Archive for May, 2019

The Whole Picture: Nutrition

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

There are innumerable articles on sports nutrition on the TrainingPeaks blog and elsewhere, but rather than recover that ground, let’s focus on nutritional practices that detract from an athlete’s ability to train hard and recover quickly. As in other articles in this series, we’ll be using heart rate variability (HRV) studies to illustrate how these practices manifest by producing a stress response in the body. HRV is a valuable tool for athletes, as it allows a daily assessment of total stress which can be used to gauge current state of recovery, as well as what kind of training your body is ready for.

Three most common factors that create nutritional stress in athletes are:



Anyone who has exercised for more than a couple of hours in a warm environment may have noticed that their heart rate may continue to increase despite remaining at the same pace or power. Joe Friel describes this phenomenon as “heart rate decoupling,” and one of its causes is reduced stroke volume of the heart brought on by dehydration.

Any upward trend in heart rate while maintaining the same load on the body indicates a shift from parasympathetic to sympathetic dominance and an acute increase in stress. If the stress state brought on by dehydration continues, then recovery is delayed relative to an athlete who is adequately hydrated.

In 2014, researchers from universities in Chile studied the effect of dehydration, both on HRV and on resting metabolic rate (RMR). RMR, or the rate that your body consumes energy in a resting state, is known to stay at a high level after intensive exercise, and the researchers wanted to see whether this was also impacted by dehydration.

Fourteen male college-level athletes were weighed, had their HRV and resting metabolic rate measured, and had their urine tested. The athletes were asked to exercise intensively in 32C (90F) environment with circuit training exercises for one minute bursts with one minute of rest in between for 45 minutes total. The aim of this was to dehydrate the athletes by 3.5 percent of their body weight or about 2.5 kg (5.5 lbs) for an 80 kg (176 lbs) athlete.

The athletes were then split into two equal groups, one of which received 1.5 times the amount of fluid they had lost (rehydration group), while the other group rested in a dehydrated state (dehydration group). They found that:

Heart Rate Variability (HRV) was significantly lower in the dehydration groupResting metabolic rate was much higher in the dehydration group

The decreased HRV may indicate a delayed return to the “rest and digest” state that we need to rebuild and restore the body’s reserves.

The researchers’ recommendation is to consume approximately 150 percent of the fluid lost during exercise to ensure a fully hydrated state and to use electrolyte supplements for extended workouts. This is especially true in a hot environment in order to minimize the dehydration contribution to total load.


Although dehydration would also be the first, and perhaps the only reason, that athletes typically think of for not consuming alcoholic drinks, there are, in fact, several ways in which alcohol adds to the total stress load of the body:

Hydration. Alcohol is a diuretic, i.e. it makes you lose more fluid than the drink contains. If that fluid is not replaced, the drink may create extra stress and delay recovery.Refueling. Replacement of glycogen, the preferred muscle fuel, is vital after exercise, but studies show it takes nearly twice as long to replace in athletes who have consumed alcohol.Muscle rebuilding. Alcohol suppresses the protein synthesis needed to repair and strengthen muscles, impairing your adaptation to training. It also delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).Sleep. A drink or two might help you fall asleep more quickly if your mind is active, but alcohol also interferes with your sleep quality, particularly REM sleep later in the night. Memories are stored during REM sleep, hence part of the reason why people say they can’t remember what happened the previous night. Additional consequences include the reduced ability to concentrate the next day and an increased risk of injury in sports requiring precise coordination.

There aren’t many studies relating alcohol consumption and heart rate variability, but one took a closer look at the all-encompassing SDNN measure of HRV. They showed that HRV declined with increasing weekly alcohol consumption:

This data shows a minimal impact for the recommended two small drinks per day, but by the time research subjects were consuming twice that amount, HRV was reduced by around 10 percent. Doubling consumption again reduces HRV by a very significant 25 percent compared to consuming no alcohol at all.

There are several adjustments that can help minimize the impact of alcohol on recovery:

Try to leave as much time as possible between finishing training and having an alcoholic drink. Fit in a recovery drink with carbs in between (contrary to popular opinion, beer and wine do not contain useful quantities of carbs for athletes).Drink water or soft drinks to reduce the effective alcohol concentration to three percent. That means alternating pints of beer with pints of water, or drinking three glasses of water for each glass of wine.Eat salty snacks. Studies have found reduced impact of alcohol when taken together with salt, as the salt helps retain water.Pre-event abstinence. You’ve spent weeks and months preparing to give your best at a competition, so don’t jeopardize performance by drinking in the three to four days leading up to it.


Inflammation is the body’s mechanism for managing repair, and therefore, in principle, a good thing. For example, inflammation is necessary for muscle growth as it participates in protein breakdown, removal of damaged muscle fibres, and production of prostaglandins. However, a lot of the time the body is struggling with low grade chronic inflammation that adds to total load.

Inflammation is a stress response driven by the sympathetic nervous system but regulated or “turned down” by the parasympathetic nervous system that we measure with HRV. What does this have to do with nutrition you may ask? Well, take a look at this example of ithlete HRV readings taken by leading HRV researcher Dr. Andrew Flatt during a week when he relaxed his usual healthy diet in favour of high glycaemic, highly processed, and refined foods known to promote inflammation:

As well as significant daily drops in HRV during the week, his overall baseline also reduced without having done any training. Dr. Flatt’s conclusion was that: “Eating foods that promote inflammation in the body creates stress that your body must deal with. In dealing with this stress we reduce our ability to adapt and recover from training.”

