Off-Season Base Build: Block 2

Off-Season Base Build: Block 2

  • December 14, 2017
  • Blog

It’s December now and we’re digging into our second of six blocks that make up our Off-Season Base Build Program. Hopefully a routine has been established in the first month of training, and you’re beginning to feel some level of fitness returning after your end of last season break. You can get the full rundown in the first post of the Series: Off-Season Base Training: Primer, and get caught up through previous posts in the Series Links above.

Block 2 builds upon Block 1 with continued progressions in the gym and on the bike.

In my previous post I laid out the general weekly schedule that is built around three types of sessions: gym sessions, structured trainer sessions, and endurance sessions. We’ll continue to follow this scheme into block 2 and break down the subtle progressions in each of the three domains. Block 2 makes up weeks 5-8 in the 24-weeks of the Base Build Program.

Block 2: Gym Sessions

In Block 1 we focused on learning proper movements and creating a bit of a strength base from which to build from. Our Training Load Calculator Spreadsheet helped us determine our 1 rep max for the two primary strength movements in the Back Squat and Deadlift. With four weeks of strength work now under our belts, we are past the initial soreness phase, and we are better prepared to progressively increase the loads in these movements. With two strength sessions a week, Session 1 is the one we make the gradual progressions in load through more sets of fewer reps. Session 2 of each week allows for adaptation through fewer sets and slightly more reps.  We’ll work up to a weekly high of 80% 1RM, 85% 1RM and 90% 1RM in weeks 5, 6 and 7 respectively. Week 8 will reduce to just 1 lighter strength session as part of a recovery week.

In the Push-Pull Sets we continue to progress in loads and/or complexity of movements. Core sets also continue to progress to more reps and/or complexity of movement, while focusing on the truck stabilizing muscles of the low-back, obliques and anterior core muscles.

Block 2: Structured Trainer Sessions

Block 1 established some pedaling skills through high-cadence drills and single-leg pedaling. Simultaneously we included an aerobic build through Aerobic Threshold (AeT) Intervals of 3×5:00 in week 1, building to 2×12:00 by end of week 3. The primary progression in Block 2 is layering in more strength work. This is done in two ways…

1. Isolated Leg Training (ILTs) focus on low cadence, bigger gear efforts (ex. 53×15 @ 60 rpm) for durations of 3:00 per leg.

These intervals allow a time to focus on connecting the upper body pulling on the bars with the lower body pushing (extension) on the pedals (very much in same manner as the Deadlift with knee and hip extension occurring while pulling on the bar!).  Connect the upper back with the heel drive to produce more force, one rep after another at 60 reps per minute.

2. AeT Intervals transition from the medium-geared, seated @ 95 rpm variety to big-geared, standing @ 55 rpm variety. All while maintaining aerobic effort levels of 75-80% of max HR, just below the Aerobic Threshold HR.

Pedaling in a larger gear and lower cadence than “normal” requires greater force application to the pedals and tips the effort more towards strength development. Standing for these intervals simulates climbing and builds total body strength not only in the legs but the arms and trunk, particularly the lower back.

The Aerobic-Strength Intervals in Block 2 will progress from 4x 5:00 in Week 5: Session 1, to 30:00 long intervals in Sessions 1 & 2 in Week 7. At this point we will also introduce some “surges” at the end of the longer aerobic-strength intervals that will allow for brief amounts of increased power output (and elevated HR) to get a sneak peak of the Anaerobic Threshold work that comes in Block 3.

High-cadence work will remain in each session as part of the warm-ups and finishing “spin” to maintain pedaling efficiency and round out the stroke from the low cadence strength work that’s being performed.

Block 2: Endurance Sessions

Following Friday recovery days, the weekends are reserved for getting outside and going longer and having fun. As in Block 1, these sessions can be on the bike in the form of road rides, mountain bike rides, group rides, or more trainer/Zwift time if that’s what the schedule and/or weather dictates. Additional AeT intervals are a great “bang for your buck” fitness builder that can be executed in various modalities both on and off the bike. You can also easily sub various cross training activities like running, hiking, skiing and the like that includes an aerobic endurance component to help enhance your basic base fitness. After the holiday season and we get into Block 3, things will get a bit more specific for at least one of the weekend days, but for now, keep it fun and do what makes you happy.

In Block 2 we continue to build that off-season base by layering in more strength work.

This can be highly effective while time and daylight is limited, you’re traveling, and it’s chilly outside. By creating a strong strength base we will better prepared for the more demanding power-production work and increased volume that comes in Blocks 3 and 4.

Interested in giving it a try yourself?

Download our 24-week Off-Season Program on Training Peaks HERE.

Program includes:

  • All the strength training details, including videos and set/rep schemes and calculated loads specific to your ability.
  • Full Testing Protocol and Training Zone Calculator to identify HR and Power zones and track progress.
  • Structured training sessions uploadable to your app of choice (Zwift, Wahoo, Garmin, Trainer Road, etc.)
  • Bonus weekend training ride suggestions for either indoors or out.

 

Written by Cody Waite, professional endurance athlete, endurance sport coach and founder of Sessions:6 Sport Performance. Looking for help with your endurance sport training? Check out S:6’s Training Plans, Team Programs, and  Personal Coaching options created to fit your needs and budget.

 

 

 

 Shop Rudy Project for the best helmets & eyewear for the most demanding athletes. Use code: s6racing at checkout and receive 50-62% discount on all their gear.

Cody’s Block 1 Recap

Cody’s Block 1 Recap

  • December 12, 2017
  • Blog

My off season training began the first week of November with a my pre-season testing to identify baselines and set accurate zones. Then followed that up with a week long trip to Arizona for the first of three Off-Season Training Camps. This first camp was more of a Training Camp Lite, as my fitness wasn’t in place for any real long rides or heavy training. Rather the goal was to return to consistent daily riding to find my rhythm, clear my mind, and get focused on training for the year ahead. I hit up 2-3 hours each day of riding for the sake of riding and having fun. No intervals, no thresholds to keep an eye on…just ride and enjoy!

Upon my return home I was ready to get to work with Block 1 of our Sessions:6 Off-Season Base Build Training Program.

You can read more about what we do in Block 1 in a previous post HERE.

My off-season training blocks are set up in the common 3-1 pattern of three weeks building fitness (ie. fatigue) followed by a week to de-load a bit to recover and absorb the training (ie. regain freshness). Off-Season Program Block 1 is very low intensity and focuses on adapting to strength training and gaining an aerobic base on the bike.

I’m a fan of routine. With a busy work, family and training schedule, developing a weekly schedule to follow helps me plan and stay consistent. I am also fortunate enough to be able to set up my work schedule as needed and get in more training time during the week than most folks. For this reason my weekly schedule varies slightly from those that we coach and train.

Here’s my typical training week* through the Off-Season:

  • Monday: Strength Day
  • Tuesday: Structured Ride (intervals, usually on the trainer)
  • Wednesday: Endurance (outside when weather is good, trainer when not good)
  • Thursday: Strength Day
  • Friday: Structured Ride (intervals, try for outdoors, trainer is cool too)
  • Saturday: Endurance (outside when weather is good, trainer when not good)
  • Sunday: “Flex Day” (these days riding with my 14-year old MTB racer daughters, or recovery ride, or day off)

*For “recovery” weeks, I’ll drop the structured ride in favor of easy recovery or endurance riding as desired.

