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CoachCast: Time-Crunched Athletes with Shayne Gaffney

Brought to you by http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/trainingpeaks/XAlX/~3/_jnJcpmPHnA/

   

Let’s face it. Even driven athletes only have 24 hours in the day. 

Every athlete has limitations when it comes to how much they can train, but you should be taking more than just their available hours into consideration. Are you thinking about life stressors, recovery, and balance? All too often, athletes “burn the candle at both ends” as they try to make every workout count, and coaches sometimes only make matters worse.

Coach Shayne Gaffney explores his approach to maximizing his athletes’ time while training, even if that means taking some time off. 

Stand-out Quotes

“Yeah, I think keeping balance with these athletes is really crucial because they’re always going to have times in the day when they could train, but it could it be better for them to read a book or do some stretching or foam rolling or just enjoy time with their families as opposed to gutting it out on the treadmill or going for a ride on the trainer or whatever it might be.”“The other mistake I’ve seen a lot is athletes that will give you either too much or too little of that vital information. Some athletes will say in the post-activity comments, “workout went well,” period. And that’s all they’ll say. And then some athletes will say, “the workout went really well. My cat had two scoops of Friskies for breakfast and then I went out to dinner and…” So it’s finding the right balance between giving you the information that you need without giving you a ton of extraneous stuff.”

Resources

The Cyclist’s Training Bible by Joe FrielTraining and Racing with a Power Meter by Hunter Allen, Andy Coggin, and Stephen McGregorZwift’s Power Up Cycling PodcastTrainerRoad’s Ask A Cycling Coach PodcastGC Coaching BlogGC Coaching Core and Stability Workout

EpisodeTranscript

Introduction:               

On today’s episode of the TrainingPeaks CoachCast, your source for the latest information about the art, science and business of coaching. How do you define a time-crunched athlete? Are you only considering the time they have to train?

Dave Schell:                 

Hey guys, this is Dave Schell here, and on this week’s episode of the TrainingPeaks CoachCast, I had the pleasure to sit down with Shayne Gaffney, the owner and head coach of GC coaching. Shane is a runner turned triathlete and then he found his passion for cycling. Shayne has been coaching for a number of years. Shayne is a USA Cycling Expert Level Coach. As a new father, Shayne specializes in helping the time-crunched athlete maximize their performance. We talked about what time crunch means to Shayne and some of the strategies you can use with your athletes to help them perform their best. Hope you enjoy.

Dave Schell:                 

Welcome to the TrainingPeaks CoachCast. I’m your host Dave Schell and today I have the pleasure of being joined by Shayne Gaffney, head coach and founder of GC coaching based out of Windham, New Hampshire. Thanks for joining us today.

Shayne Gaffney:           

Thanks for having me. Looking forward to it.

Dave Schell:                 

Today I wanted to have you on so we could talk about a topic that probably every coach is familiar with and that’s a time-crunched athlete.

Shayne Gaffney:           

Right.

Dave Schell:                 

I would say if you’re a coach trying to run a business, generally you’re working with those time-crunched athletes because they’re the ones that can pay. But before we get into that, could you just tell us a little bit about yourself and your coaching history?

Shayne Gaffney:           

Sure. So I’ve been a cycling coach for seven years now. I’m USA Cycling Level One coach, a USA Cycling Certified Power Base coach, a Precision Nutrition Certified coach. I’m a TrainingPeaks Level Two coach. I have worked for Zwift designing some of their programs and I’ve also written some great articles for TrainingPeaks and the other blogs in the area. And yeah, I just really enjoy working with time-crunched athletes especially because I am one myself and I feel like I can really relate and empathize with them.

Dave Schell:                 

And you’ve kind of made a name for yourself, helping those time-crunched athletes perform their best and achieve their goal, whatever that goal happens to be. When I think about time-crunched, I think about somebody who’s working 50 to 60 hours a week and just doesn’t have a lot of time to train. How do you define time-crunched?

Shayne Gaffney:           

I definitely do define it by time, but I also try to look at what’s the athlete has on their plate and how many balls in the air they have to juggle at one time or the other. They can also change based on seasonality or, you know, if they have a new child or they have a seasonal job, so it can be time crunched generally or it can be time crunched by week, by month, even by year sometimes. So the training has to change and the training has to dictate what their training time actually is.

Dave Schell:                 

Now, when you’re thinking about that time-crunched athlete, are there also some considerations? As far as, I don’t know, like me personally, I think a lot of times I have an athlete and even though they might have more time to train their kind of burning the candle at both ends. And so do you place an emphasis on recovery in that too? Where it’s like, just because you have more available hours to train doesn’t mean we should fill them with training.

Shayne Gaffney:           

Yeah, I think keeping balance with these athletes is really crucial because they’re always going to have, you know, times in the day when they could train, but it could it be better for them to read a book or do some stretching or foam rolling or just, you know, enjoy time with their families as opposed to, you know, gutting it out on the treadmill or going for a ride on the trainer or whatever it might be. Um, so you have to definitely incorporate training, but you have to also make sure that they’re staying mentally positive and their psychology of the training is good. And then like you said, they’re not burning the candle from both ends and then that’s going to result in burnout. So like that’s a huge, huge factor with these types of athletes.

Dave Schell:                 

Yeah, I would imagine it’s even more of a factor too because a lot of times they’re just very driven, motivated people and that’s why they’re successful in their career and they try to apply that to sport as well and that could probably lead to burnout if not managed.