Nutritionally, one of the most common factors driving chronic inflammation is an imbalance between Omega-3 and Omega-6 fat sources, with the latter being both more common in a pro-inflammatory processed food diet. The answer could be to increase dietary quantities of Omega-3 fats, preferably from wild fatty fish; farmed fatty fish has very little Omega-3 due to its altered diet. Trans-fats are also known to be pro-inflammatory and are found in foods such as pastries, doughnuts, margarine, and other snack foods.

Foods that reduce inflammation include fruits (especially berries) and green vegetables, olive oil, ginger, garlic, turmeric, organic meat and fish, and green tea. Studies have also shown the Mediterranean diet to be associated with higher levels of HRV and overall health.


In this article, we reviewed mechanisms and evidence that nutritional practices common amongst age group athletes create a stress load that the body has to bear in addition to training. This extra load delays recovery and prevents the athlete from training as hard and effectively as they might to gain maximum adaptations and performance.

The good news is that all of these factors are relatively easily managed, and that regular HRV monitoring provides an overall health barometer to help identify what is working.

In the final part of this series, we will be looking at how sleep (or more commonly, the lack of it) contributes to total load in the athlete.

The next article in this five-part series will take a closer look at how sleep contributes to total load.


IOC consensus statement: dietary supplements and the high-performance athlete. Maughan RJ, et al. Br J Sports Med., 2018Periodized Nutrition for Athletes. Asker E Jeukendrup. Sports Med., 2017Heart-rate variability: a biomarker to study the influence of nutrition on physiological and psychological health? Hayley A. Young and David Benton. Behavioural Pharmacology., 201Hydration status after exercise affect resting metabolic rate and heart rate Variability. Mauricio Castro-Sepúlveda, et al. Nutr Hosp., 2015Relations between alcohol consumption, heart rate, and heart rate variability in men. J M Ryan and L G Howes. Heart., 2002

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How to use run power for race-specific training

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Most athletes base their goals around specific races. For some runners, it is about qualifying for the Boston Marathon. For others, it is simply setting a personal record at their local 5K or 10K.

However, one thing is certain when preparing for competition: every race is different. Some races feature challenging, tight turns while others challenge athletes with demanding uphills and downhills. There is nearly always a unique challenge athletes should spend time preparing for in training.

There is another unspoken truth in preparing for a running race: most training plans and structured workouts do not account for the unique challenges runners might encounter on race day. It can be difficult to find a training plan that is built to prepare you for a specific course. Instead, most training plans and workouts are simply designed to help you build the proper fitness in order to run the race distance. Proper fitness and conditioning can get the runner mostly ready for the race, but this is not the full solution to having a great race. A runner must develop course-specific skills so they can conquer the unique challenges that the course will throw at them.

Is there a solution?

The solution to building race-specific skills seems straightforward, right?

A runner should begin emulating and training in the exact conditions that they expect to see on race day if they want to be prepared. For example, if a runner expects a marathon course to contain rolling hills, they should plot out their long run to encounter more hills in training. If a runner expects tight turns in a course, they should begin to work that into their training routine, too.

While this solution will help prepare the runner for the course, it is likely pulling the runner away from their training plan and structured workouts. The training plan did not call for repeated hill running so the runner may be left wondering how to incorporate that into a comprehensive plan.

There may even be some risk involved because this additional effort could be adding too much additional training load on the body. Now, the runner is stuck in a tough situation. Do they try to prepare for the course by simulating race conditions or do they try to maximize their fitness by sticking to the training plan?

How to find the balance

There is a way to solve this dilemma. If the runner can comply to their structured workouts while still emulating race conditions, coaches can be confident that they are building the fitness and the skills necessary. An emerging solution to this problem might be running power.

Simply put, running power helps the runner normalize their effort under varying conditions. If a runner chooses to run by power, they can comply to their structured workouts while having the freedom to run on varying terrains.

Let’s take a look at how this works in practice:

First, a runner sets power-based training zones. This process is similar to establishing a set of pace-based zones or heart-rate zones. The principles of run power training should be familiar to anyone who does structured training.

Then, the runner sends a structured workout created on TrainingPeaks to either their Garmin watch or Apple Watch, using an app such as Stryd’s Apple Watch app. A workout may tell the runner to run 16 miles in an easy zone for their long run. Since the runner knows that they have a hilly race coming up, they may choose a route that features a lot of hills. The key difference is that, before running power, a runner may have had a difficult time staying in an easy pace-based zone on the hilly terrain. It is even challenging to use heart rate as a guide if the hills were rolling due to the delay between the runner’s effort and the heart rate value reflecting that change in effort. However, a runner using power could accurately maintain their effort in an easy zone.

What else can you do with run power?

Runners can easily extend the power-based training concept beyond hills, too. Let’s say we have a runner who is preparing for a race with many tight turns. They could emulate this challenge while performing a regularly scheduled interval-based workout. Choose a race level power target for the workout and set up cones to emulate a turn in a race. As the runner slows during a tight corner, they can use their power as a guide to quickly get back to the right intensity and stay compliant to the workout.

This training strategy helps during race day, too. Runners typically slow down and may struggle to find rhythm leaving a tight turn, but training with power helps them learn how to recover and maintain their pace.

In conclusion, structured training is key to achieve proper fitness. However, you do not need to sacrifice structured training when building race-specific skills. As you have likely experienced from your own racing, the unique challenges presented by a course can be endless, and runners will have no issue meeting these challenges if they are willing to design their structured training around these constraints. Running power is a great tool to balance both fitness and skill development when preparing for challenging race conditions.

The post How to use run power for race-specific training appeared first on TrainingPeaks.

CoachCast: Building Confidence with Nicole Adams

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Anyone who has stood at a starting line knows how important confidence can be for athletes embarking on a difficult race. But, as a coach, how do you help instill that confidence in your athletes before race day?

