Archive for April, 2019

How To Take Your Athlete Meetings To The Next Level

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Coaching professionals offer an array of skills and knowledge to help athletes reach their goals. Sure, understanding the latest science and how workouts produce specific stimuli is absolutely the key for athlete improvement, but a close second is how you communicate with your athletes.

Clear and consistent communication between an athlete and a coach is essential to a successful relationship, and will ultimately lead to better performance. Your job is more than designing productive workouts. You should be holding an athlete accountable for their workouts, their goals, and their preparation. When a coach can clearly define what they need from the athlete and the athlete hears this message repeatedly, there is a stronger probability for success. Are you making it happen?

Use these tips to make sure you’re prepared for your next meeting with your athlete:

1. Get to know your athlete

At the start of each weekly session, whether in person or on the phone, invest some of your time asking about the athlete, their life, and any other facets that make the athlete whole. You will pick up a few keys into why the workouts are going well or not going well.

Don’t underestimate this “small talk” because you will get to know your athlete better and be able to shape their training accordingly.

2. Start with the basics

When looking over stats, start with the basics. How is sleep going? Soes the athlete have a lot of unhappy faces after workouts on TrainingPeaks? What do the overall weekly hours look like? From there, take a look at the Performance Management Chart (PMC). Is their Training Stress Balance (TSB) positive over the last 30 days? If it’s been positive for weeks, is the athlete missing workouts or going too easy when completing the workouts?

Using simple metrics, you will be able to piece together the story of your athlete’s performance far better than focusing on just a few.

3. Then, get into the details

When you get into the details of a single workout, take all the metrics into account. Let’s use cycling as an example. What does the power or heart rate file tell you? Did the athlete complete the workout as written? Does the projected Training Stress Score (TSS) equal the actual TSS? Is the cadence in the range you want the athlete to be in? How about the Variability Index (VI) and Intensity Factor (IF)—are they in the acceptable range? I typically go “by the book” on these metrics with cadences in the 88 to 92 RPM range, while the VI should be under 1.10 and closer to 1.02 for a flatter course.

Here is your chance to be an expert, and you should be the expert! Know the subject and have evidence and data to defend your points.

4. Don’t wing it

Have a plan for each conversation you have with your athlete. Prepare! What did you see in the TrainingPeaks notes? What stands out to you? What do you think the athlete can do better? If the athlete seems like they have reached a plateau talk about how you’ll help them break through. Let the athlete know the game plan; be open and honest about what the training will look like over the next week, ten days, or even month to help them achieve their goals. Spell out long-term goals for swim paces, bike power, and heart rate goals for specific sessions, and lay out the same details for run paces and heart rates.

Communicate clearly what the goals are and how to approach the next week of training.

5. Focus on the positive

Finally, remember to emphasize the positive as you discuss areas for improvement. Always begin a comment with a positive statement: “The workouts look like they went well. You really hit the paces as you should have and I’m impressed given how tired you are from the recent workload.” Even if you are really focused on the fact the cadence wasn’t where you want that to be, bring that up second: “One easy thing to work on over the next few weeks is bringing that cadence up. Once you do that, you’ll see the pace will be even quicker.”  

Giving positive feedback and then following up with something that the athlete can work on will go a long way toward the athlete staying motivated and keeping your conversations efficient and effective over the course of a season.

Conclusion

As I mentioned, understanding the science of the sport is essential to properly design an athlete’s workouts, however, the art of coaching comes into play as you manage communication with your athletes.  It’s the “one-two power punch!” Following these five pointers will help you develop a solid coach-athlete partnership yielding results the athlete hired you to help them achieve.

The post How To Take Your Athlete Meetings To The Next Level appeared first on TrainingPeaks.

CoachCast: Time-Crunched Athletes with Shayne Gaffney

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Let’s face it. Even driven athletes only have 24 hours in the day. 

Every athlete has limitations when it comes to how much they can train, but you should be taking more than just their available hours into consideration. Are you thinking about life stressors, recovery, and balance? All too often, athletes “burn the candle at both ends” as they try to make every workout count, and coaches sometimes only make matters worse.

Coach Shayne Gaffney explores his approach to maximizing his athletes’ time while training, even if that means taking some time off. 

Stand-out Quotes

“Yeah, I think keeping balance with these athletes is really crucial because they’re always going to have times in the day when they could train, but it could it be better for them to read a book or do some stretching or foam rolling or just enjoy time with their families as opposed to gutting it out on the treadmill or going for a ride on the trainer or whatever it might be.”“The other mistake I’ve seen a lot is athletes that will give you either too much or too little of that vital information. Some athletes will say in the post-activity comments, “workout went well,” period. And that’s all they’ll say. And then some athletes will say, “the workout went really well. My cat had two scoops of Friskies for breakfast and then I went out to dinner and…” So it’s finding the right balance between giving you the information that you need without giving you a ton of extraneous stuff.”

Resources

The Cyclist’s Training Bible by Joe FrielTraining and Racing with a Power Meter by Hunter Allen, Andy Coggin, and Stephen McGregorZwift’s Power Up Cycling PodcastTrainerRoad’s Ask A Cycling Coach PodcastGC Coaching BlogGC Coaching Core and Stability Workout

EpisodeTranscript

Introduction:               

On today’s episode of the TrainingPeaks CoachCast, your source for the latest information about the art, science and business of coaching. How do you define a time-crunched athlete? Are you only considering the time they have to train?

Dave Schell:                 

Hey guys, this is Dave Schell here, and on this week’s episode of the TrainingPeaks CoachCast, I had the pleasure to sit down with Shayne Gaffney, the owner and head coach of GC coaching. Shane is a runner turned triathlete and then he found his passion for cycling. Shayne has been coaching for a number of years. Shayne is a USA Cycling Expert Level Coach. As a new father, Shayne specializes in helping the time-crunched athlete maximize their performance. We talked about what time crunch means to Shayne and some of the strategies you can use with your athletes to help them perform their best. Hope you enjoy.