These schedule works well for me. It allows for relatively low-volume (ranging from 10 hours early in off-season to highs around 20 hours in peak endurance training in summer months), twice weekly strength, twice weekly aerobic intensity, twice weekly endurance riding, along with plenty of recovery time.

Strength Training

On the strength side, I really let things go over the summer and regretfully didn’t maintain my strength gains from 2017 Off-Season Program very well. I ended up dialing back my loads (using our Strength Load Calculator) a bit to find the correct balance between challenging myself and not over-doing it. For the first three blocks of training, our program focuses specifically on the Deadlift and Back Squat to build cycling specific strength through knee and hip extension. In addition, we include a progression of Pull & Push movements for the upper body, as well as a lot core stability exercises for the back, abdominal, hip and shoulder muscles.

I ended up reducing my 1 rep max lift loads by about 20% over the maxes I achieved last off-season to set my training set/rep schemes.  I may end up reaching my maxes from last season by the end of the build, but the early scheme just felt too heavy, due to my lack of maintenance through the summer. I won’t make that mistake again!

We put far more focus on proper form and full range of motion over what numbers we can achieve. I always remind myself, and those we coach & train, we are endurance athletes training for endurance events, not weight lifters training for competitions; numbers don’t matter as much as proper form to engage all muscles appropriately which will help us achieve higher power outputs across all energy systems as well as build fatigue resistance.

  • 2017 1 Rep Maxes:
    • Back Squat at 200 lbs.
    • Deadlift at 220 lbs.
  • Adjusted 2018 1 Rep Max estimates:
    • Back Squat at 160 lbs.
    • Deadlift at 180 lbs.

I trained strength two times a week: Mondays & Thursdays. Rep schemes for Block 1 ranged from 50% to a peak of 1 set of 4 at 85% in the first session of week 3. The majority of weight lifted was in the 60-75% of 1RM range to build some strength volume and prepare the body for the heavier loads that follow in Block 2. By week 4 recovery week I am feeling strong and healthy. I truly believe that lifting heavy weights (for endurance athletes) helps to maintain a youthfulness that is unachievable through just riding your bike. I’m convinced there is hormonal change that occurs when lifting weights and it helps the body not only stay strong, but just feel better, recover faster, and stay healthier. I encourage all endurance athletes to lift heavy weights, and do it year ’round.

Aerobic Training

The weather has been unusually warm and dry thus far this Fall in Denver. This has allowed me to get outside a bit more than planned for. I’ve been able to get outside on the bike 3-4 days a week, in addition to one day on the trainer. I’m a HUGE fan of training on the trainer, regardless of weather. The quality is unmatched. However, I’ve been training (on the trainer) and racing for 20 years now, and I’m not going to really get any better. My pedaling efficiency is as good as it’s going to get, so spending time training high-cadence and single-leg drills aren’t going to do much for me. Sad but true. I will benefit more from just riding to stay loose and regain a cyclist aerobic base. All that said, I still want to maintain a weekly trainer session in first three blocks for “maintenance” work in the cadence and ILT work. If you have less than 20 years of trainer cadence and ILT drill in your legs, then you need to be on the trainer 2x a week! They will make you better.

My “Structured Ride” days (Tue & Fri) have been made up of Aerobic Threshold Intervals. Spending more and more time at just under 80%  of my max HR helps to build that aerobic power and fat-burning energy system simultaneously. It’s also an extremely time efficient way to get “aerobic miles” in without spending hours and hours and the bike (something else I also do not need with 20 years of high level training in my legs and heart).  These kinds of intervals are moderate in effort and actually pretty fun to do. They take enough focus to stay engaged in the effort, but they are not particularly fatiguing and they start to feel good as you get better at them.

My Endurance days have been just in the 2-3 hour range of easy to moderate effort riding. A mix of MTB and road. I’ve also, for the first time in 6 years, added in a weekly group ride with some of the faster “racers” in town. This hour long ride segment includes some brief periods of high-intensity riding to keep up with the front group. The first week was a bit of shocker (particularly with a 44t front ring), but I quickly found my old “road racing” legs and have been enjoying hanging with the group on Saturday mornings as part of longer ride.

Conclusion

Already after the first block of training I feel lighter and stronger on the bike. I’d guess my FTP has increased around 10 watts, just by the feel of it. My AeT intervals have gone from 240-250w to 260-270w for the 5-10 minute durations I’m targeting at this point. As I write this at the end of my recovery week after a 2.5 hour MTB ride, I don’t feel wiped out and in need of nap. This lets me know I’m adapting well and gaining fitness. Feeling the positive adaptions is crucial, as is seeing the numbers in my training log.

For the numbers geeks out there, in my Training Peaks Performance Management Chart I can also see I’m gaining fitness at a rate of around 5 CTL per week through Block 1. This will decrease a bit in Block 2 onwards, as the initial large fitness gain (20 CTL in the month of Nov.) is  partly due to the lower than normal starting point from being “out of shape”. From here forward a CTL increase of around 10 per month will be my target. I know from history that this is a good rate I can adapt to and not be stretched too thin. I’m starting Block 2 at 80 CTL and the plan is to reach a peak of 120 CTL by end of March. 110-120 has historically been a “high” for me that I can achieve with positive effects. Then from here I’ll have 5 weeks to decrease from 120 to around 100-105 as I PEAK for my early season target event in early May: USAC Marathon National Championships.

Now on to Block 2!

Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed the insights and follow along for the 2018 season!

Cody Waite, Professional Off-Road Endurance Athlete & Coach
Follow me on Instagram & Facebook
Check out my Stock Training Plans, Custom Training Plans & Personal Coaching options to help you make the most of your training!

 

 

 

Shop Rudy Project for the best helmets & eyewear for the most demanding athletes. Use code: s6racing at checkout and receive 50-62% discount on all their gear.
Off-Season Base Build: Block 1

Off-Season Base Build: Block 1

  • November 11, 2017
  • Blog

We offer a 24-week Off-Season Base Build Program to our local athletes in Denver. We meet 4 days a week, most weeks, for 6 months for indoor gym and trainer sessions. Weekends are for getting outside on your own and going longer to build endurance. We also offer the very same program as a 24-week Off-Season Base Build Training Plan to follow on your own where ever you live. The following blog series will share some specifics of what each block of training is made up of and how we progress through a 6 month long off-season base build to reach serious fitness by Spring and ready to dive into more specific Race Prep training for your goal events.

The first of six blocks comprising our off-season Base Building Program focuses on returning to structured training, finding your rhythm, and adapting to the movements.

There are three basic categories of sessions that make up our regular training week:

  1. Gym Sessions (strength/mobility)

  2. Trainer Sessions (structured/intensity)

  3. Outdoor Sessions (endurance)

Ideally for most, you can fit two of each into your weekly routine, comprising of six sessions a week. Depending on your time available for training, you may be able to include additional sessions within the week for added volume. Additional sessions would typically be recovery or easy endurance in nature, as opposed to intensity. Rarely would a third intensity session be beneficial for an endurance athlete.

