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Creating Your Annual Training Plan

  • November 27, 2019
  • Blog
Originally published November 22, 2018. Updated and republished November 27, 2019.

With your goals set and events selected, you’re ready to dial in your Annual Training Plan for your season ahead. In part 3 of our Planning Your Season series of posts, we’ll layout the process of your Annual Training Plan. This road map of your training program is often referred to as your Annual Training Plan. It sets the foundation of your training progression allowing you to know ‘when you should be where’ in your build up. It also helps you stay on track and progressing towards your end goals.

WE at Waite Endurance prefer to use a TWO training phase model to reach a peak performance for an “A” race. We call them: Base Builder & Race Preparation.

Base Builder Phase

Base Builder (or your base phase) is about establishing a general aerobic & strength foundation of fitness. Our Base Builder Plans are 12-24 weeks in duration. The duration is dependent on time until your next “A” race. Our Base Builder progression goes from low-intensity to high-intensity. Building through the six major energy systems in a block periodization format with 2-4 week blocks based on duration of plan and intended rate of progression:

 1. Aerobic Endurance 

2. Aerobic Threshold 

3. Anaerobic Threshold

4. Vo2 Max

5. Anaerobic Power 

6. Peak Power 

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Race Selection: Your Events for Next Season

  • November 21, 2019
  • Blog
Originally published November 8, 2018. Updated and republished November 21, 2019.

Daylight hours are shortening, leaves are falling, and temps are dropping… You’ve set your goals for next season (previous post: Goal Setting), and even resumed some base training. The next step in the planning process is race selection and choosing your events for next season. Sifting through the potentially large amount of events in which you are interested is the second step in the planning process. 

Planning your race season around a target event(s) is crucial to setting up an effective training program.

As part of the race selection process, you must first know the “what” & “when” you plan to race your best. From there you can work out your specific training program that will get you there with the fitness you desire. You don’t need to know every single start line you plan to roll up to next year. You do however need to know what your top targets are before you begin more detailed planning. The first step of the race selection process is sitting down and creating a list of events that interest you. Have fun with this. Don’t filter your thought process just yet. Once you have your list of events, long or short, it is then time to narrow things down. 

Most endurance athletes will compete in multiple events within a season. Why would you train so consistently for a long time to race only one or two times per season? Also, racing can be some of the best “training” you can do. On the flip-side, you cannot race every weekend all season long (or even every-other week for that matter). Racing takes a toll and interferes with an overall training progression. Racing too frequently degrades your fitness over time and does not allow for an adequate build of training load. Fitness gets lost in these situations and the results you desire are hard to find.

The ABCs of Race Selection

When you do choose to race, you want to race hard and give it your best effort on the day. That said, you cannot be in “top form” for every race you enter. For some races you enter you may recognize that you won’t be at your best, but the benefits of racing are still present. Your fitness and “race-readiness” ebbs and flows with your training phases and your lifestyle demands. Therefore, different events must take on different levels of priority. This allows you to reach higher levels of fitness for specific events (peaking). It is a well known practice when laying out your next racing season to assign priority levels to your events as: A, B and C.  The following is a breakdown of this concept that will help you in your season-planning process: 

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Goal Setting: Your Season Ahead

  • November 14, 2019
  • Blog
Originally posted October 31, 2018. Updated November 12, 2019.

Goal setting begins the planning process towards your next season. Organizing your thoughts and creating a formal written outline of what direction you want to go with your training, fitness and competitive results is a key piece of the Mental Fitness puzzle. If you don’t know what you want to achieve… then how do you know what you need to do to get there or if you are making progress in the right direction along the way?

Going beyond simply thinking about what you want to achieve and further developing a strategy on how you are going to achieve is the process of setting goals.

Make Goal Setting work for you

The idea of setting goals is something many people are familiar with, but few take the time to formally address. It can be difficult for some athletes to write down goals. However meeting your goals is often more difficult if they are not written down in the first place. Once you have decided upon your goals, take it a step further and write out exactly how you plan to meet those goals (use a pencil here because you may change things a bit as you discuss with your coach or support structure). If you’re not sure of exactly how you are going to meet your goals, obtaining direction from a coach, or friend, can help you talk it out and make the right decisions. Knowing what you want is one thing, but outlining a plan that gets you from where you are now with your physical and mental abilities to where you want to be is what makes goal setting an effective tool in your mental fitness tool box. 

Goal setting is a multi step process that is extremely valuable for all athletes. The following are some helpful steps and techniques you can implement to help make your own goal setting more effective.

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Nutrition Periodization

Nutrition Periodization for Endurance Performance

  • September 20, 2019
  • Blog

As your physiological training demands change with your training objectives, your nutritional demands change as well. The basic principle of Nutrition Periodization is simply that: changing your dietary consumption to match that of your training efforts. Periodizing your diet can be achieved on two levels. The first is the larger training block level of macro-cycles. The second is the smaller weekly level of day-to-day training in micro-cycles. The goal of periodizing your nutrition is to improve your cycling training program in two primary ways:

  1. Better Fueling for Improved Performance (increasing fitness)
  2. Maximizing the Quality of your Nutrition (improving health & body composition)

Proper fueling will allow an athlete to maximize their training efforts and adaptations making their training more effective. Similarly, maximizing the quality of your nutrition will enhance an athlete’s recovery from training. In other words, more effective training and enhanced recovery lead to improved body composition and increased fitness. Achieving a lean body composition is critical for maximizing performance in an endurance sport such as cycling. In fact, for many riders carrying an extra 10 pounds or more, it can be the single biggest performance booster there is! For this reason, periodizing your diet around your training program can be a big help in working towards your fitness goals.

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Finding Form with these Strategies

Your Base has been built. You put in the quality Race Prep training. Now you’re just a few weeks out from your A-Race. The time is now for… Finding Form.

What exactly is form?

Form is the combination of high fitness coming from a quality training block, high freshness from appropriate restoration, and race readiness from the right pre-event workouts that leave you prepared for a peak performance.

Finding Form is essentially the taper and peak process going into your A-Event. The final weeks heading into an A-Race can be the most difficult time of the training season for many athletes. At this point in the season, with two weeks to go, the training is done; “the hay is in the barn,” as is said. You worked hard for many weeks, if not months, to build fitness and prepare for a peak performance. Your last few weeks of training may have been among your hardest and/or highest volume depending on your target event demands. Regardless, you should be very fit, and likely quite fatigued from the quality work.

Freshen Up to Find Form

With your fitness at or near its highest point of the season, it is now time to recover and freshen up for a peak performance. With high fitness comes high fatigue (as both come from consistent training). While you can still race well with high fitness and accumulated fatigue, you will almost certainly race even better (ie. “peak performance”) if you can shed that fatigue and replace it with freshness; all while minimizing the loss of fitness… AKA: the taper and/or “finding form.”

Within that statement above is the tricky part of finding form… In order to gain fitness you must accumulate fatigue; meaning you may be very fit, but also a bit tired or lacking freshness. In order to gain freshness you must lose (some) fitness. It’s a balance and one that can be a difficult task to achieve to perfection. You must train hard to get fit. As you train hard you get tired. To perform your best you must train less (for a short bit) to regain freshness and achieve a peak performance. Sounds easy, right?

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In-Season Strength Maintenance

Strength Training, that is training with weights in the gym (or at home), has become more widely accepted in the endurance sport world over the last 5+ years. There are still some hold-outs on the subject, but most athletes and coaches will agree there are valuable benefits to be gained from lifting heavy weights within an endurance sport training program. Improving your strength from season-to-season only occurs if you perform Strength Maintenance sessions year-round.

The intent of this article is not to spew out the benefits of Strength Training (you can read a previous post that covers all those points); rather my intent with this article is to point out the value of YEAR-ROUND strength training. More specifically, focus on lifting weights within your competitive racing season.

Don’t Lose your Gains, Bro

If you’ve gotten this far, I’m going to assume you’re on board with Strength Training, at least as part of your off-season training program. The majority of endurance athletes do some form of strength training in their off-season. Then what seems to be very common is many athletes cease their Strength Training program once their competitive race season begins. The reasons I hear for dropping the strength training from their training programs are often:

  • Wanting to spend more time on their primary sport (“get more miles in”)
  • Lifting weights makes them slow (“legs too sore/tired”)
  • Don’t want to gain weight (“too much muscle”)
  • Getting bored with the strength training (“same old routine”)

I’m here to encourage you to not stop your Strength Training once your race season begins. In fact if you do stop, I can tell you you’re leaving performance gains on the table!

You may be thinking, “Whoa! Hold up. You want me to lift weights during my race season?!”