Dave Schell:                 

Welcome to the TrainingPeaks CoachCast. I’m your host Dave Schell and today I have the pleasure of being joined by Shayne Gaffney, head coach and founder of GC coaching based out of Windham, New Hampshire. Thanks for joining us today.

Shayne Gaffney:           

Thanks for having me. Looking forward to it.

Dave Schell:                 

Today I wanted to have you on so we could talk about a topic that probably every coach is familiar with and that’s a time-crunched athlete.

Shayne Gaffney:           

Right.

Dave Schell:                 

I would say if you’re a coach trying to run a business, generally you’re working with those time-crunched athletes because they’re the ones that can pay. But before we get into that, could you just tell us a little bit about yourself and your coaching history?

Shayne Gaffney:           

Sure. So I’ve been a cycling coach for seven years now. I’m USA Cycling Level One coach, a USA Cycling Certified Power Base coach, a Precision Nutrition Certified coach. I’m a TrainingPeaks Level Two coach. I have worked for Zwift designing some of their programs and I’ve also written some great articles for TrainingPeaks and the other blogs in the area. And yeah, I just really enjoy working with time-crunched athletes especially because I am one myself and I feel like I can really relate and empathize with them.

Dave Schell:                 

And you’ve kind of made a name for yourself, helping those time-crunched athletes perform their best and achieve their goal, whatever that goal happens to be. When I think about time-crunched, I think about somebody who’s working 50 to 60 hours a week and just doesn’t have a lot of time to train. How do you define time-crunched?

Shayne Gaffney:           

I definitely do define it by time, but I also try to look at what’s the athlete has on their plate and how many balls in the air they have to juggle at one time or the other. They can also change based on seasonality or, you know, if they have a new child or they have a seasonal job, so it can be time crunched generally or it can be time crunched by week, by month, even by year sometimes. So the training has to change and the training has to dictate what their training time actually is.

Dave Schell:                 

Now, when you’re thinking about that time-crunched athlete, are there also some considerations? As far as, I don’t know, like me personally, I think a lot of times I have an athlete and even though they might have more time to train their kind of burning the candle at both ends. And so do you place an emphasis on recovery in that too? Where it’s like, just because you have more available hours to train doesn’t mean we should fill them with training.

Shayne Gaffney:           

Yeah, I think keeping balance with these athletes is really crucial because they’re always going to have, you know, times in the day when they could train, but it could it be better for them to read a book or do some stretching or foam rolling or just, you know, enjoy time with their families as opposed to, you know, gutting it out on the treadmill or going for a ride on the trainer or whatever it might be. Um, so you have to definitely incorporate training, but you have to also make sure that they’re staying mentally positive and their psychology of the training is good. And then like you said, they’re not burning the candle from both ends and then that’s going to result in burnout. So like that’s a huge, huge factor with these types of athletes.

Dave Schell:                 

Yeah, I would imagine it’s even more of a factor too because a lot of times they’re just very driven, motivated people and that’s why they’re successful in their career and they try to apply that to sport as well and that could probably lead to burnout if not managed.

Shayne Gaffney:           

I’ve also noticed too that they tend to be very hard on themselves critically. So if they miss a workout or they fail an interval or whatever happens, they tend to be really, really hard on themselves. And I try to reverse that a little bit because you know they’re doing more than the average person does. So they should be a little bit more of a cheerleader for themselves like I am for them and saying, that’s okay because you know, you’re still putting in the work, you’re still getting the time in, but you just have to be realistic with how much time you have to train and what your goals are.

Dave Schell:                 

Now, you just mentioned missing a workout with somebody that has limited training time. How do you handle that missed workout? Are you trying to make that up later in the week or are you asking them to skip it or does it depend?

Shayne Gaffney:           

So I have a couple of key workouts I like to give my athletes per week and those workouts I don’t like them to miss and then I have, you know, usually one or two easier days or rest days totally. So if they miss a really key workout during that week, I’ll have them make it up during a rest day or during an easy day. But obviously if they get sick or something else like that happens where they can’t train, then I’ll change the week or even two weeks sometimes. And make the workout volume or workout intensity a lot lower to allow them time to sleep and for their bodies to heal.

Dave Schell:                 

Based on your experience and working with these time-crunched athletes, would you say that intensity is a substitute for volume?

Shayne Gaffney:           

I think it tends to be is a good substitute for volume, but the athlete’s goals need to match their training time and their long ride or long run. So if you have an athlete that comes to me and they say they want to do an IRONMAN, but they only have one hour a week to train, maybe four or five days a week, I’d say you probably don’t want to do that. Maybe do an Olympic distance or do a sprint triathlon because I know you can be able to crush that race and you’re not going to get to, you know, after the swim in an IRONMAN and that’s literally your longest workout you’ve ever done, but you’re only 1/12th into the race.

Dave Schell:                 

Yeah.

Shayne Gaffney:           

I definitely think you can maintain speed and you can maintain an aerobic potential where you can be really, you know, adept at cyclocross and crit racing and time trialing and you know, um, 10ks, 5ks, Olympic distances, sprint distances, triathlons. But you really shouldn’t be exposing yourself or not exposing yourself, you shouldn’t be preparing to do crazy ultra endurance events if you only have a very finite amount of training time available.

Dave Schell:                 

Yeah. And I, I imagine that’s kind of hard because, at least one of the trends we see here at TrainingPeaks, is there’s a lot of athletes especially, um, this demographic we’re talking about where they’re starting to sign up for what we would almost term like a bucket list type race where they want to do those ultra endurance either running or IRONMAN or a 200-mile gravel race or something like that. But then they only have “X” amount of hours to train. So I imagine it’s important to kind of manage expectations and set those realistic goals.