Overall training program volume can also be adjusted by the duration of the outdoor endurance session(s). More experienced athletes, and those with more time availability, can choose to increase their long rides to higher durations as appropriate for their current training progression. Increasing the long rides needs to be done methodically and progressively over time, rather than randomly or haphazardly. Being accustomed to 3-hour endurance rides and then throwing in a 6-hour epic ride one week is typically too much and leads to several days of sub-par (or missed) training due to the extra fatigue and need for recovery following such a big ride that you have not built up to appropriately.

Training consistency is the key: days of training lead to weeks, which lead to months, which lead to years.

The early blocks of training in our Off-Season Base Building Program are relatively “easy” as we are gradually adapting to the workload. Be patient, as things will get “harder” in time, but we must take these first steps is establishing a base of movement patterns and technique before we increase resistance or move more powerfully.

Becoming too over zealous, or impatient, with your training is counter productive. It results in needing more recovery above and beyond the norm. The goal with training is to apply just enough stress to your physiology that requires a small amount of recovery time on a daily basis. You want to be able to recover from training with relative ease day-to-day. Occasionally, maybe once a week, you might have a single stretch session, or the accumulation of several solid days in a row, that requires an extra easy day to recover from. This is normal and good. Doing too much, too soon leads to unnecessary soreness and fatigue that will cause you to lose daily consistency and lack of progression. In other words, you want to do just enough training to elicit the response you’re after; doing more than necessary results in a reduced training response due to the need for more recovery.

1. BLOCK 1: Gym Sessions

Goal number one is to learn the exercise movements and session structure. In-house, we focus heavily on proper technique and creating effective (and safe) movement patterns over the first 4 weeks of training. Every gym session is structured the same in Blocks 1-3 as:

  • 5:00 Movement Prep
  • 10:00 Warm-Up
  • 20:00 Strength Set
  • 8:00 Pull/Push Set
  • 8:00 Core Stability
  • 9:00 Mobility

The primary focus of blocks 1-3 is developing strength in two key movements: the Back Squat and Deadlift. Using our spreadsheet load calculator you can see your specific loads for every set and rep for every session throughout the 3 month build. The specific movements/exercises and set possibilities for the other segments of the sessions are presented on our Sessions:6 YouTube Channel.

Specifically for Block 1 of our program, the back squat and deadlift Strength Progression begins with lighter loads and higher rep counts to allow for learning and adapting to the movements, and building a strength base. Achieving proper form and full depth of movement is essential for both safety and effective muscle recruitment. Each session gradually builds the load scheme to a high point in the first session of week 3, with a final set of 4 reps done at 85% of an known or estimated 1 rep max rep. Week 4 returns to lighter loads for a bit of recovery and more time to focus on form and full range of motion. If training on your own and you’re unsure of your form, consider working with a personal training for a few sessions to assist in your learning and execution.

2. BLOCK 1: Trainer Sessions

Our trainer sessions in Block 1 focus on two elements: neuromuscular training & aerobic conditioning. The neuromuscular piece is often very difficult from a muscle recruitment standpoint for athletes that are not accustomed to higher cadence pedaling. On the flip side, the aerobic intervals typically feel “too easy” for athletes that are used to pushing themselves too hard on a regular basis.

  • The neuromuscular training consists of low-gear, high cadence pedaling. We achieve this through the Spin-Ups as a warm-up exercise, again in the ILT (isolated leg training) intervals, and yet again in the high-cadence Spins at the end of the sessions.
    • Spin-Ups:  rpm progressions from 80-90 as a low and building at different intervals up to 115-145 as a high. All performed in easiest gear with light resistance and as smoothly as possible.
    • ILTs: single-legged pedaling. Little gear for smoothness and big gear for strength development. Beginning with just 1:00 durations and increasing to 3:00 per leg over the first block.
    • Spins: training to hold higher than normal cadences over extended periods of time. Performed in easiest gear, light resistance to remove any muscular assistance and reduce the cardiac demand.
  • The aerobic conditioning comes in the form of AeT (aerobic threshold) Intervals. We start with 3×5:00 of these in the first sessions and increase to 5×5:00, then 3×8:00 and finally 2×12:00 by the last session of the block. Targeting your aerobic threshold HR (as determined from testing effort, learn more HERE), in normal gearing/cadence for the 5:00-12:00 intervals.

3. BLOCK 1: Outdoor Sessions

Getting outside in this block consists of basic, low-intensity riding. Nothing too special here. Just good ‘ol easy base miles. Generally speaking, the more time you can spend on your bike at these low intensities the better.  You can ride on the road or the trails. Whatever makes you happy and feels good. If you’re struggling to loose some weight, it’s more important to keep the HRs low so you stay aerobic and build that fat-burning energy system over anything else. This may mean sticking to flatter roads, and either riding by yourself or your “slower” friends. If you’re a bit more experienced and/or already near your ideal body composition, you can ride some more challenging rides and/or faster paced group rides that get you HR up just a bit more. Just keep the high-intensity to a minimum and keep it fun. Lastly, you can also opt for cross-training outlets like nordic skiing, snowshoeing, uphill hiking, etc. for building aerobic endurance off the bike as weather and interests dictate.

Focus on finding your training routine and establishing a schedule that you will be able to sustain for many weeks to come.

Consistency is king and starting things off light and fun will help to ensure you look forward to each days training session and build the confidence in regular daily training. Once you get the ball rolling in Block 1 you ‘ll be ready to increase the load (slightly, be patient) in Block 2.

Interested in giving it a try yourself?

Download our 24-week Off-Season Program on Training Peaks HERE.

Program includes:

  • All the strength training details, including videos and set/rep schemes and calculated loads specific to your ability.
  • Full Testing Protocol and Training Zone Calculator to identify HR and Power zones and track progress.
  • Structured training sessions uploadable to your app of choice (Zwift, Wahoo, Garmin, Trainer Road, etc.)
  • Bonus weekend training ride suggestions for either indoors or out.

 

Written by Cody Waite, professional endurance athlete, endurance sport coach and founder of Sessions:6 Sport Performance. Looking for help with your endurance sport training? Check out S:6’s Training Plans, Team Programs, and  Personal Coaching options created to fit your needs and budget.

 

 

 

 Shop Rudy Project for the best helmets & eyewear for the most demanding athletes. Use code: s6racing at checkout and receive 50-62% discount on all their gear.

 

Getting Ready For 2018

Getting Ready for 2018

  • November 7, 2017
  • Blog

After a crazy busy summer (mentioned in previous post), things are finally coming back together for Fall. Kathy and I both had an amazing experience over the last few months being a part of the NICA sanctioned Colorado High School Mountain Bike League and coaching the Green Mountain Composite High School Mountain Bike Team. It was so fun and so rewarding to see these kids get excited to race their bikes. Not to mention see our own kids who both really surprised us with not only how good they were right off the bat but also how much they loved it!

On the business front, I really had a productive couple of months preparing for the 2018 training season. Writing new training plans for our remote athletes, marketing our in-house Off-Season Training Program for our local athletes, and getting Personal Coaching clients dialed in for the new year ahead.

With all this solid work behind us and things back on track, I’ve finally turned the corner on gaining enthusiasm for my own training and racing goals for 2018.