Yes I do! And here’s why…

When you Strength Train for 2, 3 or even 4 months of your off-season, you spend the first few weeks working through the soreness of training the muscles. Only then do you begin to make some gains in actual strength of movement. These improvements to your health & performance as an athlete include:

  • Increased muscle fiber recruitment (use more of the muscles you have)
  • Increase top-end power (raise the ceiling of your power curve)
  • Increased anabolic hormone production (balance the catabolic nature of endurance training)
  • Improve range of motion/activation (offset imbalances)
  • Improve the overall “durability” of your body
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The Waite Endurance Race Preparation Plans

With Spring around the corner it’s time to think about Race Preparation. Most athletes are putting the final touches on their off-season Base Builder training. Following our Base Builder Plan Programming, athletes have gone through an extensive strength building program in the gym combined with a progression through the six primary aerobic energy systems we utilize on the bike; from lowest intensity to highest intensity:

  1. Aerobic (all day power)
  2. Aerobic Threshold (2-4 hour power)
  3. Anaerobic Threshold (32-64 minute power)
  4. Vo2 Max (8-16 minute power)
  5. Anaerobic Power (1-4 minute power)
  6. Peak Power (5-20 second power)

Depending on when they got started with their Base Builder training and how much time available for building Base, athletes went through a 12, 18 or 24 week progression; in 2, 3 or 4 week blocks dedicated to each energy system mentioned above. Regardless of your exact base training protocol you may have followed, as you come to the end of your base phase you may be asking yourself this question:

With my Base now built and general cycling fitness established, what comes next?

Race Preparation Training

Where Base Building is general fitness development; Race Preparation is specific fitness development for your A-priority event(s) of the year.

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The Waite Endurance Base Builder Programming

  • November 9, 2018
  • Blog

It’s the Off-Season. Time off from events means it’s Base Builder time.

Base Training, or Base Builder as we call it, is the theme for this time of year. Despite the common theme, everyone has a slight variation on what base training entails. However the overall theme is the same: to put in the training time to build fitness, from general to specific, before your next racing season.

Autumn and Winter is the time of the year most endurance athletes commonly associate with base training. At this time of year, we’re several months away from race season and it’s time to build our general fitness. With general fitness intact, you’re better able to handle the more demanding loads of race specific fitness that follows. General Fitness to us means the least race specific fitness. Since racing is a ways off, we can spend time on areas that either get neglected or we simply can’t afford to train when in the midst of racing season.

The Energy System Chain-Link Model

We think of fitness as links in a chain. One end of the chain is very low intensity (your all-day riding pace); and the other end of the chain is very high intensity (your 1 rep max anaerobic strength). The two ends of the chain are then connected by all the energy systems that lie in between. From high to low, these include: power movements in the gym, Peak Power on the bike, Anaerobic Power, Vo2 Max, Anaerobic Threshold, “Sweet Spot”, Aerobic Threshold, and Aerobic Endurance.

When we begin to build our base fitness for racing a bicycle we begin by training the outer most links (the least race specific). For example, we first focus on the two far ends of the energy system chain: peak movement strength (ie. weight lifting) and aerobic endurance. After that, from these two “ends” of the energy system chain we move progressively inward as we build base fitness. As a result, we progressively move towards the more race specific energy systems in the middle of the chain. 

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The S:6 Base Builder Program: Block 6

  • March 29, 2018
  • Blog

Five down and one to go!

Our off-season is nearing its end and the competitive season is right around the corner. It’s time to put the finishing touches on our off-season Base Builder Program with our 6th and final block of training. To recap, our in-house group training program began back in November working from the low-intensity end of the energy system spectrum with pedaling skill work and aerobic intervals; then progressing through progressively higher intensity energy systems in monthly blocks: Aerobic Threshold (2-4 hour power), Anaerobic Threshold (32-64:00 power), Vo2 Max (8-16:00 power), and Anaerobic Power (1-4:00 power). The 6th and final block of our Base Build Program is the highest intensity (on-bike) energy system: Peak Power.

Peak Power is your top-end sprint power… Everything you’ve got of 4-8 seconds!

With the racing season approaching we plan to reach top-end intensity to finish off our off-season Base Build Program. This very same 24-week program is available as a downloadable training plan on Training Peaks ( 24-week Base Build Training Plan ). We also have a more condensed 12-week Base Build Training Plan available to those that prefer a shorter, faster build of early season base fitness. Both versions allow you to follow my programming on your own where ever you live!

Upon completion of our Base Build we’re ready for our competitive season of specialized training and racing. At this point we can then begin to back out the intensity while adding in more endurance training to meet our target race fitness goals.

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The S:6 Base Builder Program: Block 5

  • March 4, 2018
  • Blog

Spring is on the horizon and we’re 2/3 complete with our Off-Season Base Build Program with the final 1/3 coming up! I’m not going to lie, the last 8 weeks have been challenging for our 45 in-house athletes training with us Monday-Thursdsay each week. The middle third of our program is perhaps the most challenging on the bike with Anaerobic Threshold intervals (block 3) and even more so the Vo2 Max intervals twice weekly (block 4). Combine that with continued resistance training on Mondays and Wednesdays and you can see how the training load is reaching a peak. See exactly how we structured our Vo2 Max intervals on the bike in our previous post in this series: Block 4.

This very same 24-week program is available as a downloadable training plan on Training Peaks ( 24-week Base Build Training Plan ). We also have a more condensed 12-week Base Build Training Plan available to those that prefer a shorter, faster build of early season base fitness. Both versions allow you to follow my programming on your own where ever you live!

Our upcoming Block 5 makes up weeks 17-20 in the 24-weeks of our Base Build Program. You can read more about each previous block from links at top.

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The S:6 Base Builder Program: Block 4

  • February 3, 2018
  • Blog

It’s February and we’re now halfway through our Off-Season Base Build Program. Our local, in-house program of 45 Denver-based athletes are now beginning to feel the fitness gains! We’ve met 4 days a week, most weeks, for the last 12 weeks for indoor gym sessions, trainer sessions, and testing. A solid base of aerobic and strength training has been established in the first half of the program. We’re now prepared to build off the basic fitness and add some appropriate amounts of higher intensity work in the form of faster more powerful movements in the gym (plyometrics) as well as shorter and more powerful intervals on the bike in the sound half of the program.

This very same 24-week program is available as a downloadable training plan on Training Peaks ( 24-week Base Build Training Plan ). We also have a more condensed 12-week Base Build Training Plan available to those that prefer a shorter, faster build of early season base fitness. Both versions allow you to follow my programming on your own where ever you live!

Block 4 makes up weeks 13-16 in the 24-weeks of our Base Build Program. You can read more about previous blocks from links at top.

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The S:6 Base Builder Program: Block 3

  • January 15, 2018
  • Blog

Happy New Year! January brings block 3 of our Off-Season Base Build Program with our local in-house athletes in Denver. We meet 4 days a week, most weeks, for 6 months for indoor gym sessions, trainer sessions, and testing. Weekends are for getting outside on your own and going longer to build endurance. We also offer the very same program as a 24-week Base Build Training Plan, as well as a more condensed 12-week Base Build Training Plan, to follow on your own where ever you live.

Upon conclusion of Block 2 we took a little recovery time through the New Year holiday window and returned on January 2nd for our second of 4 testing sessions within our 6-month program. Our first test was at the end of October right before we kicked off official training; test two was 8 weeks later right after the new year, tests 3 and 4 will follow in 8-week cycles at the 2/3 point of the program and conclusion of the program. We prefer testing every 8-weeks as this provides enough time for fitness to evolve and provides a carrot of sorts to keep your training consistent so you make the improvements you’re looking for.

With test results in-hand we can check progress, reset training zones, keep motivation high, and get ready for further improvements over the next blocks of training.

Block 3 builds upon Blocks 1 & 2 with continued progressions in the gym and on the bike.

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The S:6 Base Builder Program: Block 2

  • December 14, 2017
  • Blog

It’s December now and we’re digging into our second of six blocks that make up our Off-Season Base Build Program with our local in-house athletes in Denver. We meet 4 days a week, most weeks, for 6 months for indoor gym and trainer sessions. Weekends are for getting outside on your own and going longer to build endurance. We also offer the very same program as a 24-week Base Build Training Plan, as well as a more condensed 12-week Base Build Training Plan, to follow on your own where ever you live.

Hopefully a routine has been established in the first month of training, and you’re beginning to feel some level of fitness returning after your end of last season break. You can get the full rundown in the first post of the Series: Off-Season Base Training: Primer, and get caught up through previous posts in the Series Links above.

Block 2 builds upon Block 1 with continued progressions in the gym and on the bike.

In my previous post I laid out the general weekly schedule that is built around three types of sessions: gym sessions, structured trainer sessions, and endurance sessions. We’ll continue to follow this scheme into block 2 and break down the subtle progressions in each of the three domains. Block 2 makes up weeks 5-8 in the 24-weeks of the Base Build Program.

