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...No idea where I'm headed in 2016, but I can't wait to get there...

So you've landed here on my iWillNotBonk.com Triathlon Training Blog and you're probably wondering who the hell this Tavis guy is and what iWillNotBonk is all about.

I'm just an average age-grouper / weekend warrior blogging about Ironman Triathlon Training and this complex puzzle of juggling life, having fun and reporting on my various feats of strength and endurance adventures!

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2016!? Starting from Square 1!

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The new year is well and truly underway. After spending most of the fall recovering from and reflecting upon the 2017 season, I had some time to begin to plan my training, race program, and begin to set goals for 2018 before heading to camp.

2017 was a year I’m proud of. I’ve found a stable and happy home at UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling that’s provided me the platform for consistent performance. My consistency in Pro Road Tour (PRT) races from March through August netted me the overall PRT title.

My major disappointment from last season stems from not winning any stages or GC titles and that’s where my goals and motivation lay for 2018. With that being said, my training approach and build up remains similar for 2018.

My first key period of the season begins in late April with the Tour of the Gila and continues with Redlands, and hopefully the Amgen Tour of California. I was able to go into training camp fairly relaxed but fresh and motivated to start putting in the hard work to turn those dreams into a reality.

In mid-January I set out for training camp with UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling just outside Medellin, Colombia. “Why Colombia?” A lot of people ask. “Wouldn’t it make more sense for an American team to have training camp in Arizona or California like most other teams?”

Before heading there for camp last year I had similar questions. South America poses international travel, potential traffic hazards while training, and an increased risk for food-related illnesses.

That said, Medellin is the perfect location for training camp for a few reasons. Travel from the U.S. is fairly straightforward, being only three hours from Miami and on the Eastern Standard Time Zone.

Weather is consistent year round and mostly between 70 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Terrain is ideal, with a balance of rolling, flat, and mountainous terrain to choose from. Altitude is also a key factor; our hotel was situated at 7,200 feet with most training occurring between 4,000 and 9,000 feet. With the focus of this camp being primarily aerobic base training the adaptations that occur from doing this at altitude are much greater than at sea level.


We’re also able to take over an entire family-owned, small hotel and have a team of Colombian women prepare all of our meals for the entire three week camp. There’s a feeling of comfort and homeliness that would be difficult to replicate at a U.S. hotel.

That said, we spend most of our days out on the roads and not in the hotel! Here are some examples of how much mileage and effort goes into an early season training camp like ours:


When I was getting packed up to head south for a month my girlfriend asked me what I was looking forward to most, to which I responded “Doing nothing.” What I really meant was doing one thing, and doing it to the best of my ability.

That’s really the beauty of a training camp, the total focus on training for a defined period of time. Some people think that professional cyclists train like this all the time but that’s not exactly accurate.Training at home has to be more sustainable.

A pro cyclist needs balance all other aspects of life: family, significant others, pets, and maintaining a social life off the bike. The idea of a training camp is something that athletes of any ability can really take advantage of.

Whether it’s a long weekend or a 10-day vacation to the Alps, the practice of doing an intense, focused block of training that you couldn’t or wouldn’t do normally can have huge benefits. The fact that you know you only have to focus solely on your training for a specific period of time allows you to push harder because you know you’ll have time to rest and recover on the other end of the block.

Routine is an important part of any athletes life. Good routines lead to good habits. which are the cornerstones of consistent training and good recovery. Our routine at camp was pretty dialed. We worked in three day blocks with one day of recovery before the next block.

Our training rides began promptly between 8:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m., depending on the intended duration of the ride. The training blocks typically included two standard endurance rides of four to six hours, followed by a specific day where riders could do their own intervals or other focused work.

Here’s an example of a typical long endurance day during camp. To go more in-depth, you can click on this image and get access directly to my power file for this ride:


Breakfast was typically 90 minutes before training, giving us enough time to digest and let the morning caffeine buzz kick-in. Having a follow car on long rides is a huge benefit, especially when temperatures and humidity are high. The immediate access to bottles, all the Honey Stinger products we could want, and whatever delicious treats the soigneurs whipped up that day makes six hours of riding a lot easier.

