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


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



Training and Racing with Power – A Case Study

As most of you know, I started a coaching business a little less than a year ago.  I named it Progressive Endurance, because of the concept the name portrays.  It gives the picture of moving closer to an athlete’s fitness goals.  When someone says, “we are making progress,” they are typically talking about reaching a goal that may take a long time or doesn’t have immediate results.  This is very true in the racing triathlons, or any other endurance sport.  Gains are made to the goals with hard work, and typically don’t come immediately.

In this article, I want to talk about the benefits of using a power meter for cycling.  I started using a power meter about 2 years ago now and it has revolutionized my training and racing.  I also have a few athletes that use power for training and racing.  I want to talk about how one of my athletes made some big gains this year by uploading data from her workouts I gave her and how we were able to make big gains in her cycling fitness over the course of about 9 months.  I won’t use her real name, so we will call this athlete Tiffany.

I started coaching Tiffany a little under a year ago.  Tiffany has been racing triathlons for several years and has used other coaches in the past to guide her training.  When she switched to me, she had just come off a 3 or 4 week recovery from the end of the season.  After building her base fitness a little to get her body used of training again, I started doing some tests to find out what her FTP (functional threshold power – essentially the amount of power someone can hold at max effort for one hour) was so we could define her training zones.  Her first test, she came out at 154 watts.

At this time of the year, the goal was to build aerobic fitness and also improve her FTP.  I gave her workouts that focused on raising the FTP a couple times a week.  We also worked on cycling specific strength to give her legs more power.  In some cases, I told her what zones I wanted her to shoot for, and in other workouts, I gave her percentages of her FTP to hit.  Most of the workouts aimed at improving FTP were 1:30, give or take a 15 minutes.  We maximized the time she had available, because of life situations and also because the weather prohibited outdoor riding most of the time.  And, let’s face it, riding a trainer can be mentally difficult if you’re doing it by yourself all the time.

About a month went by and we tested her FTP again.  This time it was 178 watts, which is a 13% improvement.  I think a large chunk of this improvement was simply due to the fact that she was exercising more consistently again, so we continued to work on the same things, but just readjusted her training zones to align with her new FTP.  We tested her FTP a few more times over the next few months with the last test in May.  At this point, racing season was in full swing, and if any adjustments needed to be made, I could pick up on them with her race data.  The last test she did was a club time trial that lasted just under an hour.  Since it didn’t last an entire hour, I made an educated guess on what her FTP would be if she had continued on for the remainder of the hour.  I calculated it at 195 watts!

Over the course of  7 months, her FTP had improved by 26.6%!

Using this information, I was able to use a few different equations and algorithms to figure out what wattages she should push in her OLYs and HIM races and still be able to run well off the bike.  Almost every race for Tiffany this year was a PR on that course, and most of the races involved less than favorable conditions with rain and/or windy conditions.  As good as that is for Tiffany, the real test came this year at her A race, Rev3 Cedar Point Full Iron distance.

Leading up to the race in the final 6 weeks or so, we did very specific Iron distance training.   I gave her specific wattages with a range of about 10 watts to try to shoot for.  Tiffany was able to hit all these watts and managed to run well off the bike in race simulated training brick workouts.  I was confident that she was going to have a phenomenal race at Rev3 CP as long as she stuck to the plan and had no mechanical problems on the bike.

For her race, I gave her wattage range to hold on the bike of about 10 watts.  At the beginning of the ride, she was on the high end or just slightly above that.  And the last few miles she managed to stay within the low end of the wattage.  She averaged 149 watts for the entire 112 miles and managed to pull off a 5 minute bike split PR for an iron distance race.  Her previous best bike split came in IM Florida where the conditions weren’t nearly as windy, the road surfaces weren’t chip and sealed, and less elevation changes.  At the end of the day, she pushed through the run and hung on to a podium spot in her AG.  If it weren’t for the much longer run from the water to T1, Tiffany would have PR’d for an Iron Distance in tougher conditions.

Another thing that Tiffany mentioned to me that she noticed this year was even though she was getting several course PR’s this year, she wasn’t nearly as sore and recovered faster.  I believe this is due to a number of things, such as racing/training with power and race day nutrition (which I also provided some guidelines for her to follow) in addition to general, day-to-day nutrition (which I gave some advice).

So, if you’re on the fence about whether to buy a power meter or a pair of race wheels to get faster.  Let me encourage you to buy a power meter.  Real progress will be made with a power meter.  It won’t be free speed like race wheels, but your fitness will get better, and run times will also more than likely improve (improving your cycling will naturally improve your running).  It will take hard work, and will take time, but in the end you’ll be a better athlete.

