Welcome to "My Reality Show"
...No idea where I'm headed in 2018/2019, but I can't wait to get there...

So you've landed here on my iWillNotBonk.com Triathlon Training Blog and you're probably wondering who the hell this Tavis guy is and what iWillNotBonk is all about.

I'm just an average age-grouper / weekend warrior blogging about Ironman Triathlon Training and this complex puzzle of juggling life, having fun and reporting on my various feats of strength and endurance adventures!

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2018!? Starting from Square 1!

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Top Instagram Tips for Your Coaching Business

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It was October 2012. I was sitting on the Kona pier watching my husband compete in the IRONMAN World Championship. The gun went off and a lightbulb went off, too. I needed to start my own coaching business. I decided to jump in feet first, and in December 2012 I received my LLC and DBA for JenRulon.com. I’ve never looked back.

While I made a ton of mistakes starting my business, felt a bit lost, and was very overwhelmed, there was one great decision that I made that genuinely changed how I marketed myself and my brand. I started an Instagram account in January of 2012.

Instagram is all about photos of everyday moments and activities. For your coaching company, that means showing off your services and team while educating followers about what your sets your company apart. And, it might also be an opportunity to promote other products products, such as books, racing gear, etc.

Let me absolutely clear. I had no idea what to post at first for my triathlon coaching brand. I started posting photos and seeing what people liked and what they didn’t. At that time, Instagram wasn’t a massive platform like it is today so the traction was pretty low, but I started realizing a few things that I was doing wrong on Instagram.

Such as…

Too many selfies!Too many cat photos.Poor quality photos.Photos not relevant to JenRulon.com.Photos with word overlays.

Over the years, I started getting really intentional with my social media, especially Instagram. Why? I was getting clients from Instagram. They ranged from Mexico to New York and Canada to California. After measuring a few data points I realized that the return of investment on Instagram was much higher than other social media platforms I was engaging on.

I learned a lot in the process and came up with the “Rulon Rules for Instagram” which you can use for your coaching business.

Need help scheduling your social media?

Download author Jen Rulon’s free social media calendar to add structure to your social media strategy.

“Rulon Rules” for Instagram

1. Tell your followers a story

We know Instagram is about photos, photos, photos. It’s also important to tell the story behind the photo.

For example, if you are posting a motivational quote, why is it important and what does it mean to you? If you are posting a photo of beautiful scenery, what happened there that meant something to you? As a coach, you need to remember that you are always building a brand and your followers (your potential athletes) want to see what you bring to the table. Talk to them about what you are sharing and why.

2. Provide value to your followers

This tip may shock you: give free advice and education to your followers.

It’s important to offer your knowledge to potential clients and anyone that may be inspired to try your sport. Remember, that 10×100 swim with a :10 RI is not a new workout that you came up with. Your followers want to learn from you. If you can educate a potential athlete about a specific workout or strategy you use, they will have a better sense of your coaching style and will have more reason to trust you.

3. Respond to every comment and direct message

You are not Oprah or Beyoncé. Be authentic by chatting with your potential clients.

People want to know who is behind the camera and they want to make a connection with you. Yes, it can be time consuming and it’s important to avoid hiring someone to do it for you or using a bot. If you want to show people who you are, start a conversation with your potential clients whether it is a direct message or in comments.

Why do I plug Instagram?

In 2018, I received a couple of emails from friends who found an article about Instagram’s role in endurance sports marketing. On the accompanying infographic, MultiSport Research explained that “Instagram has the highest engagement and post interaction compared to Facebook and Twitter.” I was also fortunate to be named one of the leading coaches on Instagram along with TriSutto.

Instagram is not about instant conversions or links. This is about the long-term benefit, so rate your success in terms of likes, follows and comments – not profit. Over time, you will start developing stable relationships throughout the country, see people at races that recognize you for being you and your coaching business and cheer on your team. Who wouldn’t want that?

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The Whole Picture: Physical Stress

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This is Part Two of a five-part series on total load, the cumulative training and life stress an athlete experiences while training.

It might seem odd to think about training (which most of us love) as “physical stress,” but, as we talked about in the first part of the series, it’s the body’s reaction to stress which determines the all-important adaptation during recovery.

It’s only by balancing the amount of physical stress (training) with our ability to recover that athletes can reach optimal adaptation. Too little stress means we adapt slowly (or not at all), and too much will result in getting sick or injured sometimes for an extended period.

On the other hand, planned periods of overload followed by planned periods of recovery is termed overreaching. Functional overreaching (FOR) occurs when we get the balance right, and performance increases following a period of recovery:

unctional overreaching

Non-Functional overreaching (NFOR) occurs when the training is either too intense, too extended, or both. Not only does recovery take much longer, but no performance gains result meaning the whole experience was a (painful) waste of time:

on functional overreaching

External vs. Internal Load

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 or paceDistanceTime or durationFrequency

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

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

Training Stress Score (TSS) is sometimes considered an external measure, but it is really an internal measure because it is calibrated relative to the capability of your body to manage stress at a particular point in time. Training Stress Balance (TSB) and the related Acute:Chronic load ratio metric are also internal load measures.