After many weeks of chewing on things and talking through things with Kathy, I think I’ve narrowed down the bulk of my 2018 racing schedule. Assuming budgets are similar to years past, I’m still working through some final sponsorship details for 2018, here is what I have in mind for 2018:

Tentative 2018 Race Schedule

 

Now with some race plans written down, it’s time to get to work on rebuilding some fitness! 

So I have to be completely honest here… I don’t think I’ve ever been this “out of shape.” Seriously.

I started racing mountain bikes when I was 16 years old, and I haven’t stopped training or racing for anything longer than maybe 2 weeks at a stretch once a year. The funny thing is I haven’t really stopped riding over the last 3 months, but for the most part the riding I’ve done has been super short, super low-key, and there has been no intensity, much less racing… FOR 3 MONTHS!!

I may look the same, weigh basically the same, maybe be a little less tan; but I can really say that I feel slow, and any significant riding feels hard, and some of the last rides I did with the high school team really took a lot out of me.

Well we have to start somewhere, and getting started is often the hardest part! To officially kick the start of my training off, I jumped on the trainer for a Power Test to see exactly where I’m at and to reset my training zones. WOW that hurt! and the numbers were a little depressing.

But the good news is I can only go up from here and I plan to share with you over the next several months exactly how I go about improving these baseline numbers.

The testing I like to do is a bit different than the standard. You can read all the details in my recent two blog posts here: Testing Protocol, p.1 and Testing Protocol p.2. I’ve followed this protocol for the last 5 years so I have a good grip on what “good” is for me and these numbers are far from it. Here are the current details compared to my 2015 numbers leading up to my 15th place at Leadville 100:

  • 20:00 Aerobic Threshold Power @ 148 bpm
    • Fall 2017:  238w
    • Summer 2015:  274w
  • 1:00 Max Power
    • Fall 2017:  499w
    • Summer 2015:  529w
  • 2:00 Max Power
    • Fall 2017:  380w
    • Summer 2015:  454w
  • 4:00 Max Power
    • Fall 2017:  324w
    • Summer 2015:  382w
  • Fatigue Rate
    • Fall 2017:  8.7%
    • Summer 2015:  6.9%
  • This calculates an FTP of
    • Fall 2017:  247w (3.70 w/kg)
    • Summer 2015:  308w (4.71 w/kg)

What does all this mean? 

Simply put, I’m out of shape compared to a previous best power numbers in my 30s. These numbers compared to two years ago provide me with some goals to shoot for in my training. I have nine months to get back to these numbers, or slightly higher which is my goal. In 2015 I was actually coming off of serious back injury that limited my early winter training volume, and I was thinking I was going to race triathlon in that year, so my cycling base was pretty minimal in 2015. This leads me to believe that starting from a healthy starting point this year, and a full focus on the bike, I can exceed my 2015 numbers and perhaps even surpass my numbers from back in my 20s.

Where to start? 

From here, with baseline numbers in hand, I’m ready to get into focused training for November. I have two goals for the month:

  1. Get back to Strength Training
  2. Begin to rebuild my Aerobic Base

First move is getting back into regular strength work in the gym to begin to rebuild some strength. This is KEY for masters athletes (of which I am now!). Over the last several seasons I have found that progressively building strength in the back squat and deadlift exercises helps to improve the top end power numbers and resistance to injury. Combined with other dynamic strength movement to improve push-pull strength and core stability helps keep the body strong, healthy and more fatigue resistant. You can check out my Off-Season Strength Program to try for yourself on Training Peaks HERE.

On the bike, my focus will be on the opposite end… on aerobic training. I will slowly ramp up the volume with consistent regular riding, targeting my Aerobic Threshold by accumulating time in my AeT HR zone (138-147 bpm) and improving my pedaling efficiency through some specific cadence work and single-leg drills on the trainer. Both of these measures will help to improve my fatigue resistance and gradually lower my Fatigue Rate. You can check out my Off-Season Cycling Base Builder Program to try for yourself on Training Peaks HERE.

Ready, set, go… 

To really help me clear my mind and get back into training mode, I planned a “Training Camp Lite” in Arizona for the first week of November. Even though I don’t actually have the fitness to do tons of riding at the moment, getting away and into a new environment can be a super motivating and fun way to spark the motivation. I plan to ride everyday for 2-3 hours to get the ball of success rolling for 2018.

By following along with me this year, hopefully you can find a thing or two to implement to your own training and help your 2018 being a successful one as well!

Thanks for reading and I hope you decide to follow along for the 2018 season!

Cody Waite, Professional Off-Road Endurance Athlete & Coach
Follow me on Instagram & Facebook
Check out my Stock Training Plans, Custom Training Plans & Personal Coachingoptions to help you make the most of your training!
The S:6 Testing Protocol, Part 2:

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.

Improve your Aerobic Power to improve your fatigue resistance.

The first part of our testing protocol is our Aerobic Threshold (AeT) Test. This includes a 20:00 sub-maximal interval for best average power at your AeT Heart Rate.

What’s your AeT Heart Rate?

Your AeT HR is approximately 80% of your Max Heart Rate. This is the rough point where your energy production, or fuel source, reaches the balance point between fat burning and sugar burning. In general, below this HR we’re burning more fat for fuel, and above this HR we’re burning more carbs for fuel. Training just below our AeT HR we are maximizing our fat-burning aerobic energy system and creating endurance. The faster we can go while maximizing fat for fuel extends how far and how hard we can go in a race. Improved aerobic fitness preserves precious glycogen stores and allows for more power over greater durations. Maximizing aerobic power is a goal for every endurance athlete.

Your Aerobic energy system comprises your longest training durations.

These are your 3+ hour rides at a steady but low intensity. These sessions build your aerobic infrastructure (heart, blood vessels, mitochondria, etc.), and fat-burning capabilities. Your Aerobic Threshold (AeT) energy system, is “next level” fat-burn training while improving the power you can produce while remaining aerobic. Your AeT power would be the max power you can achieve for around 2-2.5 hours. However, our test interval is only 20:00 minutes in duration, so the power number you achieve in the test is not your true AeT Power, because your power would continue to decline if you were to stay at the target HR for another 100 minutes. This 20-minute aerobic power number you see in your test is still valuable as a metric to improve over time as you build your aerobic fitness.

Using our Training Zone Calculator spreadsheet, you will see your 20-minute AeT Power from your test result, as well as your true AeT Power calculated from both your Fatigue Rate and the rough guideline of 85% of FTP.

Identifying your Aerobic Threshold power is part 1 of our 2-part testing protocol. Part-2 is identifying your Anaerobic Power and rate of fatigue as you increase output durations.

Find your Fatigue Rate, here’s how we do it…

After a solid warm-up from the AeT Test interval, we do a 1:00, a 2:00 and a 4:00 test for max power; each with 4-8 minutes recovery between test efforts. With the doubling durations we can calculate the percentage that power drops off between the 1:00 and 2:00 intervals, and the 2:00 and 4:00 intervals. This percentage of decline in power is referred to as your Fatigue Rate. For the moderate to well-trained athlete, this Fatigue Rate remains pretty constant as you extend outwards in doubling durations. Example: 4:00 to 8:00, 8:00 to 16:00, 16:00 to 32:00, and so on.

