How Couch to the Summit Performance Coaching Works and Your Responsibilities as a Coaching Athlete
My one-on-one online coaching program is for any beginner, intermediate, or elite runner looking to progress their training and racing.
My goal is to keep you intrinsically motivated by your training, where you gain satisfaction from the engagement in the training process as much as you desire in rewards and outcomes. If you exercise more for intrinsic reasons, you are more likely to feel energised, confident and satisfied. Intrinsic motivation is a key factor for activity adherence. Enjoyment of an activity leads to reduced stress and positive psychological feelings.
Many people start an exercise program, but those who are able to stick to one over the long term will always say enjoyment is the principal reason they continue. If you are not enjoying your training, then something needs to change. As part of the coaching process, you will be rating workouts on various metrics so we can adjust the process to maximise both your fitness increases and overall enjoyment.
As part of the onboarding process, you receive a detailed training manual that will start educating you on everything about the training process.
I typically schedule your workouts each Sunday tailored for your long-term goals, your seasonal goals, and how your body has responded to recent training. I monitor signs of overtraining and I help you manage your biomechanics so you stay healthy and can keep training. You are only asked to read the material provided, execute the scheduled daily workouts, and log your training outcomes into the spreadsheet on how things went. I take care of everything else.
- You will receive an initial questionnaire to fill in that tells me all the information I need to know about you as an athlete. This forms the basis for a subsequent series of conversations to determine your goals and current state of fitness and so I can plan a training progression suitable for you based on your history and goals.
- You will be given a detailed training manual to help you understand the training process; how it works, what you need to do, and explanation of the tools we will be using to plan and track things.
- Advice relating to other aspects of training (such as nutrition, mindset etc..) is offered as required.
- Biomechanical assessments and advice will be handled on a case-by-case basis as the need arises.
- You will begin working on a series of protocols – called the FAST-Protocols – that aim to make you a strong and functional athlete. All the instructions and methods will be taught to you.
FAST stands for Functional Athlete Standard Training Protocols. It’s a good acronym because the stronger functionality you have as an athlete, the faster you will develop in whatever health or fitness capacity you are focused on. Fast doesn’t just equate to running speed, but it equates to faster progress and results. The FAST-Protocols are designed to increase performance but also to mitigate and reverse many of the decaying attributes of aging and keep you active well into old-age as well.
I have been working on these protocols for a long time now, and I have designed them to bring together the vast amount of information and potential training practices that are required to build the strongest overall foundation for endurance, strength, functionality and fitness and are aimed at giving you clear pathways to test and develop your capacities towards intermediate, elite, and world class standards should you so choose.
When I use the term functional in the FAST method protocols, I’m referring to TEN distinct and separate attributes that you should be working to develop simultaneously. They are:
- Myofascial Quality
- Muscular Symmetry
- Nutrition Quality
Your training is setup each Sunday in your Customised Training Log (Currently in spreadsheet format). You are prescribed individually tailored Zone based activities with instructions on how to perform them. These activities are scheduled week by week, building upon your body’s reaction to the previous week’s training metrics. You will be required to update the log with performance metrics at the conclusion of each workout.
Throughout the coaching process I provide the following services:
- Schedule your training for the upcoming week every Sunday and unlimited adjustments to workouts during the week.
- Feedback on the training where needed and answering any questions you have at any time.
- Unlimited coach communication via phone/email/whatsapp/zoom/telegram/facebook etc…
- For local clients I offer 1-2 free in-person strength and biomechanics assessments per year, and in-person training catch-ups from time to time on a case by case basis. For overseas clients, we can do some of this process over video chat or by video tutorials.
- In-person regular training sessions – this is offered on a per hour charge on a case by case basis.
Your Requirements as a Couch->Summit Coaching Athlete:
In summary you are required to do the following:
- Consistently hit the scheduled training targets – and if this is proving a challenge for any reason to open a clear communication channel with me on your challenges so we can work through the difficulties and work on a plan to remove or minimise the barriers to training you are facing.
- Update the training log on a daily basis following your training activities with detailed feedback on how the training went and other training metrics requested (i.e. distance, time, elevation gain, energy level rating, body issues etc…)
- Maintain an up to the date schedule for your current life commitments with ideally the maximum numbers of hours you can train for each day of the week prior to each Sunday.
- Understand that aerobic fitness is only one component of the endurance equation and that equal time must be schedule and applied to components of the FAST-Protocols that self-maintenance work to keep your body functional and injury free.
I have worked with athletes who barely ever miss a training session throughout the year, to athletes who are consistently missing and/or making changes or alterations to their scheduled training each week. It’s obvious which situation is going to result in superior outcomes, but sometimes life gets in the way and we also aren’t aiming for perfection either. You as the athlete are in full control of your participation in the process. I can lead you to water, but I can’t make you drink. Changes are going to happen on occasion, but if it’s becoming a regular occurrence then we have to work harder to make the training process integrate better with your lifestyle.
