Tuesday, April 08, 2008

new site

I'm in the process of setting up a new site for my coaching information. Feel free to visit while its under construction!

Updates are going up pretty regularly so check back frequently.

Alan Carlsson
Engineered Athlete Services

Friday, January 25, 2008

LTAD and periodization

This past week I was at a Sport Canada workshop on Long Term Athlete Development.

One of the important periods being targeted in athlete development is that surrounding the primary growth phase as identified through peak height velocity (PHV). Well design training in this important period in a young athlete's life can open up windows of training opportunities that optimize training adaptations in; the steady growth before PHV, during the rapid acceleration in growth, the rapid deceleration in growth and the post growth phases.

Given some of the interesting discussions in the triathlon coaching world on training periodization. Old school training plans, new age plans, reverse periodization, etc. One central concept to all is the impact of the competitive schedule on the program design.

With PHV considerations in mind, training program designs is driven by the developmental needs of the athlete first and the demands of competition second.

This is a radical shift for the majority of club coaches, as in large groups it is the norm that the athletes must fit the plan. It is just easier that way 9-10 year olds together, 11-12's, 13-14's, etc. However, some progressive clubs have decided that easier is not always the best route and have chosen to embrace LTAD around PHV. In in so doing are are already showing huge gains in athlete development However, the shift in thinking around PHV requires

Ironically, what these top clubs are doing is very similar to what elite coaches do with their high performance athletes; the training programs are made to fit the athlete.

So what form should periodization take?
  • Reverse
  • Forward
  • Old school
  • New School
Sure, whatever you call it.

Regardless, most importantly periodization must be reactionary to the needs of the athlete's development; chronological, technical, physiological, tactical, psychological and sociological.

Alan Carlsson

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

ski vs ski

When winter arrives in Vancouver, a number of surfski and oc paddlers choose to head inland and up the mountains for some serious aerobic cross-training.

A local favorite in Vancouver are the Tuesday Night XC ski races at Cypress. These are the winter answer to the Deep Cove Canoe and Kayak Tuesday Night paddle races. All for fun, some speed folk, many competitive recreational skiers and you can always expect a guest appearance by a few genetic freaks ;-)

If you've never seen a xc ski race, here's a primer;

And here is more on skate technique;

Now remember, I look nothing like that! Slower, mo' tired, mo' drool, eyes rolled back in my head, fall now and then,...

Well Tuesday December 18 was the first race of the 2007-08 season, and ironically the first and last race of 2007. Racing resumes Jan 8 for sure, with rumours of a New Year's hangover special on Jan 2.

For me this was my first xc ski race in over a year, as I did the first race in the 06-07 season, then sat out the rest of the season to favour my Moloka'i solo preparation. It was also my first skate skiing race in over 2 years, a painful awakening to be sure! Luckily I have dropped some weight so the hills weren't as steep or as long as they were last year.

Being a training data aficionado, here is my HR curve, with altitude thrown in for effect!

Full results are here.

All that being said, xc ski racing is a whole world of pain I don't have the pleasure of visiting in surfski racing. While xc ski races are technically long distance events, physiologically they are closer to middle distance events. This means more anaerobic work (read muscular discomfort) than your typical long distance event, but also feature huge technical (my saving grace in xc ski and paddling) and tactical (change techniques, adapt to environment, competition, race course, etc.) components.

Bottom line is xc ski racing will prepare you for open ocean surfski racing in a way no other cross-training activity will. You'll also learn that while you think you've worked hard on your surfski, its a walk in the park compared to a xc ski race...

Then again, facing 3 m ocean swells in 20 kn winds will make a nicely groomed xc ski trail seem like a walk in the park...

There you have it! if only I could remember where my surfski and paddle are...


Alan Carlsson
Engineered Athlete Services

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The spirit of being a true champion

Here is a video clip I have to share with you guys. For all you paddlers, its not paddling. What it is, is the final few hundred meters of a World Cup Triathlon in NZ.

This is what we coaches should aspire to teach our athletes, the spirit of being a true champion. You can't help but love this kind of effort!

Alan Carlsson
Engineered Athlete Services

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Learning to ride rollers is a challenge for any cyclist or triathlete who wants to make sure their indoor training will make them faster for the next season.

Rollers 101
Rollers are not for the faint of heart. They are not for quitters. They are humbling. But you will rise like a phoenix. But no one said it was going to be easy.

First step, get some good tire PSI. Soft tires will make rollers super, super tough. Not good tough, stupid tough.

Next step, clear the area to the left and right of the rollers of any hard objects you might injure yourself on should you fall. Which you will. Hence step three.

Third step, set yourself up somewhere you can get support. One of the best places for a roller newby is in a door frame.

Step four, start by riding very very easy, holding onto the door frame with one hand, handlebars with the other. Lowest gear you've got. Just turn the pedals. If you're got XY genetic material it will be more difficult as you'll feel an urge to go fast in big gears within seconds.
4.5 If you have tri bars, dream on! Learning to ride rollers in tri bars is not a good idea, and probably impossible. As you'll soon learn...
Step five, back in the door frame, when you feel comfortable riding both left and right handed, slowly, let, go, of, the, door, frame, and, reach, for, the, bars. No sudden movements...

Step six- practice
Step seven- practice
Step eight- practice

Get it?

Rollers 202
You're able to ride without support, can mop your own brow. Drinking while riding and conversations are still pretty one sided when you're on the rollers, but let's not ask for too much. Right?

