Archive for November, 2018

CoachCast: Data Overload with Tim Cusick

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In today’s world of big data, is technology improving endurance sports coaching or is it just a distraction for coaches and athletes, alike? As the advancement of performance technology outpaces actual use, coaches are faced with staying on top of new developments while also sifting through a lot of noise. Are you prepared to get the most out of your athletes’ data?

WKO Product Lead Tim Cusick explains how he thinks coaches should approach the relationship between data and coaching. In addition to coaching high performance athletes, Tim leads the WKO team to develop and implement advanced data analytic tools for WKO software.



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Athletes and Blood Clots: Know Your Risks

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John, the head lifeguard at our local pool, is finally back in action. He’d been on vacation in New Orleans a few months ago when he noticed that his left foot was swollen. “It was funny. I hadn’t twisted it or anything” he told us. Upon seeking medical help, John was found to have a blood clot in this leg, also known as deep vein thrombosis or DVT. Recovery was a long road—but could have saved his life.

What is DVT?

DVT is diagnosed 750,000 to 1,000,000 times per year in the United States alone— Serena Williams and Hilary Clinton are both survivors. The condition, while common, is also quite serious. Symptomatic clots can lead to low oxygen levels in the blood, heart failure or even death—and a small percentage of these clots actually break loose, move up the venous system and lodge in the person’s lung. In this location they’re called pulmonary embolus, or PE, and they can be rapidly fatal.

What are the Symptoms of DVT?

Although some athletes have no symptoms with DVT, many others will experience swelling and/or pain in one leg more persistent than standard sore muscle pain. The symptomatic athlete may also demonstrate sudden shortness of breath, chest pain or discomfort, increased pain with deep breathing or cough. They might be dizzy or light-headed, have a rapid pulse or even cough up blood.

What are the Risk Factors in Developing DVT?

Unfortunately athletes are a “perfect storm for a DVT,” says Dr. Jim Muntz of the Ironman Sports Medicine Center in The Woodlands, TX. Physical fitness often correlates with a low blood pressure, which can be exacerbated by dehydration around racing or training. This sets athletes up for a “slowing or sludging of the blood, possibly leading to a leg clot” according to Muntz.

Athletes on birth control pills or post-menopausal estrogen; those with a positive family history; or those who spend long periods sitting or laying down post-race are also at particular risk. It also doesn’t help if the athlete has pre-existing bruising or inflammation.

Think about your last race: maybe it was hot, and maybe you were a little behind on fluids. Perhaps you had a long drive or a flight coming up and you’re healing from a crash a few weeks prior. Most of the time you’ll be fine (and even if you do get a clot, most dissolve on their own) but it’s also good to be aware that these are all risk factors in creating a potentially serious condition.

When to Seek Medical Attention

If you notice any of these symptoms, and notice that the risk factors apply to your situation, it’s worthwhile to seek a prompt medical evaluation. It can be days, even weeks after a clot forms before symptoms surface, and they can be deceptively subtle. Simply put, if you have pain or inflammation that’s not going away, ask your doctor. We want you at the race start line again next year!

6 Ways to Minimize Your Risk of DVT

 Simply being aware that DVT/PE is a possibility in the endurance population is a start.
Ensure that you restore normal hydration immediately following your race.
If your race plans include travel, increase your fluids and electrolytes significantly.
Simple leg exercises like those seen in the in-flight magazines (including leg pumps, ankle circles, and hip/knee flexes) will help, as well as getting out of your seat in the plane or car and walking around at regular intervals. Most of us goal-oriented triathletes just want to get to the destination, right? But 2 minutes at the rest stop moving, walking around, using those leg muscles can make all the difference.
If your trip is greater than six hours, Runner’s World sports doctor Bill Roberts recommends wearing knee-high compression socks and taking an Aspirin—though you should always talk with your physician before using it to reduce the risk of blood clots
Know your history. Athletes with a positive family history, or ones who’ve suffered previous blood clots should ask their doctor about the pre-flight use of one of the newer oral anticoagulants short term.

Below are a couple resources if you’d like to read a little further on blood clots and athletes:

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The off season is often a time when your athletes may want to take a break from coaching. For many coaches, these breaks can cause anxiety related to loss of income as athletes put their coaching on hold for a few months or indefinitely.

Here are some tips to build your coaching business during the slow, winter months:


When you do a good job with your athletes, most of your new clients will come through referrals. There is no need to spend a lot of money on promotion when your athletes are progressing, enjoying success, and speaking your praises.

Don’t be afraid to ask your current customers to refer you to their fellow athletes. Ask them whom they know that could really use a coach. When they come up with a few names, the next step is for your athlete to mention your services to them and ask if they are open to the idea of coaching. If the answer is “yes”, schedule a call with the coaching prospect to discuss your services.

Give More Value

When you give more than your clients expect, your clients will feel greater loyalty, will be more likely to stay with you as a coach, and will be less likely to take a break. Offering additional services, not expected in the client’s coaching level, such as a mentoring session, one-on-one training session, free training plan, etc., are some ideas of providing more value. Consider giving giving gifts they can get excited about such as a team kit, gloves, multi-tool, sports nutrition pack, or even a handwritten “thank you” note expressing your gratitude for being a valued client. Acts of generosity can go a long way to show that you care about your clients.

Create Community

If most of your clients live in other parts of your country or the world, it may be challenging to create a sense of community. Thanks to social media, you can create a virtual community instead and help your athletes feel part of your global client community.