A planned training schedule should never impose stress on an athlete, and the best way to avoid stress is to fit training as seamlessly as possible into an athlete’s lifestyle. I’ve noticed the athletes who never skip training typically train early in the morning at the same time every day or are highly intrinsically motivated by their goals and have the self-discipline to train no matter how they feel. It’s much easier that way before life can get in the way, but some people aren’t morning people or don’t have time in the mornings and prefer to train in the afternoons or evenings (and there is nothing wrong with that preference either). However, there is always a risk that tiredness or other commitments can derail training the later you leave it. The later you train in the day, the more discipline and organization skills you’re going to need to be successful with it. Eliminating the barriers that disrupt training will be our goal here.
As a late in the day style athlete myself, I like to make as many things as easy as possible for myself with minimising resistance to training (such as scheduling, eating enough food during the day prior to training to ensure I have energy to train, and getting my gear ready in advance), but ultimately self-discipline and passion for training helps to get me out the door. If you’re struggling with motivation and passion for training, then we can work together on strategies to get as many obstacles and barriers to training you have out of your way. It is up to you to be proactive about any challenges you have and communicate with me if getting out the door consistently is a problem for you.
A great discipline I aim to build in my athletes is to never skip your training because of how you feel. Many times, once you start training, any negative feelings begin to fade away. Training helps a lot to improve mood and thus it also helps you to better handle the other challenges in your life. Training is an important stress relief and mental health improver. Yet, your feelings are often your biggest barrier to success and if you're waiting for good feelings to come as the trigger on whether you train or not, then it’s probably not going to work well. Scheduling and routine are one of the ways we mitigate feelings being a factor in our training decision making.
I would generally advise that you work off a schedule every week for everything happening in your life and schedule a regular time for training each day that can become a fixed routine. If the training progress is really important to you (and likely is if you’re willing to invest in a coach), then scheduled training should be viewed with the same importance as you’d give to any appointment in your life (such as a doctor’s appointment). You wouldn’t miss an important health appointment, so you must work hard to meet your training commitments as well. If you can’t always do that – its ok – as I will always do my best to make the impact on your progress minimal. I can’t impress the importance that scheduling has to helping with mood and feelings of overwhelm, or the feeling of not having enough time to train in your busy life. In most cases, there is plenty of time to train, you’re just wasting too much time from lack of effective planning.
Moral to the story is that the coaching progress will tend to work better the more detailed and timely you can be with updating your schedule in your training log. Also vital is ensuring clear communication so I can work to minimise the impact of a similar situation reoccurring in the future. Communication is key when commitment to training is proving challenging for any reason.
Coaching is both an art and a science. While the science allows the coach to plan a progression - this is often only half the story, because the art of coaching is then tailoring the science to match the specific individual. No two athletes are alike, and we all have different training and health histories. All these aspects matter for an effective training response. I always work off a high-level plan for your training season, but I constantly adjust progression, volume and specific training activities based on how your body is responding to training.
There are many different styles and forms of training we can do, and sometimes people respond differently to them. This could be for mechanical issues or it could be mental or preference. It’s always important to know when to back-off if you face a problem with your body (such as an ache, pain or injury), just as much as it’s important to know to push harder if for example, you find a hard session a little too easy. Some athletes tend to be “one-paced”, which means they have a hard time training at different paces/intensities, so its up to the coach to keep an eye on an athlete’s training activities and ensure the athlete is training with the right focus. Since I am not there in person during your training session, you still need to guide me effectively as to how you respond to training by being clear and detailed.
I learn about your ability as a coach in response to the outcomes of specific types of workouts I set for you. Over time this tells me a story about your preferences and styles as an athlete and the longer we work together the more effective the training tends to become for an athlete. That’s why I always tell athletes to be patient and think long-term. The benefits accrue like compounding interest – but there is always that beginning period where I have to learn about you as an athlete – and at the same time – you learn about the effective ways to making training work for you.
Some athletes incorrectly treat coaching as just someone scheduling and planning your training and then the athlete works off this as if they were working from a generic training plan they purchased off the internet. There is little feedback, little communication, other than just reporting back the training was completed. This lack of feedback and the presumption that everything is going well (when maybe it isn’t necessarily – often an experienced coach can tell when an athlete is heading into trouble long before an athlete knows themselves) often leads to a situation where as a coach, I still know very little about the athlete and how they are responding to the training.
Generic training plans don’t tend to work well enough, because they isolate training from the other demands of life currently imposed and can’t consider all the background history of an athlete. That is why a coach works better, because a coach helps adapt your training to your specific set of circumstances which are constantly changing on a week-to-week basis. I cannot make the fine adjustments to training needed from an unresponsive or poorly detailed athlete. You’ll only get as much from the process as you’re willing to put into it. This doesn’t mean essays after each activity, but just reporting timely information about any issues you faced, and how the session went and rating your energy levels etc... The level of detail is up to you, but the more information you provide about your body’s response to training, the higher chance of a successful training progression. This should only take a few minutes of your time after each session but its value to me as a coach is crucial.
