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Winning or Losing: Reflecting on Your Season

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As the season draws to an end, it’s now time to begin to reflect on the season that just passed. In sport, every race only has one person who emerges victorious (in each category), which means there is a greater chance your athlete is not a winner. How can you help them rise above the emotional response of winning or losing and see a path to success?

We have two favorite expressions: “If you aren’t winning, you are learning” and “F.A.I.L. = First Attempt In Learning.” 

The message in both quotes is clear—you always learn something. In having this adaptive growth mindset, athletes can turn almost every session into a learning opportunity. When it’s time to look at a whole season, you have the learning points from every session to help your athletes improve.

Nevertheless, as coaches we only really get paid to see results, and the outcome of the season usually defines or undermines the coaching input. But as all coaches will tell you, the process and progress made throughout the season is a much better future performance indicator than any single race result or outcome can be. 

In other words, it’s less about what your athlete achieved, and more about how they did it (the process).

At the end of the season there will always be winners and losers, but it’s important that, no matter you athlete’s result, they become a learner. 

So the season didn’t go as planned. Now what?

If things didn’t go as planned, sorry to hear it. Don’t let your athlete fall into a hole of self-pity—now is the time to do something about it! Can you understand why things didn’t work out? An excellent model to really understand why things didn’t work out is the “fishbone” model. 

This model is useful because it helps you (repeatedly) ask why, forcing you to be honest with your answers. This constant asking of “so what?” will lead you to the root cause of that section, and importantly, a course of action to take forward. 

For example: Improve running > Improve running technique > Do more proprioception work > Do regular core/proprioception work every morning for 15 minutes before all training sessions.

If you are in a position where your athlete didn’t win, then this is fantastic as you have a measurable difference between what they did and what the “winner” did. For example, if their goal was to make the top 10 and they missed that by 15 minutes (for a five-hour race) then how do help them get five percent faster? You have a yardstick.  

When working with athletes, it’s important to remember that they often look externally before they look internally for any problems. For example, they might opt to buy a new bike or get a new coach before identifying the big, low-hanging fruit (which is usually cheaper too!). Try to help them focus internally and have an open mind to everything—it may provide a better route to success than just buying their improvements, and sometimes they may find it was the wrong purchase in the first place.

Don’t get short-sighted by these glitzy solutions. What are the boring things your athletes can do to improve? A lot of failures are a result of inconsistent training, so how can you help them improve their consistency? Why were they inconsistent (see the fishbone diagram above!)? 

Asking yourself and your athlete “what went well?” and “what could you improve?” are great starting points to identify weaker areas. Better yet, apply those questions across different areas: swimming, cycling, running, nutrition, their weekly schedule, strength and conditioning, day-to-day nutrition, race planning, etc. Suddenly your athlete might have a long list of ways to improve and find that five percent!

What if your athlete had a really successful season?

Clearly, when things have been going well it’s tempting to rest on your laurels and not change much. However, unless you understand how your athlete won, you won’t be able to repeat it. In many instances, this is the hardest and most important reflection to make, and perhaps your celebrations have meant you missed the important learning point. 

Things might have worked by chance, or maybe your athlete just got lucky. What you need to do is work out how to get lucky every time so that it becomes a routine. Unless you understand why your athlete’s training plan worked, how their training blocks fitted together, how their nutrition plan was executed, how their race calendar worked, how their taper fitted together, how their travel arrangements impacted their race, and of course, how effective their race tactics were, you cannot guarantee success. 

When you understand all of these moving parts, all the principles behind your athlete’s success, then you can repeat them. If you’ve had a successful season, you want to back it up—after all, they say the hardest championship to win is the second one.

After all, if those behind your athletes are looking at how to catch them, you want to keep moving their goal posts!

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Over the years of playing or participating in any sport, our body goes through changes and adaptations to help us better get into the positions and movements for that sport. While our body is trying its best, cycling and triathlon can lead to poor posture and a loss of range of motion at many of the joints. Luckily, with an intelligent strength training program, you can avoid these negative changes and instead bolster your in-sport abilities and boost your performances.

