Friday, March 28, 2008

Principles of Training Revisited

Principles of Training Revisited
By Stephen Sieler

I think if you have been in the exercise game for any time at all, you know a lot about the "principles of training". But, I still want to explore this topic a little bit as a prelude to additional training articles that will follow. I will discuss four training principles. Depending on what your read, there are others. This is especially true if you happen to read "Muscle and Fitness". But, I think these main concepts are fundamental to understanding exercise induced adaptation, and encompass most everything else.

1. The Overload Principle

The Cells are Sensitive
We are biological organisms composed of an interdependent assortment of billions of individual cells. It has been said that "every cell in our body is psychological". This may sound crazy, but in a sense it is true. Every cell is in some form or another sensitive to certain forms of stress, and capable of initiating a specific response.

Training is a cyclical process of tearing down and building up
Part of understanding this overload principle is knowing that the adaptations we are trying to stimulate require synthesis of new biological material. This process takes time! Even as you sit reading, your body is constantly in a state of deterioration and repair. Some cells, like red blood cells are dying out completely at the rate of 2-3 milllion every second, and being replaced just as fast! Others, like muscle cells, hang around much longer, but are constantly repairing themselves from within. When we train, we do additional, specific damage to some cells, and use up cellular resources (fuel, water, and salts are 3 examples). When you walk off the track or get out of the pool after a workout, you are WEAKER, not stronger. How much weaker depends on the severity of the exercise stress. The cells always seek to maintain homeostasis, or the status quo, so the cellular and systemic stress of exercise elicits not just a repair to former levels, but an adjustment, or build-up, of the stressed system that serves to minimize the future impact of the stressor. For example, the depletion of muscle glycogen to low levels by a lengthy exercise session triggers a rebound increase in glycogen storage level. Another example, getting hot and bothered during a run on the first hot Summer day initiates a process of adaptation whereby we, within 10 days or so of repeated heat exposures, turn on sweating faster, more intensely, and voer a bigger skin surface area, but lose less salt (which means our eyes stop burning when we get that more dilute sweat in them. This GENERAL ADAPTATION SYNDROME was described by Hans Selye, and expanded by Yakovlev. If the stress is too small in either intensity or duration, little or no adaptation growth is stimulated. On the other hand, if the stress is too severe, "growth" is delayed or even prevented.

Maintaining homeostasis in the face of chronic stress means increasing the synthesis of specific proteins (mitochondrial enzymes for example) that enable the cell to respond to future demands with less disruption. The optimal training program would be one that maximally stimulated these positive adaptations, while minimizing the cellular and systemic stress thrown at the body in order to trigger the changes. Very hard training does damage and sometimes threatens our health by transiently lowering our resistance to infection. Not to mention the fact that it can stress our time schedules and relationships. Put in real world training terms, the doubled edged sword nature of the body's response to training suggests that we should try to organize training (frequency, intensity and duration) in such a way that we minimize the negative stress effects while still achieving the physiolgoical adaptations desired. This program would then incorporate the appropriate recovery time; 1) long enough to allow the synthetic processes time to occur, while 2) not so long that reversion back towards the previous cellular state could begin. Finally. our overall training program would have to recognize that some cellular adaptations have a faster response time than others. For example, plasma volume increases dramatically within a week of hard training, while capillary growth occurs slowly years of training. This knowledge will impact the relative amount of training we dedicate to achieving specific adaptations.

Thresholds and Diminishing Returns
If we put this Overload Principle into action, we are talking about regular exercise. When we train, we choose some specific intensity and duration of effort (or sometimes IT chooses us!). Then we repeat these efforts with some specific frequency. Add in the mode(s) of exercise and you have the 4 variables of a training program. Since even the most untrained body has a built reserve capacity to handle a substantial degree of stress, there is a minimum threshold for intensity and duration of stress that must be exceeded before additional adaptations are triggered. This is the minimum training threshold. For example, in untrained people starting an exercise program, we don't see significant improvements in exercise capacity unless the training intensity exceeds 50% of their maximal oxygen consumption, but this intensity isn't too difficult to achieve. If you have been doing nothing, almost anything helps. However, the threshold level (in terms of the combination of intensity and duration of exercise) for further adaptation increases as we become more fit. In elite young and older athletes, the threshold for a positive training response may exceed 80% of VO2 max. So does this mean that every training session should be above this intensity? No, this is an important lesson to learn, usually discovered after repeated injuries, overtraining, and staleness. Exercise at below the higher training threshold can be important for maintaining existing adaptations while allowing recovery processes to occur. What we are faced with as we continue training is a diminishing return on our training investment. The better adapted we are to exercise, the more difficult it is to induce further positive changes. Emerging from this fact is the use of periodization of training, a common training term these days. At the elite level the diminishing returns on training investment are clearly evident as athletes train 3-4 hours per day in order to be 1% faster than if they trained 1.5 hours per day. And they gamble this 1% improvement against the greatly increased risk that they will become injured or sick due to the extra training load. So, we each have to decide how important that last 1% is to us.