Using our Training Zone Calculator Spreadsheet, athletes can plug their test results in and the spreadsheet spits out a Fatigue Rate percentage and the resulting training zones specific to their power and rate of fatigue. Not only does the Fatigue Rate help to calculate the training zones, but it sheds light on the “Power vs. Endurance” scale that an athlete is currently experiencing.

A high Fatigue Rate indicates that an athlete slows down at a high rate and could benefit from more endurance training (ie. more “low-end” aerobic training). Conversely a low Fatigue Rate means the athletes endurance is solid, but could use more strength or power training (ie. more “top-end”, as strength training and/or high-intensity intervals).

Over the years we have found that a Fatigue rate between 8-9% to be a good balance point between Power and Endurance.

The end goal then with training is not to simply achieve this balance point, but to continue to increase your “top-end” power: 1, 2, and 4 minute powers, while maintaining a Fatigue Rate of around 8%. This would achieve more power across all durations of output and faster racing!

I was first introduced to this concept of declining output percentages and rates of fatigue as a means to measure fitness many years ago at a coaching conference from a running coach, and soon after from a cycling coach experimenting with power numbers. Since then I have continually been intrigued and have it found it to be very insightful with the athletes I train and have coached over the years.

Our Power Testing protocol does a great job of identifying an athletes top-end power, as well as where their aerobic development is at the time through their Fatigue Rate and AeT Testing numbers. Our goal is always to continually increase the short-power numbers through strength & plyometric training in the gym along with appropriate doses of high intensity training on the bike. As the short duration power numbers rise, we must also address aerobic fitness on the other end to prevent the Fatigue Rate from getting too high. We do this by incorporating longer endurance rides and/or AeT intervals into a an athletes program.

In the end, it’s a continually sliding scale of ‘power vs. endurance’ that must be constantly addressed, and never ignored, in order to maximize performance.

 

Curious to give our Aerobic and Anaerobic Power Test at try? Schedule your testing at Sessions:6 HERE

Part 3, of our Testing Protocol Series will provide some real world examples from some of our athletes, and what to do with your results.

 

You can also purchase our 24-Week Off-Season Trainer Series from Training Peaks that includes our testing protocol as well as a complete build through each energy system to improve your top-end power and fatigue resistant endurance. Check it out HERE

 

Written by Cody Waite, professional endurance athlete, endurance sport coach and founder of Sessions:6 Sport Performance. Looking for help with your endurance sport training? Check out S:6’s Training Plans, Team Programs, and  Personal Coaching options created to fit your needs and budget.

The S:6 Testing Protocol, Part 1:

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.

What if we said we can offer you another, possibly better, way to test on the bike to gain insight on your fitness, set zones, and track progress?

Over the last 10 years of training and coaching with power in our trainer studio environment, and out on the roads and trails, we at Sessions:6 have found a different way to perform power testing that presents us with more insight on a rider’s fitness and sets more personalized training zones.

Every endurance athletes is different. Each comes to the sport of cycling or triathlon from different backgrounds of sport, and a different set of physiological strengths and weaknesses.

To generalize, we can look at endurance athletes as two types:

  1. Strength/Power Based Athlete: strong, powerful, can crush it for a few seconds (sprint!) to a few minutes, but then power drops off rapidly and they slow down from there. These athletes typically come from power/speed sports like soccer, football, or wrestling, or were “sprinters” on the track or in the pool in their youth; often larger and more heavily muscled builds.
  2. Aerobic Based Athlete: not particularly snappy, but can churn out the steady power and can go all day long with minimal drop in speed/power. These athletes often were the “slow” kid on their teams growing up, enjoyed hiking or longer distance running and swimming events, or as adults have only done long (slow) endurance training/events over the years; commonly a smaller and leaner build.

Have each of these athletes perform an 8 to 20 minute power test you will be taxing them in different ways. While you may come up with an FTP that is accurate enough to calculate their training zones from, the “Power Athlete’s” test results will likely result in the Anaerobic Threshold and sub-threshold power values to be a bit high and the top-end power values to be a little low; whereas the “Aerobic Athlete’s” test results will likely result in power values on the top-end being too high and on the low end to low.

This may be “splitting hairs” a bit, but what’s more important to consider here is that for endurance athletes of all types, the primary goal is to be able to produce the most power possible over the duration required for the event. Put another way… maximize the power, while minimizing the decline in power as durations extend.

In general, those that typically win endurance events are the ones that SLOW DOWN the least!!

Our testing protocol takes this concept into account by identifying the individuals rate of fatigue (how much their power drops between test intervals) to calculate their power training zones (including an “FTP”) and at the same time shines some light on where they are at on the “Power vs. Endurance” scale to better show where they should focus their training efforts. The short duration testing intervals we use for this part of the test allows us to specifically identify and track the riders top-end anaerobic power capabilities, and at the same time determine their rate of fatigue. To keep tabs and monitor progress on the other end of the spectrum, the aerobic endurance or “fatigue resistance” end, we include an Aerobic Threshold (AeT) Test interval as part of our testing protocol as well. As you can see, there are two parts to the training equation, Power vs. Endurance, so we should have two parts to the testing protocol.

Your Aerobic Threshold, the key to Fatigue Resistance

As discussed in a previous post, Training With Power or Heart Rate?, I mentioned a few of the primary objectives of aerobic training: improvements in cardiovascular infrastructure (stronger heart, more blood vessels, more mitochondria, etc), and improvements in energy metabolism by increasing the use of fat for fuel and sparing glycogen at higher and higher outputs. Big power numbers are flashy and cool, but in the endurance sport world fatigue resistance is king.

Aerobic fitness is essential in cultivating endurance, the ability to resist fatigue, and minimize one’s Fatigue Rate.

With a lower Fatigue Rate an athlete’s power drops more slowly over time and therefore they can keep pushing the pedals harder, creating more power, for longer.  Improving or maintaining that balance between power and endurance is crucial to your success. If you improve power a the sake of a loss in aerobic fitness you may not have actually gotten any faster at your target race intensities. This is why you must always keep tabs on your power at Aerobic Threshold (AeT) to be sure you aren’t increasing your Fatigue Rate any more than necessary.

In training our goal is then two-fold: to improve both your top-end speed & power through strength and plyometric training in the gym, and through high-intensity intervals on the bike; AND to improve your aerobic fitness so you can utilize more of that power over longer periods of time by minimizing the decline that occurs as you fatigue.

To test an athletes AeT power, we include an AeT test interval in our testing protocol. The test requires an athlete to focus entirely on riding at their identified AeT Heart Rate for an extended period of time. Then we look for the average power that was a result of the aerobic effort. The overall goal is to improve your aerobic power to keep your Fatigue Rate as low as possible while at the same time increasing your anaerobic power to give you a higher starting point of power to utilize across all durations. There in lies the tricky balance of training and maximizing performance!

Curious to give our Aerobic and Anaerobic Power Test at try? Schedule your testing at Sessions:6 HERE

Part 2, of our Testing Protocol Series will lay out our exact testing session procedure and provide some real world examples from some of our athletes.

