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Does Strength Training Even Matter?

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Strength training for endurance athletes is still a bit of a lightning rod of a topic for many athletes and coaches. There are still many misconceptions and misunderstandings about why strength training is important for athletes of all sports, and there are even more misconceptions about how to incorporate strength training for optimal endurance sport results.

Let’s delve into some of the common arguments against strength training for endurance athletes.

“Endurance cycling and running has nothing to do with strength or how much one can lift, it’s completely irrelevant. It’s to do with oxygen turnover efficiency, movement economy in gait.”

Strength, is never completely irrelevant. 

Lack of strength means joints, bones, and other tissues of the body will be stressed beyond their designed purposes and abilities, leading to a bevy of injuries including life-long joint, bone, and tissue problems, which could and should have easily been avoided.

For those who believe strength is irrelevant, they have missed the premise of the proper role strength and resistance training has in the overall preparation of the individual.

Strength can be defined in a variety of ways, and while yes, oxygen turnover efficiency and movement economy in gait do have big impacts on endurance performance (in running and triathlon), strength training, when done properly, allows the individual to increase and improve intermuscular and intramuscular coordination—two key tenets of becoming a better athlete. 

Those who believe strength training and strength are irrelevant to endurance sports most often tend to see training tasks a purchase (“If I do X, I automatically will receive Y”) as opposed to what it really is: an investment.  

Strength Training, the Investment

Investments take time, and do not have immediate expected responses. Rather, when we make an investment, we do so knowing that the most likely outcome of this investment will be Z, but we don’t know how soon that desired outcome will be realized. While this is due to external factors (injury, illness, lack of sleep, etc.), when it comes to making the investment, the individual must consciously and conscientiously take part in each and every training task. This might be on-bike skills or focusing on running technique (which the vast majority of cyclists and triathletes neglect completely), or strength training tasks. 

Investments need to be balanced in order to see best returns, which means they should be composed of a few different parts—each which level out the risk and rewards which the individual seeks, and oftentimes do not share many similar characteristics (i.e. stocks vs. bonds, or in our case, strength training vs. energy system training). 

However, investments offer relatively “known rewards” based off of the actions of the investor, so long as they pay prudence to understanding the risks which they take on with each investment vehicle. 

Continuing the comparison to investments (stocks and bonds), think of your in-sport training sessions focusing on in-sport skill, energy systems, and cardiorespiratory fitness as stocks. They offer the biggest reward towards our desired outcome, but also carry much volatility (getting sick or injured leads to a quick and fast loss of some abilities), but should be the primary focus of our athlete portfolio.

Strength training, when done properly for the athlete, are like bonds. They give us a low-level response, but one which steads the boat. In our case, this means it lowers our risk of injury due to poor posture and strength imbalances, while giving us low, steady returns (improved recovery, decrease wearing on joints, improved posture for in-sport tasks). 

Avoid Adapted Strength Training Programs

The other part of this mindset that strength training is irrelevant for endurance athletes tends to be from looking at the strength training programs that have been adapted to help cyclists and triathletes.

I’ve seen these programs, and frankly very few of them constitute good training for anyone outside of a bodybuilder, or a general health and wellness client. Case in point, TRX tricep extensions and bicep curls should not be included in a strength training program for a cyclist or triathlete, yet they almost always are. 

Isolation exercises for accessory muscles like these are a burn of the athletes time, focus, and most importantly energy, and should not be included unless or until it is 100 percent apparent there is no other way to get the desired result to improve coordination. 

These isolation exercises have not been carefully weighed as to their value in the overall training scheme towards that athletes specific training needs. And in fact, these specific training tasks are an utter waste of the athletes time and energy unless a movement assessment and analysis have been performed to find that this particular athlete needs this specific isolation exercise.

Strength training should focus in on the tissue properties, biomechanical movements, and muscular imbalances that a specific athlete has at that point in time, for those specific in-sport challenges. This must be paired with in-sport technique or training work to harbour those effects into sport-specific abilities.

“Being stronger (being able to lift heavier weights) doesn’t necessarily translate into being a better runner or cyclist.”

This quote is absolutely correct, yet this is where so many coaches and athletes are misguided. I spoke a bit at length about this in regards to strength training for runners at the elite level. While it may be difficult for some to comprehend, we must think about strength training in regards to the sport properties, sport skills, energy systems, and neurological needs which have to occur in order for us (or that athlete), to improve in that sport.