In my coaching business, I started a closed Facebook group for all of my coaching clients. I hold weekly Facebook live videos where clients from around the world can engage and ask questions. I also encourage athletes to post interesting information, ask questions, and share their success stories in the Facebook group. I have had clients from different countries meet up for rides or at races and create new friendships all through the Facebook group. When people feel part of a community and engage and support each other, they are more likely to stick with you as a coach long term.

Get Out There

When you put yourself out there, you will meet more potential clients. One great way to meet new athletes is to attend local cycling, running, or triathlon group training sessions and races where you can network with fellow athletes.

Come with the intention to offer help and be of service to the athletes. Create a good impression with the athletes by being friendly, encouraging, and helpful. People don’t want to hear how great you are as a coach, but rather how much you care and will listen to their goals and desires. When you make an effort to put yourself out there and meet people, you will slowly but surely become known for your services and will attract new clients.

As coaches, we sometimes forget that being a great coach is not just about designing the “best” training plan or deciphering the latest training graphs. So much of a successful business is about strong relationships. The ability to build and nurture relationships with a truly caring heart will lead to a long-term, successful coaching business.

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Heavy Lifting for Endurance Athletes

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For many years, endurance athletes stayed away from lifting weights, thinking that time in the gym was going to add bulk to their frame, slowing them down. But as we learn more about strength training, athletes and coaches have found that strength training is not only beneficial; it’s necessary.

Being strong is one thing, but staying injury free is another. The ancillary effects of weight lifting include stronger ligaments and tendons, as well as the creation of new neural pathways, which can help you stay healthy. Building up a bulletproof body will also allow you to withstand more training stress. The culmination of these two things is consistency in training, and that leads to faster race times.

What: Heavy Lifting

We can agree that strength and endurance are on the opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to exercise duration and energy metabolism. Maximal strength and power training make the gap even bigger. So it may seem counterintuitive that developing maximal force, which is the combination of strength and power, can provide benefits for endurance athletes. However, lifting heavy weights, sometimes explosively, could be the key to unlocking your endurance potential.

Why: Efficiency, Strength, and Resilience

In the results from a meta-analysis from the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, endurance athletes (including runners, cyclists, cross-country skiers, and swimmers) were shown to benefit from adding a strength training component to their training. These athletes saw improvements in energy cost of locomotion, maximal power, and maximal strength. Specifically, high weight, low repetition sets were found to provide endurance athletes the best bang for their buck.

Heavy lifting directly correlates to endurance performance markers such as time-to-exhaustion, and time trial times, by means of increasing muscle economy and threshold. It also gives athletes more longevity in their respective sports.

In order to see performance results over time, athletes need their bodies to be resilient. In order to continue to go faster and longer season after season, your body needs to be able to handle increased loads without breaking down. Lifting heavy weights acts as an insurance policy for your body by strengthening tendons, ligaments, collagen, and bone density.

How: Low Reps, and Adequate Rest Between Sets

The protocol for building strength is 3-6 sets, of 4-8 reps per set, with 2-5 minutes of rest between sets. Advanced lifters should be able to lift 85% or higher of their 1 rep max, but as a general guideline, you should aim to lift the heaviest weight that you can maintain throughout the sets, without compromising form.

If your technique and/or range of motion becomes compromised, drop to a lighter weight in order to get the most benefit out of the exercise, and prevent injuries. The two strength training mistakes that I see most often are compromising form in order to lift heavier weight, and not resting enough between sets.

Simply put, you need adequate rest between sets in order for your muscles to recover enough to be able to continue to lift at maximal strength. When you are lifting heavy weights, your body relies on the ATP-CP (Adenosine Triphosphate- Phosphocreatine) system for the highest intensity muscle contractions, and once you have done a set at max effort, this system does not regenerate for 2-5 minutes. Not only does your strength diminish if you shorten your rest interval, but your body begins to rely on a different energy system to produce force, which has the side effect of increasing muscle size, rather than strength.

When: Off-Season through Pre-Season

In the same way that sport-specific training sessions should be periodized throughout the year, there is an optimal time and place for lifting heavy. It’s important to begin with an adaptation cycle, focusing on mobility and stability, which prepare your body for increased loads. During the “base” phase of your season, your overall training volume should be lower, so this is an ideal time to begin your lifting program.

As you transition to your season, sport-specific training takes precedence, and strength should be used as maintenance to support your swim, bike, and run sessions. The research shows that for endurance athletes, a significant improvement in strength and associated benefits comes from strength programs that last a minimum of 24 sessions. Much like the other sessions in your training plan, consistency is key.

After the adaptation cycle, this chart outlines some general guidelines for the first phase of building maximal strength and power. As additional phases are added, the focus should be on heavier weight, with additional sets, and fewer reps per set. The exercise listed should be the primary focus for adding weight, but strength sessions should also include additional exercises to ensure balance, alignment, and well-rounded athleticism.

Week Number

Back Squat

Trap Bar Dead Lift

Front Squat

Hang Clean


Reference: Nicolas Berryman, Iñigo Mujika, Denis Arvisais, Marie Roubeix, Carl Binet, and Laurent Bosquet. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance 2018 13:1, 57-64


Laura Marcoux contributed to this article. She is a USA Triathlon Level 1 Coach and NSCA Strength Coach with D3 Multisport. Laura is a Kona qualifier and former Division 1 athlete at the University of Connecticut. Laura believes in developing well-rounded triathletes by incorporating functional strength into their training routines and empowering her athletes to set and reach goals that require the 3 D’s, which are the cornerstone of D3 Multisport: Desire, Determination, and Discipline.

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