Dr. Nicole Adams has wrestled with that question much of her career as an endurance coach, sports psychologist consultant, and an athlete. Adams recommends working with athletes to develop a healthy confidence, or self efficacy, based on training and preparation. Among other things, one of the tools discussed in this episode is a “confidence resume” or a list of all of the things an athlete has already accomplished in training that has prepared them for race day. 

Stand-out Quotes

“I prefer to think of confidence as a sense of calm, a sense of optimism, but most importantly, confidence is about focusing on the process.”“So instead of trying to have this undefined feeling and aura about you that’s, kind of, this puffed up chest beating, ego-driven confidence, [focus] on the process and [focus] on aspects of your race or your sport that you are in control of.”“As humans, we’re so results-oriented, we’re so outcome-oriented that sometimes we forget that we’re doing this as a hobby that’s something we love. It’s supposed to be fun. And, when you approach a race with the mindset that [you’ve] done the work [you] need to do, [you’re] going to execute to the best of [your] ability in every moment, you really open the door for enjoyment.”


Surviving the Extremes: What Happens to the Body and Mind at the Limits of Human Endurance by Kenneth KamlerWay of the Peaceful Warrior: A Book That Changes Lives by Dan with Dr. Patrick

Episode Transcript


On today’s episode of the TrainingPeaks CoachCast, your source for the latest information about the art, science and business of coaching. Are you pushing your athletes to develop their confidence just like their fitness? Maybe it’s time to help them build a confidence resume.

Dave Schell:                 

Hey guys, Dave Schell here. And, on this episode of the TrainingPeaks CoachCast, I sat down with Dr. Nicole Adams. Nicole is a sports psychologist and mental skills coach. We discussed how you can help your athletes build confidence through practice it in training, reflecting on past wins and building a confidence resume. Hope you enjoy.

Dave Schell:                 

Welcome to the TrainingPeaks CoachCast. I am your host Dave Schell and today I am joined by Nicole Adams. Nicole is a coach and a sport psychology consultant. And today we are going to talk about confidence. Nicole, thanks for joining us.

Nicole Adams:              

Thank you so much for having me. It’s a pleasure to be with you today.

Dave Schell:                 

So before we get into talking about confidence and more specifically athlete confidence, can you just tell us a little bit about yourself and your background in sports psychology?

Nicole Adams:              

Yes, definitely. Um, well just to kind of start from the beginning. Um, I was born in South Africa and my family moved to Canada in 1988 where I completed most of my education, but actually came to the United States for my graduate degree and landed myself up in Texas, which is my home, which I very much love. Um, and so here I’m at Texas Tech, I completed a degree in sports psychology, um, under, educational psychology and began working as a coach about eight years ago. Um, so I both coach athletes and do sports psychology consulting and I’m really just, just absolutely love what I do. So, uh, that’s a little bit of a background as to how I got to where I am.

Dave Schell:                 

And so you have your doctorate in educational psychology?

Nicole Adams:              

Yes, that’s correct. So, um, the doctorate has a focus obviously on the educational side and since so much of the research in sports really came out of education, um, it’s really sort of the perfect marriage of the two. Um, you know, if the two sides of sports psychology, which is coming at it from the educational research side, which is where I came from, was very much from educational research and applying it to sport.

Dave Schell:                 

What was it that got you interested in studying psychology?

Nicole Adams:              

Yes. Well, um, you know, I, first of all, so do to give you a little bit of background. Um, I grew up with parents who are both runners. Um, they picked up running kind of in the mid-thirties when there was really a big running boom ind South Africa. And they quickly graduated from running, you know, 5 and 10ks up to ultra marathons. So I was always really fascinated by, um, my parents’ involvement in running and how they, uh, neither of them were very athletic as kids. In fact, they very unathletic and, um, my dad was a smoker, so, uh, you know, so that was sort of like coming from a very different background. Um, but you know, growing up with my parents being so involved in running and especially ultra marathoning, which is sort of a different sport, all its own, I’ve always had this interest in performance in sport and was always very, you know, just very into sport itself. And then, um, long story short, I picked up triathlon in my mid, early to mid twenties, and, um, I did short-distance triathlon for a few years and then really got bit by the IRONMAN bug. And so a friend that I was training with at the time. Um, she knew that I was going into my first IRONMAN. She was a seasoned veteran at IRONMAN and I really looked up to her. Um, I think she could sense that I was, I was really awed by IRONMAN and, and, and very nervous about it. Um, you know, you’re never really do the full distance in training, so there’s that massive unknown going into an IRONMAN or going into any sporting event of that magnitude. And so she kind of picked up on this, you know, Nicole’s really nervous about this race and she shared with me, um, uh, really kind of life changing, uh, article. It was written by Mark Allen. So this is, this is really some years ago because this is 2004. So I think that it was, you know, written for, uh, either or InsideTriathlon one of the magazines at the time. And, um, it was five tips on being mentally prepared for IRONMAN. And I had never really seen IRONMAN or sporting event of that magnitude written about in a way that seemed manageable, that seemed, you know, that that just a regular old sort of age group athlete could, you know, could really, um, get, get into the sport and not be overcome by nerves and overtaken by this, you know, the magnitude of the event and really sort of some very practical tips on how to think about your race that wasn’t going to completely overwhelm you. And so reading that article, you know, that was shared by this friend of mine totally changed my perspective on what it means to go into an event like this and to feel a sense of confidence or a sense of calm that was very practical. And, and so it really kind of sparked my interest in studying sports psychology because I realized, you know, this is more than just sort of a more than just theory, there was something really practical behind this. And so from that, from that moment on, it really got the gears turning for me. At the time I was working, I was, I had left undergrad, I had been working for several years, but had always wanted to go back to graduate school and, and um, this really sparked a, you know, sparked my interest in and allowed me to find my calling.

