Daisyway – the right coaching programme for you
02 September 2016
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Gerald de Kock: Hi and thanks for downloading another edition of our Old Mutual Live Mountain Bike podcast where we talk all matters mountain biking. We meet the personalities and the people who make this sport tick and make it such a vibrant environment.
An environment that has attracted so many people to it over the years, in such a short space of time it must be said. It’s still a fairly young sport but there are so many options across the board in terms of stage races, one day races. South Africa is blessed with an environment that we can get out there and enjoy riding.
In order to enjoy it, you have to be in pretty good shape physically, mentally and have the skills to be able to deal with those obstacles that mountain bike races tend to throw up. One of the ways to do it is to get some coaching and down in the Western Cape. It’s not Western Cape based because in this day and age you can download things all over the world, but Daisyway is a coaching business run by Spook Groenewald and Erica Green. Erica Green…
Erica Green: Hello, it’s me again.
GDK: How are you Erica?
EG: I’m good, thank you.
GDK: Daisyway, where did the name come from?
EG: That’s a long, quick story. My darling husband used to coach me and I was always so tired and I used to look dazed, so he used to call me ‘Daisy’. But anyway, the flower stuck and I love painting flowers and things like that. But anyway, I think throughout my career, I was a bit of a non-conformist and so I like to do things my way. So I used to call it the Daisyway and that’s honestly just like a silly story, but that’s kind of where we started.
How we operate
GDK: Right, so, what are athletes, are you taking novices? I know you deal with riders preparing for the Epic, what’s the broad spectrum?
EG: I think Gerald, just from the onset, one of our philosophies, our main philosophy is that one size does not fit all. We are completely personalised, we take each individual person completely separately. Starting off with lab testing, planning sessions and then looking at their goals. Then figuring out how we’re going to get from this point to that point.
We have to work very carefully because a lot of them, our core market really is male corporate, very busy. We have to create plans that they can achieve. It’s pointless asking anyone to do something that’s not possible or too difficult because I think it can put them off. Our interest really is to see longevity in all our athletes, so yes, I think we have to come up with a plan that’s fun and achievable. Then at the end of the day, give the results that you’re looking for.
GDK: How does it work? I’m based in Johannesburg say and I’m training for a specific event, and you send me a programme. Do I then send you feedback, what I’ve done and how I’ve done it?
EG: Yes, so we’ve identified a couple of testing centres around the country. But today, with Garmin and the Power meters, that’s probably the best way. Is getting the data from the athletes and then we can screen them and come up with all their thresholds and their training zones and all sorts of things.
But basically it’s pretty much a two-way relationship and the more communication we receive from the athletes, the more we can give as well. We like to make sure that our athletes communicate with us regularly, but they send us their training data and then we analyse it on our training tools. Then send them back the feedback and we moderate the training according to that as well.
Ensuring our clients are successful
GDK: It sounds as though it could all be done remotely, but in fact you do need to see these athletes don’t you?
EG: Absolutely. We either go up to Jo’burg or when we do get a chance. But yes, it’s probably one of the most important factors and where we are most key in any coaching is actually the practical. We do try and make time to get up to our athletes in Johannesburg or Durban. Down here in Cape Town we obviously then put out on our little communicators, we’re going to meet in Grabouw and go for a ride or whatever, but skills coaching, Spook is a good skills guru.
We’re just busy bringing up to speed a couple more coaches to be able to ride more often with our athletes. It’s very much all-encompassing. At the end of the day, we must do anything and everything possible to ensure that that person is successful and if that’s your motive, then I think you can’t go wrong.
GDK: What’s that balance between success and enjoyment? There are a lot of people who put a lot of pressure on themselves to do well and sometimes they lose the enjoyment?
EG: Sure, I think whatever system you’re using must be measurable for the athlete. So either time trials or Power or whatever, but sometimes that’s what the coach is there for. Is to tell someone who has got this capacity, 120% capacity and still wants to become semi-pro or pro. Then we’ve got to say that hey, somethings going to give.
It’s just being honest with your athletes as well. But sometimes when an athlete signs up with a coach, they want that instant gratification or instant results. Sometimes it’s not, you know, it’s an endurance sport. I remember when I was racing Alta Kriegler said to me: Three years Erica and I thought what, three years, no ways man!
If I look historically at all the guys that we’ve had for that length of time, that’s only really when they come into their own. The same thing, it’s actually three, four months after the Epic that they get into gear and they can all of a sudden, they’re on a different level. If you look at how much training they did leading up to going through the emotional and the mental experiences and that’s what you get left with, is a seasoned athlete.
Who have you worked with?
GDK: Obviously you get some of the top riders, tell us who you’ve worked with.
EG: Well, Sakkie and Hannes Hannekom. I think they’ve, 26 was their best overall and look, they’ve also been cycling for a hell of a lot of years. They were juniors, they were little ‘pikkies’ when I was racing.
GDK: So what do you add to those guys who have had that experience?
EG: Both Sakkie and Hannes work fulltime, they’re farmers, it’s quite a tough job. Farming is not easy, so my job really is, well, in their training. The secret ingredient for them really was low volume and high intensity and then also balancing the rest and recovery.
