Raising Young Olympians

Great chat with Johan this week.

Long term athletic development => LTAD


Kid Johan – where it all started

Let’s start with Johan’s background

  • 1981 born
  • 1994 watches the Olympics and wants to get there!
  • Starts to specialize for Speed Skating (13 yo)
  • 2000 Jr World Champion
  • 2001 Defends 5000m Jr World Title
  • 2002 / 2006 / 2010 Three Consecutive Swedish Olympic Teams

There are themes that repeat in the LTAD literature.

  • From 7-10 yo the local parents set up a “sports school.” One day a week, they’d have a couple hours and try different activities
  • Very active childhood, but no early specialization, Johan’s skate focus started ~13 yo
  • Continued to play organized soccer/tennis, and lots of spontaneous ball sports, through his mid-teens. His skating coach supported all general training and encouraged him to continue
  • Ran, cycled, raced Swedish Nationals (road race)
  • Grew up in a small city, 125,000 population at present

Surprising to me, Johan didn’t come from a Skate Family.

His Dad was a Regional Class soccer player. As the family grew, his father’s focus shifted from his own sports to being a soccer and bandy coach for kids. He continued to run and race 1-2x per year. Johan’s mom was artistic and both parents worked full-time through this childhood.

His entry to the sport of speed skating was via a local club that handled training, talent development and races.

VERY independent in approach – the local club organized bus trips to race in the Netherlands and Germany in his Tweens, without parents, staying with locals.

Johan was the key driver in getting himself to a very high level. The Swedish Club system and local coaching infrastructure gave him the opportunity to train himself to a world class level.

Johan on Twitter and his coaching page on Facebook.


Johan today

Johan, and I, are very interested in helping our kids excel at sport. It was the #1 topic for our call. 

0-2 years old: we are a swim family, our babies all started out very comfortable in the water. If you want your kids to swim then, ideally, continue their natural-born comfort via positive experiences in the water, from birth.


2-6 years old

  • Movement skills via gymnastics – we didn’t progress into pre-team, very basic balance, agility and movement for all our kids
  • Swimming – a swim lesson, once a week, every week – from a coach, who wasn’t us.
  • Soccer Tots – from preschool age, coordination, bit of running, general play
  • Preschool – three years, play-based preschool where they learned skills to get along with other kids – early socialization in a play-based environment

7-12 years old

  • Just like Johan, lots of different sports: Thai Boxing, Jiu Jitsu, Indoor Climbing, Swimming, Soccer, Hiking, Running, Downhill Skiing, Uphill Skiing, Water Polo, Indoor Skiing
  • Some sports come-and-go, continue at least once per week swimming lesson.
  • Family policy is “do something” – we are willing to change what they do each season.
  • Lots of activity – competition mostly absent

In this phase, build self-confidence. 

Two examples are indoor climbing and skiing. Both sports involve: movement skills, problem solving, fear management and young kids can be better than many adults. Huge confidence boosters for our crew.

No judges, no scoring, we SHARE athletic experiences with our kids.


Little Johan in full flight

Race Experience

Something a little different. 

Summer Swim League from a very early age (5 yo) for each of our kids.

  • Intense 10 week summer season where they swim M-F and have a dual meet on Saturday
  • Touch the water ~80 days across their summer holiday
  • Finals event with 100s of kids, gives them big venue experience
  • Positive early race experience by winning ribbons at the dual meets, and eventually medals at the Finals event

Teen Years – like Johan, specialize if THEY want. 

Our only policy is that everyone does something, including us.

Our oldest is a swim specialist and soon-to-be 14 yo. She still does extracurricular cross-country running, track and skiing. Her summer swim focus, continues since 5 yo.


We only have negative-control

In other words, we can screw things up, but we cannot make it happen.

What makes it happen?

  • Positive experiences
  • Wide range of movement skills
  • An environment to excel – access to skilled coaches and motivated teammates
  • The child’s, and eventually the teen’s, inherent drive

It’s a long road to the top!


Final questions => be brutally honest with yourself…

What do I want for my kids, and why do I want it? 

A lifelong enjoyment of daily exercise NOT a self-identity wrapped up in winning!

Am I seeking to compete, or win, through them?

I want to enjoy nature alongside them. Many parents care far too much about results.

Understand my values & biases

We try to keep our kids, and ourselves, grounded by exposure to a WIDE range of field strengths. There is a benefit from getting our butts kicked every so often.

