A Runner’s Arm swing affects your cadence and heart rate

The other day I was riding my bike through the park and I noticed there were a lot of runners running with poor form.  The easiest thing to notice when passing by quickly on the bike is how people hold and swing their arms.  It appeared to me that they were working unnecessarily hard.  I began to wonder how something as simple as arm swing could affect someone’s pace, run cadence, and heart rate.  I suspected that with running with your arms low, at waist level would decrease run cadence due to making larger arm swings.  The larger arm swings would require more energy, thus raising their heart rate.  Those two things would decrease the pace they could sustain at any given heart rate.  I decided to test this out on our treadmill.  I set the treadmill at 9 MPH and a 1% incline to simulate out door running.  Below is the video of the test and screen shots of the data within the video.  If you don’t have time to watch this short video, the findings are below the video:

  1. 9 MPH at 1% grade with arms at correct height (about chest level at a 90 degree bend at the elbow) = 150 BPM and a cadence of 180-185
  2. 9 MPH at 1% grade with arms at waist = 155-156 BPM and a cadence of 165-170
  3. I could sustain the same HR of 155-156 BPM with the correct arm bend and swing at 9.2 MPH.  That is about 10 seconds per faster per mile.


  Correct run form (and arm position) from my triathlon days back in 2015.

This arm bend angle is too big. Running with an arm bend a this angle will decrease cadence, increase heart rate, and slow you down.



How to Quantitatively Recognize Increased Fitness

Here at Progressive Endurance, I am all about measuring fitness gains and adjusting training zones accordingly for each athlete to get the most out of each individual.  If you were to read any number of fitness articles on testing zones, they will say to retest every 6 to 8 weeks.  I typically do 8 week cycles because it allows for two 4 week cycles of 3 weeks of building and 1 recovery week.  However, there are times when I would retest an athlete sooner than 8 week cycle based on some key numbers that every athlete should monitor if they use Training Peaks as the workout journal/data base.

Before you trust any numbers that auto populate in Training Peaks after a workout, you must be sure to have your threshold pace, HR, or power set correctly.  To do so, go to your settings and put the correct numbers in the box

The 2 numbers/terms that you need to monitor when looking at when your zones need to be changed for the run and the bike are you TSS and IF.

TSS – Training Stress Score.  This directly related your threshold that you have set in Training Peaks.  This number tells you how difficult a workout was on your body.  If your threshold is set correctly, it is impossible to score over 100 TSS in one hour.  Riding or running at threshold for one hour is 100 TSS.  Riding or running at 90% of threshold for one hour comes out to 80 TSS.  80% of threshold for one hour give 64 TSS.  50% of threshold for one hour only gives you 25 TSS.  As you can see, the percentage of threshold and the amount of TSS is not linear, its exponential either.

IF – Intensity factor.  This is essentially the percentage of threshold that you held for all, or part of the workout depending on how much of the workout you are looking at.

So now that we got the basic understanding of TSS and IF out of the way, I want to use a workout of an athlete I’m coaching this year, Kira Williams.  This was a run test that was prescribed 8 weeks after the last test.  But, for the sake of the discussion, let’s pretend that this was just a normal track workout with no static rest.

So the first thing I want you to see is the bottom middle of the picture.  Kira ran the entire workout (warm up, main set, and cool down) at 102% of threshold.  That alone doesn’t mean anything since the length of the workout is under an hour.  I suppose someone could manage to go 2% over threshold for almost 52 minutes… but I bet it would be close to impossible.  At this point, an eye brow has risen and more digging is needed to determine if her pace zones need adjusting.

The most obvious thing is the right above the IF (also located in big font at the top center of the picture) is the TSS.  Remember how i said someone can not score more than 100 TSS in an hour if the threshold is set up correctly.  Well, it is also impossible to score 100 TSS in less than an hour if your threshold is set up correctly.  Kira managed to hit 100 TSS in just 52 minutes.  I would bet if she continued to keep running, even at a comfortable pace for 8 more minutes, that number would be between 110 and 115 TSS.

At this point, as a coach, I know this athlete has made fitness gains and if we are only 3 to 4 weeks into the 8 week cycle, I would consider retesting early.  I don’t do this often, because most of the time zones don’t change that quickly.  However, I have done it before.

**Swim TSS is a little trickier to recognize increased fitness because of how Training Peaks measures time in the pool swimming.  In short, it doesn’t count the time resting on the wall in your total swim time.  So you could 60 minutes of swimming with lots of rest after each distance you swam over threshold and it would populate as 60 minutes of workout time in TrainingPeaks instead of the 90 minutes (or however long it took you) to get that 60 minutes of actual swimming.




Why Cadence Matters for Triathletes

Over the 4 years I have been coaching, it has surprised me how many triathletes find their preferred cadence in the 70’s and 80’s. Some people are able to adapt quickly to the suggestion of cadence in the 90’s, others have tried and made progress much slower, while others seemed to ignore the advice. Cadence seems like such an insignificant thing to focus on when there are so many other “more important” things to look at with cycling data, such as watts, heart rate, variable index, intensity factor, etc. Just like not all calories (energy) in our food are created equally, the watts (energy) we create while riding the bike are not created equally. For example, you can push 1000 watts in a 53:11 gearing as low cadence and high force pedals. Or, you can create 1000 watts at your 39:28 gearing spinning extremely fast with low force on the pedals

This is where a tool known as Quadrant Analysis comes in extremely handy. Unless I am mistaken, TrainingPeaks used to have this on their on-line software up until a couple years ago when the whole software got a face lift. I haven’t been able to find it on there anymore, so if someone reading this knows where it is buried in the program, please let me know.

