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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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Try This Preseason Home Strength Workout for Triathletes

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We often think that strength training for triathlon requires heading to the gym, purchasing a laundry list of equipment, or finding space in your pain cave (or studio apartment). It can get quite overwhelming, but that doesn’t have to be the case.

I’ve worked with individuals from around the world to help get them out of pain and increase their performance, both in person and remotely. At first, coaching remotely proved to be challenging because not all gyms are easily accessible, they often lack important equipment, or they even lack the required space to get a proper workout in.

I’ve developed killer home workouts with just a few pieces of relatively cheap and easy-to-store equipment so your athletes can benefit from strength training at home. Here are my preferred home workout equipment and a workout routine that will cost athletes less than $150 and will take up no more space to store than a couple of pairs of boots.

The equipment

Here’s what athletes need to get started:

One to two kettlebellsStrength beginners should have an 8kg and 12kg kettlebellStrength intermediates should have a 12kg and 20kg kettlebellStrength advanced should have a 16kg and 24kg kettlebellOne three-foot-long (1 meter) foam rollerOne lacrosse ball or tennis ballSomething to lay on that will keep you from sliding like a beach towel or a yoga mat

If you’re on a tight budget, start out with just the lighter kettlebells and the foam roller. These will allow you to get a great workout while working on strength and balance until you can purchase the heavier kettlebell.

Choosing the lighter weight may seem unusual, but we need to keep in mind that the cornerstone of increased performance from weight training comes from increased inter and intramuscular coordination. In order to accomplish this, remember that joint position dictates muscle function. That means that great technique using tempo to work on refining technique will develop a stronger mind-muscle connection.

The workout

Dynamic warmup

Start by foam rolling your full body for five to seven minutes total.

Crocodile breathing: 5 breathsSide-lying windmill: 5 times each sideSofa stretch: 30 seconds each sideJump rope: 2×30 seconds using short, quick jumps

Strength training

A1. Kettlebell swings: 3×15 repetitionsA2. Bird dogs: 3×5 repetitions each side (finish 1 side, then the other)

B1. 2-1-1-1 goblet squats: 3×10 repetitionsB2. Reach, roll, lift: 3×5 repetitionsB3. One-arm kettlebell shoulder press: 3×5 repetitions each side

C1. Down dogs: 3×5-7 repetitionsC2. One-arm kettlebell rows: 3×6 repetitions each sideC3. Suitcase carries: 3×20 seconds each side

The movements

Dynamic warmup

Crocodile breathing

This is an important, yet often overlooked, area of our training. Breathing exercises help you learn how to get a great, solid, healthy diaphragmatic breath. Take your time with these, and make sure you’re doing them properly.

Side-lying windmill

This is a fantastic full-body exercise which allows us to hit a number of common trouble spots for triathletes and cyclists: chest, lats, lower back, and glutes. Make sure to match your breath here as you work through the movement as it can significantly boost the positive results.

Sofa stretch

While everyone and their Auntie Anne seem to be trying to stretch their hip flexors, many miss the biggest contributor to anterior pelvic tilt: a tight rectus femoris. Make sure you are paying attention to the cues here and activate your abs while taking full, deep breaths (notice a pattern here in our warmup?) while you keep great posture.

Jump rope

You may be a bit confused as to why this is at the end of the warmup. After a static stretch, we’re after some very basic plyometric exercises. Jumping rope is a true plyometric exercise meaning that, when done correctly, there is a stretch-shortening cycle.

Strength training exercises

Kettlebell swings

This is an incredibly difficult movement for many cyclists and triathletes to master due in large part to the disruption in the posterior chain that we induce with our hard efforts on the bike. Take your time and work to master the movement before you look to increase the weight.

Bird dogs

This is another commonly butchered exercise. The bird dog should be done to bolster spinal stability and strength, not to put your spine through flexion and extension. Take your time and make sure you start at the proper level, which for many is going to be level one.

2-1-1-1 goblet squats

In the pre-season with your first races six to eight weeks away, we want to make sure our strength training is priming us for power, not just strength. In order to do so, we need to teach the muscles how to control our joints and produce power, all without losing stability. This 2-1-1-1 tempo is great for this exact purpose. This video demonstrates a 3-1-3-1 tempo; simply change the tempo to 2-1-1-1.

Reach, roll, lift

Mid- and lower-traps are constantly needed for our run, bike, and swim, yet these muscles are one of the more challenging areas to train without a lot of equipment. The reach, roll, lift exercise is extremely challenging to do properly as it requires us to keep our head in a neutral position, fire our obliques (muscles that tie our rib cage and hips together), and turn off the large shoulder muscles to allow our mid-back to work. Take your time. Remember, it’s not blowing the exercise just to check it off that is important, it is the technique and firing the correct muscles when and how they should.

One-arm kettlebell shoulder press

This exercise requires great posture and muscular recruitment, something everyone could use more of. If you find this exercise very difficult, work on the reach, roll, lift exercise instead. This is exercise will help you develop the mind/muscle connection and slowly work on getting better overhead movement.

Down dogs

This is an awesome yoga-esque movement that I will often use in place of pushups for my athletes until they are better able to control their shoulder blade movements. Note this exercise is different than the yoga variation as you are intended to hold a plank position.

One-arm kettlebell rows

This is as much a rotary stability exercise as it is a rowing exercise. Keep those hips and that rib cage locked together with your shoulder blade moving on your rib cage.

Suitcase carries

This is a fantastic way to work on posture under fatigue as well as help to work on inter and intramuscular coordination for running. The suitcase carry has quickly become an athlete favorite over the years, in part due to its simplicity and its surprising difficulty.

From start to finish this workout should take you about 30 minutes, and when done properly two to three days a week can help you train and race stronger and faster than before.

If you’re wondering why the exercises are grouped into “A”, “B” and “Cs”, stay tuned for upcoming posts here on TrainingPeaks, or take a deep dive into the Strength Training for Triathlon Success course. Use the code “StrongSeason19” to receive 19 percent off the course.

The post Try This Preseason Home Strength Workout for Triathletes appeared first on TrainingPeaks.

CoachCast: Endurance Elasticity with Alex Hutchinson

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You have probably pushed yourself to your limit before during training or racing, but what if you could push further? As science continues to unlock mysteries about human limits and performance potential, evidence supports the idea that maybe our mind is much more important in endurance than we previously believed.

Dave sat down with Alex Hutchinson, New York Times best-selling author of Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, to discuss his career and the findings in his new book. They covered how Hutchinson approaches sports journalism, what science tells us about human endurance, and how athletes can use that information to improve their performance.

Stand-out quotes

“If you’re a beginner, regardless how fast you are, you probably haven’t learned to hold your finger in the flame quite as hard.”It’s not that you learn to suffer once and then you never have to think about it again. It’s a constant process of preparing yourself to suffer and getting ready to deal with higher and higher levels of discomfort. And you have to climb that hill every season and before every race. You don’t just learn it once.”“I think I have some valuable skills in terms of understanding the details of training and recovery and things like that, but that’s not the key differential that separates a good coach from a bad coach. And so I think coaches need to recognize their own strengths in terms of being able to convey enthusiasm and belief to their athletes.”


Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance by Alex HutchinsonAlex HutchinsonGood to Go: What the Athlete in All of Us Can Learn From the Strange Science of Recovery by Christie AschwandenPassion Paradox: A Guide to Going All In, Finding Success, and Discovering the Benefits of an Unbalanced Life by Brad Stulberg and Steve MagnessPeak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success by Brad Stulberg and Steve MagnessRange: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David EpsteinThe Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance by David EpsteinEndurance Coaching Summit (Use code ECSCoachCast20 for 20 percent off the cost of attendance)

Episode Transcript


On today’s episode of the TrainingPeaks CoachCast, your source for the latest information about the art, science and business of coaching: You’ve heard the phrase mind over matter before, but if you truly giving your brain the credit it deserves?

Dave Schell:                 

On this episode of the TrainingPeaks CoachCast, I was super excited to sit down with Alex Hutchinson. You might know him from Sweat Science, his column on Outside Magazine Online or you might know him from his recent New York Times bestseller, “Endure: Mind, Body and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance.” Alex and I talked about the role that your brain plays in your athletes’ performance, some different ways you can train that and also some of his recommended resources for you. Alex is going to be one of our keynote speakers at this year’s Endurance Coaching Summit in Boulder, Colorado. We will be sure to include a discount code at the end of the show. Hope you enjoy.

Dave Schell:                 

Welcome to the TrainingPeaks CoachCast. I am your host Dave Shell, and today I have the great pleasure to be joined by Alex Hutchinson. You might know Alex from his column Sweat Science or you might know him from his new 2018 New York Times bestseller, “Endure: Mind, Body and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance.” Alex, thanks for joining us today.

Alex Hutchinson:          

Thanks Dave. It’s great to be here.

Dave Schell:                 

Before we get into it, you haven’t always been a science writer or really based in endurance. So where did you get your start?

Alex Hutchinson:          

Yeah, it’s a long and twisting path. I, uh, I started out as a physicist, actually. I, that’s what I studied in university and, uh, for most of my twenties I worked as a physicist while I was also competing as a, as a middle and long distance runner. And I had, you know, it’s kind of, I wouldn’t say I had like this magical epiphany where, you know, choirs of angels were singing to me, Alex, you know, go become a generalist. But I kind of had the, uh, it was, it was pretty, pretty, uh, a big jump. I was 28 and I’d never done any journalism before, like no student paper. And I just thought, man, journalism seems like a lot of fun. I’m going to go do that. So I left my, what was the time I post-doctoral position with the National Security Agency and went and did a, uh, started at the, at the bottom, did a master’s degree in, in a one year master’s degree in journalism. Then worked at a newspaper in Ottawa, Canada for 16 months doing like general assignment reporting, you know, car crashes and dog fashion shows and things like that. Uh, and then, uh, after that I decided that, after enough of that I decided I want it to be a freelancer. And so that was 2006. And I’m at, you know, initially my beat was, I would write about anything that anyone would pay me to write about. And I did a lot of like accounting. I, you know, for the accounting, Canada’s accounting monthly, writing about accounting news and stuff. But pretty, I started to kind of leverage my two areas of interest and expertise, which were the science, which is what I started out as career wise and, and running or endurance, which was my big passion. And so I gradually started to write more and more about that. And then it ended up almost by accident as my specialty.

Dave Schell:                 

That’s cool. And that’s pretty cool that you found something that you enjoyed doing that you could still use your science background in. So my introduction to you was through your website, SweatScience.com, and I don’t know if it’s because I’m a simpleton, but I’ve always been a big fan of people that can take very complex subjects and turn it into something digestible. And so was that with SweatScience.com kind of your first foray into that or did that come later after you’d had some success with writing?

Alex Hutchinson:          

I started to do some some magazine and newspaper pieces on the science of endurance. And I actually, while I was at the Ottawa citizen, this newspaper, where I started at out at, I had one opportunity to write about running a big long sort of feature piece. And it was about, I wrote about the Kenyans who were coming to the Ottawa marathon in one, one runner in particular, who had won the race the year before. And everyone said, hey, that was the best piece I’ve ever written. And then, so I sort of realized writing about the stuff I cared about would be, sort of, brought out the best in me. And so I started to do a few magazine pieces and then I got a newspaper column called with a newspaper here in Canada called the Globe and Mail where I was writing about the science of exercise. And I just, and, and in order to come up with every two weeks interesting new studies, I had to be looking through journals all the time and sort of reading, uh, you know, all the abstracts and plowing through a whole bunch of ideas. And what I realized is there were only a few, like I could only pick one study every two weeks to write about for the Globe. But I realized there was this whole firehose of interesting new studies coming out all the time that people that, that I was interested in. And I figured, well, I’m not the only person out there who sort of is interested in optimizing performance and, and health for that matter. Um, so I thought, hey, if I’m reading these abstracts anyways, why don’t I just start a blog? Because this was 2008-ish. This is when blogs were like the next big thing. I thought I’ll just start a blog and then all I have to do is like, you know, I’ve gone to the trouble of reading this abstract and you know, maybe getting the paper, the Journal paper from the library to figure out whether it’s something to write about. I just summarized the key point and I know if I were someone else, I would be interested in reading that. So that was how it started as just saying, man, there’s all this information, it’s behind a firewall for most people and they don’t necessarily have time to be combing through. I have this job that asks me to comb through the ongoing firehose of scientific literature on the science of endurance. Why don’t I just, even if I’m not writing an article about all of them, why don’t I just start sharing a few key highlights. Like, Hey, here’s a study that found that ice pads don’t do anything or you know, whatever the case may be.

Dave Schell:                 

And I know that I definitely appreciate it because as he just said, um, so as a coach, I, you hear all the new studies and it’s, it’s very tempting to just jump on to whatever that new trend is. And really the good science would be to go through and verify these things, um, on your own. But a lot of coaches just don’t have time to do that. So I appreciate you taking the time to do that for us.

Alex Hutchinson:          

Yeah. And it, and it’s certainly well over what I’ve seen as the right role has evolved over time to where it started out. I would just sort of uncritically, uh, you know, repeat what the abstracts had said and what I learned as time went on is like I’d realize, oh wait, that’s that abstract that I reported on or that paper that I reported on two years ago, no one has ever reproduced that. And it turns out that was probably wrong. It was probably a, and so now I tried to do a better job at providing context and because I’ve ended up specializing in this, when I see a new study that says, uh, you know, uh, you know, this magical pill is going to make you faster, I remember that five years ago I wrote about several other studies that found that that magical pill doesn’t make you faster. So I have a little more context. So, so it’s, it’s definitely like you said, it’s, you know, it’s tempting to just sort of follow each new trend or new abstract and, there’s a value add for having, having someone put it in context. And I think I’m better at doing that now than I was initially, but it started out, it’s just like, hey, let’s at least just, just be aware of all this great scientific research that people are doing that has relevance to the things that coaches care about.

