Automatic Endurance Training
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.
Eat the pie, for Crust's sake.
Ok, did we all make it through Thanksgiving without plumping up to the size of Violet Beauregarde? Alright, deep breath. Go outside, retrieve the scale you hucked out the window on Friday morning, and let's feel good about this. As endurance athletes, we're all inclined toward totally hilarious and innocuous eating disorders (insert nervous crying emoji here). As a result, it's pretty easy to go into straight stress/meltdown mode leading into Thanksgiving, the interceding weeks to Christmas, Christmas itself, Martin Luther King Day, Valentine's Day, Mardi Gras, Easter, Memorial day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Halloween, Veterans day, and right back into Thanksgiving. What I'm trying to say is, "it's a goddamn miracle we're not all co-stars on My 600 Pound Life."
What I'm about to tell you is something no endurance coach would ever dare say in public, lest he be mocked by the wannabe PhDs of the internet: Don't Sweat it.
I know, I know, how fast you go up a mountain is determined by your power relative to your WEIGHT. And dropping 5lbs will take a minute off your 5k. Yada Yada, "boo-shit boo-shit boo-shit." For sure, losing weight will help you go faster, provided you don't lose any strength. The same way saving for retirement is easy if you stop drunk-purchasing rotisserie roasters at 3am off QVC. In a perfect world, right? Sadly weight loss is sometimes attacked too aggressively, and as a result we lose what meager power we've currently got, and actually end up with a LOWER w/kg than we previously had (not that I'm speaking from experience here or anything).
Look, You're probably never going to be Chris Froome. I'm sure as shit never going to be. So stop trying to look like him. He's a physiological freak who breaks his wrist if the wind blows the wrong way (jk Chris, don't hit me). Instead of chasing an impossible ideal, why not look to the guys who are more like you? Take Philippe Gilbert for instance. He's a pretty normal looking dude! I mean, average to small against the measuring stick. A Not-inhuman weight. Honestly he's kinda thick. Thick by way of muscles, but thick nonetheless. And yet he sails up climbs, has a wicked sprint, can TT like a devil (I guess Satan is a good pursuiter?) and oh yeah, gets to eat chocolate around the holidays. So many athletes make the mistake of focusing on the Kilogram part of the equation without tackling the Watt part first. If you're doing it this way, you're doing it wrong. Strength takes a LONG time to build. That's why you see a lot of people working out in the gym, but not so many walking around who look like Arnold. It's also why you see a bunch of toothpicks show up on race day and get shelled right out the back. If you're racing up mountains, feel free to tell your friends "This guy's a loon!" You guys are special cases. But for the rest of us, we'd do well with a little extra power as opposed to fewer kilos.
All this isn't to say weight isn't important. It's extremely important. Almost as important as not throwing your Thanksgiving plate in the air when your grandmother tells you there wasn't racism when she was growing up, and it's something invented by Obama. What I'm trying to say is, don't hate yourself. So you ate a slice of pie, big whoop. Okay, you cut a slice of pie, left THAT on the plate, and removed the larger chunk from around it, cartoon-style. Then smothered it in chocolate syrup, a pint of Ben and Jerry's, a whole can of whipped cream, stuffed it INSIDE the turkey, and disappeared to the living room to literally cry over the dismal performance of insert-NFL-team-here and shame. Let it go. Don't feel guilty about what you put in. Just make sure when you go to stand on the pedals, or rip down that trail, you use all of that glorious ChocoPieCreamTurkey.
And knuckle down: Christmas is coming.