When cycling there are basically 2 variables that control the wattage that shows up on your cycling computer. Those variables are force (in Newtons) and velocity/ (cadence). Depending on how much force, relative to your functional threshold power (FTP), and how fast you are spinning those pedals in around in a circle will determine which quadrant that second of power will fall in.

Quadrant #1 – High cadence and high force: Think of this on the extreme end of sprinting your brains out. Your force will be maximal effort and your cadence will be high because you are likely running out of gears to shift into. However, this could include suprathreshold efforts to bridge a gap, pass another triathlete within the time alloted by either USAT or IronMan.

Quadrant #2 – Low cadence and high force: A watt usually falls into this quadrant when climbing a really steep hill and you don’t have an easier gear to get into. Most commonly probably found in MTB races and cyclocross, but some triathletes that pedal at a chronically low cadence no matter their effort will fall into the quadrant as well.

Quadrant #3 – Low cadence and low force – watts created in this quadrant typically occur during recovery rides or social rides. These can also occur when soft pedaling down a hill or in a group when the group isn’t attacking

Quadrant #4- low force and high cadence – watts created in this quadrant typically occur during accelerations when done correctly. Just like when a car accelerates, the RPMs go high and then gears shift. Cycling accelerations should be the same, bringing the cadences up over 100 or 110 RPM before shifting gears.

So what does all this fancy stuff mean for the triathlete? Remember how I said earlier that not all watts are created equally and used the example of how to produce 1000 watts? Well, the reason is because of the type of muscle fibers recruited to create any amount of power. People are born with slow twitch (type 1) and fast twitch (type 2) muscles. Fast twitch muscles are recruited more the second quadrant (high force, low cadence) and more slow twitch muscles are recruited in the fourth quadrant (low force, high cadence). This is extremely important to the triathlete out there trying to race well. The more fast twitch muscles that are recruited to create the same wattage, the more glycogen that is burned in comparison of fat to fuel the muscles. This saves you valuable energy for the run (along with maintaining a smooth power output, or variable index, over the duration of the bike course). Reducing the amount of glycogen burned on the bike allows you to use more on the run. The average person can only store about 2000 calories of glycogen in their muscles. In comparison, even the leanest athletes can store over 10,000 calories in fat.

Now, I’m not saying that you should 100% of the time use low force and high cadence for your triathlon training. What I am saying is to be mindful of how much time you spend mashing gears, or pushing harder than you need to complete a pass. These small efforts in a triathlon race can really wreak havoc later in the race, especially if it is a longer race such as a 70.3 or 140.6.

Below are quadrant analsys from both an athlete that paced well in their Ironman race and another that didn’t from the book “Training and Racing with a Power Meter” by Hunter Allen Andrew Coogan.

Notice how the majority of the dots are in quadrants 3 and 4. this means the athlete is burning more fat than glycogen and set themselves up for a good run off the bike

Notice how the dots are scattered all over the place with a fair amount of them in quadrant 2 – low cadence and high force. This athlete burned a lot of glycogen and probably didnt run well off the bike


Strength Training for Triathletes

Strength training claims to have all sorts of benefits for endurance athletes.  However, if you are like me, you really despise the gym for several reasons… like being the scrawniest guy in the room and/or because some the “meat heads” in the gym monopolize a single machine for about 20-30 minutes and only use it for about a minute.  Despite all the reasons most endurance athletes hate going to the gym to move heavy objects, the gym plays a crucial role in the in how your season will play out.  Knowing your way around the gym, what to do during various times of the training cycle, and when to do your lifting around your endurance workouts are all very important.  Additionally, most triathletes are already extremely busy with their careers, family, and training, so getting in and out the gym quickly while still getting the quality in is a good skill to have as well.  The good news is that you can get some serious benefits in about 30 minutes of focused activity in the gym once or twice a week.

We will start with the basics of lifting.

  1.  Focus on the prime movers in the body – think big muscle groups (quads, hamstrings, lats, glutes)
  2. Prevent muscle imbalances – Injuries are often caused from muscle imbalances.  Lifting while working opposite muscle groups will prevent these injuries later in the season
  3. Use multi-joint exercises when possible – An example of single joint exercise is a bicep curl.  While everyone can admire 20 inch biceps, single joint exercises don’t mimic the multi-joint movements required by a triathlete. Multi-joint exercises would include exercises such as squats and several exercises with TRX bands.
  4. Always engage the core – When swimming, biking, and running a lot of force is transferred from one half of the body to the other through the core. If the core is weak, the power is lost and the athlete will move slower.
  5. Keep the number of exercises low – Spend as little time in the weight room as possible while getting as much sport specific improvement as possible
  6.  Use free weights when possible – machines are better than nothing.  But free weights will engage your core and stabilizer muscles.
  7.  Warm up –  before doing any strength routine, you should do about 10 minutes of light cardio to get the blood moving and muscles warmed up.

