The S:6 Base Builder Program: Block 3

The S:6 Base Builder Program: Block 3

  • January 15, 2018
  • Blog

Happy New Year! January brings block 3 of our Off-Season Base Build Program with our local in-house athletes in Denver. We meet 4 days a week, most weeks, for 6 months for indoor gym sessions, trainer sessions, and testing. 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 Base Build Training Plan, as well as a more condensed 12-week Base Build Training Plan, to follow on your own where ever you live.

Upon conclusion of Block 2 we took a little recovery time through the New Year holiday window and returned on January 2nd for our second of 4 testing sessions within our 6-month program. Our first test was at the end of October right before we kicked off official training; test two was 8 weeks later right after the new year, tests 3 and 4 will follow in 8-week cycles at the 2/3 point of the program and conclusion of the program. We prefer testing every 8-weeks as this provides enough time for fitness to evolve and provides a carrot of sorts to keep your training consistent so you make the improvements you’re looking for.

With test results in-hand we can check progress, reset training zones, keep motivation high, and get ready for further improvements over the next blocks of training.

Block 3 builds upon Blocks 1 & 2 with continued progressions in the gym and on the bike.

The weekly routine remains the same in the third block. Creating a consistent daily routine of the training pattern is an essential part of the program. Knowing exactly what you’re doing on any given day of the week: gym day, interval day, endurance day, recovery day; helps to establish the consistency in training that is so critical to progression and success.  In the following paragraphs I’ll break down the subtle progressions to be made in each of the three domains of training days. Block 3 makes up weeks 9-16 in the 24-weeks of the Base Build Program.

 

Block 2: Gym Sessions

Block 3 brings the final big push of heavy strength work in our primary movements for cycling specific strength: the Back Squat & Deadlift. Over the first 8 weeks of training, we’ve methodically increased the training loads, and allowed adequate recovery/adaptation time, to allow for a final build towards peak movement strength in a 1 or 2 rep max lift by the end of this block. Rep schemes become less and less as loads increase over the final 3 weeks of this build. The goal of the heavy lifting is to reach maximum, or near maximum, movement strength prior to shifting the focus towards single-leg stability movements and more explosive plyometric training in the second half of the Base Builder Program.

Along with the two key strength key movements, the Push & Pull movements for the upper body are further increased in loads and/or complexity of movement for continued progression. Core strength follows the same pattern of increased reps and/or complexity of movements that target all the muscles surrounding the hips: the low-back, glutes, and abdominal muscles for linear movement, and the glute-medeius and obliques for lateral movements.

Lastly, we begin to introduce more dynamic drills in to the session warm-ups that include “plate agility drills” (very low-hight jumping, landing and rebounding movements), and Depth Jumps (stepping off gradually higher heights to learn “landing mechanics”) to train the eccentric absorbing of plyometric impacts before learning the more explosive “rebound” jumps in the next block of training.

 

Block 2: Structured Trainer Sessions

The structured interval sessions become more power based in block 3. In the two previous blocks we trained the aerobic system with increasing duration Aerobic Threshold and Aerobic-Strength intervals. The lower-intensity Aerobic energy system is best trained via heart rate. As we progress to higher intensity energy systems, power becomes the focal point to set training loads, while using heart rate to identify adaptation (or lack there of) and future progression in loads.  You can read more about this concept in a previous post: Training Heart Rate & Power.

In Block 3 we progress to the next higher energy system: Anaerobic Threshold (aka. Zone 4, Lactate Threshold or just “threshold” training).  This energy system targets power levels between 32:00 and 64:00 power. The workouts in this program are designed to be performed on the indoor-trainer so we target the shorter duration 32:00 power (more powerful) to allow for shorter intervals (less mind-numbing).

