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I'm just an average age-grouper / weekend warrior blogging about Ironman Triathlon Training and this complex puzzle of juggling life, having fun and reporting on my various feats of strength and endurance adventures!

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How to Know When an Athlete Is Uncoachable

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Like any other relationship, the coach-athlete relationship depends on chemistry. Sometimes a coach and an athlete just aren’t a good match, and it’s neither party’s fault. My own style of coaching is passionate and demanding, and while a lot of athletes respond well to it, others require a gentler touch than mine and are better off seeking it elsewhere. 

It would be a mistake on my part to blame such athletes for failing to recognize how awesome I am. But it would also be a mistake to change my style in an effort to be all things to all athletes. In coaching, as in any other role, you need to be who you are.

There are a few athletes, though, who aren’t a good match for any coach, and these athletes are known as uncoachable. Coaches are sometimes too quick to slap this label on athletes who simply aren’t a good match for their style, but there’s no question that uncoachable athletes do exist. They aren’t difficult to identify if you know what to look for. 

The vast majority of athletes who are coachable exhibit four key qualities. If one or more of these qualities are missing in an athlete you’re working with, proceed with caution, if at all.


Deceit is toxic in any relationship, and the coach-athlete relationship is no exception. Athletes who do things like squeeze in extra workouts you didn’t schedule without telling you or blow a workout because they’re hungover and then lie about the reason are not athletes you can succeed with in the long term. It may be impossible to know in some instances if you are being deceived (did your athlete who loathes strength training really complete that strength workout he marked as completed?), but when a person is dishonest by nature it comes out eventually.

There are three specific measures I take with clients to prevent dishonesty from poisoning the relationship. 

First, I make it clear from the first video consultation that I expect honesty at all times and I won’t tolerate deceit of any kind. Second, I make sure my athletes feel safe in sharing uncomfortable truths. For example, if an athlete admits she blew a workout because she was hungover, I might say something like, “lesson learned, I’m sure,” instead of chewing her out. And third, I model honesty by being open and transparent myself. For example, if I’m late for an appointed call because I forgot about it, I’ll simply admit I forgot instead of coming up with a phony excuse like “my phone died.”


If you’ve ever had a coach, you know how important it is to trust that this person has the knowledge, experience, and judgment to guide your training effectively. And unless you doubt your own knowledge, experience, and judgment, you should expect the same degree of trust from the athletes you coach.

Now, let me back up a step and point out that all too many coaches do not countenance any pushback or questioning from their athletes. That’s not right either. The best coaches are secure enough in their role that they welcome a little healthy skepticism and don’t require their athletes to be total pushovers. Speaking for myself, if an athlete doesn’t see the rationale for a particular workout or believes that doing it is a bad idea for some reason, I want to know it.

That being said, there is a minimum threshold of trust that an athlete must have in a coach if the relationship is going to work. If an athlete constantly demands justification for your training prescriptions, tries to negotiate workout formats, or comes to you with ideas gleaned from the internet or training partners or other coaches (“I read that Patrick Lange does XYZ—what don’t you have me do XYZ?”), that person has either chosen the wrong coach or has trust issues and will likely behave similarly with any coach. Either way, the athlete is not someone you can coach.


When an athlete tells you they’re going to do something, you want to be confident it’s actually going to get done. The foundation of such confidence is reliability—a demonstrated pattern of living up to one’s word. Of course, some things are beyond any athlete’s control. For example, if an athlete promises to squeeze in a swim workout in a hotel pool while traveling on business but ends up not doing it because the pool has been drained for maintenance, that’s not unreliability, that’s life. But as a coach you should expect your athletes to consistently use all of the control they do have to fulfill their end of the bargain.

In individual cases, it may take some time to determine whether an athlete is a reliable person who faces challenging circumstances or is unreliable and just making excuses. The athlete I coach currently who misses more workouts than any other is actually the most reliable. He simply has a crazy life, but he always makes his best effort to stick to the program. Give each athlete the benefit of the doubt until it’s clear you’re dealing with an uncoachable excuse-maker, then have a talk. 


