Making the Best of the Time You Have

Written by Jesse. Posted in Coaching Thoughts

First off, a refresher on critical volume:

Swim – 9/3 of the goal event distance per week
Bike – 8/3 of the goal event distance per week
Run – 7/3 of the goal event distance per week

All of these recommendations and those below apply to the final build weeks before your major “A” race. Everything leading up to that should be placed at a gradual slope starting at about 35% of the peak weeks 30 weeks out from the race. Some precautions: available volume during the peak weeks = the lower of:

1) The volume you can fit into your life logistically.

2) The volume you can handle at the beginning of the plan based on the fitness you currently have and the start volume that the above 35% gave.

3) 20% greater than your biggest weeks last year.


1) Take your available volume and allocate it to the swim bike and run using critical volume ratios. That is, if your race is IM, than when your bike mileage is at 200 miles, the run should be 40 miles, and the swim at 9,000 yards. This case is 2/3 critical volume for all three sports. This is also what I typically recommend as a minimum for any race distance; 2/3 critical. If your previous training does not put you in a place to hit this safely, you’re better off choosing a shorter race distance.

2) If critical volume is met in all three sports, add additional volume to the swim and bike up to 1.5 times critical in each. When bike hits 450, swim should hit 18,000.

3) Any other remaining volume should be added to the run up to 1.3 times critical there.

4) If there is still volume left, it should be added to all three sports equally using crtical volume ratios. However, at this point, you have gained the best advantage you could in terms of durability and any additional volume would be added in hopes of bettering speed potential. A more reasonable alternative is probably to increase intensity and leave volume as is.

Although, most folks have weaknesses in one of the sports, in my experience it still results in a better overall race result to work all three sports equally (assuming you have been doing triathlons for a while). Just work the weakness with a bit more focus. Chances are, that if you have a weakness, its just because you were not training it equally in relation to the others.


Sensible Choices

Written by Jesse. Posted in Coaching Thoughts

The holidays are a tough time to keep fat off and make good food choices. For those with early races its even more difficult since the focus is typically to lose weight. Here are some tips that I recently went over with some of my athletes:

1) Since the weekends will typically be a gauntlet, do your absolute best to be perfect during the week days. This will allow some slips on the weekends without excessive weight gain.

2) Once put into a compromising position, don’t just throw in the towel. For example, if you are put into a position where you must eat pizza, don’t just throw in the towel and say “hell, I’m already eating pizza so I might as well eat a half pie”. Instead say “well, I’m already eating pizza, so I will be more diligent on my serving size and limit it to 2 slices”. This will go a long way to limit the damage these compromising situations can have.

3) Try to position potential big eating situations following your longest workouts. This will help use excessive calories for restocking a depleted body instead of restocking your waistline.

4) While at holiday parties, do your best to choose foods with a low carbohydrate to protein ratio. This will help limit (or dilute) the blood sugar response of the meal and will therefore avoid weight gain.

5) Curtail drinking to the weekends only. Making good choices here can go a long way. None at all would be best, however, if you must, Red wine and light beer are your best choices while eggnog and classic beer are your worst.

Hopefully these tips will get you from Thanksgiving to Christmas with the same body fat or even a bit less than what you started with. This would be a fantastic accomplishment considering that the average American gains 7 pounds through this period!

Weight Training

Written by Jesse. Posted in Coaching Thoughts

The start up of training for a new season typically comes with the start of weight training. I usually recommend a 12 week focused cycle for all athletes regardless of age or gender. In most cases where strength on the bike isn’t a limiter, weight training will slow you down (very unsport specific). This is why its best done early on in training. However, weight training will make you much more resistant to injury during the hard workouts later on that WILL make you faster. Injuries kill consistency, consistency is the key to long term progress. Being triathletes, running tends to eat away at muscle mass throughout the season. Weight training helps put this muscle back on during the off season so we stay triathletes and don’t turn into runners. Many bike coaches believe weight training isn’t necessary for bike power…I agree, for cyclists. As triathletes the running component will kill bike strength over the long term if muscle mass isn’t rebuilt annually. You may have noticed this within each season; as the season goes on your bike speed weans as your run speed gets better. For some, one strength session per week is beneficial throughout the whole season if strength is a limiter on the bike. This is typically for older athletes (over 50) or woman (over 40). Also note, strength plans should be just that; strength plans. This includes heavy weights below 10 reps. Again, stay out of the grey middle. If the objective is to get strong, than get strong. There is no good reason to be in the 12-20 rep range. Many think this is better for endurance sports. In reality, this rep range will do nothing to stimulate either the aerobic system or glycolic systems (energy systems used in triathlon). Therefore if you are going to lift, you might as well expose the muscle tissue to very high force and make it resistant to injury.