We begin with just 18:00 of work in the first session, as 3×6:00 to ease into the effort of the new energy system, and progress over the weeks as through 24:00 of work and finally 32:00 of work at max 32:00 power. Each riders 32:00 Power is identified from our Testing Protocol and provides them with an exact workload to be training at. We can further manipulate things with the amount of recovery time between intervals, beginning with 3:00 and reducing down to just 1:00 in the last session of the block for the most demanding workout. Here’s how it looks in our Wahoo Kickr Trainer Studio at Sessions:6:

  • Session 1: 18:00 (total work duration) as 3×6:00, with 3:00 recoveries

  • Session 2: 24:00 as 4×6:00, with 3:00 recoveries

  • Session 3: 24:00 as 3×8:00, with 3:00 recoveries

  • Session 4: 32:00 as 4×8:00, with 3:00 recoveries

  • Session 5: 32:00 as 4×8:00, with 2:00 recoveries

  • Session 6: 32:00 as 4×8:00, with 1:00 recoveries

In addition to the Anaerobic Threshold intervals, we keep up with single-leg ILT intervals for one last block in order to reach peak effort for strength development. This coincides with the peak strength being achieved in the gym sessions. It is here that the complete connection between the knee and hip extension while maintaining proper shoulder and back stabilization in the Deadlift in the gym, and the hip-knee extension with proper core tension and pull on the handlebar on the bike in the 60 rpm high-tension ILTs is most apparent.

The strength and power on the bike achieved through he strength work in the gym becomes so clear at this pointing the program!

Block 2: Endurance Sessions

Our outdoor endurance sessions continue to lengthen in Block 3. Adding 10-15 minutes per weekend ride is a great place to be. You’re likely feeling your fitness really improving around this time of the program and getting more and more eager to test it out. Adding in a faster paced group ride on one day is a great option  for getting in some unstructured intensity to the program. Just keep it minimal and don’t smash yourself on any given ride where you need 3 days to recover from it. Keep things in moderation so daily recovery is achievable and you can keep your training consistent day to day.

Another great option, included in the training plan, is an aerobic-strength session, indoors or out, to maintain the aerobic-strength gains made in the previous block. Taking aerobic-strength outside on a local climb is often more challenging that indoors, so start with shorter durations, like 6×3:00, and build weekly from there. Again, the goal is to gradually build rather than smash yourself, so be conservative and patient and gains will be made safely and soundly.

At this point in the program, make getting outside and getting in longer rides (or hikes/skis if weather is poor) in on the weekend a priority to build your endurance.  If unsure if you should add in the group intensity to aerobic-strength, it’s better to stick with just going longer and longer and building up that fatigue resistance. These easier, long sessions should not require much in terms of recovery and you get the full endurance benefits. If getting outside or going longer, is not an option on a given day, then hit the trainer with some Aerobic Threshold intervals (from Block 1) to build endurance through a more time efficient manner at 80% max HR.

Block 3 brings max efforts in strength and the beginning of power-based training on the bike.

 

Interested in giving it a try yourself?

  • Download our complete 24-week Base Build Program on Training Peaks HERE.

  • Download our more condensed 12-week Base Build Program on Training Peaks HERE.

Programs include:

  • 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 2018 Base Build: Block 2 Recap

Cody’s 2018 Base Build: Block 2 Recap

  • January 8, 2018
  • Blog

The second block of my off-season Base Build consumed the month of December. As we all know, the window of time between Thanksgiving and New Years is always a challenge. End of year business deadlines, family time, social activities, training time, and weather are all pieces in the “Life Puzzle” that must be assembled in this month of the year. I’m pleased to report that most of my pieces were large and few in numbers, so my puzzle went together with relative ease and success.

On the training front, I’m continuing to make some solid progress and I’m loving every minute of it.