Sport Skill

The missing link here is that of “sport skill”—one of the five interrelated components of producing sports performance:

EnduranceStrengthSpeedSkillFlexibility

Endurance athletes’ main goals from strength training programming is not to lift heavy things as deemed “heavy” by the general world at large. If we take a single task (such as the deadlift for example), and look at it from a sports performance standpoint, we should be able to quickly understand that training our cyclists and triathletes to get “stronger” at this task will in fact allow them to hold desired postures on the bike, due to better balance of the muscles at primary involved joints.

Stop thinking about strength training as just barbells and dumbells and start thinking of it as challenging the organism as a whole to execute multi-joint movements that require intramuscular and intermuscular coordination in ways which the athlete does not see in their sport, but will improve the athlete’s overall neuromuscular capabilities to carry out the desired tasks. This will help balance out the repetitive nature of their chosen sport in a way that will allow the body to decrease the demands placed on the involved structures, and allow the body to function better as a whole.

“Why do we see so many lower body (specifically lower leg) injuries in athletes, but yet we’re so worried about how “strong” we are for lifting weights? Many athletes can lift heavy regardless of whether they’re injured, but as soon as they run any distance they’re injured again, yet they’re only carrying their bodyweight. This shows the relevance of vertical lifting!”

This is probably my favorite of all the arguments against strength training, as it hits on the need for intelligent strength training programs. This includes time and instruction to help your athletes improve their sport-specific biomechanics, and thus decrease their risk of injury.

I have seen, and continue to see, countless athletes from around the world who come to me because they’re doing strength training for cycling/triathlon/running, but are still getting injured. When we go through a movement assessment and their in-sport movement analysis, we see broken biomechanical patterns, poor technique for their sport, and lack of understanding about what they really should be focusing on during their strength training and in-sport sessions to get better.

Focus on Technique

Miles and watts will come over time, when you put attention into getting your joints (and thus muscles), into positions where they can learn to execute tasks in ways they were designed, as well as more efficiently and effectively.

Many people hear strength training and automatically think it means moving heavy things, without a thought as to the technique, biomechanics, muscle balance at the involved joints, or the tissue qualities that need to be developed to help an athlete stay healthy and injury free for their specific sport.

This is not strength training for a sport, but just general physical preparation, which is needed for our athletes, but not throughout the training year. 

Intelligent strength training programs look at the athlete’s in-sport demands, current biomechanical and strength imbalances, and seeks to improve the athlete’s overall abilities by not only improving the strength of the muscles used, but through allowing the athlete to retain or regain biomechanically advantageous strength ratios at the involved joints in the body, as well as improving posture. 

The postural part of the equation, as well as teaching great breathing patterns, are the two most-often neglected aspects to strength training program design, which are left unaddressed in the vast majority of training programs for endurance athletes. 

If you’ve taken either of my TrainingPeaks University courses, Strength Training for Cycling Success or Strength Training for Triathlon Success, you’ll notice that breathing and posture are spoken about quite a bit throughout each course. You’ll also note that I talk a lot about how strength training needs to allow the athlete to build strength-balance at the joints, and that joint position dictates muscle function. 

But this isn’t all. You, and your athletes, also must work on their in-sport skill, including movement economy, and this means making running, swimming, and cycling technique skills an integral cornerstone of your training plans. 

Conclusion

If you’re wondering why so many athletes get injured despite lifting heavy weights, you’re missing the premise that it’s not lifting heavy things that allows the athlete to see gains and increases in sport performances. Rather, it’s an improvement in the joint positioning due to better strength balance at the joints, along with better tissue qualities and improved abilities to maintain good posture and positioning of biomechanical advantage in their sport. 

Should we continue to look at and think of strength training in simplistic terms of picking up heavy (absolute numbers) things, and putting them down, then yes, you and your athletes will not reap the massive benefits strength training can offer their in-sport performances. 

That being said, getting too lost in the weeds of corrective exercises and not lifting (relative to the athlete’s abilities) heavy things with great technique, better breathing patterns, and with a steady eye on the principles which help us create sports-oriented strength training programs, you and your athletes can wind up missing out on the massive benefits and gains training has to offer. 

Yes, strength training for endurance athletes matters, especially if you do it incorrectly, as it can lead to prolonged cycles of injury, lost training time, and frustration for the athlete and coach.

The post Does Strength Training Even Matter? appeared first on TrainingPeaks.

