Thursday, January 15, 2015

An interview with my coach Mark Linseman of LPC

I’ve been working with Coach Mark Linseman of Loaring Personal Coaching for over a year now (If you want to read about why I decided to hire a coach, take a look at my original post on the subject). I can honestly say it has been an incredible experience.

To celebrate the milestone, I asked Coach Mark if he’d mind doing an interview. Thankfully, he said yes! Given how much I’ve learned from him over the year, I really wanted to share some of his perspectives on coaching and training with you.

Our interview covered a wide range of topics: from his background and experience, his thoughts about working with me, his advice to new (and not-so-new) triathletes.

I admit, I found his answers fascinating. I think you will too.

Hope you enjoy!

Interview with Coach Mark Linseman of Loaring Personal Coaching

Why did you get into coaching?

I did a Masters in Exercise Nutrition & Metabolism at the University of Guelph. My thesis examined the importance of hydration and carbohydrate intake in hockey players. We found some "significant differences" between different conditions in our group of subjects, and we published a paper. But I was even more interested in some of the things we saw on an individual level. Of course anyone who knows about human research knows you can't publish a study with only one subject. So I was looking for a way to investigate individual differences while also using the evidence-based knowledge I gained (and continue to gain) from scientific research.

Coaching was a natural fit. It is basically an endless series of experiments with an "n" (number of subjects) of 1. As luck would have it, LPC Coach James Loaring happened to be looking for an associate coach, so I jumped at the opportunity. I have also done a lot of triathlons, which makes it easier to be a triathlon coach. 

What do you think sets LPC and teamLPC apart?

What sets LPC apart is doing more than just scheduling workouts. We provide highly personalized coaching for athletes of all levels, but we also provide more than that. Swim video sessions, bike testing, weekly group training sessions, clinics, races, a week-long training camp in Florida, hydration and fueling analysis (coming soon!), and above all, we try and create a supportive, inclusive and infectious team atmosphere.

We also recently launched the Hurdle Project, a not-for-profit subsection of LPC aimed at supporting our elite and future elite athletes, as well as a few dedicated young professionals who strive to succeed in both their work and their sport. 

What do you find to be the most rewarding and/or most challenging part of coaching?

One of the biggest challenges is trying to balance the scientific end of things with the individual end of things. The science may tell you one thing, but the individual tells you another. It's up to me to figure out when to side with the science and when to side with the individual. Or when to just flip a coin.

Coaching is very rewarding. I get to work with a lot of really great and unique people, people who are a constant source of motivation and inspiration for me. I get daily updates which show me how passionate and dedicated they are. I can't help but be inspired by that.

Your educational background is in exercise nutrition and metabolism. What's the most important thing people overlook when it comes to nutrition for triathlon?

The most important thing people overlook is themselves. Practice fueling and hydrating in your training and figure out what works for you. That may be different from what works for your training partner, or what works for that guy in that book you read.

If you are not sure where to start, come in for a hydration & fueling analysis! 

What are the accomplishments you're most proud of – in sport and in life?

My proudest sports-related accomplishment is winning my hometown race, the BluewaterTriathlon. I came off the bike in the lead, but got passed halfway through the run. At that point, I honestly felt that it was over. I wasn't going to win. Then I figured, why not see if I could keep up for a little bit? So I gathered myself and kept pace with my competitor, figuring I'd just see if I could hold on for another km. Then 1km turned into 2, and 3, and 4 – and suddenly I could see the finish. I sprinted to the line and won by a couple steps. Obviously the win was great, but more than that, I found out that I could push myself harder than I had previously thought I could.

My proudest non-sports accomplishment was completing my Masters thesis. Not only did I prove to myself that I could overcome obstacles and road blocks that at first seemed impassable, but I also learned from some very smart people how to think critically and how to apply scientific knowledge to real-life situations.

What's been the most important lesson (or two) you've learned from the coaches you've had over your life?

Consistency can help you achieve a lot of things. Success is gained not just by "working hard," but by constant gradual improvement.

What's been the most unique part about working with me this past year, compared to your other athletes?

Aside from this interview (which is great by the way!), I would have to say your attention to detail. You are impeccable in terms of recording times, paces, general comments about workouts, suggestions and questions about future workouts and planning...and you even make sure to enter future travel plans and scheduling issues right into TrainingPeaks so I don't miss them! Your commitment to improvement (and your amazing attitude) is very apparent in the feedback you give me every day.

What do you think my biggest improvements have been over the past year (recognizing you didn't work with me before that)?

 Running. 10k, half marathon, marathon, running off the bike in triathlon.

Where do you think my biggest opportunities for improvement are over the next few years?

Biking! Judging by the power numbers you've produced this winter, you have some huge potential here if you can continue to improve your outdoor riding skills.

What do you think makes a successful athlete/coach relationship?

I feel like I need to ask you the same question! From my perspective, I want an athlete who gives honest feedback, who is motivated to improve, and who strives to have their training complement the other aspects of their life.

Aside: Since he asked…my own answer is a coach who gets me as an individual (i.e., my goals, motivations and strengths/weaknesses) – who can help me improve and stretch/test my limits while having fun at the same time. For me, it’s also important to have a coach who recognizes I want to know more than just what to do training-wise. I also want to know why I’m doing it…which means a coach who doesn’t mind my asking questions.

For readers…Recognize that not all coaches/athletes share the same views of coaching, so fit is important – so don’t be afraid to ask questions about a prospective coach’s style before you decide to work with him or her. Personally, I think communication is essential – it’s one of the reasons I really like working with Coach Mark. He always provides thoughtful answers to my questions.

If you could give any advice to people just beginning their journey in triathlon, what would it be?

1.       Figure out why you like it. You can like it because it challenges you, or because it makes you feel good, or because it improves your health, or because of whatever else. You might like it for one reason at first, and then for another reason later. Either way, know why you like it.

2.      Always have a goal. It doesn't necessarily have to be performance-related, but it has to be something you can immediately point to and say, this is what is driving me to continue.

What's one question you wish more of your athletes (or potential athletes) would ask you?

It's not so much "one question" as it is "any questions." I want athletes to not be afraid to ask questions, and to not assume that I know all the answers (I know very few definite answers). In my opinion, coaching is not simply about the coach telling the athlete what to do, and the athlete doing it. It's an ongoing group project, a constant cycle of planning, execution, analysis, feedback and adjustment.
I can’t finish this post without a big thank you to my Coach Mark Linseman for taking the time to answer all these questions. I hope you found his perspective and thoughts as interesting as I did.
As mentioned, Coach Mark works with Loaring Personal Coaching. For more information about their coaching options, Florida Triathlon Camp (I will be going for a third time this March), and athlete testing services --  click here.
If you liked this interview - let me know. I would love to include more interviews with athletes, coaches, and event managers on here - but only if it's something you'd find interesting!

Speaking of interesting, if you'd like to read my thoughts about working with Coach Mark over this past year (and some) -- stay tuned for my next post.

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