Shayne Gaffney:           

Absolutely. And that’s something that I like to do from the get go. Even during the first phone call I have with them, see what their goals are and see if, you know, they’re realistic and if they’re not realistic we can come up with some other goals or, you know, short-term, long-term stuff that will keep them motivated. And then, you know, if things change or they have more free time available in the future, then we can tackle that goal when they have the time to actually train for it.

Dave Schell:                 

Going back to intensity, uh, let’s say that you have two athletes and maybe they’re training for the same thing, but one has all the time in the world to train and the other has limited time to train. Like six to eight hours a week. As you’re prescribing workouts to these two different athletes, have you found any types of workouts that are more effective for that time-crunched athlete than, um, maybe this other athlete? Like, when it comes time to write those key sessions, what are ones that are your, that you’re prescribing for that time-crunched athlete?

Shayne Gaffney:           

Sure. For the time-crunched athlete, for example, they’re doing a criterium race. I’ll do a lot of sweet spot and VO2 Max work during the base phases because I’ve now found that sweet spot and VO2 Max work really helps to stimulate that fat burning system and then incorporate more of the criterium-specific intervals during their builds and during their race phases. Um, and you know, those types of intervals for the build phase may be 30x30s or 40x20x or really high intensity on and off stuff. So you’re still getting an aerobic metabolism, but the shorter rest breaks also challenge them to work.

Dave Schell:                 

For the listeners that may not know what the “sweet spot” is. Can you describe that?

Shayne Gaffney:           

So I’d like to identify a sweet spot is 90% FTP. The actual range I’ve seen, it really varies, but it’s usually 87 or 88 to 93% FTP. So I try to keep everything pretty simple. I just define it as 90% FTP. So you were kind of right below FTP.

Dave Schell:                 

And aside from burning more fat at that intensity, what is the benefit of working at, say, sweet spot versus right at threshold?

Shayne Gaffney:           

So personally I think that traditional FTP tests over-estimates actual FTP because you know true FTP as it’s defined should be the power you can maintain at a semi-quasi steady state for one hour. But if you look at most athletes at FTP, they may have a time to exhuastian of 30 to 45 minutes. So I think true anaerobic threshold and FTP is slightly lower than the test dictates. So I think the sweet spot is actually closer to that, you know, maximal lactate steady state and that’s going to give them the best bang for their buck in terms of training.

Dave Schell:                 

So you just, you had just mentioned time to exhaustion, um, which is kind of introduced with our, one of our softwares called WKO4, which is kind of a desktop deep-analysis software is how I describe it. Um, and so would you just describe time to exhaustion real quick?

Shayne Gaffney:           

Sure. So time until exhaustion is the length of time the athlete can hold their FTP power for. And I’ve seen most in the 30 to 45 minute ranges for most roadies that have a decent amount of aerobic and also anaerobic power. And then for most IRONMAN competitors that tends to be closer to the hour. So the more developed your fat burning system is, the longer your time to exhaustion is going to be at that FTP range, I’ve seen.

Dave Schell:                 

And so working with these athletes, are there any other aspects or tools from WKO4 that have helped you to really maximize their training time?

Shayne Gaffney:           

Definitely. So I think the more individualized you can make the training in terms of prescription, the better. So WKO4 has i-levels that I love to use with my athletes and i-levels are based off of their modeled FTP and their i-levels will also change every week or even every three or four days depending on how frequently you update the program. So I use i-levels a lot with my athletes just to make sure that their prescriptions are very, very personal to them. Um, they also have a great chart “optimize intervals”, which I like to use as well. “Optimize intervals” takes the i-level into account, but it also takes it a step further and it gives you a time range of how long the athletes should be able to maintain that set amount of wattage. So I use that a lot as well.

Dave Schell:                 

And, I mean, you had mentioned criteriums and things like that. Do you find that it’s also effective for your athletes training for IRONMAN?

Shayne Gaffney:           

I find it’s effective for my athletes period. I’ll use WKO4 constantly. Um, whether they’re track sprinters right through to IRONMAN competitors. It just gives you so much more in-depth analysis and data on what’s under the hood of the athletes.

Dave Schell:                 

Gotcha. And now this is just a personal question for myself. Have you, are you having, let’s say for your IRONMAN athletes, um, really to, in my experience, to get the most accurate data from WKO4 you need to have them do like an all-out hour. So are you having your IRONMAN athletes go out and just hammer for an hour to update that modeled, uh, power duration curve?

Shayne Gaffney:           

Depends on the type of athlete I’m working with. Um, the more, you know, kind of elite per se athlete, I’ll definitely have them do a test like that. But most people, if you tell them to go hammer for an hour, they tell you to go fly a kite. So I’ll usually, you know, use WKO4 and I’ll pick a short duration, medium duration and a long duration test based on where the curve is. And then I’ll have them do that and during that week, so you know, it, it may be an hour, but usually I haven’t seen that. Usually it’s in the 30 to 50 minute range.

Dave Schell:                 

Do you have any other kind of secret tools that you use with these time poor athletes?

Shayne Gaffney:           

I think my favorite tool is Zwift right now, um, because Zwift incorporates with TrainingPeaks very well so I can create the workout in TrainingPeaks using the Workout Builder and then all the athlete has to do is click a couple buttons and they’re literally doing the workout on Zwift. So I think that’s a huge, huge benefit. Um, Zwift also has a great thing where it keeps the socialization and the group rides alive during the winter. Because most athletes I work with are, you know, in my neck of the woods, which is New Hampshire and Massachusetts and Vermont. So we have to deal with winter up here. So we might have, you know, four or five, six months out of the year, we really can’t ride outdoors or run out doors because there’s ice and snow. And everything else. So Zwift does a great job too of keeping that socialization alive and you can join a team that’s based on a charity or based on a competitive-based team or supporting a cause and that really helps to give you your community of athletes and keeps you motivated to show up to group rides or show up to do your workouts with them. Um, it’s also great too because if you have a trainer or a treadmill, you can literally keep everything set up and keep your next to your treadmill or keep your shoes next to your bike. It’s all you have to do is change your clothes, you know, fill your bottles, get your nutrition squared away and then you’re working out in minutes. So it’s a very, very convenient for the time-crunched athlete as well.