Strength Training

As mentioned before, in my Block 1 Recap, Strength Training is going to be large part of my annual training program throughout my entire season. I’m turning 40 this year and I can really feel the effects of not strength training compared to the overall health and “feeling good” that comes with strength training. I don’t have any evidence to back it up, but I truly believe there are positive chemical/hormonal effects in the body when you lift heavy weights. I feel this is particularly valuable to take advantage of as we age. Kind of an “anti-aging” type thing: keep the muscles and hormones firing on all cylinders and we resist the degradation and slow the effects of getting older.

Use It or Lose It!

That said, Block 2 Strength Training consisted of continued strength building. Where Block 1 established a foundation of movement strength and got me passed the feeling of post-workout soreness with relative light loads, Block 2 began to pile on some weight. Over the 3 weeks I progressively increased the loads in my primary movements: the back squat & deadlift for the lower body; reaching a “peak set” set of reps in the last week at 95% of my one rep max.  For my “push-pull” upper body movements in this block I focused on the bench press and pull-up combo; also achieving some solid gains with a 160 lbs bench press and 5 sets of 10 strict pull ups.

Aerobic Training

For Block 2 I kept the same pattern of Strength Day, Trainer Day, Endurance Day as described in my Block 1 Recap. On the bike the focus moved from basic Aerobic Threshold (AeT) work I did in Block 1 to “Aerobic-Strength” work as a progression towards increased loads. The progression here is layering in the big-gear low-cadence component for the strength aspect, while maintaining aerobic HRs.

The goal was to train the heart in Block 1, followed by the muscles in Block 2, for maximum aerobic-strength development.

Trainer sessions included extended single-leg ILT work which also focused on large muscle recruitment with bigger gears at 60 rpm and increasing average power outputs over the 3 weeks. After the single-leg work, came the longer Aerobic-Strength intervals that consisted of standing up in nearly my largest gear, pedaling at around 55 rpm. Beginning with 4×5:00 in the first week and progressing to 3×8:00, 2×12:00, 2×15:00 and finally 1×30:00 in the final week to maximize muscular endurance. In week 3 we also added in some short surges at the end of the long intervals to introduce some higher power work (and make the time go by faster) by surging to 70 rpm for 15-seconds each minute. Good times!

Get the FULL details & specifics of our off-season Base Builder Trainer Series.

My outdoor endurance rides progressed along nicely in the first couple weeks of Block 2 while the Denver winter was slow to arrive. By mid-month however the temps finally dropped, we got a little snow, and the outdoor riding options decreased significantly in the final 10 days of so of my training block. This happens, and it happens nearly like clockwork every late December in Denver, so I was ready with a Plan B: more trainer time!

When things get unappealing outside, I bring them inside. For intended longer endurance rides, I trim the quantity and boost the quality just a bit to achieve the desired training stress (TSS) for the day.

For example: if the plan calls for a 4-hour ride at low intensity and 175 TSS, and it is snowing outside…

I take my ride indoors and do 2-hours with 2×30:00 at Aerobic Threshold HR/power as the main set. This alteration, along with a warm-up spin, a few sets of ILTs on both sides of the mainset, and a warm-down spin, and I still get my aerobic training and hit around that 175 TSS target for the day. Not too bad. Other options can also include subbing other activities like running or xc-skiing, but since I’m not running this year and skiing is a bit of a time suck, the trainer is my preferred method. If snow-day trainer rides were to become the norm, I would certainly seek the other alternatives out for more variation.

The trainer session example above is exactly what Kathy and I did on Christmas Eve when it was too cold and sloppy to get outside. Similarly, the day after Christmas we doubled up on the two trainer sessions we offered at the S:6 Wahoo Kickr Studio as part of Week 7 of the 2018 Off-Season Base Builder Program that day.

Then came the big day of the “Quad-Trainer” session that Will Foley, a 20-year-old athlete I coach, and I did on December 28th. On this day we decided to smash ourselves with all four trainer sessions in the studio!

Each sessions was the same and consisted of spin-ups to warm-up, ILT strength work, 30 minutes aerobic-strength climb with 10 surges in last 10 minutes (to 175% FTP), and a 5:00 spin to finish it off. Here’s a brief rundown of that day…

  • 6:30 AM – Early rise, slow to warm-up, but not so bad.