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The S:6 Base Builder Program: Block 1

  • November 11, 2017
  • Blog

We offer a 24-week Off-Season Base Build Program to our local athletes in Denver. We meet 4 days a week, most weeks, for 6 months for indoor gym and trainer sessions. Weekends are for getting outside on your own and going longer to build endurance. We also offer the very same program as a 24-week Base Build Training Plan, as well as a more condensed 12-week Base Build Training Plan, to follow on your own where ever you live.

The following blog series will share some specifics of what each block of training is made up of and how we progress through our 6-month long base build to reach serious fitness by Spring and ready to dive into more specific Race Prep training for your goal events. The same progression occurs in our truncated 12-week version of the plan; however progression occurs at a much faster pace. This plan is ideal for the more experienced athletes with years of base in their legs or for those that don’t have the time or patience to spend 6 months building a killer base of fitness for the upcoming season.

The first of six blocks comprising our Base Building Program focuses on returning to structured training, finding your rhythm, and adapting to the movements.

There are three basic categories of sessions that make up our regular training week:

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In-House Base Builder

The Waite Endurance Testing Protocol

  • October 30, 2017
  • Blog

In a previous post, Testing: Anaerobic vs. Aerobic & Fatigue Resistance, we explained our testing philosophy. Through frequent testing we look to see improvements in power outputs over 6-12 weeks of training between testing. Our testing revolves around THREE different test durations:

  • One longer one at a specific sub-maximal aerobic heart-rate, to identify Aerobic Power.

  • Two shorter maximal efforts to identify ones Anaerobic Power.

We also introduced the concept of identifying your Fatigue Rate. This sheds light on where your aerobic fitness is compared to your top-end anaerobic power. With this data, we can then track improvements in power as well as improvements in fatigue resistance (ie. endurance). Through testing and training we attempt to maximize both ends for peak performance.

The goal with training is two-fold: maximize your power output & fatigue resistance. The tricky part is, improvements in one usually results in the decrease in the other; and what gets tracked, gets trained.

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Testing: Anaerobic vs. Aerobic & Fatigue Resistance

  • October 24, 2017
  • Blog

Before diving into another season of training on the bike, or jumping into serious training for the first time, it helps to know a few things about your current fitness as you get started. Testing on the bike has become common place for structured training. We’ll focus on the specifics of our Waite Endurance Testing Method here; but most testing protocols are intended to answer questions like these…

  • Where is my fitness at right now? Identify a baseline from which you plan to improve.
  • What are the best ways to spend my training time? In order to maximize your improvement.
  • What effort levels should you should be training at? Set your training zones.

There’s More to Power than Just FTP.

For many years, a rider’s FTP (Functional Threshold Power) has been the focal point of where a rider’s fitness. Percentages of FTP is also how many riders set their training zones. FTP works okay. It shines light on one area of fitness and can be re-tested again and again to check for improvement.

By definition, your FTP is the power you could sustain for one hour, full gas. I say could sustain because who’s going to go all-out for an hour to find this value? So it’s become common place to go hard for 20-minutes and subtract 5% from your average power. Pretty much the Gold Standard, and everyone accepts it. Even going all-out for 20 minutes is pretty tough on your own. For this reason, more recent models are doing one or two 8-minute intervals and subtracting 5-10% from those averages to estimate FTP. All said and done, these methods of FTP testing highlight one energy system (Vo2 max). On top of that, they calculate the FTP from a “one size fits all” percent reduction from the test effort. From here, it doesn’t tell you much else. Does it work? I suppose. However, if you’re like me, you would likely prefer more.

What if we said we can offer you another, possibly better, way to test on the bike to gain insight on your fitness, set zones, and track progress?

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Training Metrics: Power vs. Heart Rate

  • October 19, 2017
  • Blog

We get this question a lot regarding training metrics… What’s the better training metric: Power or Heart Rate?

Power-based training has risen to the status of “must have” for effective training for serious cyclists. Unfortunately, the use of heart rate as a training metric has been tossed aside by many. The power meter is a wonderful tool and one we strongly recommend. However, without the simultaneous use of heart rate you are only seeing half of the story

…our answer is: use BOTH metrics! 

Both Power & Heart Rate training metrics are needed for maximum effectiveness

Using one without the other is a mistake. Here’s why…

  • Power (watts) is the direct measurement of the amount of work that is being done. Many will say, “a watt is a watt, and watts don’t lie”. This is true, power is an absolute. You either have it or you don’t on a given a day. However, the effort required to produce those watts on any given day is effected by many variables. This is where heart rate comes in!
  • Heart Rate (bpm) is an indirect measurement of your bodies response to the work (power) being done. You might hear people poo-poo HR. They’ll claim that it’s affected by so many outside variables; such as sleep, hydration, elevation, temperature, fatigue and so on. But… why are these affects considered a negative attribute? When in fact, it’s these very affects wherein the value of training with HR comes in!

Let’s look at this example of a training block using both Power & Heart Rate training metrics…

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Off-Season Training

  • October 12, 2017
  • Blog

When Fall arrives most of us in the Northern Hemisphere are entering our Off-Season. So what exactly is the Off-Season? The term “Off-Season” can be a bit misleading to some. The Off-Season is not time taken off from training, but rather it is time taken off from racing. This all so crucial time away from racing allows you to focus more on your training to allow for bigger advancements in your overall fitness.

Here is how a year of training and competition looks to a committed, high level amateur or professional endurance athlete:

PRE OFF-SEASON: END OF SEASON BREAK

    • After a short 1-2 weeks of time off they’re ready to get back into training in their off-season. Take that ‘beach holiday’ or vacation to truly get away from the training.
    • Pro Tips: As a general rule of thumb, the older and/or lower training volume (ie. time crunched) the athlete, the shorter this break should be. If you only train 8-12 hours a week, you don’t need to take much of a break. Simply changing the type of training you do in the off-season will be enough of a change of pace. It is just too hard for most people to get back into ‘training mode’; and too much fitness can be lost if the break is too long. The younger or higher volume athlete may take up to 2 weeks off from training. These athletes will recover faster and have a higher fitness base to draw from.

THE OFF-SEASON

    • The Off-Season is the chunk of time sandwiched between your break (above) and the start of your race season (below). With the stress of racing and being “race fit” removed in their off-season, they can focus purely on training. Improving weaknesses and gaining a higher level of fitness for the next race season is the goal.
    • Pro Tips: Depending on the athlete and when his/her race season begins, the off-season can be as short as a couple months (ie. end racing in October and begin racing in February); or it can be several months (ie. end racing in September and begin again in April). Keep in mind that the longer your off-season the more time you have to train and improve. In turn, the greater improvement you’ll see in your racing ability the next season. Those athletes that can’t stay away from racing and pack their annual schedule from spring through fall are often the ones that don’t improve a whole lot from year-to-year; or they are getting paid to compete (and are already at the top of their game!).
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The S:6 Off-Season Base Builder Cycling Plan (a deep dive!)

  • August 18, 2017
  • Blog

The stationary trainer is one of the best tools in your training arsenal.

The highly controllable environment makes it one of the most effective ways to improve your cycling power. By allowing your workouts to be controlled using variables like time, gearing, cadence, power and heart rate you can more easily execute precise, repeatable intervals. On the trainer you can eliminate the uncontrollable variables found in outdoor workouts like varying terrain, wind, weather, traffic, etc. You can focus solely on the work you are performing to make the most out of the time you are putting into your training.

Our 24 Week Base Builder Program/Plan, as well as its condensed little brother: the 12 Week Base Builder Program/Plan, are both designed to be performed during your “off-season”. The term off-season is referring to time off from racing, as opposed to time off from training. This concept is explained in a previous post, Ideas for Your Off-Season.  During this off-season base-building phase your primary objectives are to develop a strong aerobic system and build sport-specific strength.

Training Blocks

Our 24-week Base Builder program is built around six 3-week training blocks. Each block has a specific training focus that builds upon the previous block in intensity and training load. Within each block there are three weeks of loading (training) followed by one week of recovery (low-intensity), before getting into the next block. Each training block targets a specific energy system and the overall progression is from lowest intensity to highest intensity before reaching a peak at the end of your base build.

The energy system block progression on the trainer includes the following:
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Mountain Bike Training

Our Six Components of Sport Performance

  • July 30, 2017
  • Blog

It’s common thought that to maximize sport performance you simply need to train more and push harder to be successful. Many endurance athletes are familiar with the 10,000 hour rule (associated with the writer Malcom Gladwell’s book Outliers). This concept says it requires 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to obtain elite level proficiency in cycling, running, swimming or triathlon. In many ways this concept holds true; you need to put in the time for your body to make the physical adaptations. However, we have found that there is more to the equation than just simply training more. You certainly can and do become a better cyclist simply by putting in more miles. Assuming you have the time and fitness to spend 5+ hours a day riding your bike, in time, you will become a highly competent cyclist.

