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...No idea where I'm headed in 2018/2019, 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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All-Out Miracle Intervals to Improve Your Average Power

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One December a road racer I had coached for more than 10 years collided with a dog. The rider’s name is Bob. The dog charged him during a group ride and ended up under Bob’s bike while he was going full speed. Bob launched into the air and eventually had a hard meeting with earth. The dog, unharmed, took off running after a few body rolls on the pavement.

When the dust settled and an evaluation was made, Bob ended up with a broken clavicle—or what is commonly called the collarbone.

A broken collarbone eliminates many training options for a cyclist: no leg presses, squats or outdoor riding for six weeks, and only the absolute minimal pressure on the hands, arms and upper body. This prescription doesn’t leave many options for staying in form for someone wanting to do a four-hour race in February and therefore demanded some coaching creativity on my part.

Before the crash, Bob was just beginning to work on lactate-threshold power. After the crash, lactate-threshold intervals were out of the question—they caused too much pain. Long rides had to be done indoors and for a maximum of 2 hours. The accumulated time above aerobic training zones was very minimal.

He continued to do strength-training exercises that did not cause him pain, though there were few that did. To help him keep some leg strength and power, I had him do short, powerful intervals with generous rest on the indoor trainer. The goal was to produce as much wattage as possible for each interval. I didn’t care if power faded through the workout, I wanted him to “go for it” each time. These once-per-week interval sessions were his key workouts for six weeks.


Ten weeks after his collision, Bob raced. We were both pleasantly surprised with the results. Even though he had only three lactate-threshold workouts in the 10 weeks prior to the event and his long rides were between 1.5 and 2.25 hours long, he was within 5 minutes of his best time. His average power production for several time samples actually increased compared to the previous year when we did more traditional endurance training:

12 seconds: Decreased 1.7 percent (I expected this to be the one to improve most, but it didn’t.)
One minute: Improved by 20.5 percent
Six minutes: Improved by 4.5 percent
12 minutes: Improved by 5.7 percent
30 minutes: Improved by 10.4 percent
60 minutes: Improved by 8.0 percent
90 minutes: Improved by 7.9 percent
180 minutes: Improved by 7.1 percent

We were both convinced it was the short Miracle Intervals that made the difference.

The Science

Although I was pleasantly surprised at the results, I pondered the explanation of why it happened. Could I reproduce this result again? Ten years ago, this type of training for an experienced cyclist was new to me, nor had I seen any other coach recommend such a non-traditional approach.

I did find research that supported my experiment. The study investigated the effects of short-term, high-intensity sprint training on 17 trained cyclists. The cyclists had a minimum of two years of training and had been involved in previous training programs.

For the experiment, sprint training workouts occurred twice per week for four weeks. The first workout included four, 30-second sprints followed by four minutes of active recovery. The total sprint work equaled 28 minutes accumulated over the four weeks. The remainder of the training for the sprint group was endurance training.

The study concluded that four weeks of high-intensity sprint training combined with endurance training in a trained cycling population increased motor unit activation, exercising plasma levels and total work output with a relatively low volume of sprint exercise compared to endurance training alone.

Subsequent research has found that these short intervals may also improve insulin sensitivity, key for people dealing with insulin resistance. I’ll leave that for another column.

The Workouts

Below are three examples of Bob’s key power workouts:

Workout #1

Warm up for 20 minutes at an aerobic effort
3 x 20 seconds all-out power production, 4:40 easy Zone 1 spinning
3 x 10 seconds all-out power production, 4:50 easy Zone 1 spinning
Cool down with easy spinning

Try this workout now using our Structured Workout Export.

Workout #2

Warm up for 20 minutes at an aerobic effort
3 x 30 seconds all-out power production, 4:30 easy Zone 1 spinning
3 x 20 seconds all-out power production, 4:40 easy Zone 1 spinning
3 x 10 seconds all-out power production, 4:50 easy Zone 1 spinning
Cool down with easy spinning

Workout #3

Warm up for 20 minutes at an aerobic effort
5-7 x 30 seconds all-out power production, 4:30 easy Zone 1 spinning
Cool down with easy spinning

I have designed several progressions of Miracle Intervals and used them in my training plans. I’m certain they can work for you too.

4 Tips on How You Can Use Miracle Intervals

If you are just developing fitness, take the time to do sessions where power builds throughout the short intervals. Work your way up to all-out sprints.
If you are fit and experienced, these short sprints may help you improve your fitness. Do them once or twice per week. The key is all-out power production from the first one and  full recovery between sprints.
These sprints can be done outdoors, on an indoor trainer or in a spin class. In the spin class, be certain you recover between each interval. This is not a leg-searing, feel-like-toast-at-the-end-of-the-spin-class sort of workout. You need to control the intensity of the workout for yourself during the class.
Even though the research paper only utilized four weeks for the experiment, you may need more time. Bob had his biggest power production results for the sprints during weeks 15 and 18, post-crash. Don’t be afraid to give the workouts time to have a training effect.