Perhaps, the nicest part of training camp life takes place once the training is over. After a quick shower and recovery shake, the team would meet for lunch. I don’t know how our cooks managed it but each afternoon meal included a delicious soup, rice, and varying vegetable and meat option.


From there it was either time to lapse into a brief carb coma or hop on to the massage table. Afternoons were some of the nicest times at camp. The lack of internet made for ideal reading and hammock-laying time until dinner was served.

Beyond the physical benefits of a training camp, a big part of the reason for a team camp is to spend some time with your teammates off the bike. Almost every night of camp ended with a card game and stories from our Belgian Director Hendrik Redant. There was no shortage of laughter, even as fatigue set in and post-dinner cereal intake increased.

All in all training camp was a great start to 2018, and I think I speak for all my teammates when I say UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling team is ready for a great season! Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more throughout the 2018 season.

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Getting back into a decent training routine can be hit or miss this time of year. I tend to feel sluggish and underperforming to randomly having a great session, then back to a state of mediocrity.

In triathlon, or any sport for that matter, consistency is key. But it’s hard to have consistently good workouts when your fitness isn’t where it would normally be once  you’re back in good form.

As I’m bringing my fitness levels back up in the pool, I can’t hold threshold paces very long for 200s or above. When this happens, I simply make some adjustments to my workouts to accommodate for my early season fitness level. These workouts put an emphasis on shorter, higher effort outputs I know I can sustain (however they are not easy by any means!).

My swim workout strategy falls into two approaches: A hard threshold set (20×100 with about 10 seconds rest). During these sets, I ignore the times, and instead focus on a generally hard effort (whatever that looks like on that particular day).

The second type of early season set I do involves keeping the intervals very short alongside a max effort, followed with a long pull set where I make sure to negative split halfway through.  

Here is an example of an early season set with some max efforts but short distances:

40×50 as follows:

16×50, with every 4th fast (10 seconds rest)
12 x 50 with every 3rd fast (15 seconds rest)
8×50 with every other fast (20 seconds rest)
4×50 fast (25-30 seconds rest)

This is quite a common set to do as it focuses on speed and high stroke rate.

The aerobic 50s in between fast bouts could be completely easy or what I would call “slightly faster than warm up pace.”

Within 30 seconds of finishing this set, I like to roll right into a 1,000 pull with a 10-second negative split at halfway. This means if you were to swim a 1,000 and split eight minutes at the 500 mark, shoot for 7:55 to 7:45.

Don’t stop even for a few seconds, just make note of your time on the clock or your watch. Picking the pace up two seconds per 100 could take a lot of effort if the first 500 are swum too quickly.

If I’m short on a time, I’ll do what I call an “express set” which is generally 30 to 40 minutes or less. After a short warm up, do 20×25 all out with 15 seconds rest, every 5th is easy, then right into an 800 with paddles descending by 200 with the last 200 fastest.

A key component to my swim training is following up threshold or VO2 Max work (the main set) with an 800 to 2,000 worth of pulling. Sometimes it’s just a strong 800 followed by easy swimming, other occasions it can be 2×800 faster than IRONMAN 70.3 race effort on the first one, the second is the same or faster.

Compared to running workouts, swimming long and strong after a main set is like adding 10 to 15 minutes at tempo after a run set. Even as fitness levels come back up, I’ll continue to add a straight 800 to 1,000 once a week and a broken 1,600 (4×400) or 2,100 (3×700), with short rest throughout the entire season.

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If you have been in the business for any length of time, you’ve probably coached an overly ambitious athlete who seems to train themselves into a hole repeatedly in the pursuit of their goals.  While detecting an overtraining athlete may be easy for a coach to spot, the athlete most likely does not see their efforts as negatively impacting their fitness goals. Ultimately, it’s up to you as their coach to help them learn the importance of proper recovery and training smarter.

There are many underlying issues that can cause an athlete to train too hard. The main reason is due to pressure—both external and internal. Outside pressures include those placed by the coach, other athletes and general social pressures.

Athletes already have existing pressures upon themselves and will continue to increase that pressure until they win or do extremely well. Surprisingly, athletes who see success are also at risk for overtraining as success drives them to push even harder.