A key point to remember is that our reaction to a given amount of physical stress does not remain constant; it varies with life experiences, bio-rhythms and many other factors.

The body’s reaction to different types of training

In a comprehensive review paper in Sports Medicine, Jamie Stanley et al. showed how heart rate variability (HRV) can provide excellent insight into how an athlete’s body reacts to both individual and accumulated training loads. They concluded that it is intensity that has the largest effect on how the body perceives training stress, finding an almost perfect relationship between blood lactate and post-exercise reduction in HRV:

Courtesy of Cardiac Parasympathetic Reactivation Following Exercise: Implications for Training Prescription,Sports Medicine.

After analyzing the results of eight separate studies on endurance athletes, Stanley et al. concluded that parasympathetic markers (HRV) of recovery required:

< 24 hrs for low intensity exercise (zones 1-2)24 – 48 hrs for threshold level exercise (zones 3-4)> 48 hrs for high-intensity exercise (HIIT, zones 5-6)

Training and resilience

As mentioned earlier, the response of the body does not remain constant, and one interesting aspect of this is how resilience is built by regular training. Professor Tim Gabbett is an expert at the forefront of understanding how changes in training loads make athletes more or less susceptible to injury and illness.

Courtesy of How much is too much? (Part 2) International Olympic Committee consensus statement on load in sport and risk of illness, British Journal of Sports Medicine.

No one will be surprised to hear that rapid increases in physical stress or training load also increase the risk of illness and injury. What is more interesting is how resilience, the relationship between external applied load and the athlete’s response, can be developed.

On the negative side, rapid declines in training load over a period of four to six weeks reduce resilience. These reductions can significantly increase the risk of injury when loads to which the athlete was previously accustomed are restored. Conversely, though, a steady increase in chronic training loads (CTL) actually builds resilience and reduces the risk of illness and injury. The figure above shows how elite athletes, who are accustomed to very high chronic loads, might respond to higher absolute load.

Alternatively, the moving average of daily HRV measures (baseline) can also be used as an indicator of resilience. In the example below notice that, following a series of six consecutive training days in a recreational athlete, the HRV baseline moves up indicating higher aerobic fitness. It also indicates an increased ability to tolerate high absolute loads and an increase in resilience.

A screenshot of a cell phone

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To summarize, external load (i.e. “what did the athlete do?”) produces a response (internal load) that is not fixed but instead depends on the condition of the athlete at that particular point in time. It is important to measure both external and internal loads, acutely and chronically, to understand when to increase loads safely as well as when to back off.

Internal load measures need to include a combination of subjective measures such as fatigue, soreness, mood, rate of perceived exertion, and objective metrics like heart rate or hormone measures. High chronic loads confer increased resilience and fitness provided the buildup has occurred at a rate that the athlete can can safely tolerate. Training stress balance and the Acute:Chronic training load metrics are good choices to monitor a safe rate for this.

In all but the most elite athletes, physical stress from training is not the number one contributor to total load, and in the next part of this series we will be looking at the important contributions that mental and emotional stress add to the whole picture.

References:

Stanley, J., Peake, J.M. & Buchheit, M. Sports Med (2013) 43: 1259. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-013-0083-4

Br J Sports Med. 2017 Oct;51(20):1451-1452. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2016-097298. Epub 2017 Jun 23.

Schwellnus M, et al. Br J Sports Med 2016;50:1043–1052. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2016-096572

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Identifying Expressed Vs. Engaged Values

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More and more athletes are recognizing the importance of integrating sport psychology skills into their training. Sport psychology skills include thoughts, emotions, attitudes, and behaviors related to how to approach all aspects of athletic life. Skills can be broken down further into understanding the general foundational beliefs athletes hold both in and out of sport, how athletes mentally and emotionally manage the nuances of sport (for endurance athletes the critical variables here include managing discomfort and shifting perception of effort), how athletes engage in competitive environments, and how athletes approach recovery.

Many believe the only psychological skills that matter in endurance performance are mental toughness and grit, and subsequently ignore many of the underlying foundational skills. This is a disservice to athletes in the long run as these psychological variables interact with and influence outcomes. Therefore, they need to be understood and improved on a daily basis.

Each day’s training offers an opportunity to increase awareness and hone sports psychology skills. In order to help build a solid set of psychological skills that will guide athletes to their peak performance, you have to start by establishing foundational principles and work towards the top. As with all training, the best place to start is with goals and values.