Dave Schell:                 

I think that’s huge to kind of remove those barriers, right? If you can pack the bag the night before or whatever, um, if you’re riding outside. But yeah, I think that’s a huge factor is just making the most of that hour in the morning or what have you. Quick question about Zwift, do you find, I know for me personally, I have a really bad habit of getting sucked into contests where all of a sudden somebody is on my back wheel, so I need to show them how powerful I am and drop them. How do you manage that with your athletes? Is that a conversation you have?

Shayne Gaffney:           

For sure. So I will kind of give them permission to do that every once in a while to kind of squash that bug and get that out of their system. But the majority of their training should be ideally structured, so I’ll make sure that they have something to do the days that they can train and it’s been built and the TrainingPeaks Workout Builder so it’s right available for them. There’s no real thinking behind it. They have to just turn on Zwift and go for it. But if they do get a little bit antsy or they do want to work out a little bit harder then I’ll allow them to do a race or a group ride or whatever it may be, just to keep themselves a little bit more motivated to do more.

Dave Schell:                 

So beyond kind of the technical side of it, talking about Zwift, talking about the Workout Builder, are there any other things that you find are really key in helping these athletes see success?

Shayne Gaffney:           

I do. So using other metrics that TrainingPeaks offers like TSS has been great to you know, judge progressive overload as well as judge, you know, fatigue and freshness and form all that good stuff from the PMC chart. Um, I’ve also loved to use an ATP from TrainingPeaks to keep myself and athletes on the same page where you can literally see, you know, from a bird’s eye view, what’s coming down the pipeline and what things we want to work on during certain weeks of the year and when the rest is going to come when the races are going to come. That really keeps a great, you know, everyone both on the same page. And then the communication aspect with TrainingPeaks is a huge factor for me because you know, I like to talk to my athletes at least on a weekly basis if not more through email or through text or through the post activity comments section on TrainingPeaks. So that gives you that subjective feedback and you can marry that to the data and make sure that the athlete is getting what they want, but they’re also striving to be the best they can be and improve what they have from their baseline.

Dave Schell:                 

So you had just mentioned using training stress score or TSS for progressive overload. And I would imagine like one of the things we’ve seen here at TrainingPeaks is as soon as we started calling the blue line or the chronic training load fitness, we started getting emails from some athletes because the tendency is you want to always see that line go up. But there’s, but there’s a ceiling and there’s always a ceiling for, even if you’re a pro tour athlete, there’s a ceiling to how much time you can train. And so how do you manage that with your athletes? Um, are you having that conversation with them or how do you deal with that? Um, with the Performance Management Chart.

Shayne Gaffney:           

I do. Another thing I see a lot too with the newer athlete is they think that the higher their blue line is, quote unquote, the more fit they’ll be. So they think their friend that’s dropping them in group ride has a CTL of 200 even though they are only at a 50. so I kind of have to explain that to them as well, that just because your friend has a higher blue line, per se, that doesn’t mean that they’re a better athlete than you are. So I’ll try to broach that two different ways. If the athlete has historical data, then I will look back at the previous year and see where they were at their, you know, quote unquote “peak form” and I’ll try to match that CTL to where it was last year around where their current race is. If not, maybe push that number a little bit higher to give them a little bit more fitness. And then if they’re brand new to everything, then I have a lot of blog posts I’ve written and videos I’ve done based on TrainingPeaks and the PMC Chart. And I’ll just give them a lot of material to read and to educate themselves with and then answer any questions they might have based on the stuff that they read.

Dave Schell:                 

I also want to talk about the ATP a little bit just because now I’m a little bit more curious. Um, so how are you using that with your athletes? Is that, are you using the preset periods in there or have you come up with your own periods or how do you account for things like, do you have the training camp in there or, uh, things like that?

Shayne Gaffney:           

All the above. So I will use the preset, you know, base one, base two, base three, etc., build, peak. Or if the athlete gets sick or they have a training camp or other things happen, I will go in there and I’ll, I’ll manually adjust certain weeks to make up for the training that they lost or the training or the, the um, overreaching that they got during their training camp. So try to keep them kind of even keeled. So they’re not so much under training, but they’re also more importantly not overtraining if they’re one of those gung-ho kind of athletes. Some athletes have two races that they wanted peak for. Some athletes have one race they want a peak for. So that’s not a thing you can do with the ATP is adjust the training load based on where their peak events are. So I’ll use that either with the ATP that TrainingPeaks gives me, or I can make it a little bit different, again, based on sickness or training camps or things like that that they they have.

Dave Schell:                 

I imagine that goes a long way too to show where you’re not having to plan out the workouts for three to six months in advance, but they can still see at a high level what the plan is.

Shayne Gaffney:           

Right. And that’s a key factor for me because I want to make sure that, you know, I’m giving my athletes as much as I can give them in terms of education, but communication too. So, you know, I don’t want to be the coach that says I want you to do this because I said so I want you to do this because of these reasons: A, B, and C. And then if you do A, B, and C, then you’ll get to, you know, A, B and C over here. So we’re kind of building relationships, building rapport, building communication, all that stuff is huge for longevity of the athlete-coach relationship.

Dave Schell:                 

In working with these time-crunched athletes, and you just mentioned communication being one of the keys, um, are there any common mistakes that you see these time-crunched athletes make when you first take them on? Um, I imagine maybe some of them have never worked with a coach before and maybe they came in self coached. Um, and so is there anything you see like kind of a trend?