Ultimately, training is what makes a better athlete—so it is easy for athletes to get sucked into the idea that more is better in order to gain that edge. Being competitive while learning and testing limits is athleticism by virtue.

Many athletes tend to exhibit too much motivation and perfectionism that pushes their training past the point of gains. Athletes usually fail to see that they are overtraining. In their eyes they feel that the signs of overtraining—experiencing fatigue and weakness—means that they need to train harder.

Here are nine tips for showing your overtraining, overly ambitious athlete how to train within their limits.

1. Eliminate the thought process that more training equals more success.

Have them take a step back and see the long-term perspective. Explain that while short-term gains might be possible, long-term overtraining is harmful and inhibits best results.

An athlete wouldn’t hit the weights as hard as they could every day for a week straight—because afterward they wouldn’t be able to walk (let alone train).

Showing an extreme example often times helps an athlete operate on strategy rather than pressure.

2. Express how periodization yields higher performance.

Help your athlete see the big picture by emphasizing that it is necessary to have training phases. It is impossible to reach goals by trying to be super fit all of the time. If an athlete ramps up their training build too quickly they will end up short-siding themselves. Using periodization helps the athlete ultimately peak at a much higher fitness.

3. Increase knowledge or awareness regarding the importance of recovery.

Inform the athlete what the purpose of training is. Go over how training stress breaks the body down while recovery rebuilds the body to become stronger and adapt. It is impossible to progress if the athlete is always pushing too hard and never giving their body a chance to recover.

Stress is cumulative and if acquired at an expedited rate their body will be unable to repair and adapt resulting in overtraining. The amount of rest and recovery needed to overcome the damage is at least two times as long as it took to get there.

When overtraining, it is pointless to continue training as if it is a waste of time and will take them further down the rabbit hole. Remind the athlete that sometimes they are supposed to train hard or “overreach” for a couple days, but not all the time.

4. Highlight the risks of not recovering.

While the athlete may see short-term gains, the long-term losses can be extremely detrimental. When an athlete fails to recover and adapt the first sign is performance decreases. A waterfall of issues can follow if an athlete continues to train too hard: sleep disturbances, lack of motivation, moodiness, lack of power, strength and loss of muscle, injury and many hormonal issues. These can take months perhaps years to overcome depending on the severity.

5. Create realistic expectations instead of unrealistic ones.

Athletes often place too much emphasis on immediate results. They focus on the long-term goal verses taking incremental goals. Create realistic expectations both short and long term to reduce the pressure to perform well. Also make sure that your athlete isn’t pressured into doing a race or training that they aren’t ready for.

6. Give specific numbers and paces to follow.

Make sure to provide pacing and effort information to make sure they don’t push themselves too hard. If an athlete has a tendency to constantly push harder than asked, then include one day off per week consistently.

Being proactive in their training can help mitigate any areas potentially open for interpretation by the athlete. Ask for RPE (rate of perceived exertion) for their completed workouts along with assigning a letter grade on how they think the overall workout went. Having the athlete give feedback allows for you to understand if the athlete is pushing too hard and has a warped perception of effort.

7. Push the importance of very easy.

When there is an easy workout or easy portion it should be taken very easy. Help the athlete understand that going easy should is a form of active recovery and is not for fitness gains. The hard intervals, endurance efforts and tempos are where to put in the efforts.

Express that the athlete should want to go really easy on easy days because they are able to tap into higher efforts on the hard training days. Always training in the middle will not allow them to progress in fitness. Even Kenyans run 10-minute miles when necessary.

8. Don’t let the athlete stack their training to make up for missed sessions.

Make sure your athlete understands that if a session is missed its not the end of the world. No training plan is perfectly followed. Even the best athletes in the world miss training sessions or are too tired to complete a quality training session. When it gets closer to a competition panic training in the weeks leading up will not increase their fitness. Most likely it will hurt their race instead of help.

9. Leave the athlete wanting more.

The phrase it’s better to be slightly undertrained than over trained is true. Constantly pushing to the max will end up fizzling an athlete’s motivation and physical capability to train and race. Training is not fun for an athlete who is constantly placing themselves under too much pressure, pain, fatigue, injury and lack of recovery. If you leave the athlete charged and feeling like they can keep challenging themselves, then their training will be safe, enjoyable and fun.