To the average person, the job of an endurance coach might appear to be almost identical to the job of a personal trainer. Both jobs entail giving people workouts to do, right? But to me, the two roles couldn’t be more different in one key respect: Whereas personal trainers work with a largely unmotivated clientele, endurance coaches are, by and large, blessed with highly-motivated clients who actually want to work out.

Some athletes are more motivated than others, however. When I first got into coaching, my expectation was that the most exciting athletes to work with would be the most talented ones. But that’s not how it turned out. It’s actually the most passionate athletes, regardless of talent, that I most enjoy coaching. Conversely, the athletes I least enjoy coaching are those who have the least zeal for training and racing.

It is my opinion that motivating unmotivated athletes is not part of a coach’s job. And even if it were, it’s not possible—motivation comes from within. I consider any athlete uncoachable who exhibits a lack passion for the sport they’ve chosen. 

What to Do with Uncoachable Athletes

Let me be clear: Handling uncoachable athletes is not about “firing” “bad” athletes. It’s about not taking money from athletes you don’t believe you can help.

It always best to weed out uncoachable athletes through a vetting process before you bring them on as clients. This is one of several purposes that is served by my onboarding process for new clients, which includes a comprehensive written questionnaire and an initial video consultation. 

It’s also important to articulate your expectations for athletes clearly at the beginning of the relationship, so that if you should discover down the road that an athlete is uncoachable, you can point back to your words when you “have a talk.”

The last step is that talk. When you get to a point where you don’t think you can help an athlete, have a frank and constructive conversation about the situation. Express your concerns and then listen to your athlete’s perspective. If the athlete shows a willingness to change, consider giving the relationship more time. Otherwise, make a clean, amicable break and move on, remembering there isn’t a coach on earth who can succeed with every athlete.

The post How to Know When an Athlete Is Uncoachable appeared first on TrainingPeaks.

How to Create the Best Environment for Your Club or Team to Prosper

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Sports clubs and teams are a focal point of development for athletes of all ages. The difference between good and poor can often lead to substandard development and retention of athletes, thus inhibiting peak performance and losing lifetime members who turn away from the sport.

Henriksen [1] conducted multiple case studies [2,3,4] into talent development environments in sport and what makes them successful or unsuccessful. Henriksen concluded that each specific environment has eight commonalities which make them successful. 

Here, we’ll aim to break each of these eight commonalities down and show how you can introduce them into your club or team.

Commonalities of Successful Club or Team Environments

A Supportive Training Group

Training groups with supportive relationships are evident across each case study conducted by Henriksen. When we think of specific examples, we are often drawn to the Sunday cycling club run or long run in an athletics club throughout the off-season. It is here that many skills are learned, and knowledge is passed down from more experienced members in a relaxed, but sport specific, setting. 

Creation of a training group allows vicarious reinforcement to take place which effectively means we mimic or duplicate the behaviors for which others are being rewarded (or we limit the behaviors for which others are being discouraged). This can range from riding in a paceline on a bike effectively to timing nutrition properly, among many other positives all achieved with minimal coach input.

Proximal Role Models

In a way, proximal role models can be explained in a similar light to the training group. Older, more experienced athletes may serve as role models for younger members or beginners in a club or team. We want to create an environment in which the athletes are open and participate in sharing of experiences—both negative and positive. 

This leads to a trickle down of knowledge within the environment. Unfortunately, team rivalries for selection, differing views, etc. can often stunt this growth and development due to knowledge being withheld.

Support of Goals Under Wider Environment

In Henriksen’s case studies, wider communities support their athletes and their goals, and this is evident by schools being willing to facilitate the athletes’ pursuit of an athletic career while balancing school. This is achieved through clear and consistent communication between all parties involved. If this is implemented correctly, it allows the athlete to excel in all areas. 

