Dig within. Within is the wellspring of Good; and it is always ready to bubble up, if you just dig.- Marcus Aurelius
Delayed transmutation is tossed around all the time in strength and conditioning circles, but I am not a believer in the common belief of increase max strength and then things magically happen. Often the process of developing athletes will create periods of lack of progress or even a reduction in performance to the point where second guessing will occur. Often fixing technique long term results in a decrease or stagnation of one’s performance, and this is when coaches prepare for a mutiny or athlete’s confidence being threatened. I have been in a few situations that our long term plan resulted in performances that were less than a previous personal best after a very productive GPP/SPP time period. Lifts were up and mechanically sound, we were fit, and our running mechanics were gorgeous and natural. Yet the times were the same? What to do now? With much of the improvement done what can we do when things are looking complete? Here is my advice as I have been there and go through it every year.
- Predict it to everyone in the beginning of the year- Nothing helps more to the athlete that knowing in advance that their time will come if they are patient. This prevents freelancing of training or rebellion when things are not going right. Often coaches that are in it for the short run when climbing the coaching ladder create baggage for the next coach with poor training background, chronic injury patterns, and performances done on short term get-rich-quick biomechanics that leave the next guy forcing a reboot to an athletic career. Obviously a senior in college is not going to have this be a factor unless you are concentrating on outdoors. When you say it to your training group that we are focusing long term they will understand that a few races or even an entire season may be an unwelcome time period of lack of progress performance wise. This is why a younger coach often needs to prove themselves and the athletes don’t get the benefits long term because the pressure to perform immediately is rough. Also, just saying that you are in it for the long haul gives them confidence that you have a plan and have been through the rough waters long in the past and the seas calmed down afterwards.
- Don’t change the plan or panic- When you change the existing plan, make sure you are doing it for the right reason and not because you lost patience. Often a good plan is on mile 26 and that last dash to the finish line was all that was needed before one gave up. Panic leads to aggressive or gambles that are often dangerous or lead to early peaks that render athletes on empty for the rest of season and experience burn out symptoms. Stay confident that the plan is right if things are improving and you are making good progress in the development as a whole. If training is going well then keep waiting, if training is not going well keep it clear and work on the biggest piece and stay on it. When training is reduced to clear elements and one dimensional themes, stagnation ends because the body gets into formation.
- Use coaching adages for confidence– Explanations with biological or training theory is good to use after or before stagnation during a period when things have not actualized, but good quotes give athletes confidence that this is a regular phenomenon and not just unique to them. I love quotes because the athlete feels that if one exists that means the problem is not a problem but a part of the training process. I always say to athletes the longer the hibernation the hungrier the bear or Mike Young has said quick to ripe quick to rot, an adage that coaches use to explain why things are taking a while to gel.