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5 Rules for Hiring an Online Coach

Hiring the right coach can make the difference between your success and failure. The difference between enjoying the process, seeing consistent results, feeling supported and engaged or feeling like you’re spinning your wheels and not really going anywhere.

With that in mind, it’s a pretty important decision!

I’ve spoken to my coaching clients and the coaches I mentor and compiled the top 5 rules to follow when it comes to hiring an online coach:

1. Hire a professional

Ask for qualifications and testimonials. Ask to speak with current clients. Hiring a coach is a significant investment of your money, and most importantly - time. Ensure you do your due diligence and so you’re investing both your time and money wisely.

The questions are potentially endless:

What did they do before coaching? Where have they worked? What environment have they coached in? What is their educational/sporting background? What type of clients do they work with most frequently? What successes have their clients had?

Surprisingly, coaching (and especially in the online world) is something of an unregulated industry - which means it’s wise to tread with care, especially when you’re relying on them for advice on nutrition, training and more.

2. How ARE THEY growing AND developing?

Is your prospective coach pushing to improve themselves? Do they invest in their progression through continuing education, mentorships, travelling for seminars and conferences? Do they treat coaching as a true profession or just as a ‘job’?

No-one would choose a Surgeon self-educated through YouTube and Instagram videos and coaching should be no different. You deserve the best when it comes to achieving the goals that are important to you.

Improving your health and performance is a multi-factorial endeavour that requires a deep understanding of various topics from biochemistry, anatomy and physiology to communication, periodisation and nutrition. Your coach should be able to discuss these topics with you in an easy-to-understand manner that makes sense.

3. Do they have real-world COACHING experience?

Being a cheerleader, and being a coach - are two very different things. Shouting instructions and high-fiving people after a group ‘WOD’ does not constitute coaching and has little carryover into the realm of online coaching outside of the use of ‘high-five’ emojis.

I firmly believe it’s a pre-requisite for any online coach to be a competent in-person coach for years FIRST, and it’s also important for that coach to continue some aspect of in-person coaching to retain their ‘coaches-eye’ and in-person skillset.

While coaching clients online and in person do have differing demands, having done both over the past 9 years I can say with a degree of confidence that while coaching online is different, I continue to draw strongly from in-person coaching experience.

Methods of assessment, constraints, movement variations, cues and exercise selections are all different when used remotely, it takes time and experience to find what works and what doesn’t work in a remote setting - has your prospective coach been working remotely for the years it takes to develop and refine this?

4. Are you one of 15 or one of 150?

Online coaching is often promoted to aspiring coaches and trainers as a means to ’scale’ their business and live the #laptoplifestyle. While it is indeed possible to manage a high (70+) client load (I’ve been there….never again!) it’s also a recipe for coach burnout. Being coached by a large organisation can leave you frustrated by a lack of communication, flexibility and support and the feeling of being just one among many.

Communication is a massive factor in online coaching and needs to be seen as a major piece of the puzzle. Are you able to speak with your coach on a weekly basis? Do they make themselves available to answer your questions, offer feedback and support? As client load increases, typically communication and availability of the coach will decrease so this needs to be a consideration when it comes to hiring someone.

Your prospective coach should take the time to deeply understand your motivations and goals so they can better help guide you towards them, being invested in, and caring about your success.

5. DO THEY LOOK AT (AND UNDERSTAND) THE WHOLE PICTURE?

Online coaching should provide you with a ‘one-stop-shop’ to achieve your fitness and performance goals. Your coach should have the ability to help you with nutrition, improving your sleep, assessing your movement, optimising your breathing, balancing demands of work/family/life AND communicating that with you in a jargon-free easy to understand manner.

If you have to work with one person on your nutrition, another on your mobility, another on your programming and another on mindset, that’s a someone disjointed approach that’s unlikely to lead to your long-term success. You are an integrated, complex organism and everything affects everything else, so it’s key to have one trusted advisor who can look at the whole picture and move you systematically towards your fitness and performance goals.

CONCLUSION

Hopefully this short list has given you some food for thought when you hire an online fitness coach. As I mentioned early, the world of online fitness coaching is currently unregulated and something of a ‘Wild-West’, ensure you take your time, shop around, ask questions, speak to people and make an informed choice before committing.

5 BJJ Strength Training Mistakes

A factor I often see when people start BJJ is the desire to start some kind of strength training or strength and conditioning regime alongside to complement and support their training, in the hope it aid their success on the mats.