The Whole Picture: Total Load Summary & Reflections

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The aim of this series was to go beyond the idea that the only significant stress an athlete’s body experiences is from training, and that the same training stress will produce the same result each time. Although on reflection these ideas appear to be an oversimplification, nonetheless they have been the basis of popular periodized training programs for many years. 

The reality is that lifestyle stresses from poor sleep, inadequate nutrition, and emotional and mental stress add to the load from training to create what’s called total load. In talking to a number of endurance coaches working with age group and recreational athletes, they will happily confess that a large amount of their time spent with individual clients is dedicated to helping the athlete better understand themselves and their particular total load picture in order to overcome barriers to better performance.

International Olympic Committee Review and Recommendations

In response to growing injury and illness rates in competitive athletes, in 2016 the International Olympic Committee convened an expert group and published recommendations on assessing and managing total load. They concluded that measuring both internal and external load is important:

External load is the stress that you apply—e.g. an hour at your threshold, which gives a TSS of 100. Internal load is the stress the results in the body from applying that load. 

The relationship between internal and external load is not constant for an individual, but depends on a number of environmental factors such as psychological stress, travel, nutrition, and illness. To measure internal load, we need a way to see into the body’s internal systems, and heart rate variability (HRV) turns out to be a good way to do this.

The Whole Picture: An Introduction to Total Load

At ithlete, what we saw in the early years of producing an HRV app was that users would not find a perfect relation between changes in the external load (e.g. the previous day’s TSS) and dips in their HRV. 

This is a good thing as HRV turns out to be a holistic and comprehensive measure of both internal load and resilience. The amount your HRV changes after an external load is applied depends on you individually at that point in time.The smaller the change in the HRV for a given external load means you are more resilient. Elite athletes are more resilient and can tolerate higher training loads without getting sick or injured, and have higher HRV that varies less from day to day:

bsolute load

Recreational and age group athletes can build this resilience as well. 

One of the best examples of building resilience would be long slow distance training. Having a good aerobic base increases your HRV, showing your resilience has improved. The greater your body’s adaptations to training, the most robust you become to future training. 

READ MORE: The Whole Picture: An Introduction to Total Load

Components of Total Load

The Whole Picture: Physical Stress

When it comes to the physical component of total load, we need to measure both external and internal loads.

External load measures training objectively (i.e. how much, how long, how often):

PowerSpeed/paceDistanceTime/durationFrequency

Internal load measures the resulting stress response to that external load:

Perceived effort/exertion (RPE)Fatigue, soreness, mood changesCortisol and CRP productionResting heart rate, and heart rate variability (HRV)

TSS is sometimes thought of as an external measure, but is really an internal measure because it’s calibrated relative to the capability of your body to absorb stress at a particular point in time. TSB and the related “acute:chronic” load ratio are also internal load measures.

External load (i.e. ‘what did the athlete do’) produces a response, internal load, that is not fixed but depends on the condition of the athlete at that particular point in time. In all but elite athletes, physical stress from training is not the number one contributor to total load.

READ MORE: The Whole Picture: Physical Stress

The Whole Picture: Mental Stress

For many people with busy lives, mental and emotional stresses are likely a key component of total load. This can wreck the effects of your training if not well managed. A 2012 study on 44 healthy adults looked at the relationship between baseline psychological stress, from 1 (low psychological resources and a lot of stressors in life) to 10 (high psychological resources and no stressors in life), and response to a short two-week intensive training program:

They found that those with high levels of stress produced almost no increase in maximum cycling power over the two weeks, compared to up to 19 percent power increases for those experiencing the lowest levels of life stress.

It’s important to realize the stress we experience is the difference between the expectations on us and our own perception of our ability to cope with those stresses: 

“Stress experienced = Demands placed – perceived ability to cope”

We can also reduce the stress we experience by using techniques such as positive reframing, mindfulness, and slow deep breathing to increase our ability to cope with sources of stress. Paced breathing apps such as BreatheSync can be used for a few minutes every morning and during the day as needed. Meditation apps are great for maintaining a near constant level of calmness despite life’s inevitable ups and downs!

READ MORE: The Whole Picture: Mental Stress

The Whole Picture: Nutrition

Three common mechanisms that create nutritional stress in athletes are:

DehydrationAlcoholInflammation

Anyone who has exercised for more than a couple of hours in a warm environment may have noticed that their heart rate has gone up, despite remaining at the same pace or power. This is what Joe Friel calls ‘heart rate decoupling’ and one of the reasons for it is reduced stroke volume of the heart brought on by dehydration. Any trend upwards in heart rate while maintaining the same load on the body indicates a shift from parasympathetic to sympathetic dominance and an acute increase in stress.

