Coachcast Title Card Featuring Kristin Armstrong

Kristin Armstrong: Navigating an Era of Wearables, Data & Social Platforms

BY TrainingPeaks CoachCast Host Dirk Friel

Olympic gold medalist and cycling coach Kristin Armstrong talks coaching strategies in a data-driven world filled with wearables and social platforms. With the advancement of technology and platforms, there is a growing tension between positives and negatives when it comes to data, wearable devices and social media.

The challenges of managing this tension have become heightened for younger athletes who may feel pressure to maintain an online persona of success and accomplishment through sharing data and results. How can a coach find the balance between using data to improve performance while minimizing the risks of an overly connected athlete? Kristin explains her approaches, including how she tries out any new wearable an athlete brings up with her to understand how it works, what it tracks and the experience as a user.

Kristin and Dirk also explore how social media is shaping professional cycling, based on online influence to secure sponsorship and entries to major races.

Kristin, the most decorated U.S. female cyclist and the best female time trialist in history, lives in Idaho. She owns the Pivot by KA chain of health clubs while still managing a cycling coaching business. She is a three-time Olympic gold medalist, a two-time World Champion, and has won six U.S. National Championships. She is the only female U.S. athlete to have won the same event in three consecutive Olympic Games and the oldest female cyclist in history to win an Olympic gold medal.

Standout Quotes

“I think, with everything we’ve talked about, it all comes down to, and I use this word a lot…I love intention. As long as it’s about positive relationships with what we’re using and measuring, and who our community is, and the environment we’re surrounding ourselves with…so whether that be your team physically in person, whether that be your community on social media, is it positive?”

“I think that getting athletes to learn about themselves — we know we’re pretty good at learning and knowing everything about our competition — we’re not really good at learning about ourselves. And the more we can do this for athletes, the better athletes they’re gonna become, and that ties back into all the data collection. If I have an athlete that says, hey, “I wanna wear a WHOOP” or an Aura ring, whatever they wanna wear, I don’t go in and say, “That is the dumbest thing.” No. No. No. I support it, and I always just kinda give the the the pretalk, which is consistency over time. We have to get a baseline for you, and never, never, never lose your instinct and how you feel internally. No matter what. And I challenge you to when you do look at different data points that you’re tracking..”

“It’s so important for me to be up to speed on the why behind everything as well. I mean, I’ve worn wearables because my athletes wear wearables. I’ve worn, you know, glucose monitors because my athletes wear glucose monitors. I need to understand what they’re doing.”

Kristin Armstron On New Technology & Devices

“I didn’t really have an agent until I got to the Olympic Games because a lot of European teams looked at that time was like, “Who do you think you are? You’re nothing right now.” So why would you need an agent? Why don’t you negotiate with me? But now it’s become so uncomfortable that a lot of young athletes have agents even when they haven’t even produced a significant result.”

“You know, there were years where I just go out and do 3 by 10-minute threshold with equal rest. Like, it was that simple. I would get a great warm up in. I’d go out. I give it my best. I turn around, I’d try to hit the same spot. And now, I mean, heaven forbid if that workout doesn’t download because I get text messages like, “My workout’s not downloading. I don’t know what to do.” I’m like, it’s real simple. You have six 20-second sprints today. It’s really simple.

But it’s really difficult because everything today is downloaded, uploaded — it’s to a certain percentage. And so, obviously, ranges are really important. But at the same time, data and a computer screen can make you anxious if you don’t hit a certain goal that your coach has set out, so it could also limit you.”

“When you’re waking up and you’re looking at it every day and you’re looking at how many likes after your ride, you’re no longer a 100% following the coach’s training plan because something is a little bit more interesting on a platform. That to me is when it’s too strong of a connection.”

Kristin Armstron On The Pitfalls of Social Networks

“……in Rio when I was lightening up my bike [before the race], and I had a really hard decision to make in the end because it was a half a pound. And, you know, my husband came to me, and he had a gram scale out, and we were measuring me. He had titanium screws that were going into my bike, replacing the screws that came on my bike. And when he said he could find half a pound, I thought, “Well, you already have a gram scale. How is this possible?” And he said, “Well, you have to ride without power.”

This is when athletes started using power plans [watts] and when courses would be laid out, and they would follow an exact power plan. And I showed up to Rio, and I had no power meter on my bike. And I don’t regret it. It’s amazing. And my point is, ultimately, as a coach, my goal is to get athletes to learn about themselves, to learn how to be their best. But at the same time, also listen to themselves and know how to fuel, know how to dig deep and hurt, and know that when you wake up, no matter if something tells you that you’re tired or not, be able to ask yourself and feel like, “I’m really tired.” Because sometimes, maybe you’re being told that you’re not tired and you are.”

Kristin Armstrong Online

KX3 Performance Coaching
Pivot by KA

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Coachcast Host Dirk Friel
About TrainingPeaks CoachCast Host Dirk Friel

Dirk Friel is the host of the TrainingPeaks CoachCast and Co-Founder of TrainingPeaks. He is a lifelong athlete with a passion for cycling and ski mountaineering and firmly believes in goal setting, dedicated deliberate training and coaching for all. Learn more about his work at TrainingPeaks and follow his adventures on Instagram @dirkfriel.

Visit TrainingPeaks CoachCast Host Dirk Friel's Coach Profile