And, if you’re a local athlete and looking for ways to improve your cycling fitness, please consider doing my winter spin classes starting on Nov. 14th.  If you come consistently, I guarantee improvement in your cycling fitness.


Progressive Endurance Helps Tri4Okipe

A couple weeks ago, a old high school friend of mine, Daniel Roberts, contacted me about helping him and another friend of his, Randy Lash, train for their first triathlon.  I knew that both of these guys were dedicated athletes and were willing to put in the work.  So I jumped at the opportunity.

The opportunity to volunteer my time to help raise money for an orphanage, Okipe.

Randy’s dad gave the Daniel and Randy a challenge.  Place at least in the top 10 at the Cane Creek Sprint Triathlon and he will donate a specific amount of money depending on where they place within the top 10.  They both took Randy’s dad up on the challenge and have set their goals high to raise as much money as possible for the orphanage.

They have a facebook page to give people updates on their training, the orphanage, and various other things as well.  Be sure to “like” the page and spread the word about this endeavor.

You can also donate to the cause by clicking here.




Signs of Over Training

Overtraining is something that we are all guilty of at some point.  I know that it happens to me a couple times a year and I’ve seen it happen to several people while training for their races, especially Iron distance racing.  With the Ironman distance racing just around the corner for several of us I thought this would be a very appropiate thing to blog about.
If you took advantage of the Ironman Louisville deal where you signed up during a certain time frame to recieve a free training plan you may want to take that plan with a grain of salt.  The problem with a group training plan is that it doesn’t take several things into account such as: current fitness level, athletic history, work hours per week, type of work someone does, and countless other things that influence the total load on the body and what the body can handle.  A simple equation may look like this for load of an athlete while training:
Volume + Intensity + life = work load
Different people can handle different volumes of each depending on, but not limited to, the above listed factors.  Someone might be able to handle a max of 18 hours of training at the peak of their Ironman training if the rest of their life allows them to.  For example, when I was working 3 days per week I found that the max I could train per week was around 19-20 hours max and still be able to recover and function in my daily life.  However, now that I’ve cut down to 2 days per week, I can handle about 5 more hours of training per week.  As the stressors in my daily life decreased I am now able to add more volume or intensity to my training, maintaining the total workload as before when I was working three days per week.  As time goes on and my body adjusts the the training load, I may be able to increase it more.  But for now, this is where I’m at.
So, just because you handle 15 hours one week doesn’t mean that 15 hours another week is equal.  If you spend more time at work on your feet than normal, have family obligations or anything else that adds a little extra to your plate, you may find that your body will start becoming over trained.
So what are the signs of over training?  The first few signs are something that you may not even notice, but your friends/family will pick up on right away.  Irritability and lack of motivation are two of the first two things to show up when the body is not recovering from training adequately.  The next thing you may notice is being overly tired and lacking energy just to do the daily activities of life.  I’m not saying that setting the alarm and waking up at 4 am is ever going to feel good,  but you have to know the difference between just waking up early and feeling overly fatigued/over trained.
As you progress into your over training cycle, more signs will start to show up.  If you train with a heart rate monitor you should notice that your precieved effort just doesn’t align with your HR while training.  When someone is training properly, an RPE of 7 or 8 out of 10 should be right around the person’s lactic threshold.  However, when someone is over training, their RPE might be a 7 or 8 and the HR will barely be above Zone 3.  This indicates that the heart is tired.  The heart is a muscle and needs to rest just like our skeletal muscle does every now and then.  If you train with a power meter on the bike, you’ll notice similar things with the RPE being constant, but the HR and wattage output is lower than normal.  If you notice these things and just get can’t the numbers to align like you know they should, consider bagging the workout.
Also, if you check your resting HR in the morning consistently, this will also help in detecting over training before it goes too far.  If someone’s HR in the morning is about 55 BPM on average, but one morning they wake up and its 62 BPM (greater than a 5% change), it could point to overtraining (or maybe the person has some other outside stressor that is raising the HR).  The reason behind this is that the skeletal muscles are demanding more oxygen and nutrients while sleeping, forcing the HR to elevate to meet those needs.
A real life example from my training that incorporates a few of these examples:  Last week I made a trip to Michigan to visit family after working a couple days in a row.  I was up before 6 am every day to get training in before work or by early afternoon so I could have the afternoons free to spend with the family or friends.  I was also up later than normal.  I returned home on Sunday evening.  After getting about 5 hours of sleep, I woke up at 4:30 to go to masters swim practice, and from there went to boot camp.  I spent the rest of the day getting my life organized after getting back from Michigan… running errands, cooking food, laundry, etc.  I squeezed in a run that afternoon trying to run the main set at half marathon for an hour.  I noticed my RPE and HR were not matching up.  I had a hard time getting my HR above the low 160’s and after about 30 minutes I noticed my pace was significantly less than what it should be.  I finished the workout and made sure to eat well afterwards to help with recovery.  The next day I had an easy 7 mile run along with a 3 hour bike scheduled.  My HR was still low for the recovery run, and I was exhuasted afterwards.  I nearly fell asleep stretching after the workout.  I decided to bag the afternoon workout and take a nap… a nice long 4 hour nap.  I was still tired after sleeping that long and got a good nights sleep that evening as well.  Yeah, i missed a workout, but the bike workout wouldn’t have been quality, and only would have deteriorated my body even more.  Today, I feel a 100% better and got back on the training plan.
If someone doesn’t heed the warning signs of over training, it could lead to a much longer recovery, or even injury.  As an athlete and coach, I’m always looking for signs of over training in myself and the clients that I coach.  Every now and then, a coach will push an athlete beyond his/her limit… but a good coach will pick up on the signs of over training from the data that is uploaded to the athlete’s on-line training journal, such as training peaks.