Dave Schell:                 

That’s great. And I think you bring up such a good point. There’s, I mean, even today, like anytime I work with an athlete that’s doing a first IRONMAN, there is so much nerves. And I would say, especially for the swim, if you walk around the transition area the morning of a race, you just hear so many people saying, “if I survived the swim.” And so as a sports psychologist or a consultant with that or with your own athletes, how do you address something like that for the swim specifically?

Nicole Adams:              

That is such a great question. Um, and I will put myself, you know, directly into that category as well. I was not a swimmer. My background was very far from swimming. Um, I came from a running background. So swimming to me was such an unknown. And in fact, my very first IRONMAN was an ocean swim. It was IRONMAN Brazil. Yes. I had no clue what I was getting myself into. Um, you know, something about a lake, it seems like sort of this closed body of water where somebody could find you if you needed to be found, but that now as certainly, um, you know, I think the swim really does conjure up a lot of nerves, because again, it just seems like a massive unknown. And, um, you know, I think that, uh, one of the biggest things that I try to help my athletes focus on is number one, the work that they’ve put in to get there, you know, call recalling all the hours and the yards in the pool. And, you know, hopefully they’ve had a chance to do some open water swimming as well. And, you know, recalling experiences they’ve had, um, in open water swimming where they were able to, you know, complete a certain distance in an open water swim or, um, being able to sort of be calmly in the water and, you know, just sort of take care of their own little bit of space. And, um, you know, one of the biggest things that I emphasize with athletes, especially those who are newer to the sport, is find yourself a starting position that’s a little away from the melee of people. Um, you know, you don’t necessarily need to line up in the very front group where, um, you know, you might have some more, um, sort of more aggressive, swimmers who are perhaps lifetime swimmers who, um, you know, intend to go out with a sprint and kind of cruise on from there. I really emphasize to them, you know, find yourself a spot a little bit further back where you have a little bit of your own open water and, um, and then you can sort of control, you know, control your first few strokes. You can control how, um, you know, how you ease into the swim. Um, take a little bit of that, you know, the unknowns out of the equation. In other words, not putting yourself directly into the, you know, the front group in the front melee of swimmers. Let them go off and do their thing. Let them blaze the trail for you and you can follow along. Um, you know, if you wait 20 seconds for that front group to get away from you, that’s perfectly okay. That’s 20 seconds you can make up at some other point in the race when it’s calm and when, when things are under your control.

Dave Schell:                 

Right. Yeah, that’s, and I would have to imagine that it also might have a positive impact of if you’re starting to catch swimmers. So maybe you start a little bit behind, but then as you’re warming up and start to catch some of those swimmers that helps build that confidence.

Nicole Adams:              

Without a doubt, you know, allowing yourself to kind of warm up and ease into your race and then just gradually pull the pack back and 9.9 times out of 10. That’s exactly what happens.

Dave Schell:                 

That’s great. So you had mentioned, um, that in Mark Allen’s article just about building confidence. And so when you think about confidence, how would you define it? When it applies to sport?

Nicole Adams:              

Yes. Such an excellent question. Um, you know, first I think we have a perception that confidence is the sort of gift bestowed on us for, for, you know, something that we deserve, a gift that we’re given for, for, you know, talent or, um, you know, whatever, you know, whatever you might want to call it. But that really makes it sort of this intangible, you know, unattainable state of mind. Um, I prefer to think of confidence as a sense of calm, a sense of optimism, but most importantly, confidence is about focusing on the process. So instead of trying to have this sort of, you know, undefined feeling and aura about you that’s, you know, kind of this puffed up, you know, chest, chest beating, um, you know, ego-driven confidence. In fact, confidence is really about focusing on the process and focusing on aspects of your race or your sport that you are in control of.

Dave Schell:                 

We were just talking a little bit about the, those athletes who are worried about starting the swim. So obviously it seems like there’s lots of athletes that maybe lack that confidence. And why do you suppose that is?

Nicole Adams:              

Yes. You know, I think first of all, um, you know, they’re not necessarily sure what’s involved in actually accomplishing this task, especially if you’re new to the sport. The, the idea of a swim, you know, swimming in a body of water surrounded by, um, you know, surrounded by 500 of your fellow athletes or even if you’re in a wave starts, you know, surrounded by 40 to 100 of your fellow athletes can seem incredibly unusual and, um, just difficult to even wrap your head around. So, you know, what I emphasize is first of all, um, you know, thinking about the things that you can do to warm up for, for the swim starts, you know, if that means taking a little jog around, transition, getting your heart rate up and um, you know, kind of getting, getting some of those more nervous breaths under control, that’s one aspect of it. And then another aspect is, is just focusing on the, um, the process and the technique involved, you know, focus on how you want your stroke to feel. How do you want to pace your swim? Do you want it to feel easier at the start and then steadily work up into a rhythm, uh, you know, focus on how you’ll breathe. Will you try to breathe every, um, you know, every other stroke so that you get plenty of oxygen? Um, you know, at first you’re one to get lots of oxygen in. And as you kind of calm down and, and develop a more steady rate, um, you can probably breathe bilaterally, you know, breathe every three strokes. So, you know, focus on those process aspects of the swim and less on the, um, the fears and, and, you know, one of the tricks that I was taught that I think is incredibly helpful is to just count your strokes, you know, distract yourself from the, um, the nerves and, and the magnitude of what’s going on. And just bring it down to the most basic of aspects of swimming, which is counting every stroke. And that seems to kind of focus the mind on something practical and, and most importantly, just keeps you in the moment. You’re not thinking ahead, you’re not thinking too, um, you know, what comes after the swim. You’re just thinking about every moment, every next stroke.