Shayne Gaffney:           

The most common mistakes I’ve seen would probably be just doing too, like you kind of already mentioned, doing too much intensity during the phases of where they don’t want to be doing a lot of intensity like during the base phase. So you know intensity is good in small doses, but if they’re doing a Zwift race six days a week, that’s probably not the best way to do it. You know, the other mistake I’ve seen a lot is athletes that will give you either too much or too little of that vital information where some athletes will say in the post-activity comments, they say “workout went well,” period. And that’s all they’ll say. And then some athletes will say, you know, “the workout went really well. My cat had two scoops of Friskies for breakfast and then I went out to dinner and…” So all that stuff. So it’s kind of finding the right balance between giving you the information that you need without giving you a ton of extraneous stuff.

Dave Schell:                 

So do you, when you take on a new athlete, is that part of the onboarding process where you’re telling them this is what I care about and this is what I want from you or is it just something that happens over time? Okay.

Shayne Gaffney:           

I do, but it also happens over time to where you know, some athletes just love to talk more than others do. So the athletes that don’t want to talk as much, I’ll try to coerce them to give me more where I’ll ask them questions in the post activity comments, you know, how did your legs feel? I noticed that the power went down on interval number five. Did you feel like you were fatigued or what did you eat for breakfast that day, if they feel like they had less energy. Or, and the athletes that give me too much, I’ll definitely answer all their questions and I’ll maybe try to give them some pointers on the stuff that they want to give me more of. And the stuff that I want them to give me less of like what their cat had for breakfast that day. Just something stupid like that.

Dave Schell:                 

You want more of that?

Shayne Gaffney:           

I want less of that.

Dave Schell:                 

I want to know everything your cat ate. All the meals. Um, so you just mentioned power and it just kind of made me think, and I, I don’t know how many of your athletes are remote, but I feel like that’s a big part of the communication as well is that even if it’s a newer athlete and, you know, we ask them to buy all these devices but it’s not just about data, data, data, it really improves that coach-athlete communication as well. Would you agree?

Shayne Gaffney:           

Yeah. And you know the other thing to think about is even though if I have local athletes, they are still mostly remote coached because you know they’re time-crunched. So having a time where you can meet them face to face is going to be even less likely just because their schedules are jam packed as it is. And if you say let’s get coffee or whatever they have to clear so much stuff out of their schedule. So I like to use a lot of things like video conferencing and web meetings, things like that. So you’re getting that face-to-face value but you’re not having them meet you at a location halfway. So try to just make, make that technology work for you in terms of giving you a better return on your training time, but also making your time more productive that you have.

Dave Schell:                 

Yeah. In relation to that, like, one of the things that I’ve kind of dealt with with athletes is that, especially these busy athletes, is sometimes they see coaching almost as a commodity, and, they really, the mindset is I’m paying you, just give me my workouts and I’ll do my workouts and no feedback. And so, one, have you ever had, have you dealt with that? And two, how do you address that with that athlete?

Shayne Gaffney:           

Yup. So I’ve had that happen not as many times, but I’ve had that happen a few times for sure. So the first thing I’ll try to do is just talk to the athlete more and say, “Hey, you know, can I do anything else differently for you? Are these workouts going the way that you want them to be? Are you getting the gains that you would like to see?” And if I still get kind of radio silence, then I’ll ask them again. And then if I still get radio silence, then usually I’ll say, you know what, I don’t think our relationship is going to be really beneficial for either of us. So I’ll kinda just basically drop them off of my roster because I want to give my time to the athletes that want it. And I don’t want to work with athletes that just really want a training plan per se. I want the athletes, I want to get to that next level and you know, help them improve.

Dave Schell:                 

Um, so going back and I probably should’ve mentioned this earlier, going back to, uh, Zwift you had mentioned that, you know, there’s appropriate times of the year or the season where you do want to be doing an intensity and it’s not always appropriate. And so, I guess, in your eyes, what is the harm of doing intensity in December and January when you’re not racing until June or July?

Shayne Gaffney:           

I don’t think there’s harm in doing intensity. I just think that the intensity, has to be balanced. So if you do a lot of intensity, you’re going to need time to recover on the other side of that workout. Where versus if you do a 60 minute race Monday through Friday, that’s really not the great way to do it cause you’re not going to be really pushing your body to as far as could be pushed. So if you do a race when you’re really recovered, you’re going to go way deeper and you’re going to get a lot better return on your training time invested versus if you enter a race when you’re already done three races that week, you’re not going to be able to push nearly as hard or as deep into that workout. So the workout becomes less high intensity and just more kind of moderate. So I’d rather see, if an athlete does a lot of races, I’d rather see them do a race but then have a rest day or two days afterwards they can get hit that race hard again the next time they do it.

Dave Schell:                 

Right. That totally makes sense. Is there also a risk with, like, say, burnout or something if you’re doing six races in a week but then not racing until you’re, you’re “A” race I guess is months down the road.

Shayne Gaffney:           

I’ve seen that as well. Yup, and that’s an issue too with racing is you want to, kind of, periodize your training, but you also want to periodize you racing too. Because racing is a lot of mental energy, there’s a lot of stress, there’s a lot of lost sleep and a lot of training. It’s really hard to get ready for a race, not just physically, but also mentally. And these athletes are going to be mentally taxed anyways just because they’re very time crunched with their jobs or their families or whatever. So I want to make sure that they’re allowing themselves recovery physically. But I’ll also allowing themselves recovery mentally and psychologically. So if you’re just kind of grinding yourself into the ground, day in and day out and burning the candle at both ends then, like you’ve said, that’s a huge issue and a huge recipe for disaster.

Dave Schell:                 

So in addition to athletes being time crunched and working a ton of hours, how do you deal, like if they also travel for work, do you have any strategies for dealing with that? Let’s say that they, they’re home for three weeks and then they’re gone for a week and they may not have access to a bike, but they’re doing bike races. Do you have anything? Um, kind of some tips for that?

Shayne Gaffney:           

So if they’re pure cyclists, I’ll have them try to find a gym close to the hotel that they’re at and then bring their heart rate monitor and their bike computer. And then you know, hit the elliptical or hit the stairmaster or ideally hit a spin class or something like that. So they’re still getting some cardiovascular effect and some benefit. But in a non-impact sense, just because a pure cyclist you tell them to go for a run even for a couple of miles, they’ll be sore for a week sometimes. So I try to keep the, the non-impact there but keep the cardiovascular effects as well. And then for a multisport or a runner, it’s easy. Just tell him to pack their shoes and then they can do it wherever they’re at.

