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CoachCast: The Infinite Game with Richard Thompson

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The Infinite Game

Starting your own coaching business is always a risk. This is especially true when you already have a successful career that you can depend on, even when your true passion might not lie there.

Richard Thompson, while waiting for the Australian Supreme Court to rule on a case he was working on, found himself checking the latest results from IRONMAN Melbourne. That’s when he knew that helping other athletes achieve their goals was the life he wanted to live.

Since then, Thompson has helped build the successful T-Zero Multisport company and is now giving back to the coaching community that has given him so much. After speaking to fellow coaches at TrainingPeaks University Melbourne, Thompson sat down with Dave Schell to discuss how he found his “why”, how T-Zero approaches hiring new coaches, and how viewing coaching as an “infinite game” has helped him see past short-term wins and ultimately benefit his athletes.

Stand-out Quotes

“What’s important for us is to ensure the service to the athlete is not compromised, and to ensure that we foster an environment for the athletes, but also the coaches to ensure that they feel like they’re part of the family. They’re part of the fabric that is T-Zero.”“We would hate to have 12 people that coached the same way as I do because who’s to say that what I’m doing is right or otherwise? I’m doing the best I can, but we want those different experiences. And the connecting piece here is that whilst every different coach brings their own experience, which particular athlete might connect with.”“If you can accept that then a fair weight comes off your shoulders and as a business owner, and you understand that you’re in it for forever or for a very long time. There’s no rush. There’s no rush to growth. And, if you just focus on your own backyard and focus on what you’re doing, then everything else will take care of itself.”

Resources

The Obstacle is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph by Ryan HolidayEgo is the Enemy by Ryan HolidayThe Triathlete’s Training Bible: The World’s Most Comprehensive Training Guide by Joe FrielT-Zero Multisport

Episode Transcript

Introduction:               

On today’s episode of the TrainingPeaks CoachCast, your source for the latest information about the art, science, and business of coaching. If your coaching business was a game, what type would it be? Are you looking for short term wins or are you in it for the long haul?

Dave Schell:                 

Hey guys, Dave Schell here. On this episode of the TrainingPeaks CoachCast, I had the pleasure to sit down with Richard Thompson from T-Zero Multisport based out of Sunshine Coast, Australia. We sat down after TrainingPeaks University Melbourne and discussed some things such as finite versus infinite games, finding your “why”, and company culture. Hope you enjoy.

Speaker 2:                   

Welcome to the TrainingPeaks CoachCast. I’m your host Dave Shell. And this week I am coming to you from Melbourne, Australia right off the back of TPU Melbourne. I am joined today by Richard Thompson, one of the co-founders and directors of T-Zero Multisport. Richard, thanks for joining us today.

R. Thompson:              

Thank you so much for having me, Dave.

Dave Schell:                 

So we had you speak at TPU here and we had you talk a little bit about business because you are running, you and your other coaches are running a very successful business here in Australia. I wanted to have you speak to these coaches in attendance about running a business. Before we get into that, and talking to the listeners about business, can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you ended up in coaching because you weren’t always a coach?

R. Thompson:              

No, that’s right. I was a triathlete, uh, first and foremost while I was studying law and accounting of all things at university, and I was doing, um, I think I started coaching on the side back in 2010. We did that part time for a couple of years and then for number of years, um, as I think a lot of coaches do, they use it as a hobby or a sort of side business. And the critical year 2015 where as a lawyer I was at the Supreme Court in Queensland. And we had an incredibly successful case be decided in favor of our client. Something that ordinarily would set your career up as a lawyer and it’s a topic that I won’t bore you with, but, um, it was really important, I guess crossroads, it would be a very important crossroads as a lawyer. And I remember the Monday when the judge was handing down the decision, I was far more interested in checking the, uh, IRONMAN Melbourne results the Sunday before and making sure that my athletes were okay and were doing well, um, the day after the race rather than, um, the result coming out of the, out of the Supreme Court. So it was obvious to me that my passion lied with, um, with coaching. And, uh, at that point, a very close friend of mine, Scotty Pharrell, he was in a very similar boat, uh, with his career as a teacher. And we, uh, he was doing the part-time coaching thing as well. And we sort of sat down together and thought, what, you know, we sort of just looked at the books and thought, what would we have to do to, um, coach as a full-time occupation? And so we ended up, it was a scary prospect at the beginning to think that you could do this by yourself and for yourself, but when you boil it down and work out your expenses and workout what you, you know, what you can, what service you could provide it, it seemed pretty achievable.

Dave Schell:                 

You know, it’s, I can see, and I don’t know how it works here in Australia, but in the US people would say that teachers don’t make a ton of money. So I could definitely see transitioning from a teacher to a coach, but in the US lawyers seem to make quite a bit more money than a teacher does so I would imagine that a little bit more scary prospect when you’re looking at transitioning to full-time coaching.

R. Thompson:              

Yeah, money for me, I think it’s just, it’s just one form of currency. Um, what, uh, whilst law certainly I’m provided a great salary, there were costs to that as well, uh, in time and that away from the family. And it came around the same time as when we had our first child as well. And I thought, um, there’s not enough money in the world to keep me away from my family for 70 hours a week. So, um, that side of it was, accepting that be earning less initially for sure. And but that wasn’t very difficult to, um, to sell to the family, to the family unit. Um, but yeah, we saw that, that we thought there was a, uh, I guess a place in the market for T-Zero, um, the values and the beliefs that we had as a coaching unit, we thought we would do very well as a business strictly because of the service that we wanted to provide.

Dave Schell:                 

In the beginning, you were coaching part-time, Scotty was also coaching part-time, and in 2015 you came, you joined forces.

R. Thompson:              

Correct.

Dave Schell:                 

So, how long did it take before you had a viable business?

R. Thompson:              

Um, that’s a good question. Maybe, maybe I think about nine months. And over that time we both, uh, I had the opportunity to drop down our previous employment with as a lawyer, as a teacher, we were able to, I guess go a bit part time on both whilst the coaching business was growing. We were able to supplement that with other income, um, until such time that we were able to, I think my last, uh, my last day as a lawyer, as a part-time lawyer was in the of 2016

Dave Schell:                 

And now, fast forward to today. It’s not just you and Scotty. You have other coaches that you work with as well?

R. Thompson:              

Yeah, we’re fortunate enough to have 12 coaches now, and a wonderful stable of athletes. And, it’s, um, it has its own challenges, you know, and Scotty does a wonderful job in looking after the coaches, uh, in their right as coaches. And, um, what’s important for us is to ensure the service to the athlete is, is always, is not compromised. Um, and to ensure that we foster an environment for the athletes but also the coaches to ensure that they feel like they’re part of the family. They’re part of the fabric that is sort of T-Zero.

Dave Schell:                 

Just going back to, um, what she had said a little bit ago, you had talked about the culture and in talking with you offline and talking to you at lunch today, it sounds like that is one of the core pieces of T-Zero. It’s not just about performance, it’s, it really, it all starts with the culture. And what would you say sets you apart from other coaches or coaching companies when it comes to culture?

R. Thompson:              

Yeah, I think, um, when I started in the sport of I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to be coached by some very high profile coaches as an athlete. And I think looking at how they operated all the tools in their toolbox, they were either wonderfully good at the coaching side, the analytical side, but they struggled with the human connection, with the human communication piece. Whereas others are wonderfully, are wonderfully gifted at the communication and how you had that bond. But they were probably lacking in the scientific, or at least the art of coaching in terms of that detail. So we thought the place in the market for us at T-Zero was the wonderful combination of both. To have the intellect and the science and the all the education you can, um, so that you as a coach can give your athlete the very best program and you supplement that as well with the best communication and, this relationship you can have with your athlete. So it gives the, and we go by the, I guess the adage of live your potential. It is that culture, um, that, and I give this example that why should someone who wants to break 15 hours in an IRONMAN, that goal be any more or less important than someone who wants to qualify or win their age group or qualify for Hawaii. Everyone brings their different, their own experiences, and their are strengths and weaknesses to the table. People have got different time availability as well, and, and other balls in the air. So we don’t, we look at everyone’s goal as equally as important. There’s no ego. And we, we just want the very best for each athlete that we coach.

