Who Needs a Coach?
By: Matt Russ
The athletes that are most hesitant to obtain a coach could often benefit the most. A common perception is that coaching is for "serious" athletes only. In actuality, anyone who wants to work toward a physical goal, or reach their true potential can benefit greatly from coaching. A proper foundation for beginners is crucial so that bad form is not carried forward and made bad habit. Many athletes in hindsight wish they had the benefit of coaching earlier in their career. How many times have you said "if I only knew then, what I know now…"
I was once asked a pointed question by a potential athlete; "what can a coach do for me that I can not find in a book?" The answer is specificity. A proper coaching program is personally specific to an athlete’s needs. The plan considers the athlete’s individual strengths and weaknesses, skill, training history, injuries, lifestyle, equipment, fitness level, goals, diet, and a myriad of other data. It can be the difference between buying a custom made suit versus randomly selecting one off the rack.
The first step in building a coaching plan is evaluation. A coach may outline an entire year’s worth of training around specific goal events. They will ask you when you want to "peak" or be at your best. Field tests or metabolic testing may need to be performed to determine heart rate zones, and flexibility is tested for normal joint range of motion. The plan will be "periodized" with different training periods and work outs; each building off of the previous. Training will move from general to specific as you approach your peak. Training near peak may even consider the individual terrain and characteristics of the race.
Coaches monitor progress and make adjustments to an athlete’s schedule as required. Adjustments need to be made for an individual’s time constraints, to recover from or prevent potential injury, and to administer additional rest and recovery. A coach has to read between the lines a lot and consider an athletes mental state. Are they burned or under emotional stress? Are they challenged enough? They also adjust motivational cues from athlete to athlete. Some athletes respond well to simple orders, while others like to know the reason behind what they are doing. Strength training is administered based on the athlete’s goals, and routine design may promote hypertrophy, power, or muscular endurance.
Perhaps one of the best things coaches provide is consistent, accurate, and clear feedback. Skill sets such as cornering, climbing, and proper running form are best accomplished while under direct supervision. Coaches can also teach mental skills such as visualization and positive self talk which can have a tremendous impact on performance.
Training should be a gradual building process, work out to work out, month to month, season to season. If your goal is general fitness or exercise you probably do not need a coach. But if you have a specific goal in mind, coaching can provide the quickest, safest, and most effective route to accomplishment. If you decide to hire a coach, make sure they are licensed by a national governing body such as USA Triathlon, USA Track & Field, or USA Cycling. You should also check references and competitive experience. Lastly make sure that your personalities mesh and that your coach is someone you enjoy and respect.
About the Author
Matt Russ has coached and trained athletes around the country and internationally. He currently holds licenses by USAT, USATF, and is an Expert level USAC coach. Matt has coached athletes for CTS (Carmichael Training Systems), is an Ultrafit Associate. Visit www.thesportfactory.com for more information.
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The Power of Stretching - Dave Snape
muscles ache from a good stretch. This is quite
normal and is part of the process. Stretching has
seemingly been with us and particularly with athletes
since the beginning of time.
A very key point to good stretching is to hold the
stretch for at least seventeen seconds. This is a
pearl of wisdom gleaned from a ballet teacher a few
years back. She said that any stretch under 17
seconds was just not effective.
The 17 second rule is exceeded in the high intensity
Bikram's yoga where stretches are held for about 30
seconds. Don't forget the high level of heat that is
used in Bikram's to extract that last little bit of
stretch out of your muscles. An interesting twist
is not necessary to gain benefits from stretching.
it can't hurt, right?
So what kind of benefits can you expect from
stretching? That's an easy one. Have you ever seen
movie, Blood Sport? Did you know that Frank Dux could
truly stretch his body to the extreme. The actor that
played him was quite elastic as well.
Great elasticity is also something you might see in
well trained Spetsnaz (Russian) agents. They often
out with Russian kettlebells too. They are for
strength gains and the ability to withstand ballistic
Why are stretching and flexibility considered
to these people? Stretching gives one the ability to
have explosive power available at one's fingertips
without the need to warm up. Of course most of us are
not martial artists or agents. But, you'll be happy
know there are plenty of other benefits.
Let me give you an example. After learning to sit in
the full lotus position for long periods of time, my
ankles became very flexible. One day I was walking
along and my left foot fell into a pothole. This
pushed my ankle sideways to about 90 degrees from
Amazingly, this didn't even hurt, not one bit. If my
ankle hadn't been so flexible, I may have suffered a
sprained ankle. At the very least, it would have hurt
Key point: stretching helps you to avoid injuries.
Not only that but if you do have a muscle, tendon or
ligament injury it should heal faster, theoretically
Stretching actually grows the ligaments, tendons and
muscles being stretched. They really grow longer over
Check with your physician before undertaking any type
of exercise, including stretching.
Here is some good
instructional material on stretching:
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