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Where Endurance Strength Training Programs Often Go Wrong

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Over the last five years, we’ve seen the mainstream endurance world do a complete 180-degree turn related to the use of strength training for performance. This is a huge step in the right direction, and as we, a sporting culture, are beginning to better discern the bad information from the quality information, we should expect large strides in unlocking a whole new level of performance for the average cyclist and triathlete.

Recently, I had the pleasure and privilege to present at the USA Cycling Coaching Summit. It was a fantastic opportunity to help coaches and athletes get started on the right foot in the realm of strength training.

I also realized in my time at the conference, that there is a big focus in the cycling world on “specificity of movements” such as those we already use tens-of-thousands of times every ride. While the intention is to employ the S.A.I.D. Principle (Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands), we might actually be missing the target high and wide.

So what should we be concentrating on instead?

When it comes to the general population, there is a focus on building bigger, stronger muscles, and much of the schooling for new personal trainers is geared towards this group. But, when it comes to training endurance athletes, we should actually have different intentions: performance and longevity.

To reach those outcomes, we can break things down into three primary goals:

Keeping the body in balance
Injury prevention
Increase performance

The order of these goals is incredibly important as focusing on keeping the body in balance will help us prevent injury and increase performance. Shuffle these around and you can quickly find yourself fighting unplanned battles that you simply don’t have the time or energy to win.

Taking these rules into consideration, we can begin to see how a limited strength training plan, which concentrates only on exercises like squats, lunges, hamstring curls, leg presses, and front planks, puts these goals at risk. Eventually, such a plan may lead to massive muscle imbalances and overuse of specifics muscles and joints resulting in a subsequent decrease in performance.

But, these exercises still have a place in strength training for cyclists. There is just far more that must be included in a well-rounded plan, especially for the upper body.

Incorporating the “Fundamental 5+1” movements

In order to see the most positive results, we have to think about working the body in ways that will help keep the joints in balanced positions. Doing so will will help the muscles function properly; this is quite literally “functional training”.

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That’s where the “Fundamental 5+1” movements come in. Every well-balanced strength training program should include all of the movements in order to build a better, more injury-resistant athlete:

Rotary Stability

Notice anything? Only two of these movements are lower body dominant, and a third requires the upper and lower body to work together. That’s why a training plan that only concentrates on the lower body can ultimately be detrimental to an endurance athlete in the long term.

There are hundreds of exercises you can choose from for your athlete, and the most challenging part is to figure out which tool is best for that athlete at that time. My challenge to you is to build more well-rounded strength programs and make sure every exercise is leading to a more balanced athlete.

How are you planning to incorporate balanced exercises into your strength plans this year?

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CoachCast: Intelligent Intensity with Stephen Seiler

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All too often, athletes and coaches are strapped for time and looking for new training methods to get the most our of their workouts. If you are familiar with polarized training, you already know that a smart mix of high- and low-intensity workouts might be the perfect solution. But, are you actually approaching polarized training all wrong?

Dave Schell and Cody Stephenson sat down with renowned academic Stephen Seiler to discuss his research, how he applies it in his own training, and why you might be overcomplicating polarization.



Stephen Seiler Twitter
Stephen Seiler ResearchGate
2018 Endurance Coaching Summit featuring Keynote Speaker Stephen Seiler (use coupon code CoachCastECS20 for 20 percent off)

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Beat Those Wintertime Blues and Find Your Training Motivation

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It’s that time of year again when it’s chilly outside and race season seems far off in the distance. Off-season has officially arrived. It’s the time when motivation dips and you can’t seem to get into your usual training groove. It seems like just about everybody can find an excuse to get out of a workout these days. We’ve all done it—and we all regret it.

To avoid the excuses from the start, set yourself up for success by working with a coach to develop a custom training plan just for you. Having a plan, even in these low months can be extremely motivating. Take the time to learn from your coach, ask questions to help you understand why certain workouts are incorporated into your schedule, and the purpose of each in your overall goals for the year. Knowing how that particular workout affects the others and what role it plays in ultimately meeting your goals is a huge motivator in and of itself.

For the times when that’s not enough and you still find yourself offering excuses, well now’s the time to start anticipating them and crafting your plan of attack. Here are some common off-season training excuses and solutions to get you back out there:

Excuse: I had a bad day at the office and I’m mentally and physically drained.

