After we left the audio-video room, we stood and watched Potts as he churned out a hard swim. I asked Doane if Potts is a lab rat. Doane paused. "If he is a lab rat, then he's a different kind of lab rat—one that's dictating what's going on," he said. "We're just doing what his body is telling us to do."
DOANE AND POTTS came up with feedback training when they were both triathlon virgins. "Doane had never coached a triathlete, so he threw out the mold of what everyone else had been doing," says Lance Watson, the coach of 2000 triathlon gold medalist Simon Whitfield. "I think he just figured out what works for Andy"—and, in the process, opened the door to a new kind of training.
Potts's Olympic obsession had previously expressed itself in competitive swimming, a low-tech sport in which life revolves around the pace clock. He finished fourth at the 1996 Olympic trials in the 400 individual medley and retired in 1999. He floated around, worked in carpentry, and quickly found that his life had no structure. In June 2002, Potts trained for two weeks and competed in an amateur triathlon in Colorado Springs. He placed only 28th, but he made sure to let the national team coach know that he would soon be joining her squad. Nearly two years later, he qualified for the 2004 Olympics in a fluke; he had an unexpectedly great race, while some of his competitors were injured or performed poorly. He placed 22nd at the 2004 Olympics, a strong showing for a rookie.
Two months later, his wife was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. She underwent radiation treatment throughout 2005. At one point, Potts had to stay 25 yards away from her so that he wouldn't get radiation poisoning. "It actually committed me to my training," Potts recalls. "She had four tumors that spread to her lungs, and the news just got worse and worse and worse. I remember running and thinking, You know what? We want to live on our own terms. We want to do what makes us happy without being dominated by outside forces. And that's when I sat down with Mike and said I wanted to see how good I can be at triathlons. And Mike said, 'I'm here.' " Lisa was betting her life on science (and won—she's been stable for almost three years), so Potts figured he'd bet his career on it too.
Working with Doane was risky. Although he was the resident swim coach for triathletes at the OTC, he wasn't trained to evaluate runners and cyclists. He did, however, know the basic principles of endurance training—increase stress and force the body to adapt by improving aerobic capacity, lactate threshold and strength—and figured that if he could measure the body's stress load, he'd see what needed to be done.
At first, Potts was skeptical about the constant monitoring. But Doane convinced him that, at his age (then 29), feedback was essential, particularly for a guy who thinks four-hour half-Ironmans are fun. Over time, Potts grew to enjoy being freed from the athlete's usual obsession with time and distance. "I've found that my inner gauge has married what I'm told by my watch," he says.
What neither Doane nor Potts anticipated was that their made-up program might provide a template for future endurance training. Joe Friel is already working on software that will automatically translate feedback data into workouts, much like Doane does each night. And because a feedback loop can be created from just about any data source—stress-hormone and lactate levels, muscle-tissue testing—programs similar to Potts's could work for any number of sports. The Austrian gold-medalist skier Hermann Maier, for example, has tried monitoring neuroendocrine and lactate levels for signs of muscular fatigue. Maier's program requires constant access to a blood lab, so for most athletes it's overly invasive and prohibitively expensive.
have they tried to do something along the lines of subjcts ing a peron to an enregy field to see whether that would either change their performance r allow someone to measure variations, which can the be corresponded to the bodies energy output.
This article was all well and good, but for high-ish level athletes none of this was new news. Many full-time athletes monitor restfullness by benchmark values on a wattage trainer, various heart rate "tests" etc... and adjust training load according to these values. This was just a long article telling the story of an American triathlete without much in the way of detailing "highly scientific training regimens".
He did not make it to the Olympics.
I enjoyed the article. I have done a couple of sprint triathlons and some marathons so it may have appealed to me more than other people.
I'll settle for a simple workout and some protein shakes, Then again, I don't plan to make the Olympics. My new invention is just fine for me, check it out at:
and a NASA sponsored contest at:
This was a great article which not only detailed the struggles of one olympic athlete along with his training regimen, but it gives insight on the novelty of feedback training focused on physiological and biological parameters (direct results of excersice and training such as heart rate) rather than their consequences (Since heart rate has been controlled, the athlete may run longer or faster, etc...) I think that the idea of measuring these parameters not only periodically but constantly throughout practices is definitely a wonderful tool for training and athlete's development since, as stated in the article, it provides a very good measure of the athlete's response to the previous training and whether rest or more training is required for future workouts.
This wonderful short story is exceptionally presented with a great introduction to the athlete, a moderate level of technical explanations worth of Pop Sci and very inspirational. Thank you Cohen.