Shayne Gaffney:           

I’ve also noticed too that they tend to be very hard on themselves critically. So if they miss a workout or they fail an interval or whatever happens, they tend to be really, really hard on themselves. And I try to reverse that a little bit because you know they’re doing more than the average person does. So they should be a little bit more of a cheerleader for themselves like I am for them and saying, that’s okay because you know, you’re still putting in the work, you’re still getting the time in, but you just have to be realistic with how much time you have to train and what your goals are.

Dave Schell:                 

Now, you just mentioned missing a workout with somebody that has limited training time. How do you handle that missed workout? Are you trying to make that up later in the week or are you asking them to skip it or does it depend?

Shayne Gaffney:           

So I have a couple of key workouts I like to give my athletes per week and those workouts I don’t like them to miss and then I have, you know, usually one or two easier days or rest days totally. So if they miss a really key workout during that week, I’ll have them make it up during a rest day or during an easy day. But obviously if they get sick or something else like that happens where they can’t train, then I’ll change the week or even two weeks sometimes. And make the workout volume or workout intensity a lot lower to allow them time to sleep and for their bodies to heal.

Dave Schell:                 

Based on your experience and working with these time-crunched athletes, would you say that intensity is a substitute for volume?

Shayne Gaffney:           

I think it tends to be is a good substitute for volume, but the athlete’s goals need to match their training time and their long ride or long run. So if you have an athlete that comes to me and they say they want to do an IRONMAN, but they only have one hour a week to train, maybe four or five days a week, I’d say you probably don’t want to do that. Maybe do an Olympic distance or do a sprint triathlon because I know you can be able to crush that race and you’re not going to get to, you know, after the swim in an IRONMAN and that’s literally your longest workout you’ve ever done, but you’re only 1/12th into the race.

Dave Schell:                 

Yeah.

Shayne Gaffney:           

I definitely think you can maintain speed and you can maintain an aerobic potential where you can be really, you know, adept at cyclocross and crit racing and time trialing and you know, um, 10ks, 5ks, Olympic distances, sprint distances, triathlons. But you really shouldn’t be exposing yourself or not exposing yourself, you shouldn’t be preparing to do crazy ultra endurance events if you only have a very finite amount of training time available.

Dave Schell:                 

Yeah. And I, I imagine that’s kind of hard because, at least one of the trends we see here at TrainingPeaks, is there’s a lot of athletes especially, um, this demographic we’re talking about where they’re starting to sign up for what we would almost term like a bucket list type race where they want to do those ultra endurance either running or IRONMAN or a 200-mile gravel race or something like that. But then they only have “X” amount of hours to train. So I imagine it’s important to kind of manage expectations and set those realistic goals.

Shayne Gaffney:           

Absolutely. And that’s something that I like to do from the get go. Even during the first phone call I have with them, see what their goals are and see if, you know, they’re realistic and if they’re not realistic we can come up with some other goals or, you know, short-term, long-term stuff that will keep them motivated. And then, you know, if things change or they have more free time available in the future, then we can tackle that goal when they have the time to actually train for it.

Dave Schell:                 

Going back to intensity, uh, let’s say that you have two athletes and maybe they’re training for the same thing, but one has all the time in the world to train and the other has limited time to train. Like six to eight hours a week. As you’re prescribing workouts to these two different athletes, have you found any types of workouts that are more effective for that time-crunched athlete than, um, maybe this other athlete? Like, when it comes time to write those key sessions, what are ones that are your, that you’re prescribing for that time-crunched athlete?

Shayne Gaffney:           

Sure. For the time-crunched athlete, for example, they’re doing a criterium race. I’ll do a lot of sweet spot and VO2 Max work during the base phases because I’ve now found that sweet spot and VO2 Max work really helps to stimulate that fat burning system and then incorporate more of the criterium-specific intervals during their builds and during their race phases. Um, and you know, those types of intervals for the build phase may be 30x30s or 40x20x or really high intensity on and off stuff. So you’re still getting an aerobic metabolism, but the shorter rest breaks also challenge them to work.

Dave Schell:                 

For the listeners that may not know what the “sweet spot” is. Can you describe that?

Shayne Gaffney:           

So I’d like to identify a sweet spot is 90% FTP. The actual range I’ve seen, it really varies, but it’s usually 87 or 88 to 93% FTP. So I try to keep everything pretty simple. I just define it as 90% FTP. So you were kind of right below FTP.

Dave Schell:                 

And aside from burning more fat at that intensity, what is the benefit of working at, say, sweet spot versus right at threshold?

Shayne Gaffney:           

So personally I think that traditional FTP tests over-estimates actual FTP because you know true FTP as it’s defined should be the power you can maintain at a semi-quasi steady state for one hour. But if you look at most athletes at FTP, they may have a time to exhuastian of 30 to 45 minutes. So I think true anaerobic threshold and FTP is slightly lower than the test dictates. So I think the sweet spot is actually closer to that, you know, maximal lactate steady state and that’s going to give them the best bang for their buck in terms of training.

Dave Schell:                 

So you just, you had just mentioned time to exhaustion, um, which is kind of introduced with our, one of our softwares called WKO4, which is kind of a desktop deep-analysis software is how I describe it. Um, and so would you just describe time to exhaustion real quick?

