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Endurance Nation Training PLans

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Mattia Michelusi is a coach with Dimension Data for Qhebeka who specializes in training sprinters. Dr Carol Austin is head of performance support and medical. The interview below has been edited lightly for length.

Lydia Tanner: What differentiates a sprinter’s training from other riders?
Mattia Michelusi: The endurance in road cycling is probably one of the most important factors. If you don’t have good endurance you will never be able to do a good sprint at the end of a Milan-San Remo, or at the end of a long stage at TDF. So I would say the basic training is the same but then you can make the difference with the right specific efforts on and off the bike.

In the last few years gym training has started to become usual for all the riders. I think for the sprinters it’s really important to keep that gym training also during the season. Long training rides with endurance efforts, and races of 4, 5 or 6 hrs are for sure important to improve that endurance that we mentioned before, but they can decrease the strength that a sprinter needs to deliver his best power.

For sure you can do similar training on the bike but you will not push the same level of strength that you can do with a squat for example. So it’s really important to keep the right balance between sprint training on the bike and gym strength training.

LT: Does training vary from rider to rider?
MM: Planning their training is not just “copy and paste.” Every rider is different, so as a coach you need to manage their training workload in order to have the riders at their best in specific periods of the season. To do that you need to apply your sport science knowledge considering the targets, and the race program, without forgetting the experiences and feelings of the rider.

Also from sprinter to sprinter the training is different. For example, a sprinter with a leadout will train in a different way than a rider without a leadout. The rider with the leadout will do one big effort, while the rider without a leadout needs to do multiple sprints in the last 3-5 minutes of the race to find by himself a good position. We always try to simulate what’s gonna happen in the race.

LT: Do you train the leadout train similarly to the sprinter?
MM: It’s different for sure. The leadout train includes 4-5 riders who do their jobs in different moments. In general we have a rider who starts to work at 10km [to go]. It’s still far to the finish but it’s a really important job because he needs to “navigate” the team to ensure they will be in a good position when the race approaches the last 5km.

And then we have other riders who do their jobs at 5km, 2km, 1km and 500m to go. The last man doesn’t necessarily need an high peak power like the sprinter—for him it’s more important to hold that peak power for 20, 30, 40 seconds, up to a minute.

LT: So if everyone has trained for their specific job, what happens if things get mixed up or someone crashes?
MM: We have a lot of experience this year with crashes or injury! We can find another rider with the same power, but to have the power doesn’t always mean to have the right experience, the right feeling and the right timing. It’s difficult to replace a rider. That is why it’s important for a sprinter to always have his group around him.

LT: So you just do everything you can to have things turn out exactly how you want?
MM: Yeah, yeah, for sure. Even if sometimes that’s not how it happens.

LT: What are you guys planning to do about Stage 17? It’s short with a lot of climbing, which could be dangerous for sprinters given the time cuts.
MM: Yeah, I think we have to go back to what we said at the beginning: Endurance is the main factor in cycling. If you want to train a sprinter, it’s important not to focus just on sprinting, but also on his endurance. We can estimate the power to push on the climb to make the time limit, and we try to find the right balance between power and weight, but you never know what can happen in a race.

LT: Is that balance going to look different this year than in other years?
MM: it’s really important to analyze every grand tour, to understand what that tour demands. In this case, for this Tour de France, the course is going to be completely different than the previous years… But again it depends on the target, for example if we have a rider who wants to focus on the first ten days—for him it doesn’t matter on the time. If he doesn’t want to finish, then we’ll focus on making sure his peak power will be good for those first ten days. But if he wants to perform to the end the Tour de France then we will change his training.

To me it’s also to do probably a different race program before the Tour de France, for example to do maybe a stage race with some long climbs. So for sure we change the training, and we change the racing, if we know there will be a Tour de France like this one.

LT: Is that pretty common for a sprinter to focus on a small segment of the tour, like the first ten days, or is that specific to this tour?
MM: No usually, every rider when they do a grand tour, especially the Tour de France, will want to do all the Tour de France. So it’s difficult to have a rider who will start the Tour thinking they will be done after ten days.