Dave Schell:                 

And so I’m going to speak to you a little bit about Endure, which is your most recent book, but that’s not your first book. Um, I have another book of yours and I can’t remember the title off the top of my head, but I think it’s “What Comes First: Cardio or Weights”?

Alex Hutchinson:          

I would just like to say that I pitched that book to be titled, uh, “Sweat Science: Training Truths” or I can’t remember the subtitle, but, uh, and the publishing company wanted to appeal to a broader audience and suggested “What Comes First: Cardio or Weights,” which I think turned off a lot of people, more serious exercises because it sounds like it, you know, Oh shit, how do I tone my abs? And it really is meant to be a little bit more of a, uh, sort of hard-nosed scientific look. It’s as well the common questions that people have about fitness.

Dave Schell:                 

Right. And I, and that’s what I love about it, is that it’s, for me, it’s turned into kind of a reference that I, when I have questions about those sorts of things, I can go back and see like at that time, what was the thinking? Um, and so was that just a collection of sort of the blogs off of SweatScience.com or did you dive deeper into that? Um, to create that book?

Alex Hutchinson:          

Yeah, in a lot of ways it was, it was mostly grown from my newspaper column because as you know, as I was saying before, the blogs in a lot of cases were very just sort of, hey, I read this paper, here’s something cool from it. Whereas for the newspaper columns, I was virtually always calling up the scientists involved and calling up some other scientists who weren’t involved in the study and getting a little more context. So, from those newspaper columns, they, I used them as a base and the newspaper column was structured in a way that, you know, every two weeks I would answer a question like, you know, if I’m doing a workout, should I be doing my cardio or my weights first, if I’m doing both, you know, which is better. And I would try and look at the scientific literature and answer those questions. And so then I brought together a lot of those preexisting columns. And then added in total that were like 111 questions and answers in that book. So a lot of them I wrote from scratch, but the idea was in that book was, you know, every, every answer is between 500 and a 1,000 words. So it’s not, uh, it’s not like the ultimate deep dive. It’s, it’s like, okay, just I’m curious about this question, tell me what we know. And, and you know, what that amounts to is you give it 111 versions of like, well, it kind of depends, you know, the answers are seldom as black and white as we hope, but at least, you know, the goal is to say, look, I’m not going to tell you what you need to do. I’m not going to tell you if you should be running in bare feet or I’m not going to tell you if you need to stretch, but I’m going to tell you what the evidence is found so far and you can, you can make up your mind.

Dave Schell:                 

And now, um, so one point SweatScience.com got picked up by Runner’s World, is that correct?

Alex Hutchinson:          

Yeah. And I think it was 2012 they, they invited me to, to move my blog to Runner’s World and he gave me a chance to write a column in the magazine too. So that was a real kind of exciting opportunity. I mean, for a number of reasons. One is that it brought a huge new readership to the, the blog and it allowed me to, sort of, that was the moment that was like, oh, you know, I could actually make a living from this because on the, when I was hosting my Sweat Science on its own, I didn’t take any ads because I just, um, not, you know, fundamentally I guess I like to think that I’m a nice guy. And so if some, if someone sends me a free sample of something or tells me, spends some time telling me about, you know, their product, I have a hard time saying, well, this is a bunch of garbage and no one should do this. So I didn’t, I really didn’t want to be involved in that sort of, uh, necessary quid pro quo. So going to Runner’s World, of course, Runner’s World has ads on it too, but I didn’t, I wasn’t the one making those deals. So Runner’s World, that allowed me to get paid for doing that blog, which I was just doing for free, um, without having to directly take advertising. So it was a really neat opportunity for me.

Dave Schell:                 

It was very cool. And now you’re on Outside and how long, um, how long have you been there?

Alex Hutchinson:          

So in the fall of 2017, I basically moved the blog over to Outside Magazine and that was the main motivation for me at that time was, uh, I wanted to just have a little bit broader palette to paint on as it were. You know, I’m a big fan of running. I run every day, but a certain point you don’t, there’s only so many things you can say about running. And so, um, and Runner’s World was very good about it. They, you know, they let me write about studies that involve cycling and, and you know, hiking and things like that. But a but of, you know, Runner’s World is Runner’s World so their focus is running and so Outside has an interest in running but it also has a broader interest so I’ve been able to sort of explore, uh, a slightly broader range of topics within the still within the same, it actually sort of goes back to what I was doing when Sweat Science was just my own little WordPress blog where I could be a little more broad about the things that I was interested in exploring.

Dave Schell:                 

Yeah. Just before we hopped on the call, I was going through and looking at some of the more recent topics and it’s just fascinating some of the things you write about. Um, one of them was just, I think just being more self aware and can it predict injury prevention, um, and things like that. So it’s very cool that you have that opportunity to write about all things endurance.

Alex Hutchinson:          

Yeah, definitely. It, it keeps it fresher for me that, you know, I can at any given time, there’s a few journals, you know, a list of journals that I’ll go through their contents regularly, but at certain point, and they may be good journals, but you know, after you’ve been reading every issue for a couple of years, it’s like, ah, I’ve kind of, I feel like I’ve kind of dug this well as deep as I can go. So, you know, moving over to Outside, all of a sudden it’s like, oh, you know, there’s a journal called Wilderness and Environmental Medicine. I’m never going to read that for, for Runner’s World. But I read that and it’s like there’s some pretty cool stuff in here about, you know, what it takes to hike across the, you know, hike rim to rim in the Grand Canyon, the characteristics of hikers who do that or I can look at more, you know, like you said, there’s, I, I’ve been really interested lately in some of the more psychology literature like that one you mentioned, which is looked at like, you know, self-regulatory traits like conscientiousness and whether that predicts whether you can end up with an over use injury. And there was an earlier study along similar lines that found people with perfectionism traits were like 16 times more likely to get, you know, running injuries. And we all kind of understand this intuitively, but it’s pretty crazy that you can think about, you know what the study involves, you go to a cross country team, you have them all fill out a pretty simple questionnaire that measures their traits, like perfectionism. And based on those results you can have a really good idea of who’s going to be most likely to end up with a stress fracture. And, and you can, you know, you could imagine that that can start to be useful when you can say, okay, we’ve really got to watch, you know, Bobby here because he’s going to push himself so hard that he’s not going to back off even if he starts to feel some warning signs.

Dave Schell:                 

That’s so interesting because now, I think, I work for TrainingPeaks and we’re a software company for endurance coaches and athletes. And so we placed a lot of emphasis on the devices and the metrics and things like that. And it’s always interesting to me to hear when you take something so simple as just talking to somebody and finding out a little bit about their personality and how that can be a performance predictor or an injury predictor. Um, and so it’s just a good reminder that we need to keep those things as well as this new science.

