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Strength Training Programming for Endurance Athletes

In my last article, I discussed WHY it’s so important to implement strength training into your endurance training regime about 2-3x per week, especially during your preparation phase. Then I gave you a little preview of what such a resistance-training program would look like.

Well, in this installment, I’ll dive in deeper into HOW you can structure your very own strength training program that best suits your specific endurance training goals. We will be going over example training protocols for:

  • Long-Distance Runners
  • Cyclists
  • Cross-Country Skiers
  • Long-Distance Triathletes

After examining the rhyme and reason as to why these plans are structured the way they are, you’ll be able to copy these exact workouts to introduce yourself to the world of strength training. After you gain the necessary experience, you’ll be able to tailor any of these programs to your specific needs and preferences!


Long-Distance Runners

A systematic review, which is a collection of many studies that are used in order to come to a conclusion, found that the most significant improvements found in running after strength training was best illustrated in time-trial performance, running economy, and surprisingly even VO2 max [1]. However, it’s important to note that improvements in VO2 max were only seen with explosive and reactive-strength training, which are essentially ways of training for both power and strength, as opposed to just strength.

This type of training consisted of sprinting, jumping, and strength training exercises. Examples of these types of exercises included

  • Running sprints (5-10 sets of 30-150 meters each)
  • Jumping exercises (calf jumps, hurdle jumps, squat jumps)
  • Isolation exercises (knee extensions, knee flexions)

The primary principle that the subjects followed during this time was a focus on low loads and high-performance velocities [2].Because of this, if we want to primarily increase our VO2 max levels, which is the priority of many long-distance runners, then training for power first and strength second would be the best move here.

Example Training Program for Runners

Exercise Sets Reps Rest Time
Sprints 5 100 meters 30 seconds
Squat Jumps 2 15 30 seconds
Squats 2 15, 20 30 seconds
Knee Extensions 2 20 30 seconds
Knee Flexions 2 20 30 seconds

Cyclists

Optimal training for cyclists is going to look quite a bit different than for what’s best for runners. This is due to the greater emphasis on lower musculature strength in cyclists compared to runners.

For cyclists, it’s best to participate in heavy-load strength training. More specifically, maximal velocity should be achieved by the athlete while in the concentric phase (the “lifting-up” phase), as opposed to pure explosive power throughout the entire lift. While a focus on power is still important, placing greater importance on strength will help cyclists to increase maximal velocity during each pedaling cycle.

Example Training Program for Cyclists

Exercise Sets Reps Rest Time
Front Squats 2-3 6-10 90 seconds
Single Leg Stiff-Legged Deadlift 2 8 60 seconds
Bulgarian Split Squat 2-3 8 60 seconds
Kettlebell Swings 2 15-20 30 seconds

Cross-Country Skiing

The primary difference here with cross-country skiers is that they’re going to have to concentrate more so on upper-body strength as opposed to lower-body strength. Exercises that would be included in an optimal protocol are lat-pulldowns and triceps presses [4].

This aforementioned study primarily illustrated to us that strength training shows its improvements most in the double-poling performance of cross-country skiers, as well as time to exhaustion.  This is great news, as this proves to us that performance is able to be maintained even after long-duration exercise.

Since there isn’t nearly as much data available on strength training’s effects on cross-country skiers, practical considerations for sets and reps aren’t as apparent. However, given the nature of the sport, it can be safe to assume that moderate loading and rep ranges would be a well-tolerated. Cross-country skiing doesn’t require as much pure strength as cycling or as much explosiveness as running, so less emphasis can be placed on these variables during the strength training sessions.

Exercise Sets Reps Rest Time
Lat Pulldowns 3 10 60 seconds
Dumbell Row 2 per arm 10 60 seconds
Bench Press 2 10-12 60 seconds
Squats 2 10-12 60 seconds
Triceps Pushdown 2 12-15 60 seconds

Long-Distance Triathletes

For these types of athletes, the most significant improvements were found in peak treadmill velocity (VO2 max) following a maximal-strength training intervention [5]. Hopping power (to determine maximal mechanical power) and training economy were shown to improve in the group that performed strength training compared to the group that only performed endurance training.