  • 12:00 PM – After a big breakfast and a nap, feeling solid.

  • 4:30 PM – Power numbers are up and feeling strong!

  • 6:15 PM – Barely held on through the surges as muscular strength was fading fast and fast twitch fibers were nearly exhausted.

Despite relatively low-intensity training (HR only exceeded 150 bpm briefly with the surging), this was a monster muscular endurance day, and I felt the fatigue for the next few days. Totals on the day amounted to:

  • Five hours of total riding time

  • Two hours of big gear, low cadence, standing “climbing”

  • Forty 15-second surges over 175% FTP

  • Sixty minutes of pedaling w/ one leg

  • Thirty minutes of pedaling over 120 rpm

  • approx. 80 miles

  • 10,000 feet climbing equivalent

  • 368 TSS

This big day capped off my Block 2 Build with a nice exclamation point and I was now ready to recover for a few days before performing our Testing Protocol at week 8 of the off-season Build Program.

Week 8 Testing

After three easy days of recovery it was time for our second test of the my off-season base build. Our testing protocol consists of a 20-minute sub-max aerobic test, followed by three short duration anaerobic power intervals to see where the top-end is at and determine my new Fatigue Rate, track progress, and re-set training zones for blocks 3 & 4 of the program.

Get the FULL scoop on our Testing Protocol. 

My last test (first test of the 2018 off-season training season) was back in late October. As mentioned, in previous post, the results were quite dismal due to the extended break from/low-level of training I did through the end of summer and early fall.  So progress was anticipated simply from the boosted training volume, effort and structure…and gains we seen. Here’s the recap…

  • 20:00 Aerobic Threshold Power @ 148 bpm
    • Pre-Test 2017:  238w
    • Week 8: 256w
    • Recent “Best” from Summer 2015:  274w
  • 1:00 Max Power
    • Fall 2017:  499w
    • Week 8: 505w
    • Summer 2015:  529w
  • 2:00 Max Power
    • Fall 2017:  380w
    • Week 8: 403w
    • Summer 2015:  454w
  • 4:00 Max Power
    • Fall 2017:  324w
    • Week 8: 340w
    • Summer 2015:  382w
  • Fatigue Rate
    • Fall 2017:  8.7%
    • Week 8: 8.17%
    • Summer 2015:  6.9%
  • This calculates an FTP of
    • Fall 2017:  247w (3.70 w/kg)
    • Week 8: 263w (3.89 w/kg)
    • Summer 2015:  308w (4.71 w/kg)

Conclusion

My first 8 weeks of my off-season Base Build program has been very consistent and successful. I’ve increased my movement strength via increased loads in weight training, and I’ve improved my power on the bike, aerobic power and FTP, by roughly 8%. A solid start to the training season and progress that I intend to continue to make over the coming months.

A steady and consistent build is the key to creating a solid off-season base from which you can further build your race specific fitness later in the year.

My coming blocks of training include continued strength work, building towards peak movement strength in another 3-4 weeks; continued progressions on the bike in terms of duration of long rides and intensity of structured sessions. Simply said, long rides will get longer, while intervals will get a little shorter and more powerful as I begin to train my Anaerobic Threshold energy system.

Now on to Block 3!

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.

 

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.

The S:6 Off-Season Base Builder Cycling Plan (a Deep Dive!)

The S:6 Off-Season Base Builder Cycling Plan (a deep dive!)

  • August 18, 2017
  • Blog

The stationary trainer is one of the best tools in your training arsenal.

The highly controllable environment makes it one of the most effective ways to improve your cycling power. By allowing your workouts to be controlled using variables like time, gearing, cadence, power and heart rate you can more easily execute precise, repeatable intervals. On the trainer you can eliminate the uncontrollable variables found in outdoor workouts like varying terrain, wind, weather, traffic, etc. You can focus solely on the work you are performing to make the most out of the time you are putting into your training.

