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The S:6 Testing Protocol, Part 2:

  • October 30, 2017
  • Blog

In my previous post (The S:6 Testing Protocol, Part 1) I talked about the importance of testing to track the progress of your training. Through testing we look to see improvements in power outputs at specific interval durations over 6-12 weeks between testing. I explained how we prefer to test over FOUR different durations:

  • One longer one at a specific sub-maximal aerobic heart-rate, to identify Aerobic function
  • Three shorter maximal efforts to identify ones Anaerobic Power.

I also introduced the concept of identifying your Fatigue Rate. This sheds light on where your aerobic fitness, or endurance, is compared to your top-end strength/power. With this data, we can then track improvements in power as well as improvements in fatigue resistance (ie. endurance). Through testing and training we attempt to maximize both ends for peak performance.

The goal with training is two-fold: maximize your power output & resistance to fatigue, ie. endurance. The tricky part is, improvements in one usually results in the decrease in the other; and what gets tracked, gets trained.

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The S:6 Testing Protocol, Part 1:

  • October 24, 2017
  • Blog

There’s More to Power than Just FTP.

Before diving into another season of training on the bike, or jumping into serious training for the first time, it helps to know a few things about your current fitness as you get started…

  • Where is my fitness at right now? Identify a baseline from which you plan to improve.
  • What are the best ways to spend my training time? In order to maximize your improvement.
  • What effort levels should you should be training at? Set your training zones.

These insights can be found through power testing on the bike. For many years, a rider’s FTP (Functional Threshold Power) has been the focal point of where a rider’s fitness is and from what to set their training zones from. FTP works well. It shines light on one area of fitness and can be re-tested again and again to check for improvement.

By definition, your FTP is the power you could sustain for one hour, full gas. I say could sustain because who’s going to go all-out for an hour to find this value? So it’s become common place to go hard for 20-minutes and subtract 5% from your average power. Pretty much the Gold Standard, and everybody accepts it. Even going all-out for 20 minutes is pretty tough on your own, so more recent models are doing either one or two 8-minute intervals and subtracting 5-10% from those averages to estimate FTP. All said and done, these methods of FTP testing highlight one energy system (v02 max) and calculate the FTP from a “one size fits all” percent reduction from the test effort. From here, it doesn’t tell you much else. Does it work? Sure. However, if you’re like me, you would likely prefer more.

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Training with Power or Heart Rate?

  • October 19, 2017
  • Blog

We get this question a lot…

What’s the better metric for training on the bike: Power or Heart Rate?

Since power-based training has risen to the status of “must have” for effective training for serious cyclists, the use of heart rate as a training metric has been tossed aside by many. The power meter is a wonderful tool, and one we strongly recommend (in fact all our Personal Coaching clients are required to use power), without the simultaneous use of heart rate you are only seeing half of the story and getting half of the benefits.

So our answer is: BOTH power & heart rate are needed for maximum training effectiveness!

Using one without the other is a mistake. Here’s why…

  • Power (watts) is the direct measurement of the amount of work that is being done. Many will say, “a watt is a watt, and watts don’t lie”. This is true, power is an absolute. You either have it or you don’t on a given a day. However, the effort required to produce those watts on any given day is effected by many variables, and that is where HR comes in.
  • Heart Rate (bpm) is an indirect measurement of your bodies response to the work (power) being done. You might hear people poo-poo HR. They’ll claim that it’s affected by so many outside variables, such as sleep, hydration, elevation, temperature, fatigue and so on that the usefulness of HR is no longer valued. But…why are these affects considered a negative attribute? When in fact, it’s these very affects wherein the value of training with HR comes in!

Let’s look at this example of a training block using both power & HR…

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Ideas For Your Off-Season

  • October 12, 2017
  • Blog

Fall has arrived and most of us in the Northern Hemisphere are entering our Off-Season. So what exactly is the Off-Season? The term “Off-Season” can be a bit misleading to some. The Off-Season is not time taken off from training, but rather it is time taken off from racing. This all so crucial time away from racing allows you to focus more on your training to allow for bigger advancements in your overall fitness and future racing ability.

Here is how a year of training and competition looks to a committed, high level amateur or professional endurance athlete:

  • END OF SEASON BREAK: after a short 1-2 weeks of time off, truly ‘on vacation’ from their primary sport, they’re ready to get back into training in their off-season. 
    • Pro Tips: As a general rule of thumb, the older and/or lower training volume (ie. time crunched) the athlete, the shorter this break should be. If you only train 8-12 hours a week, you don’t need to take much of a break. Simply changing the type of training you do in the off-season will be enough of a break or change of pace. It is just too hard for most people to get back into ‘training mode’ and too much fitness can be lost if the break is too long. The younger or higher volume athlete may take up to 2 weeks off from training. These athletes will recover faster and have a higher fitness base that will not drop off as much with more rest time.
  • THE OFF-SEASON: the Off-Season is the larger chunk of time sandwiched between your short ‘end-o-season break’ (above) and the start of your competitive race season (below). With the stress of racing and being “race fit” removed in their off-season, they can focus purely on training to improve weaknesses and gain a higher level of fitness for the next race season.
    • Pro Tips: Depending on the athlete and when his/her race season begins, the off-season can be as short as a couple months (ie. end racing in October and begin racing in February); or it can be several months (ie. end racing in September and begin again in April). Keep in mind that the longer your off-season, the more time you have to train and improve your fitness and likely the greater improvement you’ll see in your racing ability the next season. Those athletes that can’t stay away from racing and pack their annual schedule full from spring through fall are often the ones that don’t improve a whole lot from year-to-year, or they are getting paid to compete (and are already at the top of their game!).
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Looking Forward to 2018!

  • October 9, 2017
  • Blog

The “Summer of 2017” will go down as possibly the busiest/most hectic/most stressful summer for me of all time. What started out as solid winter of training for what was to be my “Swan Song” season on the XTERRA Pan-Am Tour as a professional, ended up including a car accident resulting in the “totaling” of our new Promaster Van, selling our home, buying a new home, moving, working through insurance stuff to get a new van, some family stress, coaching the Green Mountain High School Mountain Bike Team (this ended up being the highlight of the summer!), and finally settling into our new home all over the last 4 months. All of this left little time/energy/motivation to train, much less try and race. So after only one XTERRA Pan-Am Tour race back in May in Alabama, a handful of mountain bike races, including a Co-Ed Duo Team WIN at Firecracker 50 (with Kathy!!), my “season” came to a fizzling end in August.

Finally in September I was able to regroup a bit as we finally got our family settled into our new home, kids back to school, and have a great time training with and being a part of super fun High School MTB racing program. The dust began to settle some in my birthday month and I have been able to take a few deep breaths of having the stressful summer behind us and begin looking towards 2018.

Two big changes are occurring in 2018…

  1. I am taking a step back from triathlon and retiring from professional XTERRA racing.

  2. I turned 39 last month and will be able to race Masters 40+ in 2018, as I turn my full training/racing attention towards mountain bike racing.

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