Archive for September, 2018

CoachCast: Coaching Advice with Joe Friel

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Joe Friel knows that you always get more than you give

Joe Friel has always given back to the endurance sports community he loves, but it was only when he faced an illness that left him on a training hiatus that he sat down to write the first of his many books. Since then, Joe has dedicated his life to endurance sports as the co-founder of TrainingPeaks and a triathlon and cycling icon.

This episode, Dave Schell sat down with Joe to discuss how the story of the Training Bible series and TrainingPeaks began, how endurance sports coaching has evolved since the 1980s, and advice Joe has for coaches.


The Cyclist’s Training Bible
The Triathlete’s Training Bible
Joe’s blog
Joe’s Twitter

The post CoachCast: Coaching Advice with Joe Friel appeared first on TrainingPeaks.

Common Problems You Have Coaching and How to Work Through Them

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Most coaches, once you’ve coached long enough, have seen a laundry list of issues that athletes go through. From changing workouts, not filling in their log, or having expectations beyond their current ability, it can be frustrating to say the least. As a coach you have to problem solve quite often.

In this article we’ll address the three most common problems in coaching athletes:

1. High Expectations: Expectations start from day 1 of your relationship

One of the biggest issues is when an athlete has high expectations and does not realize how far they have to go to achieve their goals. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of hard working athletes out there that will do whatever it takes to accomplish the mission, but there are a few that think they will magically race faster on race day, even though they haven’t swam, biked or run that fast all season.

The way to offset this issue is to set goals in the beginning of the season, have a progression of workouts that work toward achieving those goals, and then revisit them mid-season to see if the athlete is on track. Are they hitting all their workouts and staying on task? Is their testing data improving each month? If the answer is “no” to either of those questions, you may need to have a heart-to-heart conversation and explain how this endurance stuff works:

Do the prescribed workout,
Rest when it’s on the plan and come back stronger,
Repeat as many times as possible and keep working hard.

2. The athlete isn’t compliant with all of the workouts: A.K.A. Follow the D*mn Plan

For me, this is probably the hardest one. I can tame expectations and can work around the empty comments, but altering the workout, which is like altering the plan, is just plain wrong. When a coach sets up a block of training, whether it’s 3 weeks, 6 weeks, or more, there is a flow and progression to the workouts to help the athlete reach their goals.

When an athlete skips a workout, moves a workout, or decides to do their friend’s workout, we have a problem. I understand that there are times when the athlete wants to go faster or harder than what’s on the plan, but that’s when self discipline comes in. The athletes who can do the tedious workouts, no matter how hard or how easy, week after week, are the ones who will improve. There is very little magic to coaching, and in the end it really comes down to doing what’s on the calendar and doing it at the prescribed intensity.

3. The athlete will not fill in the comments in TrainingPeaks: Getting More than Just Numbers

The benefits of technology and where we are with coaching today is far better than where we were 20 years ago. Before TrainingPeaks, we were either writing workouts on paper and faxing them over or we were sharing Excel spreadsheets

However, with the ease of connecting your training device to your phone, which then syncs to Garmin and then TrainingPeaks, many athletes are missing the important part of the workout. Yes, they auto-uploaded the workout, but how did they feel? Are you shelled? Was it too easy? Was it too hard? What was your nutrition like? How do you feel now, two hours later? And, on and on the list goes as the coach.

Coaches are typically looking for a simple sentence or two: “Workout was tough. I hit the intervals, and I’m feeling better after my nap.” That’s it! That tells me, the coach, a ton. It was hard, and so hard you had to take a nap. If the next workout wasn’t a scheduled recovery day it would be now if I were the coach of this athlete.

Obviously, as a coach you need the feedback to measure how hard the athlete worked and what their mental state is post-workout. The numbers are awesome and they tell their own story, but getting the real dirt on how the athlete feels post workout is where the gold is.

The post Common Problems You Have Coaching and How to Work Through Them appeared first on TrainingPeaks.

How to “Bank” Sleep Before Your Next Ultramarathon

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Athletes have widely recognized the importance of adequate sleep for recovery and performance, and studies support what athletes know from hard-earned experience: Sleep deprivation can lead to more injuries and a reduction of muscle glycogen stores. It can also inhibit recovery of damaged muscles after training bouts; alter glucose metabolism; impair cognitive tasks and psychomotor functions; and lower immunity to illness. Sleep, in other words, is vital to recovering from training, and to performing well on race day.

