endurancesports Archives

Do You Need a Coach?

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One of the wonderful things about endurance sports is at their core, they are simple. To participate, you only need some basic gear and the desire to hit the road, trail, water or snow.

But for many, as they practice their favorite activity more, just partaking is not enough. Ambitions grow and targets and goals tend to develop. Pursuit of these goals generally requires some combination of better fitness, technique, preparation and tactics.

Many athletes might be able to get there on their own through applying techniques obtained through reading books, blogs and magazines, or watching videos. But for many, they may want more personalized help on how best to move forward. This is where coaches come in.

Like any advisor, teacher or a tutor, ideally an endurance sports coach has extensive experience and/or education with training techniques and skills development in the respective sport, and can apply that knowledge to help athletes maximize their potential more effectively than they could on their own.

While everyone is different to a degree, more experienced coaches have the benefit of having observed common scenarios multiple times, and can better diagnosis and guide athletes who are going through situations the first time.

In general, based on some in depth initial Q&A and analysis, an endurance sports coach is able to unbiasedly consider your ability level, current state of fitness, life situation and time constraints and help you establish or fine tune realistic goals.

Based on this, at a minimum, the coach works to develop a training plan, including daily workouts, and provides those workouts to the athlete via TrainingPeaks or other delivery mechanisms. The coach then reviews feedback from completed training through objective (power, hear rate, speed, distance etc.) and subjective feedback from the athlete.

Analyzing that feedback, the coach in turn tweaks training as needed to help the athlete progress and develop. In addition, coaches may provide varying levels of one-on-one communication and consultation on technique, skills and other factors that impact performance.

While fitness is generally a big part of any improvement in the endurance sports world and this is usually what we focus on when we think of coaching in this context, developing skills and instincts, fine tuning preparation, and improving racing tactics are all very big factors that likely need to be addressed.

The Coaching Marketplace

When looking at the range of service offerings, the first question most folks ask is “How much does it cost?” While cost is certainly important to everyone, it’s critical to consider price in context. Background, experience levels, certifications, education and past performance all factor into pricing. Also, like most services, there is a broad spectrum of service-level offerings.

Generally, lower cost “basic” coaching packages focus primarily on fitness plans and prescribing tried and true approaches to all their clients, adjusted slightly for time and fitness levels. Tailoring and “on the fly” adjustments to meet a client’s specific needs is minimal and interaction with the coach is likely minimal as well.

In some cases, an athlete may not even get to “choose” their coach if they work with a larger organization. This is not meant to be critical of this on this approach; for many folks a “basic” plan with minimal tailoring and personal communication may work perfectly fine.

In general, as prices increase, higher-end coaching packages tend to include more frequent and in-depth client and coach engagement and a higher degree of tailoring and use of different approaches. They are likely to incorporate work-life balance into training routines more extensively and more personally tailor the fitness side to work within an athlete’s time constraints and unique schedule.

Higher-end coaching services usually support having more frequent and in-depth coach athlete communications as well. Where a “basic” plan may only include a couple of limited interactions between coach and athlete a month, a higher service level may have unlimited interactions, with athletes and coaches interacting regularly throughout any given week.

Coaches who operate in this space often provide individualized feedback and direction on technique, tactics, skills, equipment, nutrition, strength and even get into more “life coach” feedback as well in terms of finding a “right fit” for sport in an athlete’s busy life. Many coaches will work with their athletes on pretty much any aspect of the sport as it pertains to their situation.

Outside of the training plan construct, many coaches also provide straight consultation, generally charging an hourly rate to cover specific topics or address techniques more specifically, or to provide some type of general analysis.

To use an analogy, the range is similar to education. At one end you have the seminar that is designed to be relatively inexpensive yet effective at a high level for a lot of people, but the students have limited flexibility and minimal individual attention, and relatively little opportunity to interact with the instructor.

At the other end, you have one on one tutoring where the student hires a specific individual, and gets individualized attention in the areas they specifically want help in. The tutor is selected because of their grasp of a specific topic and ability to interact with the student, it’s more individualized, but also usually costs more.