The coach/athlete relationship is a two-way street and requires good feedback from athletes to be successful. The athlete is learning from the coach and the coach is continually learning from them. Without a coach understanding how an athlete is responding to training, a coach is not able to effectively adjust the program to suit the athlete. This is how coaching stands apart from just following simple generic training plans. Without effective communication between the coach and athlete, it is almost certain that the resulting program will be ineffective.
While I work to learn as much about you as an athlete, there is a bit of trial and error until we both settle into a more fluid relationship. If you try to manage difficulties on your own, or lack detail in your training feedback, this often leads to a problematic situation where I imagine everything is progressing well and will continue to push your further forward. This often can make any problems you might be hiding worse. In this situation, the athlete is only partially handing over the reins to the coach and still trying to self-manage or self-coach themselves to some degree. This is often what leads to an ineffective training outcome. You should be all-in and prepared to loosen the reins completely if you are working with a coach. No half-measures otherwise you risk sub-standard outcomes.
I am a collaborative style coach who works to educate and inform an athlete on why we are training in a certain way, but the athlete is still in full control of their training decisions. Coaching should never descend to dictatorship or controlling in anyway - and thus if you steer away from the training I prescribe, there is no anger or judgement. Good coaches control their emotions, are more open-minded, and value input and change if it has a reasonable rationale. I seek to understand the motivation of why an athlete decided to veer from the training and work to establish a clear pathway of communication to try and realign us both on the same page. Maybe an athlete needs a stronger reminder of the goals they are working toward, and thus I will lay out the pros and cons if the athlete continues down their chosen pathway. I will always inform the athlete of what I think is the best pathway forward, but in the end the athlete is still in full control. Should they wish to proceed in a different direction then I will do my best to facilitate their goal there once the athlete is informed of any potential risks with such an approach. An athlete may be willing to take more risks than others.
Another common situation is doing other sports, gym activities, outside training that is not communicated to the coach. While there is generally little harm in doing outside activities if you enjoy them, if we haven’t considered its impact on you in the training plan and current physical health, then it can also lead to problematic or ineffective outcomes. I’ve worked with athletes who also have other training interests and we simply build them into our program. We can use other activities as cross-training, and also pull back on run training during periods of increased demands from other activities. The worst situation is spreading yourself too thin and having sub-standard results in all your pursuits. This often leads athletes to quitting the coaching without getting the results they wanted. Just in life, you need to prioritise your recreational activities and consider the pros and cons about where you focus your energy. Ultimately, you are required to let me know about all the physical activities, demands and stresses that are involved in your life so we can manage your training to integrate seamlessly into your preferred lifestyle.
I also ask that you are timely in updating your schedule, including giving me a regular update on the number of hours you would be willing to commit to training every week, including aspects like work or family demands that may limit your ability to train effectively on certain days of the week. I’ve worked with athletes with busy schedules (including things like rotating between overnight and day time shift work) and it can still work well if the schedule is clear and we can plan proper rest to recover from the stresses of your current situation.
Training is a constant balance between training and rest/recovery, so we can usually handle busy periods by integrating those training downtimes into the longer-term plan where we might have included rest periods anyway. I do my best to make your training progression as efficient as possible across the long-term big picture plan. As a coach, I’ve noticed the athletes who succeed the best are also the same ones that are consistent with training and detailed/organized in their training schedule. The two go hand in hand.
In terms of training with work and family life - typically this works best if you can commit to a certain number of hours per week in your schedule and clear it with your family before it becomes an issue. The last thing you want is to quit coaching three months in because its taking too much time away from your loved ones and causing issues there. Everyone must be informed and on the same page about your goals.
For a busy person, in general, the more time you can spend training the better, but there is a bit of an inflexion point where up to a certain number of hours per week, the pay offs of going beyond that number won't be as substantial as you would think. In general for an ultra-runner, I’d recommend at least a minimum of 10 hours per week, and the ability to go up toward 14-18 hrs for a few months in a build for a race. Anything less than probably 7-10 hours a week and you'd probably be leaving quite a lot on the table in terms of performance outcomes. For beginners, often we’ll have to be conservative in terms of time running, but you will still need a lot of time on your feet walking/hiking or doing the FAST-Protocols. Ultimately, at all levels athletes will benefit by committing between 10-20 hrs per week toward furthering their ability.
Your ability to train for time per week (in terms of running) also depends on your training history and the level of development and resiliency in your body mechanics. You can only train as much as your body is capable of doing without problems. The progression that will work well for you will depend a lot on the number of training hours per year you have historically and your history/background in strength and mobility training. Beginners and dysfunctionally mechanical athletes will have to spend more time working on the FAST-Protocols over aerobic training in their early days to strengthen their foundation.
Be prepared to be flexible with your thinking over what endurance involves – it’s a full body development program and we ultimately work to identify your weakest links and begin to solidify the entire foundation. As the famous saying you’re only as strong as your weakest link, and endurance sports quickly expose your weakest link over time. Thus, the areas we focus our time will be highly specific to your circumstances. Some people need more focus on strength training, some more time on mobility, others on aerobic training. All these areas matter, and as stated early we seek to maximise development on all TEN attributes because this leads to the quickest and most improved outcomes.