Here are four common mistakes masters make when it comes to strength training for their sport, and how to avoid them.

Focusing on mimicking sport movements 

Many athletes who are new to strength training for sport performance make the mistake of thinking that in order to get better at their sport, they need to strength train in the same movement patterns as their chosen sport. 

Baseball is a great example of this. With its specific throwing and batting movements, you’d think that baseball players are simply going into the weightroom and performing similar movements, yet when you look at well-designed programs from the best in the business, you’ll notice that less than 15 percent of most programed movements match those of the sport. Close to 40 percent counter the movements dominant in the sport, helping the athlete maintain balance.

Work on balancing out the imbalances that occur in our sport. Working on good breathing patterns, thoracic extension, pulling, and rotary stability give you some of the biggest returns on investment.

Exercise to utilize: 

The Suitcase Deadlift—three sets of eight each side

Weight training only in the off-season or base phase

Strength, just like metabolic fitness, falls off when the individual is not constantly being pushed beyond their baseline. In as little as two weeks, one can see a drop in strength and explosiveness if the system is not challenged. 

This doesn’t mean that you should be lifting heavy things all year, but it does mean that if one learns how to build an intelligently-designed strength training program, they can reap massive benefits throughout the season through nontraditional variations of exercises that provide massive bang for the buck.

Exercise to utilize:

Double Kettlebell Hover Deadlifts—three sets of eight with two- to three-second “hover” 

Not training heavy

Training with heavy weights—those that challenge you at a seven or eight on a scale of one to 10—is very important. Integral, in fact!

Lifting heavy things challenges our bodies to coordinate itself in ways that can supercharge our results. It creates intra-abdominal pressure (IAP) to stabilize our spine, uses our prime movers to pick up a weight or put it down, and engages our stabilizers to keep the joints in their optimal positions to execute the task. 

Don’t get too excited here—heavy weights do not, and should not be one-repetition maximums. We don’t have a need for that kind of work as triathletes, and more importantly, we do not have the tissue adaptations necessary to properly deal with and distribute the forces exerted on the tissues and structures of the body. 

Sets of three and four repetitions of prime exercises such as deadlifts off of blocks, bench press, seated rows, and front squats are all incredibly useful when you understand when, how and why to program them into a training plan for an athlete. Also understand how they shouldn’t be incorporated into a training plan. For example, don’t hit the gym and immediately go into heavy weights. You first need to go through two stages in the strength training cycle—anatomical adaptations and hypertrophy.

Learn how to write intelligently designed strength training programs & when to incorporate heavy strength training, here.

Training explosively (plyometrics) without a solid and balanced base of strength

Many cyclists head to the gym and immediately start blowing through plyometrics. Four sets of 20 and three sets of 10 high box jumps, and three-plus minutes of high-intensity jump rope are all fairly popular exercises in the cycling community. 

These exercises are extremely hard on the joints, as when done in such large quantities (and with poor posture and joint position), can lead to not only unnecessary wear and tear on the joints, but also decreased performances. 

If you really want to get the most out of your plyometrics, learn how to get what’s called triple extension—the extension of the ankles, knees, and hips. This should come after first working to balance out your muscular imbalances, and learning how to get into powerful postures that protect your joints, not expose them to forces they aren’t built to deal with.

Also, learn how to land. Simply learning how to absorb the forces of jumping through the muscles, and not in the joints, allows the muscle tissue to become more spring-like, as well as helps you have a much longer, and more successful career. 

Exercise to utilize:

Hands on hips vertical and absorb—three sets of five repetitions

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Running your own coaching business can be a tricky balancing act. You need to market your business with the goal of attracting and nurturing new athletes. You also need to create a name for yourself, all while putting together plans for your current athletes, getting them ready for races, and dealing with the little tasks in between. 

Finding new athletes is a constant struggle, but an important one. Searching for new leads and athletes is something you should do continually, even when you have enough work. There are several reasons why:

Athletes drop off during their “off-season” and may not come backThe athlete’s season is over, and they might take a step back from triathlonsMaybe you are chock full of athletes, but it’s always good to have some looking at your programs, and be on the waitlist

Fellow coaches are always asking me about how to gain more clients/athletes. First and foremost, it’s important to show up every day! Beyond that, here are my five rules to getting more athletes.