Things to Consider When Choosing A Coach

In addition to service levels and experience, different coaches can fill different niches based on their background, style, experience and focus. Before committing, shop around, think about what you are after, and what you are trying to accomplish by enlisting their help. Take some time to consider what is important to you as an athlete and jot down some questions to ask yourself (and the perspective coach) when looking at different options.

The following are just some examples and can vary depending on your situation:

Ask Yourself
Ask Your Prospective Coach

How unique is your situation?
What are your credentials?

What level of services do you need?
How many athletes have you coached? Any testimonials or success stories?

How important is it to you that your coach either races now or has raced successfully in the past?
Do you race yourself?

Are you able to take the time to communicate routinely with your coach? How much do you want to communicate with your coach and how do you prefer to communicate? Email, phone, messaging etc
What is your current availability? How many athletes are you currently coaching?

How rigid is your daily schedule? Can you meet and commit to a prescribed plan provided by your coach?
How flexible is your schedule? How can I expect to communicate with you, email, phone, text etc.? How often can I communicate with you and how quickly should I expect responses to questions?

Are you open to critique and feedback on your performance and schedule?
How much do you take an athlete’s work/life requirements into account?

Are you open to changing your current training and racing approach?
Is consultation on equipment/race prep/tactics etc. offered in your service?

Are you willing to buy additional training equipment needed? (i.e. power meter, swim buoy, drag parachute, etc.)
Is any additional training equipment required for your service?

Do you like to train by “numbers” or like more “organically”?
What fundamental training styles do you subscribe to?

Conclusion

A coach is certainly not a requirement for participation in endurance sports, however, there can be many benefits to enlisting a coach’s services. A good coach’s experience, depth and breadth of knowledge, and unbiased perspective can assist athletes in getting more out of their endurance sports experience and to be better at refining and working toward their performance goals.

If you choose to go the coaching route, ensure that you take the time to consider what services you need, what is important to you, and ensure these qualities match up with the perspective coach’s offerings and style.

Photo courtesy of ©BrakeThrough Media

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It’s the eye of the tiger
It’s the thrill of the fight
Rising up to the challenge of our rival
And the last known survivor
Stalks his prey in the night
And he’s watching us all with the eye of the tiger

Let’s be honest. You didn’t read those lyrics … you sang them! Now that I got it stuck in your head, let’s do a little questionnaire. How does this song make you feel? Are you energized? Pumped up? Ready to take on a challenge? If so, you’re not alone.

“Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor is a common song to hear bursting through the loud speakers on race day morning to get athletes pumped up for the competition that is about to unfold. Question is: Can this tune really get you ready for your race on a psychological, and even physiological, level? Science answers: YES!

Music is being recognized more as a handy tool in pre-performance, during performance, and post-performance bouts of exercise. With the right combination of tempo, lyrical content, intensity (loudness) and musical style preference, you can find the perfect tune to get you ready for competition, train with optimum standards and even enhance your recovery.

Below are lists of findings researchers discovered with their studies of music and performance along with suggestions on how you can select the best tune for you and your goals.

Pre-Performance Findings

Stimulative music increases motivation, arousal, and influences a positive self-talk and flow state (“in the zone” state).
Listening to faster tracks, or tracks with a fast tempo, as well as tracks at a higher volume can increase pleasant and aroused emotional states.
Stimulative music influences the “fight or flight” response for the sympathetic system which includes a slight elevation of heart rate.

During Performance Findings

Listening to music, especially motivational-rated music, can improve ratings of perceived exertion (RPE), motivation, and arousal.
Effects by music may fade with any efforts over 75% percent of VO2 max since the effort becomes too high.
Music can prolong exercise building up to higher intensities toward failure.
There is a linear relationship between increasing efforts and music tempo, involving increasing heart rates. However, preferences of music tempi are held within a range.
Individuals may improve kinetic patterns since there is a strong response to rhythmical qualities of music. This can lead to an improved technique and coordination especially for repetitive activities.
With improvements in the kinetic chain, there are less metabolic demands during activities.