Dave Schell:                 

That’s some really great advice. It’s kind of easy to think about that with the swim. So how might you apply that same technique to cycling or running?

Nicole Adams:              

Yes, absolutely. So, um, you know, on the bike you’re going to have similar types of cues that you’re going to want to focus on. So your confidence is really coming from, um, you know, the training sessions that you’ve done leading into a race where you’ve practiced your pacing, your efforts, practiced your nutrition, you’ve practiced how you want that race day of feel. So you’re going to keep coming back to those same thoughts, which is, you know, am I, am I pedaling smoothly? What kind of cadence am I looking for here today? What’s my optimal race cadence? And ideally, you’re going to have some sort of a number, whether it be an average heart rate or an average power, um, that you’re going to just loosely focus your efforts on. As we know, you know, those numbers, we can’t be a slave to our numbers, but our numbers certainly give us a good range for what’s appropriate for race day. Um, you know, one of the tricks I tell my athletes is to, um, is to run their computers on average power for the first say, um, you know, 20 to 40 minutes on the bike. So they get an idea of where they’re averaging that gives them, um, you know, that gives them sort of a good effort to, to base the first, you know, the first half of the ride on. And so again, you’re bringing it down to the process, which is, um, you know, focus on my cadence, focus on how this should feel. I, in the beginning of the ride, I should really feel, you know, sort of that easy to steady feeling. I shouldn’t be digging deep right now. Um, and then really, really important is keeping your mind constantly on when am I taking my next fuel? Or when am I taking my carbs? When am I taking my water? When am I taking my salt? So that you’re breaking that bike course down into small chunks of, you know, sort of manageable tasks for, and you’re going to be doing something every 5 to 10 minutes. So it doesn’t really allow you a lot of time to think ahead. You’re really taking care of, you know, taking care of yourself in the here and now. And, and similarly, similarly for the run, um, you know, same type of thing when, when an athlete, um, you know, comes out of transition and they’ve got their running shoes on, the first thing they’re going to want to think about is what’s my effort? What kind of an effort do I need to have at this point in the race in order to ensure that I build and build and build and get stronger. So instead of thinking of, you know, oh, I really want to beat “X” time today, or I really want to beat “X” athlete today, you’re bringing it to a personal and internal level, which is what kind of effort do I need to be putting out right now in order to build and stay strong over the course of the run? And of course the other side of that is what kind of fueling do I need to, um, you know, take care of at each aid station. I need to have a plan. Plan out exactly what I’ll do as I arrive at each aid station and, and have it all mapped out for yourself. Um, you know, and thinking of it that way really helps you to again, stay in the moment and really not worry about the outcome or the result of it, but instead just executing the best you can in each moment.

Dave Schell:                 

And so as a coach yourself, is this something that you have your athletes practice in training?

Nicole Adams:              

Yes, absolutely. Um, you know, we do, um, a certain number of workouts kind of throughout their build that, that um, you know, really are sort of a, um, a test run if you will, um, for a key race. So, um, you know, especially workouts that kind of stretch them a little bit. Um, you know, I’ll really, um, really encourage them to think about those process aspects that would apply well in racing. Um, so in those key workouts, you know, they may be, um, working hard physically, but at the same time they’re mentally staying focused in the moment and what they need to take care of in each moment to ensure that they finished that workout strong, that they come out of that workout feeling like, you know, they could have even done more at the end. I don’t necessarily need them to be emptying the tank. Um, you know, I want them to finish those workouts, feeling a sense of confidence about having executed to the best of their ability. So we do a lot of, you know, kind of focus on execution and, um, they get tired of hearing this. I know I sound like a nag, but it’s constantly, it’s pacing, pacing, pacing, nutrition, nutrition, nutrition. And so that’s really ingrained in them throughout their workouts. And then it’s something that they easily translate into racing.

Dave Schell:                 

So talk to me a little bit about, um, building a confidence resume.

Nicole Adams:              

Yes. Um, so this is, uh, what I think is just a really awesome technique. Um, taught by Dr. Patrick Cohn who’s, um, who has Um, Dr. Cohn came up with this notion of writing a confidence resume, which, you know, as the word suggests, a resume is sort of like an accounting of what you’ve done. It’s an accounting of, um, you know, if, uh, if it’s something for your career, it’s, it’s giving people a picture of, of what your career looks like. Your confidence resume is similar. Um, and, and it’s for you, it’s for you only. You write it for yourself. You’re, you’re really recounting all of the work that put in to get to where you are. Each of the key aspects of your training that the boxes that you’ve ticked off. Um, you’ve done your bricks, you’ve done your long rides, you’ve done your long runs and you’ve executed your long swims as necessary. You’ve thrown in a little bit of speed work where necessary. Um, and then the other really important things, um, you know, taking care of all the little aspects, your nutrition, your recovery, so your, your confidence resume is going to list out, you know, after each of my long runs I took in the correct recovery nutrition after each of my long rides, I foam rolled. I, um, you know, I got my massage, you know, once every other week. Um, and then another aspect of it would be your mental preparation. And so in that confidence resume you’re going to write, um, I practiced staying in the moment during my hard workouts or, um, you know, I brought myself after a tough workout that didn’t go the way I wanted it to. I manage to get over that quickly and get onto the next workout the next day. So it’s kind of highlighting all of the things that you’ve done and you’ve accomplished throughout your training. Um, and, and you know, it’s something that you write down. You literally, you know, I like handwriting. I think when you hand write things that really commits at nicely to memory. So write it in your own handwriting and, and reread it. Um, you know, especially say the two weeks leading into a race that’s like your, it’s like your mantra. It’s something you’re going to reread multiple times to keep reminding yourself of all the hard work you’ve put in. And then one last aspect aspect to that I, I encourage athletes to do is to let their spouse or their parents or their coach even contribute some points to their confidence resume. And the reason for that is that so often we overlook our own greatest strengths. We seem to focus on, uh, you know, we seem to focus on certain things, but we really do forget some of our greatest strengths. And our, our support system is there to remind us of those things.