2. The Principle of Specificity

I think it is safe to say that the media and shoe makers have combined to confuse many young and older athletes about the Principle of Specificity. Nike, and all the folks who sell exercise equipment would like you to believe that "Cross-training" is a key to peak performance. The concept sells more sports shoes and exercise machines, but is it true? Well, no. Any sport you pursue places highly specific demands on your body in at least two major ways. First, the exercise will have a very specific pattern of joint and muscle coordination. For a rower, there is absolutely no substitute for rowing. Ditto for swimming. Even when we try to duplicate the basic movement of a sports skill with strength training exercises, the transfer of increased strength to the actual sports movement is often small or absent. In the worst case this type of training can detract from performance of the real skill due to disruption of technique. Second, the exercise will place high metabolic demands on a very specific group of muscles. For example, running and cross-country skiing appear to involve many of the same muscles, used in a similar movement pattern. Yet, several research studies have demonstrated that there is NO relationship between VO2 max measured by treadmill running and VO2 max measured by cross-country skiing in a group of elite-trained skiers. In contrast, there is a strong relationship between on-snow skiing and performance on a skiing specific test such as the douple poling test.

A high endurance capacity in a specific sport requires both 1) high oxygen delivery (cardiac output) and 2) high local blood flow and mitochondrial density in the precise muscles used. The only way to optimally develop the second component of endurance is to train those exact muscles by doing your sport!

Is there ever a place for cross training?
The answer to that question is definitely yes! BUT, we need to understand as athletes what the limited purpose and value of the alternate exercise modes are. For example, I work with some world class speedskaters from Holland on training issues and physiological testing. After a couple of years of observations, it is clear to me that they just cannot skate every day, at least not in a good competitiev skating position. The stress on the legs is just too great. So, in order to achieve the training volumes that we think are necessary for success at that level, the skaters also do a lot of cycling, even during times in the year when ice is available. Our choice of cross-training is an effort to combine the needs for highly specific loading with the need of these elite level athletes to traing high volumes (20 hours per week or more during the preparation period). Take note though that during the racing season, essentially all hard training is performed on the ice, with low intensity and recovery workouts performed on the bicycle. So even when we use cross-train, we are keep our eyes on the real goal. Or, take me, a 40 year old masters rower for example. During the Spring and Summer back in Austin, Texas , 90% of my endurance training was performed on the water, rowing. However, in the late Fall and Winter (non-competitve period), I rowed less on the water than I could have (No ice in Austin), probably half as much. Why? Mostly because I was mentally tired of rowing, but also because of weather and time constraints. Sometimes I would row on the indoor machine, by no means a perfect substitute for the technique of rowing, but a good simulation for developing basic rowing endurance. But to be honest, on most days, I hate being on that machine for more than about 45 minutes. Embracing the expression "the mind needs rest, but the body needs work", I would often mix in running or cycling on an ergometer with my rowing to increase my total aerobic exercise volume without growing mentally stale. A little bit of cross-training helped maintain my general aerobic base, while allowing me to mentally recharge my batteries in anticipation of another cycle of intense training on the water with my rowing partners.

Another reason to "cross-train" is to avoid injury and maintain muscular balance DURING a period of intense sport specific training. One of the keys to success in sport is staying healthy over the long haul. Weight training by itself will almost certainly do nothing for a runner's 10k time, but if weight training maintains muscular balance in her abdominal wall and low back, preventing injury, then it is contributing to her becoming a faster runner. Why? Because it keeps her running! And, cycling isn't running. But if cycling takes the pressure off tired knees and hips on a recovery steady-state day, then it will probably make the next running workout better. Cross training should always be limited to those activities that allow us to do our event-specific training workouts with greater enthusiasm and intensity, or less risk of injury. It is a cautiously administered supplement, not a substitute!

3. The Reversibility Principle

If people were as economical as their bodies, we would not have problems with personal debt and excess world waste production. The human body is nothing if not thrifty! The iron and protein in those millions of blood cells that die each day is almost completely re-used to build new blood cells! The body does not build proteins it doesn't need (except maybe those that make up the Appendix?), and it doesn't retain proteins that are no longer needed! For the athlete, the unfortunate consquence of this thriftiness is the rapid reversibility of training adaptations if training is stopped. In general, I think it is fair to say that those adaptations that occur fastest when we start training fade away fastest when we stop training. So, a week in bed with the flu will result in a substantial loss in blood plasma volume, but little change in mitochondrial enzyme concentration, and essential no change in capillary density. Once over the virus, a couple of good traiing bouts will have blood volume back up to normal levels, and cardiac function back to normal as a result. However, take 3 months completely off from your training routine due to a big project at work and you will lose a lot of the adaptive foundation gained over the previous year of regular workouts. If you were highly fit before the break, it may take 6 months to come all the way back. What is clear is that training adapatations are always transient and dependent on chronic stress to the system. However, it does seem that people who have been really fit, and take a break, often seem to be able to return to high fitness levels FASTER then those who have not been highly trained before. Whether this is a function of good genetics for training responsiveness, a certain "muscle memory" in the brain or muscle cells of the detrained athlete, or just past knowledge of how to train is unclear, but it does seem to be real.