Unfortunately what often happens is the BJJ player makes one of, or a combination of the mistakes below which ultimately damages their performance:

#1 - FOLLOWING TEMPLATED TRAINING PROGRAMS

“Simply mimicking the training plans of elite athletes will not result in high levels of performance” - Bompa & Haff

Simply put, what made those athletes ‘elite’ in the first place, is unlikely to be the same thing that they are currently doing in their training. It’s also important to consider the lifestyle and factors outside of the gym of these elite-level athletes, they will often have little else to do other than train, and recover, like an athlete.

“Training like an athlete and recovering like an amateur is a fast-track to burnout, injury and unfulfilled potential”

Just as when you progress through the ranks of BJJ your training focus changes, the same is true of strength training, as you get more exposure and competence the stimulus needs to change to ensure continued progression. An athlete-centric approach is necessary that factors in:

  • anthropometrics (limb-length, infrasternal angle, Q-angle and more…)

  • training experience and background

  • the results of a movement assessment

  • chronological age

  • past/current injuries

  • demands of the sport

  • training schedule/availability

  • the type of game you play (guard-based vs top pressure etc)

  • what you enjoy doing - the most important factor in any training program is consistency….it helps when you’re enjoying the process!

  • and more…

You are a unique snowflake and need to take into account factors outside of training (see the next mistake!)

#2 - NOT TAKING INTO ACCOUNT FACTORS OUTSIDE OF TRAINING

Allostatic load is the term used to describe the total amount of external and internal stressors on an organism. It includes everything from work stresses, financial worries, relationships, injuries, training, nutrition, sleep etc. Many of these factors can either contribute in a positive or a negative way.

“Allostatic load is defined as the cost of chronic exposure to elevated or fluctuating endocrine or neural responses resulting from chronic or repeated challenges that the individual experiences as stressful.”

A simple way to think about it is the stress bucket analogy. We all have an inherent ability to handle and tolerate stress, this can be increased or decreased based on our perception, environment and other factors. Training is a stressor, so it’s important we take steps to mitigate negative stressors and ensure that you’re able to favourably adapt to them.

All too often BJJ players first reach for a supplement or the latest gimmicky recovery protocol - without having the basics dialled in FIRST. It’s the equivalent of a day-one white-belt wanting to learn berimbolos without any understanding of how to tie a belt or shrimp. You need to earn the right to progress to the fancy stuff through excellence and consistency in the basics.

“Your training on the mats, in the gym, nutrition, sleep, recovery should ALL work together to move you towards your goals in a synergistic manner”

#3 - Emulating training from another sport (powerlifting, bodybuilding, CrossFit etc)

The demands of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu are unique to that of any other sport, including those that are seemingly similar such as Judo. We need to understand that improving strength and performance in a specific endeavour - requires a specific approach.

If you’re training to improve at BJJ - that program needs to be SPECIFIC to the needs of that BJJ athlete and even a layer deeper - specific to YOU.

It’s commonplace when I consult with BJJ players and teams that are supplementing their training with powerlifting-based programs like Stronglifts 5x5, Wendler 5-3-1 or bodybuilding-style training, that they are picking up more injuries, plateauing in their strength and struggling to see progress where it matters to them most - on the mats.

While there is some carryover from this non-specific training, it’s also going to have significant limitations in carryover to performance on the mats. Whilst training to increase ‘strength’ may seem relatively simple, there are multiple characteristics of strength which exist on a continuum of varying velocities, muscular and neural demands - these characteristics need to be developed appropriately to ensure longevity of the athlete.

A heavyweight no-gi player with a dominant leg-lock game vs a lightweight female go player with a guard based game - different needs and training demands - to try and give them the same training is equivalent of forcing a round peg into a square hole.

#4 - INAPPROPRIATEly MANAGAING TRAINING VOLUME AND INTENSITY

It’s common knowledge that maxing out your 1RM deadlift everyday likely isn’t a great idea to increase strength for a number of reasons. However, when it comes to regulating training intensity and volume on the mats, it can be a little tougher to do, especially at lower levels of technical ability. Not every day needs to be a Level 10 death battle - this will almost always lead to injury, plateau and burnout as your resilience dwindles.

A simple model to use can be to break down your training on the mats to High/Low/Moderate sessions and do the same with your time in the gym. For many however, this High/Low/Moderate method can be tough to find, people often end up working in a ‘grey’ zone in the middle where it’s kind-of tough all the time but not hard enough to provoke adaptation or easy enough to facilitate recovery.

In this case, I’d suggest a highly polarised training approach of High / Low days, having this extreme difference is great to allow for better recovery and allows the athlete to find intuitively where their MRV (maximum recoverable volume) sits. In this example, you might train BJJ 3-4 times per week, and train in the gym 3x per week.