Dave Schell:                 

I absolutely love that and I’m going to steal it. And one idea that kind of popped into my head and I’m, I’m currently coaching somebody to their first IRONMAN and we talked about special needs bags and maybe having a note from, um, a loved one or a friend in your special needs bag to help get you, you know, halfway through the marathon or something like that. And so now I love this idea of the confidence resume where maybe you have that in your special needs bag if you have to kind of go to that well. Such a great idea.

Nicole Adams:              

And further to that, I have an athlete who has two teenage daughters and her daughters think that she is just, uh, they look up to her, you know, as, as being this incredible role model, especially since she’s doing this really, really cool sport that most people think is nuts. Um, so her daughters, write on little little post cards and um, when she packs her gear to go off for a race, she’ll be unpacking her bags and you know, stuffed between like her race kits or whatever. She’ll pull out a little posted note or a postcard written by her daughters. And the look of joy on her face is a little, things like that make an enormous difference to an athlete.

Dave Schell:                 

I can imagine. That’s wonderful. So this is like, I love this. But on the other side of that, is there any value in dealing with adversity and having some of that hardship to help to build up your confidence?

Nicole Adams:              

Oh, tremendously. Um, you know, obviously a really big part of confidence is sort of having the positives and the strengths and um, you know, knowing you’ve done the work and you’ve had these great workouts, however, confidence really becomes robust when you have had to overcome some, some adversity, which every single person, um, you know, has had something in their lives that’s tested them. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be in the sport itself. Obviously when it’s something you’ve overcome in the sport, it is, it’s incredibly helpful. You know, um, how many people have had a flat tire, you know, in a race? And, and in fact, Mark Allen referred to this in his article. He said, what is a flat tire mean in the middle of a race? All it means is that you have to change a tire. It doesn’t mean your race is over. It doesn’t mean you’re the worst triathlete to ever do the sport. It just means you’ve got to change a tire. So, um, you know, drawing on, um, drawing on things, you know, whether it’s a mistake or whether it’s something that was out of your control that’s happened, remembering that you overcame that and adding that to your confidence resume. You know, something along the lines of remember that day when I just felt absolutely terrible in the middle of my long ride and I stopped on the side of the road and I sat there and I thought about my life for 15 minutes, but you know what? I got back on the bike and I completed the ride. That’s huge. Um, you know, nobody that I know of has been able to complete an entire triathlon without having some low moments. And so knowing, knowing that those low moments can occur, but the only thing that you need to worry about is just putting one foot in front of the other and picking yourself back up and keep going because that low moment is going to end. It’s, you know, those tough moments, will have their time, but as long as you keep focused on the here and now and especially keep focused on what can you do in the next moment. Um, so often that’s nutrition related. I find, you know, take in a little bit extra carbs, take in a little bit of salt, take in a little bit of water, um, you know, and pick yourself up and slowly start kind of gaining your momentum again.

Dave Schell:                 

So, beyond just getting the athlete through a race successfully, what other kind of positive impacts can have in confidence have?

Nicole Adams:              

Yes. You know, I think that confidence, this type of confidence, you know, confidence that’s really based on, uh, you know, all the work that you’ve done to prepare and, you know, the, the miles that you’ve done to prepare to get to where you are, racing with that mindset really allows you to, to really enjoy the sport. Um, you know, there’s so much enjoyment to be had when athletes uncouple their self image from their results. Um, I think that we as, whether it’s just, you know, athletes of this nature or, or just as, as humans, you know, we’re so results-oriented, we’re so outcome-oriented that sometimes we forget that we’re doing this as a, as a hobby that’s, you know, something we love. It’s, it’s supposed to be fun. And when you approach a race with the mindset that, you know, I’ve done the work I need to do, I’m going to execute to the best of my ability in every moment, you really kind of open the door for enjoyment. And not just enjoyment, but really long-term engagement in the sport. Because ultimately, you know, I think one gets the most out of the sport when you do it for many, many years because there are so many pieces of the puzzle to figure out and triathlon, you need a lot of, you know, you need a lot of bites at the apple to really feel like you’re on top of it. And, um, so, you know, my hope is that with athletes approaching racing with this type of confidence in mind that they’ll actually get more enjoyment and do it for longer.

Dave Schell:                 

Very cool. Before I let you go, I’m just curious, do you have any other, um, resources if a coach wanted to learn more about, um, either sports psychology or Dr. Patrick Cohn. Do you have any resources there that they could seek out?

Nicole Adams:              

Yes, absolutely. So they should definitely look up Dr. Cohn’s website. Um, it’s He’s got just a wealth of resources there. Um, and then, you know, there’s some great books out there. I mean, there is a wealth of literature out there. Um, but, you know, some of my favorite books that I, that really kind of opened my mind to, um, to this type of confidence, you know, confidence that’s calm and optimistic and focusing on the process. Um, one of the books is, um, called “Surviving the Extremes” by Kenneth Kammler. Uh, just a fascinating, um, you know, fascinating kind of recount of, um, athletes who’ve survived some extreme situations, you know, whether it be by design or by accident. Um, that’s a really good one. And then, um, the author Dan Millman, who has written several great books, one of them is “The Way of the Peaceful Warrior.” Um, that’s also, an excellent book to kind of open, open your mind to, um, you know, to looking at confidence differently. Um, and then, you know, not everybody has access, but if you are, um, you know, near to your closest college library or something like that, you know, go and see if you can research some of the, um, you know, the academic research in sports psychology specifically about confidence. And in the sports psychology field, um, we often speak about confidence as self efficacy. Um, the reason being that, you know, the word confidence is really difficult to define. But if you research under self efficacy, you’ll find just a wealth of, um, you know, wealth of information with regards to really practical things that athletes can do to increase their sense of efficacy, to increase their belief in their ability to master, um, you know, master tasks. And so those are just some of the, the ideas that they can look into.