Alex Hutchinson:          

You know, I think one of the things that over the last, let’s say two or three years, uh, there’s been a lot of recognition that things like perceived effort, maybe even more, let’s call it five years. People have sort of realize that, yeah, it’s great to, to be quantifying, you know, training stress and things like that. But if you, if you have that and you have a sense of like, how hard was that on a scale of one to five or one to ten, um, it’s an even richer information because then you can see, oh, like he’s working the same, but he’s reporting that it’s harder or he’s saying it’s the same effort, but he’s able to absorb more effort or more training stress. So he’s getting fitter. So yeah, just the, the realization that our subjective, uh, responses to questions can not, can replace data, but can supplement data.

Dave Schell:                 

So now your most recent book, which I’ve mentioned several times, is Endure. What was the motivation for that book?

Alex Hutchinson:          

Yeah, I guess it goes back about a decade when I first encountered, uh, Tim Noakes’ is research. So Tim Noakes is the scientist from South Africa who’s, uh, let’s, let’s say, he’s a controversial guy. He’s been at the center of many contract from controversies to put it mildly and stay in it remains at the center of many controversies. Anyway, I started to encounter his work probably about 2007 or so. Uh, his sort of questioning the hydration that oh come on, dehydration isn’t such a big deal and it’s like, what are you talking about? I read in Lore of Running, Tim Noakes’ book in the 90s. I memorized that book and, and you know, hydration is serious. Um, and then I looked at some of his, his sort of looked at deeper under research into his research and realized he had this sort of broader critique of the body-centered view of physical limits and of endurance performance and that he felt that we should, we needed to incorporate the, the brain in that picture and that he had this model called the central governor model, uh, arguing that really when we’re pushing as hard as we can, it’s not that we run into some sort of physical limit where I muscles can’t push any further, it’s our brain decides that’s far enough and you know, for your own safety you shouldn’t go farther. And so that’s an idea that he had emerged in the late nineties, but I didn’t really encounter it until the mid two thousands and when I started to look into this research, I thought this is really fascinating and I thought, I haven’t heard a lot about it. And I also thought, this really gels with my subjective experience of what racing was like. It’s like, why is it that I have a finishing kick at the end of a race? Even when I felt like I was totally out of gas, three quarters through the race and why is it different one week to the next, some days I, you know, have better races than others, even though my fitness hasn’t changed and so on and so on. It’s just really, it really clicked for me. And I decided I wanted to write a book about, you know, Tim Noakes and the revolution in exercise physiology, and this was about 2009 and I went and visited them in South Africa in 2010. And you know, in a, in a perfect world that my book would have come out in 2011. Uh, but, what I found is the deeper I got, uh, the more nuanced picture got. And so, I mean, I remain a huge fan of Noakes’ research. Uh, I’m not sure it’s the final answer. And there’s other people who have, you know, slightly different or dramatically different views and, and they have interesting evidence too. So Endure ended up being, it’s definitely a book about the role of the brain in physical limits, uh, but it’s not just a book about Tim Noakes’ research. So it became a much broader attempt to summarize what we know about not just about what scientists know and what they’re still arguing about rather than just, well, what Tim Noakes knows. And so as a result and ended up taking me know, eight, eight years or something instead of the one or two that I thought it would take me initially.

Dave Schell:                 

I’ve been diving into it and I think I’m about three quarters of the way through at this point. And it really is fascinating in that, um, so I guess what I’m saying, one is I’m, I’m glad that you didn’t just phone it in and that she did take the time to put it together because like, it’s just so fascinating to learn about a lot of these things. Um, and so just hearing that the brain, it’s almost like a protective mechanism at times. Um, and if you can find ways to I guess, hack that you might be able to eke out a little bit more performance in certain situations.

Alex Hutchinson:          

Yeah. And, and you know, the truth is, and I don’t mean just spoil any endings or anything like that, but the truth is that hacking it is harder than it, than you might hope. One thing that’s sort of conspicuously absent from the book is this sort of here’s the seven things you should do that will allow you to reset your central governor. Um, because the, because it’s very, it turns out to be much harder than I sort of expected to be able to reset it. But I, to me it’s still a really, I mean, and there are, there are some ideas in there about how you can learn to sort of get past that central governor. But, to me, the fundamental thing is the idea itself because I think there’s something very limiting about running a race and having the mindset of like, okay, that’s as fast as I could run. That’s what my body is capable of. Versus running a race and believing that, okay, that’s what I was able to do today, but if I can learn to push a little bit harder, I can, I can run faster next week, uh, or swim and bike faster as the case may be. Um, so, you know, I think it’s an important insight and you know, you can draw some parallels to the learning literature where, where they’ve, you know, there, there’s all this talk about things like grit and learning mindset and growth mindset where if you believe you can get better at things that you, you’re more likely to do the work that makes you get better at things. Whereas if you believe, it’s just like, well, either I’m smart or I’m not, then you don’t bother studying hard. And I think that there’s, there’s real parallels in, in athletics. And if you, if you, if you realize that you’re, you know, quote unquote physical limits depend on a lot on on, uh, or aren’t set in stone and, and can be moved, then you’re much more likely to do the work that both the physical and mental work to try and move those limits.

Dave Schell:                 

One thing I found interesting is the notion of kind of training pain or training your tolerance to pain, and I, that’s definitely something that I’ve experienced, I’ve experienced with athletes as well, is that with the newer athlete, they might be, they just don’t know how to suffer at that point. And so they’re wanting, maybe in their mind they’re thinking, okay, well if I do this, I’m going to get faster, but I’m going to be comfortable at this higher pace where the reality is that no, you’re going to get faster, but it’s still gonna hurt like hell. And that’s where you really break through those limits. And so what did you learn in, in writing this book about that kind of training pain and the need to suffer?

Alex Hutchinson:          

The pain thing has been really, really interesting to me. Partly because it goes back to one of those, well those questions that at least among my friends always came up on Sunday long runs or whatever. It’s like who suffers more in a marathon? Is it, you know Eliud Kipchoge running for two hours or is it Joe Schmo running for four hours? Cause Joe Schmo is out there for twice as long and you know, so he must be, you know, those lucky elite marathoners who are only out there for two hours and without meaning to sound too like elitist about it. My response has always been yeah but Eliud Kipchoge knows how to suffer, how to absolutely keep himself on the knife edge for all those two hours. And for the most part it’s not, it’s maybe not proportional to speed. Cause some, there are some very experienced and tough athletes who, who might be running four hour marathons, but it’s proportional to experience. If you’re a beginner, regardless how fast you are, you probably haven’t learned to hold your finger in the flame quite as hard. And so this is, this is something that I’ve been arguing about with friends for, you know, 30 years or 25 years. But it was fascinating to dive into this literature on athletes and pain tolerance and realize, oh yeah, there’s, there’s pretty good evidence that, okay, first of all, if you, if you compare athletes and non athletes, um, and you do pain tests on them, they all have the same pain sensitivity. So it’s not like athletes have been calloused pain. They feel pain just like everyone else, but they’re willing to tolerate much, much higher level. So they’ve learned to tolerate pain. But then the really fascinating detail to me was the evidence that looked at trained athletes, elite athletes, the study I’m thinking of was in swimmers at different points in their season. And they found that as they approached their, their goal race, their pain tolerance as tested with a, you know, uh, uh, with a blood pressure cuff cutting off circulation to their arm, they were willing to tolerate more and more pain as they got closer to their goal race. And then their pain tolerance dropped to its lowest level during their off season. And so what this tells me, it’s not like it’s, it’s not that you learn to suffer once and then you never have to think about it again. It’s that it’s a constant, constant process of preparing yourself to suffer and dealing, getting ready to deal with higher and higher levels of discomfort. And you have to climb that hill every season. And before every race, you don’t just learn it once.