We may see examples of this in upper-level education where options are available for distance learning or part-time courses. We can also relate this back to the club and team, recognizing that school or work in general needs to take priority at key times and a mutual respect is set up around this.

Psychological Skills Support

Psychological skills training is used within these environments as a way to develop the athlete as a “person” rather than just someone who is good at their sport. Skills such as autonomy and responsibility are emphasized.

We can implement this ourselves by allowing athletes to lead a training session, reflect on competition, and provide constructive peer-to-peer feedback.

Training Which Allows Diversification

Early specialization is discouraged within these environments, and this effectively means a mix of sports and hobbies are pursued up to a later age. It has been highlighted that expert performers tend to specialize later in their adolescence [5], which allows the athlete to sample multiple sports with multiple coaches and leads to them having a robust sporting profile and developing fundamental movements all while avoiding burnout. 

When implementing this in our own teams or clubs, we should not discourage other sports being pursued, and this is especially important at youth and junior levels. Within cycling we are also lucky in that the varying disciplines allows for further diversification while still being sport specific, and track and field may also correlate with this.

Long-Term Development

Expanding on the point mentioned above, there is a massive focus on long-term athlete development in these environments. This ties in with building our fundamentals through diversification and steadily progressing up the ladder through age brackets with activities that are relevant for the training age. 

One example could be exposure to competition in a developmental capacity. This can be seriously beneficial, and examples here include club leagues, races, etc.

Coherence in Organizational Culture

Based on Schein’s model [6] of organizational culture, Henriksen proposed that each environment has specific values, artifacts, and assumptions. Values coincide with what the athletes are “told”, for example autonomy in setting up your own equipment or working with the coach to develop a plan together. Artifacts are what we observe, feel, and hear. Examples of this could include stories of previous club “legends” or jerseys hanging on the clubhouse wall. Assumptions are what people take for granted in these specific environments, and this could be a deep-rooted training methodology or a specific way clubs or teams operate.

Assumptions usually form the basis for values and artifacts.

Shoot for aligning these three things so that, when thought of as a whole, they form a coherent environment preferably of continuous learning and development.

Integration of Efforts

The integration of friends, family, and athletes (among other stakeholders) should never be taken for granted. From amateur to elite sport, this is a key element in sustainability. This could be using the wider club community to volunteer to marshal races, organize club nights, provide transportation, etc. The end goal here is to create a community that allows the athletes themselves to experience a type of synergy in their everyday lives.

Next Steps

Having a basic awareness of the above points allows you to reflect on how your club or team approaches how they create an environment that fosters athletic talent development. Being honest and critical in how you construct your own environment is the only way to bring about change.


1 Henriksen, K. (2010). The ecology of talent development in sport: A multiple case study of successful athletic talent development environments in Scandinavia (Doctoral dissertation, Syddansk Universitet. Det Sundhedsvidenskabelige Fakultet).

2 Henriksen, K., Stambulova, N., & Roessler, K. K. (2011). Riding the wave of an expert: A successful talent development environment in kayaking. The sport psychologist, 25(3), 341-362.

3 Henriksen, K., Stambulova, N., & Roessler, K. K. (2010). Holistic approach to athletic talent development environments: A successful sailing milieu. Psychology of sport and exercise, 11(3), 212-222.

4 Henriksen, K., Stambulova, N., & Roessler, K. K. (2010). Successful talent development in track and field: considering the role of environment. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 20, 122-132.

5 Baker, J., Cobley, S., & Fraser‐Thomas, J. (2009). What do we know about early sport specialization? Not much!. High ability studies, 20(1), 77-89.

6 Schein, E. H. (1985). Defining organizational culture. Classics of organization theory, 3, 490-502.

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Winning or Losing: Reflecting on Your Season

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As the season draws to an end, it’s now time to begin to reflect on the season that just passed. In sport, every race only has one person who emerges victorious (in each category), which means there is a greater chance your athlete is not a winner. How can you help them rise above the emotional response of winning or losing and see a path to success?

We have two favorite expressions: “If you aren’t winning, you are learning” and “F.A.I.L. = First Attempt In Learning.” 