Setting value-inspired goals

The start of any season should begin by breaking down the calendar and determining a set of goals for the year. Many coaches and athletes begin the year with this conversation. From determining mileage and training hours to planning consistent long runs and recovery days to plotting focused PR attempts and finding opportunities to break through perceived limits, the tone for the year is established in these early conversations.

Goals and goal setting have been discussed ad nauseum in countless books and hundreds of posts, articles, and podcasts available. Those ideas, although important, bear not repeating here. Rather, I’d like to offer a new take on an old framework by focusing on expressed and engaged values.

Values, in essence, are your standards for behavior. Expressed values are what we say we value; they are the statements and outward expressions of the behaviors we say matter, or the engagement style we claim to employ in certain aspects of our lives. Athletes are great at expressing all kinds of values as it relates to how they approach training. Examples may include:

“I work hard.” “I always complete my training in full.” “I never leave my training logs with yellow or red boxes.” “I am mentally tough.”

Engaged values, on the other hand, are the behaviors we actually demonstrate through the course of training. You can look back through an athlete’s training log and deduce engaged values based on how they showed up and completed assigned workouts. There can be contradictions between what we say we value and what we actually do in training.

For example, athletes may say they value working hard and completing training in full, but in reality, they often cut training and regularly don’t finish workouts (a 20-mile planned long run is stopped at 18 miles because they “just didn’t have it today”). Athletes may say they value mental toughness, but when workout paces need to be pushed into the red zone they give themselves permission to back down. Cutting workouts short or slowing an assigned pace might indicate that an athlete has a strong engaged value of comfort, and signal a discrepancy between their engaged values and their expressed values (in this case, mental toughness).

How do you reconcile expressed and engaged values?

Identifying this potential dissonance is a key conversation in the coach-athlete relationship. This all begins by making sure you are on the same page at the beginning of a training cycle. Be sure the athlete takes time to reflect on their expressed values for the upcoming season while considering tangible goals, targets, metrics, and races while establishing their training plan.

Don’t get me wrong. Goal setting is also an important conversation while getting started, but it is equally important to take a moment to consider how athletes plan to approach the work it will take to reach those goals. Ensuring athletes are engaging with their plan as effectively as possible on a daily basis puts them in the best possible position to improve as the season unfolds.

Here’s an easy process to get started. Challenge your athletes to list expressed values by writing each value down in a clear, concise statement, such as:

“I value working hard.” “I value finishing workouts in full.” “I value engaging in mental toughness when it’s needed.” “I value finishing threshold workouts.” “I value doing the little things that make me better like foam rolling, strength training, managing stress, getting proper sleep.”

Keep this list readily available for the duration of training. This initial list can then become a blueprint for monitoring values through the course of training.

When training begins, both athlete and coach have a template to compare the expressed and the engaged values. Within a relatively short amount of time, workouts will begin to indicate if there is alignment between the expressed and the engaged or if there is lack of harmony.

If you, as the coach, or the athlete are noticing that workouts are not being finished, excuses are being made, or the athlete is not pushing into areas of discomfort when needed, this discrepancy between the engaged and expressed should become a critical discussion point. After a few weeks of training it is important to look back at the training log and state what their engaged values have been. This cycle can then repeat itself as often as needed throughout the training plan, either to make tweaks to the training plan itself or to reconcile differences in the values themselves.

Getting the most out of your athletes requires a tremendous amount of consistency and discipline. Ensuring the training is aligned with expressed values is a key way to monitor progress to ensure you are maximizing their training, and getting the most out of training is critical if you’re looking to get the most out of your athletes in competitive situations.

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CoachCast: Efficient Coaching with Tim Ballintine

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It takes more than athletic experience and luck to build a full-time coaching business. Advancing your business to the next level requires dedication to your athletes, organization, developing a niche, and effective sales techniques. Have you spent enough time working on the tools that will help you build your business?

Dave sat down with Coach Tim Ballintine to discuss how he organizes his business, personal life, and training to maximize his effectiveness. Learn about some of the mistakes to avoid as you start your business and how Tim makes every athlete a priority.

   

Resources:

Koa SportsTim Ballintine InstagramKoa Sports Podcast

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CoachCast: The Science of Recovery with Christie Aschwanden

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Without proper recovery, training alone might not get your athletes to their goals. At the same time, how much of what we know about recovery is actually based on unscientific assumptions? You might be surprised at how much we don’t know about recovery.

Dave Schell sat down Christie Aschwanden, author and lead science writer for FiveThirtyEight, to discuss her new book, Good to Go: What the Athlete in All of Us Can Learn from the Strange Science of Recovery. They discussed topics like inflammation, sleep, and even New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to get to the bottom of our sometimes unscientific approach to recovery.

   

Resources:

Good to Go: What the Athlete in All of Us Can Learn from the Strange Science of Recovery by Christie AschwandenChristie Aschwanden TwitterFiveThirtyEight articlesEndure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance by Alex Hutchinson

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