Category Archives: Athletic Performance

All things having to do with training for the purpose of improving performance.

Capitalize on Coaching Opportunities

Interactions with athletes are littered with opportunities to have a positive impact on their lives. It requires being present to their needs, what they’re asking, and what they’re open to at the present moment. Your athlete might be preparing to start an event requiring a little bit of last minute technique and mental preparation coaching. Or on the flip side of the event an athlete that just DNF’ed (Did Not Finish) might require some immediate empathizing and encouragement to allow the distress of the event to wear off before exploring what caused the DNF.  These are prime opportunities to have a lasting impact on the athlete’s future performance, whether it’s the event they’re about to start or the event after the DNF’ed event.

Last minute preparation is a very individualized process, however sometimes there are certain obstacles that can potentially derail our routine. When this happens I encourage athletes to have the courage to bring their concerns to the coach to work through whatever is going on. What a coach does with this opportunity is crucial to the athlete’s performance. The coach must acknowledge the athlete’s awareness of their own process, be very attentive to the athlete’s specific needs, and ensure that the athlete’s needs are met by the conversation. In this scenario the coach must take a holistic approach to ensure that the athlete is mentally and physically prepared for the upcoming event.

DNF’s can occur for a variety of reasons depending on the sport. The cause that is being addressed here is physical and mental preparation. This is a vulnerable time for an athlete because this is what they have prepared for. This situation calls for a much different response than the previous, but both require complete and total presence to the athlete. It’s the coach’s responsibility to figure out what happened, and wait for the opportunity to educate the athlete on what and why it happened. Then the coach must work with the athlete to implement a plan to ensure the same mistake doesn’t reoccur.

Allow this post to be an invitation to be present to each and everyone of your athletes. They’re individuals with different needs. It is your responsibility to meet those needs. I believe in your coaching ability. The question is do you?

Power Skating & Off Ice Conditioning Clinic

Power Skating – Our approach to power skating is technique based. Our teaching method is a tradition passed down from over 50’s years of figure skating and hockey history. We teach from the understanding that skating is an art.

  • Edges are our tools for connecting us to the game
  • Stroking is how we use our edges to paint the ice swiftly and smoothly
  • Turning is using our edges to stroke with the intention of changing direction
  • Starting is our first step towards getting where we need to be
  • Transitioning enables us to face the game without coming to a stop

Off Ice Conditioning – Our approach to off ice conditioning is based on the Long Term Athletic Development (LTAD) model. Educating young athletes on the importance of strength & conditioning is key to developing a life long commitment to being physically active. A secondary benefit from this educational process is improving athletic performance.

  • Warm-up & Pre-hab have many physiological benefits that improve performance and decrease the risk of sustaining a sport induced injury.
  • Power is a key component to our maneuverability in ice hockey. Learning how to become more powerful requires technique work, and understanding how we generate power physiologically & biomechanically.
  • Strength is our ability to stand our ground in times of being challenged for position. We’ll explore ways of improving our strength for all aspects of ice hockey and general conditioning.
  • Hockey Specific Training is about isolating the little nuances of the movement patters that are special to ice hockey, for example our bodies are broken into three sections in order to maintain a heads up style of play (head, torso, lower body). Understanding sport specific training opens up the possibility of knowing how to train specifically for other sports as well, feeding perfectly into the LTAD model.
  • Cool down & Stretching teaches our bodies to go from a high stress state down to a relaxation recovery state. This important step will enable us to perform optimally next time we are required to do so, with  reducing the risk of sport and potential overuse injuries.

Nutrition 101 – Nutrition is a corner stone to a healthy lifestyle. These sessions will be targeted towards the whole family.

  • Macronutrients – carbohydrates, proteins, and fats
  • Micronutrients – vitamins and minerals
  • Hydration
  • Sport Foods

Attention Competitive Cyclists! You Are Invited to Improve Your Start Performance!

Study Name:
Effect of Repeated Max Cycling Sprints on Simulated Cycling Standing Starts

Study Purpose:

As a competitive bicycle racer in road or mountain biking, your start performance is crucial to the overall outcome. More than likely you prepare for your race by performing a structured warm-up. By participating in this study you will have the opportunity to measure the effectiveness of your warm-up and improve your start performance. Whether you spin at a low intensity or perform multiple high intensity sprints before the start of your race, the outcome of this study will provide a measurement of the relationship between your pedaling cadence to peak torque and peak power output.

For many cyclists the terms of power output will be very familiar as Watts, a common measurement used on cycling computers. However, measuring torque- cadence relationship maybe new to you. Essentially your peak torque occurs at the beginning of your standing start and quickly drops as your cranks pick up speed, at which point your power output starts to climb. We’ll find out how long it takes and at what cadence your peak torque and power occur.

Eligibility Criteria:

1) Competitive racers in road, mountain, BMX, and track cycling disciplines.

2) Age 18-35

Time Commitment:

The experiment is designed to accommodate your schedule. You are required to attend three one-hour sessions with a minimum of 48 hours (2 days) to a maximum of 96 hours (4 days) between sessions.