Monday - BJJ + S&C
Tuesday - Rest/Regeneration
Wednesday BJJ + S&C
Thursday - Rest/Regeneration
Friday - BJJ & S&C
Saturday - BJJ Only
Sunday - Rest/Regeneration

In the example above, we’re able to push the highs ‘higher’ and the lows lower to better facilitate adaptation. Please keep in mind that this is an example this doesn’t meant that it’s appropriate specifically fo you!

Another huge consideration for BJJ athletes is that of using autoregulatory training methods:

“Autoregulation means making some of the decisions about your training *during* your workout, instead of having every detail planned beforehand. In other words, you have more immediate control over the variables in your workout than with most programs.”

Essentially, %-based training, or linear progressions, whilst they have their place in many circumstances are likely not appropriate for the BJJ athlete. We want to better consolidate the stressors from training (on and off the mats), lifestyle and more, by allowing flexibility in training it allows you to push on days you feel good, and back off on days you don’t.

The two most common methods of auto regulation are RPE (rate of perceived exertion) and RIR (reps in reserve), both allow a degree of flexibility in the way training is executed.

Example:
Safety Bar Back Squat @31X1; 6 reps @ RIR3 x 4 sets; rest 2:30
Safety Bar Back Squat @31X1; 6 reps @ RPE7 x 4 sets; rest 2:30
[Exercise Name][@tempo];[number of reps][level of exertion] x [number of sets]; [rest between sets]

*these both equate to the same prescription, just written slightly differently, the idea is that the athlete performs the squat with 3 reps left in the tank before they hit failure

#5 TRAINING WITH NO ASSESSMENT

Something I come across frequently with the BJJ athletes I coach is they have been performing many movements and exercises that just aren’t appropriate based on their movement ability. To be successful in BJJ it requires various compensations and changes to the way we move, to allow you to get into the positions required by the sport. While these positions are optimal for the sport, it doesn’t mean they are optimal for deadlifting for example.

Having someone assess your movement competency, injury history, style of game and more is vital to the success of any training program.

In addition to looking at movement, testing proficiency in various strength qualities, energy systems testing and more all comes together to build a complete training program for the dedicated athlete who wants to achieve their full potential on the mats.

If you’re not assessing - you’re guessing!

CONCLUSION

Hopefully this list has given you some ideas and things to think about in structuring your training off the mats, to allow you to get better ON the mats! If you’re serious about levelling up your strength and performance to specifically increase your ability to dominate on the mats, hit the link below to learn more about working 1:1 with me through Online Performance Coaching where we handle all of the above factors (and much more!) for you, so you can focus on enjoying your training.

Athlete-Centric Program Design

In today’s age of the quick fix, everyone seems to be searching for that magic bullet or “one weird trick” that will get them to the next level of performance.

The truth is - there are no shortcuts.

I’m a firm believer in the need for an individual and integrated approach to training (so much so I named my company ‘Integrated Performance’!). I liken this approach to that of a sniper rifle, much more accurate and precise to specific areas that you want to improve or focus on - rather than the ‘throw-shit-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks’ model heavily relied upon by group fitness classes, generic fitness blogs and training templates.

WHAT IS ATHLETE-CENTRIC PROGRAM DESIGN?

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In simple terms it means that the athlete’s training is determined specifically by their individual response and preferences to both training and nutrition.

This goes far beyond just looking at the weights you lift (although that does play a role). We monitor both objective, and subjective feedback mechanisms, sleep, appetite, HRV, blood pressure, waking heart rate, energy levels, blood glucose and more.

For example when I’m coaching a client I have an idea of where I see them developing over time, I liken this to a dark tunnel where I’m holding a torch. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel (the end goal) and I can see immediately in front of me by the torchlight (the next few weeks of training) but I don’t know what’s going to happen from where we are now to the end of the tunnel.

Coaches who plan out months and months of fixed training sessions in advance probably haven’t worked with a real person. Humans are complex, dynamic organisms and factors ALWAYS change, they might pick up an illness, injury, travel, miss some sessions and what happens to your progression, or volume measurements?

This is where blog-based programming, generic programs and templates all fall down. They simply cannot account for the nuances of the individual people that follow them, and likewise don’t factor in the huge myriad of individual components that could mean the difference between success and failure, between stimulating adaptation or maladaptation (something I’ll be covering in a article shortly).