The message in both quotes is clear—you always learn something. In having this adaptive growth mindset, athletes can turn almost every session into a learning opportunity. When it’s time to look at a whole season, you have the learning points from every session to help your athletes improve.

Nevertheless, as coaches we only really get paid to see results, and the outcome of the season usually defines or undermines the coaching input. But as all coaches will tell you, the process and progress made throughout the season is a much better future performance indicator than any single race result or outcome can be. 

In other words, it’s less about what your athlete achieved, and more about how they did it (the process).

At the end of the season there will always be winners and losers, but it’s important that, no matter you athlete’s result, they become a learner. 

So the season didn’t go as planned. Now what?

If things didn’t go as planned, sorry to hear it. Don’t let your athlete fall into a hole of self-pity—now is the time to do something about it! Can you understand why things didn’t work out? An excellent model to really understand why things didn’t work out is the “fishbone” model. 

This model is useful because it helps you (repeatedly) ask why, forcing you to be honest with your answers. This constant asking of “so what?” will lead you to the root cause of that section, and importantly, a course of action to take forward. 

For example: Improve running > Improve running technique > Do more proprioception work > Do regular core/proprioception work every morning for 15 minutes before all training sessions.

If you are in a position where your athlete didn’t win, then this is fantastic as you have a measurable difference between what they did and what the “winner” did. For example, if their goal was to make the top 10 and they missed that by 15 minutes (for a five-hour race) then how do help them get five percent faster? You have a yardstick.  

When working with athletes, it’s important to remember that they often look externally before they look internally for any problems. For example, they might opt to buy a new bike or get a new coach before identifying the big, low-hanging fruit (which is usually cheaper too!). Try to help them focus internally and have an open mind to everything—it may provide a better route to success than just buying their improvements, and sometimes they may find it was the wrong purchase in the first place.

Don’t get short-sighted by these glitzy solutions. What are the boring things your athletes can do to improve? A lot of failures are a result of inconsistent training, so how can you help them improve their consistency? Why were they inconsistent (see the fishbone diagram above!)? 

Asking yourself and your athlete “what went well?” and “what could you improve?” are great starting points to identify weaker areas. Better yet, apply those questions across different areas: swimming, cycling, running, nutrition, their weekly schedule, strength and conditioning, day-to-day nutrition, race planning, etc. Suddenly your athlete might have a long list of ways to improve and find that five percent!

What if your athlete had a really successful season?

Clearly, when things have been going well it’s tempting to rest on your laurels and not change much. However, unless you understand how your athlete won, you won’t be able to repeat it. In many instances, this is the hardest and most important reflection to make, and perhaps your celebrations have meant you missed the important learning point. 

Things might have worked by chance, or maybe your athlete just got lucky. What you need to do is work out how to get lucky every time so that it becomes a routine. Unless you understand why your athlete’s training plan worked, how their training blocks fitted together, how their nutrition plan was executed, how their race calendar worked, how their taper fitted together, how their travel arrangements impacted their race, and of course, how effective their race tactics were, you cannot guarantee success. 

When you understand all of these moving parts, all the principles behind your athlete’s success, then you can repeat them. If you’ve had a successful season, you want to back it up—after all, they say the hardest championship to win is the second one.

After all, if those behind your athletes are looking at how to catch them, you want to keep moving their goal posts!

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4 Common Strength Training Mistakes Masters Athletes Make

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Over the years of playing or participating in any sport, our body goes through changes and adaptations to help us better get into the positions and movements for that sport. While our body is trying its best, cycling and triathlon can lead to poor posture and a loss of range of motion at many of the joints. Luckily, with an intelligent strength training program, you can avoid these negative changes and instead bolster your in-sport abilities and boost your performances.

Here are four common mistakes masters make when it comes to strength training for their sport, and how to avoid them.

Focusing on mimicking sport movements 

Many athletes who are new to strength training for sport performance make the mistake of thinking that in order to get better at their sport, they need to strength train in the same movement patterns as their chosen sport. 