How to Attract More Athletes to Your Coaching Business

Blogging

Blogging is a great way to build your credibility while attracting athletes and followers. When you write blog posts, you’re putting content on the web that can attract search engine traffic. If your blog posts are interesting, helpful, and entertaining, your readers will click on the link to see what else you have to offer. 

Remember, you want to write blog posts about topics that are of interest to your clients, as this shows your expertise in your area.

There are several ways you can blog:

Create a standalone blog using a blogging platform like Blogger or WordPressAdd a blog to your website in a subdomain or separate folderGuest blog on other people’s blogs

Social Media

There are several ways you can use social media to attract athletes, and this is a hot topic of discussion. Feel free to check out the previous articles I have written for TrainingPeaks about Instagram and Facebook tips. I will be discussing a lot of these ideas at the Endurance Coaching Summit roundtable discussions in September.

Social media is a connection, and we are all social people. Do a search on social media for terms that your potential athletes might follow or include in their profiles or posts. Start following them, and comment on and like their photos—engage with them!

Another method is to search for a hashtag term, such as #runner, #triathlete, #swimmer, #ironman703, #ironmantri, etc. Start following these hashtags and see where your potential athletes are hanging out.  

You should be real and honest on social media. Show your personality and be positive and helpful. Don’t try to sell on social media—if people are interested in what you have to offer, they’ll inquire about your services.

Podcasts

We all know what podcasts are, but they have become increasingly more trendy in recent years. They’re super convenient, as you can take them wherever you want and listen to them on the go.

Before you even think of starting a podcast, I would try to be a guest on a few dozen podcasts. If you listen to podcasts, you know how much work they are. 

Trust me, I tried—I started adding my “Vlogs” on YouTube, and then I uploaded them as a podcast. They ended up being a video, but I realized I was half-assing the podcast. Just recently I deleted the podcast off iTunes because it’s not up to my standards.

Start reaching out to podcasts you would like to be a guest on. Pitch them who you are, what you have to offer their following, and why you would be a good fit.

If you are interested in how to start a podcast, check out John Lee Dumas’ Free Podcast Course, here. 

Events and Meetups

Find networking events and meetups that are related to the services you offer. Look for conferences, exhibitions, trade shows, talks, and other events where you’re likely to encounter your potential athletes and get ready to network. 

While the Endurance Coaching Summit may be more for coaches, it’s a fantastic way to network with other coaches who may be needing a coach themselves or just a connection in general. 

You can also gain athletes from ordinary community events, such as at a race or at a local running club or cycling group gathering. Switch your mindset and view any event as an opportunity. When you attend community events, make yourself visible and show up prepared to talk with people. Get to know them and engage with them! 

I recently started doing a monthly “Meet and Greet with Coach Jen and Rulon Racers” event. I’d pick an event and plug it, or I would create my own. Put yourself in the shoes of your potential athletes and try to determine what sort of event they’d be excited to attend. Your event doesn’t have to be huge, it just needs to attract the right people and give them something valuable. 

Referrals

It’s highly likely that your best athletes will come from referrals. If an athlete likes how you coach them, they’ll sing your praises to other athletes who need your coaching services. You can make this happen by doing your best work for all athletes and exceeding their expectations whenever possible. 

Referrals will happen naturally, but it helps if you give athletes a nudge. Put a system in place for references. First, ask your athletes to refer you to others whenever they have the chance. Second, you can always ask for a testimony, as this can live on your website or your Facebook page.

Next Steps

While there are a ton more online and offline methods out there, I would pick a couple that you feel is the best route for your coaching business. If you are decent at social media, go ahead and start working on content and find a podcast you want to be featured on. If you need help on social media, check out the TrainingPeaks articles I’ve linked to above, and go ahead and grab my social media calendar to get started today. 

Remember your coaching business is, in fact, a business, and it’s a service-based business. Be the best one out there!

