My favorite athletes are my coachable athletes. A coachable athlete is consistent, vulnerable, motivated, receptive, communicates, provides feedback & results, etc…you get the idea. Julie Foucher is the perfectly coachable athlete.
As all my athletes know, I need several baseline max effort running results in order to initially evaluate your cardiorespiratory endurance (gather, process & deliver oxygen) and stamina (process, deliver, store & utilize energy). I use these results to evaluate the relationship between each respective performance which highlights the initial training focus (more speed or more endurance).
I asked Julie for the same information. As a side note, Julie has logged every one of her workout results on Beyond The Whiteboard. Interestingly, after completing my review of her results, I found her 400m PR time at 72sec to be much too slow given all of her high intensity CrossFit experience, plus she was a former high school 200m track athlete. I believed the 72sec result had to be a mistake so I asked her to retest her 400m.
Later that week, Julie hit this same 72sec result. She also described having an “emotional breakdown” with the workout and detailed how she had to make several attempts prior to finishing. Although this is very common in athletes, I was pleased that Julie shared this with me so that we could create programming that addressed this limitation.
We spent our first 2 months doing general “on-boarding” workouts to build her structural foundation and running speed. We also focused heavily on pacing while developing a wide range of speeds at a multitude of interval & workout distances. In my assessment, it was important that I didn’t misinterpret this struggle as a fear of suffering or weak pain tolerance. Let me be 100% clear, Julie has an incredible intrinsic & extrinsic motivation which pushes her into the deepest levels of pain. In addition, Doug Chapman, Julie’s long time CrossFit Coach, had built an endurance engine that enabled her to sustain paces at 95% of her VO2 Max. In summary, pain & suffering is a familiar & comfortable space for Julie.
Our breakthrough workout that put the puzzle together finally came when I asked Julie to perform a max effort mile. Interestingly, her 3rd lap split was almost 10sec slower than her 1st and 4th lap splits. Clearly, Julie had no issues attacking the start and closing out her final lap with an amazing finishing kick. I realized that Julie was not having “emotional breakdowns” in these max effort events. We recognized that it was her mid-race decision making process that was hyper-analyzing her internal & external fatigue. As a result, she was over-regulating her performance.
To clarify, most athletes struggle at the 2/3 point in a max effort race. Do you push forward or back off on your pace when you hit your sticking point? Your performance will depend on the balance between how you expected to feel verses how you actually feel at your sticking point. As an example, if you underestimated your level of fatigue and/or pain when you arrive at your 3rd lap of that mile for time then you consciously and subconsciously will naturally slow. This is why all athletes must assess each workout and/or race to determine their individual sticking point as well as their corresponding level of discomfort so that they are not surprised when that “something is not right” or that “I’m in trouble” feeling begins to surface.
The below hybrid workout is an example of how we addressed the subject of proper workout assessment as well as balance between perceived & actual fatigue at her sticking point.
Set 1: 800m in 3:36, 1min rest, 500m in 2:05
5min rest b/t sets
Set 2: 800m in 3:36, 1min rest, 500m in 2:05
5min rest b/t sets
Set 3: 2x300m in 67sec; 2x200m in 37sec w/ 200m easy jog b/t all reps.
4min rest b/t sets
Set 4: 800m 3:36, 1min rest, 500m in 2:05
Workout Details: The core of this workout is the 3rd set. The 3rd set is programmed to be fast with only a 200m easy jog recovery between all the 300s and 200s. The rest after this set is 4min.
Julie retested her 400m max effort in Cookeville, TN after nearly 5 months of work. What makes the below video so amazing is that the 400m was performed just after she completed 5000m of intervals with Camille LeBlanc-Bazinet. Also, prior to the the 400m, I explained to Julie that she had to pass through the 300m point in under 50sec or I would stop her from completing the 400m. I still smile when I picture how Julie looked at me after I explained my 300m rule. She inquisitively said, “I don’t understand that 50sec cutoff rule of yours because I will still hit a huge PR if I come through at 51?!!” My objective was to get her thinking only about the 300m point. And Julie passed through 300m in 49sec!!
Julie and I filmed the below podcast at the 2015 CrossFit Games. We addressed this subject of emotional breakdowns and many others in our conversation. Check it out and let me know your thoughts.
- Chris’s career as a world-class Ironman triathlete and what his training was like for nearly a decade
- How he discovered CrossFit and its impact on his life and health
- Bringing CrossFit to the endurance community and vice versa
- How he assesses an athlete’s aerobic capacity needs
- Our experience working together this year and how he helped me to reach my 400m TT PR milestone
- How he manages coaching and programming for so many athletes
- What drives him to help make athletes better through his endurance programming and coaching
- Three things he does on a regular basis that have the biggest positive impact on his health
- One thing he struggles to implement that could have a big impact on his health
- What a healthy life looks like to him