The overall recommendation is to consume approximately 150 percent of the fluid lost during exercise to ensure a fully hydrated state and to use electrolyte supplements for extended workouts or those in a hot environment to minimize the dehydration contribution to total load.

As a diuretic, alcohol not only makes you urinate more frequently, but it directly impairs refuelling, muscle rebuilding, and sleep quality, reducing recovery and increasing the chances of poorer mental and physical performance the next day. 

However, we are not all saints, and most of us like a drink or two from time to time. There are several tips that can help minimize the impact of alcohol on your recovery:

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

Inflammation is a stress response, the body’s mechanism for managing repair, and therefore in principle a good thing. However, a lot of the time the body is struggling with low grade chronic inflammation that adds to total load. Inflammation is driven by the sympathetic nervous system, but is also regulated by the parasympathetic nervous system that we measure with HRV.

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

READ MORE: The Whole Picture: Nutrition

The Whole Picture: Recovery Through Sleep

Sleep is the number one enabler of recovery, and probably the most often neglected one. Many people even consider surviving on little sleep to be a badge of honor, that somehow you are getting more out of life by being awake for more hours every day, even if much of that time is spent feeling tired or with poor mood!

Good sleep has a whole number of 90-minute cycles per night—five for most people when averaged across the week. You can steal one or two cycles from a night so long as you pay them back, as this will then relieve the sleep pressure that has built up. For example, 20- to 30-minute naps in the early or late afternoon also work well for some people, and can help maintain effort levels in evening workouts.

Pre and post sleep routines

READ MORE: The Whole Picture: Recovery Through Sleep

Conclusion

As well as considering the components of total load separately, lifestyle factors are not independent and there tends to be quite a tight relationship between stress management, nutrition, and our ability to sleep effectively. 

Feeling stressed before bedtime reduces sleep latency and quality. When we have poor sleep we tend to make bad food choices. Our body doesn’t know what stress it’s under, it just knows when under stress that it needs more glucose and glycogen to perform fight or flight reactions. 

Sickness, infection, and inflammation are all total load components that HRV is good at measuring.

At ithlete, we take total load seriously, and by linking ithlete Pro to TrainingPeaks Premium, athletes and their coaches are able to measure:

Daily HRV, resting HR, and trends Daily training loadsTraining load trends and the “acute:chronic” training load ratioThe three key recovery enablers of sleep quality, nutrition and stress management Record flags to show illness, injury, competition, and travel on particular days

An automated intelligence-powered avatar in ithlete Pro called Simon Says summarizes all this data in a few easy-to-digest sentences from the mobile app, making it easy to associate internal loads measured with HRV and external loads recorded with wellness sliders and imported automatically from TrainingPeaks.

References:

How much is too much? (Part 1) International Olympic Committee consensus statement on load in sport and risk of injury. Torbjørn Soligard et al.

Periodization Theory: Confronting an Inconvenient Truth, Kiely, J. Sports Med (2017)

Self-rated mental stress and exercise training response in healthy subjects., Front. Physio.

Heart-rate variability: a biomarker to study the influence of nutrition on physiological and psychological health? Hayley A. Young and David Benton. Behavioural Pharmacology., 2018

Sleep in Elite athletes (review). Shona L. Halson Sports Med (2014)

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How to Cultivate a Growth Mindset in Athletes

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If you’ve been coaching endurance athletes for any length of time, you’ve probably observed two different mindsets in relation to hard workouts. Some athletes look ahead to such workouts with anxiety, are prone to push too hard to hit their numbers on days when circumstances are against them or their body just doesn’t have it, and are quick to hit the panic button when a session doesn’t turn out well. Other athletes don’t get as anxious, are less likely to force a workout that’s not going well, and better able to let a bad workout go.

The first type of athlete has what Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck calls a fixed mindset, while the second type has what she refers to as a growth mindset. Dweck’s research has shown that these two mindsets are based on individual beliefs about whether fundamental traits such as intelligence and athletic talent are fixed or can be increased through hard work. Those who believe they’re more or less fixed tend to dread and resist challenges, which they view as tests, whereas those who believe they can increase their intelligence or talent tend to embrace challenges, which they view as stimuli for improvement.

