Maximizing the Coach-Athlete Relationship Using TrainingPeaks

Maximizing the Coach-Athlete Relationship Using TrainingPeaks

While there are many ways we can create productive relationships with our athletes, let's focus specifically on the ways we can use the TrainingPeaks platform to strengthen our bond and build trust with athletes. 

The coach-athlete relationship is one of the most significant predictors of an athlete’s success. A University of Chicago Study discovered that coaches may account for as much as 20 to 30% of the variation in outcomes for athletes. The researchers further found that coaches are not interchangeable and that when you switch out a coach, you will impact the athletes’ performance. 

That the coach-athlete relationship is an important one will come as no surprise to those of us in the industry. An athlete’s trust and connection to their coach ensures they can perform at their best. While there are many ways we can create productive relationships with our athletes, let’s focus specifically on the ways we can use the TrainingPeaks platform to strengthen our bond and build trust with athletes. 

Know What You Want First

To connect with others, we first have to understand ourselves. We need to determine our expectations for coach-athlete relations before we share with our athletes. This process may include reflections about:

Your “Ideal” Athlete 


Write down the characteristics, behaviors, equipment, and the like for your ideal athlete. For example, do you prefer to work with long or short course athletes? Do you require athletes to have certain equipment, such as a heart rate monitor or power meter? 

Dealbreakers 


Once you have a list for the ideal athlete, determine your deal breakers. What is a necessary condition to work with you? What will you compromise? For example, some coaches may not work with a cyclist or triathlete unless they have a power meter.

Communication 


Communication creates solid relationships. Think about your communication style and frequency. For example, how frequently and through what channels will you communicate with your athletes? What will you expect from your athletes? 

Boundaries 


We often become close with our athletes. Yet, this closeness means that it can be hard to take time away from work. Consider how you will manage this, and communicate these boundaries to your athletes. For example, is there a time of day when you are not available? Are there certain days you are completely unavailable? How do you want athletes to contact you?

When you are clear about your boundaries, most athletes will respect them. If they don’t, you can refer back to your dealbreakers. Being clear about our boundaries can help to prevent unnecessary tension in the relationship, and reduce the risk of burnout.

Once you have a clear sense of your expectations, create systems to communicate them to your athletes. In what follows, I discuss how I use TrainingPeaks to communicate some of these expectations and to strengthen the bond I have with my athletes. Hopefully, these tips will prove useful for you!

Getting Started

When a new athlete starts, I post daily notes to assist with the onboarding process and the first few weeks of training. I have created a training library of these templates that I tailor to individual athletes. Because the information is in TrainingPeaks, athletes can easily search for it later if they need it.

Here is a listing of some of what I have in this library:  

  • RPE Guidelines 
  • How to post schedule availability and notes
  • Communication guidelines
  • How to structure post-workout comments
  • Fueling & hydration tips
  • Foundational training explanations (e.g., benefits of aerobic training)
  • How to access team resources

To avoid overwhelming athletes with too much info, I place ONE of these notes per day or every other day in the first several weeks of working with them. I will also use them as reminders when needed.

In addition to my “Getting Started” library, I also have libraries for a variety of often-used explanations and cues, as you can see in the screenshot below. 

Screenshot of the author's workout library

Training 

In addition to the most obvious use of TrainingPeaks for programming training and the ATP, I use TrainingPeaks to enhance the athlete’s experience and understanding of their training. 

The 20,000 Foot View

At the beginning of a mesocycle, I write a note, previewing the upcoming cycle. Athletes gain a broader understanding of what to expect and the training objectives. One of my athletes calls this note the “20,000 Foot View.” She appreciates how these overviews offer perspective for the training block.  

Scheduling

I expect athletes to speak with me before they move workouts. I prefer to make all revisions to the training program for the athletes’ safety and performance. Of course, some athletes may still move workouts even when asked not to. 

Enter the “lock” function. By locking down the athlete’s schedule, you will be able to open a conversation with them about the ordering of the week. It is this conversation that will strengthen your bond. 