I approach athlete-centric program design as a three-phase process:

PHASE ONE: ASSESSMENT & ANALYSIS

This is about getting to know the individual, discovering their priorities, goals, and more about them as person. It’s also during this phase when I’ll gather information on their biological age, training age, lifestyle, environment, breathing, nutrition, stress levels, sleep, recovery habits, hydration, training background, injury history, movement and postural analysis and much more.

“Designing a training program without this information is the equivalent of a doctor prescribing a drug without having ever assessed or diagnosed the patient.”

Both the doctor and the coach are looking to push the body to adapt in some way, whether to improve performance or support the immune system to fight off an infection. In order to provide the correct stimulus to create the adaptation, we need to know the starting point AND the other variables that feed into adaptation.

Based upon the information above, and an initial consultation with a client I’ll then design a testing phase that will last anywhere from a week to 3 months to identify where they currently sit in terms of:

PHASE TWO: REVIEW & REFLECT

After the initial testing phase the coach and athlete meet up and spend some time discussing the results of the testing phase, what the results mean and how they will influence their future program design and nutrition. It’s important that the athlete understands the reasons why their training is structured a certain way in order to empower, educate and motivate them.

It’s also an opportunity to start to make small, sustainable changes in lifestyle, nutrition and other habits to help support recovery from, and adaptation to training.

PHASE THREE: IMPLEMENT CHANGES

“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth” – Mike Tyson

Iron Mike’s words of wisdom ring true here. Having a plan is key, but remaining flexible and fluid to be able to adapt that plan to the individual needs of the athlete is even more important. I often see athletes who want to improve their squat decide to complete a cycle of Smolov (a notoriously difficult 13-week squat program), where in many cases their focus should be on correcting asymmetries or improving the technical aspects of their squat, rather than adding more and more weight onto a suboptimal movement pattern.

It might also be the case that an athlete doesn’t respond as favourably to a certain movement, rep range or tempo and adjustments need to be made.

This model and process is cyclical in nature – it’s an ongoing continuum of feedback, analysis and adjustments throughout each training cycle. Everyone will respond differently to a given training stimulus (it’s true, you ARE a unique and special snowflake!).

CONCLUSION

If you’re serious about your performance then you need be 100% certain of your starting point, your path and the steps to get you from where you are now, to where you want to be. Getting clarity and focus on this will set you on the right track to achieving your goals.

KNOW YOUR OUTCOME

You cannot achieve something as significant as improving your health or athletic performance by accident. Nobody ends up on a podium by chance because their daily group ‘WOD’ had prepared them OPTIMALLY to compete in their sport.

Take some time, write down 3 things you want to achieve in the next 90 days, then 3 things you want to achieve in the next 12 months.

Are you taking CONSISTENT DAILY ACTION towards achieving these goals?

If not – why not?

BE GOALS FOCUSED & PROCESS orIENTED

Now when I say goals focused, I don’t mean to have tunnel-vision at the expense of other areas of your life. If training and achieving peak performance is of high value to you, then you need to prioritise it. Have a plan to achieve your goals – and execute it! Focus on the steps you need to take and the consistent daily action and behaviours that will lead you there.

BE DATA-DRIVEN

Knowing your numbers, how they relate to your performance, your strong and weak points. How to address these within a daily/weekly/monthly/yearly plan to make progress and move forward as an athlete. You cannot improve what you don’t measure – keep a detailed training log and use it to track your performance AND inform your program design.

Want us to guide you through this process? Click here to arrange a call with our head coach where we’ll dig into your background and goals, and give you clarity and focus on how you can start heading in the right direction.



Breathe Your Way To Better WOD Performance - Part 1

Undoubtedly, one of the best ways to instantly improve your WOD performance is to address the most important aspect of performance – breathing. 

“Learning to breathe correctly is key to unlocking higher levels of performance no matter your sport”

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The majority of athletes I work with through Online Performance Coaching come to me with some general concepts of breathing. I often find these concepts are used in an inappropriate way or at suboptimal times during workouts. Amongst competitive athletes, breathing is something that’s rarely, if ever, practised and considering the huge gains in performance it can unlock it’s something that needs to be addressed.

In part 1 of this series I won’t be digging too much into the mechanics of respiration and what role they play in optimising performance. This is something I’ll be discussing in later editions, as well as considerations for exercise selection and movement prep.

BREATHING FAULT – HOLDING YOUR BREATH DURING WORKOUTS

The use of Intraabdominal pressure (IAP) to brace during heavy lifts using the Valsalva manoeuvre (VM) is widely known and used amongst CF athletes. The VM is the process of taking a big breath and holding it throughout most, if not all, of a heavy lift. Whilst this method of bracing through breathing is very important to lifting near maximal weights, it is counter-productive to achieving optimal performance in many training CF workouts (more on this later…). One example of an exception to this would e if your workout had a load that was a very high percentage of your 1RM, such as a snatch/clean ladder.

