World Triathlon Coaching and Training Guidelines for the COVID-19 pandemic period
4. Coaching implications of the COVID-19 period
4.1. Re-planning, periodisation considerations, adjusting the training load
Planning is one important aspect of coaching. Coaches solve problems by setting goals, break them down into sub-goals, then figure out a way of achieving these. Their plan is a roadmap that has been drawn based on many factors: the profile of the athlete, the resources available, the targeted events, and so on. If any of these factors change, coaches must adjust the map.
In other words: re-planning (or adjusting to changes) is also an integral part of a coach’s everyday job. What we are facing these days is an unforeseen and rapid change of some of the basic factors we took for granted until now. Events are being cancelled or postponed, facilities are not accessible anymore, public gatherings are limited and, in many locations, a full lock-down is already in place.
Still coaches must guide their athletes, who rely on their advice - in many cases not necessarily only regarding sports.
The main priority now for everybody should be personal health and the health of loved ones and close relatives, of whom we are all responsible for.
As of now, sports performances are of secondary importance to everybody, even those who are aiming for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
Training for high performance competition is a regular stress that periodically brings down the levels of the athletes’ immune system. This is something that coaches have responsibility in avoiding when making suggestions on physical activity, but athletes also play a vital role in obeying these suggestions. During the coming weeks and months training sessions will have altered functions than normal.
Most importantly, training shall temporarily serve general wellbeing and the maintenance of the immune system, not performance enhancement.
With this clear new focus, coaches must look at their annual plans and redraw the roadmaps for their athletes. The first iteration of this adjusted plan should be going back to health maintenance, base- and skill work then later as the situation hopefully resolves, introduce progressions again. As it is difficult to predict how long restrictions will apply or when can we go back to our normal schedules, being conservative might be a wise choice.
We need to bear in mind to allow a minimum of 4-6 weeks of adaptation to athletes once they will be able to resume normal training before taking up any racing again. The approach to this should be progressive and not aiming for top performance too early!