Your participation can begin between 23rd May and 17th June. You choose the start date. The time of day is still to be determined.

Session Details:
Session 1: Orientation session to get acquainted with the SRM Cycle Ergometer, testing staff and fill out an informed consent and physical activity readiness questionnaire (PAR-Q) which are required in order to participate in the study.

Sessions 2 & 3: Testing. Bring your riding shoes and pedals. If you would prefer, we have SPD pedals for the bike as well as flats. Please come prepared to participate in a cycling activity that will consist of 5 or 8 maximum effort 6-second sprints with rest 15- seconds to 12-minutes between sprints. The day before and day of these sessions you are requested to avoid any high intensity training as we want you at 100% for the most accurate results. As well as avoiding alcohol the day before, and caffeine day of these sessions.


St. Leonard’s Land Physiology Lab

Holyrood Rd, Edinburgh EH8 8, United Kingdom


It’s important to note that you can withdraw from the study at any point for any reason without question. All data will be kept confidential. After your second session you will have the opportunity to see your results to see which warm-up protocol works best for you.

About the Investigator:

Daniel Heller is a mountain bike racer with an interest in studying the effects of warm- up protocols on performance. This is serving as his Master’s dissertation for the Master’s of Science in Strength and Conditioning at the University of Edinburgh. Daniel is a member of the Edinburgh University Cycling Club and an Enduro mountain bike racer who is as passionate as you about your sport.

Contact Information:

If you are interested in participating in this exciting study or have any questions, you are invited to contact Daniel Heller or Dr. Tony Turner.

Skating Efficiency

Let’s talk about conditioning for ice hockey, shall we? I want you to ask your self a couple questions about off ice conditioning: 1) Are you running your players endless? 2) Are they running at a steady pace? The answer should be “NO” to both questions. Here are two things you should be doing instead:

  1. Do right by your athletes by spending time working on skating efficiency. No matter how hard you run them off ice, if they can’t transfer the benefits of off ice conditioning to on ice performance via efficient skating, then it’s all for not. But if you train them off ice effectively, and team them to be efficient on ice then it’s a win win situation.
  2.  Off ice you should be focusing more on a fartlek style interval training. If you’re not familiar with that, it’s randomized interval training comprising of sprinting, running, and walking. Think about the sport in question, ice hockey, we sprint, glide, skate at a steady state for a moment.

Number should be a no brainer, simply stand around yelling at your athletes to sprint, run, or walk at various random intervals for 10 minutes, then let them rest for 5 minutes then repeat 2 more times. Be creative in those five minutes. However there is a dilemma with number 1! Are you qualified to teach your skaters how to skate efficiently? Having been a skating coach for 9 years, I’ve had the privilege of producing some phenomenal skaters. Most of my skaters have gone on to play AAA, high level prep school, and juniors back east. I’ve also spent lots of time undoing bad skating habits accumulated from years of bad skating instruction. If you have any doubts about what efficient skating looks like, then go talk to a figure skating coach. Yes, I’ve only played ice hockey, but I’ve had the same skating coach since I was 8 years old, Gary Visconti. The skating instruction I pass onto my skaters is a tradition. It’s that simple. If you want to discuss effective ways of creating efficient skaters, please feel free to contact me.

Playing Connect the Dots

The Assignment of Life

Today’s theme was about connecting the dots. So much of what we do in the world of strength and conditioning is playing connect the dots to formulate that optimal program that will enroll the coach to inspire his athletes to come to us so that we can help fill the gaps with a little S&C to boost them to that next level. Coaching an athlete towards reaching that next level takes understanding, empathy, compassion, knowledge, and building rapport. Few athletes care about the process we go through so that we can provide them with the tools they need.

We begin to see the dots the moment we know the sport we’ll be working with. Name a sport and the dots will start to appear. It’s these dots of information that need to be connected in order to achieve the desired outcome.

At this point you’re probably asking yourself; so what? What’s the practical application of this theme “Playing Connect the Dots”? Take a moment to think about it…

Think of an adverse situation that you’re currently facing. Now that you have it, sit with it. Do you see the dots? If not, you should look at it a little closer. Once you decide to slow down to have a closer look, you’ll notice that this chaos is simply caused by you not taking the time to connect the dots in the way they’re supposed to be. When you connect these dots, everything will become clear.

Remember that these dots represent the life you’re living. See what you want to see.

The Beginning of a Squat Depth Discussion

Squat depth has been a hot topic for the last few years. So what? Exactly! So what?!

Here’s what; your ability to squat, regardless of depth, is your ability to coordinate your body in relationship to flexion and extension of your ankles, knees, hips, lumbar spine, thoracic spine, and cervical spine.

Again, you ask, so what?

Well, think about the movements that require these specific ranges of motion: sitting and standing anywhere, depressing a vehicle pedal, grabbing something off of a high shelf or in a low cabinet.

