Automatic Endurance Training
It can be daunting during the winter months trying to get “the ball rolling” after a nice and well deserved midseason break (let’s be honest there is no off-season). There are a lot of thoughts about being able to train consistently all year opposed to having a base season, then slowly working into pace work, then race sharpening and finally the taper. With the right training and coaching why shouldn’t this be possible? It is possible to achieve year round fitness and maintain race form without injury and burn-out. This isn't to say one is always going to be ready for their “A” race, but they should have confidence in their training all year long. But I digress.
For me, transitioning out of this so called "off season" is definitely a process, and it SHOULD be. It is an important part of training for the mind and body. The rule of "too’s" can be the hardest lesson for a triathlete to learn. Too much, too fast, too soon can literally keep one sidelined for a season, especially the older we get.
Here are a few tips I personally use to make this transition. Some of these may be different than what you're used to, but it's served others well in the past, and whether you're new to multisport, or a 20 year veteran, you would do well to shake things up a bit. After all, variety is the spice of life... or wait, was that Cumin?
1) Unstructured training – The last thing you want to do at the beginning of a season is to stress about training over the next year. So just go out and ENJOY your three sports for what they are with no time goals, no distances: just have fun being out there. It’s OK to go a couple weeks without data… What’s that you say?! NO data? BUT HOW WILL I KNOW IF I'M EVEN EXERCISING!? I’m sorry my data geek friends, but training does go on without numbers. What this means is you should be going easier than you think. If you cannot carry on a conversation while running or riding the first couple of weeks, back it off a little. Run, ride, swim with friends of all abilities. If the data thing freaks you out and you have to use it, let lower numbers become your friend. Often this time of year I do not wear a watch. We all know about the distances of the loops we typically run or ride: you won't be as in-the-dark as you think.
2) No Pace Workouts – This is an offshoot of unstructured training. It is easy to stress out thinking about a track workout or interval session on the bike tomorrow morning or after work, so keep your workouts casual until you get back in the groove. Just get your body moving.
3) Keep it social – Not that training isn't already sometimes social, but you should take this transitional period to make more of an effort to call, tweet, or get in touch with people you like to train with but don’t normally do on a consistent basis once targeted training starts. There'll be plenty of time for lonely intervals soon; for now, catch up with some old friends to help get the motivation flowing.
4) Focus on form – This is something we often neglect, but can benefit greatly from especially if we have imbalances. Most of us have an understanding of swimming, riding, and running form but rarely focus on it. I am a huge fan of swimming drills and incorporate them into my workouts year round. I do the same with my cycling and running. It’s a great way to warm up or cool down or just add quality volume if you need it.
I hope this helps relieve some of the winter/off-season blues and motivates the athlete inside you to start or enjoy the training you’re already doing.
Onward and upward - Wolfe
Holy shit, have you seen the new World Tour bikes? They're like sex mixed with Molly, wrapped in dynamite! SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY. That's the de facto reaction this time of year as the World's top teams start meeting for "team building" camps, and reveal what they'll be wearing and what they'll be riding the following season.
One problem: pro kit is about 10 grand above what most of us can afford. So are the rest of us doomed to ride shitty bikes? Well, yes and no. Certainly there's nothing like riding a top-shelf bike, with top-shelf wheels, and top-shelf tires. The problem is, when you're riding top-shelf everything all the time, it becomes "normal," and the feel isn't what it was the first time you hopped on. And all this isn't to say you shouldn't buy nice things. If you can afford it, by all means! You worked your ass off for that money, and you SHOULD buy the raddest set up you can reasonably afford. I just want the rest of you reading this to not get down on your bikes. Like dogs, there are no bad bikes (Just kidding, I almost barbequed a Shitzu that came after me on a training ride the other day).
A couple years ago, I traded my roommate, like... six jelly beans and some scotch for his 2005 Motobecane Phantom Cross. I built it up with some bargain bin components, and some wheels that probably should have been thrown in the trash, and holy shit that thing is a slug. When I come off a fast bike from the season, and settle into some winter training on this thing, I feel like I'm riding through mud. And that feeling sticks. For about 10 days. Then it becomes "normal," and it's the best bike I've ever ridden. You develop some weird bond with a shitty bike. You picked the hodgepodge of componentry. You're not likely to see another one on the road. And when you smash some unsuspecting soul, riding a bike that should have been relegated to the scrap pile... well, there's no better feeling. It feels a part of you, and a shit bikes becomes less a training tool than a training partner. But maybe that's the romantic in me.
