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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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What exactly is functional training and why is it a great option for triathletes? Functional training, as the name implies, is based on strengthening the specific muscles used in the complicated movements of our sport. Every discipline in triathlon necessitates movement in all three planes of motion (frontal, sagittal and transverse). But how much time do triathletes dedicate to working on strengthening these movements? The answer is usually not enough. Let’s break down each facet of triathlon and show why and how you can start training for movement, not muscle.

Functional Training For The Swim

The swim is a very different animal than the bike or run. The most glaring difference is not being able to use the ground to generate power and momentum. The swim is usually executed in the prone position with your core being the single biggest propellant for all your movements in the water. Keys to a strong, fast swim are core strength coupled with hip and shoulder stability. Together, these two strength components can streamline rotational forces and lessen incorrect movement patterns.

Key functional strength exercises for the swim include:

Plank row
Kettlebell swing
Medicine ball push-ups
Rotating one arm cable row

Functional Training For The Bike

When you break down what is happening with your body on the bike, it is basically a one-leg-at-a-time movement that propels you forward. Therefore, if you practice by training single leg strength, stability and power on the ground, it will translate to a more efficient and powerful pedal stroke. Additionally, you will need core strength for speed, balancing through turns, and to add stabilization in the side-to-side motion executed when climbing a nasty hill.

Key functional strength exercises for the bike include:

Dumbbell squat to overhead press
Lateral lunges with or without weight
Variations on planks
Single leg squats

Functional Training For The Run

Running was once thought to only be performed in the sagittal plane (forward motion). However, we now know there is a frontal plane movement due to weight shifting from one side to the other, as well as transverse movement through the torso when your shoulder and opposite hip link up. Since strength and stability through all three planes of motion are clearly present, it makes sense to train them equally. This will help your body endure the stress of weekly workouts, create efficient and strong movement patterns, and lessen any imbalances that may lead to injury.

Key functional strength exercises for the run include:

Stability ball hip lifts
Transverse cable twist
Band resisted single leg step-ups
Speed skaters

Train Overall Movements, Not Muscles

To give you a better idea of which exercises will allow you to train movements not muscles, world famous strength coach Mike Boyle created the below template that lists all of the major functional movements of the human body and how we should train them:


Knee-dominant hip and leg pushing – squats, leg press
Single leg knee-dominant hip and leg pushing – single leg squats, split squats, lunges

Straight-leg hip extension – romanian deadlifts and single leg variations
Bent-leg hip extension – barbell glute bridge, hip thrusts

Horizontal Presses – bench press, push ups

Vertical Presses – shoulder/military presses

Horizontal Pulls – seated rows, bent over rows, hanging rows

Vertical Pulls – pull-ups/chin-ups, pulldowns

Functional training has a unique way of maximizing strength output without risking overtraining. Therefore, by performing exercises based on components of explosiveness, acceleration/deceleration and stabilization in all three planes of motion, you are preparing your mind and body for the specificity of triathlon.

The post Functional Training: How to Strength Train for Movement, Not Muscle appeared first on TrainingPeaks.

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In a previous article, I introduced five relatively simple ways to boost cycling power. These included riding in bigger gears, riding uphill, riding into headwinds, using block training and following the 75-percent rule. Here are five more ways to increase your bike power.

1. Do some power bursts.

Power bursts are a great way to increase your leg strength and muscular endurance, which is the ability to pedal a relatively large gear at a moderate cadence (i.e., force generation). It’s a versatile workout that you can complete on any terrain. Begin by warming up thoroughly. This should include easy spinning as well as a few pulls in bigger gears to prepare your legs. The warm-up is critical because of the stress placed on the knees due to the use of relatively large gears.

Begin each power burst by spinning at a very low cadence (i.e., coasting) and speed. Shift to your big gear (e.g., 50 x 11) and while seated, pedal as hard as you can until you reach 80 rpm. This should take about 15 seconds. Shift to a small gear and spin easy for three minutes at 90 rpm. Repeat 10 times and build up to 15 power bursts per session.

