If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’re looking to take your training and racing to the next level, and are curious about what purchasing one of our training packages involves. In this post I hope to give you an insight into what training with Phazon involves, and the support you receive.
I like to begin all coaching packages with a face to face meeting with you where possible. Of course this is not always possible if we are going to be working together on an international basis, in which case we will hold a meeting via Skype instead.
The purpose of the meeting is to determine what you want out of the training programme; what your goals are, your current levels of fitness, time available to train, history of injury, or anything else you feel may affect your training. Some of this is done via a questionnaire I ask all athletes to fill out, some of this is done as an informal conversation. This is all done before any money changes hands to ensure both parties are on the same page and want to pursue the coaching relationship.
Once we have decided to work together, the first thing I will ask you to do is some fitness tests. These act as a benchmark for all future training and will be repeated throughout the year. You may be familiar with some or these tests, or it may be completely new to you. Don’t worry as these are not pass or fail tests, but designed to help us gauge your current fitness so I can prescribe appropriate workouts.
Critical Swim Speed (CSS)
The CSS test itself is relatively simple, comprising of a (very) thorough warmup and a 400M time trial, followed by a generous recovery period, and a 200M time trial. The purpose of this test is to gauge what kind of swimmer you are, and find your threshold pace for a 1500M effort in the process. It calculates the difference between your 200M and your 400M times to work out what kind of swimmer you are, and which pace you should swim at as a result. CSS pace will feel easy at first, but will slowly become more and more challenging until you find yourself giving your all to make the wall before the beep.
The beep I refer to is that of a Finis Tempo Trainer Pro, an essential piece of equipment I ask all swimmers to purchase. You enter your threshold pace into the trainer (i.e. 1:03 per 100M as pictured here), pop it under your hat, and use the scheduled beeps to pace your swim by ensuring you push off the wall as the trainer beeps. We normally re-test every 6-8 weeks to track improvement and ensure you are working at the correct pace.
CSS is a complex subject, so here is Paul Newscombe of Swim Smooth explaining it more eloquently than I could ever hope to https://youtu.be/U51oZfl3i2E
Functional Threshold Power (FTP)
The FTP test is a long standing gold standard for cyclists, referring to the maximum power you can maintain for an hour. Asking an athlete to go as hard as they can for an hour is not only incredibly dull but also extraordinarily hard on the legs and requires many days to recover from. Instead we ask athletes to warm up throughly before going eyeballs out for 20 minutes. While certainly not pleasant it is the preferred method for gauging your FTP. We then deduct a percentage from your average power for those 20 minutes to give us a good idea of the power you could hold for an hour, resulting giving us your functional threshold power. Workouts will be assigned by percent of FTP, such as warming up for 20 minutes at 40% of FTP or riding at 130% of FTP for 30 seconds, ensuring you are riding at the appropriate kind of intensity.
Of course, to record an FTP we need a way to measure power. Power meters are dropping in price but finding a piece of road which allows you to go full gas for 20 minutes is difficult and would lead cyclists towards dangerous dual carriageways. Instead the best way to train reliably is using a turbo trainer. Smart trainer such as those manufactured by Wahoo are ideal, but a simple trainer like the Tacx Satori will give you a power reading allowing for highly accurate workouts.
The running test is much simpler than the tests for swimming and cycling, you run flat out round a track or flat piece of road for 20 minutes, making sure not to go out too hard, and we use your average pace to determine your threshold pace.
Once we have completed the tests for swimming, cycling and running we can then start prescribing bespoke workouts for you. We use a piece of software called TrainingPeaks to manage your training plan which automatically calculates your individual training values for you. The software automatically calculates pace and FTP values for you, taking the guesswork out of training.
I will regularly touch base with my athletes to enquire about their schedule and any commitments which have appeared. No athlete has a perfect block of training, we all have friends, family and a career which we can’t simply ignore in the name of training, so we work out the best way to train with the time we have. If someone is working internationally I may request they take their trainer so we can do some running and work in the hotel gym. If someone’s partner is away and they have to look after the kids, I will give them a turbo workout or some body weight exercises they can do from their living room instead of a six hour road ride.
To be as flexible as possible you will usually receive a training plan on a week by week basis that will look something like this:
This is a week of training which has been completed hence the colour coding. Green means the workout was completed hitting the right distances and intensities, yellow means the workout was attempted but not completed and red means the workout was not attempted for whatever reason. This allows us to see at a glance how well training is going. If an athlete Anas a number of red workouts this is not necessarily a problem, but requires a conversation to find out what’s going on. It may be that they’re unwell or other commitments have appeared, and we need to adjust the plan accordingly.
Looking at the the top of the image, we can see that the form of this athlete ebb and flow, as their training load and fatigue rise, their form drops. We can see on the right a prediction of form based on current training load, which we will use to set appropriate workouts. If the athlete had an event in early August we would only give them light workouts so as not to increase fatigue too much ahead of their event. There are hundreds of other metrics available in TrainingPeaks that we can use to track your performance which are too numerous to list here, and allow us to ensure you arrive at your event in peak condition rather than burnt out. There are hundreds more metrics available in Training Peaks we can use to monitor your progression and ensure you arrive at the start line in the best possible shape.
Workout analysis (level 2 and 3 plans only)
After each workout we will sit down and look at your workout, correlating your volume, speed, elevation, heart rate and cadence to try to spot any patterns and ask questions about what we see. Why was your heart rate so high at that point on the flat? Why does your cadence slowly drop? Why did you take a break halfway through, was it a cake stop or mechanical? We use the wealth of data available to us to ensure you get the most out of every workout.
The bread and butter of our programs are our training plans but there is a time and a place for working with a coach in person. Whether you need us to push you hard in fitness testing or want us to look at your technique all of our packages come with a discount on our 1 to 1 sessions and the level 3 plan includes a session every month. We like to see each of our clients swim at least once where possible so we can advise on technique and give you appropriate drills. If somebody has a weak rotation we’ll include a lot of 6-1-6 and corpse drill, or if their catch is weak we will include lots of sculling work.
Unlike other coaching companies we do not put a limit on E-mails or messages sent to our coaches, you can get in touch at any point for a clarification about a workout or to ask our advice on anything from purchasing new equipment to nutrition. As experienced and passionate athletes ourselves we aim to do e ery thing we can do to help you across the line.
No matter how dedicated we are, there are always days we struggle to get out of bed or are tempted to swap a swim session for an evening in front of Netflix. Working with a coach gives you an accountability, and while we don’t ever want to intimidate our athletes, knowing that your coach will be seeing a missed workout on your account adds an extra incentive to get out there and put the hours in.
Having a third party set and look at your training is one of the best things you can do for yourself as an athlete. We always have our own ideas of how we should train but having an expert look at your plans and making suggestions can result in huge improvements for an athlete on a plateau. More often than not I ask athletes to lower rather than raise volume, removing “junk” miles in exchange for focused and individualised sessions. We find that for most athletes the inclusion of more specific workouts and more rest days than self coached athletes would give themselves tends to lead to an immediate improvement in performance.
While we have only scratched the surface here, I hope this has given you an insight into the way we work and what you can expect from a Phazon coaching plan and what it can do to aid your performance.