LT: What else makes a successful sprinter?
MM: We talk a lot about power with sprinters, but I think a sprinter is not just power. It’s also confidence, and a feeling, and timing… Sure it’s important to have power, but you will never win if you are not able to find the right moment, and the right feelings with yourself and your teammates.

Also in a sprint you can reach really high speed so your aerodynamics are really important. This means you need the best bike equipment and you need to find an aerodynamic sprinting position. That is why several riders have changed their sprinting position in the last few years. You’ll see we have several sprinters, and they all have a different position… they all try to find the most aerodynamic position for them.

LT: So do you put the whole leadout train in the wind tunnel?
MM: You can find the best aerodynamic position on the track or the wind tunnel, but if you are not able to push power in that position then you’ll never be able to do well. Aerodynamics is not just data. It’s something the sprinter can feel. So for sure we can do some testing on the track or in the tunnel, but then it’s really important to see if it works on the road when they really need it.

Dr. Carol Austin: They also look at their photographs, so they can see the front of the rider and get a sense of the frontal area. Cav is definitely super aerodynamic, he’s super small, and he’s worked on that for years. So he may not produce the biggest wattage (and with sprints it is mostly about pure watts) but if you can just be a little bit smaller and a little bit neater, that can also make a difference.

MM: It’s really important also to know the wind position. If there’s a headwind or a tailwind, then it’s really important in the race to have live info about the conditions at the finish.

LT: So would you change your strategy mid-race if the wind changes?
MM: Before the start the sport director [DS] always has a strategy. But there are 20 teams, and every team has their own strategy (which is sometimes the same). It’s not always easy to do what we want to do. So it’s good to have a good relationship between the coaches, the director and the riders in the race, because together we can try to find the best plan. From the car it’s difficult to change things, especially in the last 2km of the race, so ultimately it’s the rider and the leadout train who need to understand in the moment if the strategy will work.

LT: How do you use WKO4?
MM: For me I use a lot of WKO4. You can have all the the best devices in the world and all the data per seconds, but if you are not able to analyze this data and to take “feedback” from this data, you will never have benefits from that. As a coach when I analyze a file I want to give the feedback to the sport director and to the riders in order to improve their performance and to and hopefully take the victory. WKO4 helps me a lot because I can find all I want to check.

LT: What’s a workout an amateur rider could do at home to try and experience a little of the tour?
MM: With the technology of the last few years it possible virtually to ride together with the pro riders and to try their same training. But it’s not easy to simulate the workload of a grand tour. I mean, a good amateur can sustain the TSS of one TDF stage, but to repeat that workload for 21 days is not so easy.

Find out how the other teams train, and see files from the 2018 Tour de France here!

The post Inside Mark Cavendish’s Leadout Train appeared first on TrainingPeaks.

Managing Risk During The Swim Leg of A Triathlon

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USMS Long Distance National Championship was recently held in Reston, VA, by the local Masters Swimmers outside Washington, DC. The venue is a man-made lake where one lap around makes a mile. On race day the lakefront owners sat on their docks in folding aluminum chairs, smiling and waving at the swimmers. Some of the swimmers smiled back, and some even waved. As it happened, the mile swim was followed shortly by the two mile.

A lot has been written about death in triathlon; that it’s frequently in the swim, often by those without a lot of experience in the sport; or that victims are commonly anxious, tense or uncomfortable being in an open water start, for what may be only the first or second time.

In Reston, it was someone who was actually quite experienced. This gentleman, 45-year-old Kevin Ruby, was well known to the swim and tri communities—and quite speedy in the water. He swam the mile on this picture-perfect day, winning his age group handily. Then, like many triathletes, even myself on occasion, he lined up to compete in the two-mile swim as well.

Following the gun for the two mile (two laps of the lake) he made the turn at mile one uneventfully. But that was the last anyone saw of him, until the following day when rescue teams found his body using sonar in the lake.

How Common are Swimming Deaths?