Our 24 Week Base Builder Program/Plan, as well as its condensed little brother: the 12 Week Base Builder Program/Plan, are both designed to be performed during your “off-season”. The term off-season is referring to time off from racing, as opposed to time off from training. This concept is explained in a previous post, Ideas for Your Off-Season.  During this off-season base-building phase your primary objectives are to develop a strong aerobic system and build sport-specific strength.

Training Blocks

Our 24-week Base Builder program is built around six 3-week training blocks. Each block has a specific training focus that builds upon the previous block in intensity and training load. Within each block there are three weeks of loading (training) followed by one week of recovery (low-intensity), before getting into the next block. Each training block targets a specific energy system and the overall progression is from lowest intensity to highest intensity before reaching a peak at the end of your base build.

The energy system block progression on the trainer includes the following:
  • Block 1: Pedaling Skills/Aerobic Intervals
  • Block 2: Aerobic Threshold/Aerobic Strength 
  • Block 3: Anaerobic Threshold (including FTP)
  • Block 4: Vo2 Max
  • Block 5: Anaerobic Power 
  • Block 6: Peak Power 
In our off-season Base Build Program we leave zone 1/2 aerobic endurance training to longer outdoor rides and/or other extended aerobic endurance building activities such as skiing, hiking, running, etc. as time and weather permits.

The primary difference between our two programs, 24 vs. 12 weeks, is that speed at which the progressions through energy systems occur. The 24-week program allows for a more thorough off-season build and deeper base development for those that have the time and/or interest. While our condensed 12-week program goes through all six of the same energy systems as the longer version, it does it at much faster rate allowing for fewer weeks of training for those that don’t have the time due to an extended previous season of racing (or period of inactivity or training) or an earlier upcoming season of racing.

Upon completion of our 24-week or 12 week Base Builder programs, you will be ready to transition into your Race Season and/or more specific Race Preparation training phase.

This is when your training become more specific to address the demands of your goal race(s): road cycling, XCO mountain bike racing, endurance mountain bike racing, triathlon of all varieties and durations, etc. But before you can bring your race fitness to a peak, you must establish your base.

As a general rule of thumb, the longer, bigger, deeper more thorough base of fitness you can develop each year, as well as over many years, the more demands you can apply on yourself in your race preparation training and on race day. Most everyone is aware of this concept; however it is surprising how few racers actually apply it. Many racers hinder both their development and performance by not doing the specific training required in the off-season to build a prober base from which top-end fitness can be achieved.

 Training Zones & Testing

Our Base Builder programs/plans uses two primary metrics for training progression; one for measuring actual workload (power) and the other for measuring your body’s response to the workload (heart rate). You’ll ideally want to be equipped with both metrics to make the most of the training series (ie. power-meter and/or smart trainer AND heart rate monitor). To use one without the other shines light on only half of what’s really going on! Learn more about training with BOTH power and HR in a previous post: Training with Power or Heartrate? 

Within the 24-week program you will perform 4 tests; the first to establish your starting fitness and training zones, and 3 re-tests (one every 8 weeks) to track progress and adjust zones as you increase fitness. Within the 12-week program you test in week 8, but can opt to perform an earlier test in week 4 if you feel improvements have been made.

Our Testing protocol differs from many of the popular methods you may be familiar with. Our S:6 Testing Protocol includes a 20-minute sub-maximal Aerobic Threshold Test, to identify your Aerobic Power and track aerobic development; while three short maximal test efforts identify your Anaerobic Power, to determine your rate of fatigue as durations increase to used to calculate your extended training zones. With these data points we can more accurately calculate your training zones and better track improvements in fitness.

With your test completed, you will enter your result data into our S:6 Training Zone Calculator (Excel Spreadsheet) to receive your personalized Power & Heart Rate training zones pertaining to each energy system to be trained.