This being said, a word of caution on the lock function: it may anger some athletes, who want control over their schedule. So, I recommend speaking with your athlete about why and when you apply the locks. Most of my athletes will joke about it as “TrainingPeaks jail”, but it is better to check than to ruffle feathers.  

The Weekly Tip

No Limits Endurance Coaching, my company, serves between 120 to 140 athletes at any given time, with a team of 8 coaches. As you might imagine, it is not always easy to get information to all of these people, and often we need several locations to reinforce learning and memory. TrainingPeaks has been quite useful in this regard!

I use TrainingPeaks’ dynamic plans to drop in Team Tips & News every Monday. Athletes get an actionable tip, usually focusing on mental training, as well as relevant team news and a link to our newsletter (in the event that the email has gone to spam). It only takes me a second to add the tip, which is populated to the entire team. Then, athletes can easily search for this information, even after several months have passed.

Using the dynamic plans feature to drop in tips or ideas across your athletes' plans.

Workout Feedback

Informative and useful feedback is one of the primary reasons athletes seek a coach. While poor communication and limited feedback are probably the primary reason athletes leave a coach. 

We need to be multi-modal in our communication with athletes, incorporating all available platforms for synchronous and asynchronous communication.  TrainingPeaks is a helpful asynchronous platform, especially when it comes to workout feedback.

Post-Workout Comments

The data never speaks for itself. I expect athletes to comment on their workouts in order to complete my analysis. But, in the years I’ve been a coach, I’ve learned athletes may feel uncertain about what to include. To assist, we can provide prompts for athletes. My “getting started” library includes a note for comments. This allows me to easily drag and drop it into any schedule: whether they are a new athlete or an existing athlete that needs a reminder. 

Giving guidance to athletes on what kind of information to give feedback on through their post-workout comments.

If after 24 hours, an athlete doesn’t comment on a workout, I will probe for one, asking generally: “How did this go?” I use the Home Feed to review who has left a comment, who has logged, and who needs a follow-up. 

Timing

Timeliness matters. The longer the athlete waits to hear from us, the more likely they are to interpret this silence as a lack of involvement. Generally speaking, I recommend responding within 24 hours. 

In times when I am unavailable for longer than 24 hours, I leave a coach availability note in TrainingPeaks, again using the dynamic plan function. Drop it once, populate to many! 

Using the dynamic plan feature to send a message about availability by a coach

Video Feedback

Video feedback is a great way to highlight something in a specific workout or to provide a trend-based analysis of the various reports in TrainingPeaks, WKO, or Excel. 

I use Zoom (or Loom) with screen share to review the relevant chart(s). This video feedback is so useful to show the athlete what you see, helping them see it too. If you can’t do synchronous feedback, this is the next best thing for clear analysis.  Once I create the video, I pop the link into a note or the post-workout comments.

Appointments

I use TrainingPeaks’ notes to provide reminders to athletes to set up appointments. On the first of each month, I pop in a note with a link to my Calendly, asking athletes to set up a chat. This has greatly increased the number of monthly check-ins and reduces the need to send multiple email reminders.

Racing

I ask athletes to begin pre-race planning 10-14 days prior to the race. When athletes develop the structure of their race plan, they will have more ownership over the execution. To help them, I provide questions for review before our pre-race call. They answer, then we review and finalize the strategy.

After a race, I share prompts to guide post-race reflections. As with workout comments, not all athletes are confident in what they should say — you can help them get the conversation started. After athletes write their reflections, we have a post-race debrief. Again, I use my Calendly link for easy scheduling. 

With these tips, you can incorporate TrainingPeaks as a platform in your strategy for sharing expectations to your athletes, maintaining an open channel of communication for questions and feedback, and enhancing trust and connection.

How to be a Successful Endurance Coach

How to be a Successful Endurance Coach

Learn from this guide to help you each step of the way as you build and grow your coaching business.

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