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In-Season Strength Maintenance

  • March 17, 2020
  • Blog

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

  • February 6, 2020
  • Blog

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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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

  • July 19, 2019
  • Blog

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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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 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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