There are 3 basic “phases” of strength training.  Depending on where you are in the training cycle for your big race of the season will determine what routine to go through.

The first one is Anatomical Adaptation.  It’s exactly what it sounds like.  This phase is light weight high rep to allow the body to adapt to the added stressors.  Below is what Joe Friel recommends in his book “The Cyclist Training Bible” for the Anatomical Adaptation phase.  Assuming most triathletes in the northern hemispheres are training for their A race in late summer or early fall, the anatomical adaptation phase should start in late fall or early winter.

picture from Joe Friel’s “Training Bible for Cyclists”

When doing about a 9 month training cycle to your “A” race, this should be about 5-6 weeks.  To add a”cardio” element to your strength training, do a circuit by grouping the exercises into pairs.  For example, do a set of hip extensions and then while your legs are recovering, go to the Lat pull down machine for a set.  Repeat until you do the number of goal sets are accomplished.  In the anatomical adaptation phase, this is 2-5 sets.


The next phase of strength training is call Max Strength Phase.

Picture of the Max Strength protocol taken from Joe Friel’s “The Cyclist Training Bible”

As you can see, the number of reps per set and total number of sets goes way down in comparison to the Anatomical adaptation phase. What I have found that works best for myself and my athletes is to strategically plan these workouts as the last workout of the day on the day before a recovery day or day off.  The reason being is that your legs will most likely be too tired the following day to get in a high intensity run or bike workout.  That way the body has 48 hours to recover from the stress of lifting heavy prior to the next hard workout.  For a 9 month training cycle, this phase typically lasts about 4-5 weeks.


The final phase of strength training is called the Strength Maintenance Phase.

picture from Joe Friel’s “Cyclists Training Bible” for strength maintenance phase

This cycle is only once a week to keep the strength gains completely disappearing after all that hard work.  Again, time this workout on a day before a recovery day or day off to allow time in recovery.  This phase is good to try to do once week til the last 2-3 weeks of your A race for the year to allow the body to taper down adequately for peak performance.


For all the phases of strength training, you will inevitably go through a recovery week (assuming you work those into your training regime).  When you get to those weeks, reduce the number of sessions in gym, or the number of sets within the workout.


Once you feel comfortable with the strength training routine and want to add an additional stressor to help increase the speed/amount of gains made in power on the bike and speed on the run through in some pylometrics after a hip extension exercise and/or calf raise exercise.  Pylometrics can include, but not limited to, box jumps, single leg hops, lung jumps, etc.  These need to be explosive movements.  Don’t do these as fast as possible, so take time to recover a bit between the bursts in movements.

As with any workout, you should consume some calories within 30 minutes of working out to prevent muscle breakdown and promote muscle recovery/building.

Use code “PROGRESSIVEENDURANCE” to save 15% on your next order of infinit from their website.


Cycling to Maintain and Improve Running Fitness

One of the things I feel that I do differently at Progressive Endurance for my athletes is not having them run nearly as much as they would without guidance and or under the guidance of another triathlon coach. Not one year of coaching has gone by when an athlete hasn’t questioned why they aren’t running more. The most common one I hear is along lines of, “when am I going to a 20+ mile run to get ready for my Ironman race?”, or “I think I need to be running more miles during the week.”

One of the things I noticed when I raced professionally for 3 years that anytime I (or any other athlete I competed against) had an overuse injury it was nearly always due to running. I also almost never ran more than 40 miles in a week when training about 20-25 hours a week. Why only 40 miles with that many hours of training? Because I am a firm believer that running fitness can not only be maintained, but improve, with less run mileage and focusing more on cycling. While my sample size to prove my point isn’t nearly big enough, I want to show with two case studies that happened this year that supports my theory on how running less and cycling more than most training plans can maintain and improve running fitness.

Case Study #1 – Isaac Blackman

Isaac was in his second year of training with Progressive Endurance this year. He was getting ready to do his first 70.3 race when, just one week before, he crashed his bike and fractured his clavicle. The injury was obviously a mental blow to him. 70.3 Galveston wasn’t his main focus for the year. His main goal was Age Group Worlds in the Netherlands in the middle of September. Here are his threshold run paces at the most recent test prior to the crash and the test after the MD cleared him to run again.

Run threshold prior to injury – 5:43/mile

Run threshold after injury – 5:55/mile

Isaac was unable to run for about a month and then was only able to do easier running for few weeks after that. Basically 2 months with little to no running. We focused more time on the bike and could squeeze in an additional speed session on the bike due to not running or running less. As you can see he only lost about 12 seconds per mile during the 2 months. Once he was able to run normally again, based on the feedback he gave me, we decided to keep focusing more heavily on the bike and do a long run on the weekend with speed built into it with just easier runs throughout the week. Last year, he didn’t break a 6:00/mile in the 10K off the bike in his olympic distance events. In his second to last race of the year in the middle of August, Age Group Nationals, he broke that barrier and ran a 5:56/mile. In the final race of the year, Age Group Worlds, he crushed the run and ran a 5:45/mile off the bike for a 10K. He was only running about 3 times a week. 2 of the runs were typically about 40 to 50 minute runs that were aerobic in nature.