Anyway, here are a couple things to think about when picking a new bike (especially if it's your first one):
1) Bikes are massively better than they were 10, 20, 30 years ago. So rest assured, if you can only afford the bottom-of-the-line 2017 model, it's almost definitely a better bike than what Miguel Indurain won five TdFs on in the 90s. Techonology man: It's a beautiful thing
2) The difference between the "Top-of-the-line" and a "Bargain-Bin-Bike" of the same brand is not as big as you've been lead to believe. Dura-Ace components are like magic. But 105 is also heinously good and a quarter of the price. Significant differences for 99.9% of the cyclists out there comes down to weight (and looking cool). So instead of spending 8k to shave 2kg off your bike, why not just lose 2kg off your body (which most of us can do easily), and spend that money on other things... like your spouse who you haven't seen in 3 weeks because you've been locked in the basement on the trainer.
3) As a follow up to that last bit: If you have "X" amount of money to spend, then go a model down from what you can afford. The worst thing you can do is blow all your money on a bitchin' bike, then not be able to afford a proper fit. A good fit will run you up to 300 bucks, and it is worth every penny. Being in a good position on your bike is critical to not hating everyone and everything in your life. A good bike with a bad position is a shit time. A bad bike with a good position is a helluvalotta fun.
4) Speaking of spending money elsewhere, if you're concerned about going fast, you should look into getting a coach *ahem I might know a couple*. Ever been smashed on a group ride by someone riding a bucket of bolts? That's because that person knows how to train. I've named my Motobecane the "MotobeSHAME" because of how many lives it's ruined. It's also broken an 8.5 mile TT course record (at 29.6mph) with a pair of clip-on aerobars (hard brag). So speed is in the legs, not the bike.
New bikes are great. But if you can't afford one, don't get down on your current setup. You can be fast on anything. Love what you've got and go train hard! And if you need a little help with the training part, hit us up on Facebook, or send us an email.
Alright, so you're sitting on the top step of your garage, freezing your tits off, strapping on a pair of shoes, and blowing warm air into your cupped hands. You've just watched thirteen minutes of Tom Boonen youtube highlights, had a pot of coffee to yourself, and you are ready to smash. and. BASH. You're literally about to rip your own face off you've got so much damn motivation. Two hour trainer workout, with an hour and fifty-nine minutes of zone 100 work? Ain't no thang, baby! LET'S DO THIS.
Then you hear it: the flimsy slamming of a thin, rusted RV door, followed by hillbilly boots crunching in the snow. Cousin Eddie is fourteen hours early.
You unstrap you shoes, put on some decent clothes, lest you be mocked by a raccoon accessorized man for wearing "tight-n-brights," fix a smile to your face worthy of Father Christmas, and go greet the one person you had most hoped had been taken out by a pack of roving trick-or-treaters. But alas, here he stands.
With each minute of idle chit-chat that drifts by, you feel your muscles eating themselves, your blood thinning as it boils, and any hope of winning a race next season fly out the window. What was going to be your best workout of the month has turned into sitting on the couch, nodding like a crazy person, and trying not to scream as the rest of the family wakes up and your plan of doing any productive work has now surely been tanked. Finally, after an hour, you manage to slip away: What do you do?
Do you pound six Marty Moosehead glasses full of eggnog and cry? Or do you get dressed, salvage the next 30 minutes on the trainer and brace for holiday impact? Hint: the answer is both.
Here are four options to try when life gets in the way:
1) Curl into fetal position; drink liquor mixed with dairy until January 1.
2) Threshold Maintainance
- 2-3 minutes warmup, just getting the legs loose
- 25 minutes straight, done 30" at just above threshold and building, followed by 30" recovery.
- Cool down
Tip: Don't go smash yourself at 500w for the first two reps then die a thousand deaths for the next half hour. Stick to what you know you can repeat 25 or 30 times, and build off that so that your last rep is your best rep (#LastOneFastOne). These should be hard, but not something that's setting your body on fire.
3) Remember that time, way long ago, when I was all, "it shouldn't feel like you're setting your body on fire"? Yeah, that doesn't apply to this one.
