2017 Endurance Coaching Summit Notes

In other words – what I learned at summer camp!  On August 5 & 6 I attended the Training Peaks Endurance Coaching Summit in Boulder, CO.  Here are the key takeaways from the speakers who presented at this summit.

Keynote Speaker:  Dave Scott

His perspective on coaching, training, and racing:  We rely too much on technology, and not enough on feel.  Especially at races.  There is a time and a place for it, but when racing you have to be able to go with how you feel as well, besides looking at numbers.  This is a point that I totally agree with in regards to short course races (road and triathlon), as well as during latter stages of long course endurance events (marathon, 50k, 70.3, 140.6, etc).  If you do get too wrapped up in the numbers you will totally miss out on the actual competition, but also you miss out on the fun you can have as well.  His examples on how to do this in training is to do sets where you use the ‘tech’ on the first interval, and then for the intervals after that you try to repeat that effort.  In other words; start to refine your rate of perceived exertion.

His talk also was about the four ‘F’s:  Fear of Commitment, Fear of Disappointment, Fear of the Unknown, Fear of Failure/Success/Perfection, and how all four things can affect athlete growth and success, and development.

Applied Science Breakout Sessions:  I attended Biomechanical Analyses – Running Mechanics, and Physiological & Metabolic Testing.  Fellow NRGY Coach, Greg Bassett also attended at least one different session, so if you want to know more about what he picked up I suggest you reach out to him (contact me if you want his e-mail address).

The first session – on running mechanics:  I basically learned nothing new, although some core stability exercises were interesting that I can use at the gym (I also saw the same exercise performed at the CrossFit Sanitas gym I went to during this time frame).  Basically if you don’t have the range of motion then you’re going to be limited to how fast you can become.  If you can’t apply power, then you’re not going to improve.  Key easy fixes:  Cadence and Arm Swing.  Other fixes you may need to see a professional to improve what your limiters are at this time, and from there you can do the work yourself.

The second session – Physiological & Metabolic Testing – This did have some new stuff presented, but for the most part it revolves around all the new tech devices that can be used to help with predicting performance (muscle glycogen storage in muscle, and damage in muscle).  Currently the factor of MaxV02 is actually pretty useless in terms of practical usage in training (very true, and I’ve always said it’s a waste of money finding out this number, as this is akin to finding out that in fact you are 5’11” tall.  What do you do with it?  Lactate Threshold testing is useful, but values have to be retested annually due to age/injury/stress.  These numbers generally will have more of a downward trend to them, then ever an upward trend.  Repeated testing and following workouts designed at specific zones will determine any changes.  Power is probably the one fluid numbers that will occur.  The stronger you become, the higher the power numbers.  Remember that a power meter is to the bike what a watch and a track is to the runner.  Speed/Power is a reflection of conditioning.

One other key point that is being used at the sport labs right now is HgB (Red Blood Cell count).  What they have found that with endurance athletes (and of course this affects ALL athletes) that have an HgB of 14.1 or lower generally means that they are at the cutting edge of over-training.  It’s at this point where the coach has to step in and start to really look at nutrition, sleep, stress, and training stress.  This is the point where the brakes have to be put on, and hopefully get the athlete back to a position of strength.

There are new toys though that the average athlete can purchase that will help you to see where you’re at:

  1.  “Cercacor” – a device that is technically a pulse-oxygen monitor (how much oxygen is in your system, or how your circulation is working) will now read HgB values.  Of course you can always go get your blood tested at a lab pretty cheaply for this as well in this day and age.  For this it’s actually easier to bypass the regular doctor and all the time it takes, and go to an Anytime Labs, or other various entities that you can find on the Web, and order.  What you do with this information is between you and the coach.  The Cercacor device is one that you hook up to your phone.  More information go to www.cercacor.com.  Personally, I think tracking your HRV is much cheaper way to deal with recovery/health, but if you want to get a bit more nitty gritty, then this might be the best option.
  2. “MuscleSound” – A hand-held ultrasound device that you hook up to your Ipad (or mobile device?) – basically it takes a picture of your muscle and the surrounding fat, measures glycogen storage (an indicator if your diet is working or not, or if you’re ready to race), and muscle damage.  It’s a great device, and one that would be worthwhile for ME to invest in if it wasn’t so pricey at the outset (roughly 4.5k, and then after ‘x’ readings they charge you for additional readings).  Really cool, and great for a gym that has athletes who are looking to perform.  The price point right now is above my means.

