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Goal Setting

  • November 14, 2019
  • Blog
Originally posted October 31st, 2018. Updated November 12th, 2019.

Goal setting begins the planning process towards your next season. Organizing your thoughts and creating a formal written outline of what direction you want to go with your training, fitness and competitive results is a key piece of the Mental Fitness puzzle. If you don’t know what you want to achieve… then how do you know what you need to do to get there or if you are making progress in the right direction along the way?

Going beyond simply thinking about what you want to achieve and further developing a strategy on how you are going to achieve is the process of setting goals.

The idea of setting goals is something many people are familiar with, but few take the time to formally address. It can be difficult for some athletes to write down goals. However meeting your goals is often more difficult if they are not written down in the first place. Once you have decided upon your goals, take it a step further and write out exactly how you plan to meet those goals (use a pencil here because you may change things a bit as you discuss with your coach or support structure). If you’re not sure of exactly how you are going to meet your goals, obtaining direction from a coach, or friend, can help you talk it out and make the right decisions. Knowing what you want is one thing, but outlining a plan that gets you from where you are now with your physical and mental abilities to where you want to be is what makes goal setting an effective tool in your mental fitness tool box. 

Goal setting is a multi step process that is extremely valuable for all athletes. The following are some helpful steps and techniques you can implement to help make your own goal setting more effective.

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Nutrition Periodization

Nutrition Periodization for Endurance Performance

  • September 20, 2019
  • Blog

As your physiological training demands change with your training objectives, your nutritional demands change as well. The basic principle of Nutrition Periodization is simply that: changing your dietary consumption to match that of your training efforts. Periodizing your diet can be achieved on two levels. The first is the larger training block level of macro-cycles. The second is the smaller weekly level of day-to-day training in micro-cycles. The goal of periodizing your nutrition is to improve your cycling training program in two primary ways:

  1. Better Fueling for Improved Performance (increasing fitness)
  2. Maximizing the Quality of your Nutrition (improving health & body composition)

Proper fueling will allow an athlete to maximize their training efforts and adaptations making their training more effective. Similarly, maximizing the quality of your nutrition will enhance an athlete’s recovery from training. More effective training and enhanced recovery leads to improved body composition and increased fitness. Achieving a lean body composition is critical for maximizing performance in an endurance sport such as cycling. In fact, for many riders carrying an extra 10 pounds or more, it can be the single biggest performance booster there is! Periodizing your diet around your training program can be a big help in working towards your body composition and fitness goals.

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15th Annual Base Builder Coming Up!

We’re celebrating our 15th Anniversary season of our annual Base Builder Trainer Series!

It’s hard to believe we’ve been doing this for so long. Coach Cody started this concept back in January 2005 with a single 12-week Tuesday/Thursday 6pm trainer class at a friend’s training studio in the “Golden Triangle” of Denver. Back then you brought your own trainer with you! We bounced around here and there every couple of years to a studio off Broadway for a few, to Wheat Ridge Cyclery for a couple years, to the Lakewood Rec Centers a couple years, then to the old “All Pro CrossFit” in Lakewood, and finally to its new home at Sessions:6 in 2016. We’ve evolved over the years to include power-based smart trainers, testing, multiple class times, longer enhanced durations of programming, and (what sets us apart from all the rest) the cycling-specific strength training component!
Many folks have joined us for two, three, four years or more of the training program since we began.

Thank you for the support over the years.

Well… we’re back again for another season of Base Building coming up before the end of summer… yes you read that right, getting started before the end of summer! We’re always striving to improve the program year-to-year and due to popular demand, we’re getting back to “Base Builder 15.0″ earlier than ever… but definitely in a new & improved way.
Also for those that can’t join us in-house for our coached Base Builder Programming, you can join us remotely via our Remote Base Builder Program. We’ve offered this format for a couple years now with great success and positive results. This year we’re improving the the Remote Program with weekly audio recordings that discuss the specifics of the program in more detail; as if you were “in-house” alongside our coaches!

GO TO:

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Race Prep ‘Peaking’ Sessions

  • July 19, 2019
  • Blog

Your Base has been built, you put in the quality Race Prep training, and now you’re a couple weeks out from your A-Race…

Finding Form

The final weeks heading into an A-Race can be the most difficult time of the training season for many athletes. At this point in the season, with two weeks to go, the training is done; “the hay is in the barn,” as is said. You worked hard for many weeks, if not months, to build fitness and prepare for a peak performance. Your last few weeks of training may have been among your hardest and/or highest volume depending on your target event demands. Regardless, you should be very fit, and likely quite fatigued from the quality work.

With your fitness at or near its highest point of the season, it is now time to recover and freshen up for a peak performance. With high fitness comes high fatigue (as both come from consistent training). While you can still race well with high fitness and accumulated fatigue, you will almost certainly race even better (ie. “peak performance”) if you can shed that fatigue and replace it with freshness; all while minimizing the loss of fitness… AKA: the taper and/or “finding form.”

Within that statement above is the tricky part of finding form and tapering: in order to gain fitness you must accumulate fatigue (meaning you may be very fit, but also a bit tired or lacking freshness). In order to gain freshness you must lose (some) fitness. It’s a balance and one that can be a difficult task to achieve to perfection. You must train hard to get fit – as you train hard you get tired – to perform your best you must train less (for a short bit) to regain freshness and achieve a peak performance. Sounds easy, right?

Lower the Volume…

There are many schools of thought and variables to consider regarding the taper process. Rather than go through all the options, I’ll choose to explain the most agreed upon strategy and share some details on exactly how we prescribe things at Waite Endurance. 

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In-Season Strength Maintenance

  • June 17, 2019
  • Blog

Strength Training, that is training with weights in the gym (or at home), has become more widely accepted in the endurance sport world over the last 5+ years. There are still some hold-outs on the subject of the benefits of Strength Training for endurance athletes, but most athletes and coaches will agree there are valuable benefits to be gained from lifting heavy weights within an endurance sport training program. The intent of this article is not to spew out the benefits of Strength Training (you can read a previous post that covers all those points); rather my intent with this article is to point out the value of YEAR-ROUND strength training and, more specifically, focus on lifting weights within your competitive racing season.

If you’ve gotten this far, I’m going to assume you’re on board with Strength Training (ie. lifting heavy weights for performance gains), at least as part of your off-season training program. The majority of endurance athletes do some form of strength training in their off-season as part of their preparation for their next race season. Then what seems to be very common is many athletes cease their Strength Training program once their more competitive race season begins. The reasons I hear for dropping the strength training modality are often:

  • Wanting to spend more time on their primary sport (“get more miles in”)
  • Lifting weights makes them slow (“legs too sore/tired”)
  • Don’t want to gain weight (“too much muscle”)
  • Getting bored with the strength training (“same old routine”)

I’m here to encourage you to not stop your Strength Training once your race season begins. In fact if you do stop, I can tell you you’re leaving performance gains on the table!

You may be thinking, “Whoa! Hold up. You want me to lift weights during my race season?!”

Yes I do! And here’s why…

When you Strength Train for 2, 3 or even 4 months of your off-season, you spend the first few weeks working through the soreness of training the muscles and then you begin to make some gains in actual strength of movement. These improvements to your health & performance as an athlete include:

  • Increased muscle fiber recruitment (use more of the muscles you have)
  • Increase top-end power (raise the ceiling of your power curve)
  • Increased anabolic hormone production (balance the catabolic nature of endurance training)
  • Improve range of motion/activation (offset imbalances)
  • Improve the overall “durability” of your body
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W.T.F. (Win Through Food)

  • March 8, 2019
  • Blog

Avocado Toast, Sweet Potatoes & Black Bean Bowl, and Noodles w/ Broth & Broccoli

With 20 years of professional level training & racing under his belt, combined with a love of good food (that includes culinary schooling), Coach Cody is sharing some of his favorite recipes and food choices with our followers.

The goal with our W.T.F. Series (Win Through Food) is to provide meal ideas to our athletes which they can incorporate into their own lives. The primary requirements of each meal is that is easy (minimal skill/equipment required), quick (minimal time required) & nutritious (packed full of healthful nutrients). Meals that both fuel performance & contribute to a healthy body composition.

Our motto regarding food is to consume mostly plants, avoid packaged & highly processed food, exclude nothing (unless you have an allergy), and eat until you’re satisfied, not full.

Avocado Toast w/ Eggs & Greens

Smearing a ripe avocado across toasted bread has become a very hip thing recently. Guess what, it’s not hard to do yourself and adding some additional components to it such as eggs & greens can make it an even more nutrient dense meal.

This is a go-to weekly breakfast at our house, particularly on “strength days” where we may not ride our bikes, but rather hit the gym. The lower carb, higher fat & protein make this a great option.

Toast some good whole-grain bread: the more ‘substantial’ the better (the kind w/ nuts & seeds, and the loaf feels heavy in your hand), as it will be the base on which you spread and pile the tasty ingredients:

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Race Prep Plans

  • March 6, 2019
  • Blog

With Spring around the corner, most athletes are putting the final touches on their off-season Base Builder training. Following one of our Base Builder Programs, athletes have gone through an extensive strength building program in the gym combined with a progression through the six primary aerobic energy systems we utilize on the bike, from lowest intensity to highest intensity:

  1. Aerobic (all day power)
  2. Aerobic Threshold (2-4 hour power)
  3. Anaerobic Threshold (32-64 minute power)
  4. Vo2 Max (8-16 minute power)
  5. Anaerobic Power (1-4 minute power)
  6. Peak Power (5-20 second power)

Depending on when they got started with their Base Builder training and how much time available for building Base, athletes went through a 12, 18 or 24 week progression; in 2, 3 or 4 week blocks dedicated to each energy system mentioned above. Regardless of your exact Base building protocol you may have followed, as you come to the end of your Base phase you may be asking yourself this question:

With my Base now built and general cycling fitness established, what comes next?