As you might imagine, both the fixed mindset and the growth mindset have important practical consequences. Through a series of studies, Dweck and her colleagues have demonstrated that individuals with a growth mindset achieve higher levels of success in school and in other contexts where success can be measured, regardless of their initial aptitude. 

One recent study looked at the independent and combined effects of poverty and a growth mindset on academic achievement in Chilean children. Dweck’s team found that, although poorer children were less likely than their wealthier peers to have a growth mindset and on average did not perform as well in school, “students in the lowest 10th percentile of family income who exhibited a growth mindset showed academic performance as high as that of fixed mindset students from the 80th income percentile.” In other words, having a growth mindset counteracted the negative effects of poverty on school success.

You can bet that a growth mindset affects athletic success similarly. That’s why in my coaching I work systematically to steer athletes with a fixed mindset (who are easy to identify by the aforementioned indicators) toward a growth mindset. Here are three methods I’ve found especially useful in this regard:

1. Redefine the concept of a successful workout.

Before each important workout, I remind those athletes who need a reminder that its purpose is not to assess ability but to stimulate improvement, and that simply getting the work done will suffice to fulfill this purpose. Feeling strong and performing well are always nice, but they’re really just gravy.

2. Praise effort and adherence, not performance.

Because they view challenges as tests of ability, individuals with a fixed mindset are highly dependent on positive outside feedback, whereas individuals with a growth mindset view effort as its own reward. Dweck’s research suggests that praising a good performance as proof of ability tends to reinforce a fixed mindset. Another of her studies on young students found that children who were praised for their ability after completing a vocabulary test were resistant to trying a harder test, while children praised for their effort welcomed the harder test.

In my work with my fixed-minded athletes, I stubbornly refrain from congratulating them when they really crush a workout. Instead I reserve my kudos for instances when they demonstrate good adherence to my workout prescription, especially when this requires restraint on their part.

3. Encourage the use of process-focused mantras.

Athletes with a fixed mindset are more focused on training outcomes than they are on the actual process. Growth-minded are just the opposite: more focused on the process. I encourage my fixed-minded athletes to use mantras that encourage a process focus during workouts where they experience performance anxiety. 

Here are three examples:

“Just do the work.” 

This is a blunt self-reminder that the purpose of the workout is the doing of it and that the benefits come from getting it done, regardless of how you feel or perform.

“It doesn’t all have to happen today.” 

Too often, fixed-minded athletes make the mistake of measuring their performance in today’s workout against the standard of a future race performance goal, tacitly believing that however good they are today is as good as they’re going to get. This mantra serves as a corrective, restoring the long view.

“Check the box and move on.” 

Not every workout can be a transcendent victory experience. But even the ones you have to grind through have value — indeed, no less value than transcendent victories do as stepping stones toward your ultimate goal. I’ve found this mantra works well to dispel the frustration that might otherwise attach itself to workouts that are a struggle.

The good news is that Carol Dweck’s research has proven that a growth mindset can be successfully cultivated in fixed-minded individuals. I’ve seen it happen with a number of athletes I’ve coached and I’m confident you will too if you make the effort.

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How to Train and Race in Hot Conditions

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We have all been there. It’s the middle of the race and the sun is beating down — you look at your watch and wonder why your heart is beating out of your chest at such a slow pace. You may think: “Did I overestimate my fitness?” Suddenly, the internal dialogue ceases as you look around at the carnage.  Your fellow competitors appear to be going through the same struggle. 

“Dang, it’s hot,” someone next to you says, as they pour a cup of water over their head. You nod in affirmation, thinking about how you will be better prepared for the heat at the next race. 

Fortunately, with a general understanding of how the body deals with heat, and knowledge of how to enhance certain physiological responses that promote cooling, you and your athletes will be ready to improve performance during steamy training days and hot races. 

Why heat impacts performance

The human body is designed to function within a narrow range of internal temperature (98.6 to 103 degrees Fahrenheit, or 37 to 39.5 degrees Celsius). If the core rises above this range, it enters heat stroke territory and the body adjusts to protect itself. 

As internal temperature rises, blood is routed away from working muscles and transferred towards the surface near the skin in order to dissipate heat, sweat production increases, and the central governor kicks in to protect athletes from pushing too hard and doing permanent damage to their brain and internal organs. 

In this way, the body really has two strategies for dealing with heat: boosting the evaporative cooling effect (mostly via sweating) and limiting the intensity that athletes exert. With training acclimation, athletes can dramatically improve in each of these areas to perform better in the heat.

