Tuesday, December 1, 2015


Returning to Fitness

"You've put on some weight."

Unfortunately this blunt assessment from a member of my masters squad is true. I had to agree and excuse myself on the grounds of not training so much in winter. Catching up with friends later that week there were shocked reactions to my admission. I hadn't trained?

Fitness and body composition are important to an athlete. I’d normally be panicking about now. Desperate to correct the situation I'd eat as little as possible and train every available hour. My fear of losing fitness has driven me through hard training and minimal recovery. But letting fitness go this winter has been good.

Our Favorite Workouts: Indoor Maximum Aerobic Work

It's finally towards the back half of winter. Spring is right around the corner but if every time you look outside it's still cold and snowy, you know you've got at least one more solid block of indoor trainer sessions on the books.

If you've been following my winter riding articles you have followed the progression. The final step or block I like to see done on the trainer before we head out and let our hair finally rip through the wind is a solid block of maximum aerobic power work. Everybody uses different term for this -- VO2max, Zone 4, Max -- but it all means the same thing: very, very hard.

Season Planning - Part IV: Determining Training Volume and Intensity

by Alan Couzens, MS (Sports Science)

“Extreme volume in music very often disguises a lack of actually important content.”
-Michael Tilson Thomas

Part I: Realistic Goal Setting
Part II: Setting Phases, Objectives and Checkpoints
Part III: Determining Load Structure

In the last article that I wrote on season planning, I offered some thoughts on the optimal way to plan your training stress to have you arriving at your goal performance level. In the article prior to that, I talked a little about the way that I phase an athlete’s year to optimally address their personal weaknesses. In this final installment, I’m going to bring those two concepts together and show how these elements go into determining the actual training volume and intensity that we plan for each week.

I signed off the previous article with a chart showing both TSS per week and phasing of the Annual Plan for a hypothetical athlete (shown below; click for larger view).

While this chart identifies the general load that I will be planning for this athlete on a weekly basis, it tells us nothing of the composition of the load. For instance, is the 600TSS of the eighth week to be done as six hours of threshold work or 12 hours of steady aerobic training?

Keep It Fun

Winter is an interesting season for endurance athletes. At no point in the year is there a greater variation in motivational energy.

Some of us have trouble getting out the door, while others are chomping at the bit fuelled by visions of a breakthrough season. The most driven among us may even be facing symptoms of burnout! When motivation drops and we seek to adjust our approach, one common piece of advice is to “keep it fun.”

Triathlon Outsourcing

In a few short weeks, many of us will be back in the training saddle. As winter begins to move on, this is a perfect time to outsource the distractions in your life to focus truly on the things that are important: your family, your health (a nice euphemism for training) and your work.

The Grey Zone

Much has been written about the dreaded grey zone of training. The “grey zone” is usually defined as the training zone that falls between aerobic endurance and intensity work. The zone is considered grey because it is a training intensity that is too hard for long endurance sessions or proper recovery, but not hard enough to trigger specific adaptions to higher intensity intervals.

There may, however, be a role for grey zone training this time of year.

Check Your Head

It's hard for me to keep a straight face while I claim to be "surviving" winter. For weeks, the sun has been shining, the skies are blue and the afternoon temperature has been in the mid 60s. To add insult to (your) injury, the weather forecast for the next 10 days shows more of the same.

Despite the gorgeous (and unusual) weather though, I do find that winter weighs heavy on my mind at times and I catch myself saying, "I hate winter!" After thinking about it for a few minutes, I decided to jot down the reasons why.

Training Isn't Hard

I’ve been extremely fortunate to live and train alongside champion athletes. While they may say that training is “hard” -- when I watch them in action, it sure looks like a lot of fun.

I’ve observed that athletes that get the most performance from a given amount of potential are not particularly hard. They are committed and really, really like working.

Different Perspectives: Mental Boosts for Winter

The dark, gray months of winter impact a lot of athletes' motivation. We asked the EC network to share their favorite "mental boost" workouts. What's interesting is that many didn't share a specific workout, but rather their approach to keeping themselves mentally energized, from mixing things up with new partners to inserting different stimuli into their training.

Close That Window: Infection Risk Following Strenuous Exercise

The risk for upper respiratory infection is modest for sedentary folks, decreasing among regular exercisers (defined as three to four times per week). But there is an increased risk of infections among those who exercise daily at a “strenuous” level; even having rates exceeding the sedentary folks.

Hmmm. What does that mean for you and me?

The Win in Winter

Our February theme is “winter’s still here.” I’m going to share some ideas on what you can get done to set yourself up for a solid 2011.