Race Preparation Training

Where Base Building is general fitness development; Race Preparation is specific fitness development for your A-priority event(s) of the year.

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W.T.F. RECIPE: Oatmeal + Fruit, Nuts & Seeds

  • January 24, 2019
  • Blog

The topic of diet & nutrition is a hotly debated one. Everyone has their own preferences, particulars, and persistence surrounding what they eat and why. At Waite Endurance we like to focus on the very basics: simple, easy, repeatable meals that feed our bodies for health & fuel our bodies for performance.

Our motto is to consume mostly plants, drink lots of water, avoid packaged food, exclude nothing (unless you have an allergy), and eat until you’re satisfied, not full.

You can read our general Diet & Nutrition philosophy to get our basic thoughts on how we like to do it.

Having been a professional endurance athlete, and having spent A LOT of time around professional cyclists & triathletes, I can tell you without a doubt, professional endurance athletes take their diets very seriously. An effective diet is as important (or possibly more so!) as any training plan or interval session or long ride. Feeding your body the healthy nutrients it needs to remain strong and avoid illness is critical to maintaining training consistency. Fueling your body to be able to perform at its highest level day-to-day and week to week leads to positive progressions in fitness. And finally, eating correctly for you (and your activity) allows your body to achieve its ideal body composition and mass for peak performances.

Along with first pursuing professional cycling and then triathlon, I’ve been fortunate over the last 20 years of my life to surround myself with food on different levels. I studied nutrition (briefly) in school before deciding a career in dietetics was not for me. I attending culinary school and managed a coffee shop & catering business before deciding the ‘food industry’ was not for me, before confirming my passion in the endurance sport coaching profession in 2005.

What I’d like to do with the BLOG post series is share many of the great meal and snack options I’ve learned over the years and how you too can…

WIN THROUGH FOOD (WTF)

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The 12-Week Base Builder

  • January 21, 2019
  • Blog

Our 12-Week Base Builder Plan is our most condensed Base Builder Plan option. We’ve found the relative short duration of 12 weeks is just enough time to progress through a complete Strength Base Build in the gym, and run through each of the six primary energy systems we target on the bike in all of our Base Builder plans:

  1. Aerobic Skill
  2. Aerobic Strength
  3. Anaerobic Threshold
  4. Vo2 Max
  5. Anaerobic Power
  6. and Peak Power

In the 12 week version of our proven Base Builder Plans, you get to spend 2 weeks in each of the six energy systems, getting 4 sessions per system to make the necessary gains in base fitness as you begin your build towards your next event season. In the gym, you get three 4-week cycles of strength, building up towards peak strength in week 11. Within the 12-week plan, we find testing once at the beginning the plan to set baselines, once in the middle of the plan to check progress and increase numbers as needed, and a final test at the end to again check progress and set zones for the forth coming Race Prep plan you choose.

Here’s a ‘deeper dive’ into our Base Builder methodology: DEEP DIVE

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Creating Your Annual Plan

  • November 22, 2018
  • Blog

With your goals set and events selected, you’re ready to dial in your training program for your season ahead. In part 3 of our Planning Your Season series of posts, we’ll layout the thought process for your complete training build up towards your “A” priority event(s). This road map of your training program is often referred to as your Annual Training Plan. It sets the foundation of your training progression allowing you to know ‘when you should be where’ in your build up and help you stay on track and progressing towards your end goals.

At Sessions:6/Waite Endurance we prefer to use a TWO training phase model to lead towards a peak performance for an “A” race; we call them: Base Builder & Race Preparation.

BASE BUILDER PHASE

Base Builder (or your base phase) is about establishing a general aerobic & strength foundation of fitness. Our Base Builder Plans are typically 12-24 weeks in duration. The duration is dependent on time until your next “A” race. Our Base Builder progression goes from low-intensity to high-intensity; building through the six major energy systems in a block periodization format, with 2-4 week blocks based on duration of plan and intended rate of progression:

 1. Aerobic Endurance 

2. Aerobic Threshold 

3. Anaerobic Threshold

4. Vo2 Max

5. Anaerobic Power 

6. Peak Power 

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Selecting Your Events

  • November 8, 2018
  • Blog

Daylight hours are shortening, leaves are falling, and temps are dropping… You’ve set your goals for next season (previous post: Goal Setting), and even resumed some base training. The next step in the planning process is selecting your events for your next season. Sifting through the potentially large amount of events in which you are interested, and planning your season around these specific events, is the second step in the planning process. 

Planning your next season around a target event is crucial to setting up an effective training program.

You must first know the “what” & “when” you plan to race your best. From there you can work out your specific training program that will get you there with the fitness you desire. You don’t need to know every single start line you plan to roll up to next year, but you do need to know what your top targets are before you begin more detailed planning. As a preliminary step, sitting down and creating a list of events that interest you is a great place to start. Have fun with this and don’t filter your thought process just yet. Once you have your list of events, long or short, it is then time to narrow things down. 

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2018 Leadville Report & Season Wrap

  • August 15, 2018
  • Blog

The 2018 Leadville Trail 100 is in the books. With that, my 2018 training & racing comes to a close (with the exception of one or two final “fun” local races I may jump into over the next two weeks).

The following recap is as much or more for my own reference for the next time I attempt the LT100, as it is for anyones reading pleasure. It will also serve as the final piece of my ‘2018 training & racing recap series’ (each post listed above).

In my last post I left off with a recap of my final few weeks of training for the LT100 and my intended ‘taper’ into the big day. I was able to execute my taper plan more or less to the letter written. All the final pieces fell into place within the final two weeks. After analyzing my final few Race Prep sessions and a 90-minute high-altitude XC race my final “numbers” for my year long build of fitness looked like this…

BY THE NUMBERS

  • Final Bodyweight = 144 lbs.
  • FTP at 6000 feet elevation = 321w
    • equates to ~ 330-340w at elevations under 2500 feet
    • equates to ~ 270-280w at elevations over 9000 feet
  • w/kg = 4.92 at 6000 ft.
  • Complete Power Power Profile results July HERE

I’m really happy with this improvement from back in November coming off of a long break from serious training and racing for most of 2017. I was hoping to get my bodyweight down a bit closer to 140 lbs. but I think with the improved strength training this year I am just running a little heavier than in my early 30s. I’ll take the extra mass as it has kept me healthy and more powerful as a result.

I’ll check this off a as successful training program and diet commitment for the last 9+ months.

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My Taper & Peak Phase for LT100

  • August 2, 2018
  • Blog

In my last post I wrapped up my 8-week Leadville 100 MTB build and was in the midst of a well earned 10-day recovery block to relax the mind, enjoy the family, and let my body absorb all the hard work from the previous 8 weeks.

Upon returning home from family vacation, I was more than ready to dive back in finish off my 2018 Leadville 100 MTB preparations. With just four weeks left until race day, this broke down into the following:

  • a BIG Volume “Over-Reach” Week
  • 1/2 Recovery + 1/2 Intensity Week (w/ Leadville Stage Race) 
  • Taper Week 
  • Peak Week

Over-Reach Week

Coming off of a nice long recovery block I was fresh (if not a little ‘flat’) and ready get going again. A good solid over-reach week (or two) is essential in creating an exceptional training load from which to recover from as you enter your taper phase. Normally in my training plans, following my 2-week mini-block progressions, the overload week comes as the final two-week block with an emphasis on the final big endurance rides. Intensity is all but eliminated to allow for maximum focus of going long, before entering the final two-week taper block into race day. 

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LT100 Build: Second Half…

  • July 12, 2018
  • Blog

As described in a previous post, my early summer training program consisted of an 8-week Race Prep build designed around a peak in early August for the Leadville 100 MTB. The first 4-weeks were designed around twice weekly high-intesity interval training combined with progressively building endurance rides. The last 4-weeks were focused around improving sustainable power through weekly Anaerobic Threshold intervals and races.

After a 5 week period without any racing, training was focused, fitness was on the rise, and the hunger for competition was strong.

MY ‘SECOND HALF’ RACE PREP BLOCK

The basic weekly structure consisted of the following:

  • Monday – Strength Maintenance Gym Session
    • 45 Minutes: Movement Prep, Core Sets, Push/Pull Sets, Squat & Deadlift Sets (main: 3×3 @ 70% 1RM), Power Sets, Mobility Sets
  • Tuesday – Anaerobic Threshold Intervals
    • 90 minutes: 4-6x 8:00 hill reps at 32:00 power (330w)
  • Wednesday – Endurance Rides
    • 6-7 hours, 8-10k climb
  • Thursday – Recovery Spin
    • 45 Minutes: very, very slowly
  • Friday – Race Openers
    • 60 Minutes: w/ 4:00 @ 32:00 Power, 2:00 @ 16:00 Power, 1:00 @ 8:00 Power, 0:30 @ 4:00 Power, 0:15 @ 2:00, 0:08 @ 1:00 Power (4:00 easy recoveries)
  • Saturday – Race Day
    • 2-4 Hours, Go Hard!
  • Sunday – Recovery Spin
    • 90 Minutes: very slowly + coffee & pastry

This was the plan for four straight weeks. Racing started a little slowly, as expected being away for 5 weeks, and each week managed to get a little faster as I found my rhythm…

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LT100 Build: First Half…

  • June 12, 2018
  • Blog

After a week off of training & racing in early May, I was refreshed and ready to hit it hard with a late-Spring training block as part of my 2018 Leadville 100 MTB build up. My previous post, LT100 Race Prep Plan, laid out all the details of the complete build-up to the August event following a customized version of our Ultra-Marathon MTB Race Prep Stock Plan.