4. The Principle of Individual Differences

Last but not least on the list of Training Principles is the Principle of Individual Differences.
We All Start Somewhere....different
It is usually practical to describe physical characteristics based on some AVERAGE. On average, American men (no offense to my international readers) are currently 5' 9" (1.75 m) tall and about 180 pounds (82kg). But, walk down a busy street and you will see that there is considerable variability! It shouldn't be too surprising that there is also a lot of variability in our internal charactersitics. Heart size, muscle mass, bone diameter, fiber type composition, position of mucle attachments on bone, fat distribution pattern, joint flexibility, etc., all vary from individual to individual. Two examples: On average, a 25 year old untrained man will have a maximal oxygen consumption of 45 ml/min/kg. However, there are completely untrained people that have walked into a lab, got on a treadmill and had a VO2 max of 70 ml/min/kg. I tested a fellow exactly like this myself once. I was teaching a class and he "volunteered" to perform a cycling max test. I predicted his max for the class based on his exercise history (little if any). Imaging my surprise as he kept cycling and his VO2 kept climbing and climbing as I progressively increased the workload on the bike! He didn't bother to tell me his sister had rowed in the Olympics until after the test! There are equally "healthy" untrained young men whose max is only 35 ml/min/kg. That's a 2X difference in aerobic capacity before they do their first workout! This is a physiological gap will not be closed, no matter how hard the "less endowed" fellow trains. If the high VO2 guy trains very hard, he might reach 80 ml/kg/min, a 14% increase. The low VO2 guy can train equally hard and possibly reach 50 ml/kg/min, a larger 42% increase. The gap can narrow (to 60% here), but it will not go away. Genetics place limitations on our body.

Example number two: On average, the fiber type distribution in the thigh muscles of a male (or female) is roughly 50% slow and 50% fast fibers. However, in a study by Simoneau et al, 1989, muscle biopsies from the vastus lateralis (outside thigh) of 418 males and females revealed a range of from 15% slow fibers to 85% slow fibers in different people. Coefficients of variation approached 30%. Again we see that there is considerable genetic variation in a variable that has significant impact on performance. So, we each have to focus on approaching the outer boundaries of OUR OWN physical potential.

Different Strokes for Different Folks
At the Laval University in Canada, the University of Texas at Austin, and three other Universities in the United States, a major collaborative project was undertaken to determine the role of genetic variability associated with individual responses to an identical training program. Fittingly, this project was called the Heritage Study. Millions of dollars were spent to quantify and understand the genetic foundations of a phenomenom that athletes already know full well. We all respond differently to a training program. What this major study clearly demonstrated was that not only is our physiological "starting point" highly individual, but our training response is also highly variable. In this study, there were some subjects who essentially did not show ANY adaptation to a very well-controlled training program (measured for example as an increase in VO2 max), while others increased as much as 40% when doing the exact same training. Some athletes can do next to nothing 3 months then train like a madman, sweat, and spew chunks for three weeks and be in racing shape (ok, maybe too graphic). Others are "hard gainers" that seem to lose everything if they miss 2 weeks of training. Some people tolerate and even thrive on, a high volume of training to reach peak fitness. Others cannot tolerate the same workload, but reach similar performance levels if they intersperse more rest days. We each have a unique psychological makeup. We have different strengths and "weaknesses" within our physiological performance machine that should influence training plan design, and we have different hormonal and immune reactivity that will influence the level of stress we can tolerate and improve under. In the field of exercise physiology, we have learned a great deal about physiological adaptations and the general methods of training that conform to known physiology. This is very valuable information for the athlete to understand whether 24 or 64 (Of course I am biased on that score). But, remember, ANY exact training program that you copy from me or someone else is destined to be, at best an approximation of what will work best for you, and at worst, a total failure.

The Bottom Line
Ok, you love your sport and are motivated to improve, but with so many possible training methods and "experts", What can you do? Well, here is what I think.
First, understand what training does to your body Learn the physiology of the sport (hopefully the MAPP will help). Know how your engine works. This will help you critically evaluate the disparate training ideas that are thrown your way.