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This article is all about the “doers”—the athletes who maintain a close relationship in the say-do gap.  

What is the say-do gap? It’s the space between what an athlete says they will do and the eventual outcome. Success defined not by finishing time or overall placing, but by if your athlete did what they said they would do.

By working with athletes across many countries, you’ll gain exposure to a wide variety of cultures, values, and belief systems. Be that as it may, there are a handful of common underlying traits in endurance athletes who close the say-do gap on a daily basis, and talent is not one of them.

What separates these athletes from the pack and how are they so successful in this space?

Resilience

Resilience is present in athletes who can turn adverse circumstances (both physical and psychological) to their favor quickly through coping mechanisms and a well-established process. Sure, genes play a role in how we deal with stress and trauma, but it’s clear the most resilient athletes have tasted ‘rock bottom’ at times, yet continually find a way to right the ship. This includes a wide variety of circumstances, like how an athlete deals with sickness, injury, work, and family stress.

And as a coach, you know there is a well-beaten path for many of the adverse circumstances athletes may face. 

Consistency

There are several ways athletes can establish consistency in their training and behaviors. 

Consistency underpins the success and failure of an athlete’s season. At the beginning of any athlete’s season, we try to establish frequency in activity—breaking the habit of doing a little or a lot on random occasions.

No matter how unpredictable the athlete’s schedule may be, we are creatures of habit. There will be a way to establish a level of frequency, and that is consistency is its most basic form.

Frequency is followed by duration. How close can the athlete start to move towards the optimal duration of the desired session? Intensity is the last piece of the “consistency” puzzle. Can the athlete regularly achieve the desired intensity (IF) for each session, be it low or high?  

Are your athletes consistent across frequency, duration, and intensity for extended periods of time? 

Organized

More often than not, successful athletes’ lives are chaotic, but from the surface you’d never know. These athletes can deal with curve balls because they are resilient and able to understand the potential challenges that may present themselves during their season.

They don’t enter an “A” race two weeks before the end of the fiscal year if they work in the financial sector, and they don’t train through winter and turn up two days before a race in Southeast Asia.  

The organized athlete has a wonderful support network around them, has had hard conversations with themselves and others, and has planned specific moments on their calendar to capitalize on their prime window of opportunity.  

Brutal

Successful athletes have a brutality about them—a drive and burning desire that won’t let anything stand in their way. These athletes almost welcome adversity because they know it will make them stronger, and they thrive on training in a masochistic way.  

I hate to say it, but many athletes who believe they possess this trait, don’t. 

Brutal athletes have no idea, and that’s the true beauty of it. It’s a power trait for coaches to capitalize on when exploited in small doses.  

Present 

Has the task gotten your athlete’s full attention and focus? Is there a purpose to what they are doing? 

Sure, their mind will wander (after all, they are an endurance athlete), but can they bring everything back to center to ensure they are achieving the desired outcome?  

Being present can have short-term parameters—it can simply be a single interval within a session. It can also have long-term parameters, which includes staying aware of the season’s big-picture goal.

If you have an athlete who during the first interval is thinking about the third, or an athlete who is planning for the next “A” race during a taper, give them a reality check and keep them focused on the task at hand.

Athletes can acquire and improve these traits and coaches can fast-track the learning process. The bottom line is if your athletes are resilient, consistent, organized, brutal, and present, chances are they’ll get it done and have better results over the long haul.

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Setting the Mind To Boost Athletic Performance

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The word “mindset” has become such a buzzword in the world of performance psychology right now. It makes sense — athletes and coaches of all abilities are understanding the importance of psychology in their overall performance, including how mindset training improves their connection to sport and general sense of well-being.

Those who are performing at an optimal level are not leaving their mental game up to chance. What’s more, those looking to reach their optimal level of performance are adopting specific high-performance mindset training along with their physical training to ensure they are getting the maximum benefit on a daily basis.

