Coaches Using TrainingPeaks to Train Athletes Across Unique Disciplines

Coaches Using TrainingPeaks to Train Athletes Across Unique Disciplines

The individual demands of every sport are different. Yet these three case studies show, that even among diverse athlete populations universal features can be applied to the training and preparation of all kinds of clients.

If you coach triathletes, runners, cyclists and triathletes, you might well be using TrainingPeaks to create their programs, set zones to manage intensity, monitor individual sessions, progress through longer training blocks and more. But did you know that you can also utilize the platform to guide competitors and recreational clients in other disciplines just as effectively and efficiently? In this article, we’ll explore how three coaches are doing just that to help their mountain athletes, skiers and MMA fighters perform at their best in challenging environments.

Readying Mountaineers, Backpackers and Hikers for Multiday Trips

Getting traditional endurance athletes ready for a single race lasting up to a few hours is a worthy challenge for any coach. Yet, preparing someone for exertion that could last around the clock or even several days is different altogether. That’s the task facing James Fisher, a UESCA-certified running and ultrarunning coach at Adventure Performance Training, every time a mountain athlete comes to him seeking guidance. “I’m an old-school endurance coach at heart and typically relied on spreadsheets and talking on the phone,” Fisher said. “When I started evaluating systems that could bring technology into the mix, TrainingPeaks seemed like the best fit for my needs. I’ve been using it for over five years.”

While Fisher uses heart rate tracking functionality in TrainingPeaks to track his clients’ stable aerobic threshold over shorter distances, he said that HR zones aren’t really applicable if an athlete’s out in the backcountry for 12 to 18 hours or longer. So, he finds other elements of their programming to zero in on.

“One of the nicest things about TrainingPeaks is that I can easily customize which metrics I want to prioritize and then add in more advanced ones back in later, depending on the individual needs of the athlete,” he said. “It takes care of everything I need it to do.”

Some of the basic numbers he tracks are vertical gain and total distance covered. While these might seem rudimentary at first glance, they’re sufficient to monitor the progress of most clients and help see how they’re advancing throughout a typical training year.

“It’s beneficial to lay out annual training plans and then let my athletes know what my expectations are for them over the next three to six months in a concise way,” Fisher said. “I typically pencil out a skeleton framework in the kind of spreadsheet I’ve been using for 30 years and then pull it into TrainingPeaks.”

Once he has completed this long-range planning, Fisher zooms in to focus on each client’s day-to-day training. “I love the notes function, which lets me provide details for the upcoming week,” Fisher said. “I also add links to Vimeo workout videos for strength training in the pre-session notes and put in sets, reps, work and rest periods and other details.”

Communication is another element of Fisher’s coaching that has improved since he started using the platform. “The scheduling and availability feature in TrainingPeaks is very beneficial, as clients can tell me which days and times they’re free rather than us having to go back and forth via email,” he said.

Getting Fighters Ready for the Octagon

Lawrence Herrera, founder and coach at the Performance Ranch in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is one of the most well-regarded and trusted trainers of MMA fighters, including champions like Jon Jones and the man with more wins than any other competitor in UFC history, Cowboy Cerrone. When a client decided to try and make a push toward the world title, Herrera realized that he needed a better way to plan, execute, and track certain elements of his programming.

“When I first started working with fighters in 2013, I used the principles that Joe Friel laid out around heart rate and power zones to create an FTP test,” Herrera said. “From there, I used the results to program short, high-power intervals, 30 to 45-minute aerobic threshold sessions and longer steady-state pieces on spin bikes, all of which I kept track of in TrainingPeaks.”

Over the next few years, Herrera also utilized TrainingPeaks to plot out and conduct cross-training for his fighters and other athletes on days when they wanted to be active outdoors instead of in the gym. “When Jon, Cowboy, and my other fighters started getting into mountain biking, I used TrainingPeaks to obtain their real-time heart rate data from Garmin devices and make sure they were staying in the green, yellow, or red zones that I’d outlined for that particular session,” Herrera said.

Such tracking enabled Herrera and his fellow coaches to chart the progress of three different types of sessions as his clients readied themselves for the grueling fight camps that precede each UFC match. These focused on developing an aerobic base during two conditioning workouts per week and improving anaerobic power output during repeated bursts to mimic the intense demands of three five-minute rounds for regular fights and five for championships.

“Being able to create profiles and standardized workouts in TrainingPeaks made it easier to program for my UFC fighters,” Herrera said. “It helped with the organizational side of my coaching and enabled me to keep my athletes’ training consistent. It was also beneficial for load management purposes, as I was able to keep tabs on their overall programming. One of our fighters used it throughout his run to a UFC title fight.”

Using Training Logs to Monitor Programming for Nordic Skiers

One of the most versatile TrainingPeaks features that makes it applicable to your clients no matter what sports they train for and compete in is training logs. You could set out and schedule what should be the most effective program on the planet in theory, but if your athletes don’t stick to it and record both progress and setbacks along the way, it will be largely ineffective. Logs enable you to collect objective data from wearable devices — like duration, distance covered and heart rate — and combine this with subjective feedback that provides additional context from the athlete’s point of view. They jot these down as post-activity comments in the journal view on the calendar accompanying each session.

Carrie McCusker, a level 2 TrainingPeaks coach with PBM Coaching and a lifelong athlete, uses the TrainingPeaks platform to obtain such logs as part of delivering personalized training plans to a wide variety of athletes, including cross-country skiers, IRONMAN racers, duathlon and triathlon competitors, runners and swimmers. “I use TrainingPeaks the same for any athlete: it functions as their training log, keeps track of their data, and gives us a place to communicate,” she said. “I monitor training load for Nordic skiers the same way I would for any other athlete using data. Online platforms like this allow an interface for collecting and storing data for analysis over time. Athletes are all over the map, but coaches can see what they did minute by minute and follow their progress from their computer.”

In a previous article, McCusker shared more granular details about how she and her clients find TrainingPeaks logs mutually beneficial. From the athlete’s perspective, their self-reported feedback on each session helps explain the numbers integrated into the platform from their wearables. Simple yet indicative color-coding motivates the client to try and obtain entire green weeks when they don’t skip a session, while also providing you as the coach with an at-a-glance view of their adherence to the program.

Logs enable you to sit down with your athlete after an event to review what led to a successful or undesired outcome by assessing their prior preparation. Training logs can also provide a much-needed mindset boost to your athletes. “While some race day anxiety is normal, reviewing the many hours of training and effort that led to that day can override negative emotions,” McCusker wrote. “A training log can also give confidence after injury or time away from training. Sometimes human brains like to focus on the negative, but a workout log can highlight the positive.”

The individual demands of every sport are different. Yet as the three case studies shared above show, there are lines of best fit among diverse athlete populations and universal features that can be applied to the training and preparation of all kinds of clients. The ability to plan, execute and adapt bespoke programs for participants across many different disciplines in a single, centralized platform enables you to eliminate the hassle of switching between multiple platforms. Having convenient access to all the objective and subjective data you need allows you to make more timely and informed decisions, adjust sessions and training blocks on the fly, and, ultimately, provide the best level of service possible to the athletes who have put their trust in you.

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