The last four weeks have been focused purely on training.

Meaning, no racing over the last month until just this last weekend (June 9th) with the GoPro Vail Mountain Games XC race. This nice block of time has allowed me to focus on a re-build of sorts, building up some solid volume on the bike with longer outdoor rides while backing out the intensity in two week mini-blocks of training.

In the off-season, within our 24-Week Base Builder Program, we train in the more commonly found 4-week blocks: with 3 weeks of focused energy system training and 1 week of recovery/easy endurance. In our  Race Prep Phase we condense the training blocks into two-week mini-blocks of focused energy system work combined with increasing endurance volume.

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My LT100 Race Prep Plan

With my first bit of early season racing done & dusted (Epic Rides Whiskey Off-Road & USAC Marathon Nationals), I’ve reached a transition point in my season. With such early early-season targets this year, I basically raced off of my Base Builder Program for my first little peak of my season. After three weeks of tapering, traveling, and racing in late April/early May, upon return home I took a week off of training to recuperate and prepare mentally for my next big block of training and racing that is on the way.

NEXT UP

My “A” race for 2018 is the Leadville 100. Along the way I will race a handful of other events, but the LT100 is priority #1. After my week off last week, I’m ready to dig into a big block of training to build my endurance and race preparation training. You can get the full run down of my Race Prep Programming in a previous post. The LT100 is an Ultra-Marathon distance event so the S:6 Stock Plan would be a 12-week buildout; however I will make some small adjustments around the stock plan to fit my other racing targets, life schedule, and personal preferences. This is perfect example of where our S:6 Custom Training Plans come in handy.

My personal program will look like this:

  • 8 Week Training Block

  • 1.5 Week Recovery/Family Vacation

  • 1.5 Week Final Endurance Build

  • 2 Week Taper

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The S:6 Base Builder Program: Onto Race Prep…

We wrapped up our 2018 off-season Base Builder Program with Block 6 at the end of April.

Our “in-house” athletes that stuck it out for the full six month program experienced some solid gains in off-bike strength and on-bike power, both on the aerobic end and the anaerobic end. In fact, every single rider saw improvements to the tune of 12-36% at estimated FTP, with a “class average” of 23%. Boom!

You can read the full the run down of our annual off-season Base Builder program by clicking the series of links above. With Spring here and race season is in full effect, what do we do next? With your solid strength and aerobic base established, it’s time to get more race specific and dial your training in with in-season Race Prep training.

 

RACE PREP TRAINING

Through our Base Builder Program we build fitness up. We start at the low end of the energy system chain focused on low-intensity aerobic training combined with technique work on the bike, and the early (lighter) form-focused resistance training in the gym. From here we build our base through gradual progression of intensity through increasing intensity with each successively higher energy system, and gradual increase in resistance training loads.

  1. Aerobic Endurance/Technique, “all day” power (4+ hours)

  2. Aerobic Threshold (AeT), “2 hour” power

  3. Anaerobic Threshold, 32:00-64:00 power

  4. Vo2 Max, 8:00-16:00 power

  5. Anaerobic Power, 1:00-4:00 power

  6. Peak Power, 0:05-0:30 power

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Cody’s 2018 Base Build: Block 6 Recap

I made it (along w/ 40 other athletes I’m training in our 2018 S:6 Base Build Program)! 

The sixth and final block of my off-season Base Build has been completed. 24 weeks of progressive building of fitness over the off-season has brought my Base fitness to a solid platform for my 2018 season. Now it’s time to race! Of which, I’ve already done with the Epic Rides Whiskey Off-Road event last weekend (full recap here). 

You can get the full explanation of Block 6 (and others) in previous posts. The gist is that we bring the energy system chain to a peak, with our heaviest weight lifting attempts and peak-power “sprinting” intervals on the bike. The concept with our Base Build Program is to start on the low-end of the energy system spectrum with basic aerobic & skill development. From here, each block takes the athlete through progressively higher energy systems as fitness builds: Aerobic Threshold, Anaerobic Threshold, Vo2 Max, Anaerobic Power, and finally Peak Power. Along the way we build off-bike strength & power in the gym, and endurance with longer outdoor rides within the week. Read about it all here.

GYM SESSIONS

After the first strength peak in Block 3, in Block 4 we reduced the weight lifting volume (number reps) significantly to allow for more stability and plyometric work. A second low-volume strength build was included in the routine and I was pleased to continue to make strength gains despite the slight change of focus.  

I was able to increase both my max Squat & Deadlift by about 10% over January maxes. Reaching 200 lbs. (from 185) and 225 lbs. (from 205), respectively. These both matched my previous all-time PRs in the lifts from 2015. Pretty stoked. Also eager to maintain this strength through the race season, so I can continue to improve my strength in 2019. Overall, I’m feeling strong & healthy going into my racing season. 

STRUCTURED RIDES

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2018 Whiskey 50 Off-Road Report

Sunday I finally got a chance to race stop #1 of the Epic Rides Off Road Series: Whiskey 50, in Prescott, AZ. This is a race I’ve wanted to do for many years now, and this year was finally the year. I’ve heard great things about the Epic Rides Off Road Series of events and it did not disappoint. Awesome venue, great course, well run and well attended. This is the first MTB race I’ve been to in a long time that felt a little like MTB racing did back in the late-nineties (when I was getting started): the vendors, the teams, and the vibe were all really great. It felt like a big-time event… well I guess because it is a big time event!

I highly recommend this event in Prescott to anyone that love long, hard, climbing mountain biking that puts a demand on both fitness & skill.

This was my first big test of fitness for 2018. See where I’m at coming out of my off-season Base Builder training program and where I need to improve. I also picked this event as a “tune-up” race one week prior to my first A-Race of the year: Masters 40+ Marathon National Championships in Arkansas.

With a big (for MTB) prize purse being offered, the Professional field was not only huge, 90+ men/40+ women, it was stacked!

We’re talking nearly all of the best XC/Marathon racers in North America and a few from overseas as well. Olympians, World Champions, National Champions (past & present), and World Cup level racers. Plus many younger up-and-coming racers wanting a chance at hanging with the top dogs if only on the opening climb. This made the race exciting, gave it great vibe, and made you feel part of something for sure. I’d venture a guess saying that this may well be the most competitively attended event of the entire North American season.

With that said, my main goal was to race a good solid effort and not worry so much about actually “racing” (i.e.. placing). This will likely be my last real professional race of this caliber, so to enjoy the experience and give a good early season effort was the plan. I also had to hold back just a few percent for next weekends higher priority goal event. Holding back just 2-3% makes a big difference in recovery time following the race, and only a small handful of minutes lost within the race.

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2018 Teen Sport Conditioning Summer Program

  • April 12, 2018
  • Blog

Our 3rd Annual Teen Sport Conditioning Program is returning for 2018!

Once again Sessions:6 Sport Performance is offering a sport conditioning program designed especially for teens. The program is designed to help prepare your teen athlete for their Fall sport in a safe, fun and positive environment. The program will include strength training, plyometrics, core conditioning and mobility.

Our 2-month Teen Program is designed to keep your teenage athlete(s) active throughout the summer months with cross-training and skill development that will enhance their sport specific conditioning prior to their Fall and Winter school sport seasons. Each coach-led class includes a proper warm-up, instruction, evaluation of skill level, and cool-down to maximize effectiveness and safety. Individual training sessions will vary the focus between aerobic conditioning, strength work, skill development, speed & power training, and flexibility to keep things fun, fresh and exciting for the participants.

8 Weeks, 2x a Week, 16 Sessions:

  • When: June 5th-July 26th
  • Days: Tuesdays & Thursdays
  • Times: 10:15am OR 11:15am
  • Cost: $220
  • Includes a custom S:6 T-shirt!

Discounts:

  • $20 off first teenager if signed up before May!
  • Only $170 for second teenager (sibling)
  • Only $120 for third teenager (sibling)
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Cody’s 2018 Base Build: Block 5 Recap

  • April 5, 2018
  • Blog

The month of March was Block 5 of my 6-block Base Builder training. This consisted of continued strength & stability training along with progressions in plyometric/power development off the bike in the gym, training the Anaerobic Power energy system in the S:6 Wahoo Kickr Trainer Studio, and extending my 1-2x weekly endurance rides outside. Fitness is continuing to build and with just about 4 weeks now remaining until my 2018 race season kicks off in earnest, I’m feeling great and ready for Spring!

Read the full run-down of Block 5 programming HERE

Strength Training

I’m getting stronger for sure. I’ve been maintaining the squat & deadlift focus for the “strength sets”, similar to the first 12 weeks of training, but now with fewer overall reps while achieving more of those reps at the higher loads. What was once heavy is becoming more repeatable as the heavier loads are requiring less effort as more of my muscle fibers get in on the action.

The goal with resistance training for endurance athletes is not to gain moremuscle, but rather train muscles we have to do more work!

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6 Week Nutrition Program

  • April 5, 2018
  • Blog

Sessions:6 Sport Performance has partnered with Steve Acuna, nutrition & endurance coach with Do Athletic Shit, to present a 6 week Nutrition Workshop to help you achieve nutrition success.

Eat to Perform

You may already be training to maximize your performance, but are you eating to maximize your performance?


REGISTER NOW:



Workshop Overview:

Meetings are on Sundays from 4:00-5:30pm at Sessions:6 Sport Performance. Each week we will go over a new nutrition topic that will build on the past week. Each session we will go over individual successes and failures and address how to overcome the problems we have encountered. We will cover a new educational topic tailored to meet the needs of the group. Homework will be assigned each week, and coaches will be holding you accountable for action. Our goal with the workshop is to give you the tools to make smart nutrition choices and change individual behaviours that impact how our bodies look, feel and perform.

