When looking to build an athletes ability or potential for events, a coach must look at both the macro and micro levels of the athlete, but also the athletes plan and their race schedule. When looking from both angles, you begin to see a clear picture of where the athlete is and where they want to go. This blog will serve as an inside look of how the day-to-day training and the yearly goals come together to help shape a training plan and athletic results.
Big Picture View
The most important part of actually starting to design an athletes season. What are their goals and where are they starting from. From this point, a coach should be looking at a calendar in a way that periodizes their training between base, build, peak, recovery. These are generic terms that you would find in any strength and conditioning textbook, but they serve a purpose as an athlete can only peak and build for so long. Although we all wish we could constantly build and get better everyday, we often need rest periods mixed in to adapt and prepare for another build in the future. Once the athletes goals and race schedule are put in place, a general idea of how to build the athlete and when should take place. In other words, a yearly idea of what the athlete will be doing begins to take shape.
I’m going to be honest here. You ever go into a science lab and look through a microscope with 20 different zoom levels? That is basically what an athlete is as well. An onion with many layers. At the mid-level view, an athlete will begin to show their strengths and weakness in terms of power, pace, training volume, history, thresholds, v02, etc. This is basically what makes up an athlete at any given time, the things you can see from a general look at weekly data. From this view as a coach, you start to see what you may focus on in the big training blocks of the season. You may start to see that this athlete needs more run volume or swim volume and therefore that will be the dominating focus of the base/build season. Essentially, where an athlete currently is starts to help give the big picture view a focus.
Alright, lets start getting down to the nitty gritty of the athlete and looking at numbers such at FRC/FTP/TTE. These are main indicators of success/limitations for a cyclist and should be kept track of daily or weekly. At different parts of the mid and macro levels, these numbers will be the focus for day-to-day training. They will guide daily workouts and be the main focus for short term improvements. To track this you will be looking at time in training zones, stress put on the body at different parts of the workout, and looking to train specifically for demands that are needed in races or to achieve the next training level. This is where a coach with data analysis comes in to ensure that you are maximizing your day-to-day training and getting the most out of your time.
An area that takes a lot of digging, but can often shed light on bigger things happening within an athletes performance. How much time did they spend above v02 max in a workout, How many watts are contributing to aerobic vs anaerobic, what is the athletes efficiency rating at 80 degrees vs 90 degrees. At this level its easy to get paralysis by analysis. Thats why I would strongly recommend any coach only look at a couple key charts that are useful to the athlete at certain times of the year. This is where it can become very easy to overcoach during the wrong portions of the year… but it can make all the difference in the correct portions of the year.
Painting the Total Picture
Possibly the best thing about all of this is that as you look deeper and deeper into each athlete, they begin to look more and more different. Sure, the big picture view for many athletes is the same. “I want to peak for Summer Months or “X” race”. However, one athlete may be a sprinter while the other may be a TT specialist. As you peel each layer away, you start to see where each athlete is individually and how to best cater to their needs. At that point, you have many different things circulating between big goals and periodization along with daily metrics and weekly focus. Its a handful to keep track of, which is why I often feel that coaching is more of an art than a science. Yes, science guides us in our decisions for maximized results, but how you put that science together is the true key to coaching in my opinion.
As an athlete and a coach get started, there are many different layers that should be peeled back in order to properly build towards the athlete’s goals. By looking at the big picture you can get a good idea of how to train generally speaking, but its only when you start to dig deeper that the true progress can be made. While I understand the need for generalized plans, a customized coaching plan will look at an athlete from many different angles and ensure that progress and performance are matching up with the overall intended outcome of the year.