Dave Schell:                 

Talking with you at lunch, we were talking a little bit about, um, I had asked you what is it your experience that would make somebody want to work for another coach or be an assistant coach in a group of coaches. And something you said kind of caught me by surprise and that was that you had said that you really go out of your way just like you do with the athletes to treat those coaches with that same respect and with the same regard and so that they don’t want to leave and they, that it’s, it’s almost better to be with you then to be without you.

R. Thompson:              

Yeah, we’ve got a wonderful opportunity, I think to give so much value to our coaches and make them, help them be the best coaches that they can be. If they wanted to, um, start their own business, they can. There’s no, we don’t have any qualms with that. Um, so just similar with the athletes, they can leave tomorrow if they wanted to. Um, but that keeps us on our toes and we always are thinking about ways in which we can continue to develop that environment and help and promote that learning. And it’s an incredible thing and it’s something that people just don’t see back of house at T-Zero, that we’ve got a, you know, a communication software whereby someone will ask a question, a theoretical question about let’s say FTP and then within six hours there’s five different respectful opinions about their experience of what they believe, what they’ve read or a journal article about this. And it’s just the extended learning that’s happening in the environment that’s being created is amazing.

Dave Schell:                 

Yeah. I think that’s a, it’s really interesting to hear you talk about that and that another thing that came up was you’re not requiring your coaches, it’s not the T-Zero methodology that each coach coaches in their own way. And it’s really the unifying theme is how they treat the athletes at the end of the day.

R. Thompson:              

Correct. And we don’t want, we would hate to have 12 people that coached the same way as I do because who’s to say that what I’m doing is right or, or otherwise I’m doing the best I can. But, um, we want those different experiences. And the connecting piece here is that whilst every different experience, every different coach brings their own experience, which, you know, a particular athlete my connect with. So they’ll say, “yeah, I like that coach over anyone else.” But it’s the shared learning of those experiences. I think between us, we have about 87 IRONMAN finishes. You have something like 25 World Championship qualifications between the coaching group. And that’s not to say that we just great athletes, it just shows that we have that, um, collective experience unlike any other so that we can put our hand up and say in the, and the environments they had to say, I, I’ve got an athlete who is always running into shin problems whenever we do this. Does anyone else have an experience with that? And then everyone will jump in on that. And it is a wonderful environment to be a part of.

Dave Schell:                 

Yeah. I’m uh, I’m kind of jealous hearing about that cause I, I think about when I first started coaching and it was, uh, at least for me it was very isolated experience. And when I first started working at TrainingPeaks, I was so excited to finally have other people to talk to about training. And I, we were talking about it the other day and it, it seems like the newer coaches in the beginning think they have the secrets. And so they’re very tight with that and they don’t want to tell anybody else. And then the more experience you get, the more people are willing to share. But to be able to have that community that you can go without judgment and bounce questions off of people and get feedback is,

R. Thompson:              

And that’s all just for the end of the day becomes the benefit of to the athlete.

Dave Schell:                 

Right.

R. Thompson:              

Because you’re tapping in not to just one coach, but to a bank of of 12 or exponential number of coaches and their experiences and that’s experiences. But then we also focus on can we have a continual practice development program or CPD program whereby we give the coaches guidelines and requirements to have external learning throughout each year. Um, we bring them to a central location each year as well to help them with other areas of the, of coaching like linguistics and ways of better communicating with athletes. Um, it’s, and providing some sort of support to help them with that learning. So it’s not just the, not just the shared experiences that we were leaning on, but it’s the actual getting out there and learning the latest and greatest of training methodologies as well.

Dave Schell:                 

Right. So what if a coach is, is out there doing it on their own and they don’t have access to somebody like this? Do you have any advice for them to like where are places they can seek out this knowledge?

R. Thompson:              

I think, um, I think I, it’s an interesting point you made about how lonely it is and I think it can be really lonely and even, it’s something that we’ve always focused on is bringing the group together, whether it’s a monthly Skype chat where everyone can see each other. Um, but if you’re doing it yourself, I think the best thing would be to reach out to somebody who’s a good, who’s an experienced coach, um, and see if you can be the, you know, see if you can tag along or catch up with them once a month just for a chat about, uh, you know, almost like a mentorship. I think there’s a lot of coaches out there who would be very happy to be a mentor and it wouldn’t have to be a financial transaction if they’re willing to impart that knowledge. Um, yeah, so I’d encourage them to, to look, you know, look up a coach that they aspire to or they think that they respect or otherwise think is doing a good thing for the industry and reach out to them and see if they can bounce some ideas off. And it’d be, I think a lot of people would be surprised how open a lot of those coaches are.

Dave Schell:                 

So when you are presenting today, when you’re presenting at TrainingPeaks University, one of the things you talked about that I had never heard before, but it kind of resonated with me was the difference between a finite game and an infinite game. Can you speak a little to that?

R. Thompson:              

Yeah, so James Costs as the author, I think back in the 80s and maybe Simon Sinek has jumped on it, um, in more recent times. But, um, I think the premise of it is to work, to understand the game or the business that you’re playing. And I think a lot of people, uh, and especially in triathlon, but also an old businesses, they are very ego driven and wanting to be the best or the top 10, they want to be in the top 10 of something or there’s always so many. I mean, we’re in a data driven environment in any event. But as a business, you’re always thinking, wanting to be the best or wanting to be, have some sort of metric as to work out where you lie within the industry as a coach. But the definition of finite and infinite is it a finite game is known players, uh, fixed rules and the act and the, the goal is to win, you have a winner and a loser, so baseball, cricket, AFL which you’re attending tonight. Um, the infinite game is, uh, unknown players. The rules are there, but they change often. Um, and the objective is to perpetuate the game or to at least, uh, not leave the game. You cease playing the game if you, um, you lose the will to keep playing or you lose the resources. And so things like, uh, as I gave the example today is being a parent. You know, you are, you can’t be the best parent in the world. You can’t be the top five mother or father or you know, it’s a, it’s a forever game. Um, and the rules always change. The players always change and, um, but it’s, you know, the same with business. That’s essentially the moral of the story and it’s just as ridiculous as it is to say that you’re the best dad in the world or the best dad in the country is exactly the same as saying you’re the best business or triathlon business for example, in the country or your state. Um, you know, what metric are you using? Is it the quarter, are you basing it on sales for this quarter? You basing it on athletes, number of athletes you have, but how successful you are as a coach? So I think if you can, if you can focus on understanding as a coach in your business that you’re playing an infinite game, then your driver is being the best that you can possibly be. The only competition then becomes you. Um, and now I think if you can accept that, then a fair weight comes off your shoulders and as a business owner and you understand that you’re in it for forever or for a very long time, there’s no rush. There’s no rush to growth. Um, and, if you, if you just focus on your own backyard, and focusing on what you’re doing, then everything else will take care of itself.

Dave Schell:                 

So I have to ask, how did you end up finding that book? Is that something you had read before or did you happen upon hard times that you were trying to grow this business?

R. Thompson:              

Yeah, I think, uh, I think, um, you listened to I guess on podcasts. Or you listen to business successful business people. Um, not, not in this sporting industry, but just business in general. Um, and you pick up on what, there’s a common thread of, of literature they listened to or they prescribe to. And I think it was, um, the CEO of AT&T actually, that, um, first referenced that when I thought, oh, I should get that and have a read.