Dave Schell:                 

And do you still try to like again, for somebody doing a triathlon, are you still trying to get in those swims while they’re traveling or is it just too much of a headache?

Shayne Gaffney:           

I’ve seen that to be too much of a headache because finding a gym is a lot of work. And then finding a gym with a pool in it, is even more work. So if they can find a gym with a pool, that’s awesome. But a lot of times I’ve seen that the hotel they’re at has a gym, so I’ll just have them use that just for time’s sake. A lot of times if they’re traveling, they’re going to have meetings all day long or have stuff to do all day long. So it’s even less of a chance of them getting a rental car or driving to the gym, going to the pool. It’s just harder to make them do that.

Dave Schell:                 

And I, I can definitely relate as I travel a lot. And so really that question is for me.

Shayne Gaffney:           

Sure.

Dave Schell:                 

Um, so in your time working with time-crunched athletes, have you ever found something that you really see as the key to their success? Like if they, if they get this one thing right, then everything else will kind of fall into place.

Shayne Gaffney:           

Yeah, consistency is by far and away the most important thing I’ve seen, and I think that goes with any athlete, but especially if you have less time and less time to train, then you have to be consistent with everything that you do. So consistency is by far and away number one.

Dave Schell:                 

And how do you define consistency? Is it just working out? Like being sure to workout once a day or is it being consistent with the intensity or the time off or, um, yeah, how do you define that?

Shayne Gaffney:           

I think it’s all the above. I think it’s, you know, showing up to workouts, but also getting to bed at a reasonable time. Taking care of your family, taking care of your friends, you know, making sure that you’re kind of checking off all those boxes as consistently as you can. So it’s not just a lot of time is for the time-crunched athlete, it’s not just training, it’s also, which we’ve talked about a lot of times now, it’s also making sure that they’re keeping themselves healthy mentally and psychologically, too.

Dave Schell:                 

We’re almost out of time here, but before I let you go, I was just curious if you have any kind of recommended resources, um, for the listeners, either whether it’s a book or other podcasts or if you’d be willing to share any of your, um, kind of secret workouts with us, um, that we can post on the page?

Shayne Gaffney:           

So, resources wise I love, the “Cyclist’s Training Bible” by Joe Friel and then “Training and Racing With a Power Meter” by Hunter Allen and Andy Coggin. Those are kind of the go-to books I like to consult and look at. Podcasts-wise, I love all the Zwift podcasts and I love the TrainerRoad podcasts as well. I like to listen to those on my commute home as well as this podcast too. I like to listen to those on the commute in to the office and back out of the office again. And then I also have maintain a blog on the GC coaching website that has a lot of good pertinent information on it as well with training tips, advice and also workouts on it as well.

Dave Schell:                 

Awesome. Well, we’ll be sure to put those links in the show notes and with that, thank you very much for your time. Definitely appreciate it.

Shayne Gaffney:           

Of course. Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it.

Dave Schell:                 

Yeah, I hope you get some sleep with the new kid.

Shayne Gaffney:           

Thanks!

Dave Schell:                 

Yeah, look forward to talking to you again soon.

Shayne Gaffney:           

Excellent. Thank you so much.

Dave Schell:                 

Hey guys, Dave here again. I hope you enjoyed our conversation with Shayne. As we mentioned, he’s going to provide some workouts that you can try with your own athletes, so be sure to check out the show notes for those. Be sure to share and rate the podcast if you’re enjoying it, and be sure to let us know what else you’d like to hear about by tweeting to us at @TrainingPeaks. Until next time.

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How To Boost Your Facebook Business Strategy

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Yes, it is true. Facebook is here to stay.

Did you know that Facebook’s monthly active users have risen 9 percent year-over-year to 2.32 billion people? You might also be interested to know some of these stand-out fun facts about Facebook:

Americans spend an average of 58 minutes per day on FacebookVisits typically last ten to 12 minutesTwo-hundred million Facebook users are members of meaningful Facebook Groups43 percent of Facebook users get their news from Facebook

Even as criticism of Facebook increases, I highly recommend using it to grow your coaching business. In my “Master Your Coaching Business” program, I talk with my clients about broadening their use of Facebook to include a business page. Let’s discuss the business pages first.

The best way to market your business on Facebook is through a Facebook Page dedicated to your business. One of the primary reasons to build a specific business page is that Facebook will be in the top listings in search engines when people look up your company.

Here three business page features that I recommend other coaches take advantage of:

Always use a call-to-action button on top of page

The call-to-action button, which typically gives potential clients a streamlined way to get in touch with you or sign up for your services, displays on both desktop and mobile at the top of your page, so it is easy for people to find.

Facebook also allows you to add  a “message me” call-to-action in your posts if you are using a business page. Users can message you directly, and you can provide the next steps to sign up with your business.

Pay attention to Facebook Insights

Data is essential, and when to plug is also crucial for your social media. Have you ever looked at your FB data on your business account and when your followers are online or not? Here is an example of mine:

As you can see, users don’t typically visit more on any particular day, but the time of day is more interesting. It’s obvious that the most visits are around 8:00 p.m. So, if I have a post that performed well on Instagram, I will use that same photo and repurpose it around that 8:00 p.m. sweet spot.

Remember that video is king!

As you can see, most of the interaction here is coming from native Facebook Live videos, not links to YouTube or other platforms. Facebook Live is a vast opportunity since many people hesitate to post in that manner. If you need some help with your Facebook Live videos, check out this article I wrote about best practices.

If you aren’t ready for a business page…

Even though business pages can result in big growth, your personal profile presents some marketing opportunities of its own.