But the very nature of some ultra-distance events, such as ultramarathons and ultra-triathlons, places athletes in a state of sleep deprivation that can negatively impact race performance. Ultramarathons of around 100 miles, for example, typically involve racing through at least one night. In the popular Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB), most finishers miss two nights of sleep before completing the course within the allotted time of 46 hours 30 minutes. Multi-day races, like the Marathon des Sables, extend sleep deprivation over several days. Athletes involved in these types of events need to prepare in advance to handle nights with little to no sleep.

If you’re planning to participate in an ultramarathon, what strategies should you use to deal with the inevitable sleep deprivation and set yourself up for your best performance?

According to recent studies on sleep and athletic performance, sleep extension (extending the amount of sleep you get) in the week or two prior to your ultramarathon—also known as sleep banking—can counteract some of the negative effects of the sleep deprivation you will experience.

Academic Evidence Supporting Sleep Banking

In a 2018 article in PLOS One, Tristan Martin and colleagues examined the sleep habits and strategies of runners competing in the UTMB. They found sleep extension in the days and nights prior to the event to be the most common strategy that runners used to prepare for the sleep deprivation they would encounter.

Notably, those runners in the study who engaged in pre-race sleep extension finished the race faster than those who did not. This result aligns with other research findings, including a 2016 article in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise by P.J. Arnal and colleagues, that show the benefits of “banking sleep” prior to periods of sleep deprivation. Additional research has shown that sleep banking not only improves performance, but also speeds recovery after periods of sleep deprivation.

Martin and colleagues speculate “that the longer the exercise, the greater the benefits that can be derived from sleep banking.” This means ultramarathoners who compete in events that span one or more nights stand to gain the most from pre-race sleep extension strategies. As a coach, I often advise athletes tapering for an event to take advantage of reductions in training time to squeeze in some extra sleep. This strategy should be even more central to an ultramarathoner’s final weeks of preparation for an event.

How to Bank Sleep for Ultra Events

Runners in the UTMB study achieved pre-race sleep extension through a combination of earlier bedtimes, later wake-up times and increased daytime napping. Many of the runners also adhered to good sleep habits or sleep hygiene, such as:

consistently going to bed at a regular time
paying attention to their need for sleep
abstaining from caffeine later in the day
avoiding lights and screens before bed

Good sleep habits help ensure that you bank that extra sleep and get quality sleep prior to the event.

Melatonin Supplementation

If you’re having trouble adjusting to an earlier bedtime, strategically timed melatonin supplements can help phase advance your circadian clock (that is, move your bedtime earlier). Take melatonin in the late afternoon or early evening—as opposed to right before bed—for maximum effectiveness; otherwise you may instigate a phase delay in your circadian clock (that is, move your bedtime later). Complement this with exposure to full-spectrum light upon waking in the morning.

A Note on Caffeine

Caffeine’s impact on sleep is also worth emphasizing. To help you bank sleep prior to your event, completely eliminate caffeine from your diet for two to four weeks. This will make it easier to engage in your sleep extension program in that final week or two. Eliminating caffeine from your diet will also translate into a bigger boost from the caffeine you ingest during the event itself.

If completely eliminating caffeine from your diet for a few weeks is out of the question, then avoid drinking coffee or ingesting caffeine beyond the morning hours. A 2016 study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that drinking coffee even six hours prior to bedtime can reduce sleep by an hour or more. Slow caffeine metabolizers are especially susceptible to disrupted sleep from caffeine ingestion later in the day.

Sleep extension holds valuable recovery and performance benefits for all athletes, but ultramarathoners may gain the most by banking sleep prior to events that involve racing through the night. As you approach your next ultramarathon, be sure to build extra sleep into your training plan during the final week or two. Your race performance—and post-race recovery—will benefit.

The post How to “Bank” Sleep Before Your Next Ultramarathon appeared first on TrainingPeaks.

3 Lessons I Learned In The Coaching World

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At the end of the 1970s, Ron Gunn, the athletic director at Southwestern Michigan College in Dowagiac, asked if I would help teach a class for beginning runners preparing them to run the Honolulu Marathon. Ron labeled the class Marathon 101. This was the decade of Frank Shorter winning Olympic gold, Bill Rodgers winning nearly every race he entered, and Joan Benoit winning the Boston Marathon wearing a Red Sox cap. Before then, only members of high school or college teams ran, but long-distance running was about to become mainstream.