As parents, we are mostly positively reinforcing.

We offer immediate, negative feedback (and event venue removal) when we witness poor sportsmanship. We’ve left sports when we didn’t like the peers.

Keep Small Promises

July in Boulder

I did the Rich Roll Podcast this past week (not out yet, I’ll let you know).

We started the podcast with…

My story is proof we all have hidden skills, paths we never see, never take.

I wasn’t setting Summer Swim League records as a kid, I didn’t walk-on to the Stanford Swim Team. I thought I was an average athlete. Turned out, I was an Ultraman Champion.

Every single one of us has a skill, a path, that can dramatically improve our lives.

But we have to start.

That was followed by two-and-a-half hours of chatting!

To wrap up, Rich asked me to give him one last tip. I thought a bit and came up with…

Keep small promises to yourself.

Everything I’ve achieved comes from the credibility I’ve established with myself.

When I started my journey, I had no idea where it would take me.


My elite athletic career dates back to a single choice in 1993 (24 yo).

I was living in London and decided to go for a walk.

One walk led to two.

Soon I was bike commuting to work.

Eventually, I was hiking longer on the weekends.

Years later, I made the decision to do “something everyday.”

Many choices, many years.


Roll forward, ~30 years, I have two promises I’m working on:

  1. Try to help someone online via Twitter
  2. Give it my best shot to get back in outstanding aerobic shape

Both done daily, on a 1,000-day time horizon.

I have no destination in mind.

I’m going to do the work, pace myself, and see what happens.


#1 came from calling my bluff with some feelings of envy I had.

#2 came because my life is more enjoyable with superior aerobic fitness.


Where do you need to face your fears and go for it?

What one thing, if it happened, would change everything?

Start small, give it 1,000 days.

Sunday Summary 3 July 2022

Top Threads

  1. Dynamic Loading via Daily Readiness Assessments
  2. Four Step Return to Pain Fee Running
  3. How to write a book with Steve
  4. How to Endurance (Advanced)
  5. Low Back Pain and Open Water Swimming

Workouts & Working Out

High-Performance Habits

Q2 2022 Top Twitter Threads by Engagement

  1. Building the capacity for One Big Slow Day
  2. Review of Longevity… Simplified
  3. Training Zone Lingo
  4. Effective Nutrition
  5. Remove One Thing
  6. Before Swimming Harder Try This
  7. Getting Mentors Interested 
  8. My Home Gym
  9. Late-Season Peaking & The Need To Do
  10. Zone 2 is Light
  11. Training Nutrition Thread
  12. Where to Spend
  13. Sub-max Benchmarking with Power

Dynamic Loading via Daily Readiness Assessments

Quite a mouthful, that title.

Put simply, I have been adjusting my daily plan based on my morning metrics.

This article will explain those metrics => overnight, morning and active.

For a guy, who used to plan his workouts 7-10 days in advance and his season 13-20 weeks in advance… this is a radical change!

Lots of lingo in this article – Marco’s articles are a big help.


My Readiness Dashboard – explained below

OVERNIGHT via Oura Ring

The overnight assessment is the easiest. I keep my Oura ring charged and download first thing. The ring was helpful getting my health back on track at the end of 2021.

However, for making the decision if I’m ready to absorb load, the overnight reading is not as accurate as my morning test.

I don’t recommend the ring to you. I think you’ll get more useful information using the next two options.


MORNING via Polar H10 Strap and HRV4Training App

My morning ritual:

  • Wake up (no alarm)
  • Head downstairs
  • Drain bladder
  • Relax on my couch (supine) with my pulse oximeter going
  • Take reading via HR strap to HRV4Training app.

The whole process takes ~5 minutes.

If you pay for the PRO level (HRV app), then normal ranges are calculated and shown with baseline (below).


HRV with trend and normal range – you can pinch to show more days

Morning Resting HR with trend and normal range.
COVID recovery was May 25 – June 11

Overnight and Morning are passive metrics – I’m either asleep or lying down. There are good reasons for passive assessments (see Marco’s articles linked at the end).

My advice, start collecting the morning metrics and learn your healthy baseline.

These baseline metrics were a big part of my being able to return to training relatively quickly after catching COVID (link is my day by day return diary).


My active readiness test is based on an Olympic Champion’s warm-up routine.

