The Enemy of a Good Plan is the Dream of a Perfect Plan with Dean Golich | EP#104
Dean Golich, Premier Coach and Head Performance Physiologist at Carmichael Training Systems, coach of multiple World and Olympic medalists, discusses self-coaching, the OODA-loop workflow in coaching or self-coaching, bias, and periodisation.
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In this Episode you'll learn about:
- The OODA-loop: Observe, Orientate, Decide, Act.
- Self-coaching: pitfalls to avoid, knowledge requirements, education, and avoiding information overwhelm.
- The role of bias in coaching and self-coaching.
- Periodisation - do we really know anything about it?
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About Dean Golich
- Dean is a coach and head performance physiologist at Carmichael Training Systems (CTS).
- Over the past 20 years he has been the coach to more than 17 national champions, and more than a dozen Olympic and World Championship medalists.
- He started out in cycling (mountain biking, road, track and BMX cycling), but he has also worked with triathletes, skiers, motor sports and the military.
- Dean has served as a physiologist for USA Cycling from 1994-1996 where he introduced power meters to the national team, and established training protocols for using them for the '96 Olympic cycling team across all different cycling disciplines.
The OODA-loop for an effective workflow in coaching and self-coaching
- Now that I have 20 years of experience, I don't look at this as sport specific anymore, which maybe I would have by reading specific information for e.g. triathlon, coaching, physiology etc.
- I now look more to the military organisation of things because of the structure of their organisation.
- I could never come to a sense in my own mind of how to work on a workflow. But something that I've found after the fact that made sense to me was observing someone in the military:
- Colonel John Boy was a fighter pilot who had a realisation of how he went about things in fighter pilot scenarios. In military circles it's what they call an 'OODA-loop', which is 'Observe, orient, decide, act'.
- So basically, say you have a power file. You look at it (observe), then you orient it by establishing where you did it/the environment, then you decide from analysing it what it was like (good or bad training), and then you act and take another decision on what you should do the following day.
- You can do it when analysing a workout file, or a training program, but as long as you stay on task it seems to work really well.
- I've worked with athletes in the NHL, in the NBA, on the motor sports side of things (moto-GP, Nascar etc.), and then cycling and triathlon.
- I use the OODA-loop in all phases - you could look at the periodisation of a whole training plan using this method.
- I will always look at the actual workout file of the athlete first - I'll observe the workout file.
- E.g. if I prescribed a functional threshold power workout, like 3x20 minutes at 95% of FTP. I would look at the file and observe the metrics - power, heart rate, cadence. The observe part is what they actually did.
- The orient part is where their FTP is set currently. So you have the workout power but you orient yourself to the athletes reference metrics to check if it was in the correct zone/level etc.
- Then you can decide if it was good or bad, or if they did what was prescribed.
- Then you take out the file from a 'workout view' and look at it from an 'athlete view' and repeat the loop all over again.
- N.B. Workout view is the workout specifically, athlete view is the bigger picture in whatever period of training you choose.
- So now when you put the workout in the athlete view of the past year, where do I observe that it is? Compare it to all similar workouts in the selected time-frame to orient it. You then decide if there are any trends, and finally the act part involves developing your coaching structure.
- If you self-coach, you often don't orient your workouts to all the variables that can impact it, and you don't always know what to do next.
- People often either pat themselves on the back and then work harder, or tell themselves off for not doing enough.
- The 'decide' part of the OODA-loop is helpful for this problem.
- Once you decide what was productive from the training, you can either go back and observe it again and keep repeating, or you can then act at the end - you don't always have to go observe, orient, decide, act.
- You can do observe, orient, decide, decide, decide, and then act and say 'okay I'll continue what I decided to do tomorrow' or 'okay I'm going to alter that'.
- I do this within the workout, within the cadence within the workout, within the power within the workout - you just keep repeating it. It's more of a structure in your mind.
- You need to keep within a structure to take some of the variability out of your training planning.
- With the 'decide', you are deciding if it's functional or productive.
- I generally look at the largest variable that I weight the highest, so I'm generally looking at power.
- If there are multiple variables: cadence, heart rate, altitude, climbing, sitting, aerodynamics etc, I’m going to weight the power and say that it accounts for 80% of my decision about whether the workout was productive.
- It doesn't need to mean the power is high, it's just whether the power was where I predicted it to be.
- Productive can mean that I expected you to be tired today and now you're not producing the power. And the power was only 5 or 10 watts below what we prescribed with a rated perceived exertion that's higher.
- So first I rated the power, then after it was low, high or indifferent, then I went to RPE. I started at the highest level of weighting what is important, and then I start going to the little variables that I weight less.