 

You can also purchase our 24-Week Off-Season Trainer Series from Training Peaks that includes our testing protocol as well as a complete build through each energy system to improve your top-end power and fatigue resistant endurance. Check it out HERE

 

Written by Cody Waite, professional endurance athlete, endurance sport coach and founder of Sessions:6 Sport Performance. Looking for help with your endurance sport training? Check out S:6’s Training Plans, Team Programs, and  Personal Coaching options created to fit your needs and budget.

Training With Power Or Heart Rate?

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…

  • Your Vo2 Max training block calls for multiple sessions of 8 x 2:00 at your 16:00 max power (or appx. 110-115% of FTP), with 2:00 recoveries, over a 21 day period. Here’s a possible scenario…
    • Session 1: you hit your power numbers and heart rate reaches 169-173 bpm by the end of the intervals 3-8. Good start.
    • Session 2: similar results.
    • Sessions 3: you’re having a stressful few days a work, not sleeping well. You’re able to hit your power numbers, however your HR is 172-176 for the last few intervals. This is indicating you are putting out more effort to do the same amount of work. Do this for too long and you risk overdoing it.
    • Session 4: you decide to skip in favor of more recovery and do an easy ride.
    • Session 5: you’re back to similar results as 1 & 2.
    • Session 6: you hit your power targets, and notice your HR is only 165-169 bpm for the last few intervals. This indicates you’re adapting to the workload (power requirement) and now it’s requiring less effort to hit same power. Improved fitness! You’re ready to increase load (as in higher power, more reps, or shorter recoveries).

Now granted, this is a simplistic view of things. Do, however, consider that in this example the power reading remained the same the entire time. Had you not had a HRM you would have missed the higher HRs when stressed and maybe dug a hole of fatigue early on. Or you might have missed the lower HRs at the end that indicate you may be ready for a higher training load. Both super valuable in making adjustments in your training for continued improvement.

 

Power should be the primary metric for high-intensity training at and above our Anaerobic Threshold.

You then gauge how your body is responding to the workload by using heart rate as the secondary metric. You should always be looking for improvements in lower HR compared to same power outputs as a sign of positive adaptation. Use both together to be able to gauge your fitness vs. freshness levels on a day to day basis. This will allow you to know when you should back off or ramp up based on your body’s response to your training program.

So yes, there are many variables, like sleep, hydration, elevation, stress, and diet, that can affect HR. But these same variables affect how you are able to train and more importantly absorb, or adapt to, your training that you’re doing. If you just stick to hitting the power numbers, how do you know when you’re improving and you’re ready for an increased load? Or on the contrary, how do you know when you need to back things off a bit because hitting those numbers is more difficult than it should be due to fatigue or a change in training environment?

Our preferred method of testing for anaerobic power development and setting power training zones is doing a Power Test, that requires you to perform test intervals of 1:00, 2:00 and 4:00 in duration for max power. As a result you identify both your Fatigue Rate and max HR to set your power and heart rate based training zones.

With Aerobic Training, Heart Rate becomes Primary Metric.

When you train to improve the aerobic energy system you’re looking for two primary adaptations, one in cardiovascular infrastructure (stronger heart, more blood vessels, more mitochondria, etc), and the other in energy metabolism of using fat for fuel and sparing glycogen at higher and higher outputs. The aerobic energy system requires longer and lower intensity outputs to train for these adaptations. For this reason heart rate is often more useful as the primary training metric, with power used as the secondary metric to look for improvement in (increase) over time.

When you go for a longer ride, or even longer intervals, focusing on a specific power number requires to much effort and can be frustrating. Instead, focus on a HR range to target. Training to a specific HR for the longer, lower intensity work is easier to maintain and less affected by the immediate terrain and weather. With aerobic training, you’re either targeting a specific duration of riding to achieve your training load (ie. 4 hours at aerobic HRs, where power isn’t very relevant); or you can get more structured with say 4 x 10:00 at Aerobic Threshold (AeT) HR where you target a specific, more narrow HR zone for the intervals. Here you check progress by looking for improvements of average power for that HR zone and or less power-fade or “decoupling” between the HR and power measurements as duration increases.

Our preferred method of testing for aerobic development is doing an Aerobic Threshold (AeT) Test, that requires you to perform the test interval to a specific HR, and then reference your power for the test interval as your measure of improvement.

In summary, your training program can be far more effective, informative, and engaging if you use both power and heart rate as metrics to gather data.

  • When training the top-end energy systems (ie. Anaerobic Threshold, Vo2 Max, Anaerobic Power and Peak Power) you use power as primary metric to target workload and use heart rate as secondary metric to see your response to that workload. From here you are able to make adjustments on the fly (mid-workout even!) and in your extended planning.
    • You can utilize a Smart Trainer, like the Wahoo Kick’r, for power-based indoor workouts if you can’t have a power-meter on your bike(s) for both indoors & outdoors.
  • When training your lower-end aerobic energy systems you’ll switch things around to focusing on HR while using power as secondary reference to measure your aerobic progress and stamina.
    • This works well for longer rides outdoors where a HRM is easy to have along for the ride and power isn’t a necessity.

 

Are you looking to train more effectively with both Power & HR this Off-Season?

You can purchase our 24-Week Off-Season Trainer Series from Training Peaks that includes our testing protocol as well as a complete build through each energy system to improve your top-end power and fatigue resistant endurance. Check it out HERE

 

Written by Cody Waite, professional endurance athlete, endurance sport coach and founder of Sessions:6 Sport Performance. Looking for help with your endurance sport training? Check out S:6’s Training Plans, Team Programs, and  Personal Coaching options created to fit your needs and budget.

 

Ideas For Your Off-Season

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!).
  • THE RACE SEASON: this is the time of year the bulk of their racing occurs (typically Spring through end of Summer or early Fall). This is when training becomes more race-specific as they build up their top priority events. Training also become more polarized, with their race prep training and recovery balance being of the most importance. During this time overall training volume often drops when compared to the hight of their off-season. This allows for more freshness as the begin to add the demands of racing to their schedule. This is why you must make the most of your Off-Season training, racing gets in the way of training once race season arrives!!
    • Pro Tips: You may still race in late in your off-season, but these are typically low-priority events that are done more as workouts and early season fitness gauges, opposed to races you are peaking for or looking to perform at your best. Your goal in the off-season is to build your fitness to the highest point, then once in race season you are sharpening your fitness to the specific demands of your goal event(s), and recovering between multiple events.

For most endurance athletes, you should be TRAINING to the best of your ability from November through April so you can RACE to the best of your ability in May through October!!

 

SOME THINGS TO CONSIDER FOR YOUR OFF-SEASON:

Move from ‘Least Specific’ to ‘More Specific’ training as your progress through your Off-Season.

  • As you enter your Off-Season training, your race season is many weeks, if not months, away. The further from a peak performance you are, the less sport specific your training needs to be. This ‘non-specific’ training allows for a nice change of pace, using muscles that aren’t frequently used, and ups the enjoyment factor of training differently. Weight training in the gym and cross-training by hiking, rowing or skiing are great examples of non-specific training. Then you can progress towards easy/slow base miles to build your aerobic system if your race-specific training is typically fast and powerful; or train the power and speed side of things if your target events are long distance (i.e.. slower) events like ironman or marathon mountain bike events. Later in your off-season you can progress towards training that gets closer to your target race demands as fitness improves.

