My Training Theory and Methods

Bill Gleason,  CSCS,
USAT Level II Certified Coach

My Coaching Theory

Bil GleasonIn endurance sports, more is not always better.  Consistency, moderation, persistence, passion, purpose, raw effort..? Absolutely.  But you knew that. You don’t need a coach to learn that. What then does a coach do? Let’s cut to the bottom line.  Your goal, my goal ought to be faster race times.  Regardless of where you are in your progression as an endurance athlete, I am totally confident I will help you achieve faster race times.  Some paths to that goal are longer than others.  What does that mean?  I believe that the best way to achieve faster race times is to do the least amount of work for the most possible gain. This is about hands-on, individualized coaching. It’s about coach and athlete working together to figure out what is working (creating the proper adaptations and desires gains) and what’s not working.  Then, it’s about having the vision (and courage) to drop what is not working. It is not about following a training plan.  It is about achieving your uncompromised goals.

This is really all about efficiency. Efficiency is a concept, an equation, a methodology, and an objective. It is all these things at the same time.  As a concept, it’s the most return, or gain, for the least amount of work required, i.e., the “most bang for your buck.” As an equation, it can be written as: output/input X 100% = efficiency rate. The higher the better.  In triathlon, it is a training objective, and achieving it is all abouteconomy. How economical are you as a swimmer, a cyclist, and a runner?  That is, how much energy can you conserve and still swim, bike, and run at your desired pace?  Yep, it’s just like mileage in your car. Other physiological attributes, namely VO2 max, and threshold levelsin particular, are also very important, and we will of course focus on those too. Nonetheless, I believe that economy is the most overlooked aspect of triathlon training.  If you could train 3 to 4 hours less than your competitors, while achieving the exact same fitness level, wouldn’t you choose the lower volume, reducing your risk of injury, illness, or burnout and free up more time?

One thing I have learned through years of experience and education is that there is no one “right way” to approach training for all athletes.  There are many approaches that can work and there are big differences from one athlete to the next.  This is one of the keys to being an effective coach.  Anybody can throw a training plan at you. That takes little skill.  In my opinion, learning what type of athlete you are coaching is a requirement to even consider yourself a legitimate coach.  I think this is the main reason I am opposed to a one-size-fits-all approach, and most  “training plans.”  This is especially important for any athlete beyond their 1st or 2nd year of real training and racing.  A “training plan” approach to coaching is almost as ineffective as the random training I see so many athletes use. I have watched so many athletes with tons of passion for the sport never come close to their potential, despite wanting very badly to do so,  because they just don’t train right.  This is where I feel that as a coach, I have a lot to offer.

As an athlete, I have many podium finishes, including an AG win at the 2011 Olympic Distance LA Triathlon, and many age-group 1st or 2nd place finishes at local Southern California races in 2009 – 2013.  Whatever…  You’re probably not reading this to see if I am a good athlete.  You most likely want to know if I will be  good at making you a better athlete! I will.

I know, first hand, what is required to make significant progress.  My own experiences as an athlete have really helped me understand the importance of applying the art and science of training, mostly the art.  The science is the easy part.  Applying it correctly to an individual athlete is an art.  So, I know this because I made a lot of mistakes as an athlete! (Before I sought out a coach.)  However, I learned a lot. Through consistent, steady and purposeful training,  I rose from struggling in the middle of the pack to the front of the pack.  Prior to 2004, I did not consider either open water swimming or time-trailing my strengths before undertaking a focused training approach to improve these abilities.  I already had a running background. At that time, I adopted a highly focused and consistent training approach to improve these abilities.   Now, both swimming and cycling have become strengths.

So, how does this equate to me becoming a very effective coach?  It is largely because I understand the details, and the day-to-day, ins and outs of athletic progress. I understand when to focus on certain details and when to leave others out.  Many points that most other coaches take for granted, and therefore typically gloss over or ignore, I focus on for the average athlete.  In short I know the art.

I will also coach in-person workouts to be sure of the athlete’s consistent progress.  In doing so, I take advantage of my life-long experience in open water swimming, and as a runner, to teach the distinctions between traditional pool freestyle swimming and the different,  and more complicated, skills that open water races demand, as well as the proper components of good running.

I teach the techniques to improve your efficiency, or economy, as a triathlete – techniques that are largely overlooked by most triathletes.  Anyone can go out and hammer out hard miles, laps, hill repeats, or whatever.  While that’s certainly necessary at some point, it is the smarttriathlete who can do so in a very economical way.  And I believe it is the smartest triathletes, not necessarily the fastest or most determined, who end up on the podium.  Don’t get me wrong, being fast and determined are very important attributes.  However, all else being equal, it is the athlete who has trained the smartest who has the edge.  I will teach you how to train smart.  You probably already know how to train hard.

So, how will I do that?  In a nutshell, by helping you clearly define your goals before starting, assessing your strengths and weaknesses, carefully planning, and implementing a solid understanding of training principles. We will address all aspects of your triathlon fitness with attention to detail, and remain flexible as the training landscape changes. And it is always changing.