There’s no question that if you put in the time, you will improve. But is this high volume, single-focused training approach the right way to maximize cycling performance? Maybe, maybe not. Is it the only way to maximize performance? Definitely not.

Endurance Sport Training Philosophies 

There are many theories out there to follow, however we have found the answer to be: “It depends”. It depends on who the athlete is. How old is the athlete? What is the athlete’s background in sport? What is the athlete’s lifestyle? Do they have a job and/or a family? Do they have the time, energy and physical capacity to allow them to train 30+ hours a week, week in and week out?

If you’re a 20-something year old, athletic individual with minimal life stress and plenty of financial backing, then it’s time to put in the big volume. However, if you’re over thirty, have to make money to support yourself and/or your family, or are a less than perfect physical specimen, then simply doing more of the same thing is not the best path to follow to reach your fullest potential.

Through working with hundreds of different athletes coming from all shapes and sizes of background in sport, we have found that there are six essential components required to maximize fitness and athletic development.

So how is the aspiring athlete going to maximize improvement when spending endless hours cranking out the effort is not an option? We have found over the years that all athletes must make fitness and sport a lifestyle. Much like a professional, you must focus on both the large and the small components of fitness to build the best possible athlete you can be. We have identified six key elements that are crucial to athletic success. Each one can be implemented regardless of the individual experience level or the amount of time the athlete has to devote to their sport.

Our 6 Components of Performance of Sessions:6 Sport Performance:

  1. Aerobic Conditioning

  2. Strength & Stability

  3. Skill Proficiency

  4. Diet & Nutrition

  5. Stress Management

  6. Mental Fitness

By learning, incorporating and striving to always improve upon these six key components of fitness, an athlete will be better able to reach their fullest potential in sport performance.

The Endurance Athlete’s Training

The first three components, aerobic conditioning, muscular stability, and skill proficiency make up the physical “training” an athlete with do.

Aerobic conditioning is highly trainable. The most common method is by spending more time performing your endurance sport at low to moderate intensities of effort. Training aerobic endurance by extending the durations of your training sessions can also improve aerobic conditioning. Training plans that include high intensity interval training at specific periods are also very effective at improving your aerobic conditioning.

Including muscular strength and joint stability training will improve an athlete’s range of motion, application of force, and overall durability. Improper joint mobility and/or joint stability limits nearly every athlete in some manner. Improving these characteristics through proper strength training modalities, an athlete will become more efficient and able to use more of their given maximal aerobic capacity.

Developing the skills to move the body in the most efficient manner is critical to maximizing performance. Wasted energy through improper movements not only slows you down but wastes valuable energy. Both of which limit your performance. By incorporating deliberate skill practice into your training plan you will maximize gains in strength and coordination leading to increased movement efficiency.

Sport Performance In Between the Training

The last three key components: diet & nutrition, stress management, and mental fitness are efforts made in between the physical training sessions. These details require as much or more effort to incorporate into an athlete’s routine. However they can also often yield some of the biggest results.

Most athletes are aware of the importance of nutrition but few actually take it seriously for any length of time. Many gains can be made through optimal nutrition: you perform better on race day. You’re more likely to achieve optimal body composition for improved performance. You can obtain optimal energy levels to improve training capacity as well as optimal hormone operation within the body to improve health and recovery.

Recovery between training sessions is critical to maximize your training consistency and adaptation. Learning and incorporating proper recovery methods are critical to adapting to your training load. In addition, recognizing non-training forms of stress in your your life and adjusting your training accordingly will allow you to train more effectively. Combined, both efforts will allow you to get more from each training session.

Finally, perhaps the most neglected and overlooked component of success in sport is the power of the mind. Getting yourself in the right mindset to compete to your fullest potential can be difficult to learn. It is subsequently also one of the most important abilities for athletes to transform themselves into champions. Practicing mental strategies and learning how to compete to your true ability will unlock the complete athlete within you.

In Summary

To become the best athlete you can become and reach your fullest potential in the least amount of time possible, you must address these six crucial components of sport performance development: aerobic conditioning, strength & stability, skill proficiency, diet & nutrition stress management, and mental fitness.

When any one of these components is neglected or underdeveloped an athlete will fall short of their maximum ability. Don’t fall into the trap that there is only one path to improvement, doing the same thing over and over. Rather, choose to expand your athletic ability by addressing these six components of performance. Allow yourself to continually evolve and improve as an athlete. By incorporating these 6 components into your daily lifestyle you will be able to consistently improve your performance year after year.

Written by Cody Waite, professional endurance athlete, endurance sport coach and founder of Sessions:6 Sport Performance. Looking for help with your endurance sport training? Check out S:6’s Training Plans, Team Programs, and  Personal Coaching options created to fit your needs and budget.

I. Aerobic Conditioning: Endurance & Speed

  • June 30, 2017
  • Blog

When people think of the word “fitness” the mind often goes first to aerobic conditioning. Aerobic fitness gives an athlete the ability to “go” and keep going. This is especially true for endurance sports like running, cycling, swimming, etc. Building up the endurance to go the distance is a primary objective for those athletes newer to athletic training; while more advanced athletes are looking to cover the distance faster.

You can think of Aerobic Conditioning as Two Distinct Elements:  

  1. Endurance

  2. Speed

Think of these two elements in these defining ways: endurance is the ability to maintain pace while speed is the ability to create pace. To be successful in sport and fitness you need to maximize both endurance and speed through creative training strategies. The shorter an event the larger the emphasis on speed and power will be; while the longer an event the larger the emphasis on endurance will be. However, regardless of the length of the events you are training for, you need to train both elements to maximize your aerobic conditioning.

Picture aerobic conditioning as a sliding scale. On one end you have the shortest duration, highest intensity output, the ‘alactate’ burst of maximum power; on the other end you have the ‘all day’ maximum endurance effort. In between these two extremes you have the classic physiological energy systems:

Energy System:                               Duration:

  1. Alactate                                                   <10 seconds          
  2. Anaerobic Power                  1-4 minutes                
  3. Vo2 Max                                  8-16 minutes                
  4. Anaerobic Threshold           30-60 minutes                                  
  5. Aerobic Threshold                2-4 hours                            
  6. Endurance                              >4 hours

Training all six of these ‘zones’ of intensity is critical for all athletes. Balancing the amount, and at what point in the training year, each energy system is emphasized makes up an effective training program.

Aerobic Conditioning is Highly Trainable

Aerobic conditioning is highly trainable, although it can take many years to fully maximize in human physiology. Every human is born with an innate capacity to process oxygen. This is known as maximum oxygen uptake or, simply, Vo2 max. The more oxygen an athlete can supply to their working muscles the faster they can go. Vo2max is trainable to a certain extent, but everyone has their genetic ceiling of maximum uptake. One of the primary goals with aerobic conditioning is to maximize the sustainable percentage of Vo2max achievable in training and racing. This can be achieved by training any of the above mentioned energy systems; but is most effective by training all of the energy systems through an effective training program.

Longer & Slower

Long, slow distance training has been a staple of endurance sport training for years.Training longer durations at lower intensities has many identified benefits such as:

  • increased mitochondria and capillary density to improve oxygen delivery
  • maximizing the use of slow twitch muscle fibers
  • improved fuel utilization and carbohydrate storage
  • increase in the volume of blood your heart can move with each beat

For athletes that are coming to endurance sports from a ‘speed based’ background, and are relatively young, healthy, have the time, and have lofty goals of racing performance, high volume training can help them succeed. However, as valuable as the benefits of low-intensity training are, you must have the time to put into this method as it requires increasingly higher and higher volumes to create the stimulus needed for improved fitness.

Most amateur athletes with a job and family to balance with their training schedule usually can only find time for limited amounts of high volume training. Due to this, it leads us to consider how else can we improve our aerobic conditioning?

Shorter & Faster

Training the short, powerful, high intensity energy systems happens to also have many identified benefits. These benefits can often be achieved with much lower training volumes. Benefits of high intensity training include:

  • increased oxygen uptake & utilization
  • improved lactate tolerance
  • maximizing the recruitment of both slow and fast twitch muscle fibers
  • increased hormone production
  • reduced insulin dependency
  • improved movement efficiency

You can not ignore the benefits of high intensity training. Similarly, nor should you ignore the high intensity training in your training program. High intensity training definitely has its place in the sport performance training program; with the amount and timing of it being a key part of the metabolic puzzle.

Individuality in Aerobic Conditioning

Every individual has their own genetically given strengths. For example, some athletes are more powerful and faster over short distances; while others are built for the long haul and can maintain moderate outputs for extended periods of time. To maximize your own performance you must first identify your strengths and weaknesses. From there, you then create a training program that will improve your weaknesses while maximizing your strengths. In other words, by improving your short-term high intensity energy systems you can go faster for longer. Then by improving your long-term low intensity energy systems you can extend your speed over longer periods. These opposing ends of the physiological energy system scale should come together at some point inline with your targeted race-day intensity level you plan to predominantly utilize during your goal events.