Week 1: Introduction to the program overview, awareness of what we are eating, counting calories versus not counting calories

Week 2: Adequate Protein, Carbohydrates, Fat and Hydration and Why this matters

Week 3: Food timing and Blood Sugar Regulation’s role in body composition

Week 4: What to eat; How to structure your plate

Week 5: Gut Health: How the 2nd brain impacts our bodies

Week 6: Fueling better for workouts and recovery + Supplements: pros and cons

Join us for this six week program to kick start your efforts towards improved health & fitness for the season ahead!!

The S:6 Base Builder Program: Block 6

  • March 29, 2018
  • Blog

Five down and one to go!

Our off-season is nearing its end and the competitive season is right around the corner. It’s time to put the finishing touches on our off-season Base Builder Program with our 6th and final block of training. To recap, our in-house group training program began back in November working from the low-intensity end of the energy system spectrum with pedaling skill work and aerobic intervals; then progressing through progressively higher intensity energy systems in monthly blocks: Aerobic Threshold (2-4 hour power), Anaerobic Threshold (32-64:00 power), Vo2 Max (8-16:00 power), and Anaerobic Power (1-4:00 power). The 6th and final block of our Base Build Program is the highest intensity (on-bike) energy system: Peak Power.

Peak Power is your top-end sprint power… Everything you’ve got of 4-8 seconds!

With the racing season approaching we plan to reach top-end intensity to finish off our off-season Base Build Program. This very same 24-week program is available as a downloadable training plan on Training Peaks ( 24-week Base Build Training Plan ). We also have a more condensed 12-week Base Build Training Plan available to those that prefer a shorter, faster build of early season base fitness. Both versions allow you to follow my programming on your own where ever you live!

Upon completion of our Base Build we’re ready for our competitive season of specialized training and racing. At this point we can then begin to back out the intensity while adding in more endurance training to meet our target race fitness goals.

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2018 Cactus Cup Fat Tire 40 Report

  • March 13, 2018
  • Blog

It’s officially the “Pre-Season” and time to start thinking about racing!

I decided to start my 2018 race season off a little earlier than the last several with the Cactus Cup Fat Tire 40 XC race outside of Scottsdale this last weekend. I picked this race primarily for its early spot on the calendar, while in need of a couple of races before my first “A-Race” in early May (full race schedule HERE). With the additional appeal of warm weather, and expectedly fierce competition from local Arizona and nearby California racers that are already near top race form, I figured it would be a good challenging race to kick things off with for the new year.

The following is a quick “Race Report” for those interested, and hopefully more informative “Takeaways” or lessons learned (or remembered) from my racing experience that perhaps you can apply to your own upcoming racing endeavors…

THE RACE

The longish, 42 mile race was held on most of the trails within the McDowell Mountain Regional Park outside of Scottsdale. This trail system is made up of super fast, flowy, mostly smooth trails; sprinkled with some surprisingly rocky sections to keep it honest. Not much elevation gain or loss, but rather long “false flats” and roller coaster terrain, with the occasional 1-2 minute long power-climb.

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Cody’s 2018 Base Build: Block 4 Recap

  • March 8, 2018
  • Blog

I wrapped up Block 4 of my off-season Base Builder Program last week. I am super pleased with how my fitness is improving. Block 4 consisted of Vo2 Max intervals, which in my opinion pack the biggest punch of fitness improvement. They are hard, and you have to stay on top of your recovery and fueling through this key block of training. Read about Block 4 details HERE.

If you can keep up and make it through these workouts in Block 4, fitness will take a big leap. Guaranteed!

Strength Training

This brought a return to lighter weights after peaking in the third block. The goal is to take a step back with new training loads in-hand from the peak in block, and perform a second, slightly less intense rebuild of strength. Along with the re-progression of strength, more stability movements were introduced with single-leg, dynamic movements. Also progressing was plyometric movements. Over block 4 we progressively challenged ourselves with higher and higher box jumps, along with challenging varieties of floor jumps for max explosive power production. Pretty fun stuff. Feels more like play time, but it leaves a mark in soreness in the beginning.

Aerobic Training

As mentioned previously, Vo2 Max intervals were the focal point of Block 4. Powers targeted were the 8:00-16:00 max power levels, broken into 2:00 & 4:00 intervals.

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The S:6 Base Builder Program: Block 5

  • March 4, 2018
  • Blog

Spring is on the horizon and we’re 2/3 complete with our Off-Season Base Build Program with the final 1/3 coming up! I’m not going to lie, the last 8 weeks have been challenging for our 45 in-house athletes training with us Monday-Thursdsay each week. The middle third of our program is perhaps the most challenging on the bike with Anaerobic Threshold intervals (block 3) and even more so the Vo2 Max intervals twice weekly (block 4). Combine that with continued resistance training on Mondays and Wednesdays and you can see how the training load is reaching a peak. See exactly how we structured our Vo2 Max intervals on the bike in our previous post in this series: Block 4.

This very same 24-week program is available as a downloadable training plan on Training Peaks ( 24-week Base Build Training Plan ). We also have a more condensed 12-week Base Build Training Plan available to those that prefer a shorter, faster build of early season base fitness. Both versions allow you to follow my programming on your own where ever you live!

Our upcoming Block 5 makes up weeks 17-20 in the 24-weeks of our Base Build Program. You can read more about each previous block from links at top.

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Cody’s 2018 Base Build: Block 3 Recap

  • February 5, 2018
  • Blog

#fitnessiscoming

I’m beginning to feel pretty fit, and becoming very eager for the coming racing season. My first event is about six weeks away with the Cactus Cup Mountain Bike Stage Race, in Scottsdale, Arizona. In between now and then, I plan to make continued improvements in fitness, primary through increasing intensity on the bike and in the gym. But before I get to that, let me report on what I’ve accomplished over the last 4 week block of training in my S:6 Off-Season Base Builder Program: Block 3.

STRENGTH

Block 3 brought twelve weeks of a steady strength progression to a peak. If you recall from my Block 1 Recap, I was overly optimistic in my strength capabilities to start off 2018. I had to back things way down from my 2015 PRs to start training this year. I adjusted things down from 200 lbs. in the Back Squat and 220 lbs. in the Deadlift to 160 and 180 pounds respectively. These were the numbers I would use to base my loading through my first 12-week strength build. I felt these were very conservative and achievable, without applying too much stress and possibly disappointing, or worse, injuring, myself along the process.

I was very pleased with my progression in strength over the last 3 week block of heavier lifting. My strength came back more than I initially anticipated based off of the first few weeks of training back in November.

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The S:6 Base Builder Program: Block 4

  • February 3, 2018
  • Blog

It’s February and we’re now halfway through our Off-Season Base Build Program. Our local, in-house program of 45 Denver-based athletes are now beginning to feel the fitness gains! We’ve met 4 days a week, most weeks, for the last 12 weeks for indoor gym sessions, trainer sessions, and testing. A solid base of aerobic and strength training has been established in the first half of the program. We’re now prepared to build off the basic fitness and add some appropriate amounts of higher intensity work in the form of faster more powerful movements in the gym (plyometrics) as well as shorter and more powerful intervals on the bike in the sound half of the program.

This very same 24-week program is available as a downloadable training plan on Training Peaks ( 24-week Base Build Training Plan ). We also have a more condensed 12-week Base Build Training Plan available to those that prefer a shorter, faster build of early season base fitness. Both versions allow you to follow my programming on your own where ever you live!

Block 4 makes up weeks 13-16 in the 24-weeks of our Base Build Program. You can read more about previous blocks from links at top.

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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.

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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!

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The S:6 Base Builder Program: 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 with our local in-house 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 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.

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.

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Cody’s 2018 Base Build: 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:

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The S:6 Base Builder Program: 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 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.

The following blog series will share some specifics of what each block of training is made up of and how we progress through our 6-month long base build to reach serious fitness by Spring and ready to dive into more specific Race Prep training for your goal events. The same progression occurs in our truncated 12-week version of the plan; however progression occurs at a much faster pace. This plan is ideal for the more experienced athletes with years of base in their legs or for those that don’t have the time or patience to spend 6 months building a killer base of fitness for the upcoming season.

The first of six blocks comprising our 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:

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The S:6 Base Training: Primer

  • November 9, 2017
  • Blog

Welcome to the Off-Season. Your Race Season ended a few (or maybe several) weeks ago and you’ve taken some time off from structured training and racing in favor of recovery.  After this brief period of time, you’re suppose to “detrain” and lose some fitness in order to restore freshness and enthusiasm for training. Then it’s time to get your baseline testing in to see where you’re at with your fitness and reset training zones for starting your off-season base training program. See my previous two posts for more on this: Testing Protocol, Part 1 and Testing Protocol, Part 2 explain the details of our testing philosophy.

With your baseline testing done and training zones configured, you are now ready to get to work!

Building a Base or Base Training are the popular buzz phrases for this time of year. Everyone has a slight variation on what this exactly entails, but the overall theme is to put in the training time to build fitness, from general to specific, before you dig into your next racing season and/or race specific training. With the exception of cyclocross racers, Autumn and Winter is the time of the year most endurance athletes commonly associate with base training. We’re several months away from race season and it’s time to build the general fitness required to enable us to handle the more demanding loads of race specific training that comes in Spring and Summer.

At Sessions:6, General Fitness to us means the least race specific fitness. Since racing is a ways off, we can spend time on areas that either get neglected or we simply can’t afford to train when in the midst of racing season. This means we first focus on the two far ends of the energy system “chain”: peak movement strength (ie. weight lifting) and aerobic endurance. From these two “ends” of the energy system “chain” we move inward progressively as we build base fitness, towards the more race specific energy systems.

