Sunday Summary 2 October 2022

Top Five Threads

  1. We train a range, not an average
  2. Do-less strategy worked for Middle School XC
  3. A Feeling of Running Out of Time
  4. 90-days without Caffeine
  5. Face-Your-Fear Session from Mark Allen

Endurance Sport

High-Performance Habits

Developing Athletic Talent in Your Kids

First Duathlon

Last month I was invited to sit in on a call with Texas Children’s about long term athletic development.

It’s a fun project that lets me share my experience and work with friends.

Previous post on Raising Young Olympians.


I want to highlight three things “missing” from the LTAD literature.

All three are a focus for me.


EARLY positive athletic experiences

I’m on board with late-specialization.

Find, then stick with, something long enough to have a positive experience.

A positive experience matters more than the skill development.

In the kid’s mind, you want a link “effort with satisfaction”.


First Sled Trip – more riding than hauling for the little guy

Relaxation at MAXIMUM heart rate

The look on my kids faces the first time I brought them to treeline still makes me laugh!

It was a literal fear of death.

High-performance requires the athlete to move through their fear of death.

Like water, the earlier you get your kids feeling comfortable with “race effort” the better.

They don’t need to be throwing down weekly!

We stick with summer racing until middle-school age.


RACING is a skill

In the development profile you’re building for your kids…

…race experience is important.

  • Field Strength
  • Crowds
  • Noise
  • Arousal Control
  • Grace in Defeat
  • Grace in Victory
  • Learning different ways to win
  • Learning to persist and achieve secondary goals

Deep dive on performance in Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness recent books (link is my Twitter reviews).


1st Winter 14er

Bonus tip – not for everyone!

If you read Training for the Uphill Athlete (my review on Twitter) then you’ll learn that Kilian Jornet had an ultra-childhood.

If you happen to have a kid that’s into going long…

…let them!

My son has been building his endurance physiology since 3 years old.

His progression is WAY faster than I’d recommend for anyone else’s kid, or even his siblings.

However, it’s not my job to define his dreams…

…and he’s a really good training partner!

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.

Setting Up A Lifetime of Winning

May in Boulder

Last Monday, I gave you three things to consider:

  • Face your fear of recovery
  • Consider if you have the muscle mass to achieve your goals
  • Build your capacity for One Big Slow Day

Another way to think about recovery is to invert – give yourself a protocol that you will enjoy regardless of outcome – lack of enjoyment is a sign your approach is unsustainable.

Injury and illness are socially-acceptable ways to manifest a lack of enjoyment.

Work, school, sport… bad luck is less random than it appears.


The best thing I learned about protocol was taught to me by a doctor friend:

Gordo, we don’t heal people. People heal themselves.

The magic isn’t in the protocol, supplement or dogma…

The magic ingredient is YOU!


Step back from all the noise about protocols.

How might we create a lifetime of winning?

  • Consistency
  • Enjoyment

Focus there.


What do we see in every successful person?

  1. Practice often
  2. Devote time
  3. Learn skills

Focus there.


I’ve been reading the literature around SuperElite performance. It gets me fired-up to “practice often, devote time & learn skills” ๐Ÿ™‚

However… it strikes me as a lot of narrative wrapped around the complex system of human performance.

The literature lacks self-awareness… despite what you see in the media, you probably do not want to be a Super Elite. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

Not our situation to solve.


For the rest of us!

The mental side is what’s going limit.

While we are consistently enjoying the journey…

  • do work
  • take correction

Parents, allocating TIME to have fun while you MODEL these skills is one of the best gifts you can give your kids.

I doesn’t need to be you (but your kids really want you involved).

Teach your kids to be the best version of themselves.


Not better than the rest,
I hope you are the best YOU can be

Ski Math

The tiny dot in the middle of the frame is my son hiking up from a yard sale, in a gale, at the top of Pali Chair. FIVE minutes later he said, “Dad, I’m glad you’re as good a skier as me.” I’d kept my skis during the traverse! They have such short memories.

Our family ski experience is like my Pandemic Predictions => I got a lot wrong.

When I was shelling out for childcare/preschool, skiing struck me as a very expensive way to do a lot of driving, without much cardio.

Not interested.

A friend, with four kids (and a jet), made the observation… “you gotta be able to do something as a family.” Given his role, as the smartest guy I know, we decided to give it a try.