  • Aerobic Threshold HR (AeT HR)
  • Anaerobic Threshold HR (AnT HR)
  • Fatigue Rate
  • Your Individual Power & HR training zones
  • Functional Threshold Power (FTP) 

From here you simply enter your FTP number into your Training Peaks account to have your individual training sessions adjusted specifically to you. If using a Smart Trainer, you then can download the workout files to match your device and the power loads will be adjusted specifically to you as well. All super slick and takes the guess work out of everything, and you know every session is dialed in specifically to your current fitness.

Training with Power & HR

Training with power is one of the best things to happen to indoor training since the trainer itself. With power you can target specific workloads in a highly repeatable fashion and relate the workload to how your body responds to it via heart rate to track progress and performance. Today power-meters and power based “smart trainers” have become more affordable, easier to use and are widely available to any serious cyclist looking to improve their performance. This training series is designed around power to make it individualized to each user.

There are two heart rates that will be referred to in the workout series, and you will want to figure your specific HR’s out and memorize them.

The first is your maximum aerobic heart rate or aerobic threshold (AeT). The primary objective when building aerobic endurance is to improve your ability to burn fat for fuel while sparing glycogen (stored carbohydrates). The higher percentage of fat-to-carb you can train on, the faster and longer you will be able to go on race day as you will be relying less on sugar for fuel, which will increase your maximum sustainable power cycling. By training at (and a range of 10 beats below) your aerobic threshold (AeT) you’re training at your highest output while burning predominantly fat and keeping sugar-burning to a minimum. As you become more fit at this pace you will be able to train longer and longer distances on less and less energy (or go the same distance faster!).

The second heart rate that is referred to is your Anaerobic Threshold Heart Rate or AnT HR. This is your 1-hour race-pace heart rate. The balance point between lactic acid being metabolized for energy and accumulating in your blood. Train at or just below this effort level and you can increase your race-pace at any distance; go above this threshold for an extended period of time and you risk damaging your hard-earned aerobic development and will require significantly more recovery time between training sessions. You will likely spend more time training in this zone in your race specific  preparation following your base training, but you will hit this zone in small amounts in this series of workouts to prepare the body for the more extensive AnT training throughout your racing season.

The relationship between power and heart rate is super key in identifying training adaptations and knowing when to make progressions.

Power measures the output of work you are doing. Heart rate measures the response your body has to the work that is being done. When you can do the same work (power) with a lower response (lower HR), you know you are adapting to the work and making fitness gains. If you are doing the same amount of work (power), but working harder to do it (higher HR), then you have a problem that needs to be addressed by slowing down or resting. By using both metrics in your training you can make better decisions on when to increase workloads and when to back off.

Trainer Session Layout

There are several specific exercises that will be utilized throughout the workout series. Each workout is intended to last roughly 75 minutes in duration. With the duration static, the workouts are designed to progress with a higher and higher workload with each successive workout. The basic layout of every workout includes a warm-up to gradually elevate the HR (appx. 15-20 minutes), two to three exercises make up the main-set of the workout (appx. 45-50 minutes), and a cool-down spin to bring the HR back into normal resting ranges (appx. 5-10 minutes). Each exercise has a specific duration, cadence, gearing, HR and power guideline to follow.

The Exercises

There are nine exercises utilized within the workout series. Each one has a very specific protocol to following including variables such as resistance/gearing, cadence, power, HR, work duration and recovery duration. Below you will find a description of each exercise.

Spin-Ups: 

Used in this application as both a warm-up exercise and leg-speed development. These should be performed in your easiest gear with very little resistance. Your cadence will increase per instruction, your HR will rise gradually along with your cadence. HR is to not exceed your AeT HR. If your HR gets too high, lighten the resistance on your trainer or cease cadence increase until you improve your economy over the next several sessions.

