefore, examining them is important.

Your philosophy may be verbal or, preferably, written and should reflect your own coaching goals, morals and beliefs. Examples of common elements of a coaching philosophy include to:
• have mutual respect between rider and coach
• be open and honest
• be approachable
• be accountable
• educate the rider to become independent
• have mutual commitment for the rider to achieve individual potential
• coach in a simple, structured way that is underpinned by current exercise science
• be clear and critical in assessment
• seek feedback from riders
• be reflective about, and committed to, ongoing learning and development
• be equitable
• work within the rules of the sport.
Underpinning all of your roles as a coach are the British Cycling Code of Conduct, the British Cycling Health and Safety Guidelines for Coaching Cycling and any contract into which you and your riders have entered.

The above article is based on information developed for the new Level 3 coaching qualifications, but is equally as applicable to all coaches, no matter what level they may be coaching at.