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Today’s coaching apps cover nearly every aspect of an athlete’s journey from novice beginner to elite champion. Apps exist to track and monitor nutrition, sleep, and workouts, and the years of data collected by these apps have allowed the technology to improve steadily. Today, they can adjust training plans or fitness programs automatically to match a person’s endurance progression — or regression — as they work out. Many of the most popular training apps can automatically adjust workout intensities to reflect an improved fitness in terms of functional threshold heart rate and watts data (if on a bicycle with a power meter).
Sounds great, right? It is, but these apps still rely on the endurance athlete to follow the plan. Real life has a way of fouling those plans. When these complications arise, a coaching app, especially an AI-powered app like Humango, can step in and keep that athlete on track to nail their fitness goal.
It’s easy enough to sign up for a marathon, endurance gravel ride, or triathlon and grab a free training plan off the web. A goal race or event is the first step. To get to that start line will take more than a well-trained body. A person will need to demonstrate the following soft traits: Resilience, consistency, organization, drive, and focus.
Successful endurance athletes are born with all of them or develop them over time and practice. An endurance coach can guide an athlete’s development of these traits. In fact, the ability to manage and manipulate these mental aspects of endurance sports is what separates decent coaches from great coaches.
AI-powered coaching apps can and do help athletes develop the soft traits mentioned above. Take resilience; AI can parse the data to see how a poor night’s sleep or 24-hour flu negatively affected the day’s performance and adjust the next day’s workout — or the next several — to be easier so that an athlete can recover adequately before starting again. That’s resilience.
This adjustment leads to the next trait, consistency. AI will adjust a training program to help an athlete stick to their schedule instead of burning out and quitting. Next, an athlete must be organized to stay consistent. AI’s ability to easily modify or switch workouts based on available training time ensures that an athlete has the time to get the work done. AI does the hard part of organizing training around an athlete’s life instead of forcing the athlete to organize their life around training.
Drive may seem unrelated to a coaching app, but research shows that a coaching app’s ability to hold users accountable — even if it’s just to themselves — is as effective as that of a human coach. Focus on the immediate task (i.e., the workout) is the last trait AI can help with. With AI’s ability to pull data from years of workouts, it can build a workout program that seems complex at the outset but serves to hold the athlete’s attention and, yes, focus.
A coaching app processes and applies the same data as a human coach to its suggestions. For example, take a runner who fails to do the last two hard pieces of a workout at the assigned pace and intensity. A coach will note that failure and adjust the next training session accordingly. An AI-powered coaching app takes it a step further, instantly drawing on weeks, months, or even years of similar occurrences to ensure the program adjustment doesn’t set the athlete back too far on their road to recovery. AI also won’t push the athlete too hard or too fast based on the data.
In the scenario above, one core benefit of the AI coaching app is speed. The athlete will know how their training program will change as soon as the workout data gets uploaded to the app. There's no need to wait 24 hours or a week for a human coach to review the data and draw up a new training program. This instantaneous feedback keeps the athlete motivated, driven, and focused. It removes that kernel of doubt that may creep in while they wonder what’s next.
If all this sounds easy, it is, except for one big caveat: the athlete must apply the same soft traits of consistency, organization, drive, and focus to collecting and uploading their workout data as they do to their sport. Without consistent, reliable data, the coaching suffers — whether from a human or an AI coach. Collecting and sharing data can be difficult for athletes when the data doesn’t show progress. Frustration and doubt start to rear their ugly heads. But these times are when a coach who can guide an athlete back on track is most valuable. Training is easy when things go well; not so much when they don’t. When game plans go sideways, having and listening to a coach will make the difference.
Posted by Gaelle Abecassis