Isolated Leg Training (ILT):

This exercise is both a leg strengthener and pedaling efficiency improver. You will unclip one leg and rest it on the back of your trainer (or let it dangle), while pedaling with the other leg. Complete the interval, clip the resting leg back in, pedal easy for a minute, and repeat with the other leg. That is one rep (one left-leg interval, followed by one right-leg interval). The “dead spot” will be noticeable, if not immediately, after a minute or two of the interval. This is where you are not applying force to the pedals and wasting energy. After several sessions your pedaling stroke will become noticeably smoother and “rounder”.

Low RPM intervals are designed to build specific strength. Every few sessions, as your strength improves, you will want to increase the load by shifting to a higher gear. HR should remain under your AeT throughout the interval, finishing right up to your AeT HR by the end of the intervals. If your HR is too high, try a smaller gear, if it’s too low, try a bigger gear. Cadence should remain at 60 rpm for the entire interval.  Changing hand positions each minute from tops to drops and back to tops will engage different muscles and make the time pass more quickly. It is often more difficult to perform ILTs in the drops due to the closed hip-angle and greater recruitment of the hip-flexors.

High RPM ILT intervals are designed to improve your neuro-muscular capabilities. Training the muscles to fire smoothy throughout the entire pedal stroke. These often feel quite easy for the first 60 seconds and then can become quite difficult until you train your muscles to cooperate. You will perform these in your easiest gear, with very little resistance. HR is not a concern here and should not rise much at all. If it does, your resistance is too high. As with the low-cadence ILTs, changing hand positions each minute from tops to drops and back to tops will engage different muscles and

make the time pass more easily. It is noticeably more difficult to perform the 80 rpm ILT’s in the drops due to the closed hip-angle and greater recruitment of the hip-flexors.

Aerobic Threshold (AeT) Intervals:  2-3 Hour Power 

To train the Aerobic Energy System, you want to target your AeT HR. You will pedal in a self selected gearing/cadence to achieve the target HR. Power will be approximately 85% of FTP at this effort level.

Aerobic-Strength Intervals:  

As your aerobic fitness improves you can add “hills” to your intervals for added strength benefits.

“Climbing” on the trainer can be achieved by elevating your front wheel above the rear with a trainer block, block of wood, stack of books or whatever method you choose. This elevated position engages slightly different muscles and simulates climbing on the road. With this exercise you will sit or stand and pedal, as in climbing a hill. This exercise builds both strength and aerobic fitness. The gearing is near your largest gear (high resistance), producing a cadence between 50 and 60 rpm. You will plod along at this low-cadence while changing hand positions every few minutes, from hoods and drops, to engage different muscles and keep things interesting. HR should rise after the first few minutes into your AeT HR Zone. It’s best to let it rise on it’s own and not exceed the mid-point of that zone. Again appropriate gearing/resistance will be the key if you are finding your HR too high or not high enough. When standing, weak core strength will be noticeable while performing this exercise as your back may fatigue before your legs do. If this happens, feel free to sit down for a minute to rest, before standing back up and continuing on.

Stand & Surge:

Once you have built up your “climbing” strength and endurance, you begin to elevate your HR a bit more with the addition of surges. These surges are slight increase in cadence over your “normal” climbing cadence you’ve been using to this point. In the last few minutes of your regular Strength Climb, you will surge by raising your cadence between 10 and 20 rpms for the last 15 seconds of each minute prescribed in the workout. This acceleration will increase your power output for the 15 seconds and raise your HR several beats. The surge is not a sprint or attack, but rather a quick increase in cadence. HR should rise to and slightly above your AeT HR by the last few. Again, not intended to be an all-out effort, just a simple introduction to a higher power workload. In between 15-second surges you will return to your Steady Strength cadence and your HR will recover partially before the next surge. With each surge your HR will rise slightly higher than the previous. Upon the completion of the final surge, stop pedaling completely, sit down and note your “peak HR”. Watch your HR fall and note how quickly it drops to below 100 bpm. Over the course of the series you should see your HR drop faster from higher peak HR indicating improved aerobic fitness.