Dave Schell:                 

Yeah.

R. Thompson:              

Um, but by accepting that you’re playing an infinite game, that will then determine how you spend your resources and whether you’re chasing that a number one ranking, which means nothing, which in fact, uh, isn’t actually in existence because you’re the one determining, um, that ranking. Or whether you’re, conversely, whether you except you’re playing an infinite game and then you can put the resources to things that are much more, you know, uh, help you, um, play that infinite game and be the best version of a coach that you can be or the best business owner that you can be with disregard to what the competition’s doing. You’re just focusing on your own service.

Dave Schell:                 

Um, earlier today, again at TrainingPeaks University, one of the things you talked about, and it’s, it’s probably something that’s familiar to a lot of people now, but it’s so simple, yet it’s so important is finding your why. And so would you just speak to that a little bit? Is it, is that something that you’ve found over time that like you weren’t doing it for the right reasons, or is it what motivated you to take this step and move on?

R. Thompson:              

Yeah, I think it’s a question that a lot of people don’t want to ask themselves, whether they’re an athlete or particularly as a coach, you don’t really understand why you want to do it. And if it’s for, I think external reasons, whether it be ego, whether it be monetary, I think you’re applying it pretty short term game. Um, whereas if you sit down to yourself and work out what you’re actually wanting to achieve, what’s, what’s driving you. And it’s a pretty, it’s a wonderful industry, wonderful profession to do because you’re essentially, you’re being, you’re being given the ability to shape someone’s athletic prowess and they have dreams and goals and hopes and you’re in charge of that. And that’s an incredible, uh, honor and a wonderful position to be in. Um, but further than that, you’re, uh, you’re helping them become better people through that journey. And so if that’s what’s, you know, so if you think if you sit down with yourself and go, “I want to help people change their lives or help assist them have better lives” then the why or whatever your why is, but as long as you understand it and as long as you really can define what that is, then you can, then that’ll get you up in the morning. You know, when times are tough or it’s a difficult period of, of business or otherwise, you know, you can lean back on that and go, no, I’m here for these reasons, not for anything else. And that will always send to you and bring yourself back to, you know, bring your compass back to true north and you can keep going.

Dave Schell:                 

Yeah, I agree. I think that’s very important. I agree with you too. And that sometimes it is uncomfortable to acknowledge why you’re doing things. And I just, in my experience, I’ve seen some, it’s ended some athletic careers because when an athlete realizes that they’re doing things for the wrong reasons, for those extrinsic motivations, and it’s all of a sudden they have to take that hard look. And so I think it is such an important thing to find out why you’re doing things.

R. Thompson:              

Yeah. And that infinite and finite game is so attributable to athletes as well. And the why piece, because I think a lot of, a lot of athletes, you know, a good age grouper, or just weekend warriors, they don’t know where the finish line is for their career as triathletes. So they will at some point go into the umpteenth IRONMAN and don’t really understand what they’re trying to achieve or why they’re in, why they’re doing it in the first place. And I, I’m, I, I’m really honest with the athletes. You sort of go, well if you’d rather do rock climbing then do that. Like life is so short to do anything that you don’t want to do. And unless your, whatever your goal, it’s okay to take a break from the sport. It’s okay to not do this sport. Um, if it’s not, um, if it’s not contributing to your overall, your overall why, but if you. So it’s important to keep going back to that as athlete, as an athlete to go, you know, what am I doing this for and where is my finish line?

Dave Schell:                 

I’m sitting here smiling as you say that because I was just reminded of the, one of the slides you had up today. And it’s the quote: “One life. Just one. Why aren’t we running like we are on fire towards our wildest dreams?” So is that from you or is that, who is that attributed to?

R. Thompson:              

I don’t know where I got that one from. I don’t think it’s this, I don’t think I’m that intellectual. Um, but totally, I, you know, in my, I mean, my background as an athlete was that I wasn’t, I wasn’t athletic at all as an adolescent. I was an overweight goalkeeper because it involved the least amount of running. Um, and I’ve been able to achieve, you know, some incredible feats as an athlete. But, so that’s shaped I guess T-Zero that, you know, we think that whatever your goal is, you can, you can achieve that. Just, and the same with business. You can, we can, you can make, you know, gone are the days that coaching is just a part-time pocket money, you know, side project. It’s, it can be a full time career now. And we, you know, we really encourage that at T-Zero and, but for the athletes, we, we sit them down and work out their why but also set some massive goals and say, why not? Why, why can’t you, why can’t you achieve something that you absolutely right now believe is not possible to achieve. Because this sport is an endurance sport. It, it’s not, uh, apart from the, the swim, it’s not really a technical, not like, you know, not a technical sport in that sense. So I’ve seen athletes go from, you know, 14-hour IRONMAN athletes to Hawaii qualification really, you know, over over a couple of years. It’s not insurmountable. So I’d encourage, on the lines of that quote, whatever you want to achieve, you know, set some massive goals and just be brave and go after them.

Dave Schell:                 

That’s fantastic. And I feel like that’s an awesome place to end. So before I let you go, do you have any recommended reading for the listeners, either reading or podcast or YouTube videos, whatever it is, are there two or three things that you think would be really beneficial in building your coaching?

R. Thompson:              

As coaches, I mean, I, and this isn’t, uh, this isn’t, uh, a plug. Joe Friel’s Bible is incredible. Um, outside of that, um, I would encourage anyone or every coach to get their hands on, um, or listen to interviews with coach John Wooden. He’s a, uh, arguably, uh, he’s a very successful basketball coach in the United States in college. He’s now passed away. But the philosophy of his coaching style I think needs to be employed or adopted far more in all coaching circles. So with our coaches, I always recommend them to, uh, to listen to his interview. Especially the one in, um, with Tony Robbins. It’s a two-part interview.

Dave Schell:                 

I bet that’s fantastic.

R. Thompson:              

It is incredible. Um, and then, other than that, yeah, I think, Ryan Holiday’s Obstacle Is The Way is a wonderful read. Um, that’s probably my most gifted book. Um, as well as his second book after that was the ego. Ego Is The Enemy. Yeah, that’s about it in terms of getting the mindset around understanding that, what’s that anything is possible, but also understanding that I think the humbleness and having that empathy, being empathetic enough to be a very, very good coach.

Dave Schell:                 

Thanks again. Those are absolutely great recommendations and we’ll be sure to put those in the show notes so that the listeners can find them. And thank you, more importantly, for making the trip from the Sunshine Coast to come and share your knowledge with the coaches today at TrainingPeaks University.

R. Thompson:              

Thank you, Dave. It was an absolute pleasure for T-Zero to be here. Um, and we started with TrainingPeaks in 2011. Um, so approaching 10 years now. And, um, yeah, we are very privileged to be here.

Dave Schell:                 

We appreciate it.

Hey guys, Dave here again and I hope you enjoyed my chat with Richard Thompson. As I mentioned, we talked after TrainingPeaks University Melbourne. If you yourself are interested in attending a TrainingPeaks University to learn how to save time and be more efficient as a coach, you can go to TrainingPeaks.com/TrainingPeaks-University and see all our upcoming events. We’ll also make sure to link to it in the show notes. Until next time.

The post CoachCast: The Infinite Game with Richard Thompson appeared first on TrainingPeaks.

Coaching Mental Skills in Adolescent Female Athletes

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A few weeks ago, the mother of a 13-year-old female runner (let’s call her Lisa) reached out to see if I could help her child with mental skills training. Lisa’s coach indicated that Lisa is extremely talented, but her general lack of mental toughness was holding her back in practice and competition.