First and foremost, getting the most out of your profile starts with personal relationships, but be mindful about how you are posting as posting too much may repel your Facebook friends. For example, I think of multi-level marketing posts on personal pages. When a solicitor reaches out and wants to meet over coffee, I always worry they are going to try to sell me something.

Let your friends know about your business and publish posts that specifically focus on the company. You can put a lot of information in one post, but it is often more useful to spread out information over time, each including a unique tidbit of information. Multiple posts increase the chances that more friends will see the post.When friends share posts about your business and their friends like or comment, consider sending friend requests to those new contacts. If they accept your friend request, you have new people that will be seeing your posts regularly.Use your ability to select whether each post can be seen by only friends or by the public to reach a larger audience.Allow people to follow you. When you enable followers, you don’t have to accept individuals as friends for them to see all of your public updates. You also won’t have your news feed cluttered with the updates of all of your followers.Even personal posts can connect to your business. Your business is a significant part of your life, so it is natural that some of your personal posts will involve things that are happening in your industry. Keep those posts personal for your friends, but don’t overlook the opportunity to promote your business at the same time.Don’t hesitate to create posts that are solely ads for your business. This is a useful place to do that because your friends already trust you. You have to build that trust in new contacts. Please keep it in balance though. Even your friends will lose interest if they are about nothing but your business.Whatever the nature of the post, if there is any connection to your business, include business contact info or a link to your website.Always work to find ways to include a call-to-action. Whatever you do to promote your business on Facebook, asking the reader to take some action that will strengthen their connection to your business is essential. Think about adding links to take them to your website or Facebook Page, or asking them to sign up for your mailing list to receive an informative report or other information. Any response to a call-to-action gives you more information about the prospect and presents an additional opportunity to make them a customer.Use images extensively. A company logo, a photo of your place of business, or a picture of employees involved in some public service activity—images like this draw attention to your post and get more responses than text alone. Include text with or even within the image to create interest.Any professional certification or award is a subject of personal pride, but don’t overlook it as an opportunity to promote your business.

In marketing your business through Facebook, you have an entire suite of tools available. Don’t overlook the opportunities presented by your profile.

My goal for you and your coaching business is to make sure you are utilizing a couple of different social media platforms. When Instagram shut down a month ago, a lot of companies and business had a little “freak out moment”, including myself. Don’t focus on just one social media platform, focus on a many to help build your business and watch it grow!

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The Whole Picture: Mental Stress

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This is Part Three of a five-part series on total load, the cumulative training and life stress an athlete experiences while training. Read Part One and Part Two to get the full story.

It may come as a surprise to many people (it did to me), that unless you are a professional athlete looked after by experts who are minimizing all the non-training sources of stress in your life, that training is rarely the largest component of total load. Assuming that you eat and sleep reasonably well (we will cover those later in the series), then mental stress is quite likely to be your largest stressor.

A study published in 2010 tracked the occurrence of illness, injury, and burnout amongst 30 well-trained triathletes during a full competitive season in Western Australia. Although training factors had a significant impact, the largest impact was produced by increases in psychological stress, and the same was found for the athletes’ mood scale ratings.

To quantify the effects further, a 2012 study on 44 healthy adults in Finland looked at the baseline psychological stress during a short two-week intensive training program. Subjects rated their stress from one (low psychological resources and a lot of stressors in my life) to ten (high psychological resources and no stressors in my life) during the program.

Courtesy of “Self-rated mental stress and exercise training response in healthy subjects.”

They found that those with high levels of stress showed almost no increase in maximum cycling power over the two weeks compared to up to 19 percent power increases for those experiencing the lowest levels of life stress. Other studies have shown reduced running economy following stressful life events which implies the possibility of impaired motor coordination.

So, why is this?

It is well known in medical circles that high levels of mental stress delay recovery in wound healing and operations, but what about endurance sports?

In his thought-provoking review of Periodisation Theory, Professor John Kiely not only identifies links between high levels of mental stress and poor response to training, but also teases out three separate components that contribute to this:

Stress historyHigh levels of mental/emotional stress in daily lifeLow levels of resilience or resistance to mental stress

Kiely summarizes that multiple sources of life stress down regulate the immune system, motor coordination, mood, and hormonal health leading to impaired performance, adaptation, and recovery, and increased levels of illness and injury.

Courtesy of “Periodization Theory: Confronting an Inconvenient Truth.”

Measuring and improving mental stress levels

Considering the fact that our busy lives feel increasing stressful, this paints a bleak picture for our training prospects. In fact, there is quite a lot we can do to reduce stress, starting with measurement.

Although no “gold standard” measurement of stress has been agreed upon, we can start by using visual scales to quantify our daily levels of mood, anxiety, fatigue, and enthusiasm for training. The example below is a simple way to measure the feelings an athlete might be having about their stress levels.

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Kiely proposes that since the autonomic nervous system is a major regulator of our emotional state, Heart Rate Variability (HRV) can be a useful indicator of mental stress levels. This is because the sympathetic branch is associated with increasing levels of anxiety (fight or flight), and the parasympathetic branch makes us feel more calm and relaxed (rest and digest).

Increased baseline levels of HRV are associated not only with better athletic performance, but with increased resilience and an ability to tolerate higher levels of individual stressors and total load.

You can find some tips on reducing workplace stress here, but it is also important to realize that the stress we experience is the difference between our expectations and our own perception of our ability to cope with those stresses. Therefore, we can also reduce the stress we experience by using techniques such as positive reframing, mindfulness, and slow deep breathing to increase our ability to cope with sources of stress.

Personally, I improved my HRV the most over the past ten years from using a paced breathing app called BreatheSync for a few minutes every morning and during the day as needed. I’m a big fan of guided meditation apps for maintaining a near constant level of calmness despite life’s inevitable ups and downs.

