Training Peaks Endurance Coaching Summit – Tri Training Harder Reflections

From the 18th-20th September, Coaches Philip and Tim were fortunate enough to attend the 2019 Endurance Coaching Summit in Boulder Colorado. The event, hosted and sponsored by Training Peaks, is now in its 5th year attracting coaches and experts from all around the globe offering the only opportunity to collaborate and learn from thought leaders in the endurance industry.

Hear what Coach Philip and Coach Tim thought of the Training Peaks ECS 2019 in Boulder, CO.

After last year’s low number of female representatives on both the panel and in attendance the 2019 event carried the strong theme of ‘understanding female endurance athletes’ and hosted some heavy-hitting lecturers more than making up for the previous year’s unintended though inaccurate gender imbalance within the industry.

Dr Stacey Sims kicked-started the summit as the opening keynote speaker. Dr. Sims is a pioneer in understanding the female athlete physiology with her mantra “women are not small men”. Her work is starting to overhaul completely the way women should train and be coached. It was exciting to hear her talk after her book “Roar” came out, areas of which we have incorporated into the TTH coaching education. Dr. Sims also spoke with great clarity about the importance of strength training for peri and post-menopausal females, that is was not “OK” for female athletes at any age to have irregular or skipped menstrual cycles. She also posed that for an immediate performance advantage women on the oral contraceptive pill should take themselves off it to help take advantage of their physiology to achieve performance enhancements. Working with their body and managing the hormonal changes is a better way of achieving higher results and a healthier way of living with your body. By removing the stigma of menstrual cycles and openly discussing it with athletes, we have the opportunity to improve the performance and the participation of women in sport.

It supported the presentation given by Dr. Stephen Seiler at the 2018 Endurance Coaching Summit, who touched on this topic in his keynote talk and he declared very clearly: “If you are not prepared to have that conversation with an athlete, then you should not be coaching them.”

Our other keynote speaker was the distinguished Alex Hutchinson whose recent publication “Endure” should be on the reading list of any and all athletes and coaches willing to understand the reality of endurance training as well as myth-busting many of the sport’s “knowns”. Endurance, as Alex Hutchinson goes on to say, at its simplest is governed less by the training process and more about the point at which you decide (both consciously and subconsciously) to stop. In other words, your training is less about the actual activity but more about enduring the efforts to normalise your tolerance of discomfort.

A book which has taken over 10 years to collate gives very few tangible action points at its conclusion. However, in his keynote talk he gave very clear directions on how he felt endurance could be improved:

  • Your brain sets your limits

  • The environment you are in matters

  • Harness group effects

  • Rest your brain (reduce stress)

  • Build your self-belief

…and smile…or at least don’t grimace!

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Throughout the rest of the summit there were also excellent presentations on mental toughness, how to approach injury from a psychological perspective, understanding hydration (by our partners Precision Hydration), how to do warm weather training in your own home and an interesting summary of Christie Aschwanden’s book on rest and recovery: ‘Good to go’ explaining what works and what doesn’t.

Though it would be deemed inappropriate to summarise all those excellent presentations in one catch all, there was one particularly clear message coming through. Athletes tend to be poor at resting, recovering, listening to their body and managing the associated stress of training. The importance of rest should never be underestimated. Athletes and triathletes in particular seem to be excellent at fitting all their training in. However, when it becomes a choice between sleeping in for an extra hour or getting up early and fitting an extra hour of training, this is not a positive choice. Both are negatives by the omission of the other. Athletes should prioritise rest and recovery and coaches need to bring that priority up in an athlete’s list of things to do. A coach should not just prescribe training, but also prescribe recovery.

We were also honoured to listen to a panel hosted by Dr. Lisa Ingarfield of “Outspoken” on the future of women in endurance sport. The panellists were Dr. Sara Gross, Gloria Liu, Laurie Nakauchi, & Alison Powers and they spoke very candidly about their own experiences of both conscious and unconscious bias surrounding women in endurance sports. Though the goal of equality in the sports is not something they are after, the belief is firmly that we should strive to have equity. The best way of progressing this mindset is simply to stand up and point out all moments, both deliberate and sub-conscious, when our sport falls below this standard. This is something that Tri Training Harder is, and will continue to be, practicing. Not least because half of our clients are female!

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Furthermore, there were excellent round tables and presentations on business and business development with the industry. Tri Training Harder are committed to getting coaches in front of athletes and we do everything we can to remove the barriers that coaches can experience in their career, so it was wonderful to see such a strong commercial development theme as well.

It was certainly interesting and inspiring to hear tales of other businesses and how they are succeeding as well as having transparent and open conversations with top US coaching firms like Carmichael Training Systems: Train Right and Thomas Endurance Coaching as well as Lifelong Endurance to hear how they overcome and flourish through the hurdles that as a business we have experienced as well as sharing best practices. It is through engaged conversations like these and collaboration across borders that the industry of coaching can continue to evolve and offer a higher standard of coaching to athletes which can only be a good thing for the growth of the sport as well as the lifespan of athletes in their athletic lifestyle.

Philip certainly echoed this when reflecting on his round table discussion he hosted on “valuing your time as a coach”. For many coaches, their career begins in the nurseries of volunteer coaching. Industry analysis identifies that coaching experience is the prime motivator for increased revenue. Though Tri Training Harder is not willing to push the price of coaching up – by understanding these implications, we can change the volunteer mindset that many passionate coaches have when starting their professional coaching career only to find themselves self-sabotaged by their willingness to sacrifice their own time, without reward. As Philip highlighted – to his knowledge there has never been a coach who has ever charged over-time. Yet, this sacrifice is something that is almost considered normal for a coach to do resulting in a reduced hourly rate and an unsustainable business. Coaching is littered with too many failed to struggling coaches who are excellent and should be in front of athletes because they are crippled by the concept of charging (fairly) for their time.

Finally, situated in the magnificent location of Boulder University, delegates were fortunate enough to also spend time meeting, listening and learning from top sports scientists and exercises physiologists on the topics of: bike fit, identifying training zones, running gait analysis, swimming analysis and managing energy reserves. To be able to spend time in the top-class environment of Boulder University exercise physiology laboratories was a fantastic experience and offered state-of-the-art insights into how these topics were evolving.

Philip and Tim in Boulder

Philip and Tim in Boulder

All in all, the Endurance Coaching Summit was an incredible learning environment and oozed passion and inspiration to all those who attended. Delegates were hosted very well by Training Peaks’ friendly and engaging staff. The opportunities to network, through Training Peak’s motto of ‘meet, learn, teach’ can be epitomised by the number of positive meetings Tim and Philip had, the number of business cards both handed out and the number of friendships made, not to mention the odd group ride and run. With Training Peaks discussing and planning the next 20 years of endurance sport, the future of this sport is very exciting and very bright.