The last thing discussed was nutrition and how it affects performance.  Unfortunately, and I’ll write more about this ‘Elephant in the Room’, there are two camps right now in the Triathlon world, as is there in other sports as well.  The lower carb, and the stuff your face with carbs group.  It’s unfortunate that the ‘stuff your face’ group won’t even entertain the thought that there could be a blending of the two in training/racing.   The other camp is actually more accepting.

Coaching Case Study:  Two coaches presented their approach, Dr. Paul Laursen and Kathy Zawadski

The coach that caught my eye was Dr. Paul Laursen.  He is one of the HRV Elite coaches, and has worked with Tim Don and Eniko Laszlo.  His approach was through not only using HRV (the only presenter to even touch base on this topic, and one where they spent more time teaching all the newer coaches attending) and through diet.  With Tim Don they were able to improve his performance through use of low carb method, and using BCAA’s as well for performance etc.  I’d love to have been able to talk to him (he was at the summit meet-greet event) if I had known he was on this type of diet, but unfortunately I did not know this about him until after this talk.  Remember that Tim Don holds the world record time for Ironman distance.  They tried this approach with Eniko, but did not get the same results, so they just cleaned his diet up a bit, and left him on the higher carb regime.  REMEMBER – all diets are a factor of N=1.  What works for you may not work for someone else.

When the other presenter started to talk I basically tuned out what was being said.  Once I get my notes though from the summit I will be able to have refreshed my  memory, because while she was speaking I was exploring the new Final Surge app, which made me really happy as it was so easy to use from a coaching perspective.

(Side Note:  I never take my computer with me when I travel now, as I use this time to be as unplugged as possible).

A Multidisciplinary Approach to Coaching Using Sports Psychology:  Basically Psych 101.  How can you cram sports psychology in one hour.  Impossible in my opinion.  It would have been better if it had been approached in a three part session:  1) Athlete is crazy, needs psychologist, 2) Athlete just needs to read these books, 3)  Some easy skills to teach athletes who are not crazy on how to be more confident.  As it was, there was too much thrown at us in that short time frame, and my head was spinning so I just listened knowing that the notes would be forthcoming.  When I get them I will share with any athlete who wants them.

Coaching Business Panel Joe Friel, Alison Powers, Sue Lloyd:  Three coaches who talked about their approach to their business.  One of course doesn’t coach anymore, but just owns a software company (Training Peaks), one who owns a brick/mortar place, and the other was an active coach.  Basic premise?  Find what works for you, and stick to your guns as a coach.  Some people are made for store front operations, and others aren’t.  Stuff you can find on the internet anywhere, but just in your face here.

Day 2

Summit Keynote – Bobby McGee:  Always entertaining, and his talk was regarding “Skill Development & Adaptation: Key Pathways for Improved Performance”.   I’ll also have notes available on this as well.  By this point I wasn’t taking notes and just listening (knowing I was going to get the summit slides).

Strategies to Grow and Maintain Your Coaching Business Jesse Kropelnicki – What I learned was the following (this is good for fellow coaches):  USAT registered athletes is on a downward trend, and has dropped the past three years.  The amount of certified USAT coaches has grown to the point where in 2005 there was a 400:1, athlete to coach ratio (remember this is USAT certified and USAT members), and now in 2016 a 40:1.  In other words, competition is fierce.  His focus is to do what you do best, and not to try and be best at everything.  Don’t offer cheap training plans as it waters down your brand (and the fact that most people can’t follow un-coached plans, who then give a bad rep to your brand is another factor).   Also, don’t be afraid to fail as this is where your growth as a coach/business owner is necessary to succeed in the long term.  Also, don’t bargain with your fees.  If this is the amount of time you spend with an athlete (whether in person or via phone/email/text) then your time is money.

I like Jesse, but his approach to his business and his goals, don’t reflect mine (and he’s honest about this as well).  He is a big thinker, and wants to build a good strong (BIG) business.

That’s about it!  My thoughts on Boulder, CO?  Well, it’s not the sleepy little town I visited back in 1970 as it’s a city of over 100,00 people.  What charm it may have had was lost on me.  Lots of great restaurants, bike paths everywhere (and traffic), and the University of Colorado is pretty nice.  Will I go back?  Nah.