Omega Sports is excited to welcome our newest host and MEGA Wellness Partner Matt Clancy. Matt is the director of Endurance Performance at E3 Endurance. He’s been working with athletes and coaches for a long time. Getting to know what makes people tick, how they get to where they’re trying to go, and what motivates them is something he’s passionate about.
Listen to the full interview on The Omega Sports Endurance Podcast.
Who is Matt Clancy?
Matt is from Washington DC and grew up in the Virginia area. He attended college at West Virginia University, where he got his Bachelor’s in journalism. Upon returning to DC, he coached little league football. One of the most interesting things about coaching was its psychological aspect. He had a quarterback that needed to be team leader, and that sparked Matt’s interest.
He went on to UNC Greensboro for his Master’s in sports psychology and learned about helping athletes mentally. During that time, he raced as a professional triathlete and coached other athletes. He has been in Greensboro for the past 16 years, and he loves it. He is the director of E3 Endurance where he continues to work with athletes to improve their game.
He has been involved with endurance sports since college. He grew up playing football, tennis, and track & field. When he got to college, he found running. Once he learned he could compete in running, he signed up for his first 10K in Pittsburgh. He didn’t really know what he was doing, he just knew he had to run for 6 miles. When he crossed the finish line, something in him changed.
Since then, he has continued learning and growing through competing and through work at E3 Endurance. Matt tried to be the best single sports coach he could be, thinking that would help multisport athletes, and he thinks it has. He has had the pleasure of working with a lot of athletes that have gone on to do amazing things. At E3 Endurance, they coach, train, and test athletes. They do biomechanic consulting, bike fittings, and they also put on junior events. Building a community is an important focus.
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What are endurance sports?
Enduring something means that you have to get through it. You have to deal with all the challenges, the hardness of it, the length of it, and the difficulty of it.
With triathletes, enduring usually comes from the distance. The further you go, the more you have to endure. Or the harder the environment, the more you have to endure. And that’s what a lot of endurance athletes enjoy, the difficulty, the challenge, the length, the intensity, the climate.
Matt has found out that working with those types of athletes is interesting. Why do we need to go further or faster or higher? What is it in us that welcomes the suffering to push the envelope even further?
What is the VO2 Max?
The VO2 Max tests an athlete’s ability to uptake oxygen, which is to say, how well they utilize the oxygen they are breathing. The higher the number, the better you utilize oxygen. Cyclists are among the better-known athletes for doing VO2 Max tests. They typically have scores upwards in the 80-90 range for VO2 Max. That’s a huge number. Most professional athletes will fall in the 70’s to 90’s. That means they can go faster and further because they are using that oxygen as fuel. More oxygen is supplied to the working muscles, whereas a less fit person, with a much less VO2 Max, typically can’t go as fast. They just can’t supply enough oxygen to their working muscles. Finding out what the VO2 Max score is beneficial because it helps an athlete figure out where they fall in regards to their age.
How does E3 Endurance help you improve your VO2 Max?
The easiest way is to simply lose weight. For a lot of people that might be challenging. For athletes that have 5% body fat and have VO2 Max of about 68, how do they improve it when they have little weight left to lose? They have to train based on certain thresholds that are measured during VO2 Max testing.
One of the neat things about VO2 Max testing is – the further we go, the more fuel we burn. With the testing that E3 Endurance does, it’s not just the VO2 Max. The testing also tells you what type of fuel you’re burning.
If you know you’re going to run your marathon at roughly 140 BPM, we know how many calories you’re going to burn during those 3 hours. From there it’s just some simple math.
One of the fascinating things about sports psychology and VO2 testing is that the body takes the fuel you put into it and it pushes it to the places where it is needed most. One of the areas that doesn’t get fuel is your mind. As you’re running, your body and muscles are doing the work, so all the fuel is going to your muscles and not the brain. You’re working hard and your body is doing the best it can, but your brain is getting less and less fuel.
The biggest part of improvement for athletes is allowing time for recovery. Most athletes will work hard but most fail to allow the proper recovery time. They don’t take days off, they don’t sleep properly, they’re pushing their bodies 16-20 hrs a day, burning a lot of calories. And they’re asking their bodies to respond when what they need is rest.
That’s the reason why testing is needed. It helps athletes recover from all the stuff they’re doing. Most athletes will, without the numbers or testing, take themselves to places they can’t go and see their performance decline. Recovery is key for doing all that we do, and going as far we go.
E3 Endurance improves your positioning
Another thing at E3 Endurance that they do is figure out how to help athletes get better at what they do. Whether it’s swimming technique, running stance or how are they positioned on the bike, your technique is important. And that’s what Matt has been doing for the past 20 years – he has helped people get into a better position. If you’re in a bad position there is only so much you can do to overcome that inefficiency before you hit a ceiling. Some athletes are super strong and they can overcome bad positions to some degree, but when you fix an athlete’s position, it’s a game-changer.
Getting athletes in that perfect position allows them to become stronger. Endurance sports require a lot of repetition, and if you’re in a bad position, it’s going to make things worse as time goes on.
What is a junior athlete?
A junior athlete is any athlete that hasn’t fully developed yet, they are still growing. That’s typically ages 5 to upwards of 21 years old. When you work with junior athletes, you definitely don’t want to train them as adults. Juniors are different people with different needs, they’re not little adults. They are developing individuals. And you really need to look at it from that aspect. You can’t overtrain them, because their bodies can’t handle as much endurance. They recover really well, but lack in every other aspect. You have to put them into an environment that is safe and helpful to be able to train them efficiently.
At E3 Endurance, they teach juniors how to move better, go faster, and make sure the environment is safe. They make sure juniors wear the proper clothing, stay hydrated, and are kept in the shade as much as possible.
You have to help or manage a junior athlete. It’s important to say things like, “do you really want to go this far this soon? Here’s why you may not want to, and here’s why you should practice getting faster at a 5K.” You have to take everything at an individual level.
When you have 10 12-year-olds, you have to keep the training focused. Once the kids know what they’re doing, then they can wrap their minds around it. We want to work on speed. We don’t want to go far because we have to make sure we’re doing the mechanics right. We’re focusing on moving fast inside those mechanics. And it needs to be kept fun because when you take the fun out of it, it comes off as torture.
One of the greatest things about juniors is that they have this opportunity to develop at this biological level. There’s a window of opportunity when it comes to training juniors.
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