The training protocol that would be most optimal for this type of athlete would be one that focused on primarily lower-body exercises, such as the leg press, squat, and leg extension, with occasional upper-body exercises thrown in. It’s important for these athletes to train quite heavy; in the 3-5 rep range most of the time, occasionally increasing the reps to avoid injury. These athletes need not be as explosive as the previously mentioned types of athletes. Rather, the focus on strength is more important.

Exercise Sets Reps Rest Time
Barbell Row 2 5 90 seconds
Lunges 3 6-8 60 seconds
Back Squat 2 5 90 seconds
Glute-Ham Raise 2 8 45 seconds
Dips 2 5-8 60 seconds

Important Consideration

It’s important to remember what the common theme is here. In order to increase your endurance performance with strength training, you must follow the theme of what’s called specificity. Basically, specificity is training that involves similar muscle groups and imitates the sports-specific movements of your particular activity [3]. The reasoning behind this is the adaptations that occur in the nervous system during training, as well as structural changes that happen inside the muscle fibers.

Conclusion

Now go give these programs a shot and see for yourself the benefits you’ll see from them. Again, as you become more accustomed to this type of training, you can gradually ramp up the difficulty level by increasing the weights, reps, sets, and decreasing the rest times. After that, you can start to experiment with different exercises so that you can see what works best for you.

Good luck!


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References

1.Beattie, K., Kenny, I., Lyons, M., & Carson, B. (2014). The effect of strength training on performance in endurance athletes. Sports Medicine, 44(6), 845-865. doi:10.1007/s40279-014-0157-y.

2.Mikkola, J., Rusko, H., Nummela, A., Pollari, T., & Häkkinen, K. (2007). Concurrent Endurance and Explosive Type Strength Training Improves Neuromuscular and Anaerobic Characteristics in Young Distance Runners. International Journal of Sports Medicine, 28(7), 602-611. doi:10.1055/s-2007-964849

3. Rønnestad, B. R., & Mujika, I. (2013). Optimizing strength training for running and cycling endurance performance: A review. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 24(4), 603-612. doi:10.1111/sms.12104

4.Øfsteng, S., Sandbakk, Ø, Beekvelt, M. V., Hammarström, D., Kristoffersen, R., Hansen, J., . . . Rønnestad, B. R. (2017). Strength training improves double-poling performance after prolonged submaximal exercise in cross-country skiers. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 28(3), 893-904. doi:10.1111/sms.12990 5. Millet, G., Jaouen, B., Borrani, F., & Candou, R. (2002). Effects of concurrent endurance and strength training on running economy and .VO(2) kinetics. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 34(8), 1351-1359.

Does Strength Training Improve Endurance Performance?

So, you’re looking to increase your cycling speed, your mile time, or improve whatever other endurance goals that you may have. You bring this up to your friend; a fellow cyclist. He tells you that he’s started to get more serious about lifting weights in the gym and has added a strength training routine to his cycling regimen. “But how would that improve your cycling ability?” you think to yourself. “That doesn’t make much sense.”


Does Strength Training ACTUALLY Help With Your Cycling Abilities?

It actually makes quite a bit of sense. So much so that there are quite a few studies illustrating your friends’ case to be true. In one study of 19 elite female duathletes (meaning that they were both runners and cyclists), they were divided into two groups; either endurance training alone or endurance training combined with strength training. The strength training group performed lower-body exercises such as squats and leg presses, progressing to heavier weights as the 11-week study continued.

What this aforementioned study primarily discovered was that including strength training in conjunction with their endurance regimens was able to increase the athletes’ power output during 5-minute maximal cycling testing. Plus, this was performed in a fatigued state, as they had already performed both the strength training protocol as well as a 180-minute prolonged cycling session beforehand. Another related study with moderately-trained cyclists illustrated a significantly improved cycling economy and time to exhaustion after strength training. So we can definitely see here how strength training can help out with endurance performance!

Not so Fast, my Friend…

Although strength training is a great tool for us endurance athletes, it’s also not going to be your primary training focus. You should always prioritize your cycling-specific training over strength training. I say this because although significant parameters such as cycling economy and time to exhaustion were improved, more important endurance performance variables like VO2 max did not improve. They stayed exactly the same between both the study groups.

How About for Running?

There is much more data available about this than there is for cycling. In fact, there is so much evidence that authors of a 2018 paper were actually able to publish a systematic review on the topic. Basically, a systematic review is the combination of the results of similar studies within the same topic of examination.