Train Your Weaknesses First.

  • Similar to the “Least to More” Specific training progression described above, start your off-season training by focusing on your weakness(es). Again, racing is a ways down the road, so take the time to actually improve your ability this time of the year. Then as you move towards racing season, progress your training towards training your strengths. This method will encourage improvement early on and then build confidence as you approach race day.

Strength Train!

  • Don’t be afraid of the gym or ‘getting huge’ and slow. Improving the strength of your individual muscles fibers has been proven to improve power production, delay fatigue, and improve injury resistance. This can only be accomplished by moving your body in different ways than you’re accustom to and adding resistance.
  • Read my previous BLOG post about my strength training concept HERE

Break your Off-Season into Thirds.

  • Look at how many weeks you have available for your off-season training and divide the amount into three distinct training blocks that focus on the following…
    • 1/3 Focus = low-intensity, aerobic base building combined with building movement strength in the gym.
    • 2/3 Focus = medium-intensity, anaerobic threshold training combined with peak strength in the gym.
    • 3/3 Focus = small amounts of high intensity training combined with peak power in the gym.
  • From the completion of your Off-Season training, you’re ready to move into your Race Prep training and progressively back out the intensity; from high, where you finished off-season, to progressively lower as you build towards your goal race. As you back out the intensity you develop the volume (endurance) needed for your target event(s). Athletes focusing on races under 2 hours can often race very well right out of their off-season training, while racers looking at 2-5 hour long events need a block or two of extending endurance training to really peak, and ultra-distance racers need to add even a bit more volume to their program to be ready for their event demands.
  • Read my previous BLOG post about my aerobic conditioning concept HERE

Get on the Trainer!

  • The trainer is perhaps the perfect environment for improving your cycling economy, strength, and power. Through training with the new generation of Smart Trainers in our S:6 Trainer Studio the last three years, I’ve seen larger improvements on the bike than ever before. By utilizing cadence, power, and heart rate you can maximize your time and make the most out of your off-season training on the bike.
  • Check out my 24-week Off-Season Trainer Plan available on Training Peaks

Don’t think you can’t race.

  • You can still race while in your “off-season”. Most people do. And you can sometimes race particularly well in the last third of your off-season training. You want to create your annual training program targeting a few goal events for the year.  Starting your off-season, it may be 6-8 months until your next “A” race, but you will likely (and should) race a few times before your first target event. Plan your Off-Season to finish with 3-12 weeks of Race Prep training before your “A” race (depending on duration of A race). Go ahead and plop some races into your program along the way for both fun and to gauge fitness and race-readiness as you approach your target events.

 

If you like what you’ve read thus far, consider my Complete Off-Season Training Program for cyclists of all kinds and triathletes looking to make a statement on the bike next season. If you live in the Denver area you can join us for in-person training from November through April, or for those that live outside of Denver you can download my program via Training Peaks and follow along at home on your trainer and at the gym on your own.

Learn More:  Complete Off-Season Program

What ever you decide and what ever your training & racing goals are for the next season, be sure to make the most out of your Off-Season. Don’t let this valuable time of the year pass without maximizing your fitness gains that will lead to better performance when your  next Race Season rolls around.

 

Written by Cody Waite, professional endurance athlete, endurance sport coach and founder of Sessions:6 Sport Performance. Looking for help with your endurance sport training? Check out S:6’s Training Plans, Team Programs, and  Personal Coaching options created to fit your needs and budget.

The Six Components Of Fitness Of Sessions:6

The Six Components of Fitness of Sessions:6

It’s common thought that to become a better athlete you simply need to train more and push harder to be successful. 

Many athletes are familiar with the 10,000 hour rule which states that it requires 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to obtain elite level proficiency in your sport. In many ways this concept holds true; you need to put in the time for your body to adapt to and learn the skills and movements required to perform at a high level of sport. However, we have found that there is more to the equation of improvement in sports than simply just training more. You certainly can and do become a better athlete simply by doing more of what you are striving to improve; more hours on the bike, more miles on the run, or more time in the gym. Assuming you have the time and fitness to spend 5+ hours a day training your sport, in time, you will become highly competent in your sport, allowing you to compete at a very high level.

There’s no question that if you put in the time, you will improve. But is this high volume, single-focused training approach the right way to maximize performance? Maybe, maybe not. Is it the only way to maximize performance? Definitely not.

Then what is the ‘right’ way or ‘best’ way to improve as an athlete?

There are many theories out there to follow, however we have found the answer to be: “It depends.” It depends on who the athlete is. How old is the athlete, what is the athlete’s background in sport, what is the athlete’s lifestyle, do they have a job, do they have a family, do they have the time, energy and physical capacity to allow them to train 30+ hours a week, week in and week out? If you’re a 20-something year old, athletic individual with minimal life stress and plenty of financial backing then it’s time to put in the big volume. However, if you’re over thirty, have to make money to support yourself and/or your family, or are a less than perfect physical specimen, then simply doing more of the same thing is not the best path to follow to reach your fullest potential.

Through working with hundreds of different athletes coming from all shapes and sizes of background in sport, we have found that there are six essential components required to maximize fitness and athletic development.

So how is the aspiring athlete going to maximize improvement when spending endless hours cranking out the effort is not an option? We have found over the years that all athletes must make fitness and sport a lifestyle, much like a professional, focusing on both the large and the small components of fitness to build the best possible athlete they can be. We have identified six key elements that are crucial to athletic success, and they can all be implemented regardless of the individual experience level or the amount of time the athlete has to devote to their sport.

The SIX elements of sport performance that make up the SESSIONS:6 Sport Performance philosophy:

  • Aerobic Conditioning

  • Strength & Stability

  • Skill Proficiency

  • Diet & Nutrition

  • Stress Management

  • Mental Fitness

By learning, incorporating and striving to always improve upon these six key components of fitness, an athlete will be better able to reach their fullest potential in sport performance.

The first three components, aerobic conditioning, muscular stability, and skill proficiency make up the physical “training” an athlete with do.

Aerobic conditioning can be achieved by not only spending more time performing their sport, but also through various modalities of cross-training during specific times of the year. Training aerobic endurance by going longer at times, as well as incorporating moderate and high intensity interval training, at and above an athlete’s aerobic and anaerobic thresholds at specific points in their training year, will improve their aerobic conditioning.

Including muscular strength and joint stability training will improve an athlete’s range of motion, application of force, and overall durability. Improper joint mobility and/or joint stability limits nearly every athlete in some manner. Improving these characteristics through proper strength training modalities, an athlete will become more efficient and able to use more of their given maximal aerobic capacity.

Developing the skills to move the body in the most efficient manner is critical to maximizing strength, power, speed and endurance. Wasted energy through improper movements not only slows you down but wastes valuable energy, limiting your performance. By incorporating drills into an athlete’s training program they will be able to maximize gains in strength and power as well as achieve a higher usage of their given maximal aerobic capacity.

The last three key components, diet & nutrition, stress management, and mental fitness are efforts made in between the physical training sessions.