Regardless of your strengths and weaknesses, your objective should be to create your own training program to give you the right amount of training stress to minimize fatigue and maximize performance.

The goal within your training program should be to apply just the right mix of both low & high intensity aerobic training to create the perfect amount of stimulus for your body to adapt to. Too much stimulus can lead to illness, fatigue or injury. Conversely, not enough stimulus and you fail to continue improving and don’t reach your fullest potential. In conclusion, mixing the right amount of training stress (balanced with “life stress”) into an individual’s training program is the secret to maximizing fitness and is unique to every athlete.

Muscular Strength

II. Muscular Strength for Performance

Developing the muscular strength & stability required to maintain form and function when you’re deep into your race should be the goal in your strength training and the following paragraphs will help you understand why we think this is true.

Cyclists Lack Muscular Strength

Many can ride hundreds of miles per week, complete 200 miles over windy, hilly terrain, or climb big mountains but none of that necessarily equates to being particularly strong or stable. Strong in will and determination, perhaps; but ask them to perform a one-legged squat and not have their knee track to the inside or execute a single-leg prone bridge and not have their hip drop, and more often than not, they can’t do it.

Many will claim that cyclists don’t need to strength train. Rather they argue that aerobic fitness is the most important thing. In addition any time spent training outside of their primary sport is a waste of time. They say for example, “If you want to be better at cycling, you simply need to ride more”. Aerobic fitness is certainly a necessary component of cycling. Similarly, it is true the more you ride the better a cyclist you will become. However, time spent improving your muscle recruitment, strength, flexibility, and stability will improve your economy of movement. This means you will be able to move (with what fitness you have) more powerfully. In addition, you’ll move more efficiently while wasting less energy and minimizing potential injuries. All which in turn, yield faster speeds and increased endurance at the same level of aerobic fitness.

Muscular Strength is What Creates Movement

When riding a bike we apply force to the pedals while turning the cranks at high cadences to produce power. Through the implementation of resistance training you can increase the force-producing capabilities of the “major muscles” that contribute to power production. Exercises like squats, deadlifts, leg curls, leg extensions will train the force-producing quadriceps, hamstrings and gluteal muscle groups. A stronger muscle will be able to produce more force as well as fatigue at a slower rate, thus increasing your muscular endurance.

There are several other factors to consider when addressing the concept of muscular strength. Equally important, and perhaps even more valuable to the endurance cyclist is the concept of muscular stability. This concept focuses more on the “minor muscles” that don’t necessarily contribute directly to power production. These muscles include, but are not limited to, the collection of core muscles that surround the hips, including the lower back and deep abdominal muscles. Stability and power in all sports initiates from the hips and extends outwards to the limbs that make the movement happen.

Excess Movement = Wasted Energy

As an example, rocking hips and/or upper body movement when cycling is wasted energy that stems from a lack of stability in the hips. Stabilize the hips and shoulders with specific training movements and you improve your form, efficiency, power production and endurance. Time well spent.

A factor that coincides with stability surrounding a joint is flexibility. Joint flexibility contributes to range of motion which is essential to producing power for movement. Anyone with inflexible joints can attest to the limited power and speed that is attainable. On the contrary, hypermobile joints that are “overly flexible” can create issues of instability and possible injury. An increase in muscular strength surrounding the hypermobile joint can often improve the stability for those individuals. Just like strengthening muscles with specific exercises, you can improve your flexibility and range of motion with specific exercises. By honing your flexibility (either minimizing or maximizing) your surrounding joints will become more stable and powerful; and in-turn, be less prone to injuries.

Being able to perform an endurance event requires your muscles to repeat movement over and over for many minutes to several hours. Overuse injuries are a major cause of missed training and unmet goals. If your muscles are not functioning in the way they were designed you are putting increased stress on your other soft tissue and joints.

Activate to Alleviate

We engage our larger ‘primary mover’ muscles very easily when training. However, quite often the smaller supporting muscles get overpowered or neglected causing them to ‘turn off’. These muscle ‘imbalances’ often lead to frustrating niggles, if not full blown injuries. As result, these can derail an athlete’s training and racing objectives. By activating these smaller muscles with stability training, you allow them to ‘turn on’ in conjunction with your dominant muscles. Thereby improving both your economy of movement and resistance to injury.

Fortunately, many endurance athletes embrace the idea of strength training. Most athletes typically include some form of strength training for several weeks during their off-season. Unfortunately, most athletes end up dropping their strength training sometime early in their pre-season training. This occurs either because they are bored or feel it gets in the way of their riding. This is an unfortunate occurrence. For long-term continuing improvements from year to year it is critical to include strength and stability training throughout the entire year.

Your return on investment in strength and stability training includes:

  • increased force and power production
  • decreased rate of muscular fatigue
  • increased economy of movement
  • less wasted energy
  • ability to tap into more of your given aerobic capacity
  • more consistent training
  • capacity for higher training loads due to increased injury resistance

For these reasons alone, cyclists should make strength & stability training a high priority in their overall annual training program in order to reach their highest level of performance.

III. Skill Proficiency

  • April 21, 2017
  • Blog

We’re continuing in our thought process for our “6 Components Sport Performance” with our third component we’d like to address: Skill Proficiency (here’s components I. Aerobic Conditioning & II. Muscular Stability in case you missed those).

All sports, activities, and human movements are learned skills. As newborn babies, we are capable of only laying in one spot, with minimal skill to move. As humans grow and develop, we quickly gain strength and learn new physical skills. From supporting our own head, to sitting, to crawling, to squatting to standing and finally walking. Then the pace at which we learn new skills occurs rapidly and seemingly with minimal effort. We begin to learn more complicated, although still basic skills like running, jumping, skipping, throwing and catching a ball, and riding a bicycle.

When fortunate enough to be introduced to higher level complicated movement skills, you might learn how to swim, swing a golf club, or perform gymnastics to name a few. Every one of these learned skills requires practice to be able to get to a point where they appear to happen effortlessly. For some people, this effortless appearance of skill comes more naturally than others. The more skillful you are at particular movements the higher level of performance you can likely achieve.

Proper technique is crucial to developing skill proficiency

Proper technique is often argued and debated within circles of experts in a particular area of movement. Regardless of the agreed upon “correct” technique, finding a technique that works for you and practicing to improve it leads to improved skill proficiency. The skill required to pedal a bike is relatively basic (although surprisingly complicated) that we learn as children. Unfortunately, most cyclists feel they already ‘know how to’ pedal a bike from a mechanical standpoint. Therefore they often neglect the aspect of developing effective technique. By learning effective movement techniques and spending time practicing you are able to improve. The improvement comes in your own strength, stability and range of motion specific to pedaling. In return, leading to improved movement efficiency. These factors enable you to pedal your bike more efficiently:

  • with more power
  • using less energy
  • over longer periods of time
  • and with less chance of injury

Skill Proficiency and Vo2 Max

You will often overhear cyclists and coaches talking about the importance of an athlete’s Vo2 Max. This is the maximum amount of oxygen an athlete can utilize. This number is often used as a comparison between athletes; or to measure the potential they may have in endurance sports.

While an athlete’s Vo2 Max is certainly an important value, another equally important (if not possibly more so) is the measure of an athlete’s efficiency.

Take two similar cyclists with identical Vo2 Max values; the rider with greater pedaling efficiency will out-ride the other with less efficiency because (with all other variables equal) she is wasting less energy. Therefore she can sustain a higher percentage of her Vo2 Max for a longer period of time. In fact, movement efficiency is so important that a “hard working” athlete with a genetically lower Vo2 Max can out-perform the more “naturally talented” athlete with the higher Vo2 Max by being more efficient and wasting less energy. And the longer the test (or race) the more noticeable the effect of improved efficiency is.

Proficiency leads to Efficiency

It could be said that success in endurance sports is directly related to efficiency. In the study of physics, efficiency is the ratio of output to input. In the equation (r = P/C) P is the produced output and C is the consumed energy. The produced output (P) can never be higher than the consumed energy (C). Therefore efficiency can never be higher than 100%. Keeping in mind, the higher the percentage equaling less wasted energy. In cycling this means energy not directly being used to create power. Your goal as a cyclist is to achieve the highest level of efficiency through skill proficiency so you can tap into the highest percentage of your given Vo2 Max.

We do all the training we do to maximize our endurance, strength, and speed to achieve the highest Vo2 Max possible. However, if we neglect the skill proficiency piece of the puzzle we are limiting the percentage of the trained Vo2 Max we can utilize. On race day, it eventually all comes down to minimizing the the amount of energy wasted that leads to fatigue that slows us down. Look at the elite fields at any high level endurance event and the abilities of the top level athletes are very similar. They all have similar Vo2 Max values and they all train and race at near similar speeds.