Here, it was illustrated that for long-distance runners, running economy was improved by as much as 2-8% in 20 out of the 26 studies. Interestingly, this was seen in runners of all levels of experience; ranging from moderately-trained to elite-level athletes. And although adding strength training won’t improve your VO2 max as previously mentioned, it doesn’t hinder it either. This is a major plus, as there is a commonly misleading belief in the endurance athlete community that participating in strength training will cause a shift in adapting too much to non-aerobic training and will cause them to lose their endurance performance since these are two very different training stimuli. Fortunately, this doesn’t appear to be the case. The ability to train concurrently, meaning the utilization of two different training methods in order to reap the rewards of both, is definitely possible while mitigating any potential negative effects.

Inter-individual Variability

However, what we do have to keep in mind, just like with the cycling studies, is that inconsistencies do exist in the scientific literature. This is due to several hosts of factors, such as differences in a studies methodologies, which would be the way in which the researcher conducted the study. This would include things such as what variables they measured or what sort of training program they put them through. Also, science has a natural error associated with it due to the number of differences, or what we call in the scientific literature, “inter-individual variability”, between athletes. This is why researchers randomize subjects in their studies, however, although this may limit the effect that this variability plays, it still does exist to a slight degree.

Because of this, applying these previously mentioned strength training recommendations to your routine should be made with caution. Even though “the science” may say it works, everybody is unique and responds optimally to different things, so utilizing trial-and-error here is a must. But you’d be missing out if you didn’t at least try to apply strength training to your endurance routine for at least a 6-week time frame to truly see if it makes a difference in your performance.

How Do I Get Started?

I’d replicate what many of the studies in the systematic review used. In this way, you’d be using a training program that has been previously validated by researchers, which is what you want. This is what most of the studies in the systematic review used for their training programs:

Training Program Basics:

  • 2-6 sets of 3-10 reps per exercise @ 70% of their 1-rep max
  • 2-3x per week on average
  • Utilize at least 1 multi-joint exercise, such as a squat or leg press
  • Use a combination of both free weights and machines
  • Utilized the concept of Progressive Overload, which basically states that you must increasingly challenge your body with each and every workout, such as by increasing weight and reps, decreasing rest time, etc.

I’d start out on the lower end of the set range, such as 2-3 sets for about 8-10 reps, which would allow you to work with lighter weights. In this way, you avoid burnout and you’re more likely to stick with the training program. Then, as you get stronger, you can progress from there.

Conclusion

So give this a shot. Chances are, as illustrated by the vast amount of scientific literature that’s available, it’ll help you improve your endurance performance more than your previously-held beliefs led you to think. The great thing about this is that it doesn’t take much additional time either; only 2-3x per week for about 45-60 minute sessions. This includes approximately 45-60 second rests between sets, so it won’t fatigue you too much, allowing you to keep up the same intensity in your endurance-specific training. Alright, now you’re armed with the tools, now go put it to good use. Let me know how it works out for you!

Looking for a strength and conditioning plan tailor made for endurance athletes? Check out our plan here!


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References

Blagrove, R. C., Howatson, G., & Hayes, P. R. (2017). Effects of Strength Training on the Physiological Determinants of Middle- and Long-Distance Running Performance: A Systematic Review. Sports Medicine, 48(5), 1117-1149. doi:10.1007/s40279-017-0835-7

Sunde, A., Støren, Ø, Bjerkaas, M., Larsen, M. H., Hoff, J., & Helgerud, J. (2010). Maximal Strength Training Improves Cycling Economy in Competitive Cyclists. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24(8), 2157-2165. doi:10.1519/jsc.0b013e3181aeb16a

Vikmoen, O., Rønnestad, B. R., Ellefsen, S., & Raastad, T. (2017). Heavy strength training improves running and cycling performance following prolonged submaximal work in well-trained female athletes. Physiological Reports, 5(5). doi:10.14814/phy2.13149

7 Nutrition Guidelines for Endurance Athletes

A huge part of prepping your body for endurance training involves fueling your body with nutrient-dense foods and eating the right foods at the right time. More times than not, nutrition is the last thing looked at when training for an event. So much focus goes into the physical training, that nutrition is often an afterthought. However, the truth is that nutrition plays an equally important role since how well your body performs ultimately depends on how well nourished your body is.

If you are an endurance athlete looking for some solid guidelines to follow to nourish your body for optimal athletic performance, keep reading.