As you can see, he did loose a little bit of speed from the injury initially but it was not that much. He quickly regained the fitness and hit a new PR by running a little less and biking more.

Case Study 2 – Mike Hermanson

Yes, I am doing a case study on myself. This is not a bragging session, but just trying to drive home my point by using an extreme example of how cycling maintained my running fitness. My most recent 5k race time when I was still running and training for triathlon was a very chilly Anthem 5K in 2015. I went out a too fast and ran about a 16:55 (5:25/mile). I obviously continued running consistently throughout the 2015 season. But after that season, I quit triathlon and started pursuing road bike racing. I ran occasionally during my bike training but I was not running enough to get my body used to it and was always sore for a few days after running 4-5 miles a couple times a week. I decided I was tired of being sore and hung up running around March of 2016. I have since moved on to focusing my racing on mountain biking in the 2017 season and haven’t ran at all since then. On October 4th, 2017 I decided to run a 5K because one of my friends and I started tossing around the idea of doing an Xterra triathlon in 2018 and because I thought if I ran well, I could use it as a case study for this blog. I hadn’t ran for about 18 months and only cycled for fitness. My legs were a bit tired from a 3.5 hour MTB ride the day before. I wasn’t concerned about running the fastest I could, but to just show how running fitness can be maintained with cycling only. I ran that 5K in 17:59 (5:47/mile). Yes, it was about 1 minute slower than the Anthem 5K, but it is incredible how I only lost a minute of time after only cycling for 1.5 years.

So what’s the take away from this blog? Here is a quick bullet point list of what I think people should consider after reading these two examples:

  1. If injured from running, take extra time than what you think to make sure you are healed up. Maintain your fitness by cycling. The extra week or 2 you take off to allow your body to completely heal will not affect your running fitness that much.

  2. Consider running less during the week and do your speed workouts and distance runs together. The body only know intensity and time, running faster for shorter distances will create the same training stress as a long slow run.

  3. While there is a time and place for a long run (I typically don’t run my athletes over 17 or 18 miles for their long runs for an IM race), you definitely don’t need to do it several times. Some people run nearly 20 miles or more every weekend for a month or two to get ready for the IM. They are not able to recover in time. You can gain a lot of running fitness just with the long bikes and bike intensity.

  4. The cardiovascular engine can be trained well on the bike and the body can recover faster from cycling as compared to running. This means you can do more consistent workouts. And consistency is the best way to build fitness.


70.3 Ironman Ohio Power Analysis

Progressive Endurance recently had 4 athletes take part in the Ironman 70.3 Ohio.  They all did really well in this event, but I wanted to highlight two of them because they executed the bike portion of the race extremely well which set them up for a great run and finishing time.  The athletes I’ll be highlighting are Robert Strobel and Jessica Morgan.  But before we dive into that, I need to define a few terms so you can understand the lingo:

FTP (functional threshold power) – watts you can hold for an hour at max sustainable effort

NP (Normalized power) – the physiologic cost of riding in watts (a way to simplify this is removing all zeros from average power)

Average Power – the mean of all wattages produced during the race

IF (Intensity Factor) – NP divided by FTP

VI (Variable Index) – NP divided by Average power (a way of measuring pedaling efficiency)

TSS (Training Stress Score) – a way of measuring how much stress is put on your body from a ride. TSS is calculated using Normalized Power (NP), Intensity Factor (IF) and ride duration.  TSS is calculated like this:

TSS = ((Time riding in seconds x IF x NP)/(FTP x 3600)) x 100


Okay, now that we got that out of the way, let’s start by looking at Jessica’s power file:

The first thing a coach must do to figure out what power to push in any given race is what the estimated speed will be for the athlete.  This is because TSS is based on power and time.   The goal TSS for the bike portion of a 70.3 so you can still run well off the bike is about 170-190 TSS. I estimated Jessica’s speed to be about 19 mph for this race.  By using that speed to give me the time (in seconds) on the bike, I was able to dial in her power range for the bike.  After running a few numbers, I determined her goal power to be between 145 and 150w (76-78.5% of FTP) to try to land her close to 170-180 TSS.  I went closer to the lower end of the goal for her because she had struggled in the past with the run leg.  I wanted to keep her legs as fresh as possible without leaving too much energy on the bike course.

Jessica got pretty close to the lower end of the power goal.  At the end of the ride she averaged 137 watts with a NP of 140 watts.  With the slightly lower power numbers, she got 161 TSS for the ride.  Just a bit shy of the suggested range, but not too much.

Jessica did a fantastic job of holding steady power as evidenced by her VI being only 1.02!!  That is insanely good for being on the bike for 3 hours.  This is due to two things:  1.  her cadence was never zero and 2.  she didn’t have many spikes in power.  See how steady the pink line in her power file?  Perfect, which is next to impossible to do unless in a controlled environment, is 1.00.  This meant she didn’t burn much glycogen in her muscles and save it for the run.   Keeping that VI as close to 1.00 as possible means a lower TSS at the end of the bike.


