Steve Magness: Coping Skills of Top Athletes, His Rules of Coaching, Science vs. Practice, Defining ‘Tempo’ (It’s Not Just a Heart Rate), Book Recs, and Much More

May 17, 2017


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Our guest Steve Magness is a coach to top distance runners including Olympians, World Championship qualifiers, and top 10 finishers at Major Marathons. He is also a lecturer and writer on the topic of science of performance. He has two books, including The Science of Running and the latest titled Peak Performance, which drops in June, along with numerous articles and a newsletter at the, and a podcast called “On Coaching” that can be found on iTunes. As many know, Steve’s also an accomplished runner himself.

Topics discussed with Steve:

  • Steve’s favorite topic these days in the sports world: psychology and the mind, and in particular what he’s learned coaching collegiate runners.
  • The distinct patterns of coping with pain and fatigue that he observes in his athletes – what the top performers vs. the rest do naturally.
  • Mental toughness with NO limits!
  • One thing Steve is sick of hearing or talking about: Weekly volume and/or weekly mileage – that’s missing the point!
  • Steve has a coaching program that’s unique from others out there – what is his work all about and what makes it different?
  • “We are consumed with becoming experts on the physiology and the technical, which is all well and good. But we’ve lost our teaching roots.”
  • For coaches, what matters: concepts or details? Steve has a more detailed article on this here.
  • We have to understand WHY we are doing certain things for our athletes, not just execute details.
  • What are some of his “rules of coaching.” See the full article here.
  • At the end of the day make sure it’s simple + usable.
  • “In an age where we are inundated with information, the problem is no longer collecting what the greatest minds on the planet do, it’s in making sure it is applicable.”
  • When working with an athlete and you see passion that could go too far and become destructive how do you “fix” that without bringing them down?
  • Why he thinks Malcom Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule misses the point, especially for endurance athletes. Read Steve’s full article here
  • “Instead of telling everyone they can be an expert with deliberate practice, let’s just say, you never will find out where your ceiling is without a lot of work. And to me, that’s what the journey is about. “
  • Seems like 10k hours is different with endurance sport where too much doesn’t always equate to success especially if you pile on too much too fast?
  • For athletes, is deliberate and smart practice for at least THREE years a better rule of thumb? It takes time to absorb training and figure out racing, and after 3 years it’s just beginning.
  • On patience!
  • Tackling battle between the scientific side and the practical side training. Where does Steve stand on this? Is there a balance and synergy between the two?
  • Some of us at EP want to know: What’s your definition of “tempo” is and where it fits with Z3, marathon effort, threshold?
  • Steve’s recommended reads

One Comment

  • flynn789 says:

    Loved the podcast. I’m a teacher and my goal as a teacher is that my students learn and also be able to teach themselves eventually. I wish I can find coaches who have Steve’s philosophy.

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