Here are seven nutrition guidelines all endurance athletes need to know.


7 Nutrition Guidelines for Endurance Athletes

#1 Know How to Eat to Fuel Training:

Knowing what foods to eat and when to eat them is an essential part of fueling your body properly prior to training. Endurance athletes are prone to depleting glycogen stores. Glycogen is a type of glucose that is stored in the body, (mostly in the liver and muscles) that is used for later use when it is not needed immediately. Endurance athletes can quickly deplete these glycogen stores if they are not balancing their diet properly before training. This can lead to fatigue and poor fitness performance.

What you consume before training will make a huge difference when it comes to how well you perform and how long you are able to maintain your energy. It is recommended that endurance athletes properly hydrate, and consume a carbohydrate-rich meal a few hours before training or event. These carbohydrates will help to replenish glycogen stores and keep your blood sugar levels stable prior to exercise. A general rule of thumb is to consume 0.5 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight.

#2 Understand Your Nutritional Demands During Exercise:

Endurance athletes also need to be cautious of how their body can quickly deplete those glycogen stores during long periods of activity. It’s for this reason, that fueling your body during exercise also plays an important role in how well you perform and how much energy you are able to sustain.

Evidence shows that 0.7g/kg/hour of carbohydrate consumption during exercise has very positive performance benefits. This equals out to be roughly 30-60 grams of carbs per hour of exercise.

#3 The Role of Healthy Fats to Promote Exercise-Recovery:

Many athletes get hung up on how many carbs and how much protein to add to their diet, that fat often gets forgotten and put to the wayside. However, fats play a very important role in exercise recovery as well. Fat serves as an excellent energy source and can help you maintain your ideal weight. If you don’t add enough fat to your diet, you may run the risk of losing too much weight, and not being able to maintain adequate energy levels for your endurance training.

You will want to consume healthy fats and make sure you are getting enough essential fatty acids, and consume enough fat to help with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins in your diet. Some great source of essential fatty acids include wild-caught salmon, walnuts, flax, and chia seeds.

#4 Enjoy a Balanced Diet:

Many endurance athletes feel the need to supplement to help support their nutritional needs. However, this has not been found to be true if endurance athletes are maintaining energy levels and their ideal weight by getting a wide variety of whole foods in their diet. Athletes who restrict their diets, or are simply not eating enough variety, on the other hand, may require vitamin and mineral supplements to help support their body optimally.

Keep in mind that food should always come first before any type of supplement as the vitamins and minerals from food sources are going to be better absorbed and better utilized than if you were to solely rely on supplementation.

#5 Optimize Your Protein Intake:

Protein plays an important role in both pre-fuel and post-fuel nutrition for endurance athletes. Proteins play a massive role in the various functions of our body! It has been found that including some protein into your training may be able to help boost fitness performance. However, it is also important not to overdo your protein intake as this can lead to digestive distress.

Here are some general protein guidelines to follow:

During Training: ½-¾ grams of protein/lb. of body weight per day during your training period.

The Meal Before Your Event: Two to three hours before your event, strive to get 10-20 grams of high-quality protein in.

During Your Event: If you are exercising or training for longer than four hours, it is recommended that you get about five grams of protein per hour to help support performance and replenish your body.

Recovery: Right after your event, you will want to replenish your body by getting about 10-20 grams of protein from a post-workout meal.

#6 Enjoy Endurance Training Superfoods:

Superfoods can make a great addition to any healthy diet, and enjoying certain foods during your training or even after an athletic event or during race day can certainly support exercise performance.

Some great options for athletes include: Nuts, flax and chia seeds, avocados, dates, coconut, bananas, sweet potatoes, quinoa, rolled oats, dark leafy greens.

All of these foods are incredibly nutrient-dense and can provide the body with energy and essential vitamins and minerals.

#7 Monitor Hydration Status:

While the foods you eat play an essential role in your body’s ability to maintain optimal health for fitness performance, hydration is just as important. Staying on top of hydration is one of the most vital parts of fueling your body before, during, and after training as dehydration can be detrimental to overall health, but it can also interfere with exercise performance.

When it comes to endurance athletes the general rule of thumb of drinking eight glasses of water per day isn’t such a great guideline. Endurance athletes need more than that since we are so active and lose a ton of fluid through sweat. For this reason, we need to replenish what we lose.

