Coaching Novice Athletes, Part 2
I'm still in St. Thomas on vacation but found a little time to do a bit of writing. If my responses to your questions over the next few days are a bit slow you'll know why. This post will be short and to the point. The topic is a continuation of how I coach novice endurance athletes.
In yesterday's post I wrote about the first of the 6 abilities that I introduce for the novice athletes I train - speed skills. Again, even for the experienced athlete, this is the ability most often in need of attention, especially at this time of year.
2. Force. This ability is often introduced at the same time as speed skills for the novice. It takes many forms but commonly includes weight training, hills and drag devices - anything that increases the load on your muscles. This type of training is riskier than speed skills by far. But the potential pay off is also high.
Weight training comes in many forms. I usually include it for all of the athletes I coach and do so year round, although the program is greatly scaled back starting in the late Base period. With novices I am very cautious with weight training due to the high risk I mentioned above. If I have them lift it will be with relatively low loads and high reps - generally no less than about 10 reps. They often do exercises with a bar only or even just their body weight. The emphasis is on technique. Weight training is very controversial among endurance coaches. Some, like me, strongly support it. Others believe it is detrimental and, at best, not beneficial. I'm not going to get in this aspect of the topic now. Perhaps at another time.
Hills are also great force training for everyone including novices. If the athlete is lifting weights we hold off with hill training for a few weeks. For experienced cyclists with no history of knee problems I have them use slightly bigger gears and lower cadences for these hill workouts. This type of bike training may also be done on a flat course if you don't have hills available. I'm unlikely to do either of these with novice cyclists due to the risk. Hills are also excellent force work for running.
For swimming, drag devices can be used to build greater force. This could be done by wearing a T-shirt while swimming. I've also seen swimmers use carpenter's aprons (nail pockets create drag) and even pull a bucket behind them on a leash. Paddles also increase force production. Be aware that all of these devices put a greater than normal load on the shoulder and elbow and may contribute to injury.
At this initial stage of force development the intensity of the workouts is kept well below lactate/anaerobic/functional threshold. Start with a few minutes in one or two workouts weekly. Gradually lengthen the amount of time for these workouts over several weeks. I like to eventually have runners combine speed skills and force workouts by doing 20-second sprints up hills with perfect form and long recoveries.
Within 6 weeks of starting to do force workouts you should notice a significant improvement in your ability to apply force to the pedal, ground or water.