The 400w segments are done only in Threshold & Specific Preparation
More in Nils’ Document Linked Below

SWEDISH ACTIVE READINESS TEST (SART)

I have been working with an Olympic Coach, Johan Röjler. Johan had the idea for me to perform a daily assessment based on NVDP’s warm-up.

My bike numbers are FAR below Nils’ level. However, the principles are the same.

  • Six minute steps
  • Start at 50% of “fit” Threshold watts
  • End at 65% of “fit” Threshold watts

Nils did his Threshold at 400 watts. At 53, I picked 300w.

The key isn’t the Threshold number.

What’s important is getting a 50%/65% number that is NOT demanding. You want to have a test you can get through at every level of fitness and fatigue.

I’m using 3 steps (150w/165w/180w). Power via Favero Assioma Duos and total test takes ~20 minutes. Johan is testing himself with a run-based protocol.

We are looking for heart rate suppression and “jumpiness.”

  • Day One of the training cycle – we expect HR to be responsive and jumpy following the 2 off days
  • Across the micro cycle – we expect some HR suppression BUT when there is material suppression, combined with other factors (mood, HRV, MRHR, soreness, energy) we gauge the risk/benefit for loading

The chart shows two cycles – one where I pulled the plug after three days, and the other where I pushed through fatigue (D2 & D4) and finished strong.

The SART is a nice warm up. My total output is 200 kj and no matter how wrecked I am (see June 22 & 23 above) – the test is doable.


With Passive Metrics (HRV, MRHR), the Red & Strong Green days are obvious.

What’s less clear is the signal for the Yellow and Weak Green days. Yellow and Weak Green days are where I make most of my mistakes.

Our hypothesis is fatigue (not-readiness) will manifest via heart rate suppression at submax levels.

By learning my normal response to training, I can decide if I’m in a “better to rest” or “train through” situation. The idea being to back off when my body isn’t in a position to absorb more load.

My readiness metrics, when combined with my training log, let me see the sessions that most kick my butt.

  • Are those sessions “worth it”?
  • Could there be a more effective way of loading?

These are judgement calls and part of the art of loading.

Overall => make mistakes visible, and learn from them.


LINKS

A Four Step Return to Pain Free Running

Stretch goal… get back to SwimRun

If you have a look at NVDP’s appendix in How To Skate, you’ll see there’s a heck of a lot of running in the base program.

Why would speed skaters do so much running? Honestly, I’m not sure. Probably because they liked it. Eventually, Nils’ base training switched to bike only and the rest is history!

Nils’ coach, Johan, has been helping me with my return to running. In addition to speed skating, he is an expert at rehabilitating running injuries!

We are applying his knowledge to my legs BEFORE they are hurt.



Step One: Hiking

Before I ever thought about running, I hiked.

Initially, pub-to-pub in England!

Eventually, in the hills around Hong Kong and on big mountains around the World.

I’m going back to the beginning of my athletic journey and starting with weekly long hikes. 3-4 hours is what I’m tolerating right now.

No poles & with a day pack: I am challenging my balance and training the muscles & connective tissues of my lower legs (the source of my injury woes for the last 5+ years).


Step Two: Stretching

Johan got my attention with…

Hej Gordo, are you familiar with the Hip Progression in Going Long?

I just laughed.

Going Long is the title of the book I wrote with Joe Friel.

If you look closely at the progression (linked here), I’m not only the author, I was the model for the pictures.

Once he had my attention, Johan had me stand up during our call and walked me through the following:

  1. Extend up on my toes // Lift toes while standing on heels – 4 cycles
  2. From a deep African/Asian Squat – move forward/back/sideways – 2 circles each way
  3. Camel Pose (toes back / toes under) – 4 breaths in each

Three cycles, takes 8 minutes.

Now, I want to stretch, but I doesn’t seem to happen.

My solution… Teach

When I coach my kids, we do my stretches.

During and after my stretches, I focus on how good I feel.

I log it in my training diary – show Johan, tick the box. I’ve also added it to my daily metrics (Y/N).


Nature Box in Boulder – Home Depot Special

Step Three: Stop Coddling My Feet

Because it was my lower legs giving out, I’d taken to coddling my feet. Johan recommended I try strengthening them instead.

Two methods to start:

  1. Put the Nature Box in front of the sink and stand on it when doing the dishes.
  2. Barefoot at home – I’ve been in Hoka Recovery Slides for a few years

It’s meant to be a gradual shift.