Everyone will be slightly different in terms of how much they will need to drink, but you will learn what your body needs if you pay attention to signs and symptoms that your body may require more hydration. Watch out for things like dizziness, nausea, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and the color of your urine. Yes, the color of your urine is a great indicator of how hydrated you are! You definitely don’t want dark colored urine, as this indicates the need for additional water. Pay attention to all of these signs, and up your water intake if you notice any of these red flags.

Endurance athletes will also need beverages that contain some form of carbohydrate as well as electrolytes during training as well as competition. You will want to make sure you are drinking during the period of exercise as opposed to just before and after to make sure you are staying well hydrated and to prevent total electrolyte depletion. Many studies have found that proper hydration will boost performance, so make sure you are hydrating adequately to feel your best.

With that being said, too much of a good thing isn’t always the right answer either. Too much water consumption can lead to hyponatremia as well as sodium depletion. To help prevent this, it is recommended that endurance athletes rebalance the fluid lost through intense exercise with water that contains 4-8% of a carb solution as well as electrolytes.

The Takeaway

The bottom line is that nutrition matters, and it matters in a big way. Your overall athletic performance will depend on how well fueled your body is, so focus on quality and remember to fuel and refuel when your body needs. Hydration is also key, so stay on top of hydration to support better performance and endurance.

Follow these seven nutrition guidelines to further improve your endurance training and feel your best both during and after training!

If you’re looking to learn more about sports nutrition, create flexible, sustainable, and indefinite habits when it comes to healthy food choices, and have a knowledgable Coach in your corner throughout the process, check out our Nutrition Coaching program.

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Resources

  1. Pre-Event Nutrition Game Plan. US. Human Kinetics. https://us.humankinetics.com/blogs/excerpt/pre-event-nutrition-game-plan
  1. Carlsohn A. Recent Nutritional Guidelines for Endurance Athletes. German Journal of Sports Medicine. https://www.germanjournalsportsmedicine.com/archive/archive-2016/issue-1/recent-nutritional-guidelines-for-endurance-athletes/#l37  
  1. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. Position of the American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and Athletic Performance. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0002822309000066?via%3Dihub
  1. Nutrition for Endurance Athletes. https://www.trainingpeaks.com/blog/nutrition-for-endurance-athletes-101/
  1. Von Duvillard, Braun WA, Markofki M, Beneke R, Leithauser R. Fluids and Hydration in Prolonged Endurance Performance. (2004) NCBI. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15212747

Nutrition Coaching with GC Coaching

📣 DIETS DON’T WORK 📣

Lifestyle changes, creating sustainable habits, and working in a community towards a common goal does.

If you are tired of yo-yo diets, fads, and other approaches to weight-loss and performance that just don’t work, join GC Coaching for our next nutrition coaching cohort starting next Monday, January 14th. Our 12 month program features:

▪️ Access to Precision Nutrition’s (PN) world-renowned and proven software, Pro Coach.
▪️ Working with a PN Level 1 Certified Coach.
▪️ A customized eating guide, delivered the first week.
▪️ Monthly Zoom Meetings where we will discuss the current ‘habits’ everyone is working on, as well as answer any questions you may have during the process.
▪️ An ‘always open’ business model that allows for as much communication as needed, through the Pro Coach app, and e-mail.
▪️ Finally succeed with weight loss, develop fueling strategies to improve your event performance, and augment your training and recovery by learning about current best nutrition practices.

For more information, and to sign up, follow this link: https://procoach.app/gc-coaching

If you are ready to finally get off the diet roller coaster, and create sustainable habits, don’t miss out! Our next cohort isn’t until March!

Be sure to message us with any questions you have.

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Pitfalls of Using FTP, Common Testing Protocols, and Software Modeling

Functional Threshold Power (FTP) has been the standard to measure a myriad of metrics with, and the majority of the software utilized by athletes is reliant on this number being as accurate as possible.  Getting an accurate measurement is harder said than done however, especially if you are new to structured training.  The following article will serve to provide the more common ways to measure FTP, their pros and cons, and where the future of testing is headed (hint: it doesn’t involve much testing), in the author’s opinion.

Why FTP Anyways?