Robert’s power file:

I started with the same process of determining Robert’s goal wattage for the day.  We estimated he would go about 21 mph.  As you can see by the power file, he actually was closer to 22 mph.  His goal power for the ride was 190-200w (80-84% of FTP) to land him right in the middle of the 170-190 TSS for the bike ride.  His average power was 198 and his NP was 199!  Since he was within the power goal but went faster than we thought, he ended up just under 170 TSS for the ride.  In hindsight, he could have pushed 5-10 more watts for the bike course and got within the range for a half iron distance.

Robert’s VI was 1.01!  Insane how close that was 1.00.  He did an incredible job holding steady power (as you can see by the pink line).  Same as with Jessica, he never had a cadence of zero and had very few spikes in power.


So why am I showing two power files that are basically identical?  Wouldn’t it be good to have something to contrast them with to show where one of them went wrong or did something better than the other?  In this case, they both did well.  The biggest difference I want you all to see is their percent of FTP that they were told to push during the race.  A lot of coaches just have a cookie cutter mentality of “an athlete must aim for x% of FTP for a half, y% of FTP for a full, and z% of FTP for an Olympic distance.”  This is simply not the case.  If I would have told Jessica to push the same percent of FTP as Robert, her FTP (when taking into consideration a faster speed due to higher power) would have been closer to 220-235 TSS.  That is way over the limit and definitely would have resulted in a lot of walking on the run.  If I would have told Robert to push the same percent of FTP as Jessica, his TSS for the ride (when taking into account a slower speed) would have been closer to 155 TSS.  That would have left him with fresh legs, but leaving a lot of time on the bike course that most likely would have resulted in a slower time.

So understanding TSS for racing is crucial to get the best results possible.  It is also crucial for a proper build and taper as you can see below by looking at both other their PMC’s (Performance Management Chart)

Jessica’s PMC:


Robert’s PMC:


I am not going to go into detail of how this chart is read and made.  But the basic idea of using TSS for all workouts is what gives you a person’s current fitness level (CTL), fatigue level (ATL) and their readiness to race (TSB).  In order to race well for an “A” race, the athlete should aim to be anywhere from +10 to +30 TSB.  This means their fatigue level is low in comparison to their fitness level).  Both Jessica and Robert were right around mid +20’s to +30.  Everyone is different.  Some athletes may race better at +10 while others race better at +30.  There in no magic formula to this, just a bit of trial and error to figure out what works best for a particular athlete.


Thanks for reading and if you have any questions, or want help with getting ready for your next race, please don’t hesitate to contact me at mike.s.hermanson@gmail.com


Analysis of Ironman Data

A short time ago, athletes gathered in Louisville for another Ironman race.  I had three athletes racing in midst of a little over 2500 athletes.  I wanted to take time to publish an analysis of the power data from the bike and break it down so you can learn better how to ride your bike in a Ironman race.

Before we do so, I need to define a few terms for that I will be using in the analysis of these power files:

FTP (functional threshold power) – watts you can hold for an hour at max sustainable effort

NP (Normalized power) – the physiologic cost of riding in watts (a way to simplify this is removing all zeros from average power)

Average Power – the mean of all wattages produced during the race

IF (Intensity Factor) – NP divided by FTP

VI (Variable Index) – NP divided by Average power

TSS (Training Stress Score) – a way of measuring how much stress is put on your body from a ride. TSS is calculated using Normalized Power (NP), Intensity Factor (IF) and ride duration.  TSS is calculated like this:

TSS = ((Time riding in seconds x IF x NP)/(FTP x 3600)) x 100


Athlete #1 Power file (file was broken accidentally into 2 files)

1st 16-ish miles


last 93-ish miles


The first thing I want to point out is the IF of .69 average between the two files.  This athlete was biking at about 69% of their FTP.  The suggested IF to ride at for an IM ranges from 68-78%.  Again, IF = NP/FTP (you will see some professionals riding about 80% of FTP… that is because they are riding much faster than the average AGer).  IF, NP and time on the bike is what determines TSS.  The suggest TSS for a IM bike ride is 260-280. Some proven good runners off the bike can sustain as high as 300 TSS in a IM Bike split.

You can see that the sum of the 2 files’ TSS is about 284 TSS.  This athlete is on the high end of normal TSS.  I suggested he ride 160-170w because I knew based on previous calculations and estimated time on the bike he should end up in the range of 260-280 TSS.  He hit that target nearly perfectly.

Another thing I want you to see is the VI (Variable Index).  Variable index is calculated like this:  VI = NP/AVG POWER.  It is impossible to get a lower VI of 1.00 because of the way NP and AVG power is calculated.  If someone rode a VI of 1.00, it means they maintained extremely even power the entire time.  Basically keeping the power output within 10 watts+/- of the average power the entire time.  The further that VI gets away from 1.00, the less even power was produced, and thus means the rider rode very inefficiently.  Think of like driving a car.  The most efficient way to get somewhere is hitting the cruise control.  If the driver is constantly breaking and/or accelerating, the car will burn more fuel to go the same distance.  In an IM race, getting a VI of 1.05 is considered very good.  Between the two files, this athlete averaged about 1.06.  This means this athlete rode a fairly consistent power output throughout the entire 112 miles.  This is obvious in the second screen shot above by removing all the other data plots.  One can see how the line stays between two tight points most of the time.