As was later reported, foul play was not suspected and an autopsy is pending. I asked the race director for updates, and was told the actual results won’t be ready for 5-7 weeks. Kevin was married with two children, and well-thought of professionally as well as personally. Reston Masters swim club, the event promoter, put out a statement giving condolences and saying they were “honored to have had Mr. Ruby compete at our Jim McDonnell Lake Swims for many years. He was a very talented top finisher.”

In 2012 USAT reported on fatalities in nearly 23,000 sanctioned events. This review was the largest to date, including over 3 million racers. In short, there were 43 race victims, comprised of 34 men and 9 women aged 24-76 years. 30 of the deaths occurred during the swim. According to swimmer and cardiac surgeon Larry Creswell, “While it may be impossible to determine the cause with certainty for every swim victim, it appears that cardiac arrest, for whatever reason, is often the immediate cause.”

Is There Anything Swimmers Can do to Minimize Their Risk?

Triathletes are generally a pretty confident crowd, but when it comes to being race ready, what you don’t know can kill you. And although athletes who begin races almost always finish without the need for sonar, it does happen, which means that you might need to ask yourself some tough questions about your health before you line up for your next start.

Understand Your Cardiovascular Health

If you have a positive family history for heart disease, at least ask your family physician about your participation in triathlons. Be doubly sure that whatever tests you’ve done are what 21st-century medicine dictates for your stage in life. It might be nothing; or it might be a stress test on a treadmill (take it from one who’s done two; they’re kind of fun!) Depending on your age and fitness level, there might even be more in the way of testing, but it’s worth it to know when you line up at the start that you’re clear to go all-out and meet the demands of the race.

Minimize Stressors During Your Swim

Secondly, it’s important to practice the swim start in the goggles and race wear you plan to compete in. Although this may sound like a silly question, do you know if the race cap will be latex or silicone? Do you know the difference? They fit very differently and you should be at ease with donning either with the knowledge that it’ll stay in place. A slipping cap or leaking googles can quickly turn desperate in the midst of a chaotic swim.

Reach Out to Your Racing Community

Thirdly, how about that wave start? Make you a little uneasy? Sure. That’s a pretty normal reaction. To stay calm, just count to five before you take your first stroke; let the other racers clear out a bit. And if you’re part of a racing community where a death or tragedy has occurred, it might be worth sharing your concerns with your teammates or friends to help work through any latent anxiety.

Familiarize Yourself With the Course

Lastly, how much of an inconvenience is it to get the race site with a swim buddy the day before? Or the week before? Or both? On race morning as you wade into the water, it will be old hat. You’ll just be sharing it with a few friends. And don’t be shy about asking your fellow competitors about anything you’re unsure about. Most of us in this sport are happy to assume the role of teacher to reveal the finer points of the swim you are about to do.

We may never know what exactly happened to Kevin Ruby after that one-mile turn. It’s entirely possible that his was just a terrible accident that couldn’t have been foreseen or prevented. But if you have any qualms about your own health, or anxiety going into a swim, just remember you can take as much time as you need to make sure you’re solid before you toe your next start line.

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GTN Presents: What is Your Critical Swim Speed? (And How to Increase It)

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As part of the partnership between the Global Triathlon Network (GTN) and TrainingPeaks, we’ll be bringing you twice-monthly episodes of the new “Triathlon Training Explained” show, where hosts and former pro triathletes Mark Threlfall and Heather Fell answer your triathlon training questions with the help of TrainingPeaks software, coaches and industry experts from around the world.

For many triathletes, mastering the swim leg of the triathlon is a constant battle. Whether they just aren’t strong swimmers, or tend to go out to hot and then struggle to hold pace, it’s a common multisport theme that losing time in the swim is a legitimate concern.

While many triathletes think the answer to fixing this is just getting in the pool and swimming more often, that’s only half the battle. Understanding your Critical Swim Speed (CSS) — otherwise known as your swim threshold pace — is an important metric from which to plan your swim workouts for improving race day speed.