Functional threshold power (FTP) is the maximum power output an athlete can maintain in a quasi-steady state without fatiguing for 1 hour (1). Remember though, FTP is not the same as lactate threshold (LT).  FTP has been used by American coaches for years to track and prescribe workloads, and was first popularized by Andy Coggan, Joe Friel, Stephen McGregor, and Hunter Allen in their respective books and other contributions to the scientific literature.  Since FTP was cheap to test (free with a power meter), repeatable,  relatively accurate, and marketed well, it took over and is still widely utilized today.

A good analogy for FTP is to think of a car’s tachometer…

Tachometer 590x590

The red line represents your FTP.  You can push up to the red line and hold this output for approximately an hour (if your fitness is high, fatigue is low, and you are extremely motivated mentally), but push just a little bit over the red line and you run the risk of fatiguing early, and “blowing up” the car’s motor in this analogy.

Pitfalls with FTP + Deep Dive

Issue #1: Length of common testing protocols – In a little bit, we’ll get to the methods to test FTP.  You’ll notice that the most common ways are all less than a 1 hour testing effort, BUT your FTP is what you can hold for 1 hour without fatiguing.  This leads us to issue #2…

Issue #2: Athletes with high anaerobic capacity – Your FTP is a measure of how “strong” your aerobic (oxidative) system is.  To unpack that statement a bit more, aerobic capacity is how much energy you can produce via aerobic metabolism, how well you can combust lactate after a hard effort, and how economical (efficient) you are at a certain intensity, i.e. how good are you at doing the most work possible with the least amount of energy, both metabolic and mechanical, used.

*DEEP DIVE WARNING* Athletes with higher anaerobic capacities, i.e. increased energy being delivered via glycolysis, typically have a higher lactate tolerance and can push further “into the red” compared to their aerobically dominant counterparts.  Since FTP is an aerobic system measurement, these athletes’ tests can be overly inflated if the test is under 1 hour.  Why?  Here’s an example:

Joe Athlete has an FTP of 300w.  After doing a block of HIIT at Zones 5 + 6, his 20 minute FTP test improved by 30w and his FTP is now 315w.  He heads out to his local 40k TT, and uses his power meter to pin his output steady at 315w.  After 40 minutes, his output starts to drop dramatically and he winds up only being able to turn the gear over at 290w for the last 10k.

What happened in this example?  Joe’s last block improved his VLa Max (anaerobic capacity) which increased his glycolytic energy delivery rate to the working muscles, and subsequent mechanical force to the pedals, i.e. more watts.  However, the anaerobic system relies on carbohydrates, and especially stored glycogen, and has a finite amount of energy it can deliver compared to the aerobic system.  This increase in VLa Max made him feel like he was flying, until he exhausted his glycogen stores, and his aerobic system couldn’t keep up with the energy demands.  This, as we just read, lead to his power dropping dramatically and him finishing the race at 290w which is, in my opinion, a more accurate representation of his FTP.

Another way to look at this is the level of lactate accumulation in his system over the course of the 40k TT.  If his true FTP is closer to 290w, and he sets a pace of 315w he will accumulate (I am using arbitrary numbers here since I don’t have his actual lab data) .33 mmol of lactate / minute.  If we extrapolate this out to 40 minutes, he would have accumulated ~13 mmol of lactate in his legs (ouch!).  That is going to REALLY burn, and as we know, higher levels of lactate in the bloodstream lead to an increase of hydrogen ions as your body combusts the excess lactate.  This increase in hydrogen ions leads to a lower blood pH (more acidic) and decreases the work rate of your muscles as it increases (you become fatigued). (2)

In a nutshell, even though Joe’s FTP “improved”, his time to exhaustion (TTE) did not, thus, he blew up at the 40 minute mark.

To make that even more complicated, your VO2 Max (aerobic capacity) and VLa Max (anaerobic capacity) work against one another, so as 1 system improves, the other decreases, and vice versa.  This is why adopting a periodized plan, and truly “peaking” for only 1 or 2 events per year is important to properly optimize both systems to work in tangent.  The system you optimize should also be dictated by your event’s demands.

sweihuizen-3670176_1920.jpg

A high VO2 Max gets you to the hill, a high VLa Max gets you over first.

Common Tests to Estimate FTP

You’ll notice I keep using the word “estimate” when I refer to FTP.  This hopefully makes a little more sense after reading above, and these tests are exactly that, estimates of your 1 hour power…

Old Faithful – The 20 Minute Test

  • Warm up for 10-15 minutes.
  • Ride ALL OUT for 20 minutes.
  • Record what your average power was for the 20 minutes.
  • Multiply that number by .95.
  • Voila!  You have your FTP.