Lisa’s mother was conflicted about reaching out to me. She wanted someone to help Lisa with her mental toughness, but she was worried that maybe Lisa was too young to tackle mental skills training. I assured Lisa’s mom that 13 is a perfect age to work on mental skills training. I explained that honing mental skills in adolescence will provide Lisa with an arsenal of tools that are imperative for her continued development as a runner as well as for her personal growth. We began our sessions and Lisa learned how to be a more aggressive runner and conquer her biggest mental challenge: the fear of failure.

Lisa’s situation is not uncommon. Adolescence, a tumultuous time in general, can be more difficult for adolescent athletes and even one step harder for female athletes. It takes tremendous courage to join a team, train hard, put yourself out there on a daily basis, endure the watching eyes of naysayers, all while navigating the challenges that accompany a maturing body and brain. I can’t believe anyone pushes through these challenges, yet millions of adolescent girls are kicking ass competing in sports every year.

The system for developing mental skills in this age group is often lacking. Teams are frequently large and understaffed. Coaches are predominantly male. It is easy to get lost in the shuffle. A small problem with confidence can escalate into paralyzing situational anxiety, if left unchecked. That is why 13 is not too young to start intentionally developing mental skills.

How to measure mental toughness

I have written extensively about The Sisu Quiz, first as a way to measure mental toughness and second about how you can implement the results of the quiz. I won’t belabor how the Sisu Quiz works, but I would like to mention that I have used this quiz with much success in adolescents. The specific numbers may not be completely accurate as the original study was done for adults. However, the adolescents who have taken this quiz have produced results that reflect what I hear when I speak to them.

In fact, when I ask the adolescent quiz takers if they were surprised with their results, they almost universally say “no”. This might indicate a few things.

Adolescents are aware of their mental toughness strengths and weaknesses after it has been measured. For many of these girls, taking the Sisu Quiz is the first time they’ve conceptualized the dimensions of mental toughness. Up until then, the notion of mental toughness and the dimensions that comprise it were fuzzy at best because it had never been concretely explained to them. And, when they get their results, even if they show low mental toughness, almost all of them are actually relieved to talk about them. Because, even in this day and age, the parlance of mental toughness is “suck it up” and has no structure on how to do so or when it isn’t appropriate to suck it up.

Two major components that plague adolescent girls are exactly the same as those that plague adult females: confidence and self-esteem. It isn’t even necessarily low self-esteem or low confidence at work. Oftentimes, it is that self-esteem and confidence are based on athletic performance, and if performance wanes, if there is an injury, or if an athlete is beaten by competitor, confidence and self-esteem plummet, and can result in burn-out. This is but one example of many that adolescent girls face as athletes.

The next steps

What can be done? Here are some first steps to working with adolescent female athletes:

While I always speak to the parents before I speak with their child, any conversation between the athlete and myself are confidential unless: 1) the athlete specifically states otherwise or, 2) there is a suspected mental health issue which needs a follow-up with a specialist.Don’t be afraid to address mental toughness and mental skills training with adolescent girls. They want to talk about it.Use the Sisu Quiz to measure the eight specific dimensions of mental toughness. It is an excellent conversation starter to ask “did these results surprise you?” The floodgates will open.I am going to recommend reading my book, The Champion Mindset: An Athlete’s Guide to Mental Toughness. In my experience, the adolescents that have read my book often highlight passages and refer back to it. It is an excellent tool with real-life anecdotes and mental toughness tips that speak to many of the concerns of adolescent female athletes.In the beginning, let the athlete dictate the conversation. Listen well and you will be utterly surprised by their honesty and intuitiveness.Offer some gentle prompts. At this age, sometimes the words to express what they mean or feel are just not readily available.Some commonalities among athletes to consider: dealing with fear of failure, how to approach the notion of disregarding what others think, separating performance self-esteem from global self-esteem. Don’t be afraid to assign “homework” for the athlete to help them develop their mental skills.

Adolescent female athletes experience a host of difficulties that are often left unaddressed. This underserved demographic beckons for help. It doesn’t take much to impart big changes in their mental skills development, but if these deficits are unaddressed girls end up quitting sports or carry their challenges into adulthood.

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Three Important Focuses for Enduro Training

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Over the years, a great deal of reading, writing, and programming has been developed for road and cross-country disciplines. However, as those disciplines recede and enduro and other gravity-based mountain bike events take a larger market share, there is a glaring hole in resources available to athletes and coaches. There is a lot to talk about to comprehensively cover the differences between the two disciplines, but here are some highlights for now.

Primary focuses for enduro training

When I work with enduro athletes, the initial part of the coaching process is the same as it would be for any other athlete. It involves an open discussion of goals to inform the development of a training plan. This, however, is where the similarities typically end. The strength and skill requirements in enduro and gravity-based events are very large components to success, but endurance and strength are nothing without the right skills and confidence.

Endurance and energy system development

While a great deal of time is spent pedaling when enduro racing, few coaches truly consider how to maximize that time. There is an important endurance component required for enduro that is the backbone for repeatability at high speeds for the timed sections, or for just having fun with the crew. Building a strong O2-system base is key.

Throughout training, focus on neuromuscular strength for larger power bursts, and as the season approaches focus on improving VO2 max. However, don’t be tempted to approach VO2 max the same way you would as a road cyclist (something like 7 x 2:00 minutes, all out). Instead, I prefer to use efforts that follow the HR curve of a timed section and also force skill development, such as working pump tracks. Doing so creates the desired HR curve and also forces athletes to hone their skills as they hold lines and build corner speed.  

Also, use “trail sprints” for another intensive threshold session for VO2 development. This workout is designed to force skills, repeatability, and high workloads and heart rates. Sections of trail that force pedaling, odd corners, hard braking, and re-accelerations are excellent for these workouts. Plus, they are fun for your athletes!

Strength training

Strength training is often debated in endurance sports, so I will not get into strength from an all-discipline standpoint. However, for enduro and gravity, an athlete’s strength is key. Building a high level of strength endurance is more important than raw power. Keep in mind it’s a long day out there, not a sprint.

Focus your athletes on building core, upper back, and shoulder strength to help manage the forces they encounter at the handlebars going downhill. Use multi-directional bounding to help with knee stability, hip stability, and agility. Grip strength and grip endurance should also be a big focus as confidence at the handlebars will make for smooth and fast riding.

Also, consider starting with smaller supporting muscle groups; don’t just go for the big movements. Build balance in the musculoskeletal system first, then work toward bigger movements. As riders begin to build strength, challenge them with balance boards and other unstable surfaces as they master certain movements. The simple addition of a BOSU ball underfoot during an overhead press will add a new level of challenge for the athlete.

Skills training

This is the fun part for enduro and gravity racers; however, it’s important to always include specific goals and objectives. Think about planning days that concentrate on quality over quantity. Have your athletes repeatedly work on sections of trail to learn different lines and include at least one day of a longer “enduro” practice. Be sure to have them pace the ups and rip the downs. Also, work a lift-assisted day in every week, if possible. It’s amazing how much you learn if you can ride one section of trail repeatedly on the same day.

You can also build recovery days with light spinning as fun drill days. Prescribe work on wheels lifts, wheelies, manuals, etc., and don’t be afraid to mix it up. Use pump tracks and skate parks, and your athletes will learn a lot about corner speed.

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How to Maximize Training for Busy Athletes

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Every age-group triathlete, bike racer, or runner I’ve coached tends to have a lot going on in their professional and personal lives. I have the pleasure of coaching physicians, finance executives, entrepreneurs, and others at the top of their professional game (or getting there).

It’s not that they’re all “type-A” personalities, but they do have some common traits. They want to be the best that they can be, get the most out of their lives, and they strive to optimize their time so that they can be maximally efficient and productive.

I thought one great way to contribute to my fellow coaches, as well as to those athletes that might self-coach, was to write about the things I do to help my busy athletes maximize their time.