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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:

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The S:6 Testing Protocol, Part 2:

  • October 30, 2017
  • Blog

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

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

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

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

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The S:6 Testing Protocol, Part 1:

  • October 24, 2017
  • Blog

There’s More to Power than Just FTP.

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

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

These insights can be found through power testing on the bike. For many years, a rider’s FTP (Functional Threshold Power) has been the focal point of where a rider’s fitness is and from what to set their training zones. 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 everyone 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 (Vo2 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? I suppose. However, if you’re like me, you would likely prefer more.

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Training with Power or Heart Rate?

  • October 19, 2017
  • Blog

We get this question a lot…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ideas For Your Off-Season

  • October 12, 2017
  • Blog

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

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

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

  • October 9, 2017
  • Blog

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

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

Two big changes are occurring in 2018…

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

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

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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:
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Our Six Components of Sport Performance

It’s common thought that to maximize sport performance you simply need to train more and push harder to be successful. Many endurance athletes are familiar with the 10,000 hour rule (associated with the writer Malcom Gladwell’s book Outliers). This concept says it requires 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to obtain elite level proficiency in cycling, running, swimming or triathlon. In many ways this concept holds true; you need to put in the time for your body to make the physical adaptations. However, we have found that there is more to the equation than just simply training more. You certainly can and do become a better cyclist simply by putting in more miles. Assuming you have the time and fitness to spend 5+ hours a day riding your bike, in time, you will become a highly competent cyclist.

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 cycling performance? Maybe, maybe not. Is it the only way to maximize performance? Definitely not.

Endurance Sport Training Philosophies 

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 and/or 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, you must focus on both the large and the small components of fitness to build the best possible athlete you can be. We have identified six key elements that are crucial to athletic success. Each one can be implemented regardless of the individual experience level or the amount of time the athlete has to devote to their sport.

Our 6 Components of Performance of Sessions:6 Sport Performance:

  1. Aerobic Conditioning

  2. Strength & Stability

  3. Skill Proficiency

  4. Diet & Nutrition

  5. Stress Management

  6. 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 Endurance Athlete’s Training

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

Aerobic conditioning is highly trainable. The most common method is by spending more time performing your endurance sport at low to moderate intensities of effort. Training aerobic endurance by extending the durations of your training sessions can also improve aerobic conditioning. Training plans that include high intensity interval training at specific periods are also very effective at improving your 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 performance. Wasted energy through improper movements not only slows you down but wastes valuable energy. Both of which limit your performance. By incorporating deliberate skill practice into your training plan you will maximize gains in strength and coordination leading to increased movement efficiency.

Sport Performance In Between the Training

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. However 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. Many gains can be made through optimal nutrition: you perform better on race day. You’re more likely to achieve optimal body composition for improved performance. You can obtain optimal energy levels to improve training capacity as well as 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 are critical to adapting to your training load. In addition, recognizing non-training forms of stress in your your life and adjusting your training accordingly will allow you to train more effectively. Combined, both efforts will allow you to 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 compete to your fullest potential can be difficult 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 compete to your true ability will unlock the complete athlete within you.

In Summary

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 athletic ability by addressing these six components of performance. Allow yourself to continually evolve and improve as an athlete. By incorporating these 6 components into your daily 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

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.

II. Muscular Strength

Our training philosophy revolves around the idea of maximizing six components fitness (read about the concept HERE). This post will focus on element number 2: Muscular Strength. The idea that there are six areas of development required for endurance athletes to maximize their fitness came about from years of working with endurance athletes coming from a variety of different backgrounds. Improved muscular strength is one area that we continually see needing attention in nearly every athlete we work with (including ourselves). We’re not talking about moving big weights around, making a lot of grunting noises (well, maybe a little grunting), and using the word “bro” throughout your training dialogue kind of strength training; we’re talking about moderate to light weight and body-weight exercises performed in functional movements that apply to your sport.  Developing the core stability required to maintain form and function when you’re deep into your race should be the goal in your strength training and the following paragraphs will help you understand why we think this is true.

Most endurance athletes are surprisingly weak.

Sure they can complete a marathon, an Ironman, or even a 100 mile foot race through mountainous terrain, but none of that necessarily equates to them being particularly strong or stable. Strong in will and determination, perhaps, but ask them to perform a one-legged squat and not have their knee track to the inside or execute a single-leg prone bridge and not have their hip drop, and more often than not, they can’t do it. Many will claim that endurance athletes don’t need to be “strong”, rather they argue that aerobic fitness is the most important thing and that any time spent training outside of their primary sport is a waste of time. They say for example, “If you want to be better at running, you simply need to run more.” Aerobic fitness is certainly required to participate in endurance sports and it is true the more you run the better a runner you will become; however, time spent improving your muscle recruitment, strength, flexibility, and stability will improve your economy of movement. This means you will be able to move (with what fitness you have) more powerfully and efficiently while wasting less energy and minimizing potential injuries. All which in turn, yield faster speeds and increased endurance at the same level of aerobic fitness.

Pure muscular strength, the muscle’s ability to apply force to a stationary object, is what allows us to move.

When swimming, we apply force to the water, pulling ourselves forward with every stroke; when riding a bike, we apply force to the pedals while turning the cranks at high cadences to produce more power; when running, every foot strike applies force to the ground for the push off, and with appropriate stability and flexibility allowing increased stride lengths and stride rates, we run faster and faster. Through the implementation of resistance training you can increase the force-producing capabilities of the “major muscles” that contribute to forward movement. Exercises like squats, deadlifts, leg curls, leg extensions (to name a few) will train the force-producing quadriceps, hamstrings and glute muscle groups; exercises like pull-ups, pull-downs, chest press, rows, shoulder shrugs and presses will train the larger back and shoulder muscles for force-producing movement strength. A stronger muscle will be able to produce more force for the power required to move as well as fatigue at a slower rate, thus increasing your muscular endurance.

There are several other factors to consider when addressing the concept of muscular strength. Equally important, and perhaps even more valuable to the endurance athlete is the concept of muscular stability. This concept focuses more on the “minor muscles” that don’t necessarily contribute directly to forward movement. These muscles include, but are not limited to, the collection of core muscles that surround the hips, including the lower back and deep abdominal muscles. Stability and power in all sports initiates from the hips and extends outwards to the limbs that make the movement happen.

Excess movement beyond that which is required to execute forward movement is wasted energy, and this excess movement occurs from lack of stability.

Wasted energy occurs in running when your hips drop from side to side with each stride, or your knee dives inward or outward with each step, for example. “Fish-tailing” when swimming indicates lack of core stability and wastes energy as you move down the lane wiggling from side to side with each stroke. Rocking hips and/or upper body movement when cycling is another example of wasted energy that stems from a lack of stability in the hips. Along with hip stability, shoulder stability is another critical area that requires attention for swimmers (or any activity involving power production from the arms). Stabilize the hips and shoulders with specific training movements and you improve your form, efficiency, power production and endurance. Time well spent.

A factor that coincides with stability surrounding a joint is flexibility. Joint flexibility contributes to range of motion which is essential to producing power for movement. Anyone with inflexible joints can attest to the limited power and speed that is attainable. On the contrary, hypermobile joints that are “overly flexible” can create issues of instability and possible injury. An increase in muscular strength surrounding the hypermobile joint can often improve the stability for those individuals. Just like strengthening muscles with specific exercises, you can improve your flexibility and range of motion with specific exercises. By honing your flexibility (either minimizing or maximizing) your surrounding joints will become more stable and powerful, and in the long run, be less prone to injuries.

Being able to perform an endurance sport event requires your muscles to repeat movement over and over for many minutes to several hours. Overuse injuries are a major cause of missed training and unmet goals for endurance athletes. If your muscles are not functioning in the way they were designed, you are putting increased stress on your other soft tissue and joints.

Training muscles to function or ‘fire’ correctly when called upon, and for longer periods of time, requires specific training.

We engage our larger ‘primary mover’ muscles very easily when training, but often the smaller supporting muscles get overpowered or neglected causing them to ‘turn off.’ These muscle ‘imbalances’ often lead to frustrating niggles, if not full blown injuries, that can derail an athlete’s training and racing objectives. By activating these smaller muscles with stability training exercises, you allow them to ‘turn on’ in conjunction with your dominant muscles both improving your economy of movement and resistance to injury.

Fortunately, many endurance athletes embrace the idea of strength training. Most athletes typically include some form of strength training for several weeks during their off-season. Unfortunately, most athletes end up dropping their strength training sometime early in their pre-season training, either because they are bored due to limited knowledge of core exercises or they feel it gets in the way of their sport-specific training. This is an unfortunate occurrence. For long-term continuing improvements to occur from year to year, it is critical to include strength and stability training throughout the entire year. Your return on investment in strength and stability training includes increased force and power production with decreased rate of muscular fatigue for forward movement, increased economy of movement with less wasted energy and ability to tap into more of your given aerobic capacity, and more consistent training and capacity for higher training loads due to increased injury resistance. For these reasons alone, endurance sports athletes should make strength and stability training a high priority in their overall annual training program in order to reach their highest level of performance.


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.

III. Skill Proficiency

We’re continuing in our thought process for our “6 Components Sport Performance” with our third component we’d like to address: Skill Proficiency (here’s components I. Aerobic Conditioning & II. Muscular Stability in case you missed those).