2. Do some cadence intervals.

Another way to increase power is to elevate your pedal cadence. You can do this with a cadence intervals session, which is a moderate intensity workout that will improve your neuromuscular coordination (i.e., improved coordination and cooperation between the muscles that enhance your ability to pedal at a very high rate).

To do this workout, use a relatively small gear that allows you to train at 85-percent to 98-percent of your lactate threshold heart rate (76 percent to 90 percent of your functional threshold power) while pedaling a cadence of 100 to 110 rpm. Start with three x eight minutes and increase the length of the hard efforts until you can complete three x 15 minutes with five minutes of recovery.

3. Ride long distances.

Long rides improve your aerobic and muscular endurance. More than that, they stress your cardiovascular and muscular systems in a way that facilitates the physiological adaptation process. Long rides are the most effective way to increase training volume and stress; however, keep two points in mind. First, long is a relative term. If your longest ride to date is two hours, completing a three-hour ride will have a significant impact. Likewise, if you routinely complete four-hour rides, keep working until you can finish a five to six-hour jaunt. Second, you don’t have to complete a long ride every week. A long day in the saddle every three to four weeks will have a significant impact on your power output and overall fitness.

4. Modify your cadence and gearing patterns.

Physiological adaptation occurs when the body encounters stresses it has not had to deal with previously. If you do the same workouts again and again, your body gets used to them no matter how hard they are, which can lead to a performance plateau. One way to build diversity into your regimen is to alter your cadence and gearing patterns. For example, if you typically perform lactate threshold intervals in a relatively small gear at 95 to 100 rpm, you can better facilitate the adaptation process by doing some of those intervals in a bigger gear at 80 to 85 rpm. Likewise, if the cadence for your long ride is typically 90 to 95 rpm, spend some time pedaling a bigger gear at 80 to 85 rpm.

5. Push through a personal barrier.

In other words, do something you have never done before. For example, if your current long ride is three hours, build up to four hours. If you normally do one long ride during a mesocycle (e.g., every four weeks), try two long rides. If you typically climb your favorite hill three times, climb it four times. If your personal best up that hill is 12 minutes, set a seasonal goal to break 12 minutes. If your longest lactate threshold interval is 15 minutes, increase it to 20 minutes. If you currently ride four days a week, try riding five days a week. If you typically perform two-day high-intensity training blocks, try a three-day block.

If you are a multisport athlete who normally performs one brick workout in a microcycle (e.g., every  week), perform two bricks in your next microcycle. Anything you do that you have never done before will help facilitate the physiological adaptation process. But be careful, this can be a recipe for overtraining if you do not allow for sufficient recovery.

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As a coach, your role is often multifaceted depending on the athlete and the season. You juggle constantly between monitoring your athletes’ physical fitness and race readiness with their overall health and emotional well being. Recovery is the link between these various areas of your coaching focus, and as such it plays an important role in not only helping your athletes achieve success but also maintaining longevity in the sport. In this month’s Coach’s Desk we asked:   

How do you communicate the importance of recovery to your athletes and how do you monitor your athletes’ recovery?
Andy Kirkland

“Most athletes can talk about the importance of recovery in the adaptation process. However, very few listen to their coaches or their own bodies until they’ve gone too far. That’s fine by me because athletes must learn to take responsibility and ownership for their training program.  My job is to help them understand how much recovery they need and to learn from their mistakes.  Total stress equals training stress plus life stress and there’s no wholly valid metric to measure both. Rather the best tool I have is the question: “Tell me how you feel?” Indeed, most of my coaching is built around eliciting an honest response from this very question.”

Katee Pedicini

“To communicate the importance of recovery I chat to my athletes about the physiological process of adaptation so they have “buy in” to easy sessions, days off, walks, yoga and taking it easy. Tying this into a conversation regarding the ins and outs of how TSS (Training Stress Score) and TSB (Training Stress Balance) work also helps. As part of their workout description in TrainingPeaks I also suggest recovery protocols such as legs up the wall, recovery boots or infrared saunas. This helps keep them accountable.
I monitor their recovery through metrics and the performance management chart (PMC) in TrainingPeaks, while also “listening” to their workout comments. For those that utilize HRV (Heart rate variability) I find this a very useful tool to monitor fatigue, illness and recovery.

