How to adapt your training during COVID to be a better athlete on the other side
We are in unprecedented and unfamiliar times – but the initial shock is over. We now need to adapt to the “new” world we find ourselves in. The good news is that we are pretty experienced in this with humans evolving from approx 250,000 BC onwards.
So how will do we need to evolve as athletes and coaches?
To help me structure my thoughts in this regard – I had a review of the 3 Cs I base my coaching philosophy on (Communication, Constraints & Consistency) and outline where we need to improve our outlook/approach
Even before COVID, good communication between the coach and athlete was vital to success. This starts from the first contact when you openly review and establish your strengths, weaknesses and goals with your coach for the upcoming season. This clear communication has to be continuous, with good quality information captured via TrainingPeaks and/or an agreed-upon communication channel. This allows your coach to course-correct throughout the season.
In today’s environment – it is even more important in the transition phase – as you and your Coach will need to try new things to get around constraints e.g. dryland swim sets, Zwift meet ups etc. Both sides need to be clear what is working and what is not. This is the only way you will find the “new sweet spot” structure that will allow you to continue to develop as an athlete.
- Be bold in setting goals but also open to open dialogue on what is achievable in your timeframe.
- Be disciplined in terms of uploading your data to TrainingPeaks.
- Leave comments that will help your Coach zero in on a problem and fix/adjust. For example: “Legs heavy after S&C for this tempo run, maybe too soon to get best out of me?”
- Be honest re what is working versus not – but also why – as may be a technical problem to be worked through. For example: “Not a fan of Zwift as I am always dropped by the squad – No I had not selected the “no drop” option … cool lets try that”
There is nothing more frustrating for an athlete or coach than building a plan on unreasonable assumptions, as it usually results in a lot of red workouts and last minute changes. Instead, take some time to think about the constraints around your training, which could include time, equipment, and other commitments. A good coach will be able to help you work around these challenges to help you get the most out of what you have available—but first they need to know what those constraints are!
Goes without saying that in todays environment revised constraints are the biggest challenge for Coaches/Athletes alike. Nowdays, no pool access or limited run/cycle radius do present huge (but not insurmountable) challenges to us all.
One of positives of the epidemic (always a silver lining) is that it has forced a lot of coaches to really look at the available tech and start to incorporate it into their plans to be able to connect with their athletes.
Always thought that Zoom calls were time to dial into a dull status report with you switching off the video so you could read articles on Training Peaks. Not any more – there are your club mates sweating and shouting at you on video in a group Zwift/Sufferfest session! Fun times and thank you silicon valley!
Not wanting to blow my own trumpet (OK minor lie here – of course I want to blow my own trumpet – it is a blog for Gods sake!) but I was a little ahead of the curve here as always used structured workouts in my plans/coaching (means integrate easily into Zwift, Trainer road and Rouvy) and had provided meet ups in the past with the squad – they love it.
- Be realistic about the time you have to train at the start.
- Expect a certain amount of teething problems/tweaking in the first few blocks until you and your coach find the optimal routine.
- Add in ad-hoc training constraints, like travel or family obligations, to your TrainingPeaks calendar as early as possible so your coach can adjust the block accordingly. I get my squad to use the “other” workout icon, noting what the constraint is and whether they can swim/bike/run or not.
- Be open minded re new tech – try out what your coach recommends and others beside (lots of free trials for these apps) and find what works best for you. Plus don’t be afraid to bring other ideas to your coach/squad – all suggestions welcome!
The athletes who achieve or surpass their goals are the ones who consistently follow their plan, and tick the boxes of each workout to the best of their abilities. Again, this only happens with good communication, which allows the coach push/pull back workouts to create a realistic plan and get the most out of the athlete. It’s also important to stay consistently focused on your personal goals, rather than getting distracted by your neighbor/rival/friend on the start line.
With the uncertainty over race dates – motivation is the first to go. With reduced motivation – people become inconsistent with their training, planning and progress.
But this is a short term view – as when talking to my guys – I remind them of the long term journey we are on and we should not waste this time we have to improve.
Remember how unfit you felt post an injury or that off season that went on a few weeks too long – multiply that out by 4, 6 or even 8 months!
Becoming inconsistent for whatever reason will set you back .
The key now is to find new milestones/goals that you tick off even without races on the horizon e.g. a 5km PB, an increase of 10% in your FTP, running a virtual marathon against your clubmates etc – all of which are slowly moving you towards the final long term goal e.g. your first Ironman/70.3, an IM Pb or Kona qualification.
The milestones (even virtual or solo) should keep you motivated and consistent. So when we return to racing proper – you will be ready (and a step ahead of the inconsistent trainers!)
- Agree with your coach on key sessions during any week so you can prioritize these sessions. Consistency does not always mean a 100% completion rate—sometimes you have to settle with nailing the key sessions.
- Write down your goals somewhere prominent and always use these to re-focus yourself.
- Take a long game view on this – look to next year – think of where you want to be and map out a plan with your coach to get there
- Make sure that as your new “day to day” routines evolve with working from home, socially distant workplaces etc – you bake in time/options to train which will provide you physical and mental benefits for the future
As you can see all of the C’s are clearly intertwined and somewhat sequential in nature. If you want to maximize what you and your coach can achieve this season, just remember it’s as simple as Communication, Constraints and Consistency.
Even in todays much changed landscape – the 3 Cs are still not only key. They have definitely more important that ever before.
So with some minor changes/adaptations how we approach our planning, training and execution – we have an opportunity to adapt/evolve into stronger, more resilient athletes the other side of COVID.
Lets do this!
Steven Moody has starred in the corporate rat race but found his greatest source of satisfaction came from his 20 years of endurance racing including numerous IRONMAN finishes and world championship qualifications
Realising this fact, Steven abandoned his cubicle and moved into full time coaching. Steven is now Tri Sutto, IRONMAN UNIVERSITY ®, ITU and Training Peaks level 2 certified and in 2017, was awarded Triathlon Ireland Coach of the year.Browse his pre-built training plans by clicking hereor if you have triathlon queries you can contact him via firstname.lastname@example.org