Resist slowing down with skill proficiency

The athletes that cross the finish lines first are not always the fastest athletes in the race. Rather, they are usually the athletes that slow down the least. They are the athletes who waste the least amount of energy and are the most efficient. Improving one’s skill and technique equates to less wasted energy, higher efficiency and faster race times.

Skill proficiency and the subsequent improved efficiency can be developed in two ways. The first being the concept of simply time spent performing an activity. This is in line with the “10,000 hour theory”; stating that if you spend enough time doing a particular activity (10,000 hours according to the theory) you will become highly proficient at it. But what if you don’t have 10,000 hours to wait for this improved proficiency and you want to get better at your sport in less time?

Good news, you can!

Practice makes Proficient

With specific and deliberate practice through technique drills you can accelerate your learning curve. We can improve our individual muscular strength, stability, mobility and flexibility by performing an endless variety of exercises in the gym. While this practice is critical to long term development, these exercises are rarely specific to our sport. Performing glute bridges for example, is a great exercise to improve hip stability, however we do not come anywhere close to performing a glute bridge on the bike.

Performing technique drills however do just that. Technique drills typically take you through a very specific movement pattern; often isolating a specific segment or skill riding the bike. Technique drills effectively incorporate sport-specific development of strength, stability, mobility, flexibility, balance and/or coordination. For this reason alone, cyclists should perform technique drills in their training programs throughout their entire season.

We’ve all all seen the cyclists with the bobbing upper body, poor bike handling skills, or crazy low cadence… Don’t be that person! Your skill and technique can be easily developed with deliberate and consistent practice, throughout your entire training year.

In fact, aside from dropping excessive body weight, improving your skill and efficiency of movement is probably the fastest and easiest way to improve your race times!

We’ve seen so many athletes come to us with technique issues, and by spending just a small amount of time every week addressing these weaknesses, they have seen enormous improvements in not only speed and endurance but also the enjoyment of their sport.

Diet And Nutrition

IV. Diet and Nutrition

  • March 24, 2017
  • Blog

Discussions of diet and nutrition are often the most hotly debated topics in the fitness world. They can be fueled by emotion, personal beliefs and preferences. Within physical training methods there are many ways to achieve similar levels of fitness and performance. For example, high volume-low intensity vs. low volume-high intensity. The same can be said for diet and nutrition concepts. There are multiple variations that can lead to similar results; meat eaters vs. vegetarians for example. The key point here is that people are different. With that different strategies work for different people. There is no right way. Regardless of where you stand on diet and nutrition, there are some key points that recent science and ‘experts’ have established that cross over between all ‘diets’. These concepts are crucial for both long-term health and improved sport performance.

Without argument, athletes can make major breakthroughs in their training and racing performance by incorporating intelligent diet and nutrition strategies.

This is Our Take on Diet and Nutrition

As you read on, please keep in mind that this is our opinion (Cody & Kathy’s) based on our own experiences and my study as a lifelong elite endurance athlete, as well as over 15 years in the coaching business. I am not a dietician. However I have always had a strong interest in diet and nutrition, for both ‘healthfulness’ and performance. Combining this with a passion for good food. This passion for food led to a short stint as a coffee shop and catering business owner after completing culinary arts school.

Before we go any further, we should address my definitions of ‘diet’ and ‘nutrition’ within this specific discussion. As by themselves these terms can carry a multitude of different connotations. I like to break apart daily food intake and the total calories we consume into two parts. Diet is what I refer to here as your daily food intake to get you through the day. Nutrition is referring to your training and racing intake.

THE DAILY DIET

Without writing pages and pages of nutrition concepts and theories, I want to keep it short and simple with advice on how you might be able to improve your diet, nutrition and performance. As athletes we hear the term ‘eating clean’ thrown around a lot. This term ‘clean’ can have many different meanings based on what you perceive as clean. Clean could mean simply not eating ‘fast food’. Or it could mean eating only organic and naturally raised plants and animals. Or it could mean a strict plant-only diet. The point is ‘clean’ is a relative term and what is clean to one person may be far from it to another. Much like when you ask a typical single man what a clean bathroom looks like and what my wife, Kathy, thinks a clean bathroom looks like… two different bathrooms.

Diet and Nutrition: The Basics

How ‘strict’ you want to be with your diet is up to you. However, here are two focus points I have found to help everyone improve their diets. First, limit/reduce the quantity of processed foods consumed. Second, base your diet around eating as many fruits and vegetables as possible. By simply following these two basic guidelines, you can transform an average diet into a very effective one. Processed foods are foods produced in a factory or laboratory. In general, the more humans tamper with ingredients found in nature the worse it becomes for you from a nutritional standpoint.

Take for example, butter. Butter was once thought to be bad, so we manufactured margarine as a ‘better’ alternative. Not a good idea, as now we are finding it to cause all sort of problems. Surprise, saturated fats are not what we once thought! Or take the egg; the cholesterol in egg yolks was thought to increase cholesterol in our blood. As such, we decided to separate what nature designed to be together by creating ‘egg whites’. Sadly, this ‘improvement’ meant we missed out on the nutrients in the egg yolk. This deeply held and popular belief has recently been disproved. Cholesterol in food actually has little to no correlation to cholesterol in our blood. Subsequently, whole eggs are one of the best foods we can put in our mouths!

Put simply, avoid processed foods and choose to eat as close to what nature provides us as possible, with the base being fruits and vegetables.

Don’t Follow Diets

A third key concept is to NOT adhere to a ‘special diet’. Your daily diet should not have a name. As such, Paleo, Atkins, Ketogenic, Gluten-Free, Low-Fat, Low-Carb, High-Protein, etc. Instead, it should just be a good well-balanced diet based on:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Whole Grains
  • small amounts of high-quality animal protein (as desired)

Conforming to a ‘specific diet’ is not sustainable nor does it create a positive relationship with food. You can agree with concepts of specific diets. However, when you begin to strictly avoid certain food groups you are setting yourself up for a struggle. As athletes we need all three macro-nutrients in our diets:

  • Carbohydrates
  • Fats
  • Proteins

Our primary fuel sources come from fat (low-intensity) and carbohydrate (moderate to high intensity). When you limit your intake of either, your physical performance will stagnate or decline over time.

Depending on your activity levels throughout your training season, you may need more or less of carbohydrate. As result, this leads to carbs being the largest variable macro-nutrient. Protein is not directly a fuel source but rather predominantly a hormone-regulating nutrient that is responsible for keeping our bodies functioning correctly. Most first world people consume excessive amount of animal protein in their diet. Rather than making ‘meat’ the focal point of every meal, fill your plates first with vegetables, followed by whole grains as needed, and  then add small portions and of the highest quality protein (wild, natural, grass fed, organic, etc.) you can afford and prepare at home.

Drink Up

The fourth concept is hydration.  If you train for 10 or more hours a week and don’t consciously consume multiple glasses of water a day (outside of training) you are in a negative state of hydration. Hydration is not always recognized by our thirst mechanism. Often it is confused with hunger, which leads to excessive calorie consumption. By making a conscious effort to drink large glasses of water throughout the day and before meals you can do your body a world of good.

Eat When Hungry, Don’t Get Full

The final piece of the puzzle, and perhaps the most important for those struggling with achieving an ideal body composition, is to only eat when you’re hungry and to stop eating BEFORE you feel full. Achieving your ideal body composition has more to do with the “calories in vs. calories out” principle than actually eating healthfully. By eating both healthfully and in the appropriate quantities that your body requires, you will continue down the road towards the lean and powerful body you desire.

DAILY DIET AND NUTRITION DOs & DON’Ts:

    • DO eat when you’re hungry (as frequently as needed)
    • DO eat as close to nature as possible
    • DO maximize fruits & vegetables (8+ servings/day)
    • DO avoid processed foods (chemically altered and/or high in refined sugar)
    • DO eat the highest quality foods you can afford (organic, natural, free-range, grass fed, wild, etc)
    • DO drink plain water throughout the day (between workouts)
    • DO eat small quantities, more frequently
    • DO eat pleasurable foods (“treats”)
    • DO NOT exclude foods or food groups (unless you have a true allergy, or you just don’t like them)
    • DO NOT follow a ‘named diet’
    • DO NOT over consume animal protein
    • DO NOT over eat (except at Thanksgiving, then go BIG!)

 

TRAINING/RACING NUTRITION

Supporting your physical training efforts with adequate and appropriate nutrition is essential for long term success in endurance sports. The more you train the more nutrition you need to support your training and recovery. Improved sports-nutrition can also lead to improvements in your body composition. Increased lean tissue is perhaps the most effective way to improve both your speed and endurance for racing.