As you’d expect from a large team of athletes, the EC crew had a wide range of performances in January. I’m in the fortunate position of watching how successful people deal with the ups and downs of life.

Work on Your Mental Plan Now, Not Just on Race Day

Most of us are really good at doing all the physical preparation we need to get to a start line. I've seen more elite athletes over many different sports show up to the big dance with the same physical preparation.

Most of us have our physical plans-- our training plans. What is your mental plan for getting yourself to the next level of racing?

Season Planning - Part III: Determining Load Structure

by Alan Couzens, MS (Sports Science)

“It's not the load that breaks you down, it's the way you carry it."
-Lou Holtz

Part I: Realistic Goal Setting
Part II: Setting Phases, Objectives and Checkpoints

In the last two articles of this series I’ve offered some thoughts on setting realistic performance goals for the coming season and how to go about coming up with some checkpoints to let you know that you’re on track.

If we were charting things using Tudor Bompa’s well know periodization model, our information to this point may resemble the following example [click to enlarge].

That is, we have...

  1. A good, solid prediction of the performance level that we should be able to achieve based on a retrospective analysis of last year’s training and performance.
  2. A good idea of how we expect performance to progress over the course of the year.
  3. Identified some checkpoints along the way that will let us know if we are on track to hit the end of year performance goal and also if there are any particular weaknesses that may affect the nature and duration of the training phases and emphasis periods.

However, this chart does not yet tell us anything about the "input" variable, that is, training load. What we do know from the first analysis that we did on last years training, though, is what chronic training load it should take to achieve a given performance. If we transpose this athlete’s personal CTL:VO2 score relationship on the above chart we’re left with the following information as to the requisite CTL to hit this athlete’s performance goals [click to enlarge].

Ironman Swim Fitness: Is It Critical?

Is it a good use of time to pursue deep swim fitness prior to your ironman? The answer may depend on how much time you have available to train outside of work and family obligations. But be honest, it is a safe bet that most Kona types are swimming quite a bit.

If you have the opportunity, I think it is worthwhile to develop deep swim fitness so that steady efforts keep you competitive out of the water at ironman. It is common to see athletes with lesser swim fitness over-swimming for 60-75 minutes and that can be the start of a cascade of problems later in the day.

Four Tips for the Push Through Winter

In one of my previous articles I wrote about dealing with winter and a couple things to think about: prehab, endurance training and recovery.

Now that you have recovered from last year’s racing season and worked on preparing your body for the trauma 2011 holds, you will likely notice that you are still dealing with the winter. Every year I notice that a little extra discipline is essential to maintain focus until the warm sun shines again. Here are a few things that may be useful to help you get through these last few months of winter.

Low Hanging Fruit

During the act of vacating (vacation), I had an opportunity to capture the picture of the man to the left trimming a palm tree. Who knew you had to trim palm trees? This man scurried up the tree with a rope and a machete. He proceeded to chop off the coconuts and the dead branches. I thought, wow, that is a tough dangerous job and it is a metaphor for so much of what we do professionally and as triathletes.

How I Trained for Ultraman Hawaii

>by Jonas Colting

Ultraman Hawaii is, as many triathletes know, one of the longest and hardest triathlons on the planet. Even just completing the course is daunting not to mention, actually racing it!

The race offers the unique opportunity of three separate days that will take you around the Big Island and offer a taste of pretty much everything the island has in store of terms of terrain, weather, scenery and challenges.

First day sports a 10k swim and a 145k bike ride with close to 2500 ascending meters. Second day is a 275k bike ride and the last day, the bitch of the bunch, is a double marathon with its 84 kilometers. And mind you, it's all point to point.

I'm not particularly into ultras. In fact, I don´t even think they're very good for you. They will leave you sore, crippled and slow for some time after; which is bad if you're really looking to be fit, agile and fast. And that is my goal, so that I can continue on racing on the ITU Long Distance circuit a few more years before I finally kick the bucket of youth and ability.

But it so happens that my sponsors like it. And I actually do like it myself. Because it's in Hawaii. Because it's a friendly grassroots event. Because you're required to bring your own crew. And because it's close to Christmas so there's all this partying and food to look forward to for the month following the event. And maybe I like it because I do well at it.

I won it in my first attempt in 2004, eager to follow in the footsteps of my friends Gordo and Scott Molina who were both winners in the past. It then took me three years to recover from it mentally before I forgot about how hard it was and the memories had faded to only include nice beaches, turtles, good food and scantily clad women. But boy, the second time around was just as hard as I would discover in 2007 when I came back. I did manage to win again however.