Next, examine and learn the biomechanical principles that must be obeyed for performance success. How do you maximize the efficiency of transfer of your engine power to performance velocity? There is no endurance sport that does not place a premium on good technique. Finally, keep a record of what you do! Use a notebook and pencil, or a fancy computer program, but make yourself accountable to both the training you do in pursuit of your performance goals, and the results. If you do this, eventually you will have arrived at your own personal prescription for success, built from solid general principles, but fine tuned to your personal characteristics. "Success" will vary for each of you in absolute terms; completing a 10k, a new personal best, a city championship, or maybe a world veteran's record! But it all feels the same to the person who establishes the goal, develops a plan, and works diligently to achieve it!

How the Gold Medals Were Won

How the Gold Medals Were Won
By Harald Jarling
From 2001 Australian Rowing Coaches Conference – The Southport School, Gold Coast

Harald Jarling
Rowing Australia Head Coach for Women since Feb 2001
NSWIS Head Coach since 1991
Olympic Coach 1996 (LW2x – Bronze and M2- Silver)
Olympic Coach 2000 (LW2x – 4th)

2001 Results
I do not want to talk too much about all the details of how fast we were going compared to the rest of the world but really talk more about how we actually achieved what we got from where Women’s Rowing was when we started at the beginning of the year. The excellent results for Women in 2001 when you look at detail have been achieved in a very short time but there were still areas to be done better i.e. crews not making A final when it is in the Selection Policy that crews must achieve this level to be selected.

The future looks good in this regard because crews that came 4th all had good chances of coming 3rd rather than 5th and even though it will be hard to do better than the 6 Gold Medals I think we will do better in 2002. It is difficult to predict which colour medals as the difference in winning Gold, Silver or Bronze are quite small margins (point of a second) as you can see in the W8+ race when all the crews were closing in at the end.

Australian Analysis
When I started the job in February I started with an analysis of the situation in Australia and overseas. To do this in Australia was easy because I have been part of it in the last 10 years – despite the fact that we had some good female rowers on the water and some good programs running everywhere in the country, there was:
A lack of total numbers of good rowers
A lack of overall structure so everyone was doing their own thing with technique/training which resulted in not being able to bring together a large number of women together to perform as a team.

I strongly believe that this was one of our shortfalls and we had never really managed to work together as a group of people (coach, administrators, athletes) to be overall successful.

Overseas Analysis
When you look at analyzing overseas programs it is very easy to fall into the trap of looking at one successful crew and saying I want to do this. i.e. Pinsent but athletes do not grow on trees and it is better to look at successful program which have worked with more average athletes. What are outstanding at the moment are the Romanian women crews and the German women Scullers who have the most impressive rowing program in the world. It is important to look not only at their rowing, but also how they get their athletes, what they do in preparing their athletes, what structure they have in their program to succeed year after year, and not only outstanding athletes but average athletes having outstanding performances.

Need Team With Strong Leadership
After this thorough analysis was all about developing long, medium, and short term strategies and then started speaking to the rowers, coaches, and administrators. With the programs in place then I started to meet with all involved so that the female rowing program could be brought to a higher level. I tried to provide strong leadership right from the start so we could pull everyone together in trying to achieve the goals as a team. Not as a dictator but as a specialist in the field of rowing and try to provide as much specific information to the coaches, the rowers and the administrators involved.

I try to lead the process from the top, and I believe any successful company or sports program in the world is running the same way, so being democratic is good but in many instances doesn’t work. Strong leadership needed in order to get.

Setting Goals
In order to be successful need to know benchmarks and set them for all short, medium and long term. Because you are working as individuals, and each is different, you must also set individual goals that are achievable and then the overall goal structure will be determined based on what they are capable of in the short medium and long term. This means monitoring the process of each individual (training, technical, and mental development) and of the overall program.

I though it was very important early in the process to find coaches and support staff (sport scientist, doctors, physio's, and masseurs) that wanted to work with the program and myself as leader.

Rowing Performance
We look at the current rowing performance of our athletes and basically we aim to improve the corners of the MENTAL-PHYSICAL-TECHNICAL triangle. Everyone has probably seen this before in developing sport performance and if the triangle is made really big you have a chance to get on the podium to win the medals. If the triangle gets one sided or really flat then the chances will be smaller and smaller and I think that anyone in world rowing who is getting medals has no serious deficiencies in any of the three areas.

Mental Development
When we started our program we tried to change the attitude of our rowers. Tried to make them more confident and part of a team and teach them about the orientation of the process of being a world champion rather than the outcome of just a dream of becoming a world champion.

I believe that confidence comes from winning good races; if you go out there and win and you get confidence, if you go out there and get your backside kicked then you will not have confidence; No matter how confident we talk as coaches if the rowers go out and sit on the start line and they get the shivers surely they will be beaten; we showed the girls how the process works and how confidence starts building…the girls started getting good results in the domestic season (high % in regattas so that increased boat speed being achieved) and then we targeted a race that we though we could win so the W8+ at Henley Regatta. As the smaller goals were fulfilled then the confidence started building.