- Regarding the 'act' part, you go more into the analytics. Once I went through e.g. training stress score and decided where it was, then the coaching starts to take over.
- The 'act' might be to do nothing. If you're going along and the power is within 5-10 watts of the prediction, then I'm okay with that and we just move on with the training.
- If there are extreme observations, there's a number of statistics that I look at to see if it's beyond the smallest worthwhile change.
- A lot of the time in this situation the 'act' will be to rest.
- After all these years, I try to use all these stats and the solution to 90% of the problems is to do less or rest!
Common pitfalls of self-coached athletes
- Following incomplete information. All the information that a self-coached athlete gets is rarely complete.
- E.g. for this podcast, for me to boil down all the information I could give someone would take the number of years that I've put into it.
- When people read blogs or books and listen to podcasts, it's generally picked in a biased way depending on what they're interested in, which created a false sense of direction.
- For example: FTP. If you go on different sites e.g. Training Peaks, Xert, Andy Coggan's work, you can read a very lengthy article, form an opinion by the end of the article and they move on.
- It's hard to communicate all the information and pitfalls about FTP analysis in one article.
- You need to read multiple opinions and really delve into it, and self-coached athletes often don't have the time, or don't have the background in physiology to analyse the articles they're reading.
- It's difficult because there's many conflicting opinions from "experts" in the field.
- As a community we have to delve into the specifics more and more. We need to structure it so everybody understands the specifics, rather than the general trends.
- One military tactics is: even the wrong tactics done fully ends up working. This is similar here, a lot of the time if the person is self-coached, and they use FTP the way they've always used it and they understand the errors of their strategy, it's okay.
- It doesn’t have to necessarily be the way someone else prescribed it. 95% of the 20-minute power, or doing a 1-hour effort. It's what the actual person will do, and you can learn from the pitfalls.
- The idea of having someone else as your coach is that the pitfalls become less frequent and the improvement becomes more frequent.
- You'll still make mistakes whether you're coached, self-coached, or not. You're just trying to eliminate the normal mistakes that everyone makes.
- You just need to be aware of the errors of the strategy you're using. If there was one specific 'right one' we'd all be using it already!
Do you want to become faster?
A random, unstructured, or even over-engineered approach to training won't cut it. You need a clear, purposeful, progressive, and specific training plan.
Staying objective in self-coaching
- There's a lot of really smart people out there, but people often come in with a bias.
- Vice versa, you have people that are in the triathlon/cycling community who have a bias based on who has been presenting the most.
- There is also a bias in life.
- The first part is to understand your own individual bias.
- The WASON selection test online is useful, and you'll usually find that everybody tries to prove themselves right - you're always looking for a confirmation bias.
- Once you understand this, you can go through a number of steps to eliminate it.
- The endurance sports arena is getting better at reducing bias because of tools such as power meters and timed events which can be analysed and are independent of bias.
- When I go to other sports (excluding motor sports which have a lot of data) they have a ton of coaching bias.
- You have to start where the information is collected.
- E.g. When using a power meter, you have to make sure it is accurate and calibrated, and what the error of it is. So if you were supposed to do 250 watts, was it 250 or was the error 247-253.
- If you're a coach or a self-coach, you should only use information that is within your expertise.
- If you're an expert in FTP you can use your bias in that, but if you're not, you should just use the data and not try to form an opinion.
- Another area that we can address with the self-coached person is that if you think the training program works and you go out and do 3x20 and it was prescribed at 215 W and you did it at 255 W and you felt like it's easy, then you're already under the bias of that was productive.
- In a group setting, if the group knows what the leader's opinion is then they sway in that direction. In a self-coach situation it can become a negative as you can do more and try to prescribe more than needed.
- The best measure of performance is performance itself.
- Years ago there was a sprinter cyclist from Germany called Eric Zabul who raced 120 races and won ~30, which was incredible. Basically he was 30% successful.
- If you're a 10 hour Ironman, or 2 hour Olympic distance and you're out for a PR.
- If you race 15 minutes quicker in your Ironman, that's less than 1%.
- Therefore you have to be delicate when considering the race performance.
- Considering all the factors that could affect this - aerodynamics, heat etc, you would take 1% every time in the real world.
- What I look at is over time, are we progressing?
- When plateaus happen, trying to establish why this might be and whether any improvements would involve significant life changes for the athlete.
- Another thing to do is trying to prove you're wrong by conducting a pre-mortme - once you write the training program or look at the data, you go back, and before it's even been executed try and work out where it's going wrong or is bad.
- This can be difficult for the self-coached athlete because they need to ask someone else to review the training plan.
- I'm in a number of performance teams and in a group setting we will come up with a strategy as a team, and then one person is chosen at random to independently go away and try and prove the plan wrong, and then return and present their findings to the group.