Using the Valsalva manoeuvre to create IAP during a workout will cause your blood pressure to rise, bump up your heart rate, driving occlusion and reducing venous return (the rate at which blood flows back to the heart). All of which are things you should be trying to avoid when seeking to optimise your performance. Now we’ve addressed that it’s not a great idea to hold your breath during workouts (duh!), it’s also very important to time your breathing correctly so that you exhale at the point of maximal tension on each movement. The majority of athletes don’t exhale at this point because of what they’ve repeatedly practised when lifting during training.

As an example, when you’re performing a heavy clean, it’s important to hold your breath and keep tight and braced in the catch position when you are about to stand it up. But that’s not the case when you’re lifting a submaximal weight and are instead looking to perform high reps, especially if combined with other movements as part of a workout. Your goal now is to reduce your blood pressure, and your heart rate, in the catch position is where you need to exhale, not be holding your breath. 

The method of breathing and bracing to lift a heavy weight and breathing to maximise our ability to get oxygen to our muscles are not only different but totally opposed. When performing a workout, you will typically do better by purposely exhaling where it would be LEAST appropriate during a maximal lift.

Nancy
5 Rounds for time:
Run 400m
15 OHS – 95/65#

In this example I see many athletes holding their breath during the overhead squats, increasing their blood pressure, heart rate and making it tougher to recover from the 400m repeats. Unless the weight of Nancy is a high percentage of your 1RM, you should attempt to breath consistent through the overhead squats.

Try experimenting with your breathing during these movements using the suggestions below:

  • Clean: exhale as you receive the bar

  • Wall Ball: exhale as you receive the ball and again as you throw the ball

  • Kettlebell Swing: exhale as the bell swings between your legs

  • Burpee: exhale as your chest touches the floor

  • Push Press: exhale as you receive the bar on your shoulders

  • GHD Situp: exhale as you are fully extended and reaching for the floor


HOW TO TRAIN THIS TO IMPROVE YOUR WOD PERFORMANCE:

#1 - EMOM (Every minute on the minute) Work
The most effective method I’ve found to develop this breathing pattern is by training it during ‘on the minute’ work. This is where you so a set of a particular movement at the start of each minute, resting for the remainder of the minute. To get started, perform 4-5 reps at a light weight of a movement on which you’d like to focus. These reps need to be light at first because we want to ensure you’re breathing correctly on each rep. Chance are, it will feel strange at first because it’s almost the opposite of your typical breathing habits. Once you feel comfortable, you can add some weight.

Our goal over time is to be able to lift heavier weights and/or do more reps whilst maintaining this breathing pattern.

Example 1:
EMOM for 10minutes
4 TnG Cleans @ 45%

Example 2:
EMOM for 12 minutes
3 TnG Snatches @ 45,55,65% (wave loading)

 

#2 – Sub Maximal Interval Training
Another way to train these breathing patterns is to practise them while completing submaximal interval training. This is performing a block of work at a moderate (normally around 70-85%) intensity, taking some rest, and then continuing with more intervals at a moderate intensity. Just like with the ‘EMOM’, you should keep the movement(s) at 3-5 reps with a relatively light load at first. As you get more comfortable with this pattern of breathing, you can begin to progress to heavier loads and increased repetitions to increase the difficulty.

8min @ 85% Aerobic Effort
Run 250m
5 Power Snatch @ 45% 1RM
5 Burpees
+
Rest 4min
+
8min @ 85% Aerobic Effort
Row 250m
5 Thrusters @ 95lb
5 Toes to Bar 

READY FOR THE NEXT LEVEL?

Breathing efficiency is the key to unlocking huge gains in performance and is something I address in my seminars and with online performance coaching clients. If you’re a competitive athlete, you can’t afford to ignore the increases in performance that optimising your breathing can bring.

If you’re an indivdiual who is trainig for performance, click here to learn more about Online Performance Coaching with me, if you’re a coach looking to learn more about the above methods to enable you to incorporate them with your clients, check out my coach mentorship program

Regeneration Work For Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Regeneration Work For Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

There's mounting evidence that indicates easy/moderate ‘active’ recovery work and low intensity. If you want to get improve skill acquisition concurrently with increases in strength, power AND endurance the simple answer is to train more, just not ALWAYS with intensity and to ensure that you recover sufficiently. These lower intensity aerobic base focused workouts will allow you to do exactly that.