Dave Schell:                 

So one thing is, I was reading the book, something that kind of popped into my head and it’s something that I found, it’s kind of an interesting phenomena that I’ve noticed over the last several years, and it’s with athletes, there’s, they’re kind of gravitating towards these longer and longer events such as IRONMAN or ultra running or a triple IRONMAN and things like that. And so as I was reading the book, one thing, I think at some point you talked about the joy of suffering and I’ve always wondered if there’s just kind of this primal need or this desire to suffer. And so do you think there’s anything to that with these people that really the whole goal of the race is just to see what you can endure?

Alex Hutchinson:          

Yeah, I do think that I’ve come around to that point of view and I started thinking about this at a conference and, and, and one of the presenters said something along the lines of like, let’s be honest, most successful athletes probably, endurance athletes probably have a, a hint of benign masochism that day at, at, at some level. They’re not, they’re not out there, you know, tying themselves up with the, with barbed wire or anything. But at some level they kind of enjoy the, the suffering and, and this sort of, I, this got me thinking and it got me think cause it as well as thinking about endurance performance as a generalist, I also think about health and like how to get people exercising more and want, you know, one of the great mysteries for people who are in the habit of exercising every day or most days is why doesn’t everybody else do this? You know, it just feels so good. You just, I mean it’s, it’s so wonderful to be in this, this routine of getting out there and pushing your body and just feeling healthy. Why don’t other people do this? And, finally it’s sort of a occurred to me. It’s like maybe other people experience the same things as I do differently. You know, like, um, hey, actually it sort of reminds me I have a four year old daughter who, you know, will say that this food is too spicy and I’ll be like, it’s a glass of water, it’s not spicy. And she’ll say to me, you don’t know my body. You can’t tell me what my body feels. My body might feel differently than yours. And I’m like, no, it’s seriously, it’s a glass of water. But sort of digression there. But, but it’s kind of like with exercise, it’s like, oh, it feels so good to have been out for a run. It’s like, well, maybe for other people that just feels downright bad. And there’s something about me that makes me enjoy, what feels good to me is actually the discomfort that’s inherent in, you know, serious endurance exercise. Right? Like, let’s be honest. It is uncomfortable. And so why do I enjoy it? I Dunno. Maybe, maybe I’ll have a streak of benign masochism so maybe that’s the next frontier of like under, you know, personality psychology is not who gets injured. It’s like who is likely to become an endurance athlete in the first place and did they get dropped on their heads as kids or something like that.

Dave Schell:                 

That’s really interesting you say that because that’s always been one of my, um, theories is that I feel like people who maybe endured some hardship early in life or had to deal with something like they are more likely to succeed in sport because they’re the ones that can deal with hardship, I guess.

Alex Hutchinson:          

Yeah. Well it’s interesting there is some research with some research with British Olympians, uh, it was published in the last couple of years where they, they looked at like medalists versus near medalists and the people who really made it to the top, they all had what some, what they called childhood trauma. And now the trauma may have just been, you know, parents separating or, or, you know, went through something that was, that they perceived as a challenge in their lives. And that left them maybe with a bit of a chip on their shoulder. And I was actually doing an article a couple of weeks or maybe a month or two ago about what it takes to, uh, to, there was a study about the best predictors for success in the Ranger’s physical fitness tests. So I was talking to some people in the special forces, like how do you know if someone’s going to get through, you know, a special forces training or selection, whether it’s Navy Seal or whatever. And they’re like, yeah, you know, like obviously you need to be able to do some pull ups, but uh, being able to do a lot of pull ups or whatever the physical test may be only gets you so far. And one of the guys I talked to who, who is a former Navy Seal trainer, he said, yeah, we, there’s basically three things and they have, if you’ve got two of these three things, you’re, you’re pretty good candidate of making it through. And the three things were, if I remember correctly, your parents were separated. Uh, you were, uh, a varsity athlete in high school at least, and you’d been kicked out of school at least once. So it’s a mix of things like you have to have the physical characteristics, but maybe some sort of, like you said, some sort of chip on your shoulder.

Dave Schell:                 

Yeah, yeah. I could totally see that. In your research, did you find anything that people could do, especially the coaches that are listening, are there things that will help to train people’s pain tolerance or, kind of, DIY brain training that you came across?

Alex Hutchinson:          

Yeah, so I, you know, I spent a bunch of time looking into, into brain endurance training, which is this emerging idea of, you know, basically training your capacity to stay on task and on focus over long periods of time and fight against mental fatigue. And that’s, maybe that’s a topic for another time. I guess, but I would say is, I don’t think that’s necessarily, I think it works, but it’s not necessarily ready for prime time or easy to integrate into normal training. If there was one thing I was going to say that people should be looking into now and that’s not, it doesn’t require sophisticated equipment or anything like that. Uh, it’s actually a traditional sports psychology technique called motivational self talk, which is really at it’s essence is just first of all, becoming aware of the internal monologue in an athlete’s head. So if you’re in a race and you’re saying, you know, this sucks, why am I doing this? I hate this or, or this, or if you’re thinking, I always, you know, get dropped in the, you know, the second half of the race and this, these guys are going to leave me in the dust or whatever. That’s a real problem. And that, and that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy because it changes how your brain perceives the effort that you’re undergoing. It makes things feel harder and that makes you more likely to slow down or give up. And so if you can learn to replace those, that negative self talk with more positive self talk, like I’m ready to do this, I can, I, I’ve trained for this, I can keep pushing. There’s been some really fascinating research that shows that really works. And so when you zoom out and think about what, what does that really about? It’s about instilling belief. And so from a coach’s perspective, I think this is, this is one of the, I dunno, maybe this is the biggest, maybe I’m exaggerating, but one of the biggest roles of a coach. Uh, you know, sure, a coach can tell you what intervals to do, but I think the best coaches are successful at instilling in their athletes a belief that they have done what’s required to be successful, uh, and, and that they’re going to be successful. And so for coaches, I think it’s a really challenging thing because if you’re an honest coach, you’re not necessarily going to say, I have discovered the secret magic that is gonna make you the fastest athlete in the world. And if you do exactly this, you will become invincible and you’ll be able to fly because that’s not true. So you, you have to be honest with your athletes, but at the same time, convey to them the work that you’ve done to, to make sure that you’re giving them the best possible advice. Doesn’t mean you know everything and that you have all the answers, but it means you’ve done your due diligence that they’re going to be as well prepared or better prepared than anyone else that they’re facing and that you’re going to set them up for success. So, sorry, I’m sort of rambling here, but I guess I really think that’s an important role for coaches is to get the athletes to buy into what you’re doing and and share your conviction and your enthusiasm that, that you’re doing the best possible preparation.