Pre-requisites for being a self-coach
- I find myself regularly referring back to my physiology background and the knowledge I learnt from there.
- E.g. Functional threshold power - to say that you actually have an improvement of five watts and that's a real world improvement means you don't understand the physiology of functional threshold power because unless you've shown that over quite a long period of time, then it's within the error of just day to day variability.
- You can never know too much! As much as you can read will be helpful.
- There's a number of books that are useful to read.
- Running books are good because they go through the basics.
- The Training Peaks blog and the Andy Coggan and Hunter Allen books are good for training with power meters..
- A really great book is Jack Daniel's Running Formula.
- I have a spreadsheet on my desktop, a huge comprehensive running spreadsheet that has the predictions for everything regarding times: so if you run a 5K in this, this is what your 10K will be, and I found that very useful to reference constantly.
- When I was doing my academic work, I came down from my University and we went to the Olympic training centre in Colorado Springs and did an overtraining study.
- The idea was to overtrain the athletes on purpose. We did bloodwork, isokinetic testing, VO2 testing and then we had a performance test of 4000m pursuit.
- Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday double workouts, then Friday recovery, Saturday VO2 test, Sunday performance test.
- We did this for 3 weeks straight, we killed these people!
- In the end, they had their best performances ever. Maybe we needed to do it for longer to really over train them.
- Once we add the power meters we can actually analyse what a coach prescribes and put the models to the test - whether its block training or periodised training, or Stephen Seiler's polarised training etc. - we can look at the data after the fact.
- What I've found over all these years is that none of these programs are any better or worse than the other.
- I find it easier to use the block style training to know when a person is tired and I've overloaded what I wanted to overload and I know when to rest.
- This can be more difficult to do using the general periodised training, even with all the data we can collect now. It's difficult to analyse and know how much you need to be adding.
- When I look back over 10 years of data and some of the Olympic medalists I've worked with, I didn't see any of the polarised training that Stephen Seiler saw in cross country skiing.
- Mikael (host) has recently read the Running Base Training section by George Dallam in Triathlon Science. According to that review there is not enough evidence to show that traditional linear periodisation works better than any other training system.
- There is more evidence within weight training about the value of this system, and suggestions that for a well trained athlete an undulating periodisation plan may be better than a traditional linear periodisation, or a reverse linear periodisation.
- I don't think people really understand periodisation completely, and may believe it to just be cycles of training then resting.
- There's a good review of periodisation by John Kiely called Periodization Theory: Confronting an Inconvenient Truth
- If you go back to Russian weightlifting years ago, it's different to what we call it now even though that was the initiation of periodisation.
Rapid fire questions
- What is your favourite book, blog or resource
- Pacey Performance Podcast - it's a varied field, it's not just cycling or triathlon but includes other team sports and experts within them.
- What is a personal habit that has helped you achieve success?
- I don't think it had anything to do with my education, I think it was more my parents trying to do the right thing each time. It's never by design, but I realised over time of coaching and working with athletes, that trying to do the right thing each time and communicating with the person is better than any habit per say.
- What do you wish you had know/wish you had done differently at some point in your career?
- At the beginning I wish I hadn't got sidetracked into multiple things. I wish I had delved into just one thing - which looking back on it I did, but not as much as I should have. E.g. with altitude training, I wish I would have spent a lot of time on it, but when you're in it as a young coach/young sports scientist you're like a squirrel constantly looking here, there, here etc. I wish I had done one thing to the n:th degree whether it wad altitude training, heat training, power training, and really understood it completely and then moved on. If I had done this I wouldn't have had to go back so often and relearn things.
- To get the most out of your training, particularly self-coached athletes, you need to have a process to analyse your training and how to act on that.
- It doesn't need to be the OODA-loop Dean mentioned, but have a process which works for you.
- You need to have a way to minimise bias in your training - for example doing a pre-mortem of training plans to find flaws before you execute it.
- Be as knowledgeable as possible, but avoid paralysis by analysis and constantly jumping from one topic to another.
- This podcast is a good source of knowledge, but be aware that we do present different opinions and it's not always a good idea to constantly change your plan.
- A different view on periodisation that provides an interesting alternative view.
Links, resources & contact
Links and resources mentioned
Connect with Dean Golich
Connect with host Mikael Eriksson
Hi! I'm your host Mikael,
I am a full-time triathlon coach and an ambitious age-group triathlete. My goal is podium at the Finnish national championships within the next few years.
I first started the website Scientific Triathlon in autumn 2015 as a passion project to share my learnings with a larger triathlon audience. Later on, in early 2017 I started the podcast That Triathlon Show.
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