Mindset is an idea that gets thrown around often, yet as it relates to developing a specific set of skills, is typically vague, ill-defined, nondescript, and may not hold much value for many athletes. At its core, mindset is a term that reflects our overarching set of thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes about who we think we are as people and as athletes. Mindset reflects our beliefs about what we think we are capable of achieving (or incapable of), as well as the attitude regarding how we show up in different areas of our lives (including training, racing, and recovery). 

Each of these cognitive factors is directly under our control, however, we often don’t utilize a systematic approach to training how we think. Our mindset is often defaulted from our experiences rather than grown through discipline. If you’re not actively working to direct your thoughts, you are not completely in control of your mindset (some might even go so far as to say your thoughts are then directing you). Misguided thoughts, poor cognitive appraisal, and irrational fears (to name but a few) can develop in those not actively working to be in command of their thinking. This is why training the mind is as important as training your aerobic base and cranking through threshold workouts.  

Setting the mind is a specific, effective, and trainable skill that helps shape the overall psychological framework over the course of time. Here’s how this process works.

1. Preloading your workout

When you get ready for your workout you have to first remind yourself what you are about to do. You basically give yourself a mental check-in for the work ahead, regardless of what the workout may be. 

This could be reminding yourself that this effort is to help build your aerobic base, to push your threshold, or to be used as a recovery session. A strength workout holds the same requirement—preload a quick reminder that you are about to train core stability. Whatever the workout may be, preloading with a quick mental check-in of what the work is helps set focus for what’s ahead.  

2. Remember why you are about to do this type of work

Here, you add to the “what” by quickly reminding yourself why this effort matters in the bigger scheme of your training. For example, this ride (or run or swim) is designed for aerobic development, to work on climbing skills, to help build mental toughness, etc.

We often complete workouts without mentally reminding ourselves the reasoning behind the particular session. This can lead to getting stuck in the rut of doing the same types of paces, at the same intensity on a daily basis. The purpose here is to briefly reconnect to the importance of this particular workout in the larger scheme of your training plan, which helps reconnect to values and goals for the season—even though this thought exercise only takes a brief moment. 

3. Establish how you are going to do the work

This one is really important. Here is where we set our mind to commit to how we will approach the work ahead. We are setting intention for attitude and behavior in the miles up the road. 

Setting the intention prior to saddling up needs to be done with clarity and purpose. Doing so will help ensure that you stay committed if (or when) you start to tire, lose focus, or find yourself uncomfortable. Essentially, you are connecting to the specific skill or set of psychological skills that are going to be trained in today’s workout alongside the physical work. 

Examples of setting intention include direct thoughts: “I will stay strong when it gets tough” (training mental toughness); “I will stay focused and disciplined” (training focus and commitment); “I will complete every interval” (training follow-through); or “I will enjoy chatting with the group today” (training social connection and enjoyment). 

The thoughts you generate at the onset need to be genuine to you and what you are developing, as well as align with the overall purpose of the workout. This helps you clarify both how you see yourself as an athlete in the current moment as well as how you’re developing over time. Setting this intention allows you to realize that you can choose how you respond in any moment. By setting the intention from the onset, you’re working to establish the overarching mindset you ideally want to embrace.

4. Put away your workout

Most cyclists have a routine for how we put our bikes away when we get back home, we have a certain place where we store our gear, and we usually have a certain routine for wiping down our rigs. Few of us, though, pay the same amount of attention to putting away our workouts in our minds as we do our gear in our garages.

Putting away our workouts mentally helps us consolidate what we just did, but we often get back home and move into the next phase of our day. After you hit stop on your watch, you need to do a quick mental review on each of the four areas: what work was just completed, what you learned about yourself in the process, how you showed up, and why this workout was important. Doing this mental exercise is like putting change in a jar—initially it may not seem like much, but over time it adds up (and it only takes a minute). This helps us build a stronger overall framework so that subsequent workouts can begin by quickly flipping through the what, how, and intention of what’s to come. 

Setting the mind may seem simple and silly, but ask yourself the last time you preloaded a workout and put your workout away with mental discipline. Engaging in setting the mind as a practical, specific sports psychology skill will ensure you’re getting the most of your performance—both physically and mentally. 

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