As mentioned above, our primary fuel sources are fats and carbohydrates (glycogen). Fats are the ‘unlimited’ fuel source for low-intensity activity. Through effective aerobic training we improve our body’s ability to use fats for fuel at higher and higher effort levels. The more aerobically fit you are the faster you can go while using more fat and sparing more glycogen. Training the body to spare glycogen is one of the primary goals of the training that we do as endurance athletes.

Glycogen for the Win

Glycogen is a limited fuel source. For longer activities we must supplement with carbohydrates to delay the depletion of our stored glycogen for as long as needed to get to the finish line. For this reason, training nutrition revolves around consuming the right amounts of carbohydrates in our daily diet, as well as sports-nutrition while we train. This is why ‘low-carb diets’ do not work for endurance athletes when they are in stages of heavy training and/or racing. We need carbohydrates to perform at our peak! During other times of the year, when training volume and intensity are low, reducing the extra carbs is helpful to minimize weight gain (see nutrition periodization).

Consuming calories prior to, during, and following training sessions sets you up for success; for both the immediate session and sessions in the days to come. On the flip-side, you do not want to consume any more calories than what’s required to fuel your training. Your muscles require fuel to function. The following are some simple guidelines to consider to maximize your training program.

  • PRE-WORKOUT NUTRITION

The calories you consume prior to your training sessions provide the starting point from which you draw energy. For efforts lasting two hours or less you need little more than your regular meal 1-2 hours out from the start. For longer efforts you can ‘pre-load’ with a bit more calories (especially if it’s low to moderate intensity). If it’s been more than 2 hours since your last meal (ie. early morning workouts), you will likely be better off with 100-200 calories of primarily carbohydrate before your session. With proper fueling throughout your day you are less likely to need a ‘pre-workout’ snack or meal.

  • MID-WORKOUT NUTRITION

Workouts lasting 90 minutes or less require little to no mid-session fueling, other than water and/or electrolyte drink. This is especially true if you are well fueled prior to beginning the session. Workouts beyond 90 minutes are best served with 100-300 calories (of predominantly carbohydrate) per hour of training. The fuel source when training at low intensities is best coming from whole foods as much as possible avoiding ‘sports nutrition’ sources. As intensity ramps up in training, more calories can come from liquid/semi-liquid sports nutrition sources. Beyond 90 minutes, you also want to include electrolyte supplementation. This can be achieved through drink mixes or tablets along with plenty of water. 1-3 bottles an hour depending on body size, temperature and humidity.

  • POST-WORKOUT NUTRITION

Consuming calories following your workouts is essential for maximizing recovery, refilling energy stores, and readying yourself for your next session. The trick with recovery nutrition is understanding how much fuel (and what type) you burned in your workout compared to how much you replaced while working out. Far too often I see athletes sucking down ‘gels’ in the middle of an hour long session; or finish a moderate session and then down a 300 calorie ‘recovery drink’ before going home for dinner. This ‘train hard, eat hard’ way of thinking can make it difficult to achieve your goal body composition for competition.

The goal with recovery nutrition should be to consume enough calories, both during and following your session, to replace the carbohydrates you used. This will effectively refill your glycogen stores. Your next meal will address the additional calories (if any) that may be needed to feel satiated. The following are some recovery nutrition guidelines for different training sessions.

Recovery Suggestions:

      • Low to moderate intensity workouts under 90 minutes: little glycogen utilized. All you may need is a glass of electrolyte drink (low-calorie) and your next meal.
      • High intensity workouts of 1-2 hours: moderate to high amounts of glycogen utilized. Immediate 150-300 calories recovery drink, predominately carbs and 10-20 grams protein. Follow with next meal an hour after.
      • Low to moderate intensity workouts of 2-6 hours: with proper mid-workout fueling you shouldn’t dig too deep into your glycogen stores. All you may need is a glass of electrolyte drink (low-calorie) and light post-workout snack or drink. Followed quickly with your next meal.
      • Mid to high intensity workouts of 2-4 hours (races): high amounts of glycogen utilized (possible depletion). Immediate 200-400 calories recovery drink predominately carbs and 15-25 grams protein. Follow with carb-based meal when stomach is ready for it. Follow with potentially a second meal 1-2 hours after the first (more fats/proteins).
      • Monster workouts/races of 6+ hours: you’re likely depleted and dehydrated. It doesn’t really matter because you’ll need a few days to recover anyway…drink a lot and eat what ever the heck you want (without over eating!).

 

Stress Management

V. Stress Management (Recovery)

  • February 25, 2017
  • Blog

What can create both a positive and a negative response? Is something everybody experiences? Most people desire less of? And many people struggle to balance?

The “S” word… STRESS!

Stress Management is our fifth component of our Six Components of Sport Performance. In our daily lives, we experience both physical and emotional stress. As athletes we need physical stress in the form of “training load” to provide the stimulus from which we can improve. The key to a good training program is one that provides just the right amount of stress; not enough and we stagnate or get stuck on a plateau, too much and we get fatigued, sick or injured. Both too little or too much physical stress leads to a lack of progress in your fitness.

Emotional stress encompasses stress from work, social/family interactions, and general life stress. Deadlines at work, bills piling up, and arguments with a loved one are all examples of the emotional stress people experience in their daily lives. While it’s impossible to avoid all emotional stressors, it is important to keep them to the lowest level possible. The key point here from an athlete’s perspective is that at the end of the day stress is stress; whether it is physical (training) stress or emotional (mental) stress. All stress adds up and contributes to your ability, or inability, to recover from your training and improve your performance.

Training Stress + Life Stress

In general, the more stress you have, the more difficult it will be to train, recover, and improve. One of the largest factors that contributes to a professional athlete’s high level of performance is that they are able to organize their life in such ways to minimize their emotional (life) stress while maximizing their physical (training) stress. True ‘professional’ athletes are able to make training and racing their only job. Thereby minimizing their financial stress via sponsorships, minimize their social stressors and general life ‘overhead’.

Many struggling professionals, up-and-comers, or ‘recreational elites’ are very busy. They must maintain a job, balance a family/social life, and cultivate a much higher level of emotional stress that makes it difficult to compete with the more established professionals. Amateur athletes don’t have the luxury of mid-day workouts and time to put their feet up between training sessions. Amateur athletes must make their jobs and families priority number one and two. Subsequently, their sport takes the third or even fourth priority. 4:30am wake-up calls and/or late-night sessions squeezed in around their busy lives is a necessity. Lower training volume is almost always a result. As is also carefully (and often unsuccessfully) balancing the physical stress vs. emotional stress scale to maximize their performance.

If your emotional (life) stress is heavy, then your physical (training) stress must be lighter. It all adds up! It’s critical to pay close attention to your stress balance if you want to make continued improvement in your sport.

 Chronic Stress vs. Acute Stress.

Another key piece of stress management is recognizing the different types of stress and their effects on your body. I consider chronic stress as the long term effect applied to your body. This involves your endocrine system and maintaining hormonal balances. The human body releases the hormone cortisol (among others) when under stress. Cortisol is designed to help our bodies manage brief periods of stress. However, when we put our bodies under extended periods of stress, through long, hard training sessions (physical), and/or long stressful days at work (emotional)) our endocrine system can overload our bodies with cortisol (and other stress hormones). This in turn, can disrupt your body’s natural recovery functions. With elevated cortisol levels you may experience issues including:

  • Fatigue
  • Inability to recover
  • Slowed tissue repair
  • Digestive issues
  • Weight gain
  • Poor sleep
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Stress Management: Your chronic stress load?

1. Get More Sleep

Sleep is perhaps the most important stress management tool. Aiming for 8-9 hours of sleep everyday is ideal. Often times, in periods of high stress, it is more valuable to skip a workout in favor of more sleep. Under periods of high stress sleeping can become difficult for many people. Practicing improved sleep techniques like a warm bath, warm drink, and relaxation before bed can assist in improving sleep.

2. Diet & Nutrition

The more you are under stress the more important a nutritious diet becomes. Eliminate the junk: sugar, fried foods, refined foods, etc. Maximize the fruits and vegetables. This should be the the focus point (read Diet & Nutrition). Maintaining stable blood sugar throughout the day with small frequent meals will help regulate proper body functions as well.

3. Relaxation Techniques

Practicing yoga, deep breathing, visualization techniques, and simply reading a book can help lower stress levels. Spend time being still and quiet.

4. Sense of Humor & Laughing

Lighten up! Surround yourself with fun people at times and smile and laugh. It’s proven to relieve stress and make you a happier person.

 

Acute stress is looked at more in the short term. It’s the immediate effect you experience in the hours and days following stressors; specifically physical stress. This is the immediate fatigue you may feel from a training session. Or perhaps the soreness or stiffness you may experience after a tough workout. High amounts of acute stress can occur by increasing training loads beyond what you are accustomed. These can be planned increased training loads, as in a training camp; or they can be unplanned by doing too much too soon training too far above your current fitness level.