- 3-5 minutes warm-up, building gradually to high zone 4, followed by a minute or two of recovery
- 10X(30" at target, followed by 2:00 recovery)
- Cool down
Tip: A good starting point for your first 30" rep would be just below your best one minute power. Build from there, so again, #LastOneFastOne.
4) If you're feelin' tough, and you had a bowl of nails for breakfast (without any milk), do this:
- Gradual 6 minute build to zone 4 followed by 3 minutes easy recovery, getting the effort out of your legs.
- 20 minute test.
- Cool down
Tip: Target 5 watts below your recent 20' best for the first 17 minutes of the effort, then use the last 3 minutes to drive that average as high as possible. You should finish this effort absolutely floored, but it shouldn't begin that way. To quote Shane Sutton: "Don't go lookin' for the pain; the pain will find you."
One final disclaimer: These workouts will not make you race ready. These are simply meant as a stand-in for when your Plan A has been put through the meat grinder. These don't make you good. These keep you from getting bad. If you have any questions, I encourage you to shoot us an email, or drop us a message on facebook. Advice is free!
Now go train. Cousin Eddie is coming.
I love December. Sweaters, eggnog, movies, vomit-inducing trainer sessions, ChirstmaHanuKwanzakah... There's nothing better! No matter what holiday you celebrate, there'll probably be travel. Whether you're going somewhere, or boorish aunts and uncles are coming to you, there's a whole workbench full of wrenches just waiting to be thrown into your training schedule. And sometimes, screw it: you have to miss a session. I myself missed a workout in 2014. One missed session isn't going to kill you (probably). What is going to kill you is consistent inconsistency.
It's typically around this time of year that an athlete will come to me and say, "Hey man, I missed the past three days because work has been crazy, and my newborn baby girl comes in two weeks and we've been busy getting ready." To which I reply: "look, it's cool. If you think keeping a steady job and providing for your fledgling family is more important than the local Cross race, that's fine. We're on different pages, but that's fine."
But seriously: life gets in the way. Some days you have to miss, and no coach is going to give you a hard time because you've been locked in the library for the past 72 hours straight during finals week. We get it: Engineering is a bitch. That said, training is like Pandora: you only get so many skips until (to quote my generation's poet laureate) I have to say, "Nah nah nah nah, come on."
Some days are an absolute no-go. What you want to avoid, however, is looking at a trainer workout that's going to take 105 minutes, determining you've only got 74 minutes until you have to leave the house, subsequently wringing your hands and drinking coffee for the next 37 minutes stressing about not getting a complete workout in, determining it'll take 8 minutes to get dressed for the workout, another 7 to shower, another 6 to get dressed for work, and finally concluding there's no possible way you could do any productive work in the remaining 16 minutes, and so you eat a bowl of fruity pebbles and stalk Mila Kunis's instagram instead. This is where it helps to have a stand-in workout.
A stand-in workout is one you can substitute for those days when you just don't have enough time. Only got 30 minutes of total trainer time available? That's plenty to keep the engine running. In the same way you don't want to leave your car sitting in the garage too long between drives, you don't want to develop gaps in your training. Hopping on the trainer for 30 minutes, or blasting a quick run will help keep the legs sharp, and remind your system, "hey, guys. We're still doin' this. Shit's been crazy lately, and we haven't gotten out much, but don't fall asleep on me here." So what do you do in those 30 minutes?
I'm a fan of 30 second work for short-duration workouts because it lets you go hard, and it keeps the rest needed to a minimum, which in turn maximizes the number of efforts you can do in 30 minutes. If you're crunched for time, 3-5 minutes warmup is plenty. Ideally you get a warm-down, but if time is a serious issue, skip it (GASP, BUT WON'T I GET DIPHTHERIA IF I DON'T COOL DOWN!?) No, you won't get Diphtheria if you skip a cool down. Ideally you do it, as it will help you be ready for the next session, but if you don't have time, the cool down can be the first to go. It's better to have sore muscles because you didn't cool down, than it is to have fresh muscles because you haven't worked out in a week. Remember: you're not training for Worlds here. Not everything has to be perfect. Check back tomorrow, and I'll lay out three sessions of 30 minutes that'll keep the pistons firing when racist aunt Ida comes to town.
In the mean time, go pass your finals, paint that crib purple (it's regal, I tell you!) and don't forget to enjoy these last few days of solitude before family ruins everything.