References:

J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2010 Dec;50(4):475-85. Training patterns and negative health outcomes in triathlon: longitudinal observations across a full competitive season. Main LC1, Landers GJ, Grove JR, Dawson B, Goodman C.Ruuska PS, Hautala AJ, Kiviniemi AM, Mäkikallio TH and Tulppo MP (2012) Self-rated mental stress and exercise training response in healthy subjects. Front. Physio. 3:51. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2012.00051 Kiely, J. Sports Med (2018) 48: 753. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-017-0823-y

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What Researchers Found After Studying 10 Million Marathon Finishers

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In 2017, researchers completed an impressive study which reviewed nearly ten million marathon finishing times (9,789,093 to be exact) from a total of 6,888 marathons across the globe. The vast majority analyzed (nearly 89 percent) took place after the year 2000, but races ranged between 1970 and 2013. The investigative team was interested in reference-dependent, goal-motivated behavior for a task that held little direct bearing on the quality of a person’s life: the race results of a marathon.

The information gleaned from their data set was quite remarkable on a number of levels, but one result stands out. Runners had an unusually high clumping of finishes just before rounded hour finishing times, specifically those at the three-, four-, and five-hour marks.

For example, runners were 1.4 times more likely to finish a marathon in 3:59 rather than 4:01. In fact, a total of 300,324 competitors finished their marathon in the three minutes prior to the four-hour mark compared to only 212,477 competitors who finished in the three minutes after the four-hour mark. That’s not because human beings are somehow categorically better at running a 3:59 rather than a 4:01 marathon. It’s because human beings make numbers matter. A lot.

The same trend held true at 30-, 15-, 10-, and five-minute increments. Essentially, finishing times showed the tendency to clump just ahead of, rather than just behind, any time that ended in a zero or five.

What does this mean?

This data set is remarkable in showing the powerful influence of numbers as it relates to recreational sports over decades of time, thousands of races, and millions of finishers. This research shows that athletes imbue remarkable meaning into chasing numbers, and shows statistically significant trends of goal achievement ahead of relatively arbitrary time standards.

Establishing a time goal for a race, regardless of race length or sport, is a time-honored tradition for the endurance athlete. This level of purpose requires strategy development to pursue those goals to fruition. These strategies involve both long-term planning and preparation, along with race day psychological management, including the tolerance of discomfort and the willingness to continue despite a mounting desire to stop (many thanks to Alex Hutchinson his fantastic definition of endurance).

Numbers chasing cuts both ways, however, and the pain associated with missing a goal, even by a minute or two, may prove to be a powerful motivator. Anyone who has beat a personal best or worked to run a sub-[insert personally meaningful time standard here], can attest to the power of goal setting. But, missing the mark can be just as painful psychologically as it can be rewarding.

It may be that the loss (or feared loss) associated with missing a time goal by one minute is more psychologically intense than the pleasure felt by beating a goal by an equal measure. And, this may be the greatest psychological component involved in chasing such feats—the psychological impact of loss aversion.

Simply stated, loss aversion refers to the tendency for us to prefer avoiding losses over acquiring equivalent gains. Fearing that we may be slowing down late in an event and knowing the consequence of potentially missing the mark may actually be the driving force for speeding up or maintaining rhythm.

Pushing your athletes with goals

Reference points serve as a basic psychological itch for motivating behavior. One of the greatest thinkers in understanding the concept of psychological experiences related to behavioral choices is Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.

“Contrary to what we usually believe, moments like these, the best moments in our lives, are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times—although such experiences can also be enjoyable, if we have worked hard to attain them,” Csikszentmihalyi explains. “The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. Optimal experience is thus something that we make happen.”

Time goals established by athletes fit this criteria perfectly—voluntarily pushing the mind and body to perceived limits in an effort to accomplish something difficult and personally worthwhile. The connection to personal meaning is key here. Breaking a four-hour marathon means very little to someone who has qualified for the Olympic Trials, but the four-hour marathon mark is many runners’ greatest athletic accomplishment. The personal relevance of time standards cannot be ignored, and although the times themselves vary from athlete to athlete, the underlying psychological draw to better one’s own personal limits is deeply human.

What’s next?

So what do we do with this information? Well, for starters, look at the time goals for your next race or, if you’re a coach, think about the goals your athletes are chasing? My guess is that most goals either fit a round number standard by targeting times ending in zero of five or focus on bettering an existing PR.

The former very rarely targets something as arbitrary as a time like 3:01:03 unless it occupies the same psychological space of the latter. At first, just notice and accept that doing so connects you to one of the most defining aspects of the human spirit involved in endurance races. And, be aware that when you or your athletes toe the line at the next event, the vast majority of athletes around you are doing the same.

Second, consider stretching goals by five minutes, or for longer races such as ultra marathons or full-length IRONMAN events, stretch goals by two to five percent rather than by minutes. This research shows that we are very motivated by those time standards. If your athletes are gunning to break four hours in the marathon, for example, stretching the goal time will likely be both a bit exciting and a bit scary. The accompanying emotions, such as anxiety and excitement, are sweet spots for psychological growth. Stretching goals will require that you adjust training so that faster efforts are just a bit more effortful, yet conceivably within reach. Athletes will develop a new psychological and physical training framework for what they are capable of, which will make 3:55 possible and four hours much more likely.

Third, remind yourself of your own personal meaning throughout the process. Research about goals is clear that one of the most important factors in goal attainment is the personal meaning of your goals. We know that we are much more likely to put in the right work at the right time in service of a personally relevant, meaningful goal. What does the goal race time mean to you? The more clear, precise, and specific athletes are about their underlying reasons to achieve, the more likely they will be to put in the effort to see it to fruition come race day.

Finally, it’s important to adopt a “breaking barriers” mindset. Self-determination to push the limits of what you think is capable starts in thought. Stretching your goal by five minutes will require you to shift your thinking accordingly. Starting with thinking, “This is what sub-_____ does” in reference to all things related to training in pursuit of your fresh, faster goal time. As your training shifts accordingly to break a tougher standard, so too does your thinking.

The entire research article is fascinating, and I encourage you to read it for all of the details.

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