Dave Schell:                 

Yeah, and I totally agree with who there that, as you’re talking about that, I was thinking about with some of the athletes that I’ve worked with, and I’ve always had the thought that if they didn’t believe in the training, it didn’t matter how well trained they were. If they start out, showed up at the start line doubting what they’ve been doing to prepare, they’ve already kind of lost. And it sounds like that’s kind of what you were saying right there is that really, if you can get that athlete to buy in and to trust in the process, then that will set them up for success.

Alex Hutchinson:          

Yeah. And, and you know, like good coaches have been saying this for years, right? Like we’ve always understood this, but it was fascinating to me to, to see some science that, that kind of backs that up and says, yeah, the role of belief is really important. And of course it’s not trivial to instill belief in athletes that, that that’s a specific skill set that, so, so for instance, I will say I don’t coach athletes. I think I have some, some valuable skills in terms of understanding the details of training and recovery and things like that. But that’s not the key differential that separates a good coach from a bad coach. And so I think coaches need to, uh, recognize their own strengths in terms of being able to convey enthusiasm and belief to their athletes.

Dave Schell:                 

That’s great. Really good advice. So on that note, do you have any, if you were to talk to a coach with that in mind about, um, being able to instill belief and get buy in from the athlete, is there anything you’ve come across that you would recommend for a coach either, um, go watch or listen to or read?

Alex Hutchinson:          

Yeah, so I guess a recent stuff that I found interesting. There’s a book by Christie Aschwanden called “Good to Go” about the signs of athletic recovery. It just came out in February and it’s, it, you know what, it’s a, it’ll be a challenging read for coaches because, uh, essentially the message in a lot of cases is here’s 12 chapters on different recovery techniques. And the conclusion is there’s very scanty evidence for almost all of those things. So how does a coach, I mean, this, to me, and this is getting back to what I saying before, this is one of the fundamental challenges that faces coaches. How do you assimilate that information, continue to give good advice to athletes without filling them with doubt, um, uh, about the things they’re doing. And so, but I think it’s better to be armed with the information then to sort of keep your head in the sand and just pretend that just cause we’ve been doing something in the past, it must work. So I think that’s a good, uh, a good book to read to get a sense of what the current state of knowledge is about recovery, which is, we all, as we all know, is one of the fundamental challenges of, of you know, endurance training and performance. Um, you know, and read it with an open mind and, and it doesn’t mean that you need to then abandon everything you’ve been doing, but take a critical look at some of your routines and figure it out. Cause what Christie’s booked also does do is highlight some of the things that she thinks are important, uh, about broader recovery, uh, giving your body some downtime, giving your mind some downtime. Equally importantly, getting away from stress. And so there may be some tweaks you can make to the recovery routines you use that emphasize those things instead of maybe fixating on, you know, clearing lactic acid out of the blood, which is kind of a, a paradigm that it doesn’t really have much evidence behind it. So, so yeah, “Good to Go” by Christie. Aschwanden I would say is a useful and challenging read. Um, there’s another new book by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magnus, which is less specific to sports. It’s called the “Passion Paradox”. And it’s followup to their book from two years ago “Peak Performance”, uh, Steve Magnus is probably familiar to many listeners, he’s a prominent track coach and Brad Stulberg is, uh, a journalist who writes about, uh, performance, high performance. So they’re very thought provoking guys and they’re very good at laying out a whole bunch of complex ideas in a clear and simple way. So that in the “Passion Paradox” is kind of gets into, um, something that triathletes should certainly be familiar with, which is the idea of how you balance you know, a passionate that can become all consuming without having it take over your life and become a negative factor in your life. So I think that’s a useful one to read. And the third and final plug I’ll give is for a book that I haven’t read yet. Um, it’s due out at the end of May. It’s called “Range” by David Epstein and it’s about, it’s, it’s kind of a, a push back against the idea that we all need 10,000 hours to master any given domain and we have to start when we’re three, if we’re going to be successful instead it’s a praise, yeah, maybe it’s a good book for triathletes in the sense that it’s a, it’s a praise of mastering different domains and that it’ll make you better at all the things you try if you’re, if you’re not just a pure specialist. Anyway. David Epstein, his book “The Sports Gene” from I guess six years ago is to my mind, the best sports science book I’ve ever read. So I’m, I’m very excited to check out “Range” next month.

Dave Schell:                 

Yeah, I wasn’t aware of that one coming out, but I’m a big fan of, uh, “The Sports Gene” as well. Um, so thank you very much for your time. You’re going to be, um, one of our keynotes at the 2019 Endurance Coaching Summit in September, so we will see you there. Uh, before I let you go, any thoughts on what your next book will be?

Alex Hutchinson:          

Yeah, I’ll put it this way. I can answer that I’m very excited about the Summit. The next book I’m really struggling with. I gave myself a deadline of December, 2018 to figure out a topic, but that blew by without any, uh, change. The problem is that because I spent like 10 years in the last book, I’m, I’m a little bit gun shy about picking another topic and thinking, oh, is this interesting enough for another 10 years? So yeah, I think probably the plan for the next year is to do some sort of long-form magazine journalism and give myself a chance to dip my toe into a few different topics and see if there’s one that really grabs me. The truth is right now, I, I really, really have no idea.

Dave Schell:                 

Well, we’ll be keeping an eye out for it and I look forward to seeing you in September.

Alex Hutchinson:          

Awesome. I look forward to seeing you then.

Dave Schell:                 

All right. Take care, Alex.

Dave Schell:                 

Hey guys, Dave here again. I hope you enjoyed my talk with Alex Hutchinson. I hope you learned a lot because I know, I sure did. Be sure to check him out at this year’s Endurance Coaching Summit and use “ECSCoachCast20” to take 20% off your Endurance Coaching Summit registration or the Endurance Coaching Summit online. Until next time.

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Garmin Connect AutoSync Integration

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It’s now even easier to get your planned, structured workouts from TrainingPeaks to your Garmin device. With the new Garmin Connect AutoSync feature, you can sync more workouts, with more flexibility, to more devices directly through Garmin Connect without using the TrainingPeaks Daily Workout IQ app. This integration offers a seamless training experience by allowing you to plan and create structured workouts in TrainingPeaks, precisely execute and track those workouts in real-time using your Garmin device, and then provide in-depth analysis of the performance upon completion.