All sports, activities, and human movements are learned skills. As newborn babies, we are capable of only laying in one spot, with minimal skill to move. As humans grow and develop, we quickly gain strength and learn new physical skills, from supporting our own head, to sitting, to crawling, to squatting to standing and finally walking. From there the pace at which we learn new skills occurs rapidly and seemingly with minimal effort. We begin to learn more complicated, although still basic skills like running, jumping, skipping, throwing and catching a ball, and riding a bicycle. Then, if you’re fortunate enough to be introduced to higher level complicated movement skills, you might learn how to swim, swing a golf club, or perform gymnastics to name a few. Every one of these learned skills requires practice to be able to get to a point where they appear to happen effortlessly. For some people, this effortless appearance of skill comes more naturally than others. One thing that holds true is that the more skillful you are at particular movements the better you are able to become at the activity and the higher level of performance you can likely achieve.

Learning and practicing proper technique is crucial to mastering any skill.

Proper technique, in and of itself, can often be argued or debated within circles of experts in a particular area of movement. Regardless of the agreed upon “correct” technique, finding a technique that works for you and practicing to improve it leads to improved skill proficiency. In most endurance sports, the specific movements required to participate are relatively basic skills we learn as children (swimming, cycling and/or running being the most common). Unfortunately, with perhaps the exception of swimming, most endurance athletes feel they already ‘know how to’ pedal a bike and run from a mechanical standpoint, therefore neglect the aspect of developing effective technique in their sports. By learning effective movement techniques and spending time practicing them (as elite athletes do) you are able to improve your own strength, stability and range of motion specific to your movement, leading to improved movement efficiency. These factors enable you to perform your movements with more power, less energy, over longer periods of time and with less chance of injury.

You will often overhear athletes and coaches talking about or read about the importance of an athlete’s Vo2 Max (the maximum amount of oxygen an athlete can utilize). This number is often used as a comparison between athletes or to measure the potential they may have in endurance sports.

While an athlete’s Vo2 Max is certainly an important value, another equally important (if not possibly more so) is the measure of an athlete’s efficiency.

Take two similar runners with identical Vo2 Max values; the runner with greater running efficiency will out-run the other with less efficiency because she is wasting less energy and therefore can sustain a higher percentage of her Vo2 Max for a longer period of time. In fact, movement efficiency is so important that a “hard working” athlete with a genetically lower Vo2 Max can out-perform the more “naturally talented” athlete with the higher Vo2 Max by being more efficient and wasting less energy. And the longer the test (or race) the more noticeable the effect of improved efficiency is.

It could be said that success in endurance sports is directly related to efficiency. In the study of physics, efficiency is the ratio of output to input. In the equation (r = P/C) P is the produced output and C is the consumed energy. The produced output (P) can never be higher than the consumed energy (C), therefore efficiency can never be higher than 100%, with the higher the percentage equaling less wasted energy (in endurance sports, energy not directly being used to move yourself forward). Your goal as an endurance athlete is to achieve the highest level of efficiency through skill proficiency so you can tap into the highest percentage of your given Vo2 Max. We do all the training we do to maximize our endurance, strength and speed to achieve the highest Vo2 Max possible, but if we neglect the skill proficiency piece of the puzzle, we are limiting the percentage of the trained Vo2 Max we can tap into. On race day, it eventually all comes down to minimizing the the amount of energy wasted that leads to fatigue that slows us down. Look at the elite fields at any high level endurance event and the abilities of the top level athletes are very similar; they all have similar Vo2 Max values and they all train and race at near similar speeds.

The athletes that cross the finish lines first are not always the fastest athletes in the race, but rather, they are usually the athletes that slow down the least.

They are the athletes who waste the least amount of energy and are the most efficient. Improving one’s skill and technique equates to less wasted energy, higher efficiency and faster race times.

Skill proficiency and the subsequent improved efficiency can be developed in two ways. The first being the concept of simply time spent performing an activity. This is in line with the “10,000 hour theory”; stating that if you spend enough time doing a particular activity (10,000 hours according to the theory) you will become highly proficient at it. But what if you don’t have 10,000 hours to wait for this improved proficiency and you want to get better at your sport in less time?

Good news, you can!

With specific and deliberate practice through technique drills you can accelerate your learning curve.

We can improve our individual muscular strength, stability, mobility and flexibility by performing an endless variety of exercises off the playing field in a gym or our own homes. While this practice is critical to long term development and success in sport (see previous article addressing this concept), these exercises are rarely specific to our exact movements we are trying to improve in our sport. Performing glute bridges for example, is a great exercise to improve hip stability, however we do not come anywhere close to performing a glute bridge in our actual competition. Performing technique drills however do just that; technique drills typically take you through a very specific movement pattern (often broken into a smaller segment or skill of the movement) pertaining to your specific sport. Technique drills effectively incorporate sport-specific development of strength, stability, mobility, flexibility, balance and/or coordination. For this reason alone, all elite level athletes perform technique drills in their training programs throughout their entire year and all age-group athletes should do the same.

We’ve all seen the poor swimmers at the pool with the wonky arms, sinking hips, or dropped elbow. We’ve also all seen the cyclists with the bobbing upper body, or crazy low cadence, not to mention the runners missing any knee lift, or dropping their hips with every step or extended ground contact time and loping strides. Don’t be that person! Your skill and technique can be easily developed with deliberate and consistent practice, throughout your entire training year. It’s in your control.

In fact, aside from dropping excessive body weight, improving your skill and efficiency of movement is probably the fastest and easiest way to improve your race times!

I’ve seen so many athletes come to me with technique issues, and by spending just a small amount of time every week addressing these weaknesses, they have seen enormous improvements in not only speed and endurance but also the enjoyment of their sport.

 

 


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.

IV. Diet & Nutrition

Discussions of diet and nutrition are often the most hotly debated topics in the fitness world. They can be fueled by emotion, personal beliefs and preferences. Within physical training methods there are many ways to achieve similar levels of fitness and performance (high volume-low intensity vs. low volume-high intensity, for example); the same can be said for diet and nutrition concepts. There are multiple variations that can lead to similar results (meat eaters vs. vegetarians for example). The key point here is that people are different, and different strategies work for different people. There is no right way. Regardless of where you stand on diet and nutrition, there are some key points that recent science and ‘experts’ have established that cross over between all ‘diets’ and are crucial for both long-term health and improved sport performance.

Without argument, athletes can make major breakthroughs in their training and racing performance by incorporating intelligent diet and nutrition strategies.

As you read on, please keep in mind that this is our opinion (Cody & Kathy’s) based on our own experiences and my study as a lifelong elite endurance athlete, as well as over 13 years in the coaching business. I am not a dietician, however I have always had a strong interest in diet and nutrition (for both ‘healthfulness’ and performance) along with a true passion for good food. This passion for food led to a short stint as a coffee shop and catering business owner after completing culinary arts school.

Before we go any further, we should address my definitions of ‘diet’ and ‘nutrition’ within this specific discussion, as by themselves they can carry a multitude of different connotations. I like to break apart daily food intake and the total calories we consume into two parts. Diet is what I refer to here as your daily food intake (what’s on your plate) to get you through the day. Nutrition is referring to your training and racing intake (what you consume pre, mid, and post training).

YOUR DAILY DIET

Without writing pages and pages of nutrition concepts and theories, I want to keep it short and simple with advice on how you might be able to improve your diet, nutrition and performance. As athletes we hear the term ‘eating clean’ thrown around a lot. This term ‘clean’ can have many different meanings based on what you perceive as clean. Clean could mean simply not eating ‘fast food’, or it could mean eating only organic and naturally raised plants and animals, or it could mean a strict plant-only diet. The point is ‘clean’ is a relative term and what is clean to one person may be far from it to another (much like when you ask a typical single man what a clean bathroom looks like and what my wife, Kathy, thinks a clean bathroom looks like…two different bathrooms).

How ‘strict’ you want to be with your diet is up to you, but two focus points I have found to help everyone is to first limit/reduce the quantity of processed foods, and second, to base your diet on eating as many fruits and vegetables as possible. By simply following these two basic guidelines, you can transform an average diet into a very effective one. Processed foods are foods produced in a factory or laboratory. In general, the more humans tamper with ingredients found in nature the worse it becomes for you from a nutritional standpoint. For some reason humans think we can improve nature, and we like to add additional ingredients and make our food ‘man made’. Take for example, butter. Butter was once thought to be bad, so we manufactured margarine as a ‘better’ alternative. Not a good idea, as now we are finding it to cause all sort of problems. Surprise, saturated fats are not what we once thought! Or take the egg; the cholesterol in egg yolks was thought to increase cholesterol in our blood, so we decided to separate what nature designed to be together by creating ‘egg whites’. Sadly, this ‘improvement’ meant we missed out on the nutrients in the egg yolk. This deeply held and popular belief has recently been disproved. Cholesterol in food actually has little to no correlation to cholesterol in our blood and, in fact whole eggs are one of the best foods we can put in our mouths!

Put simply, avoid processed foods and choose to eat as close to what nature provides us as possible, with the base being fruits and vegetables.

A third key concept is to NOT adhere to a ‘special diet’. Your daily diet should not have a name (Paleo, Atkins, Ketogenic, Gluten-Free, Low-Fat, Low-Carb, High-Protein, etc.), rather just a good well-balanced diet based on fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and small amounts of high-quality animal protein (if desired). Conforming to a ‘specific diet’ is not sustainable nor does it create a positive relationship with food. You can agree with concepts of specific diets, but when you begin to strictly avoid certain food groups, you are setting yourself up for a struggle (unless you have a true medically-tested allergy). As athletes we need all three macro-nutrients in our diets (carbohydrates, fats, proteins). Our primary fuel sources come from fat (low-intensity) and carbohydrate (moderate to high intensity) and when you limit your intake of either, your physical performance will stagnate or decline over time.