Shayne Gaffney:           

Sure. So time until exhaustion is the length of time the athlete can hold their FTP power for. And I’ve seen most in the 30 to 45 minute ranges for most roadies that have a decent amount of aerobic and also anaerobic power. And then for most IRONMAN competitors that tends to be closer to the hour. So the more developed your fat burning system is, the longer your time to exhaustion is going to be at that FTP range, I’ve seen.

Dave Schell:                 

And so working with these athletes, are there any other aspects or tools from WKO4 that have helped you to really maximize their training time?

Shayne Gaffney:           

Definitely. So I think the more individualized you can make the training in terms of prescription, the better. So WKO4 has i-levels that I love to use with my athletes and i-levels are based off of their modeled FTP and their i-levels will also change every week or even every three or four days depending on how frequently you update the program. So I use i-levels a lot with my athletes just to make sure that their prescriptions are very, very personal to them. Um, they also have a great chart “optimize intervals”, which I like to use as well. “Optimize intervals” takes the i-level into account, but it also takes it a step further and it gives you a time range of how long the athletes should be able to maintain that set amount of wattage. So I use that a lot as well.

Dave Schell:                 

And, I mean, you had mentioned criteriums and things like that. Do you find that it’s also effective for your athletes training for IRONMAN?

Shayne Gaffney:           

I find it’s effective for my athletes period. I’ll use WKO4 constantly. Um, whether they’re track sprinters right through to IRONMAN competitors. It just gives you so much more in-depth analysis and data on what’s under the hood of the athletes.

Dave Schell:                 

Gotcha. And now this is just a personal question for myself. Have you, are you having, let’s say for your IRONMAN athletes, um, really to, in my experience, to get the most accurate data from WKO4 you need to have them do like an all-out hour. So are you having your IRONMAN athletes go out and just hammer for an hour to update that modeled, uh, power duration curve?

Shayne Gaffney:           

Depends on the type of athlete I’m working with. Um, the more, you know, kind of elite per se athlete, I’ll definitely have them do a test like that. But most people, if you tell them to go hammer for an hour, they tell you to go fly a kite. So I’ll usually, you know, use WKO4 and I’ll pick a short duration, medium duration and a long duration test based on where the curve is. And then I’ll have them do that and during that week, so you know, it, it may be an hour, but usually I haven’t seen that. Usually it’s in the 30 to 50 minute range.

Dave Schell:                 

Do you have any other kind of secret tools that you use with these time poor athletes?

Shayne Gaffney:           

I think my favorite tool is Zwift right now, um, because Zwift incorporates with TrainingPeaks very well so I can create the workout in TrainingPeaks using the Workout Builder and then all the athlete has to do is click a couple buttons and they’re literally doing the workout on Zwift. So I think that’s a huge, huge benefit. Um, Zwift also has a great thing where it keeps the socialization and the group rides alive during the winter. Because most athletes I work with are, you know, in my neck of the woods, which is New Hampshire and Massachusetts and Vermont. So we have to deal with winter up here. So we might have, you know, four or five, six months out of the year, we really can’t ride outdoors or run out doors because there’s ice and snow. And everything else. So Zwift does a great job too of keeping that socialization alive and you can join a team that’s based on a charity or based on a competitive-based team or supporting a cause and that really helps to give you your community of athletes and keeps you motivated to show up to group rides or show up to do your workouts with them. Um, it’s also great too because if you have a trainer or a treadmill, you can literally keep everything set up and keep your next to your treadmill or keep your shoes next to your bike. It’s all you have to do is change your clothes, you know, fill your bottles, get your nutrition squared away and then you’re working out in minutes. So it’s a very, very convenient for the time-crunched athlete as well.

Dave Schell:                 

I think that’s huge to kind of remove those barriers, right? If you can pack the bag the night before or whatever, um, if you’re riding outside. But yeah, I think that’s a huge factor is just making the most of that hour in the morning or what have you. Quick question about Zwift, do you find, I know for me personally, I have a really bad habit of getting sucked into contests where all of a sudden somebody is on my back wheel, so I need to show them how powerful I am and drop them. How do you manage that with your athletes? Is that a conversation you have?

Shayne Gaffney:           

For sure. So I will kind of give them permission to do that every once in a while to kind of squash that bug and get that out of their system. But the majority of their training should be ideally structured, so I’ll make sure that they have something to do the days that they can train and it’s been built and the TrainingPeaks Workout Builder so it’s right available for them. There’s no real thinking behind it. They have to just turn on Zwift and go for it. But if they do get a little bit antsy or they do want to work out a little bit harder then I’ll allow them to do a race or a group ride or whatever it may be, just to keep themselves a little bit more motivated to do more.

Dave Schell:                 

So beyond kind of the technical side of it, talking about Zwift, talking about the Workout Builder, are there any other things that you find are really key in helping these athletes see success?

Shayne Gaffney:           

I do. So using other metrics that TrainingPeaks offers like TSS has been great to you know, judge progressive overload as well as judge, you know, fatigue and freshness and form all that good stuff from the PMC chart. Um, I’ve also loved to use an ATP from TrainingPeaks to keep myself and athletes on the same page where you can literally see, you know, from a bird’s eye view, what’s coming down the pipeline and what things we want to work on during certain weeks of the year and when the rest is going to come when the races are going to come. That really keeps a great, you know, everyone both on the same page. And then the communication aspect with TrainingPeaks is a huge factor for me because you know, I like to talk to my athletes at least on a weekly basis if not more through email or through text or through the post activity comments section on TrainingPeaks. So that gives you that subjective feedback and you can marry that to the data and make sure that the athlete is getting what they want, but they’re also striving to be the best they can be and improve what they have from their baseline.

