Online Coaching: NOT just a training plan to follow

By Phil Murphy

You know the kind of posts you read on social media these days. “I am looking for a coach, does anyone on this group have a recommendation”…… Sensible way to start looking you might think. Then you read the answers.

  • “Why pay for it, 220 magazine do plans you can download for free”
  • “I am following the Don Fink Plan
  • “Downloaded a 12 week training plan from training peaks”

Now these may be ways of getting some structure in to your training, but they are nothing to do with being coached! And tend to be followed with very limited understanding of the process behind the plan.

I am writing this as I have just come from a meeting with a new athlete who looked a little perplexed when I told him that writing his training plan was the easy bit of the coaching process for us. I think he was expecting our meeting would result in me telling him about all of the magical training sessions that we keep a big secret at Total Tri Training that would turn him in to the next Lionel Sanders. Yes, we have some clever ways do deliver results through structured training sessions for all kinds of athletes with all kinds of backgrounds, training restrictions, strengths and weaknesses but all of this is surely just a given when taking on board an experienced coach.

As the meeting progresses it turns out that the athlete in question has become quite good off a regime of just getting out and doing as much training as he can cram around his busy job. We go on to really break down his week in to when he needs to work, what time he gets up and to bed, what are his family commitments at the weekend and realise that he is seriously time crunched (8-9 hours a week maximum) and is not maximising the week by using his training time wisely to allow for the best rest and recovery.

From there we decide the weekend is very important with the other half so we will avoid the prospect of rocking that boat, and put any endurance workouts in the week as he has some time available then. He has 3 very busy days in work each week so limited training on these days or treating them as recovery/commuting days with some structure might be the best approach – what he needs is time optimisation – but factoring in a structure of swim/bike/run/strength that allows for functional over-reaching and then optimal recovery.

Building a plan around people lives is the only real way to succeed. Sometimes this has to be left flexible to make it work in reality because as I mention strength and conditioning and I can see his face drop. He must be thinking “how am I going to fit that in”. So we adapt again. He gets a lunch break most days but it is not long enough to train for 45-60 mins. Perfect, 10-15 mins of strength work with a plan that he does not need a gym for. Some mobility, balance and a few key exercises 2-3 times a week is a million times more effective than no gym work. I give him the sessions, he does them which ever days suit with a few caveats to not affect his key workouts.

You can see where I am going here. Building his plan is now a lot easier understanding the time constraints and other life factors.

Another thing we spend a lot of time doing with athletes is race planning. I guarantee all of our athletes will tell you that their best performances come from setting a plan for race day and executing it perfectly. This might be nutrition based, power or pace based, effort based or even equipment choices depending on the event. Sometimes this is to see the effect of a certain block of training on one discipline, sometimes it might be to provide a confidence boost in a previously weak area, but it is always thought of as part of the path to that ultimate performance further down the line.

Last year we started offering a lower priced non 1-2-1 offering as an intro to guided training under the eye of two of our coaches, but even this comes with a bi-weekly live Video call for all the athletes to get interactive and as their respective questions of the coaches. The “Team” athletes also have access to us by e-mail for things like race planning and tips and advice and it has been amazing how much success these athletes have had in their racing with what has turned in to so much more than just a training plan. The biggest thing we have found here is that we can deliver a lot of advice to a lot of athletes that applies to all of them. It is amazing the knowledge we have gained from years in the sports racing right at the limits, from tyre choices and pressures, to nutrition set up on the bike, using special needs stations, to wetsuit fitting, racing in the heat, sweat rates and the list goes on……………

And then of course there is feedback. This is the backbone of our daily communication with athletes and something we insist is used on as many sessions as possible including recovery sessions as it helps keep us right up to the minute with what is happening. Of course, we are an online coaching company, but this still does not mean we can not watch our athletes train. These days uploading videos of treadmill sessions, pool sessions, bike position etc is so easy and can be fed back instantly – some of these videos provide those lightbulb moments when the coach can pick up on big mistakes. Your downloadable training plan will not do that for you!

Of course, coaching someone face to face is the very best way to do this and for this reason we always invite all athletes on training camps as a great chance to train with the team. For us as coaches, this is the best chance of the year to “watch people move” – View our camps page.

What our 1-2-1 Coached athletes get – Coaching plans shown here
• Unlimited access to a coach via chosen method of communication but always including phone/skype calls
• Daily feedback on sessions responded to within 24 hours
• Video feedback for technique perspective
• Access to our other assets:
Nutritionist Craig Bunnell – Contact Craig here
Our Bike Fitting team at Total Bike Fit in Chester – Bike Fitting
Our Amazing Physio Leigh Halfteck – Chiro and Physio Clinic
Peer Overson at the Sports Hub in Chester – Sports Therapy

Swim Coaching Analysis from Gavin Rogers – Swim Analysis
Open Water Swimming – Total Swim Training
Triathlon specific bike maintance with local collection – Bike Servicing

For any enquiries on coaching or any of our services you can contact us through the website –

Phil Murphy is part of the Total Tri Training Coaching Team which has so far in this year qualified numerous athletes for 2018 70.3 Ironman World Champs, ETU Champs, World AG sprint and Olympic distance and Kona.

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