1. The modifiable schedule

Simply put, stuff comes up with busy professionals, and coaches have to roll with it. For starters, pre-canned and multi-week schedules just don’t work for these athletes. This type of athlete needs the coach to schedule weekly programming in conformance with their work and personal obligations.

I ask my athletes to let me know by the weekend if there are any work or personal commitments that we will have to work around. That could be business travel, early or late meetings, or a family event that needs to take priority.

I imagine that some coaches might think this could cause a lot of extra work, but honestly, in the 10+ years I’ve coached, very few athletes take advantage of this flexibility. Since I’m not a believer in monthly schedules, it also creates a great communication discipline between coach and athlete to set up the upcoming week of training.

The agreement I make with my athletes is that we centralize our scheduling communication in one place. For me, that one place is TrainingPeaks.

2. Concierge workout creation

I’m a coach that gets very specific with workouts, and part of that specificity includes creating and loading to the appropriate platform. So, for instance, I will load bike ERG workouts into their TrainerRoad account for them. The majority of my athletes appreciate the fact that they just have to turn on the smart trainer in the morning, start the workout, and be done.

For those that can safely train intervals outdoors, I’ll leverage the TrainingPeaks Workout Creator functionality integrated with the TP ConnectIQ app on Garmin devices. This helps them with any transitions in the workout along with giving them visual and auditory prompts when they’re in or out of ranges.

For all my athletes, I include video links for proper form on any strength exercises I assign them. While this may sound like a huge amount of coaching work, you can pre-build nearly all of these exercises in a strength workout library within TrainingPeaks. Just make sure you’re filling in the right weight increments that are appropriate for your athlete after dragging the workout from the library.

3. Managing the athlete’s zones

This is a big one, since athletes don’t want to waste time on unproductive workouts or miles by overextending themselves with efforts that are too hard.

Periodic testing in all disciplines helps with this, but I find that I don’t have to wait every four to six weeks for a baseline test to ascertain whether the athlete has developed any adaptations. WKO4 is a great piece of software that lets me analyze how an athlete is progressing in swim, bike, or run, as well as where we might need to do more work to help gain a breakthrough.

4. Their personal researcher and explainer

Athletes hear a lot of conflicting training, racing and nutrition information from their friends and on the internet. Some of the information is great, some is completely preposterous, and some of it is so cutting edge that the application is still unclear.

Curating information doesn’t mean that I, as a coach, have all the facts at my fingertips. First and foremost, I turn to the scientific literature that is available. This doesn’t mean just looking at a few sentences of an abstract in a paper. It can take a few hours to read through conflicting reports, then to come back to the athlete with a well-reasoned interpretation of the research and guidance on the subject.

In matters that are out of my personal expertise, I will always refer them to professionals that I partner with (nutritionists, physicians, physical therapists, etc.).

5. Understand each athlete’s training environment

Many coaches have athletes all around the country and even the world. In these cases, it’s crucial to understand what the daily training environment is for each athlete. I have noticed that busy professionals are more inclined to complete workouts if the facility is close by. It saves them time and also helps them overcome those inner voices telling them to “skip it” after a rough day at work. Suggesting tools like a smart trainer for their home is also incredibly important since commuting to and from a facility for a workout can be difficult for the busy professional.

Busy professionals often must travel for work. One athlete I have coached for nearly five years travels weekly to other countries. Learning about every new training environment was difficult in the beginning, but in time we developed a good communication plan where he would let me know where he was going and I could refer to notes on what was available.

Above all, consider safety within the athlete’s daily training environment.

6. Race-specific programming

Of course, coaches should always help athletes prepare for their big races. As part of my intake procedure, I interview the athlete to learn what their key races are including information about the race itself. Is the course hilly or flat? Windy? Is the water choppy or cold? Is the course technical?

I’ll research the course and also study data from a variety of athletes I track on Strava (thank you all for keeping your workouts public!). From there, I structure the athlete’s training to help them cope with predicted demands of race day.

For those elite age group athletes I’ve had the pleasure to coach, I’ll also research what other athletes in their age group are registered to race, then look at recent results. For outliers, there’s not much an athlete can do to catch up, but at least they can understand what the possibilities are. I also always remind them that anyone can have a good (or bad) day, so this information is not meant to create defeatism but rather to inspire and improve focus.

7. Help the athlete with long-term planning

Coaches are great at helping athletes see past the next few weeks or months, and even past their first season. That doesn’t mean we’ll have the privilege of coaching every athlete in the future, but we can help them understand it can take years for them to become competitive. They also need to understand the steps along the way they’ll need to take to get there.

This long-range planning as a service really helps athletes understand the commitment they need to make to the sport, as well as the sacrifices that come with it.

8. Teach them how to do transitions

First thing you may have thought was that I was talking about triathlon transitions, which is partly true. For those athletes I coach that live in New York City, I hold weekly stacked brick workouts to help them optimize their time between disciplines.

However, as a person that has juggled many interests in my own life (work, family life, sports, classical piano) I have learned that transitioning from one activity to the next is important. My athletes have told me that helping them learn how to improve their awareness how to “switch gears” is incredibly valuable to them.

9. Scheduling sleep

Research shows that an athlete’s body breaks down over time not with high-performance training, but due to https://trainingpeaks.com/coach-blog/how-to-coach-older-athletes-to-get-better-sleep/insufficient sleep. Even so, it can seem counterintuitive for me to include sleep reminders in the TrainingPeaks calendar for my athletes since it is as if I’m taking time away from training or working.

The truth is many athletes think they can just push hard and recover later, living without sleep or rest days. My job as a coach is to help them understand that they will be more effective as athletes (and workers, family members, etc.) if they get the proper rest and recovery. I continually check in to understand where things are for them using available metrics, which leads to the next point.

10. Managing their level of effort (metrics)

Humans are far from perfect machines. One reason I’ve never been a fan of downloadable season plans is because they don’t take into consideration a given athlete’s starting point, or strengths, weaknesses, life challenges, etc.

The problem is compounded when the athlete starts to get behind on their workouts then crams, causing exhaustion, injury, or guilt as targets are missed. The money saved downloading that $150 season program isn’t worth the burnout that causes people to drop out of sports activity or  end up at the doctor’s office with physical therapy bills.

A nifty feature of TrainingPeaks is the metrics record. I have my athletes fill them in early and often. Some do it nearly daily, others once a week, and some I have to pester. Some have the app integrated with their heart rate variability (HRV) monitor, their smartphone, or scale.

On the quantitative side, I look for wide fluctuations in weight along with sleep fluctuation as mentioned above. HRV data can be useful, except as coaches we have to understand that some of the measurement methods can be unreliable. If the athlete’s HRV measurement is generally stable over time, then we look for fluctuations there.

What I find extremely useful are qualitative metrics. Is the athlete’s motivation low over a period of a few days? Fatigue high? Injury high? There are a host of metrics the athlete can fill out, along with some qualitative words they can write in metrics or in the workout itself that can let me know if we need to dial back training at any given point.

It is not just about dialing back, either. I’ve noticed that athletes sometimes make “quantum jumps” in fitness where they report workouts being too easy. That, along with a lower heart rate over a few workouts, could suggest they’ve had a welcome boost of adaptation.

TrainingPeaks implemented a very useful set of metrics within workouts, where the athlete can rate the workout on a scale of 1-10 (RPE), along with how they felt. Seeing a very high RPE on a workout that was supposed to be easier or seeing frowny faces on workouts, is call for a conversation with the athlete, which brings me to my final suggestion.