In the latest episode of “Triathlon Training Explained,” host Mark Threlfall goes into the science behind CSS or swim threshold, which he defines as “The point at which your start to accumulate lactate in your bloodstream at a quicker rate than it can be removed.”

Threlfall explains how to complete your own CSS test and explains how you can then use this number in your TrainingPeaks account to better calculate your swim zones for more accurate Swim TSS® scores.

Finally, Threlfall gives his own favorite lactate threshold swim sets and outlines some common mistakes to avoid and how to make sure your threshold swim sessions are a part of a well-rounded swim program.

Triathletes in the know use TrainingPeaks to help plan, track and analyze their training. Dial-in your triathlon training with a free 14-day Premium Trial today!

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How to Modify Coaching Style When Working With Youth Athletes

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How To Coach Youth Athletes More Effectively

Adult and youth athletes share a similar process for learning, but due to cognitive differences the context for learning must be different. Most notably, there are significant differences in attention span, the ability to process complex information, and the development of proprioceptive skills. A coach’s ability to teach youth athletes must be based in an understanding of these differences.  

One fundamental aspect of coaching youth athletes is the fact that youths are less focused and have much shorter attention spans than adults. Complex information must be broken into smaller pieces such as simple exercises and drills.

Here are five techniques that will help you when coaching young athletes:

1) Breaks are key.

Simple drills which break complex skills into parts can be taught separately, interspersed with breaks for learning another skill or having some fun. For very young athletes, I like to work on a specific skill and then intersperse the learning with fun or games. When I am teaching a drill in the pool, I will have my athlete complete several repetitions of the drill with correct form before adding a progression and will then follow this learning sequence with a break. The breaks might consist of asking about some aspect of their life or allowing them to show me “one of their tricks” in the water.

2) Don’t be afraid to move on.

If my athlete is not learning the skill properly, despite repeated explanation and correction, I prefer to move on to another skill and will pick up the previous one at the next training session. This prevents frustration and a negative association with learning that particular skill. It is amazing to me that sometimes a youth who struggles with a specific skill will go home and “sleep on it,” and when they return to the next training session the skill will come to them easily and naturally.

3) Get organized.

Youth athletes are much less goal oriented than adults and so it is very important for the coach to have structure and a plan for the session. Workout plans need to be flexible to allow for changing circumstances, but must be tight, with little room for distraction. Once the attention of the athlete is lost it can be difficult to get them to refocus. And, when a coach loses focus the athletes will lose focus, too. Be careful about engaging in conversations with others while you are coaching!  

4) Maintain focus.

In most cases, the younger the athlete, the shorter the attention span. Short sessions of 30 minutes are entirely adequate for most youths under ten years of age. As maturation occurs, youths can handle longer sessions. Often, boys tend to have shorter attention spans than girls, and boys may need more breaks for fun or to engage with others.   

To keep athletes focused it can be helpful to remind the youths to “look at me when I am talking to you.” It can also be helpful to ask them to repeat the directions that were just given, such as asking “What did I just ask you to do?”  

5) Positive reinforcement

For many youth athletes the relationship with their coach is very important. Youths thrive on positive reinforcement and early relationships with adults can make a significant impact on their lives. Studies have shown the 5:1 ratio (5 positive comments for every 1 constructive criticism) is most effective. Youths are still developing their sense of self and positive reinforcement is key. One technique is to “sandwich” a constructive criticism between two positive comments. For example, “Great job keeping on your side, try to kick a little harder to keep the momentum. Nice job with your head position.”

Another technique I have found extremely helpful is to tell the youths I coach that they are performing the skill so well that I would like to film it on my iPhone, if it is OK with them. I let them know I would like to share it with their parents, caregivers or others.  Most youths love being filmed and it is amazing how much the skill improves while I am filming them! After the session they enjoy showing it to their caregivers.