Season Planning - Part II: Setting Phases, Objectives and Checkpoints

by Alan Couzens, MS (Sports Science)

“He who moves not forward goes backward”
-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

In the last article on season planning, I outlined some of the math involved in making accurate performance predictions/goals for the coming season.

In summary, I suggested:

  1. Looking at how much extra fitness (CTL) you’ll be carrying this year compared to the last.
  2. Identifying your personal load:performance relationship (i.e. CTL:VO2)
  3. Identifying what level of fitness/VO2 score this extra CTL is likely to create by the date of your A race.

From this information you can begin to look at the CTL/Performance relationship from last year (as explained in the previous post) and begin to identify what this means to you in performance terms. As you know, I use the athlete’s VO2 score as a global measure of performance but the VO2 score:

  • Only tells half the story, for example, it may tell us that the athlete is generally fit but not whether the athlete is "race fit" over a specific distance
  • Can be a bit abstract for an athlete to really sink their teeth into -- telling an athlete that they have a VO2 score of 70 doesn’t carry the same emotional punch as telling them that they just completed a workout at 10W higher intensity than a top pro who did the same workout.

What we need is BENCHMARKS! A benchmark is a semi-specific fitness test that lets the athlete know:

  • Whether they are on track towards hitting their season goal.
  • If there are any weak points in the athlete’s physiology that may need to be worked on.

Once we know the athlete's starting point and end destination (as described in the previous article), we can begin to identify some checkpoints along the way that let the coach and the athlete know they are on the right course.

Top Three From Me

I had a little debate with myself (in my head, not out loud) on what I wanted to cover that might help EC readers have their best racing season. I never really came to any one conclusion, so the following is a synopsis of the top three topics that seemed to win out amongst all the random ideas floating around in my head.

Bonus Workout of the Month: Extended Tempo Trainer Session

Most of the Northern Hemisphere population right now is stuck indoors for at least two more months. That means riding the trainer if you are committed to your 2011 season. Some will say winter is time to build your base... while most are stuck inside. Those two statements don't really go together.

In my opinion, if you've successfully completed a cycle or two of strength endurance work and high rpm neuromuscular work on the trainer or rollers the next step through these winter months is some extended tempo work once per week.

Exercise is Good!

It’s that time of year when resolutions are on people’s minds. As we all know, one of the most common New Year’s resolutions is to exercise -- often for the stated purpose of losing weight. But exercise is good for so much more. For those who want to keep score, here’s a quick tabulation of the documented health benefits of exercise.

Mistakes I've Made Planning My Season

I always start the year by drawing up plans for the season ahead, setting goals and identifying races. My first draft is at best impractical and at worst impossible. The following few weeks are spent altering the plan so it's testing, but achievable. I might hope to live up to those early intentions, but over-committing myself will lead to disappointment.

I may not be the best at planning, but by understanding the errors I make it might help you avoid them yourself.

Setting Up Your Best Season Ever

2011 is here and we are looking for your best season ever. That won’t happen by mistake. I'll offer a few things I consider important to putting you in the right direction for a great year.

Live and Learn

My athletic vocabulary is riddled with terms like "blew up," "bonked," or my favorite, "detonated." These phrases are a way for me to be overly dramatic and hide the fact that I made mistakes.

IMTalk "Workout of the Month" Feature

Endurance Corner recently partnered with IMTalk on a "Workout of the Month" feature. Each month, someone from the EC team performs an IMTalk listener workout and then shares his or her feedback with John and Bevan on the show.

Justin Daerr was first up for the new feature. From Justin: "I recently chatted with John and Bevan from IMTalk for their 'workout of the month.' This month's workout consisted of hill repeats during a run focus period. You can hear my thoughts on this workout and hill running in general."

Listen to the show

Visit IMTalk

Four Habits of Successful Triathletes

Anyone that spends a lot of time in the kitchen knows that there are three types of cooking: using a recipe, using a formula or winging it. A recipe is perfect for repeating a dish in terms of flavor and consistency. A formula is necessary for anything involving a chemical reaction such as baking. Formula’s are much less forgiving than recipes and frequent tinkering often results in a baking disaster. Winging it is fun and leads to often terrific dishes that the chef is never able to replicate.

I know triathletes and business owners that generally fall into the three cooking categories. Many successful ones tend to fall into the recipe method. The truly outstanding ones seem to subscribe to the formula method.

Beyond Talent and Motivation

Having worked with hundreds of good athletes, I’ve been thinking about the characteristics that appear unique to the handful of great athletes that have come into my life.

What separates the great from the good?