My wife didn’t believe me when I said, in advance, “We’re making a million dollar decision here.”

Frankly, I took it easy on her. The math is daunting…

But wait, there’s more.

Add-in the inflationary effect of surrounding yourself with the largest spenders in our society.

And… have a look around the parking area, with the smell of legal weed wafting across the empty beer cans… Is this an environment where I’d like to leave my teenaged kid unsupervised?

Still… “you gotta be able to do something as a family”.



$175,000 worth of opportunity cost later, I can ski any run, with any member of my family. This makes me happy during a time of year I used to dread.

Total immersion (5 million vertical feet, in three seasons) let me achieve my goal quickly… Something outside, at a high level, with any member of my family.

Unexpectedly worth it… but only after I figured out our family’s cash burn.


I cope with the “demographic” by focusing my energy on seeking to ski like an instructor, with the fitness of a ski patroller. These goals provide structure for my athletic year.

Like much of my outdoor life, my participation is conditional and always one major crash away from ending.

Stay variable.

Developing Child Athletes

Watching their sister compete via Live Feed.

Our oldest (13 soon) started year round swim team at the end of last summer.


In Boulder, it’s not unusual for 8-10 year olds to be doing double workouts, and competing at a high level in multiple sports. We have some very well trained middle schoolers.

My approach is different => we want to leave room so performance will improve all the way from child to adult.

Leave the athlete somewhere to go => improve from 12 to 21 and beyond.

With a motivated kid, this means my role is holding back the pace of progression so the athlete has a better chance to reach their full potential and enjoy the benefits of lifelong exercise.


When To Go Year Round

When the kids were little, we didn’t specialize. Our younger kids still do a wide range of sport. The idea here is to develop a range of skills.

Racing is a skill.

While we didn’t ramp training load, all my kids have been racing fast since they were 5 yo. Summer swim league was the venue.

They love it and are building an invisible edge. Invisible to them but my lack of racing skills was obvious when I started competing as an adult…

  • Intensity tolerance
  • The ability to go way past reasonable, stay there, then go further

This spills into their endurance when it comes to learning capacity.

Summer swim league easily splits into three types of racing… where you’ll crush, about right, where you will be crushed (hopefully not too hard).

Early specialization has the field strength too strong, too early.


Parents

I’m a potted-plant parent and give very little feedback. It helps that I’m clueless when it comes to swimming really fast!

I make no effort to remember their times so I’m genuinely impressed every time they race.

You went so fast!

My main area of input is: (a) encouraging the kids to be nice to the new/slower/different people they come across; and (b) fielding off-the-wall questions about sex and human development. Our daughter is learning a lot (from being tossed in with older kids).

I also make sure we remember every athlete ends up back in the “real world” at the end of their career.


Boys & Men

We were fortunate to replace Uncle Andy with another male swim coach. Having male character models for my son does a lot for his motivation to attend.

JiuJitsu is coming back this week (male coaches) and his swim coach works part-time as a wilderness firefighter.

The cool factor matters to him, and me, when I think back to my own development.

Home School Stuff

Top of Hogback Loop, Boulder, Colorado


Science Wednesday was Plastic Milk – the girls weren’t interested and opted out – Axel enjoyed the session.

We’re going to take a break from experiments for a week and build ourselves a Volcano!


Eating the “plastic” was a highlight for him.

Workout Thursday saw Axel do more in 20-minutes than I can do in 25-minutes.



It’s a pattern you can do at home: (a) sandbag getup and run to the next room, repeat 4x; then 20 squat jumps (step down, never jump backwards) => keep rolling continuous.

Body slammed himself on the bench on the final rep of his 9th round (180 jumps total).

True savagery – once we were sure he hadn’t cracked a rib, we shared a laugh.



My daughter and I have been butting heads with her math.

This must happen to other families so I’ll share the workaround we discovered.

Like their Dad, my kids are good at pretending they understand when they have absolutely no frickin’ clue!

As you can see from the world around you, being clueless isn’t usually a problem. However, it is a suboptimal method to learn new math concepts via Zoom call.

In a typical school, the learning rate is slow enough that most of the kids figure things out on their own. At the Byrn Family Academy of Personal Excellence, we’ve been learning at a faster rate.