This is the most common test used currently, and probably the one you’ll see during your workout plans.  Remember though, if you have a strong anaerobic capacity, or are a new rider, you can have an inflated result.  I suggest going hard and over-pacing the test for the first 3 minutes to exhaust your creatine phosphate system, and to decrease the anaerobic system energy contribution, to hopefully see your power drop and eventually plateau to your true FTP.  Ideally you’ll see a gradually increasing heart rate and subsequent power drop for the first 3-5 minutes, then a plateau for the final 15 minutes at your actual FTP.

2x 8 Minutes Test

  • Warm up for 10-15 minutes.
  • Ride ALL OUT for 8 minutes.
  • Rest for 10 minutes.
  • Ride ALL OUT for 8 minutes.
  • Record what your average power was for both 8 minute tests.
    • Add both of the averages together, and divide by 2.
  • Multiply that number by .90.
  • Voila!  You have your FTP.

This testing protocol is the least accurate, in my experience.

The Ramp Test (Max Aerobic Power, MAP).

  • Warm up for 10-15 minutes.
  • Having a smart trainer makes life much easier here.
    • I start my athletes off at 60% of their FTP, and increase by 8% every minute or 2 (based on athlete fitness), until failure is reached.
    • Once you settle into a cadence of your choice you must maintain that cadence, or pedal faster, throughout the rest of the test. For instance, if you ride at 90 RPM for the test you can’t then have your cadence fall off to 85, 80 and even 75 RPM in the final stages. Once you can’t maintain your cadence the test is over, but you must push to the point of failure and not give up!

You are looking for a heart rate inflection point for this test.  The inflection point signals the lactate threshold (FTP) and can be very hard to see in my experience.  Another way is to take the last COMPLETED step of the test, and multiply this by .75.  This test is also called a Conconi Test.

cycling-races-3634552_1920.jpg

The New Kid on the Block – Modeled FTP

Modeling isn’t really “new”, it has just become more available to the masses recently.  I have had great success with using modeled FTP with my athletes, and the software is becoming more accurate and robust every year.

WKO Software

WKO software is the OG is this arena.  It’s been around since I can remember with its latest iteration being WKO4.  I use this software on a daily basis, but it can be VERY daunting to the newcomer and sometimes there can be analysis paralysis with the amount of charts and data.  Fortunately, they have many educational resources, and a stand out development team

INSCYD Software

INSCYD software has recently just become available to the masses being only available to World Tour teams previously.  I like INSCYD and use it with a handful of the athletes I work with.  They claim to be the most accurate way to measure anaerobic threshold (AT), with power data and blood sampling.  Yes, yet another acronym describing kind of the same thing as FTP.  What separates them is the ability to use only power data to achieve lab quality measurements, but the testing costs are expensive.

XERT Software

I have been using XERT for a little over a year now, and have found it to be excellent.  They possess another stand out development team, and it gets better with each update.  Their modeling has also been the most accurate, in my experiences, and the value they provide is exceptional.

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Closing Remarks

FTP isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.  However, like anything, there are pros and cons to using it, and the myriad of tests and software utilized to derive it can all provide different numbers.  Whatever test you decide to go with, do yourself a favor and keep the testing protocol consistent.  A result is only as good and accurate as the metrics you place into the equation.

And remember the old saying: FTP = AT = OBLA = LT = AeT = MLSS = AnT = LOL 😜

References:
(1) Coggan, Andrew. “What Is Functional Threshold Power?” TrainingPeaks, 10 Feb. 2016, www.trainingpeaks.com/blog/what-is-threshold-power/.
(2) Skeletal Muscle Fatigue: Cellular Mechanisms
D. G. Allen, G. D. Lamb, H. Westerblad
Physiological Reviews Jan 2008, 88 (1) 287-332; DOI:10.1152/physrev.00015.2007

Coach Shayne Chosen to be a US Military Endurance Sports (USMES) Affiliated Coach

We are excited to announce that Coach Shayne has been selected to be an affiliate Coach for US Military Endurance Sports (USMES).

We are honored and feel privileged to be able to give back and help those who have given so much for us all.

