This past weekend was truly an eye-opening experience as an endurance coach. The Innovations in Training Power for Endurance Sports Conference took place in Indianapolis, IN and was host to some of the brightest minds in endurance athletics. We were given presentations on such topics as performance modeling, world championship performances, the data driven athlete, optimized intervals, etc etc etc. While all of these are fancy titles and at times could be mind boggling, the overall feeling of the conference was enlightenment. If you’ve ever seen the movie “Moneyball” I can’t help but lump this weekends experience, endurance sports, and the movie all in one category. We truly are on the cutting edge of finding what is possible given different variables.
Forgive me for using this term, but its the best movie title I can think of that many people have watched and can connect with. I remember sitting at the conference and asking myself if we should be looking to hire cycling/triathlon coaches or statisticians. From a pure numbers and model standpoint, endurance athletics is completely changing in how we operate. While in the past we could look at data and “analyze it”, we now have the “analytical” engine to access the data and both predict and prescribe for the future. This is a complete game changer in terms of optimizing athletic performance in different environments and different demands of races. While all of this seems very high end, I can promise you that the future is trending this way and it only takes several hours to be able to digest these charts/numbers and apply them in a meaningful manner. We are modeling data to predict and prescribe, but we also must keep the human factor in place that tells us how plausible a result may be given past training. None the less, what I’m hinting at is that these models can help increase your odds as an athlete which is the overall goal of training. Any coach not adapting to these methods in the future will be left behind as their predictive and prescriptive methods will fail to maximize the odds of every athlete they work with.
Quite possibly the best takeaway from the weekend was that nothing really changes for the athlete. Yes their may be some small lingo changes, but those can be quickly adapted. What I want the athlete to be aware of though is that these services are out there. While the coach/athlete connection is critical for motivation and accountability, the coach on the back end should be running different performance models on each athlete to ensure they are maximizing their training for the demands of the race at hand.
What an athlete should be looking to do though to maximize their odds in any setting is supplying the coach with the correct data. Im convinced now more than ever that if you’re an athlete without a power meter, you are wasting a serious chunk of your training. Stop guessing and make the investment! On that same front, companies now have started making running power meters. This is something that I believe every athlete should start tracking as well. While running power is a bit different and we shouldn’t view it the same as cycling, there are some very interesting data points that can be collected that show trends and can indicate when different training stimuli is needed. Runners: Get power!
While generalized training has always been a means to help athletes that didn’t want the one-on-one connection, I fear that they actually used the wrong charts to prescribe training that was never meant to be used that way. One of the most interesting discussions of the conference focused around Dr. Andrew Coggan and his traditional levels (endurance,tempo,threshold, v02, anaerobic, pmax). Whats crazy is that these were developed way back in the early 2000’s as a descriptive chart. However, coaches since then have been using them as prescriptive in nature. Many generalized training plans have focused on these and what we need to understand is that many individuals just don’t fit into such nice and even boxes. So while generalized training can be great for some athletes just starting and getting fit again, what generalized training is not doing is maximizing your odds for your best performance.
The Art of Coaching/Conclusion
While all of this is cutting edge and the world is changing, it still comes down to human interaction. We can’t just have robots telling us how to train based off performance models right? We need that human interaction that can understand work commitments, sleep, diet, family vacations, etc. While all of this is true, I just wanted to inform the reader that coaching is changing in endurance athletics and its best to be ahead of the curve. The technology we are currently using (the majority) was designed in the early 2000’s. Its time to catch up with whats possible and start to maximize your odds as an athlete. So if you’re reading this and you have all of this data but you don’t understand it, just know that there are coaches out there that can help you. While its a very small number of coaches at this point, the endurance world is going to make the majority adapt or they will be left behind. Whats possible is still not known, but the ability to maximize each athletes odd’s of a successful race day has jumped significantly. If you’re an athlete putting in the time, stop guessing! Guessing is not the answer, utilize the data/tools we have to maximize your odds and begin to be amazed at what is possible within your own training.