Get Started

You can start using the new AutoSync feature by connecting your TrainingPeaks and Garmin Connect accounts here. If you are already using the Garmin Connect Autosync to send completed activities from your device to TrainingPeaks via Garmin Connect, you’ll be given the option to add the planned workout sync. If you’ve never used the Garmin Connect Autosync you can set up both the planned and completed sync.

The next time your device syncs with Garmin Connect, your planned structured workouts will be sent to your device. Depending on the model of your Garmin device your workouts will sync wirelessly using BLUETOOTH® technology, Wi-Fi® connectivity, LTE, USB cable or stick with ANT+® technology to upload your completed workouts through Garmin Express. Find more information about getting your workouts from your Garmin Connect Calendar to your device here.

What’s different

If you’re already using the TrainingPeaks Daily Workout IQ app to sync your planned workouts, you’ll notice a few changes once you set up the new Calendar Sync

AutoSync your workouts – all of your future eligible workouts will sync to your Garmin Connect calendar and be available on your device. This means that if you decide at the last minute that you need to do tomorrow’s workout today, you can just select that workout from the list of workout through the Calendar or Training Plan option on your device. Instant updates – any edits made to planned workouts in TrainingPeaks by you or your coach (adding, removing, rescheduling, or editing the actual workout structure) will instantly update in the Garmin Connect Calendar and on your device the next time it syncs with Garmin Connect (most newer Bluetooth devices sync with the Garmin Connect mobile app regularly in the background).Older devices now compatible – this includes all Edge cycling computers back to the 500, the Forerunner 910XT and 920XT watches, and the Fenix watches back to the original Fenix 3, all of which can now more easily take advantage of TrainingPeaks structured workoutsSpeed and reliability – previously to get workouts onto your Garmin device you would need to download, install, and set up the Daily Workout IQ app, which required a separate login and authorization. By using the built-in Calendar, training plan, and workout features on your device instead of the IQ app, the entire process of syncing planned workouts to your device will happen automatically. Once you have the Calendar Sync set up and working, we recommend removing the TrainingPeaks Daily Workout IQ app from your device (it won’t interfere with the new Calendar sync, but removing it will free up a little space and give you one less item to scroll through in your list of apps).

For more information on setting up the Garmin Connect Calendar sync see the detailed instructions or the Frequently asked Questions and troubleshooting tips.

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Six Principles of Efficient Triathlon Training

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As a coach, you know that triathletes face a perpetual time crunch.

As they juggle three sports, try to stay married, perform at work, and make it to their child’s soccer game, life can get overwhelming. Triathletes are often high-achieving individuals who do not like to compromise performance, so sacrificing one of these areas is not an option either.

This stubborn mentality often results in a lack of balance. However, by encouraging them to harness principles of efficiency, it is possible to streamline triathlon training in such a manner that allows them to approach their genetic performance potential while still nurturing other life responsibilities.  

The following are six principles which, if executed deliberately, will allow your athletes to maximize performance gains in fewer hours. Take these bits of advice to your athletes the next time they run into time-related issues.

1. Emphasize frequency and consistency over occasional big days

Seize the short windows of time in your schedule and stop turning your nose up at workouts that last less than an hour. Short workouts foster consistency, are beneficial, and can be added to a busy schedule.

Remember, your fitness is not a bank account that increases in direct proportion to the number of hours of training you deposit into it. Your body won’t necessarily reward you twice as much for a 60-minute versus 30-minute run. It will, however, reward you for running consistently over weeks, months, and years.

If you are on a business trip and have a 45-minute window of time at the hotel before meeting clients for dinner, do not lie around watching TV. Instead, take advantage of the downtime and squeeze in a short workout. All things being equal, every shorter session may not be worth the same as longer sessions, but they are still effective at igniting the cellular signaling that boosts fitness, are easy to recover from, and are easily scheduled.  

Too many busy athletes end up trying to cram in a sizeable chunk of their training with much of the volume concentrated during the weekends in long sessions. Although occasional big days are important (especially for long-course racing), they should be the cherry on top of a sundae of shorter, consistent workouts. It is over the long term through frequent stimulus that your body makes the adaptations that boost fitness. Instead of searching for multiple two-hour windows of time each week, strive for frequency across disciplines.

2. Stop obsessing over volume and instead work on executing a balanced plan

Many triathletes train with the singular focus of maximizing the total number of hours each week. The result is often a haphazard training cycle with little deliberate focus on executing a balanced mix of high-benefit workouts that have specific purposes. They should include integrating a mix of VO2, threshold, sweet spot, technique, and recovery sessions into the plan. It is what you do that counts, not how long you do it.

To ensure your plan is balanced and effective, identify the key sessions that are not negotiable. These are higher intensity and key endurance sessions that, compared to the other workouts, are most beneficial for advancing your fitness. Schedule these workouts for times that will not be threatened by other responsibilities, and strive to go into these priority workouts focused and fresh by emphasizing good sleep and nutrition beforehand.

Executing key sessions well will boost essential fitness metrics, such as threshold and aerobic capacity, most efficiently. These workouts also forge the mental toughness to persevere during racing.  

3. Allocate intensity relative to your goals

If you are truly looking to maximize your performance in fewer hours, a large proportion of your training will need to be in upper-intensity zones (above zone two). This is not to say that the majority of your training will be at higher intensities; however, compared to individuals who have the luxury of training 15 to 20 hours per week, a greater percentage of the time you spend training will be.

For most triathletes, most intensity should be allocated to the bike. Cycling is less traumatic on the tendons and joints than running and offers lower recovery costs, so working harder in the saddle is more feasible and carries a lower likelihood of injury. Cycling also relies more on muscular power than running, which is influenced by tendon elasticity and economy. In many instances, muscular strength and power (not cardiorespiratory fitness) holds triathletes back on the bike.

A steady diet of sweet spot work (upper zone three just below threshold), VO2 intervals (short intervals of 30 seconds to five minutes in zone five or 110 to 120 percent of your FTP) should be the cornerstones of your cycling program. For efficiency, cycling on an indoor trainer is productive as it allows you to execute workouts at precise intensities without dealing with outdoor obstacles such as traffic, stop lights, or weather. If you are serious about getting faster in fewer hours, riding indoors and riding hard is essential.

In contrast to cycling fitness, your run fitness benefits most from volume and frequency rather than intensity. Most triathletes would be best served to strive to increase their volume to more than 25 miles a week before integrating hard intervals and tempo runs that many consider when they think of run training. Before you can do these workouts, you need to develop the durability to withstand the trauma they place on your body. This is accomplished by intelligently increasing volume to a reasonable level rather than increasing both volume and intensity at the same time. The truth is that you can run quite close to your potential with a steady diet of zone two work and strides. Because of this, it is usually more productive for triathletes to embrace easy and frequent running rather than focusing on high-load run sessions, which too often lead to injury and inhibit the ability to execute key workouts within the other disciplines.  