I didn’t realize how much faster until I noticed our youngest was nearly finished Unit Three of next year’s math. Five weeks to do half a year’s math curriculum => keeping things in perspective, it’s Grade Two and I give the kids supplemental lessons when they ask me about concepts. We’re not blazing AP Calculus but the pace for our Grade Four and Grade Six is legit.

With the new concepts, our oldest was reprinting the assignments on a clean sheet and handing in 100% correct work. Behind the scenes, I had been subjected to a half hour of tears and abuse => “Sweetie, it’s math, our opinions don’t change the answer.”

Anyhow, we both got sick of the struggle. She has no interest in receiving lessons from me => “Just tell me the answer, Dad!”

Not being able to teach is frustrating because I’m a great teacher! However, the goal is for student to learn, not the teacher to teach!

Family Value => It is OK to say “no.”

On the basis of “relationship before all else,” I resigned.

My resignation resulted in more tears. She’d rather struggle through with me than admit she doesn’t understand with her teacher.

So, we struck a truce…

  • Side by side, we review
  • When I find an error, she works through again
  • We arrive at the step that’s causing problems
  • Chip away until she gets it right

So far, no more tears and I don’t feel an ulcer coming on.


PE with Dad. Ax-man has 5L of water on the his back. Mountain Lion country (notice the bushes above, right). I had to tell him to stop dropping us!

Axel finished The Everest Trilogy by Korman.

He loved it and he’s going to do a book review with his English teacher.


My next summer essay is on the life cycle of an athlete.

Stage One is the Sporty Kid.

  • It is easier to have sporty kids if you lead the way.
  • Sporty kids have more energy for everything, ie learning.
  • If you want to develop sporty kids then the program is about their current ability level – not your workout goals (train daily before they wake up).
  • Use outside experts to teach technical skills.
  • Focus on enjoyment of the “doing” – resist the urge to teach.
  • Only positive feedback.
  • Focus on activities without a score and no judges.

Kids And Mountains

Spending years crafting a desired outcome is something I do better than most.

It’s not just inside my marriage where I seek to influence outcome – I’ve been building a mountaineering partner. Since my son was two years old, he’s loved going uphill.

The “up” has never been a problem. In those early days, it was the “down” where he’d flame out. Back then, I’d never take him further than I could carry him out. We used to negotiate when the shoulder rides would start.

We’re into another hiking season and I wanted to share some ideas about developing your kids.

Last season, I carried everything, all the time. When I tried to get him to help out, the joy of the hike drained out of him. This led to some heavy, heavy days.

Over the winter, I adapted my training program so I could tolerate the loads.

This year, we’re trying something new. To change our view on weight, I’m leading by example and carrying extra water to every summit.

Weight is a privilege. The picture above represents ~25 pounds of privilege. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Seeing me carry, had the desired psychological outcome and he’s been asking me to carry “more.”

Two things are required to earn the right to carry:

  • Beat me to the summit
  • Don’t fall on the way down

The not falling is tougher than it sounds. Our mental cue is “walk like a boss” => wide stance, toes down the mountain, stand tall. It’s easy for a minute.

Less easy for an hour while discussing the finer points of the latest Clone Wars season or estimating Chewbacca’s age.

Dad, Chewie is in every movie, I can’t figure it out…


With lockdown, my full program has become visible to the kids. They noticed that I do a lot of strength training. Two (out of three) asked to join. So they’ve been doing some supplemental work to our hiking program.

I made light sandbags for them. We do burpees, short runs, clean & press, keg lifts… Because their bags are light, they can run circles around me (literally). They get a kick out of being “faster than Dad” and that keeps them coming back for more.

Our youngest (below) is working with an orange dry-bag I filled with clothes. It looks HUGE but doesn’t weigh much. My son had bag envy – his is filled with pea gravel.

Let everyone be strong is a lesson I learned from Scott Molina.

Be sure you let your kids be strong and find their win. It helps build their internal motivation to persist.


As for the program we are:

  • following a gradual, weekly progression
  • doing it locally before considering any travel
  • including a mixture of too easy, just right and challenging routes
  • inserting easy days so we bounce back
  • making sure we get consistent sleep

If you think the above sounds like the approach used by a gold-medal coach then you’d be right. It was taught it to me early in my triathlon career.