Nature Box in Sweden – Scandinavian Flair

2 miles Easy, then 5s Sprints on 5 min recoveries (x4)

Step Four: Just Stay Healthy!

There isn’t much running right now – which is the way I started in the mid-1990s.

  • No back to back days
  • 9-10 min per mile pace
  • Stop before I get tight
  • Add a bit of sprinting

Training is focused on:

  • Bike volume to build metabolic health
  • Swimming: capped at ~40 minutes
  • Strength work is reduced in favor of aerobic endurance

LINKS

Sunday Summary 26 June 2022

Top Threads

  1. Dead Simple Nutrition
  2. Three Part, Submax Bike Benchmarking Workout
  3. Using the benchmark data – How To Endurance
  4. Extreme Plyo – drops (read comments!)
  5. Johan and I work on Swedish Article Readiness Test (SART)

Working Out

High-Performance Habits

Starting Fresh at 53

15 years ago, I was trying to hang with my elite competition.
These days, my focus is keeping up with this guy.
My training partner reminds me of my younger self.

What one thing, if it happened, would change everything?

Love, fitness, health, vanity, wealth, connection, mastery, purpose…

My adult life has been a series of “One Things”

Three tactics to help you with your goals.

++

Know Your Blindsports

My list is simple: recovery and running injury prevention.

I can’t see my blindspots and have habits that lead me to the same mistakes.

So…

Get Outside Expertise

It could be a book…


Experts put their best stuff in their books

It could be a device…


Make Mistakes Visible
My metrics make my errors obvious

It could be new relationships…

I wrote about how I met Joe Friel and changed the direction of my life.

Since my return to engaging with you, a similar thing has been happening.

Opportunity has been knocking.

Be open to engagement, embrace opportunity when it comes knocking.

All of the above require knowing where we want to go.

Unsure where to focus? Jim’s series on the Thinker & the Prover is a great place to start.

What’s your One Thing?

Write it down – even better, write ten things down.

Dead Simple Nutrition

Take advice from someone who has done what you’re trying to do

I started out fat and clueless.

The lessons I learned are different from someone, who grew up a star athlete.

  • If you want to be fast, take tips from someone who figured out how to be fast
  • If you want to lose weight, take tips from someone who lost the weight
  • If you want to improve your healthspan, read Howard’s book!

Know your goal and choose your reference set carefully. So much noise out there.

  • 360 days for health
  • 5 days for performance

Choose wisely


LOW can be better than NO

  • Low glutten
  • Low processed sugars
  • Low manufactured food

Less, rather than total elimination.

Pay attention to the bloat. For me… cereals, pastas and breads

Bloat items are better swapped with something I tolerate. When I swap them, moderate the portion, add a protein source and mix in some veggies.

Pay attention to well tolerated energy sources. For me… rice, rice milk, quinoa, potatoes.


I use Protein differently:

  • Protein with every meal
  • No long gaps without protein
  • ‘Recovery’ drinks across long training days – rice milk with protein powder
  • Real meals between sessions – avoid gel hell

Protein, especially with good fats, moderates my appetite and keeps my digestion happy.


Dairy

I tolerate it well but I’m careful not use as a sugar crutch.

There can be a lot of added sugar in dairy (especially “vegan” yogurts).


There is information in cravings and binges.

Cravings => usually a depletion signal. High-performance athletes need to train the ability to process food for fuel. Long sessions provide enough depletion, even when eating.

Binges => a sign of too much – too much intensity, too much stress, too much load.

To make progress with your body, and counter your binges/cravings, trade stress for the ability to lose fat.


A stable weight is a sign you have your act together.

Get to a stable, strong weight and stay there.

Effective nutrition is defined by what is not there:

  • Swings
  • Cravings
  • Binges
  • Injures
  • Illness

Where to focus:

  1. Eat less sugar – sweeteners are everywhere. Do not restrict whole fruits, they fill you up and reduce processed food intake.
  2. Protein with every meal – all day long
  3. Incremental change – lifetime journey!
  4. Start by improving the quality of your non-training nutrition
  5. Appropriate levels of carbohydrate – fuel the burn

Don’t get hooked on brand names…

Just Keep Winning


Sunday Summary 19 June 2022

Top Five Threads

  1. The 1st step is EASY
  2. Bike Session (30/30s and Power Singles)
  3. When you feel you are behind financially
  4. Give your Self something useful to Prove Right
  5. I’m back on Strava // Post_COVID week summary

High Performance Habits

Workouts & Working Out