Dave Schell:                 

So you had just mentioned using training stress score or TSS for progressive overload. And I would imagine like one of the things we’ve seen here at TrainingPeaks is as soon as we started calling the blue line or the chronic training load fitness, we started getting emails from some athletes because the tendency is you want to always see that line go up. But there’s, but there’s a ceiling and there’s always a ceiling for, even if you’re a pro tour athlete, there’s a ceiling to how much time you can train. And so how do you manage that with your athletes? Um, are you having that conversation with them or how do you deal with that? Um, with the Performance Management Chart.

Shayne Gaffney:           

I do. Another thing I see a lot too with the newer athlete is they think that the higher their blue line is, quote unquote, the more fit they’ll be. So they think their friend that’s dropping them in group ride has a CTL of 200 even though they are only at a 50. so I kind of have to explain that to them as well, that just because your friend has a higher blue line, per se, that doesn’t mean that they’re a better athlete than you are. So I’ll try to broach that two different ways. If the athlete has historical data, then I will look back at the previous year and see where they were at their, you know, quote unquote “peak form” and I’ll try to match that CTL to where it was last year around where their current race is. If not, maybe push that number a little bit higher to give them a little bit more fitness. And then if they’re brand new to everything, then I have a lot of blog posts I’ve written and videos I’ve done based on TrainingPeaks and the PMC Chart. And I’ll just give them a lot of material to read and to educate themselves with and then answer any questions they might have based on the stuff that they read.

Dave Schell:                 

I also want to talk about the ATP a little bit just because now I’m a little bit more curious. Um, so how are you using that with your athletes? Is that, are you using the preset periods in there or have you come up with your own periods or how do you account for things like, do you have the training camp in there or, uh, things like that?

Shayne Gaffney:           

All the above. So I will use the preset, you know, base one, base two, base three, etc., build, peak. Or if the athlete gets sick or they have a training camp or other things happen, I will go in there and I’ll, I’ll manually adjust certain weeks to make up for the training that they lost or the training or the, the um, overreaching that they got during their training camp. So try to keep them kind of even keeled. So they’re not so much under training, but they’re also more importantly not overtraining if they’re one of those gung-ho kind of athletes. Some athletes have two races that they wanted peak for. Some athletes have one race they want a peak for. So that’s not a thing you can do with the ATP is adjust the training load based on where their peak events are. So I’ll use that either with the ATP that TrainingPeaks gives me, or I can make it a little bit different, again, based on sickness or training camps or things like that that they they have.

Dave Schell:                 

I imagine that goes a long way too to show where you’re not having to plan out the workouts for three to six months in advance, but they can still see at a high level what the plan is.

Shayne Gaffney:           

Right. And that’s a key factor for me because I want to make sure that, you know, I’m giving my athletes as much as I can give them in terms of education, but communication too. So, you know, I don’t want to be the coach that says I want you to do this because I said so I want you to do this because of these reasons: A, B, and C. And then if you do A, B, and C, then you’ll get to, you know, A, B and C over here. So we’re kind of building relationships, building rapport, building communication, all that stuff is huge for longevity of the athlete-coach relationship.

Dave Schell:                 

In working with these time-crunched athletes, and you just mentioned communication being one of the keys, um, are there any common mistakes that you see these time-crunched athletes make when you first take them on? Um, I imagine maybe some of them have never worked with a coach before and maybe they came in self coached. Um, and so is there anything you see like kind of a trend?

Shayne Gaffney:           

The most common mistakes I’ve seen would probably be just doing too, like you kind of already mentioned, doing too much intensity during the phases of where they don’t want to be doing a lot of intensity like during the base phase. So you know intensity is good in small doses, but if they’re doing a Zwift race six days a week, that’s probably not the best way to do it. You know, the other mistake I’ve seen a lot is athletes that will give you either too much or too little of that vital information where some athletes will say in the post-activity comments, they say “workout went well,” period. And that’s all they’ll say. And then some athletes will say, you know, “the workout went really well. My cat had two scoops of Friskies for breakfast and then I went out to dinner and…” So all that stuff. So it’s kind of finding the right balance between giving you the information that you need without giving you a ton of extraneous stuff.

Dave Schell:                 

So do you, when you take on a new athlete, is that part of the onboarding process where you’re telling them this is what I care about and this is what I want from you or is it just something that happens over time? Okay.

Shayne Gaffney:           

I do, but it also happens over time to where you know, some athletes just love to talk more than others do. So the athletes that don’t want to talk as much, I’ll try to coerce them to give me more where I’ll ask them questions in the post activity comments, you know, how did your legs feel? I noticed that the power went down on interval number five. Did you feel like you were fatigued or what did you eat for breakfast that day, if they feel like they had less energy. Or, and the athletes that give me too much, I’ll definitely answer all their questions and I’ll maybe try to give them some pointers on the stuff that they want to give me more of. And the stuff that I want them to give me less of like what their cat had for breakfast that day. Just something stupid like that.

Dave Schell:                 

You want more of that?

Shayne Gaffney:           

I want less of that.

Dave Schell:                 

I want to know everything your cat ate. All the meals. Um, so you just mentioned power and it just kind of made me think, and I, I don’t know how many of your athletes are remote, but I feel like that’s a big part of the communication as well is that even if it’s a newer athlete and, you know, we ask them to buy all these devices but it’s not just about data, data, data, it really improves that coach-athlete communication as well. Would you agree?

