I’ve long dreamed of making contributions to sport by leveraging technology to deliver innovations in training intelligence. It’s always been about a simple question:

What training should I do today?

To more formally begin this journey, the first step was to gain a high level of clarity as to the big rock training principles. Fortunately, my path crossed with the great Martin Buchheit, and the HIIT Science book we co-wrote now constitutes the foundations of the Athletica platform we are building. For this post, I want to walk you through each of the key HIIT Science principles we leverage in Athletica, and how we believe it can help you be a better coach and/or athlete. So in this post, my aim is to convince you why it could be in your best interest to — if not now, certainly in the future.

1. Context before content

Most high performance programs have the mission of being performance-driven, athlete-focused and coach-lead. They recognise that human coach involvement is critical to a successful operation. As Martin has always hammered into us from the beginning, content is king, but context is God. The coach (and/or athlete) knows the context. Machines are nowhere ready to know the infinite number of contextual situations that appear in front of us — slippery ground surfaces, social factors, illness or injury, etc. Therefore, the importance of the coach to help guide decision-making using their experience and wisdom for situations they encounter on the fly cannot be understated.

  2. Structure and framework first

As we learned in our first 20 episodes of the Training Science Podcast, experts across varying disciplines agree – a system, structure or framework comes first. We need a foundation before fancy sessions. In this regard, Athletica leverages the expert systematized plans illustrated in the HIIT Science book and course as the theoretical framework for any given sport. Where appropriate, that includes test, base, build, taper and recovery blocks. Currently, this is available for the sports of running, cycling and triathlon, and any number of contextual combinations for A, B and C races up to 7 months in the future. More sports to be added as we build out.

  3. Advanced physiological profiling

As we’ve written previously, Athletica derives an individual’s performance-duration profile simply through the act of training. Go through your training plan as prescribed, and unobtrusive invisible monitoring naturally occurs. In this way, you and your coach can assess your individual strengths and weaknesses and monitor your progress and training adaptations. Athletica uses this profiling information to individualize your training sessions and to anchor your training zones against your physiological thresholds (e.g. critical power and speed).

4. Getting the load (stress) just right isn’t easy, but we try to

Chapter 8 of HIIT Science explores the concept of the training load (or stress), and how we can quantify it. While the method developed first by Banister in the 1970’s isn’t perfect, it has stood the test of time and continues to be used across most sports in some form or another. At the very least, it provides us with guidance on some fundamental concepts of training science: progressive overload and supercompensation. We want an exercise load that’s progressively greater than what we’ve done in the past — but do too much too soon and we break. I like the analogy of the Luge track. Take your starting point (you as an individual in terms of ability and fitness) and the end point (race demands and race date) and Athletica ultimately forms a safe and optimal Luge track to bring you to the bottom of the track (your race) in top form. Of course, the plan never goes perfect (what plan ever does?), and herein is the advantage of our dynamic plans. When life gets in the way, Athletica starts ‘rerouting’, like a Sat-Nav, and the load is adjusted accordingly.

5. Adjustments to load response (fine tuning your plan)

One of Martin’s biggest pet peeves within our industry lies in the lack of understanding of the difference between the load and the load response. The load is the direct stress of the exercise. The load response is how the body responds to that stress. Of course, everyone is different here, so we need tools that can distinguish between the two. There are many to choose from. However, the key ones we have started with for version 1 of Athletica include the internal to external load ratio via the measurement of your rating of perceived exertion (RPE), the session feel, and your subjective comments (via semantic analysis). By comparing your individual response to the load, Athletica slowly learns and optimizes the future load prescription.

6. Training drill library with HIIT Types and format variety – coming soon!

This feature has been a dream since day 1 of HIIT Science. Clearly Martin’s key figure is brilliant, but how complex is it for the majority of us? How cool would it be to confidently know we were getting an appropriate dose of aerobic, anaerobic or neuromuscular load for any given training session? Personally, as a coach, I’ve struggled with providing this accurately for my athletes in the past, and it’s this pain that’s helped push our team to develop this. And that’s what’s next in the works for us. There will be multiple iterations of this feature, but to begin we will start by giving the user several different formats for any given session’s HIIT Type. Need a certain aerobic, anaerobic or neuromuscular load? As shown above, you can take your pick. Importantly, as athletes or coaches, we know that we’re going to be in the ballpark in terms of the loading for the individual, and that means more precision, and less risk of illness and injury from the prescription.  

7. Athletica’s Coach Version

As of writing, this feature is brand new. Just coming out of the beta phase with thanks to many coach testers from around the world. It isn’t perfect yet, but still impressive. Personally speaking, I’m now only using the Athletica platform for coaching my athletes, and I enjoy some key benefits Athletica brings me as an assistant coach. Athletica helps me by:
  1. Saving time (builds an expert plan for my athletes of nearly all ability out to 7 months in the future — all I need to do is refine the plan to their context)
  2. Automates my athletes’ individual training zone profile — as they get fitter, their zones are lifted appropriately.
  3. Automates load adjustment recommendations for any given day or session (see above)
  4. Training drill library (coming soon!) – near infinite session variety with the same loading.
  5. Facilitating communication (see my pending conversations below). This way, together, we appreciate the context and adjust the plan accordingly.
Combined – you, as a coach, can deliver an improved product (session accuracy) in less time. You better answer the athlete’s question – what training do I do today, coach? You get more time back in your life for talking to your athletes, or for the things that require human interaction.   Summary In summary, we’ve worked hard over many years to produce a framework and backend we are proud of. We’ve taken the big rock items learnt from our years as athletes, coaches and sport scientists, coupled those alongside an appreciation for the day-to-day interactions of importance, and packaged them all into the Athletica platform. Please drop in for a free trial to check it out, and let us know what you think!

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