I special ordered a black mask from our oldest. Combined with blue-iridium sunglasses, a baseball hat and a hunting knife… we don’t have any problems getting folks to yield on the trail.

Why masks?

Foremost, because America need more people wearing masks. Be the change.

Secondly, because we might be on some crowded routes when the high mountains open up. Get sick later.

Finally, because it’s going to make life above tree-line seem a whole lot easier when we take them off.


Over multi-year time horizons, we have tremendous influence on the direction of our life.

My son is 9 and we can hike any route I want in the Rockies.

Be willing to inconvenience yourself (today) to help the people in your life become what you wish for them (tomorrow).

How I Watch Sport

2019-11-08 16.19.44It was the family’s first water polo tournament this past weekend.

2019-11-08 12.46.22It’s worth spending time to understand what YOU want from sport. This will let you see if your desires line up with the reality of your sport-of-choice.

I’ve seen enough to decide it’s best if I focus primarily on my kids’ sport.

I have one overriding goal for my kids.

Create an enduring positive association with exercise.

Former athletes, bitter athletes, non-athletes… they can lack the positive association and it costs them.

It is easy to get distracted by winning, skill development, playing time, parent board politics…

Create the positive association!

ax_poloSo, when I watch:

  • Sit passively and try to learn what’s going on => my kids don’t do “my” sports
  • Very little feedback => only positive, given 1-on-1, after they’ve slowed down from the event
  • Be seen in the last third of practice (it’s the only part they remember) => use the first 2/3rds of practice to do something useful => I buy groceries then read a book
  • Phone put away (ideally in airplane mode – warn your spouse you won’t be taking pictures or answering questions)
  • Listen to, and work through, coaches => reinforce a consistent message => you need a team (and school) culture that matches what you teach at home => if your teen tracks into a single sport then her team becomes a key reference point, at an important transitional point in her life
  • Ample healthy snacks afterwards => do not train the “exercise-sugar-reward” cycle, as it will haunt them forever!
  • Drive them with no music, no electronics => create a forum to ask about life issues => no taboo topics, everyone gets to speak (or not speak)

If you’d predicted that I would enjoy doing the above, even three years ago, then I would have said you were high.

The fact that I look forward to these times shows I am incapable of predicting where life will take me!

2019-11-08 17.39.27Take the above together:

  1. Dad is there
  2. Dad’s not on his phone
  3. Dad talks about anything
  4. Food rewards are healthy snacks => strong food
  5. Dad is always happy to see me afterwards

Building these habits was a major pain in the rear.

The phone habit is a tough one!


ax_g_poloI’ll end with a story.

My son is the youngest on the team and he has a concern, he might drown.

Bro, there’s no way you’re going to drown.ย You’re going to pass out and that’s no big deal.

I’ll Superman into the pool, we’ll pull you out andย I’ll stay with you until you wake up.

You can even go back in, if you want.

Thanks Dad.

2019-11-09 16.01.23

Where Markets Fail

2019-10-06 15.14.46A decade ago, I tried to assemble a group of investors to build an aquatics facility in Boulder. The project was getting its land for “free,” yet we struggled to get the economics to make sense.

Fortunately for my family, the taxpayers of a neighboring county approved a school bond issue that financed a world-class aquatic facility.

My kids have some of the best memories of their life associated with this building.

Ax_IM


I’m reminded of a few things each time I visit.

It’s impossible to capture the value given, and problems avoided, by making athletics available to all the young people of your community.

The picture below shows what I mean: 8-18 year olds improving themselves, daily.

2019-10-02 18.41.13.jpg

I’m grateful to the taxpayers, school district and people who made it happen. People I’ll never know.


The facility is dedicated to our veterans and there are plenty of memorials around the property to spark conversations.

2019-10-02 19.02.51.jpg

#1 for me is the plaques remembering the district’s graduates, who died in foreign wars. Most were just out of high school, not far off the age of my kids’ favorite cousin.

Tom was CJ’s age when he was killed in Vietnam.

2019-10-02 19.02.56.jpg

That’s a lot of living given up, by people I’ll never know.

The older I get, the more I feel their sacrifice.

When people talk about the challenges facing our country, they’re correct.

However, the challenges are not unprecedented. I will never know what it’s like to go to war out of high school and watch my buddies die in a foreign country.

My kids might not understand for a while.