So, the next time you are coaching your athletes, don’t forget these key techniques to keep them engaged:

Provide outlets for fun and breaks
Outline expectations before the practice begins
Eliminate distractions
Ask athletes to engage visually with the coach while instructions are being given
Keep explanations minimal; the fewer words the better!
Incorporate rewards into the session
Film their skills and show them

The relationship between a coach and a youth athlete is often very important, and it can have a significant impact on their life. Youths often hold coaches as role models and look to them for guidance in their sport and their life.

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How to Coach Older Athletes to Get Better Sleep

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Juggling Life, Endurance Sports, and Sleep

Endurance athletes are used to squeezing more into a day compared to most folks. When given the choice between lunch with the gang or shoehorning in a 5-mile run, the run almost always gets the nod. Then, at the end of the day when much-needed rest is in order and everything is not checked off the list yet, sleep is given short shrift.

Hey, it always worked in college, right? But, most of us aren’t in college anymore.

Plus, it’s not academics on the plate, but instead physical effort placed on a body that is probably beaten down from yesterday’s workout or that half marathon last Saturday.

In the Complete Triathlon Book, fitness and food writer Matt Fitzgerald writes, “You can do more than you might think to prevent general fatigue — a great epidemic in our society to which triathletes are especially susceptible.” Sounding an even sterner tone, IRONMAN U Master Coach Matt Dixon wrote in The Well-Built Triathlete, “Sleep and recovery are required in order for the body to positively respond to that much-needed training load and adapt to become fitter and more powerful.”

Sleep Becomes Even More Important As We Age

It’s pretty obvious that many younger athletes can live with less sleep and still perform at a very high level, but many modestly older athletes just can’t. And, by older I don’t just mean the Medicare crowd. I mean you “Ms. Forty-Year-Old” with a full life outside of the sport.

As one gets deeper into the training year, and the intensity and duration of training increases, the body simply must have regular sleep to combat the accumulating physical stress. It is during sleep that the body releases testosterone, a hormone that has received more than its fair share of press recently, but is certainly important.

So, particularly as we get older, we need to be careful not to compromise sleep. Plus, it’s one of the few things in endurance sport training that doesn’t cost more money, right? So, the next time you plan turkey for supper, while contemplating that luscious taste with sleep inducing agents of its own like L-tryptophan, take just a minute to think how today’s sleep recommendations can fit into your athlete’s lifestyles.

They’ll be winners if they do.

Three Tips To Get Better Sleep Before Bed

I hear coaches saying it regularly. Get more sleep.

That said, people in this sport have to get a lot done every day including training. But, at the end of the day it’s easy to think “it’ll just take 15 minutes to finish.” If you’re like most, it turns into 45 minutes and then there’s a recap of the baseball game that you missed, etc. I know, it happens to me. Even when I have the best intentions to get to bed by 10 p.m., I start piddling around with little stuff.

Here are a few recommendations for your athletes to make sure they don’t miss their bedtime.

Make it routine. If you can pick a time, stick to it by powering down 15 minutes before, and it becomes a habit, you’ll do it without even thinking. During your weekly athlete conversation, a simple “so, did you get to bed on time each night?” to your athlete will go a long way.
Set an alarm. The second method to make your bedtime is to simply set an alarm on your phone or kitchen oven for perhaps 20 minutes before the desired sack time. Start to get ready then.
Put out all your clothes and morning workout gear before bed. Have your athlete think of it as their own little transition area. Instead of waiting until 10 p.m., prepare right after supper. That way, as bedtime approaches, your wind down time doesn’t get extended.

Six Tips For Better Sleep Once You’re In Bed

Now that you’re in bed, ensure insomnia doesn’t creep in. Try these bedtime tips from neurologist and sleep medicine specialist Chris Winter, MD.

Read a real book. Make sure you’re using indirect lighting once in bed, and remember that e-readers and cell phones often reduce sleep quality.
If you have to use a screen, buy a pair of blue-block glasses. These glasses reduce the type of light that keeps you awake.
Keep your bedroom neat. It’s been proven to improve sleep quality.
Avoid any bright light before bed. This includes in the bathroom while brushing your teeth.
Stay away from sleeping pills.
Last, sex is good for sleep. Doctor’s orders!


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