11. Communication and availability

At the end of the day, I’ve found that I need to make myself maximally available to my athletes. A terrific way to do that is through the pre- and post-workout comment functionality in TrainingPeaks. I get texts from athletes throughout the week letting me know how things are going, and, periodically, we also pick up the phone to discuss some workout or plan together. The advantage of centralizing communication in TrainingPeaks is that coaches have a historical record of the communication that you can turn back to, which I have found useful time and again.

One great tip I learned years ago in a coaching clinic from master coach Shelly O’Brien is to “learn how to set your boundaries” with athletes on communication. My suggestion to be maximally available could be taken advantage of; you have to to have your “availability hours” clear for your athletes. I’ve found over my decade or so of coaching that very few people have taken advantage of those boundaries. Most just need some quick assistance through the course of a given day or want to understand something better with a quick text or call. Also, learn to say, “I’m on the road or with my kids or am going to bed so so I will call you back at a different time.”

Finally, this level of coaching detail isn’t for every athlete. Some people don’t like this structure or don’t want to communicate this much. Ask your athletes what they prefer. Also, make sure you’ve properly priced your services so that this level of work makes sense, otherwise it may not work for your business model.

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CoachCast: Hydration Strategy with Andy Blow

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Episode Synopsis

Are you or your athletes struggling with GI issues, fatigue, and poor performance during races even after adjusting your nutrition strategy? You might be suffering from hyponatremia, an imbalance of sodium sometimes caused by over-hydrating. 

After suffering from hyponatremia himself, Andy Blow, co-founder of Precision Hydration, started his journey to help athletes solve their own hydration problems. Andy struggled with performance issues in hot, humid races, and discovered that his sweat was particularly salty. More importantly, he realized that there were effective ways to measure sweat composition and subsequently replace the water and salt as it was lost. Now, Andy works to help make sure other athletes have the hydration plans, supplements, and knowledge to perform better in challenging conditions.

Stand-out Quotes

“What it comes down to is some athletes probably require little or no salt supplementation. Some athletes require absolutely tons of salt supplementation and everyone else exists on a continuum between those two points and where the messaging in the industry struggles is that people like a definitive yes or no answer. Do I need to take salt or not? Do I need to drink this drink or not? And it’s all about individualization.”“A lot of commercial sports nutrition products contain electrolytes and they do a lot of marketing around the fact that they do, but generally they contain fairly low or moderate amounts which are good for a good amount of people. But, they’re not so relevant for people who lose tons of sweat, tons of salt and who do really, really long, hot endurance events.”“When you’re thirsty for water, it means that the salt levels in your blood are getting higher and your body’s craving it. You should listen to that. But, other times an electrolyte drink will taste fantastic. And that little salty tang is what your body is craving, and that’s probably when it needs to salts.”

Resources

Precision HydrationPrecision Hydration Online Sweat TestPrecision Hydration Testing Locations

Episode Transcript

Introduction:

On today’s episode of the TrainingPeaks CoachCast, your source for the latest information about the art, science, and business of coaching. Have your athletes been doing everything right when it comes to nutrition, but still suffer from GI issues or poor performance? Maybe it’s not nutrition after all, but Hyponatremia.

Dave Schell:                 

Hey guys, Dave Schell here and on this week’s episode of the TrainingPeaks CoachCast, I sat down with Andy Blow, the founder of Precision Hydration. Andy’s a former triathlete who’ve suffered from poor performance and GI issues. What Andy found after digging in and doing some research was that he was a really salty sweater and so the issue was that he wasn’t replenishing the salt he was sweating out in his hydration drink. So in talking with Andy I had several revelations, one of which is that I too probably am a salty sweater and could benefit from more salt in my drink. Hope you enjoy.

Dave Schell:                 

Welcome to the TrainingPeaks CoachCast. I’m your host Dave Schell and today I am joined by Andy Blow, Andy as a former elite triathlete, sports scientist, and founder of Precision Hydration. Andy, thanks for joining us.

Andy Blow:                  

Hi, Dave. Yeah, thanks for having me on.

Dave Schell:                 

So before we get started, could you just tell our listeners a little bit more about yourself in your own words?

Andy Blow:                  

Yeah, as you say, I used to do triathlon. Elite’s a strong word. I don’t know if I was really elite, but I raced at a sort of semi or professional level for a few years doing IRONMAN, uh, amongst other things, Xterra,, as well. And it was through doing sport myself, although I have a background in sports science and physiology, it was really through doing the sport myself that I learned the hard way about hydration and how that can impact your performance.

Dave Schell:                 

And, so, what is it exactly that led you to create Precision Hydration?

Andy Blow:                  

I think in a nutshell, I basically tended to perform really quite well by my own standards in cooler conditions. I would go to Kona in the heat and humidity or places like that and I would just suck really badly. And that was, I always put that down, at first, the fact I was not, I just thought I wasn’t good in the heat. Some people are, some people aren’t. But, I later learned that I was messing up my hydration and I got hyponatremia pretty badly a couple of occasions and really that that was a big wake up call. I learned a lot about electrolyte and fluid balance and actually managed to towards the end of my career put out some pretty decent performances in the heat because of what I’d learned. So, then working with athletes, the natural thing to do was pass that learning on and try and expand it and it, it just gradually evolve into what is now Precision Hydration.

Dave Schell:                 

So what exactly, you said that you were having trouble with your hydration strategy, I guess I would ask you, did you have a hydration strategy when you were racing or was it just kind of drink plain water or were you drinking sports drinks? What was it that wasn’t working for you?

Andy Blow:                  

Yeah, I was a sports science student in the 1990s when the hydration messaging was pretty clearly like drink a lot and dehydration was the big enemy. You need to drink a lot. And so I was definitely in the zone for thinking I needed to drink loads. So I probably, I did drink quite a lot of water when I was racing. I did drink sports drinks as well, but it was all, the philosophy was basically the more is better. And if my performance started to dip in the heat, I would assume I’d need to drink even more. Uh, what I, what I didn’t appreciate was that if you’re, when you’re sweating you often are losing a lot of salt. And the fact was, which I learned retrospectively, is that I lose a ton of salt in my sweat. And some people do, it’s a genetic factor. Uh, and I wasn’t a, I wasn’t replacing that anywhere near the rate. So I was, I was like over-replacing fluid and under-replacing salts. And that led me to be, you know, pretty nauseas in races, cramping, walking, delirious. And really not enjoying myself very much. So, it was, it was through learning those two facts, you know, I sweat more salt and I need to reign in actually the fluid intake that caused me to, you know, that was a light bulb moment for me when I figured that out.

Dave Schell:                 

It seems like I coach athletes and it seems like over the last couple of years or so, one of the things I’ve had to battle is that everybody wants to take salt pills. Like they think if I’m doing something or if it’s going to be hot, I need salt pills. So, why couldn’t an athlete just supplement salt with water to counteract that salty sweat?

Andy Blow:                  

Yeah, I think in a lot of cases they can. What it comes down to is, is really some athletes probably require little or no salt supplementation. Some athletes require absolutely tons of salt supplementation and everyone else exists on a continuum between those two points and where the messaging in the industry struggles is that people like a definitive yes or no answer. Do I need to take salt or not? Do I need to drink this drink or not? And it’s all about individualization. You know, for me, I used to take a lot of salt capsules when I learned that I needed to take a lot, and that made a huge difference to my performance. And to a degree, if you need a lot of salt, it kind of doesn’t matter where it comes from. You can take a salty drink, you can eat saltier foods, you can take salt capsules, but it’s the ratio of salt with fluid that you take in that matters for you as an individual. I was very guilty of copying what other athletes did or listening to, you know, advice or reading things on the Internet that, um, would send me off in a different direction. But, often they’re, they’re quite, they’re either quite individual to someone else or they’re quite extreme viewpoints. And, really the message that we try to promote through Precision Hydration is, as an individual, your needs are fairly unique to you. You need to figure out what those are and then pursue a strategy that works for you.