Baseball is a great example of this. With its specific throwing and batting movements, you’d think that baseball players are simply going into the weightroom and performing similar movements, yet when you look at well-designed programs from the best in the business, you’ll notice that less than 15 percent of most programed movements match those of the sport. Close to 40 percent counter the movements dominant in the sport, helping the athlete maintain balance.

Work on balancing out the imbalances that occur in our sport. Working on good breathing patterns, thoracic extension, pulling, and rotary stability give you some of the biggest returns on investment.

Exercise to utilize: 

The Suitcase Deadlift—three sets of eight each side

Weight training only in the off-season or base phase

Strength, just like metabolic fitness, falls off when the individual is not constantly being pushed beyond their baseline. In as little as two weeks, one can see a drop in strength and explosiveness if the system is not challenged. 

This doesn’t mean that you should be lifting heavy things all year, but it does mean that if one learns how to build an intelligently-designed strength training program, they can reap massive benefits throughout the season through nontraditional variations of exercises that provide massive bang for the buck.

Exercise to utilize:

Double Kettlebell Hover Deadlifts—three sets of eight with two- to three-second “hover” 

Not training heavy

Training with heavy weights—those that challenge you at a seven or eight on a scale of one to 10—is very important. Integral, in fact!

Lifting heavy things challenges our bodies to coordinate itself in ways that can supercharge our results. It creates intra-abdominal pressure (IAP) to stabilize our spine, uses our prime movers to pick up a weight or put it down, and engages our stabilizers to keep the joints in their optimal positions to execute the task. 

Don’t get too excited here—heavy weights do not, and should not be one-repetition maximums. We don’t have a need for that kind of work as triathletes, and more importantly, we do not have the tissue adaptations necessary to properly deal with and distribute the forces exerted on the tissues and structures of the body. 

Sets of three and four repetitions of prime exercises such as deadlifts off of blocks, bench press, seated rows, and front squats are all incredibly useful when you understand when, how and why to program them into a training plan for an athlete. Also understand how they shouldn’t be incorporated into a training plan. For example, don’t hit the gym and immediately go into heavy weights. You first need to go through two stages in the strength training cycle—anatomical adaptations and hypertrophy.

Learn how to write intelligently designed strength training programs & when to incorporate heavy strength training, here.

Training explosively (plyometrics) without a solid and balanced base of strength

Many cyclists head to the gym and immediately start blowing through plyometrics. Four sets of 20 and three sets of 10 high box jumps, and three-plus minutes of high-intensity jump rope are all fairly popular exercises in the cycling community. 

These exercises are extremely hard on the joints, as when done in such large quantities (and with poor posture and joint position), can lead to not only unnecessary wear and tear on the joints, but also decreased performances. 

If you really want to get the most out of your plyometrics, learn how to get what’s called triple extension—the extension of the ankles, knees, and hips. This should come after first working to balance out your muscular imbalances, and learning how to get into powerful postures that protect your joints, not expose them to forces they aren’t built to deal with.

Also, learn how to land. Simply learning how to absorb the forces of jumping through the muscles, and not in the joints, allows the muscle tissue to become more spring-like, as well as helps you have a much longer, and more successful career. 

Exercise to utilize:

Hands on hips vertical and absorb—three sets of five repetitions

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How to Attract More Athletes to Your Coaching Business

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Running your own coaching business can be a tricky balancing act. You need to market your business with the goal of attracting and nurturing new athletes. You also need to create a name for yourself, all while putting together plans for your current athletes, getting them ready for races, and dealing with the little tasks in between. 

Finding new athletes is a constant struggle, but an important one. Searching for new leads and athletes is something you should do continually, even when you have enough work. There are several reasons why:

Athletes drop off during their “off-season” and may not come backThe athlete’s season is over, and they might take a step back from triathlonsMaybe you are chock full of athletes, but it’s always good to have some looking at your programs, and be on the waitlist

Fellow coaches are always asking me about how to gain more clients/athletes. First and foremost, it’s important to show up every day! Beyond that, here are my five rules to getting more athletes.