There is no point in developing individuals who cannot put their individual ideas under the team umbrella – we stressed that right from Day 1 that we are not in a sport where we are there to help every individual fulfill their individual needs and desires; and we try to put that into a square which means the performance of the big boat; in a sport where we have also single Scullers that may be wrong but in the initial analysis we realized that we do not have a single sculler at the moment; the smallest boat that we can boat is the double and pair and from then on the boats can only be fours, quads and eights so that need people with team ideas: I feel that this was the biggest shortfall of the eights and quads from the last years with some people in the room who would relate to that. We always had fights within the group and then there was always so pecking order achieved straight away, possibly some bitching going on and always individual egos trying to be recognized than under the tam umbrella and pulling on one string. In 2001, in all areas of Senior A, Under 23 and Junior, the group has started to act like a team. There has been some interaction between the age categories, some fantastic interaction between crews in each team and some very good team spirit in the big boats and that actually leads to going there and getting a good result.

We talked a lot about what we wanted to achieve in women’s rowing, about the result. And we always say okay well we want to get out there and we want to win it…but we never really get the orientation of the process; so we talked to the girls more about doing it, and doing it to the best of their ability, through the training process, through the final preparation, through the races and then let the result take care of itself. It is really hard to stop someone thinking when they take the first stroke at the World Championships final and to focus on the fact that the next thing I care about is the 2nd stroke. It is not always that easy to make that change from sitting in a boat and thinking how is it going to be in 5-6 minutes to what is happening in the 5-6 seconds. How am I going to take the next stroke and how am I going to make it perfect? And then they take another one and get it better. That is what we understand by the process of getting up and winning a race, and that process has developed since the first part of the first camp together where we try to explain to the athletes that in the day to day operation, that within the training session, as part of a training session its not what comes out at the end that you want to concentrate on but its how we get there. It’s about the process, as the result will happen anyway. The result will only look better if we keep thinking about the process about how we achieve that final solution. This took a while to get through but it did get through in the end.

Technical preparation with 3 areas because only win races in your department if you understand the game e.g. the BLR W8+ always go fast in the first 500m (1:29) but slower each 500m (2:07 in last 500m) and therefore do not understand the sport of rowing; do not win races like this! Do not win races by getting slower and slower down the course – we are in an aerobic sport where the aerobic energy system has the highest % of your energy requirements so you actually race like you are in an aerobic sport; so you try to teach our crews to have even splits as they can to make the pace in the beginning of the race that you are able to maintain; The W8+, and all the winning crews, have managed that reasonably well with the margins between fastest and slowest times in the W8+ just over 1 second. The one thing that is still missing in our W8+ is that we go home is that we go home really strong. (These changes will come in the next 2 preparation areas). Remember in the M8+ that didn’t look all that good at the 1999 WC and were okay for 1700m but lacked the finish in the last 300m but in the end they were able to build home very well and look at the result in 2000.

Remember what you are trying to achieve then set steps to achieve goals.

Physical Development
Cannot change the genetic makeup and the physical size of someone especially in a country like ours where the elite female rowing group is small (only 30-35 rowers are available for the Olympic Team) so are focusing on
- General fitness
- Endurance
- Strength
- Power

The message to the girls has been that we do not train enough! Our overall training volume is not enough to be successful in women’s rowing in the world. It may be enough to beat each other in the country but more low intensity aerobic training (U2-U1) must be done for longer times than previously where women have been trained the same as men. But women are not like men because they are better endurance athletes whereas men are better at faster, stronger more dynamic exercise. So if we coach our women like our men then we can cause a problem in itself.

On the other hand, women are not very strong naturally. So we needed to develop strength training programs that cater for them. We basically moved away from pure strength endurance training development into strength, dynamic strength and dynamic power, we introduce more strength work on the water with regular power strokes to get general power development adaptation into specific power development. This has happened quite well over the nine months before the World Championships but this can still improve greatly and will probably take until 2003 to get to the ideal level.

Technical Development
Technique is always something that is hard to talk about here in Australia because we have an idea that technique is something that looks good. As an outsider coming into the system who doesn’t speak the English language very well I have relied on very simple basic messages to the rowers without the waffle. We said right from the start at the beginning of the year that we wanted to go right back to the basics and stop making the catch something that takes 55 seconds to explain. Try to all start from the same basic level with the same terminology; same simple message and therefore understanding or what is required. The athletes really appreciated this approach from the coaches.

So what is the best practice technique – what is that people around the world do to make them successful? So looking at what makes crews fast is not necessarily what you see from the outside but what is happening in the water. How we actually move the boat with every stroke that we take.