If you’re tired, you cannot perform and if you’re tired, you cannot perform in training and you cannot perform in racing as well. I think that’s another mistake that South African riders make. We don’t have a snow season where you cannot go outside and train. So you go and do cross training, you’re switched off from cycling. Our riders never really switch off, in fact they ramp up in the summer months.
Sakkie and Hannes, they take a complete break for about 3-4 months during winter and then only really in October do we get going with Epic specific preparation. Which is really fine-balancing the volume so as not to make them too tired. But it’s all in those weekly interval sessions.
GDK: There’s a strongly held belief that South Africans tend to over-emphasize on endurance and time in the saddle and not pay nearly as much attention to skills.
An over emphasis on endurance
EG: Yes, and if you think skills, also filters into your fatigue factor. If you don’t have the skills, then you’re more tense on a descent or you can make a mistake more easily. We’re seeing a lot of the roadies coming over from road to mountain biking. They’ve got the fitness, but their skill, it’s not bad, but that could be the difference between a top ten and a top 50 perhaps. Skills all the way.
In fact, at the UCI World Cycling Centre last year, we were watching the u23 world team from UCI doing skills work on their road bikes around cones on a grassy field. You laugh, but what you pick up from there. Silly stuff, if you’ve got to pop up a pavement and it’s just sharpening stuff and it actually makes the riders more aware of the necessity for skills.
Skills training, I cannot emphasize enough. We got asked, we do a lot of skills training as well, a women’s group wanted to go down a 2m drop and bunny hop over a rock. I said: Right, come, we can meet. I said: Can you turn a corner, can you balance on your bicycle and can you pedal your bicycle properly and your attack position. They couldn’t do any of that, but they wanted to do all the tough stuff first and that’s really where we start. We get all those fundamentals right and usually when those fundamentals are in line, everything comes right.
GDK: We’ve talked a lot about the athletes who are riding things like Epic and big events, but do you focus on the very young and the very new to the sport?
EG: Our core market really is the lifestyle athlete and simply because that’s where the greatest need is. We’ve obviously got a stable of high performance athletes in the younger categories which we will treat like pros and train them like pros. But you’ve got to have that element of enjoyment as well.
I feel so bad, when you’ve got to do quite specific training and you normally ride in a group and it’s social. I think it’s really important as a coach to be able to balance that with the fun factor and to make sure that they do enjoy it. I can honestly say, I think, whoever listens and I’m wrong I apologise, but 100% of our athletes who we’ve coached through the ABSA Cape Epic still ride and still enjoy their bikes. I really think that’s very important.
What’s the toughest task you’ve had?
GDK: Finally, what’s the toughest task you’ve had? Has anyone pitched up here two weeks or a month before Epic and said: I’ve just got this injury, what can I do or what should I do?
EG: Sjoe, I could write a book! We’ve had some quick fixes but you must also remember that anything, any event really, there’s many aspects to being successful and probably in life as well. But preparation and if you look at all the other little aspects, like pacing and riding with a partner and nutrition and hydration.
We actually run camps and courses where we do seminars. Like a one-day thing, we’ll go for a ride in the morning. But we’ll actually sit and talk about the specific characteristic and demands of the events, but one case does stand out.
I think it was André Collins and Roelof van Riet, they came to see us six months before the Epic, also never having ridden mountain bikes before. Needless to say, we just guided them, they didn’t want to come, in fact I think they used our generic programme.
But without the guidance of a coach, they also tend to, you can over-train and that’s a big thing. It’s like, if I do a little bit more and that’s always too much. But anyway, they stuck to the plan, they came on our training camp in December and Roelof fell on his face.
I was thinking, okay, it’s just a few months away, but we could probably do some skills. We took them for skills training, but the cherry on the cake was when they came here. When Bart Brentjens and his entire team had invaded our entire household here. They said: We’re just quickly popping through, can Spook quickly do a mechanical workshop for us, like a mechanic, teach us about fixing chains.
Anyway, they pitched up here and then Roelof has got this beautiful new bicycle, it’s got blood all over the frame. I said: What’s going on. He said: Nee, ek het nie geweet die disc brakes is so sterk! Anyway, we cleared a little spot right here where we’re sitting and Spook, on his hands and knees with the guys, André and Roelof, they went through fixing chains, tyres, tubes, everything. They’ve done, hey, how many Epics to date? Fantastic.
GDK: Fantastic stories and fantastic work you’re doing Erica, you and Spook, an amazing set-up. The passion and enthusiasm is the one thing I think that comes through, which I think is above all else, the most important thing.
EG: I just think it’s such a privilege to have evolved to where we are, having been professional riders. It was a completely natural progression or evolution and I think there’s a lot of information out there. Go and do your research, just have fun on your bikes.
GDK: www.daisyway.co.za, check it out and get to know a lot more about that programme and your bike. Because ultimately that’ll bring you a great deal of pleasure. Erica Green chatting to us today on our Old Mutual Live Mountain Bike podcast, get on your bike and you’ll get plenty of pleasure. Until next time, cheers.