By riding like this, an athlete sets them up for a better run off the bike for a IM race.

Athlete #2


So the things I want to point out here is the TSS, NP, VI and IF.  Again, these things kind of go hand in hand.  This athlete averaged 135 watts for the bike ride.  I told the athlete to aim for about 130 watts.  So at first glance, this athlete appears to have done well.  But what you need to look closer at is HOW he averaged that 135 watts.  It wasn’t through smooth, efficient power as evidenced by his VI being 1.30 for the 112 miles.  You can see how the power data points are all over the place and not tightly packed into small range of data points.  Remember that VI is calculated like this: VI = NP/AVG power.  To get a VI as high as 1.30, your NP must be significantly higher than your average power.  NP influenced the athlete’s IF to be 90% of threshold.  Because his IF was 90% of threshold and he rode his bike for nearly 6.5 hours, his TSS was about 510!  Remember, suggested TSS for a IM bike is 260-280 TSS.  He was almost double the low end of the suggested range!  By riding like this, the athlete most likely didn’t run close to his potential.


As you can see, athlete #1 rode his bike more efficiently that athlete #2 and set himself up for a better run off the bike for IM Louisville.  I did get permission from both athletes to share their data while keeping them anonymous.

If you are looking for a coach that knows how to utilize a power meter for your 2017 season, please don’t hesitate to contact me at mike.s.hermanson@gmail.com


Infinit Nutrition discount code for 15% – ProgressiveEndurance



Exit Interview

Triathlon has been a large portion of my life for the last 11 years.  I basically ate, breathed, and slept it nearly non-stop.  My journey to triathlon started from an eating disorder that, through a long recovery process, got me super interested in the fitness and the human body.  Makes sense why I gravitated towards triathlon and going to college to get my Bachelors in Nursing.  I worked hard to make it to this point of triathlon – racing professionally.  However, I’ve decided to shut it down completely and move on to something else.  Bike racing.  Why?  Here’s a short list:

1.  Frustrated with where the sport is going – If you are reading this, then I probably don’t need to explain to you what has happened to the professional race scene around the Globe, but most notably in the USA and Canada.  Ironman basically thinks professionals don’t matter due to age group participation being just as good at the non-pro races.  The pro fields are much deeper (which doesn’t bother me).  What does bother me is how far away these races are and the potential to win money at them. It doesn’t take much for 4 or 8.5 hour race to derail.  Even if an athlete ends up in the money, they can’t cover their traveling costs most of the time unless they are in the top 5 at the bigger races and top 3 at some of the smaller races.  Even placing 3rd at some races won’t cover the traveling expenses, especially if the race is out of the country.

2.  Distance to races – Prior to Ironman cutting pro races and Challenge/Rev3 doing the same, I had several within 3-4 hours to choose from. Now I have zero.  The time spent traveling to the races could be better spent with friends and family.

3.  Not excited about racing triathlon – usually after taking a couple weeks off, the thought of toeing a start line on a beach or wading in the water for the cannon to sound gets me excited.  This year was different.  I could force myself into a low level of excitement for a day or two max.  But once I started thinking about it more and talking with some friends about it, the decision to hang up triathlon was clear.

Even though the decision was clear, it wasn’t easy.  I began to think about what others would think of me.  Would they think I am a quitter?  That was the biggest fear.  I guess in a negative sense I am.  However, I like to think that I am a beginner. Not like a rookie, but as in starting a new adventure.  The last thing I want to do is go through the motions of training while dreaming of something else.

I want to be a great cyclists.  If there is one thing I learned and would change about how I approached triathlon for the first 5 or 6 years it would be the fact that I didn’t hire a coach sooner.  I’m not making the mistake again.  I’ve been talking a few coaches I believe can help me reach my goal of racing bikes professionally one day. That day may be a couple years away, but I’m not afraid of hard work.  My parents taught me how to work hard for my goals, whether they were academic, career oriented, or just personal goals.  I have a lot to learn and a lot of training to do to get my FTP higher, my weight lower (which should naturally happen from not swimming anymore), and my 30 second to 5 minute power numbers much better.  I have to learn the tactics of bike racing so I can race smart.

I’ve also challenged myself to something I don’t think a lot of cyclist do – Omniums.  Omniums are three bike races (criterum, road, and time trial) all in the same weekend.  I want to focus on endurance road while doing TT and Omniums.  I’ll race a criterium, but it will be a lower priority.  3 different ways to ride a bike, 3 separate challenges.  I guess triathlon will always effect how I approach things.

I also feel that I should say that I am sad to leave Maverick Multisport. They have treated me better than I deserve and I wish everyone on the team success as they continue in their triathlon endeavors.  I couldn’t have done it without Chris (manager of the team) getting great sponsors and being a encourager.