Rollers 303
Are you ready for an intensity workout on your rollers? Conversations are getting better.

Rollers 404
Intensity rides get longer and a lot harder...

Rollers 505
Time trial time...

Zipper 2016

Monday, September 10, 2007

catching up

Its been a while since I managed to get a post up, let's just call it a very busy summer.

I had a significant shift in my personal sporting goals after the Moloka'i solo surfski race back in May. I had put in so much effort over the winter that paddling was not as attractive as usual.

Combined with what looked like some success in my battle with seasonal allergies, I decided to shift gears away from the water and back over to triathlons. Prior to taking up competitive paddling in 95, triathlon had been my thing.

A few years ago, I started up a triathlon club here in Vancouver with my triathlon racing nemesis Andrew Tuovinen.

Every race against Andrew followed a similar script; I smoked Andrew in the swim then held my own on the bike. Depending on the length of the swim, technical difficulty on the bike and length of the run, Andrew would either catch me on the run or come very, very close. Not that I was a slouch on the run, Andrew was super fast with a 10 k PB in the 32 min range and a one mile PB in the low 4 min range.

Andrew and I have very compatible coaching styles with complementary strengths and weaknesses. The club is almost at 50 members and we're very proud to say showing some excellent long term athlete development.

This year we had 15 athletes compete at Ironman Canada, and of those all 15 finished the race and 11 of them were taking on an Ironman for the first time. We had emphasized the run as being the key element in the race and all our guys and gals ran super strong marathons to finish their races. We even had a few negative splits on the run! Not bad after 3.8 km of swimming and 180 km of cycling!

At the triathlon club Andrew and I each have a number of athletes working with us one on one. They range from elite level athletes to rookies. One things these athletes all have in common is that they are goal oriented and willing to ask for guidance.

It is a very rewarding environment to coach in. We're super happy with the club we've built and proud of the sportsmanship demonstrated every practice by the club members.

For me, I even managed to complete a few triathlons. My paddling left me with super upper body fitness and my swim was as good as ever (51 min for 4 km), but my aerobic fitness was shockingly poor for weight bearing exercise. I'm working on that now.

My immediate coaching challenges involve two triathletes who want to make the podium at the 2008 ITU Age Group World Championships.

As I am in the planning phases now, my first task is retooling training program templates to deliver all the information we needs to perform at our best.

I've got some good ideas on how to improve sport specific fitness, especially when I consider the bike-run interaction.

When will I get back to paddling? I think I'll wait for the spring or summer of 08...


Alan Carlsson
Engineered Athlete Services

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

wash riding in kayaks

A question was posted on OCPaddler.com about wash riding and I remembered reading an article on this way, way back when.

If you have learned to wash ride and are allowed to do it, it is very beneficial.

I’ve wash ridden back and forth with other boats for up to two hours and an organized pack of two or more boats will drop the rest of the field very quickly. It makes the race much faster and more tactical than essentially being out there in your own space. For some reason I work harder in a pack than alone, maybe its knowing that if I drop off the back I am truly watching the race walk away.

Not to mention that and turns are no longer simply a change of scenery, they are a time to drop or be dropped!

In flatwater canoe & kayak racing it is an accepted tactic and has significant effects on the race outcome. The wash riding boat is usually 5% lower in heart rate than if they were at that speed and leading and their oxygen consumption is approximately 12% lower.

For those who have a high “professor” or “geek” rating here is the abstract of an article published in 1995 on the physiological effects of wash riding in ICF kayaks.

The metabolic cost of two kayaking techniques (Gray, Matherson and McKenzie) The International Journal of Sports Medicine May 1995: Vol. 16 Issue 4. p. 250-254

A common technique employed in flatwater kayak and canoe races is “wash riding”, in which a paddler positions his/her boat on the wake of a leading boat and, at a strategic moment, drops off the wake to sprint ahead. It was hypothesized that this manoeuver was energy efficient, analogous to drafting in cycling. To study this hypothesis, minute ventilation (VE), heart rate (HR) and oxygen consumption (VO2) were measured in 10 elite male kayak paddlers (age = 25 ± 6.5 yrs, height = 183.6 ± 4.4 cm, mass = 83.9 ± 6.1 kg) during steady-state exercise at a standardized velocity in conditions of “wash riding” (WR) and “non-was riding” (NWR). The data were collected in field conditions using a portable telemetric metabolic system (Cosmed K2).

Statistical analysis of the mean values for VE, VO2 and HR was performed using the Hotelling’s T2 statistic and revealed significant differences between the WR and NWR trials for all three dependent variables.

Mean values for VE (l/min) were WR = 133 ± 16.5, NWR = 126.3 ± 15.7; for VO2 (l/min) were WR = 3.22 ± 0.32, NWR = 3.63 ± 0.3; and for HR (bpm) were WR = 167 ± 9.9, NWR = 174 ± 8.0.

It was concluded that wash riding during kayak paddling confers substantial metabolic savings at the speeds tested. This has implications for the design of training programs and competitive strategies for flatwater distance kayak racing.

Knowing that wash riding is beneficial to your speed is one thing, getting good at it is another and it takes lots of practice to learn how to wash ride properly. From a tactical point of view you may have to think kilometers ahead to the next turn or narrow point on the course to be well positioned in a pack. Even when surfing small waves positioning is important as being on the wrong side of another boat can compromise your race in no time.


Alan Carlsson
Engineered Athlete Services