Depending on your activity levels throughout your training season, you may need more or less of carbohydrate which leads to carbs being the largest variable macro-nutrient. Protein is not directly a fuel source but rather predominantly a hormone-regulating nutrient that is responsible for keeping our bodies functioning correctly. Most first world people consume excessive amount of animal protein in their diet beyond what the body actually can use. Rather than making the ‘meat’ the focal point of every meal, fill your plates first with vegetables, followed by whole grains as needed, and  then add small portions and of the highest quality protein (wild, natural, grass fed, organic, etc.) you can afford and prepare at home.

As endurance athletes, it is safe to say that nearly all of us are chronically dehydrated.

The fourth concept is hydration.  If you train for 10 or more hours a week and don’t consciously consume multiple glasses of water a day (outside of training) you are in a negative state of hydration. Hydration is not always recognized by our thirst mechanism. Often it is confused with hunger, which leads to excessive calorie consumption. By making a conscious effort to drink large glasses of water throughout the day and before meals you can do your body a world of good.

The final piece of the puzzle and, perhaps, the most important for those struggling with achieving an ideal body composition, is to only eat when you’re hungry and to stop eating BEFORE you feel full. Achieving your ideal body composition has more to do with the “calories in vs. calories out” principle than actually eating healthfully. By eating both healthfully and in the appropriate quantities that your body requires, you will continue down the road towards the lean and powerful body you desire.

DAILY DIET DOs & DON’Ts:

    • DO eat when you’re hungry (as frequently as needed)
    • DO eat as close to nature as possible
    • DO maximize fruits & vegetables (8+ servings/day)
    • DO avoid processed foods (chemically altered and/or high in refined sugar)
    • DO eat the highest quality foods you can afford (organic, natural, free-range, grass fed, wild, etc)
    • DO drink plain water throughout the day (between workouts)
    • DO eat small quantities, more frequently
    • DO eat pleasurable foods (“treats”)
    • DO NOT exclude foods or food groups (unless you have a true allergy, or you just don’t like them)
    • DO NOT follow a ‘named diet’
    • DO NOT over consume animal protein
    • DO NOT over eat (except at Thanksgiving, then go BIG!)

 

TRAINING/RACING NUTRITION

Supporting your physical training efforts with adequate and appropriate nutrition is essential for long term success in endurance sports. The more you train the more nutrition you need to support your training and recovery. Improved sports-nutrition can also lead to improvements in your body composition (ie. increased lean tissue) which is perhaps the most effective way to improve both your speed and endurance for racing.

As mentioned above, our primary fuel sources are fats and carbohydrates (glycogen). Fats are the ‘unlimited’ fuel source for low-intensity activity. Through effective aerobic training we improve our body’s ability to use fats for fuel at higher and higher effort levels. The more aerobically fit you are the faster you can go while using more fat and sparing more glycogen. Training the body to spare glycogen is one of the primary goals of the training that we do as endurance athletes. Glycogen is a limited source, and for longer activities, we must supplement with carbohydrates to spare and help delay the depletion of our stored glycogen for as long as needed to get to the finish line. For this reason, training nutrition revolves around consuming the right amounts of carbohydrates in our daily diet and as sports-nutrition while we train. This is why low-carb diets do not work for endurance athletes when they are in stages of heavy training and/or racing. We need carbohydrates to perform at our peak! During other times of the year, when training volume and intensity are low, reducing the extra carbs is helpful to minimize weight gain (ie. nutrition periodization).

Consuming calories prior to, during (for longer sessions/events), and following training sessions sets you up for success with not just the immediate session but sessions in the days to come. On the flip-side, you do not want to consume any more calories than required to fuel your training. Your muscles require fuel to function and the following are some simple guidelines to consider to maximize your training program.

  • PRE-WORKOUT

The calories you consume prior to your training sessions provide the starting point from which you draw energy. For efforts lasting two hours or less you need little more than your regular meal 1-2 hours out from the start. For longer efforts you can ‘pre-load’ with a bit more calories (especially if it’s low to moderate intensity). If it’s been more than 2 hours since your last meal (ie. early morning workouts), you will likely be better off with 100-200 calories of primarily carbohydrate before your session. With proper fueling throughout your day you are less likely to need a ‘pre-workout’ snack or meal.

  • MID-WORKOUT

Workouts lasting 90 minutes or less require little to no mid-session fueling, other than water and/or electrolyte drink. This is especially true if you are well fueled prior to beginning the session. Workouts beyond 90 minutes are best served with 100-300 calories (of predominantly carbohydrate) per hour of training. The fuel source when training at low intensities is best coming from whole foods as much as possible versus ‘sports nutrition’ sources. As intensity ramps up in training, more calories can come from liquid/semi-liquid sports nutrition sources. Beyond 90 minutes, you also want to include electrolyte supplementation through drink mixes or tablets, and plenty of water (1-3 bottles an hour depending on body size, temperature and humidity).

  • POST-WORKOUT

Consuming calories following your workouts is essential for maximizing recovery, refilling energy stores, and readying yourself for your next session. The trick with recovery nutrition is understanding how much fuel (and what type) you burned in your workout compared to how much you replaced while working out. Far too often I see athletes sucking down ‘gels’ in the middle of an hour long session or finish a moderate session and then down a 300 calorie ‘recovery drink’ before going home for dinner and throwing down another several hundred more calories of food. This ‘train hard, eat hard’ way of thinking can make it difficult to achieve your goal body composition for competition. The goal with recovery nutrition should be to consume enough calories both during and following your session to replace the carbohydrates you used in order to refill glycogen stores. Your next meal will address the additional calories (if any) that may be needed to feel satiated. Here are some recovery nutrition guidelines for different training sessions. Keep in mind that your daily training load also affects your calorie needs (ie. the more sessions per day the more accumulation of calorie burn occurs).

      • Low to moderate intensity workouts under 90 minutes: little glycogen utilized. All you may need is a glass of electrolyte drink (low-calorie) and your next meal.
      • High intensity workouts of 1-2 hours: moderate to high amounts of glycogen utilized. Immediate 150-300 calories recovery drink, predominately carbs and 10-20 grams protein. Follow with next meal an hour after.
      • Low to moderate intensity workouts of 2-6 hours: with proper mid-workout fueling you shouldn’t dig too deep into your glycogen stores. All you may need is a glass of electrolyte drink (low-calorie) and light post-workout snack or drink. Followed quickly with your next meal.
      • Mid to high intensity workouts of 2-4 hours (races): high amounts of glycogen utilized (possible depletion). Immediate 200-400 calories recovery drink predominately carbs and 15-25 grams protein. Follow with carb-based meal when stomach is ready for it. Follow with potentially a second meal 1-2 hours after the first (more fats/proteins).
      • Monster workouts/races of 6+ hours: you’re likely depleted and dehydrated. It doesn’t really matter because you’ll need a few days to recover anyway…drink a lot and eat what ever the heck you want (without over eating!).

 


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. 

 

V. Stress Management (Recovery)

What can create both a positive and a negative response, is something everybody experiences, most people desire less of, and many people struggle to balance?

The “S” word… STRESS!

Stress Management is our fifth component of our Six Components of Sport Performance. In our daily lives, we experience both physical and emotional stress. As athletes we need physical stress in the form of “training load” to provide the stimulus from which we can improve. The key to a good training program is one that provides just the right amount of stress; not enough and we stagnate or get stuck on a plateau, too much and we get fatigued, sick or injured. Both too little or too much physical stress leads to a lack of progress in your fitness.

Emotional stress encompasses stress from work, social/family interactions, and general life stress. Deadlines at work, bills piling up, and arguments with a loved one are all examples of the emotional stress people experience in their daily lives. While it’s impossible to avoid all emotional stressors, it is important to keep them to the lowest level possible. The key point here from an athlete’s perspective is that at the end of the day stress is stress, whether it is physical (training) stress or emotional (mental) stress. All stress adds up and contributes to your ability, or inability, to recover from your training and improve your performance.

Combining both your physical stress from your training and emotional stress from your life provides your complete ‘stress score.’

In general, the more stress you have, the more difficult it will be to train, recover, and improve. One of the largest factors that contributes to a professional athlete’s high level of performance is that they are able to organize their life in such ways to minimize their emotional (life) stress while maximizing their physical (training) stress. True ‘professional’ athletes are able to make training and racing their only job, minimizing their financial stress via sponsorships, minimize their social stressors and general life ‘overhead’.

Many struggling professionals, up-and-comers, or ‘recreational elites’ must maintain a job, balance a family/social life, and cultivate a much higher level of emotional stress that makes it difficult to compete with the more established professionals. Amateur athletes don’t have the luxury of mid-day workouts and time to put their feet up between training sessions. Amateur athletes must make their jobs and families priority number one and two and their sport takes the third or even fourth priority. 4:30am wake-up calls and/or late-night sessions squeezed in around their busy lives is a necessity. Lower training volume is almost always a result, as is also carefully (and often unsuccessfully) balancing the physical stress vs. emotional stress scale to maximize their performance. If your emotional (life) stress is heavy, then your physical (training) stress must be lighter. It all adds up! It’s critical to pay close attention to your stress balance if you want to make continued improvement in your sport.

 As athletes, we look at stress in two ways: chronic stress and acute stress.

Another key piece of stress management is recognizing the different types of stress and their effects on your body. I consider chronic stress as the long term effect applied to your body. This involves your endocrine system and maintaining hormonal balances. The human body releases the hormone cortisol (among others) when under stress. Cortisol is designed to help our bodies manage brief periods of stress, but when we put our bodies under extended periods of stress (through long, hard training sessions (physical), and/or long stressful days at work (emotional)) our endocrine system can overload our bodies with cortisol (and other stress hormones) that can disrupt your body’s natural functions. With elevated cortisol levels you may experience issues including fatigue, inability to recover, slowed tissue repair, digestive issues, weight gain, poor sleep, anxiety, and depression among other things.

How can you improve or lower your chronic stress load?