Our crews do have some shortfalls in this regard…
Applied Power: the power that we develop we need to apply. There is no point in having people very strong and can throw weights around in the gym and then get into the boat and cannot apply it – applied power makes the boat move.
Stroke length is a clear deficiency – our rowers generally row too short with little forward reach; need to get length off of the back with the hands moving away, the body rocks over establishing good forward length; then the blade can be put in the water and the power applied under the water in a long powerful accelerated stroke; also there has been a developing culture of Scullers not finishing off the stroke – we emphasized the Scullers finish with their hands apart not just after the cross over so that they use the last 5-10 degrees of the stroke to get a lot more run on the boat; especially with the W4x which won the Gold at U23 and came 4th at the World Championships;
Efficiency, Boat Run and Distance Per Stroke: the whole stroke length idea means we have a more efficient stroke, more time for each stroke, we can actually drop the stroke rate because we move the boat longer per stroke; so this creates boat run with good control on the recovery and one thing that we have always pointed out to the girls is that we wanted to get more distance per stroke – more cms per stroke will be a lot at the end of the race; All of our crews (Senior A, U23 and Junior) have rated comparably lower than the rest of the crews; so we achieved the same boat speed as the rest of the world but with lower rating.

These technical goals with looking at the stroke and trying to make more dynamic and longer have been achieved in quite a short time period.

Selection Process
We developed a procedure that was transparent and accountable. The new National Ranking system ranks athletes as they progress through the season so that athletes are eliminated based on their ranking without any subjectivity. There were no appeals from the selection process this year.

Everyone in the national scene has the right to know what the priorities are so everyone in the Women’s Department knew that the W8+ was priority which would double up with the W4-, W2x, and W2-; the LW4x was agreed as the boat for 2001 but will be the basis for a future LW2x.

Each boat class knew exactly what was required and when: Final speed order trial at the end of the selection week enabled crews to basically select themselves.

Training Process
After selection the crews go into a very structured training process in their final preparation for racing at World Championships, World U23 Regatta and Junior World Championships.

Sports specific – as much as we can from swimming, cycling, running programs in the end we are still a rowing sport and we still require a certain individuality as how rowers train; the best practice is established by looking around the world and see what programs are successful and try to put into our program; Gender specific is also necessary.

What we didn’t allow this year was to allow the crews to go off and do their own thing. This has been one of our major problems to let crews so whatever they want – we are in the same sport and before we start individualizing we must standardize. So this year we standardized. We tried to go back to clear periodisation in the planning of our training and put the activities within our country to fit in with this periodisation.

Microcycles of 2.5 days were followed for each of the women’s crews i.e. 2 ½ days of work followed by ½ day rest – Day 1 with emphasis on loading + general strength, Day 2 specific power, Day 3 transformation of aerobic strength and specific power, overall strategy the same but with different volume and intensity for different age categories.

Goals were set for athletes, crews and program with short, medium and long term strategies. Then the daily training programs were devised around the basis of 3 weeks of hard, increasing work then 1 week of super compensation/recovery.

We are now in a very good position because the season is finished and we can sit back with all the coaches and can analyze what worked and did not. This is the way to work out best practice.

Coaching – Art or Science
I believe that we can talk about the development of both parts in coaching skill with knowing how to work with scientists to get the knowledge out and being the artist.
We need to know:
Training and Teaching Methodologies – basic principles, how they work and how to teach them
Biomechanics – explains what s under the water and what makes the boat move
Physiology – to understand how the athletes improve the performance
Psychology – individuals react differently to all that is going on around them in training/performing
Medicine – need to know if, but, when even though we need to rely on the specialists.
Feel, touch, intuition for the sport also necessary as need to see how all the above is working with your athlete. E.g. Vicky Roberts at altitude camp said “could not do it anymore” and had to be taken out of the boat for a few days.

Need a balance between the science and the art! Need to keep up to date with the sports around the world, need to analyze and know the bets practice in the sport, we go across the board and look at all aspects which keeps confidence in working our artistic feeling, good judgment to make it really successful combination. I don’t think we are going to be successful coaches if we rely on one or the other.

Four Easy Steps to a Sensible Selection Process

Four Easy Steps to a Sensible Selection Process
This is an excerpt from a larger document dealing with selection for the Canadian Teams for Olympics, Commonwealth Games, World Cups,World Champs etc

Preparing selection criteria is not an easy task, and therefore should be an ongoing process within any sports organization. We would like to suggest a four ﴾4﴿ step process to help you develop a fair selection policy. The four steps are: Background and Research; Development; Validation; Communication and Implementation. For each step, we propose a list of factors that should absolutely be kept in mind ﴾The Musts﴿ as well as a list of practical ideas to guide you through the process ﴾Best Practices﴿. We believe that following these steps will reduce the risks of disputes arising from the selection process. Remember, these are suggestions, it is up to you to decide whether to use any or all of them.