USMES’s Mission is:

–To educate military members and advocate cycling and triathlon as excellent methods to gain/regain/maintain fitness as part of an active healthy lifestyle.

–To train and prepare able-bodied and reintegrating military cyclists and triathletes for regional, national, and international competition.

–To provide an enduring framework and inclusive team structure for all current and former military members who are serious about endurance sports, remaining one of the most visible and successful amateur sports organizations in the United States.

We look forward to working with these brave men and women!

For more information about USMES, please visit: http://usmes.org/

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GC Coaching Partners with World Bicycle Relief for Zwiftathon

We are pleased to announce our partnership with World Bicycle Relief (WBR) for this year’s Ride On for WBR event.  The event will be held on Zwift from 11/26 to 12/1 and will feature many different events and races.

For this year’s event, we have created 3, 4 week training plans focused on; the 6 or 12 hour Ride On event (the long haul); the Alpe du Zwift TT; and the 1 lap of Watopia TT.  You can find the plans for download from our friends Whats on Zwift? below.

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There is also a closed Facebook Group where you can chat with fellow athletes participating in the plans, ask a coach questions, and foster further excitement around the event!  To join the group, click here.

Finally, to register to fundraise, or donate to the event, click here.

RIDE ON!

10 Minute Stretching Routine for Time Crunched Athletes

We all know that cycling is great for a myriad of things, but the bike keeps your body in a fixed position, sometimes for hours on end.  This can wreak havoc on the neck, middle back, hip, and lower extremity muscles causing them to become shortened, painful, and lose their ability to produce power.  This, of course, is unacceptable and the exact opposite effect we want after spending time training outdoors, or in the pain cave! So, do yourself a favor and spend a few minutes stretching your legs out after you beat them up, your body will thank you, and it will give you some precious time to think about life (i.e. more cycling) for a while.

The following stretching routine is designed for athletes who are time-crunched and need to really maximize any time dedicated to their fitness.

The Rules

  • Ideal best time to stretch statically is POST WORKOUT.  Bacurau et al. (1) found static stretching actually impairs lower limb force production, which is obviously not ideal before a ride.  Instead, a dynamic stretching routine should be performed, like this one to help promote neuromuscular activation.
  • Stretches should be held for 30 seconds minimum for best results (2).  It takes your muscle sarcomere time to relax enough to make static stretching beneficial and allow the muscle to lengthen.  If you have the time to hold them for longer, go for it!
  • Stretches should be performed in a comfortable range of motion, so no crying because it hurts so much, but you also want to feel like you are doing something too.
  • Alternate each side with each consecutive stretch, so as 1 side is resting, the other side is being stretched.
  • Perform the stretches 2-3 times each.

The Stretches

The “Couch” Stretch

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Set up in front of a couch / chair / bench, with one foot on the couch and the other knee on the floor in a half kneeling position.  From here, bring your hips forward and lean your body backwards until you feel a comfortable stretch in the front of your hip as well as thigh.  Repeat on the other side.

 

Hamstring + Chest Stretch

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Bring your feet wider than shoulder width apart and lace your fingers behind your back.  Then, lean your body forward and reach your arms backwards until a comfortable stretch is felt in the hamstrings, as well as chest / front of the shoulders.

 

Inner Thigh + Middle Back Stretch

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From a sitting position – bend your knees, place your feet together, and let your legs fall out to the side until a comfortable stretch is felt in your inner thighs.  While holding this position, lace your fingers together, bring your arms up, then reach forward trying to open your shoulder blades, and drop your head down until a comfortable stretch is felt in between the shoulder blades and the back of your neck.

 

The Pigeon Pose

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Start off in quadriped position.  From here, thread one leg under you, then sit back until a deep, but comfortable, stretch is felt in the glutes.  Repeat on the other side.

 

Happy Stretching!

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Sources:

  1. Bacurau, R. F., Monteiro, G. A., Ugrinowitsch, C., Tricoli, V., Cabral, L. F., & Aoki, M. S. (2009). Acute Effect of a Ballistic and a Static Stretching Exercise Bout on Flexibility and Maximal Strength. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research,23(1), 304-308. doi:10.1519/jsc.0b013e3181874d55
  2. Bandy, W. D., & Irion, J. M. (1994). The Effect of Time on Static Stretch on the Flexibility of the Hamstring Muscles. Physical Therapy,74(9), 845-850. doi:10.1093/ptj/74.9.845