Consistency is King: Talking Training with Chris Hine
Head Coach & Founder of Pure Performance Coaching, Chris Hine is a budding endurance sports coach oozing wisdom beyond his years. Alongside completing his Sports Science degree at Loughborough University (a world renowned Mecca for University Sports), Chris also completed his British Triathlon coaching badges whilst immersing himself within Loughborough’s Performance & AU Triathlon Squads. Chris moved into coaching full time in 2017, founded Pure Performance Coaching, and hasn’t looked back since. Now working with 20 athletes, combining professionals and age-groupers alike, Chris enjoys taking a scientific approach to his coaching methods but certainly doesn’t underestimate the importance of the soft skills and intangible work that go into being a good coach. Our conversation with Chris revolved around training philosophies and the overarching similarities that can be drawn between professional and amateur athletes.
“The main difference between my amateur and my pro athletes is the amount of time they can dedicate to training per day,” he explains when questioned about the differences between the two types of athletes he coaches, “other than that, the approach to training is pretty much identical. Pro athletes have the time for the gym, physio, massage & pre session work, whereas the amateur athlete is under far greater time pressure and these elements are tougher to implement.”
When questioned further, Chris adds that often he finds himself holding back some of the part-time athletes to ensure they can be consistent over time, “my most regular challenge is getting some athletes to do less actual training. There’s often a perceived volume or duration thought necessary, and my view is you must optimise what you can realistically sustain over a long period of time. It may seem counter intuitive, but I’ve seen many examples of athletes cutting down their total training time significantly and subsequently racing so much faster.
Diving into the details of how the different athletes train, the message remains clear and the approach to training remains consistent across the board: “We don’t see much of a difference in terms of training intensity distribution. Everyone does 80% of their sessions in the moderate effort domain, below the first lactate threshold, and the only difference is that amateur athletes might be doing certain sessions on the higher end of that moderate domain compared to the pro athletes,” he explains, “but again this relates to consistency. Because their overall load is slightly lower, they can sustain this over time, whereas the pros are under heavier training load and the easy sessions are an opportunity switch off and go very easy.”
“In order to optimise your endurance potential, you have to be in it for the long haul. I like the using the analogy of baking a cake. If you’re always icing the cake you’re going to end up with a lot of icing (the fancy bit) and not much cake (the key ingredient that you can’t see but is the most important).” The message here is clear, to be consistent and progress you need to put in the groundwork and hours of training over time to progress as an athlete. “The icing is the trendy part, everyone enjoys doing it and posting it on Instagram, but the cake part is the most important and the part you have to focus on but never really see.”
When probed further about his training principles Chris elaborates on the differences he implements athlete to athlete, “the underlying differences beyond overall training load are more athlete to athlete, and not pro to amateur or vice versa. Each of our athletes takes part in our field testing protocols in each of the three sports. This helps us define the type of intervals that each athlete needs to do in each discipline to progress.”
“Depending on the athlete’s profile and their relative strengths and weaknesses we will adjust the type of training they do and their training load to optimise their progress,” continues Chris, “and again this relates to building consistency, as each athlete has their own capacity to maintain a certain type of training and load over time.”.
Comparing two of his full time athletes, Will Cowen and Will Munday, Chris went on to explain how it’s important to adapt their training in each discipline and the type of work they do in order to maximise their progress and their ability to maintain consistency over time, “I have had to carefully manage the overall build in training load with both of them over the past couple years. The focus with Will C was to improve his run without it being detrimental to his bike and swim. In order to do this we’ve had to gradually build the load and the quality of his run sessions whilst monitoring his progress in the other disciplines at the same time so that we know when to back off and when to push on.”
“The work with Will M has been quite similar, as he transitioned into the professional side of the sport we have put a big accent on his swim. We have built his overall training load slowly over the past 18 month to prevent causing injuries. You can’t go from 10 to 25-hour weeks in one go, it must be a gradual increase over months prevent burning out and overuse injuries. I also developed a variety of dry land exercises during lockdown for Will M to try and keep him primed and ready for the return when pools open up again
Discussing his approach to coaching is where Chris comes into his own and you can truly understand the holistic approach he takes to developing his craft and coaching his athletes, “When I first started coaching I spent a lot of time with other coaches and working closely on camps with athletes of all levels,” Chris tells us, “and this is where I learnt the importance of the soft skills you need as a coach to help you get the best out of an athlete. There’s no point in having the best training principles and testing protocols if you don’t know how to implement them individually with each athlete.”
“Communication is key with my athletes to help inform their training programmes; everyone has a different approach to their training so I need to be adaptable. Some love the scientific side, the numbers and the data, whereas others need a more relaxed approach. Learning which buttons to press for each athlete and when to press them takes time and is a constant work in progress. Again this relates to consistency, as the more each athlete feels I understand them, the more likely they are to buy into the training and be consistent over time.”
When asked to elaborate on the communication he has with his athletes Chris left us with one final nugget of wisdom, “it’s important to remind them not to judge their performance on one single training session. Progress is measured block to block, month to month and season to season, not day to day. No single day is more, or less important than another day, so occasionally you need to work through the highs and the lows to see the positive outcome at the end”
To conclude the conversation, we asked Chris where he saw the future of training and coaching going in the next 5-10 years: “I anticipate sports science is going to play a bigger and bigger role. When you look at the athletes who are winning you’ve generally got a well-informed team behind that and we are seeing companies already trying to make these types of data and science services available to the masses. Technology is developing constantly and it’s likely that we will see things like running power-metres trickling down to the masses sooner or later. Regardless of this however, I think the human side of coaching is an aspect that will also develop more as coaches will try to further understand each of their athletes to tailor their training as much as possible.”