4. Allocate time relative to your goals—especially for the swim

If your goal is to race as fast as possible, it is not wise to distribute equal time to each discipline. Time investment should be strategic and should relate to the upside of each discipline. For example, in long-course racing, the swim is a relatively small component of your day, likely around ten percent of total race time. This contrasts sharply with the bike, which will be closer to 40 to 50 percent of total race time. Clearly, bike strength trumps swim strength in long-course racing and your training should reflect this. However, if your target race is a draft-legal triathlon where the swim composes a greater portion of the race and you are a weak swimmer, the equation changes and you need to emphasize swim fitness.

For most time-strapped triathletes, just striving for proficiency in the water should be the priority. Many athletes hit a plateau in swim training at which point taking off substantial chunks of time becomes exponentially more difficult. Fortunately, it does not take much swimming to maintain a level of fitness after which point the return on investment on training time becomes marginal. Once you achieve proficiency, you can perform quite well on two to three targeted swim sessions each week. If you make your sessions count, such as by swimming with a masters group, you can swim quite well on two hours of swim training per week. You can also supplement or replace pool sessions by integrating additional tools into training, such as the Vasa swim trainer or ergometer, which can be a strategic replacement for more time-intensive trips to the pool.

5. Know your intensity zones and meticulously track fitness metrics

When you train efficiently, you need to perform your workouts at precise intensities. By spending time in certain intensity zones, your body adapts uniquely to that zone. For example, lung-busting zone five intervals at 115 percent of your threshold power on the bike will boost your aerobic capacity more efficiently than zone three intervals, and long runs performed in zone two will lead to adaptations similar to long runs performed in zone three with lower recovery costs.

However, to perform workouts with precision, you need to actually know your zones and have the ability to track your intensity in real time. Track your fitness by performing consistent field tests to establish your unique training zones and harness the data that will allow you to measure your effort in real time whether through heart rate, pace, or power.

When you are trying to wring every drop of potential from your training, it is important to be precise and make sure that each interval is on point and that your overall plan is progressing as it should. Every minute of training should have a purpose—know what it is and understand how it fits into each respective workout, microcycle, mesocycle, and macrocycle.

6. Recover intelligently

One rarely considered facet of a low-volume approach to training is the increased importance of recovery. Because a greater percentage of workouts in an efficient training plan contains intensity, it becomes even more essential to unload the fatigue they generate. Your body gets stronger when you are resting, not when you are exercising.

Going hard every day is a recipe for disaster. If you attempted max efforts during every workout, your endocrine system would go awry, your mood would plummet, and your performance would decay. There is a fine line between top performance and burning out, so take recovery seriously. Make sure you prioritize sleep, eat well, and keep your easy days easy. Many athletes fall into the trap of going too hard during their recovery sessions. Have the courage to peel back the intensity when the plan calls for it. This will allow you to more effectively execute the challenging key sessions and progress.


It is no secret that triathlon is notoriously time intensive. Although excelling at three disparate sports requires substantial sacrifice, if athletes approach training intelligently, it is possible to achieve remarkable gains without jeopardizing other areas of life. By assimilating these six principles into training, athletes will be able to maximize performance without spending all waking hours swimming, biking and running.

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How To Take Your Athlete Meetings To The Next Level

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Coaching professionals offer an array of skills and knowledge to help athletes reach their goals. Sure, understanding the latest science and how workouts produce specific stimuli is absolutely the key for athlete improvement, but a close second is how you communicate with your athletes.

Clear and consistent communication between an athlete and a coach is essential to a successful relationship, and will ultimately lead to better performance. Your job is more than designing productive workouts. You should be holding an athlete accountable for their workouts, their goals, and their preparation. When a coach can clearly define what they need from the athlete and the athlete hears this message repeatedly, there is a stronger probability for success. Are you making it happen?

Use these tips to make sure you’re prepared for your next meeting with your athlete:

1. Get to know your athlete

At the start of each weekly session, whether in person or on the phone, invest some of your time asking about the athlete, their life, and any other facets that make the athlete whole. You will pick up a few keys into why the workouts are going well or not going well.

Don’t underestimate this “small talk” because you will get to know your athlete better and be able to shape their training accordingly.

2. Start with the basics

When looking over stats, start with the basics. How is sleep going? Soes the athlete have a lot of unhappy faces after workouts on TrainingPeaks? What do the overall weekly hours look like? From there, take a look at the Performance Management Chart (PMC). Is their Training Stress Balance (TSB) positive over the last 30 days? If it’s been positive for weeks, is the athlete missing workouts or going too easy when completing the workouts?

Using simple metrics, you will be able to piece together the story of your athlete’s performance far better than focusing on just a few.

3. Then, get into the details

When you get into the details of a single workout, take all the metrics into account. Let’s use cycling as an example. What does the power or heart rate file tell you? Did the athlete complete the workout as written? Does the projected Training Stress Score (TSS) equal the actual TSS? Is the cadence in the range you want the athlete to be in? How about the Variability Index (VI) and Intensity Factor (IF)—are they in the acceptable range? I typically go “by the book” on these metrics with cadences in the 88 to 92 RPM range, while the VI should be under 1.10 and closer to 1.02 for a flatter course.

Here is your chance to be an expert, and you should be the expert! Know the subject and have evidence and data to defend your points.

4. Don’t wing it

Have a plan for each conversation you have with your athlete. Prepare! What did you see in the TrainingPeaks notes? What stands out to you? What do you think the athlete can do better? If the athlete seems like they have reached a plateau talk about how you’ll help them break through. Let the athlete know the game plan; be open and honest about what the training will look like over the next week, ten days, or even month to help them achieve their goals. Spell out long-term goals for swim paces, bike power, and heart rate goals for specific sessions, and lay out the same details for run paces and heart rates.

Communicate clearly what the goals are and how to approach the next week of training.

5. Focus on the positive

Finally, remember to emphasize the positive as you discuss areas for improvement. Always begin a comment with a positive statement: “The workouts look like they went well. You really hit the paces as you should have and I’m impressed given how tired you are from the recent workload.” Even if you are really focused on the fact the cadence wasn’t where you want that to be, bring that up second: “One easy thing to work on over the next few weeks is bringing that cadence up. Once you do that, you’ll see the pace will be even quicker.”  

Giving positive feedback and then following up with something that the athlete can work on will go a long way toward the athlete staying motivated and keeping your conversations efficient and effective over the course of a season.


As I mentioned, understanding the science of the sport is essential to properly design an athlete’s workouts, however, the art of coaching comes into play as you manage communication with your athletes.  It’s the “one-two power punch!” Following these five pointers will help you develop a solid coach-athlete partnership yielding results the athlete hired you to help them achieve.

The post How To Take Your Athlete Meetings To The Next Level appeared first on TrainingPeaks.

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