Trainer Time Factor

Written by Jesse. Posted in Coaching Thoughts

You hear all sorts of factors for what you should multiply your trainer time by to make it equivalent to outside riding. I’ve spent many hours over the past few years thinking about this since I spend over 50 percent of my bike time on the trainer. It also pertains to some of the calculator inputs so has a double meaning to me. What I believe is that in terms of speed potential improvement (ability to increase 20 min power/weight ratio), the factor should be about 1.3. The reason for the factor is that if one sets someone sets out to ride 1 hour at Zone 1 on the trainer, they can set their HR at the middle of the zone for the duration and just crank along…no interruptions. When riding outside, due to stops, down hills, etc, your zone 1 ride will result in an HR at the bottom of the zone (if ridden properly without going into zone 2). These 4 or so BPM extra on the trainer represent addition oxygen passed through the system and further aerobic development. Based on what I have seen, its about 30 percent more development. Now, its not that simple otherwise I wouldn’t be discussing it. Anyone who understands my training philosophies knows that I believe in a two part equation for race success. One, is increasing speed potential (through fitness, body comp, efficiency, etc), the other is durability through volume for your race distance (meeting critical volume). The durability allows you to meet your speed potential curve at longer distances. What I have found is that in terms of durability, you just need to sit your butt in the saddle for at least the time suggested by critical volume. This is independent of if you are inside on the trainer or outside. Therefore a 1.0 factor should be used when working on the trainer in terms of durability. So, what does this mean? What I have done is use a 1.0 factor during the final 6-8 weeks leading into a major race when durability is important for race day. Prior to that, I use a 1.2 factor so that when I switch to the 1.0 during the final 7 it doesn’t become too much of an overload. I hope this helps and doesn’t further confuse things….

Grey Middle Off Period?

Written by Jesse. Posted in Coaching Thoughts

The period that athletes take off following their season (2-4 weeks), should be executed with the same focus as any training session or race. What’s important is that the athlete is fully rested both physically and mentally. At the end of the period, all the athlete should want to do is swim, bike, and run…this indicates a successful off period. Similar to taking rest days easy, this long term period should be taken easy. I think many folks end up doing too much by cross training with hikes, rowing, etc… This easily ends up making the whole off period a sort of gray middle type effort. We take easy days very easy to make the quality days great. On the same token we should take the off period (on a macro level) very easy to make the next season a quality effort. Without this, the next season is approached tired, and without the focus it will take to make it another 49 weeks of solid, consistent effort; which is what’s important to long term progress.

I just finished my off period and all I want to do is swim bike and run……

Poor Training Protocol

Written by Jesse. Posted in Coaching Thoughts

Poor training protocols will typically give an athlete durability through the volume they are doing but lack the improvement in speed potential that their efforts may suggest. This results in the ability to extend their speed potential curve to longer race distances but leaves them with the same speed potential curve from year to year. Durability (ability to meet speed potential curve at long distances) is developed simply by “getting the volume in” however, improvements in aerobic pace and pace at TH, take a more detailed approach to optimize. Obviously, if someone’s training protocol is poor, injury is more likely to occur which will derail the volume and dig into durability. However, for those who don’t get injured and put in huge volume under a poor training protocol, you typically see good race performances at the longer distances and sub par performances at the shorter distances relative to what their training volume may suggest. This concept can be see by older folks doing really well at the longer distances due to years of volume and resulting durability. So, even as their speed potential erodes as they age, they can still perform relatively well at the longer distances (because most folks at IM don’t meet critical volume and therefore lack durability). A solid training protocol results in improvements to speed potential curves in all three sports. Durability to extend those speed potentials to longer distances comes with volume over the long haul. If you find your shorter race distance performances staying stagnate, chances are that your training protocol can use some work.

Forcing Improvement

Written by Jesse. Posted in Coaching Thoughts

During my off time each year, I spend some time reviewing how I will change the following basic areas in order to see improvement the following year:

Body Composition– Make changes to my diet to better my body composition. No need for extra weight from fat….this improves running potential at about 0.62% per pound lost and also power to weight ratio on the bike (assuming you diet correctly and hold power output constant). Just don’t go too low on fat!

Training Protocol – I look at the previous year to see what worked and what didn’t and then make changes to next year’s plan based on what I see. Ideally, I complete this on a Macro (month over month periodization) and Micro (workout by workout) level and only works if you keep detailed records on training volume and intensity but illustrates the importance of a training log.

Equipment – I look at my equipment and try to find areas where improvements can be made such as aerodynamics and/or weight. Bike fit also fits into this category.

Technique– I look at areas where technique can be improved in order to increase efficiency. Then, I do drills to improve these areas. Typical drills include running mechanics drills, swim drills, and cycling drills. Improvements here have you go faster at the same effort…this is good.

The interesting thing here is that 3 out of 4 of these translate to “free speed” and not fitness improvements. However, most people don’t emphasize those 3 enough. With the effort they put into fitness, the others are a no-brainer. Either way, doing something different this coming season in order to improve each of those 4 areas will practically guarantee progress next year. Doing the same old thing results in the same old results. I see a lot of the folks I race with make no changes and make no progress year after year.

Down Time

Written by Jesse. Posted in Coaching Thoughts

Each season I take 2-3 weeks totally off and another 1-2 weeks very light with no more than 2 or 3, 30 min sessions running and biking.  I feel this period is essential to year over year progress.  As someone once said, “you need to get out of shape in order to get back in better shape.”  When I start back up, I typically make more progress during the first 12 weeks than I do at any other point during the season.  I think the length of the off period should be adjusted to match how demanding your season was and if you have any on going injuries to clear up.  So, I’m looking forward to the next 2-3 weeks totally off before starting up for 2008!