Post-Performance Findings

Overall time till recovery decreased with a musical stimulus.
Slower music tracks influenced a slower heart rate and lowered blood pressure after exercise.
Sedative music effects RPE during active and static recovery.

Suggestions for Selecting Music*

Before or during moderate to high intensity exercises, choose music with a higher tempo and higher intensity (please keep within safe intensity measures to avoid hearing loss or ear injury).
Choose sound tracks that include inspirational and positive lyrics.
After exercise, choose sedative, slow musical tracks.
Select tracks that have clear, repetitive, rhythmical beats—particularly for during exercise.

* Everybody is different! These suggestions may differ per person based on needs and preferences.

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The 2017 IRONMAN® World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii was an exciting one, especially on the men’s side with several position changes and a last minute pass by Patrick Lange to become the 2017 World Champion. Below we take a look at the bike file of 2nd place, uber-biker Lionel Sanders, to see how the day shook out.

2017 was Sander’s 3rd attempt at the IRONMAN® World Championship, finishing 14th in 2015 and 29th in 2016. Despite some windy weather and choppy conditions the days leading up to the race, race-day weather proved to be ideal for breaking course records and resulted in Sander’s best finish yet, as he hung on to secure the second spot on the podium.

Lionel exited the swim over 6 minutes back from Kona rookie, Australian Josh Amberger who hammered the pace on the swim and went on to lead the bike until the climb to Hawi. Our initial Best Bike Split predictions had Lionel riding a 4:20:15 at a whopping 4.25W/kg, but between milder weather conditions than anticipated and pushing the pace, Sander’s rode 6 minutes faster effectively breaking the bike course record. Despite his blazing speed, averaging over 26mph (42kph ) over 4 hours and 13 minutes, Sanders was not the fastest bike on the day which belonged to Cameron Wurf, the new bike course record holder with a bike split of 4:12:54.

Sanders started the bike with perennial favorite, and fellow strong cyclist, Sebastian Kienle, who averaged 319 watts for almost 2 hours at an Intensity Factor of .81 on the way out to Hawi (slightly higher than the .8 we typically see for the male pro winning bike file).

Click images below to enlarge.

10263-ironman-world-championship-kona-2017-lionel-sanders-fig1

Sanders Passed Amberger to take the lead on the grinding 6 mile (9.85km) climb to Hawi and settled into a slightly more comfortable pace at 314 watts with Sebastian Kienle, Tim O’Donnell, and Cameron Wurf in tow.

10263-ironman-world-championship-kona-2017-lionel-sanders-fig2

Wurf made his move at around 76 miles to take the lead on the punchy 1.7 mile (2.78km) climb to Kawaihae which is also where Sanders put out his best 5 minute power at 389 watts, perhaps an answer to Wurf’s attack.

10263-ironman-world-championship-kona-2017-lionel-sanders-fig3

Wurf would hang onto the the bike lead to exit T2 in first place as Kienle and Sanders continued to fight for 2nd. After the kick up to Kihole, Sander’s power started to fade ever so slightly. Perhaps preparing for the run or maybe the hard effort was starting to tell. While he had averaged 312 watts and an IF of .79 for the first 94 miles (151km), he only averaged 272 watts and an IF of .68 for the final 20 miles (30km) into the finish, a difference of about 13%.

10263-ironman-world-championship-kona-2017-lionel-sanders-fig4

Sanders came off the bike about a minute behind Wurf and quickly took over the lead on the run. He would lead most of the run averaging 6:34 minutes per mile with his unique running style until he was finally bested with 3 miles to go by Patrick Lange who made it look effortless in stark contrast to the pain Sander’s was hiding. Lange would go on to break the course record finishing in 8:01:40, with Sanders not far behind in second place at 8:04:07.

