Problem with… Online & Spreadsheet Coaching

Online/spreadsheet coaching is uni-dimensional coaching, attempting to train athletes who live a multi-dimensional existence.

Take the typical week of an age group/masters athlete; it will probably look something like this from an energy-fatigue perspective:


  1. Middle of the night (Sunday-Monday) child up coughing, with a fever, and you spend the night up with them… make it to work on Monday but are drained, done.
  2. Monday night you’re exhausted, you made it through the day just to collapse into bed.
  3. Tuesday and Wednesday you start to recover, work doesn’t throw any curveballs.
  4. Thursday you start to feel normal, but a project is assigned to you, which is in addition to your regular workload and the stress takes its toll.
  5. Friday you manage to hold all things together, but there is a social event in the evening that takes a bite out of you, and its not til after all your errands are done Saturday morning that you start to feel on the rebound.

As an age group athlete, managing a career, a profession, a business, perhaps responsible for a team or a number of staff, with a busy home life, with kids, who come with their own after school activities, and maybe having to provide care to aging parents, and you already have a 60hr training week before you jump into the pool, step onto bike, our out on the road for a run.

How does an online/spreadsheet coach take into consideration, you, your life, on a day to day basis, and modify your training so that it is optimal for you workout to workout?  Exactly, they cannot.

The problem with online/spreadsheet coaching, is that the coach is unable to take into any consideration your life, your energy level, your level of health, yet they demand that specific targets, whether its power, split times, or intensity levels are met as if you are a machine that can cough up workouts without effort, nor consequence. These coaches claim that they can take these issues into consideration by looking at your ‘data’, but without seeing an athlete, feeling their energy, watching them train, I have no idea how that is possible.  I have to be with my athletes – in person – to know whats going on with them, I have no idea how anyone can do that online.

If that hypothetical week of an age group athlete repeated one exact workout on Mon, Wed, Fri and Sun, I guarantee you that they would not be able to hit the ‘objective’ levels set out for them with consistent effort, consistent technique, consistent RPE.  Yet online/spreadsheet coaches measure progress dependent on these ‘objective’ data points, but if these data points are anything but reliable or valid, then what use are they? What value is coaching that depends on meaningless data?  It isn’t; its worthless.

An athlete grinding out huge wattage but doing so with inefficient and ineffective technique renders power data meaningless.  Who cares if you can pound out power if its performed with horrible technique?  Horrible technique is a dead end that will cause at a point the athlete to hit a wall beyond which they will be unable to pass despite trying harder and harder.

What matters with power data, is how the power was generated.  Was it efficient? Was the technique exquisite? What were the impediments in form, posture, in the pedal stroke, the swim stroke, the stride that prevented greater power?

If your coach answers that question stating that form, posture, and technique are irrelevant, its just a matter of grinding, mashing, pounding out more power… please change your coach before you end up injured, burnt out, blown up, or simply disgusted with the sport.

What matters is technique, because it is optimal technique which generates optimal power.

The top athletes in the world, Olympians and World Champions train to be able to deliver a peak performance at given moment, on a given day, at a specific competition, and they have difficulty, even failing at times to pull it together and deliver their potential in the moment of competition, and they devote their lives to training and competing. Yet age group athletes are told by coaches that the power meter data they obtain is an unequivocal representation of their training, their potential, their progress?

What crap.

If you take your training seriously, then stop with the online/spreadsheet coaching.

If you take your health and well being seriously, then stop with the online/spreadsheet coaching.

Online/spreadsheets are tools… on their own they do not comprise ‘coaching’ because coaching involves the teaching and the learning of sport specific technique, skills, and abilities. There is no way that this can be online/via spreadsheet, therefore there is no way that you can be getting all the coaching you need to achieve your potential online/via spreadsheet.

If you are worth the investment you made into equipment, then you are worth the investment of one on one sport specific technique coaching.  Coaching where your day to day energy and health level is taken into consideration, where your technique is observed day in day out, where the coach comes to know you and how you perform when energized, when fatigued, when training, when competing.

If you want to make progress, consistent meaningful progress that you can feel, then find a coach who knows how to do more than copy, paste, and press send.