1. Get More Sleep

Sleep is perhaps the most important stress management tool. Aiming for 7-9 hours of sleep everyday is ideal. Often times, in periods of high stress, it is more valuable to skip a workout in favor of more sleep. Under periods of high stress, sleeping can become difficult for many people. Practicing improved sleep techniques like a warm bath, warm drink, and relaxation before bed can assist in improving sleep.

2. Diet & Nutrition

The more you are under stress, the more important a nutritious diet becomes. Eliminate the junk (sugar, fried foods, refined foods, etc.) and maximize the fruits and vegetables should be the the focus points (read my Diet & Nutrition article). Maintaining stable blood sugar throughout the day with small frequent meals will help regulate proper body functions as well.

3. Relaxation Techniques

Practicing yoga, deep breathing, visualization techniques, and simply reading a book can help lower stress levels. Spend time being still and quiet.

4. Sense of Humor & Laughing

Lighten up! Surround yourself with fun people at times and smile and laugh. It’s proven to relieve stress and make you a happier person.

 

Acute stress is looked at more in the short term. It’s the immediate effect you experience in the hours and days following stressors (specifically physical stress). This is the immediate fatigue you may feel from a training session, or the soreness or stiffness you may experience after a tough workout. High amounts of acute stress can occur by increasing training loads beyond what you are accustomed. These can be planned increased training loads, as in a training camp, or they can be unplanned by doing too much too soon, training too far above your current fitness level. Muscle damage, glycogen depletion, and dehydration can all contribute to high levels of acute stress. Acute stress contributes to increased chronic stress, and if left unaddressed, this increased stress can lead to deep fatigue, illness and/or injury. Always being aware of how you can recover better and more quickly following training sessions will help you get on the right track for managing your acute stress loads.

Our saying is to “Take care of your body!” We see too many people willing to spend thousands of dollars on equipment, travel and entry fees, as well as enormous amounts of time in training yet be unwilling to spend some money on their body to keep it happy, healthy and performing at its best.

How can you manage your acute stress load?

1. Follow a Progressive Training Program

Your training must progress gradually to avoid excessive acute stress. Following a training plan or working with a coach that will keep you on track and hold you back if you are a ‘go getter!’ Fitness is a long term commitment and can’t be rushed.

2. Recovery Nutrition

Consuming calories immediately following long and/ or intense training sessions is a critical recovery strategy. There are commercial products on the market designed specifically for this purpose (First Endurance Ultragen being among the best). The key is to include both carbohydrates and protein in adequate amounts to begin the restoration process (see Diet & Nutrition post for more specifics).

3. Soft Tissue Massage

Massage therapy is helpful for increasing blood flow to damaged muscles and loosening adhesions of soft tissue. Two professional massage sessions a month is a worthwhile investment (weekly is even better, once a month is better than nothing). Daily self-massage (foam rollers, massage balls, massage sticks, etc.) is also time well spent and can be done before bed as part of a relaxation routine.

4. Manual Manipulation

Your body takes a beating with all the training. Take care of your body by visiting a osteopathic physician (D.O.), physical therapist (P.T.) and/or chiropractor to give your body the regular tune-ups it needs. These visits can go a long way to maintaining overall health and keeping injuries at bay.

5. Stretching

While science will say there is no evidence that stretching actually does anything, but most people will agree that, at the very least, it feels good. Unless you are genetically hyper-flexible, including some stretching in your weekly routine will help you stay loose and maintain an effective range of motion. It is another great activity to include in your nightly relaxation routine.

6. Compression

Another controversial technique in the recovery equation. The verdict is still out as to whether compression actually does anything, but if you think it does then go for it! Donning compression clothing post-workouts and pneumatic ‘compression boots’ are two tools to consider including in your recovery routine.

 


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. 

VI. Mental Fitness (Psychology)

The human brain is a powerful thing. Unfortunately, many athletes fail to recognize the power and importance of training the mind.

Often so intensely focused on training the body, athletes can miss out on one of the biggest avenues for performance enhancement.

Most new or less experienced athletes will make big gains in performance by simply focusing on the physical training. However, as you improve your physical fitness over time and get closer to your ceiling of physical potential, the more important improving what I refer to as your ‘mental fitness’ becomes to maximizing your performance.

That’s not to say that mental fitness is not valuable at low to mid-level fitness abilities; we’ve all seen the athlete that crushes their training partners in training sessions to only fall well short of their physical ability on race day, and vice-versa where the seemingly ‘weaker’ athlete in training outperforms their ‘stronger’ counterparts on race day. These questionable performances are almost always directly related to the athlete’s mental strength. On the higher end of the performance spectrum, elite athletes in a given sport are equally well-trained and talented. The higher the level of competition, the more homogenous the physical fitness and talent becomes. For this reason, many top level elite athletes recognize the power of the mind and the importance of mental training in allowing them to reach the success they desire. Often what makes the difference between becoming a champion and not breaking through is their mental fitness.

The topic of mental fitness, or sport psychology, is a big one and can include many areas of discussion. I’m going to focus on two areas that I find particularly important for endurance athletes and that are relatively simple and effective to integrate into your own training. The first area is related more to planning, organizing, and rehearsing your performances prior to them occurring. The second area is more of the ‘in the moment’ considerations and techniques to develop to help you achieve a higher level of performance on race day.

PART ONE: Preparation

  • Goal Setting

Goal setting is one of those things many people know they should do but few actually the the time to do it correctly and effectively. Goal setting takes time and consideration, and is best done at the beginning of your training season. You need to establish both long term goals (1-5 years) and short term goals (1-5 months) that are quantifiable and challenging yet achievable. Once you have your goals established, you need to figure out your path or steps you are going to take to achieve these goals. Then you need to share these goals with friends and family and make them visible in your daily life to serve as reminders of what they are and why you are working towards these goals.

  • Imagery/Visualization – 

Perhaps one of the most valuable training practices is visualization and imagery. What we see happening in our minds as ‘virtual reality’ has a much higher chance of occurring in reality. If we routinely see ourselves performing a skill or putting out a great effort, our brain will begin to accept that we already have or are capable of actually doing it. Elite athletes utilize the strategy of visualization leading up to important competitions by imagining their races in great detail from both start to finish or in smaller segments in great detail. Then once they are actually in the moment on race day, their minds are better prepared and capable of managing the real life situation, leading to greater success.

  • Race Strategy – 

Less of a mental exercise and more of a straight forward planning and preparation, forming your competition strategy is an important element of mental fitness. Use your brain power to identify your own strengths and weaknesses, your competitor’s strengths and weaknesses, the course elements and other ingredients that will constitute your race day challenges. Form a plan on how to pace your efforts, decide who/what you will respond to and what/who you will let go, what and when you’re going to eat and drink, when you plan to conserve energy and where you plan to empty the tank. All of these factors go into your race strategy and will lend to a more successful racing experience. It is also important to understand that even the best race strategies can quickly go out the window mid-race and you must be willing and able to adapt to the challenges.

  • Self-Belief – 

Believing in one’s self is critical to success. If you do not truly believe you can accomplish your goals, visualize yourself succeeding, or executing your race strategy then you’re setting yourself up for failure. It’s easy to think or say we believe in ourselves, but it has to be a real and unshakable belief. Much of a person’s self-belief is instilled in them from their childhood, life experiences and parental influences, but it can be changed for the better through disciplined mental training, just like exercise can alter their physical fitness.

PART TWO: Competition

  • Race Persona/Alter-Ego

Competition requires being a fighter. On race day, particularly in the race, you need to be excitable, aggressive, and perhaps even a little mean to fight your way to the top of the podium. This does not mean that you need to be this way in your regular life. In fact many of the world’s best athletes are actually quite calm, cool and humble people that change when the gun goes off and they get into ‘race mode.’ Recognizing this transformation and actively using it to your advantage is a classic sport psychology strategy (particularly for those calm, cool, humble athletes). Creating an alter-ego to be used on race day can get you in the mode to be focused and open your willingness to suffer to your fullest and attack the race with everything you’ve got. XTERRA World Champion Lesley Patterson publicly shared her race alter-ego; Becoming “Paddy McGuinty” allows this diminutive Scottish athlete to transform from one of the nicest people you’ll meet into a hard, tough, Celtic fighter capable of running down anyone in front of her on race day.

  • Focus – 

Gaining and maintaining focus is perhaps the most important mental element to competitive success. The longer and less intense the event, the harder it becomes to maintain focus. Staying in the moment allows you to identify and respond to your efforts and the efforts of those around you. Losing focus allows your mind to drift and inevitably your pace slows and your performance deteriorates. Maintaining focus is tied into your self-belief, what you think you can truly achieve and whether you feel it’s worth the effort. Staying focused will allow you to embrace the challenge and short-term discomfort and will keep you from the long-term disappointment that occurs from losing focus.

  • Willingness to Suffer

Make that ‘ugly face’ and get to work! Some amateur athletes are either unwilling or don’t know what it means to truly suffer in the heat of the moment. Whether it’s a short, fast, intense race or long distance grudge match, being willing and able to suffer is crucial to reaching your fullest potential on race day. Staying in the moment and maintaining focus will improve your willingness to dig deep, but understanding that the pain is temporary but the disappointment is forever will allow you to crawl deep into the pain cave in your priority events.

  • Mantras – 

A great tactic to help maintain focus and keep going in the face of pain is using mantras, or repeating inspiring words or short phrases, during the tough moments of competition. Mantras work by keeping your focus off the pain and on the job at hand. It can be helpful to incorporate a rhythmic mantra that you can repeat over and over at a particular cadence to keep you moving along at your desired pace. 2014 XTERRA 40-44 female National Champion, Kathy Waite, uses the mantra “I am strong, I feel great” as she mows down competitors on the run.

 


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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