Infinit Nutrition Review

A little over a year ago, I became a little disgusted with the overly sugary “sports” drinks that were on the market.  My personal feeling is that most of the sports drinks on the market are just well marketed, glorified kool-aid (especially Gatorade and Powerbar Perform).  The amount of sugar in these sports drinks not only made my stomach cramp, but by the end of a race 70.3 or longer I felt like my teeth were rotting!

In 2011, I went to the first year for the Giant Eagle Race in Columbus, OH (before WTC bought it).  Infinit Nutrition was on site during packet pickup and also had their product on the run course (no aid stations were on the bike since it is an Olympic Distance race).  I sampled their run formula and instantly fell in love with the subtle sweet taste and a hint of saltiness to it as well.  No food coloring in it or anything else artificial in it either.

When I returned home from the race, I began doing some research on the product and was very impressed with the nutritional content of it, the price, and the amazing ability to customize it for my own personal needs.


I bought a bag of the custom bike mix and noticed that my need to supplement during training rides with salt tabs ceased to exist.  I felt no more stomach problems or cramping while cycling.  I also tried the bike formula for long endurance runs on trails.  It seemed to work extremely well for that too.  However, if doing high intensity running I would recommend trying the run formula.  The carbohydrates are a little easier to digest and there isn’t any protein in the it to slow down digestion and cause bloating.

After trying the custom formula a few times, I wanted to try to making my own mix.  If you desire to, you can even have a free nutrition consult with one of the experts at Infinit Nutrition to help you find something that will work for you.  You have options to control the following variables to make your sports drink special to you:

  • strength of the flavor
  • the carbohydrate blend for the specific race distance
  • calories per serving
  • Electrolyte blend
  • Protein per serving
  • Amino acid blend
  • Caffiene

Infinit allows you to control just about every aspect of your nutrition based on your specific body needs and race distance.  If you’re a smaller person, then you may want to tone back the calories because you don’t need to replace as many as someone of average size or larger.  If you’re doing an ultra marathon, you may want to increase the amount of protein and and electrolytes in your formula.  You may also consider different bags for races in different climates… one for cool to warm weather and one for hot weather so you meet your body’s needs on those specific days.  The options are limitless (or infinite).

Infinit, as mentioned before, does have stock versions of their product which include:

  • Go Far – dextrose, sucrose, maltodextrin, 4g whey protein isolate, BCAAs, L-Glutamine, Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium, Calcium
  • Go Fast/Speed – a higher percentage of glucose, plus sucrose and maltodextrin, Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium, Calcium
  • Jet Fuel – Speed plus 125mg caffeine
  • Isis Endurance – dextrose, sucrose, maltodextrin, 2g whey protein isolate, BCAAs, Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium, Calcium
  • Isis Hydration – dextrose, sucrose, maltodextrin, Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium, Calcium
  • Repair – whey, Soy and Casein proteins (25/25/50%), maltodextrin, dextrose, fructose, sucrose, BCAAs, L-Glutamine, Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium, Calcium
  • Mud – whey protein isolate, flax seed, coffee, chocolate, maltodextrin, sucrose, glucose
  • Napalm – a higher percentage of glucose, plus sucrose, fructose and maltodextrin, Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium, Calcium, with or without caffeine

I highly recommend every endurance athlete to try to Infinit Nutrition while training this off season and see what you think.  Take note of how you felt before and after switching.