Step 1 – Background and Research
This step allows you to canvass the performance criteria and other conditions that will be applied to your athletes by other organizations. Other conditions may include restrictions that are not linked to performance, from age categories to time limits for registering the athletes. Time is a major component of the selection process. It is therefore crucial to keep certain deadlines in mind in order to achieve your objectives.

Identify the organizations that have authority in admitting an athlete to the competition in question ﴾e.g. the international federation, the competition organizing committee, an international or national Multisport organization, etc.﴿ and obtain the document﴾s﴿ outlining the conditions for admission.

Identify the time limits imposed by these organizations. For example, these can be the deadline for registering with the event’s organizing committee; the qualification deadlines of your international federation in accordance with established criteria; and in some cases, internal and external appeal deadlines for team members.

Identify the conditions that are unrelated to performance that define what group of athletes will be admissible according to these organizations ﴾e.g. citizenship status, age groups, weight categories, membership status, etc.﴿ These conditions may come with a time limit as well. For example, the athlete must be born after such date, or be a registered member in due form on such date.

Identify the minimum performance criteria that will be imposed on all athletes in order for them to be eligible to participate in the event. These should become the minimum at which you base your own criteria.

Based on the time limits imposed for registering your athletes, define precisely the “qualifying period”, or the timeframe during which athletes will be evaluated.
This period should end early enough before the registration deadline to allow appeals to be conducted in a fair manner. It should also give athletes sufficient time to prepare properly and, if required, travel to the competition.

Step 2 – Development
This step is the responsibility of the experts, the coaches and high performance staff, within your organization. They are in the best position to determine WHEN and HOW your athletes should be evaluated in order to decide WHO should be selected. The technical knowledge and expertise they have must now find its way onto paper in a clear and concise manner.

Take into consideration at all times the selection criteria and conditions that are imposed on your athletes by other organizations such as determined in Step 1.
Ensure that the team responsible for preparing the selection criteria has the recognized authority for this task under the regulations of your organization.
Ensure that the selection policy is respectful of other applicable agreements or policies that your organization may have adopted, such as its appeal policy, athletes’ agreements, etc.

a﴿ Process
Define the objectives you wish to attain through your selection criteria, such as the pursuit of excellence, team cohesiveness or athlete development.
Along with a good representation of coaches, administrators and officials, invite athletes targeted by the pending selection criteria to provide you with their input, as applicable.
Investigate previous errors and sticking points in team selection criteria to ensure they are not repeated; analyze past experiences of your organization to understand which methods work well and which to avoid; consult the lessons learned from team selection cases in the SDRCC Jurisprudence database.

b﴿ Technical Content
To the extent possible, try to establish selection criteria that is objective to prevent potential perception of unfairness ﴾e.g.: results in certain competitions or events, ranking, scores, statistics and other performance measurements commonly used in your sport﴿.
If it is unrealistic to base yourselves on objective criteria only, clearly determine the subjective factors that will be considered when the selection is made, such as skills or the athletes’ contribution to the team, and propose an evaluation grid to allow for as detailed an analysis as possible of the established criteria.

Of greatest importance is that the final choice not be random, negligent, arbitrary, or made out of favouritism.

When looking at potential qualifying events during the qualifying period, you may consider multiple events or a single event. Either way, you should be able to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of opting for qualification through multiple events or for a single qualifying event.

Notable Observation About…
Single Qualifying Event:
They are usually simple to conduct, however one bad day for your best athlete may mean that he or she is not going to the Games;
Strong candidates may be injured at the time of the single qualifying event thereby excluding them from the Games, even though they may recover on time for the Games;
Choosing a qualifying event too close to the Games will require your best athletes to peak twice in a short period of time;
To hold your event too early before the Games carries the risk of athletes’ relative performances changing by the time the Games come along.

Multiple Qualifying Events:
They are likely to help you select athletes who are consistent in their performance over a certain period of time, but it also make the entire process a lot more complicated;
It may be more costly for athletes when they have to fund their own participation in the various qualifying events;
Admissibility criteria to those competitions should be similar to those of the Games so that you do not exclude potential athletes from qualifying; may require weighing the results of the various competitions to reflect differences in field size and quality, or to give more value to events held towards the end of the qualifying period.

Use foresight, and establish steps to follow should exceptional circumstances present themselves ﴾e.g.: injury outside of competition, injury during a qualifying event, faulty equipment, unexpected illness, disqualification of another athlete due to a doping infraction, etc.﴿.

If your criteria may lead to athletes tying determine in advance on the basis of what criterion or criteria such a tie would be broken; make sure that this criterion is precise enough that it cannot lead to another tie.

c﴿ Administrative Content
Decide who will be responsible for applying the criteria. We suggest that it would be prudent to assign more than one person to this task, for example a selection committee, in this way you may prevent possible conflicts of interest and other issues related to unfairness.