Congratulations to Lionel Sanders on his hard fought World Championship podium finish. Check out his bike file here.

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New Training Methodologies and the Road Ahead

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In light of some recent chatter around Functional Threshold Power (FTP) and the new 4DP training methodology from our partners at Sufferfest, I would like to make clear our view on the topic.

At TrainingPeaks, we welcome new ideas and advancements in training theories and methodologies. It was just a little over two years ago that we released WKO4 with the aim of improving and individualizing training levels by creating a blended system related to both FTP and the new Power Duration Model. This became the foundation for new individualized metrics including FRC, mFTP, TTE, and Stamina. WKO4 was developed with significant contributions by Dr. Andy Coggan. His work had been extremely important to the advancement of training science, and we appreciate his contributions, however, since the release of WKO4 he is no longer involved in development of any of our products. In light of some recent training forum comments by Dr. Coggan, I would like to make clear that he speaks only for himself, has never been an employee of and does not represent or speak for TrainingPeaks. We absolutely do not share his sentiment.

That said, the evolution doesn’t stop here. We aim to continue improving endurance training science and will always consider and welcome new methodologies into our platform. 4DP is a great example of evolving and testing new ideas and we applaud the work that Sufferfest has done to stir the pot and create a conversation. Training protocols should continually be questioned by coaches, athletes and scientists alike.

At the end of the day, it’s about taking great ideas and using them in endurance training and racing, because it’s what we all love. We do this because of the joy it brings to athletes, coaches, and to ourselves, and we’ll continue working together to make progress.

See you on the road,

Dirk Friel

TrainingPeaks GM

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It’s that time of year. Your season is almost over and you’re ready to start thinking about next season. One of your first actions should be the development of a training plan.

A well-developed plan can improve your cycling performance by clarifying the steps you must take to enhance key physiological abilities such as aerobic endurance, functional threshold power and aerobic capacity.

Unfortunately, there are five common mistakes athletes make when it comes to developing their training plans:

1. Not honestly evaluating past performance.

Before you develop a training plan, you need to honestly evaluate your past performance. That’s the only way you can accurately identify your strengths and weaknesses as a cyclist. To evaluate your performance, simply ask yourself five questions about your most recent season:

What goals did I achieve during the season? How (be specific)?
What goals did I fail to achieve during the season? Why (be specific)?
What were my greatest strengths during the season?
What were my most significant weaknesses during the season?
Overall, how do I feel about my performance?

2. Failing to set SMART goals.

SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. They allow you to set training and racing goals that are easy to track. A well-written SMART goal describes the outcome you are seeking and a specific timeframe for achieving that outcome.

For example, “I will complete a 40K time trial in less than one hour by the end of the racing season” and “I will finish in the top-10 in my class at the state criterium championships” are examples of effective SMART goals. Include three to five goals in your training plan.

3. Failing to use both outcome and process goals.

Using both outcome and process goals increases your chances for success. Outcome goals are more common because they focus on bottom-line results such as “finishing on the podium at the state road race championships.”

Process goals focus on the implementation of your training program and include objectives such as “riding 7,500 miles during the calendar year” and “climbing Big Mountain three times during a single hill climb workout.” Make sure you include both outcome and process goals in your training plan.

4. Setting goals too high or too low.

This pertains to the “A” in the SMART goal process. Your goals should be challenging and realistic. If you set your goals too high, you will fall short and feel disappointed with your performance.

Conversely, if you set your goals too low, you may achieve them but feel dissatisfied because the goals were not very challenging. Try to find a midpoint where goal attainment is difficult but possible.

5. Not modifying goals when necessary.

It is perfectly acceptable to change your goals once the season has started if it becomes clear a goal no longer fits the SMART criteria. For example, if one of your goals is tied to a particular event and that event is cancelled, you have no choice but to change that goal.

Conversely, you may hear about a new event that you want to add to your existing goals. If your work schedule changes, you may need to modify your goals as well. Remember, life happens and your goals are not set in stone. It’s okay to change them.

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