Dave Schell:                 

Fantastic. And what if they had a question for you specifically, would you, could they hit you up on Twitter or Instagram?

Nicole Adams:              

Um, I’m not super active on social media, but I would absolutely love, I would love if they would contact me through one or two of my websites. They can find or they can find me at

Dave Schell:                 

Fantastic. And we’ll link to that in the show notes as well.

Nicole Adams:              

Wonderful. And I look forward to hearing from anybody. Questions, discussion. I’m open to it.

Dave Schell:                 

Awesome. Well, thank you very much for your time. I certainly learned a lot and looking forward to hearing more from you at this year’s Endurance Coaching Summit.

Nicole Adams:              

Wonderful. Thanks so much for having me, Dave. I appreciate it.

Dave Schell:                 

Right. Take care of Nicole.

Nicole Adams:              

You too!

Dave Schell:                 

Hey, guys. Dave here again, and I hope you enjoyed my talk with Dr. Nicole Adams. Nicole will be speaking at this year’s Endurance Coaching Summit. So if you want to hear more, use the code “CoachCast20” to take 20 percent off your in-person or online registration. Until next time.

The post CoachCast: Building Confidence with Nicole Adams appeared first on TrainingPeaks.

What To Do When Your Athlete Sets An “Impossible” Goal

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Among the athletes I coach is Bob, a 52-year-old runner whose BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) is to run the Boston Marathon. To get there, Bob will need to complete a qualifying event in less than 3 hours and 30 minutes. His current PR for the distance, which he set recently under my guidance, is 4:37:55.

“Just a bit outside,” as Bob Uecker might say.

Yet when Bob first shared his BHAG with me and asked if I thought it was possible, I told him “yes.” What’s more, I believe that every coach—including you—should give the same answer whenever an athlete articulates a long-term goal that seems unattainable.

Here’s why:

1) No one really knows what’s possible

Athletes do things that are considered impossible all the time. Famous examples like the once daunting and now ho-hum four-minute mile come to mind immediately, but there’s also an infinite number of everyday examples. Heck, I have done things as an athlete that, even as a knowledgeable student of endurance sports, I thought I couldn’t, like smashing an eight-year-old marathon PR at age 46 in my 41st attempt at the distance.

We’ve all heard stories of athletes who achieve something special and afterward call out a former coach for telling them they could never do what they eventually accomplished. How would you like to be one of those called-out coaches? The surest way to avoid such infamy is not to pretend you know what the limit of any athlete’s potential is—because you don’t.

2) In most cases it does no harm and some good to pursue “impossible” long-term goals

What happens when a runner who is genetically incapable of ever achieving a Boston Marathon qualifying time for his or her age group sets a long-term goal to do just that? In my experience, the runner works really hard and consistently to improve and eventually becomes the best runner he or she can be without ever qualifying for Boston. In other words, setting impossible long-term goals is usually good for an athlete’s development—not bad.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that athletes should set impossible long-term goals. But, any athlete whose underlying ambition is to realize 100 percent of his or her potential should at least set goals that are at the lofty end of realistic, because that’s how human motivation works.

Short-term goals are another matter. Athletes who set an impossible goal for their next race tend to overtrain or race too aggressively, and end up performing beneath their current capacity. Short-term goals should be challenging but realistic.

3) Cultivating belief is an important part of a coach’s job

Basketball coach Billy Donovan once said, “Believe in your system and then sell it to your players.” This is good advice, because performance always follows belief.

It’s not enough to give your athletes good training. They will compete far more successfully if you’re able also to get your athletes to believe their training is good, fostering expectations of success through this and other means.

Every athlete, from the least gifted to the most, has limits. That’s no reason to emphasize them. If you want to get the most out of your athletes (and I hope you do!), focus on what they can and could do in your interactions with them, not on what you think they can’t do.

Now, you should never lie to an athlete, and I’m not suggesting that. What I am suggesting is that you always put an optimistic spin on reality while discussing your clients’ goals and aspirations, because they will fulfill more of their limited potential if you do.


Let’s return to Bob, the 4:37 marathoner who dreams of running Boston. I will confess now that when Bob asked me if I thought this goal was possible for him, my answer went beyond a simple “yes.” Knowing that Bob himself recognized it was a long shot, I told him I thought so too. But, I also went on to say that every great athletic feat is a long shot, and there’s no telling how much he could improve if we both worked hard, took things one step at a time, and kept on believing. It was all true.

Make no mistake: I have no problem being the cold voice of reason when necessary, admonishing athletes for completing their recovery sessions too fast, or for skipping their drills, or for ignoring pain’s warnings. But, where their long-term goals are concerned, I prefer to take the attitude taken by Jim Carrey’s character in Dumb and Dumber when the girl he fancied rated his odds of winning her heart at one in a million.

“So you’re saying there’s a chance.”

I recommend you do the same.

The post What To Do When Your Athlete Sets An “Impossible” Goal appeared first on TrainingPeaks.

Try This Preseason Home Strength Workout for Triathletes

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We often think that strength training for triathlon requires heading to the gym, purchasing a laundry list of equipment, or finding space in your pain cave (or studio apartment). It can get quite overwhelming, but that doesn’t have to be the case.

I’ve worked with individuals from around the world to help get them out of pain and increase their performance, both in person and remotely. At first, coaching remotely proved to be challenging because not all gyms are easily accessible, they often lack important equipment, or they even lack the required space to get a proper workout in.