Muscle damage, glycogen depletion, and dehydration can all contribute to high levels of acute stress. Acute stress contributes to increased chronic stress. If left unaddressed, this increased stress can lead to deep fatigue, illness, and/or injury. Always being aware of how you can recover better, and more quickly, following training sessions. This will help you get on the right track for managing your acute stress loads.

Our saying is to “Take care of your body!” We see too many people willing to spend thousands of dollars on equipment, travel and entry fees; as well as enormous amounts of time in training, yet be unwilling to spend some money on their body to keep it happy, healthy and performing at its best.

Stress Management: Your Acute Stress Load?

1. Follow a Progressive Training Program

Your training must progress gradually to avoid excessive acute stress. Following a training plan or working with a coach that will keep you on track and hold you back if you are a ‘go getter!’ Fitness is a long term commitment and can’t be rushed.

2. Recovery Nutrition

Consuming calories immediately following long and/ or intense training sessions is a critical recovery strategy. There are commercial products on the market designed specifically for this purpose. The key is to include both carbohydrates and protein in adequate amounts to begin the restoration process (see Diet & Nutrition post for more specifics).

3. Soft Tissue Massage

Massage therapy is helpful for increasing blood flow to damaged muscles and loosening adhesions of soft tissue. Two professional massage sessions a month is a worthwhile investment (weekly is even better, once a month is better than nothing). Daily self-massage (foam rollers, massage balls, massage sticks, etc.) is also time well spent and can be done before bed as part of a relaxation routine.

4. Manual Manipulation

Your body takes a beating with all the training. Take care of your body by visiting a osteopathic physician (D.O.), physical therapist (P.T.) and/or chiropractor to give your body the regular tune-ups it needs. These visits can go a long way to maintaining overall health and keeping injuries at bay.

5. Stretching

While science will say there is no evidence that stretching actually does anything; however most people will agree that, at the very least, it feels good. Unless you are genetically hyper-flexible, including some stretching in your weekly routine will help you stay loose and maintain an effective range of motion. It is another great activity to include in your nightly relaxation routine.

6. Compression

Another controversial technique in the recovery equation. The verdict is still out as to whether compression actually does anything, but if you think it does then go for it! Donning compression clothing post-workouts and pneumatic ‘compression boots’ are two tools to consider including in your recovery routine.

 

In conclusion, stress management is a critical factor in your training progression. Work to get the balance right and you’ll better absorb your training efforts which leads to higher performance.

VI. Mental Fitness (Psychology)

  • February 13, 2017
  • Blog

The human brain is a powerful thing. Unfortunately, many athletes fail to recognize the power and importance of training the mind.

Often so intensely focused on training the body, athletes can miss out on one of the biggest avenues for performance enhancement.

Most new or less experienced athletes will make big gains in performance by simply focusing on the physical training. However, as you improve your physical fitness over time and get closer to your ceiling of physical potential, the more important improving what I refer to as your ‘mental fitness’ becomes to maximizing your performance.

That’s not to say that mental fitness is not valuable at low to mid-level fitness abilities; we’ve all seen the athlete that crushes their training partners in training sessions to only fall well short of their physical ability on race day, and vice-versa where the seemingly ‘weaker’ athlete in training outperforms their ‘stronger’ counterparts on race day. These questionable performances are almost always directly related to the athlete’s mental strength. On the higher end of the performance spectrum, elite athletes in a given sport are equally well-trained and talented. The higher the level of competition, the more homogenous the physical fitness and talent becomes. For this reason, many top level elite athletes recognize the power of the mind and the importance of mental training in allowing them to reach the success they desire. Often what makes the difference between becoming a champion and not breaking through is their mental fitness.

The topic of mental fitness, or sport psychology, is a big one and can include many areas of discussion. I’m going to focus on two areas that I find particularly important for endurance athletes and that are relatively simple and effective to integrate into your own training. The first area is related more to planning, organizing, and rehearsing your performances prior to them occurring. The second area is more of the ‘in the moment’ considerations and techniques to develop to help you achieve a higher level of performance on race day.

PART ONE: Preparation

  • Goal Setting

Goal setting is one of those things many people know they should do but few actually the the time to do it correctly and effectively. Goal setting takes time and consideration, and is best done at the beginning of your training season. You need to establish both long term goals (1-5 years) and short term goals (1-5 months) that are quantifiable and challenging yet achievable. Once you have your goals established, you need to figure out your path or steps you are going to take to achieve these goals. Then you need to share these goals with friends and family and make them visible in your daily life to serve as reminders of what they are and why you are working towards these goals.

  • Imagery/Visualization – 

Perhaps one of the most valuable training practices is visualization and imagery. What we see happening in our minds as ‘virtual reality’ has a much higher chance of occurring in reality. If we routinely see ourselves performing a skill or putting out a great effort, our brain will begin to accept that we already have or are capable of actually doing it. Elite athletes utilize the strategy of visualization leading up to important competitions by imagining their races in great detail from both start to finish or in smaller segments in great detail. Then once they are actually in the moment on race day, their minds are better prepared and capable of managing the real life situation, leading to greater success.

  • Race Strategy – 

Less of a mental exercise and more of a straight forward planning and preparation, forming your competition strategy is an important element of mental fitness. Use your brain power to identify your own strengths and weaknesses, your competitor’s strengths and weaknesses, the course elements and other ingredients that will constitute your race day challenges. Form a plan on how to pace your efforts, decide who/what you will respond to and what/who you will let go, what and when you’re going to eat and drink, when you plan to conserve energy and where you plan to empty the tank. All of these factors go into your race strategy and will lend to a more successful racing experience. It is also important to understand that even the best race strategies can quickly go out the window mid-race and you must be willing and able to adapt to the challenges.

  • Self-Belief – 

Believing in one’s self is critical to success. If you do not truly believe you can accomplish your goals, visualize yourself succeeding, or executing your race strategy then you’re setting yourself up for failure. It’s easy to think or say we believe in ourselves, but it has to be a real and unshakable belief. Much of a person’s self-belief is instilled in them from their childhood, life experiences and parental influences, but it can be changed for the better through disciplined mental training, just like exercise can alter their physical fitness.

PART TWO: Competition

  • Race Persona/Alter-Ego

Competition requires being a fighter. On race day, particularly in the race, you need to be excitable, aggressive, and perhaps even a little mean to fight your way to the top of the podium. This does not mean that you need to be this way in your regular life. In fact many of the world’s best athletes are actually quite calm, cool and humble people that change when the gun goes off and they get into ‘race mode.’ Recognizing this transformation and actively using it to your advantage is a classic sport psychology strategy (particularly for those calm, cool, humble athletes). Creating an alter-ego to be used on race day can get you in the mode to be focused and open your willingness to suffer to your fullest and attack the race with everything you’ve got. XTERRA World Champion Lesley Patterson publicly shared her race alter-ego; Becoming “Paddy McGuinty” allows this diminutive Scottish athlete to transform from one of the nicest people you’ll meet into a hard, tough, Celtic fighter capable of running down anyone in front of her on race day.

  • Focus – 

Gaining and maintaining focus is perhaps the most important mental element to competitive success. The longer and less intense the event, the harder it becomes to maintain focus. Staying in the moment allows you to identify and respond to your efforts and the efforts of those around you. Losing focus allows your mind to drift and inevitably your pace slows and your performance deteriorates. Maintaining focus is tied into your self-belief, what you think you can truly achieve and whether you feel it’s worth the effort. Staying focused will allow you to embrace the challenge and short-term discomfort and will keep you from the long-term disappointment that occurs from losing focus.

  • Willingness to Suffer

Make that ‘ugly face’ and get to work! Some amateur athletes are either unwilling or don’t know what it means to truly suffer in the heat of the moment. Whether it’s a short, fast, intense race or long distance grudge match, being willing and able to suffer is crucial to reaching your fullest potential on race day. Staying in the moment and maintaining focus will improve your willingness to dig deep, but understanding that the pain is temporary but the disappointment is forever will allow you to crawl deep into the pain cave in your priority events.

  • Mantras – 

A great tactic to help maintain focus and keep going in the face of pain is using mantras, or repeating inspiring words or short phrases, during the tough moments of competition. Mantras work by keeping your focus off the pain and on the job at hand. It can be helpful to incorporate a rhythmic mantra that you can repeat over and over at a particular cadence to keep you moving along at your desired pace. 2014 XTERRA 40-44 female National Champion, Kathy Waite, uses the mantra “I am strong, I feel great” as she mows down competitors on the run.

 


Written by Cody Waite, professional endurance athlete, endurance sport coach and founder of Sessions:6 Sport Performance. Looking for help with your endurance sport training? Check out S:6’s Training Plans, Team Programs, and  Personal Coaching options created to fit your needs and budget. 

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