Gale Bernhardt

“People who seek my personal coaching services are driven, high-performance human beings in nearly all aspects of life. I usually begin my discussion on recovery with the fact that resting is often counterintuitive for high achievers, and I understand that. I ask each athlete to trust me for about six weeks so we can both see the benefits of a training plan that includes planned stress and recovery. In that time I have key workouts I use to look for quantifiable results in one or more categories. Examples include improved power over six weeks, specific power numbers on key workouts, faster speeds or lower heart rate cost for a given speed.

I also ask athletes to comment on each workout, using at least one to three sentences, to let me know how it went and how they feel. Never skip the comments, even if you’re self-coached. Using a combination of the data and comments, it is easy to see performance and motivation increase as planned recovery is implemented. With inadequate recovery, performance and motivation decreases. It’s also easy to look back to see the workouts and conditions that created success—months and even years later.”

Philip Hatzis

“Having a strong element of trust between your athlete as a coach ensures that you can work with the athlete to enable recovery in their training. In the fast-paced world of amateur athletes, finishing a session usually leads straight to picking up the kids, going to work, being with the family or all the above. This often means that recovery doesn’t happen “by the book.” We need to work out smart ways to help that happen. In many instances, looking at the lifestyle as a whole and not just the training aspect will result in a better allocation of recovery time. This will result in a more balanced athlete and a more content one.

Monitoring an athlete’s recovery can be done in many different ways:

Technologically: HRV, sleep, PMC, testing heart rate, etc.
Qualitatively: sleep quality, RPE, “feel good factor,”mood, fatigue, etc.
Responsively: training KPI’s, trends etc.

No single way is the best, and by using a combination, we achieve a 360-degree view of the athlete. Sometimes the data helps lead a conversation and sometimes the conversation yields more information than you would otherwise see in the data. It’s our duty as coaches to use both areas to full effect to get a holistic picture of the athlete and make informed decisions to improve their well-being and ultimately to improve their performance.”

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Every once in awhile, an athlete comes to me with an audacious goal—something way bigger, harder, and longer than they’ve ever done before. The logical side of me immediately goes to work determining what’s needed to achieve this goal and whether it’s even possible, while my emotional side begins to question my client’s sanity.

Meet Hayley Teale. She’s one of those athletes with an audacious goal, the kind of goal that makes a coach’s life more interesting and challenging. Hayley’s goal is Everesting: 8,848m (roughly 29,028 feet) of climbing in one ride on one hill.

Research First

So what effort on the bike does an Everest event require? Hayley and I spent some time consulting the Everesting website, scanning the data from previous attempts and looking at what sort of effort was involved. Here’s what we came up with:

Duration of 15-20 hours on the bike
Average length of 270 km
Average burn of 9,300 calories (39,300Kj)

There’s also a bunch of logistical stuff you need to make an Everest attempt successful, mainly the support crew, sherpas, luck with the weather—and a plan. You’re going nowhere fast without all those in place.

Logistics aside, it was time to use the tools at our disposal to see what Hayley was capable of.

Using WKO4 to back up our thinking

How could we know if an athlete can actually manage all that time on the bike and survive the physical and emotional ordeal of the event? We turned to WKO4 to see how Hayley might fare.

Because of the data history Hayley has provided, we could easily find the longest ride Hayley had done so far; it turns out it was the Three Peaks Challenge at around 9 hours.

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Hayley’s longest ride to date: 9h 3m

Next, we wanted to check out a few physiological markers. Hayley was looking good; her phenotype is a TTer (sorry, sprinters, but Everesting definitely isn’t for you).

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Hayley’s rider phenotype: TTer

Beyond phenotype identification, Coggan’s phenotype map also gives some idea of how close to a phenotype an athlete is. Hayley (the white circle in the chart below) is very close to a true TTer (the blue triangle)—again, ideal material for an Everest attempt.