Establish in advance the parameters and procedures that will be followed should amendments to the selection criteria become necessary after the criteria have been adopted. A sound communication plan for this will be in order as is highlighted in the fourth step.

Amendments are common, but they should take certain factors into account, such as possible disruption of athletes’ preparation, the impact these changes have on the current status of athletes in the selection process, etc. The amendments should take into consideration the time that has passed since the adoption of the selection criteria and the time remaining to the qualification period. Ensure that your athletes have a fair chance to reach their objectives and that your amendments do not create any injustices.

Determine how and when athletes will be advised of the candidates selected. Again, keep in mind that the date chosen must provide athletes time to appeal, if they so choose and should therefore include an appeal deadline, as appropriate.

Plan an appeal process specific to this criteria or refer to your general appeal policy, if applicable.

Step 3 – Validation
Once a draft policy is complete, it is essential to evaluate it. We really can learn from past experience. Do not hesitate to use your human and statistical resources to validate or change your draft selection criteria.

Test your criteria against performance results from previous years and look at what would have happened had this selection policy been in place. Would it have yielded the best team possible?
Test your criteria by asking a neutral but experienced person in the domain to evaluate them. This person can be a former athlete, coach or technical director in your sport. He or she could also have experience in a different sport, such as one that uses similar competition formats or scoring/ranking schemes. What is important is that the individual have no vested interest in your selection criteria in order to review the criteria objectively and constructively.

Once the selection criteria have been drafted, communicate them to your athletes, and allow them to comment on what you are preparing to adopt; after all, they will be the ones who will have to understand what is expected of them in order to make the team. If your criteria and process are clearly laid out and understandable from an athlete’s perspective, you will reduce the risks of disputes later on.

Compile the comments received and, if you judge it appropriate given the circumstances, provide a formal response ﴾in writing or in person﴿ to the individuals whose suggestions were not retained. Let these individuals know of the attention given to their recommendations, and explain why they were not included.

Step 4 – Communication and Implementation
This step is one of the most important in your process. There is no value to having the perfect selection policy if your athletes don’t know about it and therefore cannot apply it correctly. It is also the step from which many disputes emerge.

Communicating your criteria to athletes is one of the keys to your success. Spare no effort!

Translate your documents to ensure that they are in both official languages ﴾English and French﴿. Be wary of cheap translators. They may save you a few dollars at that stage, but a badly translated selection policy increases the risks of the criteria being misunderstood, misapplied, or simply yielding different results than intended.

Prepare an effective communication plan to reach all of the athletes affected by your selection criteria; a plan that goes beyond simply posting it on your website. Go down your hierarchy one step below the level that you think is targeted by the policy. You never know when an athlete will surprise you!

Clearly advise your athletes of any changes made to the initial criteria by phone, in person, via emails, etc… Obtain confirmation that they have received your advice and understand its content. Post changes clearly on your website.
Apply the selection criteria as intended and as communicated.

Use all methods of communication judged pertinent: website postings, mailings, faxes, emails, meetings during training camp, annual general meeting or other meetings, telephone calls; Involve your athlete representative and coaches in the communication process; they can help you find the best channels to transmit information to targeted athletes.
Prepare a guide or quick reference document containing highlights of the policy ﴾e.g.: mandatory training camps and qualifying competitions﴿.

Have all athletes potentially affected by this selection policy sign a document confirming that they have read, understood, and agreed with the criteria and the process. This will be an incentive for athletes to actually read the policy!

Allow them to contact a designated resource person ﴾like a coach or a high performance director﴿ to ask questions and clarifications if they are unsure of what the criteria mean. Be sure to keep a record of any interpretation and ensure consistency in the answers provided. If one element of your policy
appears to generate many questions, do not hesitate to publish an addendum to clarify its meaning.

Once your team has been announced according to the established rules, athletes who were not selected may want to learn the reasons for this without having to file a formal appeal. You may provide them with the opportunity to understand the selection process that took place and how best to succeed the next time. Do not hesitate to plan a meeting or discussion with these athletes and let them know that, while they were not selected, they are important to your organization and were considered.

In short, the responsibility of the NSO is to establish a selection process that is as simple and precise as possible and to ensure that its athletes ﴾and other team members﴿ are evaluated in a uniform and fair manner, to avoid any possible conflicts of interest. Widely communicate the criteria and any changes in as many ways as possible; this will prevent misunderstandings, or worse, disputes that will have to be resolved by the SDRCC.

Writing and publishing a well thought out selection policy long in advance of the start of the selection process will inspire trust and confidence among the athletes. Never underestimate the power of consultation and collaboration in order to get buy in.