How to Attract More Athletes to Your Coaching Business


Blogging is a great way to build your credibility while attracting athletes and followers. When you write blog posts, you’re putting content on the web that can attract search engine traffic. If your blog posts are interesting, helpful, and entertaining, your readers will click on the link to see what else you have to offer. 

Remember, you want to write blog posts about topics that are of interest to your clients, as this shows your expertise in your area.

There are several ways you can blog:

Create a standalone blog using a blogging platform like Blogger or WordPressAdd a blog to your website in a subdomain or separate folderGuest blog on other people’s blogs

Social Media

There are several ways you can use social media to attract athletes, and this is a hot topic of discussion. Feel free to check out the previous articles I have written for TrainingPeaks about Instagram and Facebook tips. I will be discussing a lot of these ideas at the Endurance Coaching Summit roundtable discussions in September.

Social media is a connection, and we are all social people. Do a search on social media for terms that your potential athletes might follow or include in their profiles or posts. Start following them, and comment on and like their photos—engage with them!

Another method is to search for a hashtag term, such as #runner, #triathlete, #swimmer, #ironman703, #ironmantri, etc. Start following these hashtags and see where your potential athletes are hanging out.  

You should be real and honest on social media. Show your personality and be positive and helpful. Don’t try to sell on social media—if people are interested in what you have to offer, they’ll inquire about your services.


We all know what podcasts are, but they have become increasingly more trendy in recent years. They’re super convenient, as you can take them wherever you want and listen to them on the go.

Before you even think of starting a podcast, I would try to be a guest on a few dozen podcasts. If you listen to podcasts, you know how much work they are. 

Trust me, I tried—I started adding my “Vlogs” on YouTube, and then I uploaded them as a podcast. They ended up being a video, but I realized I was half-assing the podcast. Just recently I deleted the podcast off iTunes because it’s not up to my standards.

Start reaching out to podcasts you would like to be a guest on. Pitch them who you are, what you have to offer their following, and why you would be a good fit.

If you are interested in how to start a podcast, check out John Lee Dumas’ Free Podcast Course, here. 

Events and Meetups

Find networking events and meetups that are related to the services you offer. Look for conferences, exhibitions, trade shows, talks, and other events where you’re likely to encounter your potential athletes and get ready to network. 

While the Endurance Coaching Summit may be more for coaches, it’s a fantastic way to network with other coaches who may be needing a coach themselves or just a connection in general. 

You can also gain athletes from ordinary community events, such as at a race or at a local running club or cycling group gathering. Switch your mindset and view any event as an opportunity. When you attend community events, make yourself visible and show up prepared to talk with people. Get to know them and engage with them! 

I recently started doing a monthly “Meet and Greet with Coach Jen and Rulon Racers” event. I’d pick an event and plug it, or I would create my own. Put yourself in the shoes of your potential athletes and try to determine what sort of event they’d be excited to attend. Your event doesn’t have to be huge, it just needs to attract the right people and give them something valuable. 


It’s highly likely that your best athletes will come from referrals. If an athlete likes how you coach them, they’ll sing your praises to other athletes who need your coaching services. You can make this happen by doing your best work for all athletes and exceeding their expectations whenever possible. 

Referrals will happen naturally, but it helps if you give athletes a nudge. Put a system in place for references. First, ask your athletes to refer you to others whenever they have the chance. Second, you can always ask for a testimony, as this can live on your website or your Facebook page.

Next Steps

While there are a ton more online and offline methods out there, I would pick a couple that you feel is the best route for your coaching business. If you are decent at social media, go ahead and start working on content and find a podcast you want to be featured on. If you need help on social media, check out the TrainingPeaks articles I’ve linked to above, and go ahead and grab my social media calendar to get started today. 

Remember your coaching business is, in fact, a business, and it’s a service-based business. Be the best one out there!

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