After what seemed like an interminable 3-week off season, I’m officially back to training, which makes for a happy Kay 🙂 Having exchanged a few emails with my coach, Jordan Cheyne, fine-tuning this coming season’s long-term plan, I’m feeling pretty excited and confident that it will be another fun and challenging year. Before I started working with Jordan (Peak Form Coaching), I would never have guessed an “online” coach would be ideal for me. I was sure I needed group workouts and in-person sessions with a coach. It turns out not only is that not the case, but I actually work better with the current set up. Why? It’s not so much online vs in-person coaching situations but the particulars of how the current set-up fits what I need from a coach:
- Flexible workout scheduling: Jordan’s weekly training schedule arrives in my in-box like clockwork. I have a work schedule that is very demanding at times — where I’m at my desk all day, evening, and into the wee hours of the morning — and other times flexible enough that I can take an hour or two mid-afternoon to do a workout. Unlike a lot of my training friends, I don’t have a 9am to 5pm schedule; I work on weekends and evenings. My work comes first; training comes second, but I’ve gotten very efficient at setting out my daily workflow and looking for ideal times to add my workouts in. That means, however, that set group workout times can be difficult for me to work my schedule around. So receiving a training plan that lets me choose when during the day the workout will take place means I have a higher rate of workout completion.
- Online training files: I’ve mentioned this before in another post, but knowing your coach is looking at your training data and uploaded workouts on Strava is something I find highly motivating and it keeps me accountable. Last year, I estimate I completed over 90% of the workouts. This year, my goal is to bring that closer to 100%. Jordan makes that easy by creating some flexibility in the workouts: for example, if I’m feeling tired, there’s an option to do a slightly shorter version of the run workout; if I’m feeling good, then I have the option of doing 10 or 20 minutes longer. Having a buffer zone built into the “successful” workout means I can make my own decisions without feeling like I’ve failed in the workout. That’s important.
- Strong communication: the online coaching can only work if you and your coach have a good system for regular communication. Jordan’s communication skills are top notch and his response time is under 24hrs. But I know that as a pro cyclist he’s also balancing other commitments, so in turn, I aim to keep my emails relatively short, providing him with the info and updates he needs for the next week’s training plan and asking questions that don’t (normally!) require an essay in response. That said, he always gives each of my questions their due — a paragraph in response.
- Facilities flexibility: working with a coach online means that I have the freedom I need to choose facilities or join other group swims and workouts as I like. Because I don’t have a car, being committed to a coach who works out of particular facilities can be difficult for me, as it add a lot of bike-commuting time to get to pool or track facilities across town and sometimes makes it impossible for me to get to my next meeting or appointment on time — something my carless training buddy Alison understands well. More frustrating is that often those group workouts assume you have a car: for a bike-run brick workout, for example, it’s often assumed you’ll just lock up your bike in or on top of your car. When I can go to my closest pool and use my house as a transition zone for brick workouts, getting the workouts done is infinitely easier for me. As a result, I complete a much larger % of the training plan.
What all of this means is that the coaching dynamic allows Jordan to work remotely and for me to temporarily relocate, as I have, to Montreal, and for everything to carry on tickity boo.
With Ironman Lanzarote now only 24 weeks away, we have our work cut out for us and I’ve made a list of 4 race-performance-oriented goals which I’ve shared with my coach. I’m keeping those under my hat, however, (sorry!) and will share what I think are the more important goals, none of which are race-performance-related:
1) Learn to love swimming! Swimming has never been a great love of mine and it’s starting to really take its toll, holding me back in races as my bike and run get stronger. I’m typically last out of the water in my age group and then have to make up time on the bike and run. To meet my swim-love goal I’ve found a pool that I like, a tri club that has good swim sessions, and a swim coach who’s offering a January swim camp. I’m 100% committed to embrace swimming: this year is gonna be all about the swim.
2) Complete as close to 100% of the training plan as possible and do high-quality workouts. I mentioned above that I’ve already made some pretty big strides on this front, thanks to Jordan’s coaching methodology. This season, I’m aiming higher: from the beginning, I’m trying to stay 100% committed to completing each workout and to doing them well. For example, I realized I have a tendency to do a lazy warm up on the bike: on the trainer, I’m not super focused during the warm up and am just spinning my legs. And I often cut the cool down a bit short. This year, I want to be fully focused and make every training minute count.
3) Improve strength-to-weight ratio. Earlier this year I blogged about how the rehab for my broken jaw led me to do consistent core workouts. That process took me from not being able to hold a plank for more than 10 seconds to planking for over 3 minutes. I am so much stronger now but at the same time, I know that strength is something I really need to improve upon. The difference is now I know how. In addition to doing 20-min core workouts at home 4 to 5 days a week, I’m also adding visits to the weight room immediately after swimming. Fortunately, my partner E. is my super-knowledgeable personal trainer on that front, so I’m in good hands.
This week in review:
This week I signed up for a McGill gym & pool membership, added on locker & towel service and headed straight for the pool for my first swim since… Challenge Penticton in August? Yep, that long. Afterwards, my arms ached the next day, but I did actually enjoy the swim workout and am looking forward to going back.
I hit the weight room for the first time and was greeted by Patrick the delightful, energetic weightroom staff member who told me the tour started with a hug. That may sound strange, but was kind of funny-awesome and it made the experience of working in a new facility more welcoming and I felt like I could easily approach him if I had other questions afterwards. To me, that’s a big deal in spaces that can be “meathead” environments. So, thanks for the tour and for the hug, Patrick!
I assembled my Tacx trainer and got my bike set up this week. The Tuesday workout was a cadence-ramp workout, while Thursday’s was a strength-endurance climbs workout. It felt so good to be back on the bike, even indoors (I actually have no problem being on the trainer indoors and have done many 4- to 5-hour workouts before). The trainer is a brand I haven’t used before and I bought the cheapest, but best quality one I could find, as I already have two other trainers back home. I’m still working on creating more resistance though, since in both workouts this week I maxed out the gears before reaching the resistance I wanted. Fortunately, I have a few tips to try still. Here’s the only shot I have of the bike workouts:
Run: I did a 45-minute run this week to remind my legs about running. Wake up, legs! I ended up doing that indoors on the treadmill because it was wet, snowy, and slushy outside. One of the perks of the McGill fitness centre is that the treadmill limit seems to be one hour, rather than the usual 30 minutes. I really appreciated that, since I rarely do a run under 30 minutes.
Challenges: As I mentioned, I’m absolutely loving the McGill facilities. They’re not far from home and everything I need is there. However! The indoor track is currently closed because students are writing exams (I completely forgot that many exams are written in the fieldhouse, even though I’ve both written and supervised the writing of exams there); and the pool is closed for maintenance next week, which means I’ll need to find other facilities during that time. On the upside, they extended my membership to credit me for not being able to use these facilities, so all in all, things are good.
If you have any tips on learning to love swimming, please let me know in the comments!