“I constantly remind myself that resting takes confidence. Anyone can train like a mad man but to embrace rest and to allow all the hard training to come out takes mental strength.” – Ryan Hall

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A solid core training routine is key for multisport athletes of all levels. Proper, consistent core training helps to create efficient movement patterns and also improves the efficiency of your time in the gym. These seven exercises and drills should be done throughout your training season to ensure you’re building a strong, engaged core, preventing injury and performing at an optimal level.

Core Training for Movement Efficiency

The theme of these exercises is that they involve multiple muscle groups. They challenge your body to recruit multiple muscle groups toward an athletic movement, thereby maximizing your efficiency of movement.

Additionally, even though the prime mover of each exercise is not necessarily your core, they all involve core strength and stability, so they teach your body to engage your core to support your movement while swimming, biking and running.

When you are able to recruit multiple muscles for one movement, you are not only preventing injury by overusing a single muscle or muscle group, but you are able to produce more power, propulsion and speed.

Core Training for Time Efficiency

The other reason these exercises are so beneficial is because you are getting so much more out of your strength training sessions. You can ensure that you are working out all of the muscles that you need to train in less exercises, and therefore, in less time. It’s time to throw out the excuse that you don’t have time for strength training!

These exercises are a complete, balanced workout because collectively, they include each muscle group. The exercises are listed in terms of least challenging to most challenging, generally speaking.

We all have different strengths and weaknesses and you may find some of the easier ones more challenging, or some of the more difficult ones might be more natural for you.

Bird Dogs: Starting on your hands and knees, start by extending your right arm and left leg straight out in opposite directions. You should focus on engaging your core to stay stable, and your left glute to ensure maximum extension. Bring your right elbow and left knee toward each other to touch if you can, then extend them back out. After the given number of reps on that side, switch to your left arm and right leg. The slower the better. Bird Dog Video
Bent Over Rows: From a standing position with your feet at hip-width distance, bend over with a slight bend in your knees, and ensure that your back is flat by pulling your shoulders back, engaging your core, and keeping the S-curve in your lower back. With a dumbbell in each hand, lift the dumbbells to your side, keeping your elbows close to your body, and focus on squeezing your shoulder blades together at the top of the rep. Bent Over Row Video
Scorpion Pushups: Start in a pushup position, do one pushup, then rotating your body to the left, bend your right knee, bringing the leg up and over the left side, and place it on the ground. Then touch your left foot to your right arm, bring your right foot back to the starting position, do another pushup, then repeat on the other side. Scorpion Pushup Video
Back Lunge with Twist: Start from a standing position, step your right leg back into a lunge and then twist your upper body towards the right side, ensuring that your right knee stays steady while you twist. Alternate legs and add weight as you feel comfortable. Focus on stability around your knees and hips. Back Lunge w/Twist Video
Ice Skaters: Begin in a standing position with your knees slightly bent, then start by pushing laterally off your right leg and landing on your left leg with your knee bent. Then jump laterally from your left leg back to your right leg, and so on. Start with small jumps to maintain your balance and lateral stability, then challenge yourself to jump wider to work on lateral power. Ice Skater Video
Turkish Get-Ups: Lay supine on the ground holding a kettlebell or dumbbell in your right hand with your arm extended. Bent your right knee and place your right foot on the floor. Raise your right shoulder off the floor by pressing into your left elbow. Sit all the way up, using your left arm to help you. Lift your hips off the ground, swing your left leg under your body and put your left knee down onto the ground, all the while keeping the kettlebell directly up in the air with your arm straight. Stand all the way up, then start your progression back to the ground, going through the steps in the opposite order. Then repeat on your left side. Turkish Get-Up Video
Run Drills, holding a medicine ball overhead: This exercise can be applied to any run drill of your choice. The videos demonstrate the medicine ball being added to: A-skip, side shuffling and karaoke. The purpose is to teach your body to use your core to maintain posture while running, so that your form doesn’t break down as quickly when you get tired. The medicine ball should be directly overhead. Focus on keeping your shoulders pulled down your back and your core engaged.