Reflecting back on the class, Ron and I probably overtrained the runners blindly following us with too many miles. Few coaches in that era offered adult runners much advice or respect. During our previous coaching experiences, Ron and I had been with young runners. Our adults ran more miles than I might ask a similar group to run today.

Nevertheless, everybody (including my wife) finished Honolulu and had fun — one reason being that they spent nearly a year getting ready. The ramp up to high mileage had been gentle, so they gradually adapted to the stress. Thus, I learned my first lesson as a coach of adult runners:

1. You can run long distances if you take your time.

I also learned a lot, soon after, from a young runner. In the 1980s, our oldest son Kevin graduated from Indiana University and went to work for a Big-Eight accounting firm in Chicago. He chose, as his goal, qualifying for the 1984 Olympic Trials, meaning he would need to better an already difficult 2:19:05 standard. As a bottom-of-the-ladder accountant, Kevin worked long hours, which made double workouts difficult during the work week, but, like almost every other individual working a 9-to-5 job, he had Saturdays and Sundays off.

As our strategy, we decided to cram most of the hard work into the weekends: speed training on Saturdays and long runs on Sundays, plus a couple of easy (double-workout) runs each of those days to add mileage. To prepare for the weekends, we ran easy on Fridays or even took a day off. Mondays also became rest/easy days to recover from the hard weekend workouts.

The pattern proved perfect. In his next marathon, Kevin bettered the Olympic Trials qualifying standard by 10 seconds. Check any of my training programs in books or online and you immediately will recognize the same pattern.

2. Got a busy life? Run tough on weekends, rest before & after.

I carried this lesson into my next coaching experience with adult runners. By the 1990s, the Chicago Marathon, under the direction of Carey Pinkowski, had earned its place among the great 26.2-mile races of the world.

Elite runners setting world records out front set the tone of the race, but the pendulum had begun to swing toward the back of the pack with runners finishing in 3, 4, 5, 6 and even more hours. Carey asked me to work with a local runner, Brian Piper, to develop training programs for a class Brian taught for backpackers. Brian and I designed schedules for Novice, Intermediate, and Advanced runners that featured long runs on the weekends, but also a balance of mostly easy (more mileage) runs middle of the week.

That worked for Novice runners. Intermediate runners ran more miles. Advanced runners did speed work one or two days a week. The program was better balanced than my previous schedules, and the success rate was huge with 99 percent of the runners who completed the Chicago training program finishing the marathon. Their finishing time (3 or 4 or 5 or 6 hours or more) mattered little. Follow the program, and enjoyment was guaranteed, both training and in the ultimate race.

3. Find a class, follow a program, and success will be yours.

What began as a training class in Dowagiac for a few-dozen adult runners evolved into a system of training that, over a period of several decades, has attracted hundreds-of-thousands to my programs for the marathon as well as other distances.

Certainly, I had a successful career as a long-distance runner, my greatest achievement finishing as the first American at the Boston Marathon. I learned a lot from my own successes and failures, but learned even more from the many runners I coached.

I am proud of them.

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GTN Presents: How to Train at Your Sweet Spot For Cycling

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As part of the partnership between the Global Triathlon Network (GTN) and TrainingPeaks, we’ll be bringing you twice-monthly episodes of the new “Triathlon Training Explained” show, where hosts and former pro triathletes Mark Threlfall and Heather Fell answer your triathlon training questions with the help of TrainingPeaks software, coaches and industry experts from around the world.

When training on the bike, it can be hard to know just how hard to go in order to maximize your endurance and your power output at the same time. “Sweet spot” intervals, which are commonly referred to as intervals between 88 percent and 94 percent of your Functional Threshold Power are a great tool for increasing your FTP over time and dialing in your race day fitness.

If you don’t train with a power meter, you can still do sweet spot interval training on the bike using your heart rate threshold and keeping your effort between 75 percent and 85 percent of your maximum heart rate.

In the latest episode of GTN’s “Triathlon Training Explained,” host Mark Threlfall dives into why exactly sweet spot efforts are so effective, how often you should be doing them, as well as highlighting three solid sweet spot workouts to try on your own.

Watch the full episode below:   

Triathletes in the know like GTN’s Mark Threlfall and Heather Fell use TrainingPeaks to help plan, track and analyze their training. Dial-in your triathlon training with a free 14-day Premium Trial today!  

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