6 to 8-minute AnT intervals: 32-64:00 Power 

Finally you are allowed to get your HR up over your AeT for a longer period of time. These intervals begin to touch on your anaerobic system by using a bit more carbohydrate to perform. You will focus on raising your cadence slightly each minute to achieve a gradually higher workload. These are the “comfortably hard” intervals of the series just under and right up to your FTP power (90-100%). Your HR objective is to reach your AnT HR by the end of each interval. First adjust cadence to achieve desired HR (between 90 and 100 rpm), before selecting a different gear if necessary. Recovery time is half the duration of the interval, allowing for 3 minutes of recovery between successive intervals. As with the completion of the final surge in the Stand & Surge above, upon the completion of your final AnT Interval of a workout, stop pedaling completely and note your “peak HR”. Watch your HR fall and note how quickly it drops to below 100 bpm. Over the course of the series you should see your HR drop faster from higher peak HR indicating improved aerobic fitness.

1 to 4-minute Vo2 Intervals:  8:00 to 16:00 Power

With Vo2s you get to open it up even further with shorter intervals going above your FTP. These are the painful ones! You will perform these intervals again using cadence as means to increase the workload throughout the intervals. Although these intervals are short, they will get your HR up over your AnT HR. The goal is not to work any harder than necessary, but to hit your cadence and gearing targets of 90-105 rpm. Your HR should not exceed more than 5-8 beats over your AnT HR. Power levels will be in the 110-120% FTP range. Any more than that and you are working too hard for this objective requiring more recovery and lost training time. Allow equal recovery durations between successive intervals. Upon the completion of your final Vo2 Interval, stop pedaling completely and note your “peak HR”. Watch your HR fall and note how quickly it drops to below 100 bpm. Over the course of the series you should see your HR drop faster from higher peak HR indicating improved aerobic fitness.

15-30-60-Second Anaerobic Power Intervals:  1:00, 2:00 & 4:00 Power

Now you’re bringing the power! These short bouts of intensity reach 130% to 190% of FTP. As the power increases the duration of the intervals continue to get shorter, and recovery times become longer. Gearing and cadence are now self selected allowing you to go hard and simply focus on hitting the target power levels. Recovery durations are now 3x the length of the interval allowing for near full recovery before the next interval. HR becomes irrelevant due to the short duration of the intervals. Despite the high effort, these intervals don’t hurt too badly since they are over by the time they start to hurt!

Peak Power Sprints:  0:05 Power! 

The second to last progression in the metabolic energy system chain (with movement strength (ie. weight lifting) being the last link in the chain). Anaerobic Power at it’s finest. No oxygen needed! These intervals are performed in a larger gear from a stand still or slight “rolling start”. You kick hard and crank up to full power over 5-10 seconds. You’re done as soon as you peak the cadence out and/or reach peak power for the effort. Power will jump towards 300% of FTP!

Steady Spin & Spin Down:

Your cool-down exercise. The Steady Spins gives you a chance to spin your legs out, get some fresh blood in there and begin the recovery process. You are back in your easiest gear with minimal resistance. Hold the specific rpm listed in the workout (or slightly higher if you like) for the time prescribed. HR should maybe reach the lower limits of your AeT HR Zone. Adjust resistance (or lower cadence) as needed. After the extended time spinning, you begin to gradually bring the cadence down (along with HR) with the Spin Down. Bring your cadence back down to 80 rpm over a few minutes until you are breathing normally and no longer perspiring. Wipe the sweat off your face and body, grab your recovery drink and call your workout finished!

Interested in giving it a try yourself?

Download via Training Peaks:

All Programs include:

  • 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.)
  • All the strength training details, including videos and set/rep schemes and calculated loads specific to your ability (if applicable)
  • 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.

 

 

 

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