Shayne Gaffney:           

Yeah. And you know the other thing to think about is even though if I have local athletes, they are still mostly remote coached because you know they’re time-crunched. So having a time where you can meet them face to face is going to be even less likely just because their schedules are jam packed as it is. And if you say let’s get coffee or whatever they have to clear so much stuff out of their schedule. So I like to use a lot of things like video conferencing and web meetings, things like that. So you’re getting that face-to-face value but you’re not having them meet you at a location halfway. So try to just make, make that technology work for you in terms of giving you a better return on your training time, but also making your time more productive that you have.

Dave Schell:                 

Yeah. In relation to that, like, one of the things that I’ve kind of dealt with with athletes is that, especially these busy athletes, is sometimes they see coaching almost as a commodity, and, they really, the mindset is I’m paying you, just give me my workouts and I’ll do my workouts and no feedback. And so, one, have you ever had, have you dealt with that? And two, how do you address that with that athlete?

Shayne Gaffney:           

Yup. So I’ve had that happen not as many times, but I’ve had that happen a few times for sure. So the first thing I’ll try to do is just talk to the athlete more and say, “Hey, you know, can I do anything else differently for you? Are these workouts going the way that you want them to be? Are you getting the gains that you would like to see?” And if I still get kind of radio silence, then I’ll ask them again. And then if I still get radio silence, then usually I’ll say, you know what, I don’t think our relationship is going to be really beneficial for either of us. So I’ll kinda just basically drop them off of my roster because I want to give my time to the athletes that want it. And I don’t want to work with athletes that just really want a training plan per se. I want the athletes, I want to get to that next level and you know, help them improve.

Dave Schell:                 

Um, so going back and I probably should’ve mentioned this earlier, going back to, uh, Zwift you had mentioned that, you know, there’s appropriate times of the year or the season where you do want to be doing an intensity and it’s not always appropriate. And so, I guess, in your eyes, what is the harm of doing intensity in December and January when you’re not racing until June or July?

Shayne Gaffney:           

I don’t think there’s harm in doing intensity. I just think that the intensity, has to be balanced. So if you do a lot of intensity, you’re going to need time to recover on the other side of that workout. Where versus if you do a 60 minute race Monday through Friday, that’s really not the great way to do it cause you’re not going to be really pushing your body to as far as could be pushed. So if you do a race when you’re really recovered, you’re going to go way deeper and you’re going to get a lot better return on your training time invested versus if you enter a race when you’re already done three races that week, you’re not going to be able to push nearly as hard or as deep into that workout. So the workout becomes less high intensity and just more kind of moderate. So I’d rather see, if an athlete does a lot of races, I’d rather see them do a race but then have a rest day or two days afterwards they can get hit that race hard again the next time they do it.

Dave Schell:                 

Right. That totally makes sense. Is there also a risk with, like, say, burnout or something if you’re doing six races in a week but then not racing until you’re, you’re “A” race I guess is months down the road.

Shayne Gaffney:           

I’ve seen that as well. Yup, and that’s an issue too with racing is you want to, kind of, periodize your training, but you also want to periodize you racing too. Because racing is a lot of mental energy, there’s a lot of stress, there’s a lot of lost sleep and a lot of training. It’s really hard to get ready for a race, not just physically, but also mentally. And these athletes are going to be mentally taxed anyways just because they’re very time crunched with their jobs or their families or whatever. So I want to make sure that they’re allowing themselves recovery physically. But I’ll also allowing themselves recovery mentally and psychologically. So if you’re just kind of grinding yourself into the ground, day in and day out and burning the candle at both ends then, like you’ve said, that’s a huge issue and a huge recipe for disaster.

Dave Schell:                 

So in addition to athletes being time crunched and working a ton of hours, how do you deal, like if they also travel for work, do you have any strategies for dealing with that? Let’s say that they, they’re home for three weeks and then they’re gone for a week and they may not have access to a bike, but they’re doing bike races. Do you have anything? Um, kind of some tips for that?

Shayne Gaffney:           

So if they’re pure cyclists, I’ll have them try to find a gym close to the hotel that they’re at and then bring their heart rate monitor and their bike computer. And then you know, hit the elliptical or hit the stairmaster or ideally hit a spin class or something like that. So they’re still getting some cardiovascular effect and some benefit. But in a non-impact sense, just because a pure cyclist you tell them to go for a run even for a couple of miles, they’ll be sore for a week sometimes. So I try to keep the, the non-impact there but keep the cardiovascular effects as well. And then for a multisport or a runner, it’s easy. Just tell him to pack their shoes and then they can do it wherever they’re at.

Dave Schell:                 

And do you still try to like again, for somebody doing a triathlon, are you still trying to get in those swims while they’re traveling or is it just too much of a headache?

Shayne Gaffney:           

I’ve seen that to be too much of a headache because finding a gym is a lot of work. And then finding a gym with a pool in it, is even more work. So if they can find a gym with a pool, that’s awesome. But a lot of times I’ve seen that the hotel they’re at has a gym, so I’ll just have them use that just for time’s sake. A lot of times if they’re traveling, they’re going to have meetings all day long or have stuff to do all day long. So it’s even less of a chance of them getting a rental car or driving to the gym, going to the pool. It’s just harder to make them do that.

Dave Schell:                 

And I, I can definitely relate as I travel a lot. And so really that question is for me.

Shayne Gaffney:           

Sure.