ADL is an acronym that is used regularly in the exercise world, it stands for Activities of Daily Living. For most of us the activities I listed above are ADL’s, so we must do what we can to maintain the ability to perform them as long as possible. Does that mean you need to squat down to the point where your ass is on the ground with 600 pounds on your back?

In an ideal perfect world we’d all be able to move pain free through natural ranges of motion. We don’t live in that world, so what should we do. As with all aspects of life, do the best you can…

What is the best you can? If you don’t know what I’m talking about ask… This should be an open discussion.

The below clip is me demonstrating a front squat… I can be knit picky with technique and biomechanical observations that irritate me, but I’ll curtail my judgements for a future discussion.

My Commitment… Monday & Thursday

Tiger Mt. 5/31/15
Tiger Mountain peak in Issaquah, Washington. 4 mile fire road climb and nothing but single track to the bottom.
Last week I made the commitment to begin posting two blogs a week: Monday & Thursday. The topics will cover are whatever I’m feeling that day, a current project, a frequently asked question, an interview with a fellow strength & conditioning coach, or a piece by one of my athletes.

This new commitment was the result of a  conversation with parents of a youth cross country (XC) mountain bike racer. It was brought to my attention that I preach about youth athletic development, and the need to encourage athletes to sample various sports and follow their desire to try new things. Apparently I have a lot to say on that topic.

I see that I have two  main priorities when it comes to youth athletes: First to decrease the risk of sport induced injury and improve athletic performance, both  by teaching them how to move properly in time and space (proprioception and kinesthetic awareness). And second is to educate them on the importance of living a healthy balanced life through nutrition, stress management, and joys of staying fit.

Athletic ability is something that can be improved at any age. I’m still improving! The picture above, aside from being beautiful and encompassing the heart of the Pacific Northwest, is an example of why I spend time in the gym. Being able to participate in sports that I’m passionate about is key to leading by example. All the effort that I put into minimizing my risk of injury and improving my performance inspires my athletes to do the same. This will have a trickle down effect for generations to come.

Why Today’s Young Athletes Deserve a Strength & Conditioning Coach

In today’s world of multi sport youth athletes, the fundamentals of movement development have been put to the side to make room for the sport specific movements. I see this predominantly in the sports that I spend the most time training: Figure Skating and Ice Hockey.

So what is my role as a strength and conditioning coach for these up and coming athletes? It’s my responsibility to ensure that when they leave our sessions, they have a clear understanding of what the future of strength and conditioning holds for them. We spend the time to break down the fundamental human movement patterns, from rolling, to crawling, to squatting, to walking, to running, then lifting. And onwards to the more complex Olympic lifts.

To the parents of young athletes: Investing in a sound strength and conditioning program for your young athletes is a smart investment.

What can you expect from your investment:

  • Reduce the risk of sport induced injuries, including concussions
  • Improved self image (self-esteem and confidence)
  • Improvement in athleticism
  • Increase the possibility of making that next level team or performance category
  • Learn proper exercise techniques and lifestyle habits that last a life time**

**That last item is not only the key to athletic performance but the key to reversing the epidemics that our society is facing. Yes, those elephants in the room: obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, that are caused by the overall sedentary lives that a majority of our population is living.

Take the time to find that Strength & Conditioning Coach that is going to coach your young athlete to a life of athleticism and health.

@orion_j_herman getting in his RDL's for the day.

A post shared by Daniel Heller, CSCS (@coach_danh) on

@weswagnerypr pulling 383×3 #ProudCoach #AllAboutThoseGains

A post shared by Daniel Heller, CSCS (@coach_danh) on

Mobility Vs. Flexibility

Are the terms Mobility and Flexibility interchangeable? Before we discuss that, let’s take a look at the definition of both:
Mobility: the ability to move or be moved freely and easily
Flexibility: the quality of bending easily without breaking

Simply by definition, they are not interchangeable. They are however easily swopped out for each other. Training flexibility and training mobility are two totally different beasts! Both need to be respected and practiced.

An example of training mobility is the “Overhead Squat”. Being able to retract your shoulder blades, expanding your thoracic cavity, extending your thoracic and lumbar spine, breathing into the belly, as our hips, knees and ankles flex, preventing our head from protruding out in front of our shoulders. Total body engagement and awareness.

An example of improving flexibility is the splits. Flexibility is about breathing and relaxing into a stretch, allowing gravity or an external force to open or a close a joint by relaxing the muscle that is preventing that joint from going through it’s full range of motion.

There are books, websites, and studies on this topic… My intention is for you to see a quick glimpse of the similarities and differences. And invite you to include both in your training.


The fear of success after injury

A few weeks ago I posted a blog about getting hurt in a beer league hockey game. That was the last time I put on my equipment. I thought about playing Friday but then I realized I’m not ready. I showed up anyway to watch my teammates play. They won the game but that’s not the point. The point is that I wanted to be on the ice but I know at 31 years old, sustaining 11 concussions and a brain contusion, I can’t play that way anymore. I can’t sustain hits to the head, being knocked out every week. No matter how hard I try I  seem to attract the attention of some aggressive outbreak. So where do I draw the line, coaching, teaching, watching?