How to acclimate

To better manage heat, athletes need to undergo hyperthermic conditioning. This is a technical way of saying that they need to raise their core body temperature during training in order to spur adaptations that will allow them to improve performance in hot conditions. To do this, they need to gradually increase their training volume in high temperatures.  

Typically, it takes about 10 to 14 days of training in hot weather to incite measurable adaptations. This is why it is recommended that athletes show up to hot races (like Kona), well in advance. Starting with short, easy sessions of 30 minutes and gradually increasing the duration by 10 or so minutes per day is a safe approach to ensure that they adapt well without risking heat related illness, such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke. 

It is also important to reign in intensity on hot days and to be extra-vigilant replenishing lost fluids and electrolytes. During training, consuming fluids with electrolytes (e.g. sports drinks) at a similar rate to fluid loss is beneficial, and should be viewed as essential during workouts lasting 90 minutes or more.  When not working out, it is important to drink to thirst. A good gauge of hydration is to examine the color of urine. It should be straw colored — not deep yellow — which is a sign of dehydration, and not perfectly clear, which is a sign of overhydration. 

Apart from intelligently training in hot conditions, there is also evidence that a sauna regimen can spur positive heat adaptations. Various studies have shown an improvement in time to exhaustion, an increase in blood plasma volume, a boost in sweat efficiency and improved cooling ability for athletes who undergo a sauna protocol. Evidence shows that 10 to 15 sessions lasting 20 to 30 minutes directly after exercise is sufficient for improving heat tolerance and boosting endurance, with studies demonstrating non-trivial improvements for cyclists as well as runners.  

Racing in the heat

The likelihood of setting a personal best on a hot day is small, and it’s important for athletes to alter expectations. The single most important adjustment athletes should make racing in heat is to lower the target effort. Heat and humidity themselves force athletes to slow down, as does subsequent dehydration (which is especially relevant to long course racing). Blindly adhering to pacing goals is a recipe for disaster.

Instead, athletes should rely more heavily on rated perceived exertion and heart rate within the race, both of which will be higher than on mild days. When it’s hot, it is important to peel back the pace to avoid a late-race blow-up or, even worse, a medical emergency.  

Although everyone is subject to the same conditions on race day, not everyone will respond in the same manner.  All other things being equal, those who know how to disperse heat during the race will outperform competitors who do not.  When racing in heat, the top two priorities should be:

To consume fluids and electrolytes at appropriate rates; and To maximize the evaporative cooling effect.  

Depending on race duration and intensity, most athletes should be able to consume 16 to 32 ounces of fluid per hour along with 600 to 1,200 mg of sodium. If possible, replacing fluids at the rate they are lost is ideal; however, this is often not practical. On a particularly hot day, or if an athlete is a heavy sweater, it may be impossible to consume fluids at this rate without experiencing stomach distress. In these instances, replenishing to the extent possible should be the goal.  

Apart from external conditions, the ability to absorb fluid is governed by exercise intensity. When racing at a higher percentage of aerobic capacity (as in races that last under 90 minutes), it’s much more difficult to adequately process fluids than it would be during a longer race where intensity is lower.  During shorter races, it makes sense to drink slightly less. To find the perfect medium between fluid and electrolyte intake at various intensities and durations, it’s important to experiment in training in order to establish an ideal hydration protocol for an athlete’s unique physiology.  

Maximizing the evaporative cooling effect

Apart from hydrating and adjusting pace, an incredibly important component of performing in heat is maximizing the benefit of heat dissipation. The body aims to do this naturally through sweating. During perspiration, pores open, blood is moved closer to the skin and moisture is sent to the surface. The subsequent evaporation lifts away heat, inciting cooling. The more evaporation an athlete can achieve, the cooler he/she will be.  

To maximize this effect and remain as cool as possible, it’s important to use all available tools. In high humidity, the moisture in the air prevents the evaporation of liquid, thereby making it harder for the body to dissipate heat. This is why the combination of heat and humidity is worse than just heat and it becomes even more important to adjust pace and take measures to cool the body.

During hot and humid races, this means dumping water all over the body and using whatever else is offered on the race course.  It is common for volunteers to hand out cold sponges or ice at aid stations, and a smart athlete should use all of these. This means dumping ice down his/her jersey or underneath a cap and sliding a couple of cold sponges into the chest area of the tri suit.  In most cases, it is well worth slowing down at aid stations to grab these items. Striving to stay cool from the outset will pay off in the latter stages of races and any time lost slowing down to cool down will be regained.