Extended rest

When I first started getting into the sport of triathlon, I never took an extended period of time off. I was too worried about loosing fitness and “getting fat.” Looking back on it, I now realized that I was still overcoming my eating disorder and never taking time off was due to low self-esteem, too obsessed with body image, and thinking I would instantly get fat. Obviously, instant body changes, for good or bad, is impossible unless you pay a ton of money for surgery. After several seasons of racing, I have now come to realize that extended time off is needed for every athlete that trains consistently. Embarrassingly, coming to this conclusion was finally solidified in my schedule last year.

In 2014, my triathlon season ended prematurely due to a severely strained muscle that conveniently waited to put me in a wheel chair for a couple days just a few seconds after crossing the finish line at Ironman Louisville. After getting out of the wheel chair, I made it around the house using a Louisville Slugger baseball bat as a cane. I slowly progressed to being able to swim after about 3 weeks, biking outside again after about a month, and running easy again after about 6 weeks. At times during this slow recovery period, I doubted if I’d ever return to the sport.

At the end of the slow recovery, I also took a vacation and laid pretty low during that week on the beach as well. Upon coming home, I started leading spin classes 3 times a week at VO2 Multisport. After a couple weeks of gaining back some fitness, I felt stronger and noticed a difference in my power numbers. I was really surprised to see how much stronger I was after that much time off.

As of right now, I’m in the middle of this break from structured training. I pulled the plug on the last race of the year, Challenge Florida, due to being burned out, sick, and fatigued. I just completed a week off of doing nothing in the form of exercise (except for a couple short bike rides on a beach cruiser and walking down the beach). I literally unplugged everything: my phone, no coaching stuff for week, and no social media stuff for my athlete accounts on Facebook and Twitter. I have to admit, I still struggle with the idea of “instant” fatness. However, I now have more control of my actions countering what my brain thinks. I thoroughly enjoyed the vacation with my wife. Relaxing on the beach/pool, waking up without an alarm clock, and loosing in every game of bocci ball we played (not sure how that happened)! But I noticed an interesting thing about myself while I was there. Prior to leaving for this trip, I wanted nothing more than to do nothing and relax and not think about the sport at all. I wanted to be a “normal” person for a little while and not be mentally engaged with the sport and training all the time. By the last day of the trip, I was really wanted to get on my bike, go for a jog, or get in the ocean/bay and go for the swim. The desire to compete came back.



Even with the desire to come back to triathlon training, I personally don’t believe I would benefit by returning to structured training right now. I think I still need to let my body fully recover by doing other things to stay active and keep the training light for another couple weeks. 1 week just isn’t enough. I’m still looking forward to going the park to walk the dog, do some strength conditioning at the gym and do some yoga.

I also encourage the athletes that I coach (Progressive Endurance) to take a week or two off at the end of the year to do no physical activity. I also now encourage them to do something else other than swim bike run for a two or three weeks for that. It also is good for me as a coach to take care of some other coaching stuff during that time that I don’t have time for, such as getting CEU’s, writing new workouts, etc. Funny thing is, every athlete that does this I’ve coached for at least 2 consecutive years, has come back much stronger and has gotten a personal best the second year.

I mention this not only as a little shameless plug for my coaching service, but also because I wanted to give an example of some athletes that various levels of age group athletes, not just personal experience. Also, if these examples aren’t enough for you, check out some of these testimonials and how other professional athletes take some time off, what they do with the extra time, and why they do it that I found on competitor.com:

Matt Reed (2008 Olympic triathlete) uses the extra time during his off-season to talk to sponsors, plan his race schedule for next year, play with his two-year-old, and take care of chores around the house. “The craziest thing I do is Poker Night,” he joked. The two weeks totally off and two weeks easing back into training are important primarily to recharge himself mentally and respark his enthusiasm for the sport.

Peter Sagan’s (winner of three stages at the 2012 Tour de France and three stages at the 2012 Vuelta a Espana) time off may not sound like time off to a normal person. This year, he took a trip with his brother to Australia and then he was back on his bike. While he relaxes and rests, “I can’t forget that I’m an athlete,” said the member of the Cannondale Pro Cycling team. But, the important difference is that when he gets back on his bike, it’s his mountain bike and instead of hitting the road for hours and hours – as cyclists are prone to do – he does some gym work and spends some time with his family as well. “We’re human, not machines,” he said.

DeeDee Trotter (2012 Olympic 400m Bronze Medalist and 4 x 400m Gold Medalist) takes six to eight weeks completely off. This year, after a busy and successful season, she had eight weeks with “absolutely no running,” she said. “The only running I do is if I’m running from my bed to my fridge.” She’ll use her last week to start some easy runs and drills before real base training begins “just so I don’t go out and completely combust,” she said. But, primarily she spends her time hanging out with friends, eating hamburgers and candy, and refilling the gas tank that has hit empty by the end of the season. “You tell yourself no 100 times a day” during the season, she said. “For eight weeks, say yes.”


2015 season

2015 was a year of adjusting.  Adjusting to the ever changing landscape of the professional races left in the United States.  Adjusting to increased depth and size of professional fields.  And adjusting to not having a race schedule written in stone.  Over all, I think I handled all of these new things fairly well.  The back half of the season was a little better than the first half, partially due to a better bike position that Brian Grasky helped me achieve (even while separated by 1700+ miles).  My bike times were faster and it helped me gain a little more confidence in my abilities.  I also got a new 70.3 personal best by about 5 minutes this year under Brian’s guidance.  So improvement has been made… and that is a great way to measure success.