Solution: Move your workouts to early mornings. Not only will the cool air feel good, but now you will feel energized the rest of the day and have the evening to relax and prepare for your next workout.

Excuse: I have to watch my kids.

Solution: Investing in a running stroller, putting your bike on the trainer at home, or having the kids help keep your splits at the track are all great ways to get the family involved in your training. The kids will have a great time helping keep you on pace.

Excuse: I get injured when I workout. What’s the point?

Solution: First off, talk to your doctor to make sure you are clear to run before you start your comeback. Then, right away have your running form analyzed by a professional to make sure you are wearing the proper shoes. A number of running related pains and injuries are a direct result of running in the wrong shoes. Also be sure to incorporate cross training and strength conditioning to build a strong core and lower body strength.

Excuse: It’s too dark before and after work to train.

Solution: Get some more gear! There are great headlamps out on the market right now with progressive lighting that are powerful and lightweight. Invest in a reflective vest and warm, layered clothing to be sure you’re seen out there on the dark road and you’re toasty while you’re doing it.

Excuse: I’m too tired.

Solution: You likely need more sleep. Go to bed early. Give yourself time to relax in the evenings before going to bed to help ensure a better night’s rest. Shut off the electronics an hour before bedtime, read a book and drink some chamomile tea. Sleep is a valuable, and often overlooked, aspect of recovery.

Excuse: It’s too cold.

Solution: It very well may be cold out there. But that’s just another reason to dress for your workout. People train in all types of weather just fine using some smart preparation before they head out the door. And once you start moving the cold air usually starts to feel good. If it’s truly too cold outside, then simply head indoors.  These indoor training workouts are great ways to stay on top of your fitness no matter what it looks like outside.

Don’t worry if you fall victim to one or two of these excuses during the off season. It happens to us all. Now is the best time to set yourself up mentally for a strong year and if hitting the snooze button once or twice helps, think of it as your reward for the amazing season you are starting to dream about.

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How To Do a Productive End-of-Season Review

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“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”
-Albert Einstein

Triathlon season 2018 is now over. The evenings are getting darker and as we move into the holiday season, thoughts turn to new goals and plans for 2019. But before you get on to the fun bit of goal setting, it is worth taking some time to reflect on the past race season to see what it can tell us about how you improve in 2019. This is something a lot of athletes neglect, and as a result, tend to end up repeating the same mistakes or not pushing onto the next level they could achieve.

Maybe you reached dizzying new heights in 2018, or maybe nothing worked out the way you planned, but examining how your season played out can be a real game changer, helping you avoid old pitfalls and build on your strengths for better performances next year.

The areas to critically evaluate include:
Goal setting and race selection
Training session execution
Rest and recovery
Time management
Race preparation/execution

By simply being honest and systematic in your review, you should gain a much clearer picture of where you should focus your limited energy and resources. Then you need to drill down to why some things worked, and others did not, to understand how best to plan for next year. This approach (if done correctly) should help you identify and map changes you need to implement to minimize the risk of repeating the same limiter in the next season. For example, a good end of season review might look like this:

What I did well:

Goal setting and race selection: I stuck to the agreed race schedule and goals (achieved 100% of A goals and 50% of B goals)
Base training execution: I successfully hit 90% of sessions in the plan

What I did poorly and possible reasons why:

Nutrition: I missed a lot of my weight goals. I didn’t track my intake and I ate too many takeaways and ready meals mid-week due to time pressures and lack of planning after late training sessions.
Mindset: I found myself mentally quitting during hard sessions as persuaded myself it was okay, I found this repeated in some races
Rest and recovery: I constantly felt tired in Build and ended up injured in May. I didn’t track my sleep and felt I was over-committed both with work and socially.

What I need to change in 2019:

Nutrition: I need to focus on nutrition particularly in training. I need to track calories better, and use better planning (e.g. batch cook more healthy meals) to ensure I am fuelling my body appropriately.
Mindset: I need to research better ways to remain focused during hard sessions/races e.g. visualization? View hard sessions as learning ground for hard races in the calendar?
Rest and recovery: Need to track sleep and rest periods and plan for some extra naps and rest where possible. I need to ensure I adhere to recovery cycles and rest days, book sports massage on rest days

We are all looking for that elusive PB, improved placing, etc., and we can be too quick to dive into the next season hoping that everything will fall into place. Surely a better approach is to take stock of what we know happened and base our plans for 2019 on what we know we should improve. Remember when reviewing last year’s performance, it’s important to be both really honest with yourself and also to look at your performances without judgement. You can’t change what has happened, but you can learn from your past behavior to improve the way you do things.

Ready to get real insight into your performances? Drop me a note to subscribe to my newsletter, and receive access to my free new season review tool!

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