Dave Schell:                 

Um, so in your time working with time-crunched athletes, have you ever found something that you really see as the key to their success? Like if they, if they get this one thing right, then everything else will kind of fall into place.

Shayne Gaffney:           

Yeah, consistency is by far and away the most important thing I’ve seen, and I think that goes with any athlete, but especially if you have less time and less time to train, then you have to be consistent with everything that you do. So consistency is by far and away number one.

Dave Schell:                 

And how do you define consistency? Is it just working out? Like being sure to workout once a day or is it being consistent with the intensity or the time off or, um, yeah, how do you define that?

Shayne Gaffney:           

I think it’s all the above. I think it’s, you know, showing up to workouts, but also getting to bed at a reasonable time. Taking care of your family, taking care of your friends, you know, making sure that you’re kind of checking off all those boxes as consistently as you can. So it’s not just a lot of time is for the time-crunched athlete, it’s not just training, it’s also, which we’ve talked about a lot of times now, it’s also making sure that they’re keeping themselves healthy mentally and psychologically, too.

Dave Schell:                 

We’re almost out of time here, but before I let you go, I was just curious if you have any kind of recommended resources, um, for the listeners, either whether it’s a book or other podcasts or if you’d be willing to share any of your, um, kind of secret workouts with us, um, that we can post on the page?

Shayne Gaffney:           

So, resources wise I love, the “Cyclist’s Training Bible” by Joe Friel and then “Training and Racing With a Power Meter” by Hunter Allen and Andy Coggin. Those are kind of the go-to books I like to consult and look at. Podcasts-wise, I love all the Zwift podcasts and I love the TrainerRoad podcasts as well. I like to listen to those on my commute home as well as this podcast too. I like to listen to those on the commute in to the office and back out of the office again. And then I also have maintain a blog on the GC coaching website that has a lot of good pertinent information on it as well with training tips, advice and also workouts on it as well.

Dave Schell:                 

Awesome. Well, we’ll be sure to put those links in the show notes and with that, thank you very much for your time. Definitely appreciate it.

Shayne Gaffney:           

Of course. Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it.

Dave Schell:                 

Yeah, I hope you get some sleep with the new kid.

Shayne Gaffney:           

Thanks!

Dave Schell:                 

Yeah, look forward to talking to you again soon.

Shayne Gaffney:           

Excellent. Thank you so much.

Dave Schell:                 

Hey guys, Dave here again. I hope you enjoyed our conversation with Shayne. As we mentioned, he’s going to provide some workouts that you can try with your own athletes, so be sure to check out the show notes for those. Be sure to share and rate the podcast if you’re enjoying it, and be sure to let us know what else you’d like to hear about by tweeting to us at @TrainingPeaks. Until next time.

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How To Boost Your Facebook Business Strategy

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Yes, it is true. Facebook is here to stay.

Did you know that Facebook’s monthly active users have risen 9 percent year-over-year to 2.32 billion people? You might also be interested to know some of these stand-out fun facts about Facebook:

Americans spend an average of 58 minutes per day on FacebookVisits typically last ten to 12 minutesTwo-hundred million Facebook users are members of meaningful Facebook Groups43 percent of Facebook users get their news from Facebook

Even as criticism of Facebook increases, I highly recommend using it to grow your coaching business. In my “Master Your Coaching Business” program, I talk with my clients about broadening their use of Facebook to include a business page. Let’s discuss the business pages first.

The best way to market your business on Facebook is through a Facebook Page dedicated to your business. One of the primary reasons to build a specific business page is that Facebook will be in the top listings in search engines when people look up your company.

Here three business page features that I recommend other coaches take advantage of:

Always use a call-to-action button on top of page

The call-to-action button, which typically gives potential clients a streamlined way to get in touch with you or sign up for your services, displays on both desktop and mobile at the top of your page, so it is easy for people to find.

Facebook also allows you to add  a “message me” call-to-action in your posts if you are using a business page. Users can message you directly, and you can provide the next steps to sign up with your business.

Pay attention to Facebook Insights

Data is essential, and when to plug is also crucial for your social media. Have you ever looked at your FB data on your business account and when your followers are online or not? Here is an example of mine:

As you can see, users don’t typically visit more on any particular day, but the time of day is more interesting. It’s obvious that the most visits are around 8:00 p.m. So, if I have a post that performed well on Instagram, I will use that same photo and repurpose it around that 8:00 p.m. sweet spot.

Remember that video is king!

As you can see, most of the interaction here is coming from native Facebook Live videos, not links to YouTube or other platforms. Facebook Live is a vast opportunity since many people hesitate to post in that manner. If you need some help with your Facebook Live videos, check out this article I wrote about best practices.

If you aren’t ready for a business page…

Even though business pages can result in big growth, your personal profile presents some marketing opportunities of its own.

First and foremost, getting the most out of your profile starts with personal relationships, but be mindful about how you are posting as posting too much may repel your Facebook friends. For example, I think of multi-level marketing posts on personal pages. When a solicitor reaches out and wants to meet over coffee, I always worry they are going to try to sell me something.