These details require as much or more effort to incorporate into an athlete’s routine, but they can also often yield some of the biggest results.

Most athletes are aware of the importance of nutrition but few actually take it seriously for any length of time. Through optimal nutrition you not only perform better on race day, but you are also able to achieve optimal body composition for improved performance, optimal energy levels to improve training capacity, and optimal hormone operation within the body to improve health and recovery.

Recovery between training sessions is critical to maximize your training consistency and adaptation. Learning and incorporating proper recovery methods as well as recognizing other forms of stress in your your life and adjusting your training accordingly will allow you to train more effectively and get more from each training session.

Finally, perhaps the most neglected and overlooked component of success in sport is the power of the mind. Getting yourself in the right mindset to train to your fullest potential and compete to maximum ability is one of the toughest things for athletes to learn. It is subsequently also one of the most important abilities for athletes to transform themselves into champions. Practicing mental strategies and learning how to train and compete to your true ability will unlock the complete athlete within you.

To become the best athlete you can become and reach your fullest potential in the least amount of time possible, you must address these six crucial components of sport performance development: aerobic conditioning, strength & stability, skill proficiency, diet & nutrition stress management, and mental fitness.

When any one of these components is neglected or underdeveloped, an athlete will fall short of their maximum ability. Don’t fall into the trap that there is only one path to improvement, doing the same thing over and over. Rather, choose to expand your vision and athletic ability by addressing these six components of fitness to allow yourself to continually evolve and improve as an athlete.

By incorporating these 6 components into your daily training and lifestyle you will be able to consistently improve your performance year after year.

Written by Cody Waite, professional endurance athlete, endurance sport coach and founder of Sessions:6 Sport Performance. Looking for help with your endurance sport training? Check out S:6’s Training Plans, Team Programs, and  Personal Coaching options created to fit your needs and budget.

I. Aerobic Conditioning

I. Aerobic Conditioning

In a previous blog post, I introduced our six components of fitness surrounding the Sessions:6 training philosophy. In this blog post I’ll dig a little deeper into the first component of sport performance:  Aerobic Conditioning. 

When people think of the word “fitness” the mind often goes first to aerobic conditioning. Aerobic fitness gives an athlete the ability to “go” and keep going. This is especially true for endurance sports like running, cycling, swimming, etc. Building up the endurance to go the distance is a primary objective for those athletes newer to athletic training and/or those training for long distance endurance events. But training to go long is not the only piece of the aerobic conditioning puzzle.

You can think of Aerobic Conditioning as two distinct elements:  

  1. Endurance

  2. Speed

Think of these two elements in these defining ways: endurance is the ability to maintain pace while speed is the ability to create pace. To be successful in sport and fitness you need to maximize both endurance and speed through creative training strategies. The shorter your goal event the greater an emphasis on speed and power will be required; while the longer your goal event the greater an emphasis on endurance will be required. However, regardless of the length of the events you are training for, you need to train both elements to maximize your aerobic conditioning.

Picture aerobic conditioning as a sliding scale. On one end you have the shortest duration, highest intensity output, the ‘alactate’ burst of maximum power; on the other end you have the ‘all day’ maximum endurance effort. In between these two extremes you have the classic physiological energy systems of anaerobic power (60-seconds to 4-minute max output), Vo2 max (8-minute to 16-minute output), lactate threshold (30-minute to 60-minute output), aerobic threshold (2-hour to 4-hour output) and aerobic endurance (extended output).

 

Energy System:                               Duration:

  1. Alactate                                                   <10 seconds          
  2. Anaerobic Power                  1-4 minutes                
  3. Vo2 Max                                  8-16 minutes                
  4. Anaerobic Threshold           30-60 minutes                                  
  5. Aerobic Threshold                2-4 hours                            
  6. Endurance                              >4 hours

       

Training all six of these ‘zones’ of intensity is critical for all athletes. Balancing the amount of each level of intensity, and at what point in their training year it is emphasized, makes up an effective aerobic conditioning training program.

Aerobic conditioning is highly trainable, although it can take many years to fully maximize in human physiology. Every human is born with an innate capacity to process oxygen, known as maximum oxygen uptake or, simply, Vo2 max. The more oxygen an athlete can supply to their working muscles the faster they can go. Vo2max is trainable to a certain extent, but everyone has their genetic ceiling of maximum uptake. One of the primary goals with aerobic conditioning is to maximize the sustainable percentage of their Vo2max they can reach in training and racing. Improving one’s ability to perform at the highest sustainable percentage of their Vo2max can be achieved by training any of the above mentioned energy systems, but is most effective by training all of the energy systems through an effective training program.

Training longer durations at lower intensities has many identified benefits such as increased mitochondria and capillary density to improve oxygen delivery, maximizing the use of slow twitch muscle fibers, improved fuel utilization and carbohydrate storage, and an increase in the volume of blood your heart can move with each beat. Long, slow distance training has been a staple of endurance sport training for years. For athletes that are coming to endurance sports from a ‘speed based’ background, are relatively young, healthy, have the time, and have lofty goals of racing performance, high volume training can help them succeed. Although as valuable as the benefits of low-intensity training are, you must have the time to put into this method as it requires increasingly higher and higher volumes to create the stimulus needed for improved fitness.

Most amateur athletes with a job and family to balance with their training schedule usually can only find time for limited amounts of high volume training. This leads us to consider how else can we improve our aerobic conditioning?

Training the short, powerful, high intensity energy systems happens to also have many identified benefits, and these can often be achieved with much lower training volumes. Benefits of high intensity training include increased oxygen utilization, improved lactate tolerance/utilization, maximizing the recruitment of both slow and fast twitch muscle fibers, increased hormone production, reduced insulin dependency, and improved movement efficiency. The benefits of high intensity training cannot be ignored, nor should the high intensity training in your training program. High intensity training definitely has its place in the sport performance training program, with the amount and timing of it being a key part of the metabolic puzzle.

Every individual has their own genetically given strengths; some athletes are more powerful and faster over short distances, while others are built for the long haul and can maintain moderate outputs for extended periods of time. To maximize your own sport performance you must identify your strengths and weaknesses and then create a training program that will improve your weaknesses while maximizing your strengths. Put simply, by improving your short-term high intensity energy systems you can go faster for longer, and by improving your long-term low intensity energy systems you can extend your speed over longer periods. These opposing ends of the physiological energy system scale should come together at some point inline with your targeted race-day intensity level you plan to predominantly utilize during your goal events.

Regardless of your strengths and weaknesses, your objective should be to create your own training program to give you the right amount of training stress to minimize fatigue and maximize performance.

The goal within your training program should be to apply just the right amount of low intensity and high intensity aerobic training to create the perfect amount of stimulus for your body to adapt to. Too much stimulus can lead to illness, fatigue or injury; not enough stimulus and you fail to continue improving and don’t reach your fullest potential. Mixing the right amount of training stress (balanced with “life stress”) into an individual’s training program is the secret to maximizing fitness and is unique to every athlete.

 


Written by Cody Waite, professional endurance athlete, endurance sport coach and founder of Sessions:6 Sport Performance. Looking for help with your endurance sport training? Check out S:6’s Training Plans, Team Programs, and  Personal Coaching options created to fit your needs and budget.