A-Skip w/Med Ball Video
Side Shuffle w/Med Ball Video
Karaoke w/Med Ball Video

To learn more strength training tips for improved multisport performance, check out my strength training plans for athletes of all levels in the TrainingPeaks Training Plan Store.

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The early season is a great time for swimmers to go back to basics and clean up their freestyle techniques. Before high volume and higher fatigue training begins, athletes have an opportunity to make changes to their stroke with patience, and without disruption to event specific training phases.

Working on techniques now can help an athlete take better advantage of more specific strength, pace and volume training in the spring and summer months ahead.

Three commonly accepted, basic principles of swimming fast freestyle are:

Reduce drag by using effective body positions.
Maximize forward propulsion, using adequate pressure and shapes of the pull and kick.
Coordinate effective timing of body positions, breathing, pull and kick.

Swimmers can develop a wide variety of ineffective stroke habits over time, but many can be avoided or corrected by going back to these basic principles. For example, a classic error in freestyle made by many triathletes, is the crossover arm entry and the often accompanying splayed scissor kick.

These symptoms are rarely the cause of inefficient swimming.Often, these are symptoms of a poor body position and balance, poor propulsion or poor timing. Attempting to correct symptoms, without also going back to basics and exploring core principles, often leads to plateaus and swimmer frustration.

Regardless of individual stroke style or rhythm, the most important core principle of an efficient freestyle, is having a buoyant body position, with head, shoulders, hips and heels at the surface of the water.

There will be slight differences among athletes in how they float, and in how they need to adjust head and posture to achieve an effective body position. Learning how to hold your body in the water allowing buoyancy to assist, is the foundation upon which to build a faster freestyle.

Using methods that allow swimmers to experience these principles, such as the drills described below, provide the athlete with valuable insight and learning opportunities.

Try it: Wall Float & Surface Push

Experience buoyancy and what it feels like to hold your body at the surface.

How to do it: Wall Float

Take a moderately deep breath and hold.
Hook the tops of toes over the edge of the pool, feet held up out of the water.
Float face down, relaxed, with arms down by sides.
Hold still, hold breath, relax.
When you need a breath, stop and stand up.

Now do it well:

Be patient, relax and wait. Wait long enough for any bouncing/bobbing to subside.
Look down.
Play around, experiment. Patiently, make slight adjustments in head position and posture, to achieve a level, horizontal body position.

Play with shoulders rounded versus fully retracted, before settling into neutral.
Play with eyes looking forward, versus tucking chin allowing water to submerge entire head, before settling into neutral.
Play with actively forcing your tallest posture, versus excessing slouching, settle into tall but relaxed postures.

Experience what happens to body position while approaching extremes.

Once settled into neutral, feel for air on the back of head, shoulders, hips, and calves. Head, shoulders and hips should be crowning the surface of the water.

Next Step: Surface Push

Start from a wall float.
Patiently ensure you are level, head/hips/heels all crowning the surface.
Allow feet to slip into the water, quietly and patiently maintaining head/hip/heel surface position, hold your breath, push off the wall.
Glide just long enough to feel the loss of momentum and the corresponding loss of position, then stop.
Repeat a few times.

More Advanced: Surface Push with Kick

Add snorkel (fins optional), start with wall float and surface push. Add gentle kicks, focus on maintaining head/hip/heel surface position.
Example Set: 16 x 25m surface push and kick with snorkel and fins, 5 seconds rest between.

Watch a video of a wall float here.


All swimmers are different, if drill progressions aren’t working, don’t hesitate to use equipment and/or drill variations to experience what a buoyant body position is supposed to feel like.

Snorkel: take time to notice how your breathing changes your buoyancy.
Pull Buoy: instead of a ‘Wall Float’ use a pull buoy and float with feet near, but not hooked onto, the wall.
Training Partner/Coach assist: your coach or swim buddy can hold your feet just below the surface, at the wall, with heels just breaking the surface, then release for the surface push.

Incorporate these stroke explorations by using this three week training plan. This plan includes warms up and nine progressive skill sessions to be used prior to a regular swim workout, as well as modifications for beginning, intermediate, and advanced swimmers. Ensure a solid foundation with video analysis and feedback, included with this version of the same training plan and improve your freestyle body position and technique for faster swimming during race season.

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