Dave Schell:                 

And, so, how would a coach or an athlete go about figuring out what is, what is their sweat rate and individualize that strategy.

Andy Blow:                  

Yeah, there’s, there’s two factors to sweating. There’s how much you sweat and then there’s what’s in the sweat. And some people sweat a lot and they often know it because they see that that’s a very visibly obvious, you know, I’m, I’m that guy on the indoor trainer who’s got a lake underneath them who, you know, I rust up my bikes if I train on them indoors all the time because I sweat on them so much. And we meet people all the time who’ve got massive high sweat rates. But. Um, just because you’ve got massive high sweat rate doesn’t mean you’ve got a massively high sweat sodium concentration as well. I happen to have that as well. But really, so starting with sweat rate you can predict it from just what you know about yourself. You know, do you feel like you sweat more or less than other people and have a guest or you can weigh yourself before and after exercise and get an estimate of that. On our website there’s a, we’ve written a blog because so many people ask us that question with a link to a free spreadsheet. They can download, plug in their numbers for their sweat sodium. Sorry, for their, uh, their body weight pre and post exercise with correction for how much they drank and it tells them their sweat rate. And that’s a useful starting point just to get a handle on it. And you know, sometimes we see sweat rates in people as low as half a liter per hour or 16 ounces an hour. Sometimes it can be, you know, an average might be a liter or 32 ounces an hour in hot conditions or bigger athletes or athletes working really hard. They might sweat two or even three liters, you know, an hour, which is, I don’t know what that is ounces. It’s like a 70 or 80 plus ounces an hour.

Dave Schell:                 

I was going to say, that’s close to a gallon, right?

Andy Blow:                  

Yeah, exactly. And, and so the variation is quite large, but that’s kind of easy to pin down. And what’s slightly harder to figure out on your own is how much salt you lose in your sweat. There are lots of telltale signs though. If you’ve got salt crust on your skin after races, if you crave salt, if you often get muscle cramps, if you just basically feel like crap when you race in the heat, then they’re all good indications. If the salts, the sweats things in your eyes, they’re all good indications that you are losing more salt than average. Um, we’ve actually got an online sweat test if you like on our website, which is precision hydration.com. You can click through that for free, ask you a lot of questions and then suggest whether you might be a light, moderate or heavy sweat and sodium losing athlete and give you some, a steer on some strategies you can take in those cases. And then beyond that, we also have technology where we can test athletes’ sweat. So we can actually take a sweat sample, measure the electrolyte concentration, and, and really, you know, much more accurately define what you’re losing.

Dave Schell:                 

So let me start first with the questionnaire online and I don’t know if you saw, but the kind of light bulb went off in my head because as you were describing some of those things I’ve, I’ve definitely noticed on my helmet straps, sometimes I’ve got the white and things like that and I figured it was just cumulative over time. Um, but then you said something about it stinging your eyes and that’s something I’ve been battling for the last couple of years. Where it’s like I have to sometimes stop riding until I get to sweat out of my eyes. So it sounds like I might be one of those salty sweaters.

Andy Blow:                  

Yeah, it could well be. The athletes who know their bodies well, when you start to point them in the right direction, you know, suggesting the things they might be looking for. They either do what you do just then, like you say, the light bulb kind of goes on or they say, “I don’t know why you’re asking me these questions. It’s not an issue.” And the guys for whom it’s like not an issue or they don’t perceive it to be often it’s not. Whereas when people do you know, think, oh yeah, well I have felt like this or that and yeah, when, when I do sweat if I’ve got a cut or if it goes in my eyes, it really stings. Then that can be an indication that you’re losing a bit more salt and it’s very simple from there really. You just experiment with the levels that you’re taking in. A lot of commercial sports nutrition products contain electrolytes and they do a lot of marketing around the fact that they do, but generally they contain fairly low or moderate amounts which are good for a good amount of people, but they’re not so relevant for people who lose tons of sweat, tons of salt and who do really, really long, hot endurance events. And that’s a big part of our niche audience if you like, are people that are doing more crazy or extreme stuff or have more crazy extreme losses and they, they tend to approach this and go, “I’m so glad I found you guys because I thought, you know, I was taking this whatever product and it, it was not really working, but now I’ve tried something which is like three times stronger and all of a sudden it’s made a huge difference.”

Dave Schell:                 

Yeah. And so I want to go back to actually getting tested. So going and doing that test, is that something that’s widely available to athletes or is it pretty specialized where they’d have to find somebody in their area or are they even going to be able to find somebody in their area to do that more?

Andy Blow:                  

Yeah, it depends. It depends where they are. Our network of test centers is expanding all the time. We have a number across the US now in, in a lot of, you know, places like Colorado and Boulder where there’s a lot of endurance athletes. We’ve got test centers and we’ve got them in, we’ve got one in New York and we, one in California, um, we’ve got a couple in Texas now. So the network is building, but oftentimes people have to travel for that. We go on the road a fair bit and do testing events and we take requests from people, you know, we don’t mind showing up and testing a bunch of athletes ‘sweat if, uh, if they want to have us for a few days so they can, they can look on our website basically. And try and hunt out a place and you know, all the time we’re trying to make it more widely available.

Dave Schell:                 

Okay. So when an athlete or a coach determines that sweat rate, is there something that’s different about Precision Hydration that is going to adjust the amount of sodium in the drink or is it you’re just drinking more or less of it?

Andy Blow:                  

Um, yeah, there’s nothing, well one thing we always try to be very up front about is, you know, we don’t, we don’t pretend to be selling anything magic here. You know, we have different levels of electrolytes in different drinks. So we have a sort of base formulation with either no calories or a few calories in there and then a variable amount of sodium. Because when you’re competing as an endurance athlete or training hard, you need three things. You need calories, you need water, and you need salt, and you need those things in different proportions. And if everyone drinks the same product to use the same product, they’re all kind of getting a one-size-fits-all approach. So all we do is we offer three or four different sizes if you like, or three or four different strengths and you, you pick the one that’s most appropriate to you and go from there. And the important thing is the recommendations that you get from either an online sweat test or an actual sweat test are to put you in the right ballpark for you to do some constructive trial and error your own and get to the, get to the ideal solution for you.

Dave Schell:                 

You had mentioned, um, some of the risks of hyponatremia. Um, you said you would get nauseous, maybe some muscle cramps, things like that. Are there other things that might be indicative of an athlete, with hyponatremia?

Andy Blow:                  

One of the big things is they often feel quite confused because hyponatremia affects the brain and that’s the danger with it. What happens is when your blood sodium levels start to drop, if you keep drinking, your body, if you can’t pay enough, as you sometimes can’t, when you’re exercising, you retain too much fluid. The fluid gets shunted into your cells, including your brain cells and your brain swells up basically. And that’s the really nasty part. It can make you very, very ill. So kind of confusion, dizziness, lethargy, nausea. It, it can feel just like how people feel at the end of an IRONMAN or something. And that’s the, that’s kind of the dangerous part. And they even, it can even be confused with how you might feel if you dehydrated because you can get headaches and stuff. So sometimes, and I’m sure there have been cases where people have, have been given, you know, been treated for dehydration. It’s made the hyponatremia worse. So, you know, medics and people at events are a lot more aware of the issue now and they have a different treatment protocol for people with hyponatremia than dehydration. Obviously you have to give them a lot more salt. Um, so it’s not always obvious the signs of it, but one of the signs or one of the things, if you can possibly think about it, which is difficult when you’re under those conditions is like how much have I been drinking? Cause if you’ve been, if you’ve only been sipping, you know, 12, 16 ounces now for the last few hours, the chances are you’re not becoming hyponatremic because you’ve been drinking a very small amount relative to what you’ve probably been sweating. If you’ve been pounding 32 ounces, 48 ounces an hour for the last few hours, then you know, probably it’s time to back off. If you feel bloated in your stomach, if you feel water sloshing around because your body doesn’t want to absorb it, if you’re, if you’re trying to pee a lot, if you’re peeing is very clear. All of those things can point towards the fact that you’ve taken on too much fluid.