Conclusion

Training and racing in the heat can be tough; however, we all face the same conditions on race day. By being prepared, intelligently acclimating to the heat beforehand, and having a plan to keep cool, smart athletes will be able to manage heat better and will carry an advantage over competitors who are less thorough.

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How to Raise Your Coaching Rates

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There comes a time in every coach’s life when they have to raise their rates. Maybe you’ve been in coaching for years without a pay increase, or perhaps your skills have recently improved through a new training course, certification or you are heading to the upcoming Endurance Coaching Summit! 

Whatever the reason, it pays to have a plan in place before you make your big announcement.

Let’s break it down because it’s time to start raising your rates, gain more time for yourself and your family — but you have to do it gingerly!

But first, let me give you two scenarios.

Scenario A: 

It’s the end of July and you have a full plate with your current athletes. You have people reaching out to you for your services, so you’re excited and you take them on. You are over the number of athletes you wanted to take, but you need more money, and you want to help as many athletes as possible in the triathlon space (we need to talk about niches later).

Life happens, and you are completely overwhelmed with too many athletes, and you are working your fingers to the bone. 

Let’s take a look at the numbers:

20 athletes at $200/month = $4000

Let’s break down the hours required for each athlete:

3 hours/week x 4 weeks = 12 hours a month for one athlete

12 hours a month x 20 athletes = 240 hours a month for 20 athletes

$4000 monthly fee for 20 athletes/240 hours a month = $16.66/hour a month

That’s not a lot of money, and I can guarantee you are probably putting in more than three hours for some athletes and not more than two for others. 

The hours add up until you realize you are working for yourself. Remember the mantra, “hours for dollars.”  

Scenario B:

This time you opted to raise your rates and take on athletes who are in your niche. Let’s break that down:

10 athletes at $400/month = $4000 month

3 hours/week x 4 weeks = 12 hours a month for one athlete 

12 hours a month x 10 athletes = 120 hours a month for 10 athletes

$4000 monthly fee for ten athletes/120 hours a month = $33.33/hour a month

Of course it looks good on paper to grab those ten athletes at a higher price, but now you have to talk to everyone and inform them that you are raising your rates.

Raising Rates for Current Athletes

First, take a look at your current athletes and ask yourself, “Will I raise their rates as well?”

If the answer is no, then you have to consider if keeping them will be worth your time, or if you’ll feel resentful at the amount of (lower paid) time you are spending with them. Resentment can build up, so be wary of this. It’s better to raise the current athletes’ rates than provide substandard services due to hidden anger.

If the answer is yes, then you have to prepare yourself for potential fallout. There are some athletes (you likely know who they are) who will balk at a price hike. I have seen this with my athletes, and they will threaten to leave. Are you prepared for the hit your wallet will take should that happen? 

Timing

Next, consider when your rate increase will go into effect. The rate increase might be different for each athlete, depending on when or how they’re paying you. An athlete who is on an annual coaching plan might not see an increase for eight months or more, while a month-to-month athlete might be shocked to find their rate is going up in a week.

If you can, give your athlete at least 30 days notice of the increase, so they can not only budget for this increase, but shop around for a new coach if they choose to. If they do decide to shop around for other coaches, I will give them a few recommended local coaches, along with the TrainingPeaks list of coaches.

Incentive Offers 

Finally, if you’re a little flexible and want to gain a few new athletes, you might think about creating a last-minute offer. 

For example, announce that your rates are going up on a specific date, then offer to let a set number of new athletes lock in your current rate if they sign a contract right now. Sure, you’ll still be working at your old rate, but with a few new athletes on the roster, your cash flow will improve.

I also look at increasing my rates in the new quarter, and this has helped let go of some athletes who didn’t need my services anymore.

Takeaways

The most important thing to remember about rate increases is that you have to feel good about the prices you charge.

If you think your rates are too low, the chances are good that they are. Raising them will not only make you feel better, but it might just let your current and prospective athletes know the value of your services as well. 

It’s not always a fun thing to raise the rates and have these conversations, but if you start taking on too many athletes, your time and your mind will be stressed. You probably started your coaching business to step away from the stress of a nine-to-five job, so now it’s your time to make those calls. 

The post How to Raise Your Coaching Rates appeared first on TrainingPeaks.

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