I’ve developed killer home workouts with just a few pieces of relatively cheap and easy-to-store equipment so your athletes can benefit from strength training at home. Here are my preferred home workout equipment and a workout routine that will cost athletes less than $150 and will take up no more space to store than a couple of pairs of boots.

The equipment

Here’s what athletes need to get started:

One to two kettlebellsStrength beginners should have an 8kg and 12kg kettlebellStrength intermediates should have a 12kg and 20kg kettlebellStrength advanced should have a 16kg and 24kg kettlebellOne three-foot-long (1 meter) foam rollerOne lacrosse ball or tennis ballSomething to lay on that will keep you from sliding like a beach towel or a yoga mat

If you’re on a tight budget, start out with just the lighter kettlebells and the foam roller. These will allow you to get a great workout while working on strength and balance until you can purchase the heavier kettlebell.

Choosing the lighter weight may seem unusual, but we need to keep in mind that the cornerstone of increased performance from weight training comes from increased inter and intramuscular coordination. In order to accomplish this, remember that joint position dictates muscle function. That means that great technique using tempo to work on refining technique will develop a stronger mind-muscle connection.

The workout

Dynamic warmup

Start by foam rolling your full body for five to seven minutes total.

Crocodile breathing: 5 breathsSide-lying windmill: 5 times each sideSofa stretch: 30 seconds each sideJump rope: 2×30 seconds using short, quick jumps

Strength training

A1. Kettlebell swings: 3×15 repetitionsA2. Bird dogs: 3×5 repetitions each side (finish 1 side, then the other)

B1. 2-1-1-1 goblet squats: 3×10 repetitionsB2. Reach, roll, lift: 3×5 repetitionsB3. One-arm kettlebell shoulder press: 3×5 repetitions each side

C1. Down dogs: 3×5-7 repetitionsC2. One-arm kettlebell rows: 3×6 repetitions each sideC3. Suitcase carries: 3×20 seconds each side

The movements

Dynamic warmup

Crocodile breathing

This is an important, yet often overlooked, area of our training. Breathing exercises help you learn how to get a great, solid, healthy diaphragmatic breath. Take your time with these, and make sure you’re doing them properly.

Side-lying windmill

This is a fantastic full-body exercise which allows us to hit a number of common trouble spots for triathletes and cyclists: chest, lats, lower back, and glutes. Make sure to match your breath here as you work through the movement as it can significantly boost the positive results.

Sofa stretch

While everyone and their Auntie Anne seem to be trying to stretch their hip flexors, many miss the biggest contributor to anterior pelvic tilt: a tight rectus femoris. Make sure you are paying attention to the cues here and activate your abs while taking full, deep breaths (notice a pattern here in our warmup?) while you keep great posture.

Jump rope

You may be a bit confused as to why this is at the end of the warmup. After a static stretch, we’re after some very basic plyometric exercises. Jumping rope is a true plyometric exercise meaning that, when done correctly, there is a stretch-shortening cycle.

Strength training exercises

Kettlebell swings

This is an incredibly difficult movement for many cyclists and triathletes to master due in large part to the disruption in the posterior chain that we induce with our hard efforts on the bike. Take your time and work to master the movement before you look to increase the weight.

Bird dogs

This is another commonly butchered exercise. The bird dog should be done to bolster spinal stability and strength, not to put your spine through flexion and extension. Take your time and make sure you start at the proper level, which for many is going to be level one.

2-1-1-1 goblet squats

In the pre-season with your first races six to eight weeks away, we want to make sure our strength training is priming us for power, not just strength. In order to do so, we need to teach the muscles how to control our joints and produce power, all without losing stability. This 2-1-1-1 tempo is great for this exact purpose. This video demonstrates a 3-1-3-1 tempo; simply change the tempo to 2-1-1-1.

Reach, roll, lift

Mid- and lower-traps are constantly needed for our run, bike, and swim, yet these muscles are one of the more challenging areas to train without a lot of equipment. The reach, roll, lift exercise is extremely challenging to do properly as it requires us to keep our head in a neutral position, fire our obliques (muscles that tie our rib cage and hips together), and turn off the large shoulder muscles to allow our mid-back to work. Take your time. Remember, it’s not blowing the exercise just to check it off that is important, it is the technique and firing the correct muscles when and how they should.

One-arm kettlebell shoulder press

This exercise requires great posture and muscular recruitment, something everyone could use more of. If you find this exercise very difficult, work on the reach, roll, lift exercise instead. This is exercise will help you develop the mind/muscle connection and slowly work on getting better overhead movement.

Down dogs

This is an awesome yoga-esque movement that I will often use in place of pushups for my athletes until they are better able to control their shoulder blade movements. Note this exercise is different than the yoga variation as you are intended to hold a plank position.

One-arm kettlebell rows

This is as much a rotary stability exercise as it is a rowing exercise. Keep those hips and that rib cage locked together with your shoulder blade moving on your rib cage.

Suitcase carries

This is a fantastic way to work on posture under fatigue as well as help to work on inter and intramuscular coordination for running. The suitcase carry has quickly become an athlete favorite over the years, in part due to its simplicity and its surprising difficulty.

From start to finish this workout should take you about 30 minutes, and when done properly two to three days a week can help you train and race stronger and faster than before.

If you’re wondering why the exercises are grouped into “A”, “B” and “Cs”, stay tuned for upcoming posts here on TrainingPeaks, or take a deep dive into the Strength Training for Triathlon Success course. Use the code “StrongSeason19” to receive 19 percent off the course.

The post Try This Preseason Home Strength Workout for Triathletes appeared first on TrainingPeaks.

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