Dave Schell:                 

Is there anything else that, it seems like hydration seems pretty simple and you know, it shouldn’t, you shouldn’t maybe need this detailed strategy and things like this, but is there anything else you see as kind of common mistakes that athletes are making with their hydration strategy as far as the food they’re combining or, um, things like that?

Andy Blow:                  

The most common mistakes are I think pre-hydrating too aggressively before competition and training. People often think they have a big race or a big training session or they go to a race going to be very hot and they, they start chugging loads of water and fluids in the days building up. And whilst it’s a good idea to maybe increase your fluid intake a little bit to make sure you are well topped up, then chugging loads of water is actually going to start the hyponatremia process, the dilution process in the days before. And I’m pretty sure when I look back at what I was doing a pre Kona many years ago is I’d arrive in Kona and drink and just start drinking because it was hot and humid and I would just drink and just be peeing all the time thinking this is great, I’m peeing, it’s clear, I’m really hydrated. Well I was probably doing myself more harm than good. So I think don’t, don’t go crazy with the pre-hydration is a, is a real big one. Uh, another one is, is probably either having no plan for hydration at all or having too rigid a plan. We always talk to people about having a flexible plan. So having a bit of an idea. Okay, in the conditions that we’re expecting in this race based on testing I’ve done in training based on past experience, I reckon I might be drinking 20 to 30 ounces an hour. Um, and using that as a flexible basis to determine, okay, so if I’m only drinking 10 or 12 ounces I’m probably well below. But if I’m drinking 30 or 40 answers, I may be going too far above. But testing and adjusting as you go by listening to your body because your body is giving you feedback all the time. And we sometimes as analytical endurance athletes overthink things and over complicate them. So we’re always encouraging people to get in tune with your body, you know, have, have a predetermined plan about the type of stuff that you’re going to drink because you’ve used it and it’s worked for you in the past and it’s worked in similar conditions. Have an idea of how much you’re going to need so you’ve got access to it, but then let your body guide you quite a lot on the day. So good example of that would be having water and an electrolyte drink. So, because when you want water, when you’re thirsty for water, it means that the salt levels in your blood are getting higher and your body’s craving it. You should listen to that. But, other times an electrolyte drink will taste fantastic. And that little salty tang is what your body is craving, and that’s probably when it needs to salts. So you’ve got to, you got to tune into your body’s cravings and listen to them. But if you’re well-prepared beforehand, you’ll have the right things on hand and you know what cues to listen for.

Dave Schell:                 

Yeah. And that’s great. I was actually going to ask you, you had mentioned the sloshy stomach and er sloshy feeling in your stomach and I was going to ask what the other side of that looks like. And it sounds like when you just don’t want anymore to drink, you just want that plain water, that’s a sign.

Andy Blow:                  

Yeah. Even, I mean, I lose tons of salt. I lose tons of fluid, but I’ll always have bottles of water nearby in a race whether I’m doing a long run with a pack where I’ve got a squeezy bottle of water on the floor or on the bike, I’ll have one electrolyte drink, one water. So that when that feeling comes where you think I’ve had enough of this, I just want some good old plain water, then it’s there.

Dave Schell:                 

Are there any resources you’d recommend for coaches to go find out more about this? Um, I know that you’ve written a blog for us on the TrainingPeaks blog. Any other resources either on your website or other places they could find?

Andy Blow:                  

Yeah, we have a pretty comprehensive list of blogs on our, on our website. And, if you go to PrecisionHydration.com there’s a tab called hydration advice. It’s not actually all hydration advice these days. We have a lot of other articles, but that’s a, that’s a good starting place. And if anyone is interested in specific topics, the best thing they can do is email is at hello@precisionhydration.com. We’re a small little team. We, we answer all the emails that come in, and we would definitely send anyone a list of relevant blogs if there, if they want some help with that.

Dave Schell:                 

Cool. That’s right. You and I were talking offline earlier and, um, you’re told me that you think James, is that his name?

Andy Blow:                  

Yeah, JP.

Dave Schell:                 

Yeah, he’s just sitting there around the clock answering emails and providing some pretty, um, pretty great advice to athletes or coaches that need help

Andy Blow:                  

Yeah, he is. JP’s great. He’s a, he’s a sort of very accomplished age group triathlete himself. He has a sports science degree, he used our products for years and he’s, he’s, yeah, we wheel him out and give him some vitamin D occasionally, but the rest of the time if he’s not training he is in front of the laptop answering emails.

Dave Schell:                 

He sounds like a good person to have on your team for sure. Cool. Um, so if the listeners are interested in trying out Precision Hydration, where would they go to find it?

Andy Blow:                  

We’re all, we’re basically online. PrecisionHydration.com. Um, we ship products in the US, in the UK and all around the world really now. We’ve set up a code for TrainingPeaks coaches and athletes, which is Peaks15, which if they enter that in at the checkout, if they want to buy any of our products, they get 15% discount. And, yeah, we don’t stock in many retail stores. We tend to just stay direct online so we can be in contact with our customers and help them out because the most important thing we think with sports nutrition is getting the right product for the right job and using it right. So if we can, if we can end to end that process with people, we get better results and the end result is athletes that do better.

Dave Schell:                 

Before I let you go, any other, um, things we may not have talked about? Any tips or kind of words, advice for a coach in regards to hydration?

Andy Blow:                  

I think the biggest one with for coaches is that like in many other aspects, it’s tempting to fall back in areas where you, where there’s not a great consensus of evidence-based information, there’s lots of different evidence out there about hydration, lots of different opinions. Where it’s a bit conflicting, coaches often fall back on their own experience and they go, “this is what worked for me.” And I think we’ve had lots of stories from people saying, “my coach told me that they used to do this and this worked really well for them.” And it’s like, and that’s, that’s kind of good in a way that the coach is, you know, is basing it on something. It’s not just that they have experience, but hydration is so individual. If that coach’s physiology or their, the their sweat rate and sweat sodium is so different to yours then that that advice could be really inappropriate for you. So if you’re coaching people, I’d say just step back and just do a bit of reading and understand these individual variations. Because we’ve definitely worked with coaches who’ve said, I don’t believe that athletes need supplementation of sodium. And then you drill a bit deeper and you maybe find out, well, you know, if their physiology dictated they didn’t need it, then that’s what they’re basing that on. Whereas those that need loads, they might be very pro-supplementation. I can put my hand up there and say, you know, when I was coaching, after I’d found out that this really worked for me, this was like, uh, this was like my hammer and the world became a nail and it was like more sodium, more salt, and, and it went too far the other way. Now I would hope I have a more balanced view, which is, look, you know, we just need to figure out what works for an individual. And so basically treat your athletes as individuals and do some research on what they need and you’ll get the best results.

Dave Schell:                 

Cool. Thanks a lot for your time. I definitely appreciate it and I know that I’ve got quite a few things out of that, and yeah, thanks Andy.

Andy Blow:                  

Yeah, thanks for having me on.

Dave Schell:                 

Hey guys. Dave here again. Hope you enjoyed my talk with Andy Blow and I hope you learned some things. I know that I certainly did. If you want to take advantage of the code that Andy mentioned, we will put in the show notes and be sure to check out the 2019 Endurance Coaching Summit in Boulder, Colorado, September 18th through 20th. Hope to see you there.

The post CoachCast: Hydration Strategy with Andy Blow appeared first on TrainingPeaks.

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