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Coggan’s Phenotype Map

The final chart we looked at to determine whether Hayley had the right muscle makeup to complete this ultra-endurance event was the Physiological Markers Report. Her 82-percent slow-twitch muscle fiber was an ideal sort of make-up.

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The Plan

It was obvious that Hayley was going to need some sort of plan to complete the Everest attempt. Whilst I was quietly confident she was capable of it, I’d been a Sherpa on a few other Everesting attempts and had personally seen more people fail than succeed. I knew this would be no walk in the park.

Hayley already had a good level of fitness for an athlete with a full-time job, two kids and a husband to look after, so I wasn’t too concerned about building it further. Using WKO4’s PMC, we could see her CTL was around 90 at the end of May 2016.

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Hayley’s PMC January-May 2016

My biggest concern was the amount of fatigue Hayley would accumulate in preparing for the attempt and how to make sure she had enough physical adaptation to cope with it. My other concern was the time of year she had chosen: the middle of winter in Adelaide, Australia. You can ride year round in Adelaide, but the weather in July can be cold, wet and windy—and there’s also a shortage of sunlight.

We designed our plan the same way mountaineers plan to climb mountains like Everest: They do consecutively harder and longer climbs, acclimatize and eventually go for the summit. Our plan was simple:

¼ distance attempt – 2,500 m climbing on the same hill
Recover and adapt
½ distance attempt – 4,500 m climbing on the same hill
Recover and adapt
Full distance attempt – 8,848 m

After each of these stages, we used WKO4 to see its effect on Hayley’s body. We used a PMC-like chart  to track her CTL, ATL, TSB and TSS.

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Hayley’s mini PMC in WKO4

We learned from the ¼ attempt that the preparation and the event itself were going to produce a lot of fatigue; the ¼ distance produced nearly 300 TSS, so it would be better to go into the event with a high TSB (form) and a slightly lower CTL (fitness), rather than the other way round. This approach paid off with the ½ distance attempt; we went in with a TSB of +12, and fatigue was more easily managed the day after.

Pacing was also important. This endurance event is done mostly in zones 1 and 2, so setting off too hard would be paid for dearly a few hours later. Hayley had practiced pacing in the ¼-and ½-distance attempts and had specific wattages to go by. We built a variation of the workout review chart found in TrainingPeaks and added a power trend line to it so we could see the trend over time. Over the course of the ¼ distance attempt, we saw only a dropoff of 4 watts in more than five hours of riding, so we knew Hayley had the pacing nailed already.

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Hayley’s workout review with power trend

After a couple of weeks of recovery and adaption, we went for the full distance. At 4:30 a.m. on July 9, Hayley set off on her Everest attempt. She was the first woman in South Australia to attempt it. The first few thousand meters were a breeze. We had a schedule, and Hayley more or less kept to it, taking breaks after every third or fourth ascent. Keeping her body fueled correctly was difficult when the energy demand was over three times her normal daily intake, and her body was more interested in propelling her up the hill than digesting food.

After 19 hours of riding and 43 ascents of Wickham’s Hill, Hayley completed the 8,848m Everesting challenge. WKO4 was a valuable part of her accomplishment, both in the planning stages and in monitoring her progress along the way.

Do you have your own “Everest Challenge” you’d like to complete? Get started reaching your goal today with this free 14-day trial of WKO4. 

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When we’re preparing for an event, we often log a certain number of training hours each week, but how often do we consider how much time we are or should be putting toward our mental skills development? In this clip from her recent TrainingPeaks webinar, Carrie Cheadle explains why you should tally up those hours as well; because if you’re leaving your performance entirely up to physical prowess and chance—you might be selling yourself short.

Interested in learning what the other four mental challenges are? You can find the rest of Cheadle’s online webinar here.

If you’re dealing with injury and want some guidance, check out Cheadle’s TrainingPeaks University online course, “Mental Toughness for Injured Athletes: How to Regain Confidence and Get Back to Competition.” Get $50 off when you register before May 31 using the code 50tough2017.

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