Originally, I had one more race planned for the 2015 season before hanging it up for the season.  Challenge Florida.  After Ironman Chattanooga, where I took a gamble on the bike and paid for it on the run, I took about a week off from training and then started picking it back up again to gear up for Challenge Florida.  However, something was missing.  My mind.  My head.  Neither of them were really in the right setting to go to Florida to race hard.  My motivation to get up early before work 3 days a week for a training session was gone.  I kept telling myself, “just push this… the race will be here soon and then I can take some time off and rest the body and mind.”  I managed to go through the motions for about 3 weeks. And today I decided to pull the plug on the last race of the season for a few reasons:

1.  Anniversary trip – Leslie and I are going to Sarasota, FL for our anniversary.  Originally, the plan was to go there the week before the race and vacation.  I would get in a solid taper and do Challenge Florida to round up the season.  However, as the trip drew closer, I dreaded “missing out on vacation” due to earlier than desired bedtimes, getting up early-ish to get in some training so I wouldn’t leave leslie by the pool and on the beach by herself for hours a day.  I decided (on my own, I might add) to pull the plug to spend better quality time with my wife during our anniversary and be in a better position to celebrate our 2 years of marriage.  Leslie is a great wife, supporter, and cheerleader.  She was totally on board for me to do the race.  She was okay with spending time by herself a few hours a day to let me chase my dreams and goals.  When I told her today that I was not racing and gave her the list of why I wouldn’t be packing all my triathlon gear with me for our vacation, she tried talking me back into race.  She didn’t want to be the reason for not doing the race.  I just felt like any amount of money I could win at Challenge Florida wasn’t worth missing out on memories we could make together in Florida.

2. Physically beat up – I’ve started to get a lot of little injuries and aches/pains that weren’t around the rest of the season.  My left hip was acting up for about two weeks. I had to take about 2 weeks off from running after IM Chattanooga.  Once that healed up, I felt like I was getting shin splints in my right shin.  I also just felt fatigued all the time.

3. Mentally zapped – I’ve basically been in focused training for a year now.  I picked up my training the day we got back from our 1st anniversary trip last year by leading spin classes at VO2 Multisport.  Since then, I’ve trained, on average, 22-27 hours a week.  This kind of training requires a lot of mental discipline.  When I wasn’t training, I was thinking about the next training session.  Or, I planned how to most efficiently navigate my way through my patient load/visits for home health to get off in time to make it swim practice with the Lakeside SeaHawks, or make it to a group bike ride for the evening.  Or even how to manage training while on being on call for a week straight.  I also thought about how to make long training sessions work around other life events, such as family events/vacations, hanging out with friends, etc.  After 52 weeks of this kind of focus, I need to “unfocus!”  I need to let the brain/mind relax and just not be “on” all the time.

4. Sickness – This was what finally broke me today.  Upon everything else this little set back I felt was a sign to just hang it up for the year.  Monday evening, I started feeling a little off.  By yesterday, the cold had gotten worse.  I tried riding my bike on the computrainer yesterday at a tempo interval for a couple hours.  It felt much harder than it should have for that effort.  I was coughing up stuff, blowing my nose, and my body just felt lethargic.  I’ve raced sick this year once already at Challenge Knoxville and it went horrible.  I had a slight case of atypical pneumonia before the race.  After putting my body through all that stress (to have the worst race of recent 70.3 racing history), I came down with pneumonia so bad I couldn’t even walk without getting short of breath.  I didn’t feel like going through that again.

I always get to the point of burn out at the end of the season.  However, usually I time my last race and mental burn out pretty well.  This year, I tried starting my season a month earlier and going about 2 months longer than I have before.  It was just too much.  I ignored my mind telling me it needed a break for about a month now and I need a break more than ever.

All that being said, I am happy with the way the season played out this year.  I had fun traveling the eastern half of the USA and Puerto Rico. I was able to win a little bit of prize money along the way and had a blast doing it.  I met some really awesome people through homestays for races.  I am doing exactly what I want to be doing with my life… helping people/contributing to society through nursing, helping others achieve their athletic goals through my coaching services (Progressive Endurance), and continuing to travel and compete against some of the best in the world while on a great team, Maverick Multisport.

As of right now, 2016 training will most likely start off with a Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day.  Until then, I plan on relaxing for a week and not do a thing.  After that, I’ll probably do group exercise classes at the Northeast YMCA in Louisville.  They have some of the best classes I’ve been too (totally un-sponsored plug for the NE YMCA).

Thanks to Vibra Healthcare and Duro-last Roofing, Inc. for believing in me enough to support me financially this year.  And thanks to all the Maverick Multisport team sponsors for the support this year by supplying the best equipment to help me get the most out of every session: Argon 18, Enve Composites, JayBird, BlueSeventy, Infinit Nutrition, Cobb Cycling, Rotor Bike Components, Sugoi Apparel, BSX Athletics, VO2 Multisport , Swiftwick, Primal Sport Mud, Occupational Kinetics, Lakeside Seahawks