Let your friends know about your business and publish posts that specifically focus on the company. You can put a lot of information in one post, but it is often more useful to spread out information over time, each including a unique tidbit of information. Multiple posts increase the chances that more friends will see the post.When friends share posts about your business and their friends like or comment, consider sending friend requests to those new contacts. If they accept your friend request, you have new people that will be seeing your posts regularly.Use your ability to select whether each post can be seen by only friends or by the public to reach a larger audience.Allow people to follow you. When you enable followers, you don’t have to accept individuals as friends for them to see all of your public updates. You also won’t have your news feed cluttered with the updates of all of your followers.Even personal posts can connect to your business. Your business is a significant part of your life, so it is natural that some of your personal posts will involve things that are happening in your industry. Keep those posts personal for your friends, but don’t overlook the opportunity to promote your business at the same time.Don’t hesitate to create posts that are solely ads for your business. This is a useful place to do that because your friends already trust you. You have to build that trust in new contacts. Please keep it in balance though. Even your friends will lose interest if they are about nothing but your business.Whatever the nature of the post, if there is any connection to your business, include business contact info or a link to your website.Always work to find ways to include a call-to-action. Whatever you do to promote your business on Facebook, asking the reader to take some action that will strengthen their connection to your business is essential. Think about adding links to take them to your website or Facebook Page, or asking them to sign up for your mailing list to receive an informative report or other information. Any response to a call-to-action gives you more information about the prospect and presents an additional opportunity to make them a customer.Use images extensively. A company logo, a photo of your place of business, or a picture of employees involved in some public service activity—images like this draw attention to your post and get more responses than text alone. Include text with or even within the image to create interest.Any professional certification or award is a subject of personal pride, but don’t overlook it as an opportunity to promote your business.

In marketing your business through Facebook, you have an entire suite of tools available. Don’t overlook the opportunities presented by your profile.

My goal for you and your coaching business is to make sure you are utilizing a couple of different social media platforms. When Instagram shut down a month ago, a lot of companies and business had a little “freak out moment”, including myself. Don’t focus on just one social media platform, focus on a many to help build your business and watch it grow!

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The Whole Picture: Mental Stress

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

It may come as a surprise to many people (it did to me), that unless you are a professional athlete looked after by experts who are minimizing all the non-training sources of stress in your life, that training is rarely the largest component of total load. Assuming that you eat and sleep reasonably well (we will cover those later in the series), then mental stress is quite likely to be your largest stressor.

A study published in 2010 tracked the occurrence of illness, injury, and burnout amongst 30 well-trained triathletes during a full competitive season in Western Australia. Although training factors had a significant impact, the largest impact was produced by increases in psychological stress, and the same was found for the athletes’ mood scale ratings.

To quantify the effects further, a 2012 study on 44 healthy adults in Finland looked at the baseline psychological stress during a short two-week intensive training program. Subjects rated their stress from one (low psychological resources and a lot of stressors in my life) to ten (high psychological resources and no stressors in my life) during the program.

Courtesy of “Self-rated mental stress and exercise training response in healthy subjects.”

They found that those with high levels of stress showed 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. Other studies have shown reduced running economy following stressful life events which implies the possibility of impaired motor coordination.

So, why is this?

It is well known in medical circles that high levels of mental stress delay recovery in wound healing and operations, but what about endurance sports?

In his thought-provoking review of Periodisation Theory, Professor John Kiely not only identifies links between high levels of mental stress and poor response to training, but also teases out three separate components that contribute to this:

Stress historyHigh levels of mental/emotional stress in daily lifeLow levels of resilience or resistance to mental stress

Kiely summarizes that multiple sources of life stress down regulate the immune system, motor coordination, mood, and hormonal health leading to impaired performance, adaptation, and recovery, and increased levels of illness and injury.

Courtesy of “Periodization Theory: Confronting an Inconvenient Truth.”

Measuring and improving mental stress levels

Considering the fact that our busy lives feel increasing stressful, this paints a bleak picture for our training prospects. In fact, there is quite a lot we can do to reduce stress, starting with measurement.

Although no “gold standard” measurement of stress has been agreed upon, we can start by using visual scales to quantify our daily levels of mood, anxiety, fatigue, and enthusiasm for training. The example below is a simple way to measure the feelings an athlete might be having about their stress levels.

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Kiely proposes that since the autonomic nervous system is a major regulator of our emotional state, Heart Rate Variability (HRV) can be a useful indicator of mental stress levels. This is because the sympathetic branch is associated with increasing levels of anxiety (fight or flight), and the parasympathetic branch makes us feel more calm and relaxed (rest and digest).

Increased baseline levels of HRV are associated not only with better athletic performance, but with increased resilience and an ability to tolerate higher levels of individual stressors and total load.

You can find some tips on reducing workplace stress here, but it is also important to realize that the stress we experience is the difference between our expectations and our own perception of our ability to cope with those stresses. Therefore, 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.

Personally, I improved my HRV the most over the past ten years from using a paced breathing app called BreatheSync for a few minutes every morning and during the day as needed. I’m a big fan of guided meditation apps for maintaining a near constant level of calmness despite life’s inevitable ups and downs.

References:

J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2010 Dec;50(4):475-85. Training patterns and negative health outcomes in triathlon: longitudinal observations across a full competitive season. Main LC1, Landers GJ, Grove JR, Dawson B, Goodman C.Ruuska PS, Hautala AJ, Kiviniemi AM, Mäkikallio TH and Tulppo MP (2012) Self-rated mental stress and exercise training response in healthy subjects. Front. Physio. 3:51. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2012.00051 Kiely, J. Sports Med (2018) 48: 753. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-017-0823-y

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What Researchers Found After Studying 10 Million Marathon Finishers

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In 2017, researchers completed an impressive study which reviewed nearly ten million marathon finishing times (9,789,093 to be exact) from a total of 6,888 marathons across the globe. The vast majority analyzed (nearly 89 percent) took place after the year 2000, but races ranged between 1970 and 2013. The investigative team was interested in reference-dependent, goal-motivated behavior for a task that held little direct bearing on the quality of a person’s life: the race results of a marathon.

The information gleaned from their data set was quite remarkable on a number of levels, but one result stands out. Runners had an unusually high clumping of finishes just before rounded hour finishing times, specifically those at the three-, four-, and five-hour marks.

For example, runners were 1.4 times more likely to finish a marathon in 3:59 rather than 4:01. In fact, a total of 300,324 competitors finished their marathon in the three minutes prior to the four-hour mark compared to only 212,477 competitors who finished in the three minutes after the four-hour mark. That’s not because human beings are somehow categorically better at running a 3:59 rather than a 4:01 marathon. It’s because human beings make numbers matter. A lot.

The same trend held true at 30-, 15-, 10-, and five-minute increments. Essentially, finishing times showed the tendency to clump just ahead of, rather than just behind, any time that ended in a zero or five.

What does this mean?

This data set is remarkable in showing the powerful influence of numbers as it relates to recreational sports over decades of time, thousands of races, and millions of finishers. This research shows that athletes imbue remarkable meaning into chasing numbers, and shows statistically significant trends of goal achievement ahead of relatively arbitrary time standards.

Establishing a time goal for a race, regardless of race length or sport, is a time-honored tradition for the endurance athlete. This level of purpose requires strategy development to pursue those goals to fruition. These strategies involve both long-term planning and preparation, along with race day psychological management, including the tolerance of discomfort and the willingness to continue despite a mounting desire to stop (many thanks to Alex Hutchinson his fantastic definition of endurance).

Numbers chasing cuts both ways, however, and the pain associated with missing a goal, even by a minute or two, may prove to be a powerful motivator. Anyone who has beat a personal best or worked to run a sub-[insert personally meaningful time standard here], can attest to the power of goal setting. But, missing the mark can be just as painful psychologically as it can be rewarding.

It may be that the loss (or feared loss) associated with missing a time goal by one minute is more psychologically intense than the pleasure felt by beating a goal by an equal measure. And, this may be the greatest psychological component involved in chasing such feats—the psychological impact of loss aversion.

Simply stated, loss aversion refers to the tendency for us to prefer avoiding losses over acquiring equivalent gains. Fearing that we may be slowing down late in an event and knowing the consequence of potentially missing the mark may actually be the driving force for speeding up or maintaining rhythm.

Pushing your athletes with goals

Reference points serve as a basic psychological itch for motivating behavior. One of the greatest thinkers in understanding the concept of psychological experiences related to behavioral choices is Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.

“Contrary to what we usually believe, moments like these, the best moments in our lives, are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times—although such experiences can also be enjoyable, if we have worked hard to attain them,” Csikszentmihalyi explains. “The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. Optimal experience is thus something that we make happen.”

Time goals established by athletes fit this criteria perfectly—voluntarily pushing the mind and body to perceived limits in an effort to accomplish something difficult and personally worthwhile. The connection to personal meaning is key here. Breaking a four-hour marathon means very little to someone who has qualified for the Olympic Trials, but the four-hour marathon mark is many runners’ greatest athletic accomplishment. The personal relevance of time standards cannot be ignored, and although the times themselves vary from athlete to athlete, the underlying psychological draw to better one’s own personal limits is deeply human.

What’s next?

So what do we do with this information? Well, for starters, look at the time goals for your next race or, if you’re a coach, think about the goals your athletes are chasing? My guess is that most goals either fit a round number standard by targeting times ending in zero of five or focus on bettering an existing PR.

The former very rarely targets something as arbitrary as a time like 3:01:03 unless it occupies the same psychological space of the latter. At first, just notice and accept that doing so connects you to one of the most defining aspects of the human spirit involved in endurance races. And, be aware that when you or your athletes toe the line at the next event, the vast majority of athletes around you are doing the same.

Second, consider stretching goals by five minutes, or for longer races such as ultra marathons or full-length IRONMAN events, stretch goals by two to five percent rather than by minutes. This research shows that we are very motivated by those time standards. If your athletes are gunning to break four hours in the marathon, for example, stretching the goal time will likely be both a bit exciting and a bit scary. The accompanying emotions, such as anxiety and excitement, are sweet spots for psychological growth. Stretching goals will require that you adjust training so that faster efforts are just a bit more effortful, yet conceivably within reach. Athletes will develop a new psychological and physical training framework for what they are capable of, which will make 3:55 possible and four hours much more likely.

Third, remind yourself of your own personal meaning throughout the process. Research about goals is clear that one of the most important factors in goal attainment is the personal meaning of your goals. We know that we are much more likely to put in the right work at the right time in service of a personally relevant, meaningful goal. What does the goal race time mean to you? The more clear, precise, and specific athletes are about their underlying reasons to achieve, the more likely they will be to put in the effort to see it to fruition come race day.

Finally, it’s important to adopt a “breaking barriers” mindset. Self-determination to push the limits of what you think is capable starts in thought. Stretching your goal by five minutes will require you to shift your thinking accordingly. Starting with thinking, “This is what sub-_____ does” in reference to all things related to training in pursuit of your fresh, faster goal time. As your training shifts accordingly to break a tougher standard, so too does your thinking.

The entire research article is fascinating, and I encourage you to read it for all of the details.

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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.

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