EPC Training Camp

XTERRA Training Camp in Colorado

The second annual EPC Spring Training Camp is scheduled for April 8th-12th in Fruita, Colorado.

The camp features two ‘half days’ of training (allowing for travel to/from Fruita) sandwiching three full days of training opportunities.

“The idea is for athletes to come when they can, whether it’s Wednesday, Thursday or Friday, depending on your work/family schedule, and get some great structured training in with a great group of athletes,” said organizer Cody Waite. “In addition to killer training, the Fruita area has a lot of dinosaur attractions and scenic hiking trails for the whole family to enjoy, so consider bringing the whole gang!”

Learn more

EPC Tips - Skills

EPC Tips – Skill Proficiency

We’re continuing in our thought process for our “6 Components for Endurance Sports Success,” our third component we’d like to address is Skill Proficiency (here’s components I. Aerobic Conditioning & II. Muscular Stability in case you missed those).

All sports, activities, and human movements are learned skills. As newborn babies, we are capable of only laying in one spot, with minimal skill to move. As humans grow and develop, we quickly gain strength and learn new physical skills, from supporting our own head, to sitting, to crawling, to squatting to standing and finally walking. From there the pace at which we learn new skills occurs rapidly and seemingly with minimal effort. We begin to learn more complicated, although still basic skills like running, jumping, skipping, throwing and catching a ball, and riding a bicycle. Then, if you’re fortunate enough to be introduced to higher level complicated movement skills, you might learn how to swim, swing a golf club, or perform gymnastics to name a few. Every one of these learned skills requires practice to be able to get to a point where they appear to happen effortlessly. For some people, this effortless appearance of skill comes more naturally than others. One thing that holds true is that the more skillful you are at particular movements the better you are able to become at the activity and the higher level of performance you can likely achieve.

Learning and practicing proper technique is crucial to mastering any skill.

Proper technique, in and of itself, can often be argued or debated within circles of experts in a particular area of movement. Regardless of the agreed upon “correct” technique, finding a technique that works for you and practicing to improve it leads to improved skill proficiency. In most endurance sports, the specific movements required to participate are relatively basic skills we learn as children (swimming, cycling and/or running being the most common). Unfortunately, with perhaps the exception of swimming, most endurance athletes feel they already ‘know how to’ pedal a bike and run from a mechanical standpoint, therefore neglect the aspect of developing effective technique in their sports. By learning effective movement techniques and spending time practicing them (as elite athletes do) you are able to improve your own strength, stability and range of motion specific to your movement, leading to improved movement efficiency. These factors enable you to perform your movements with more power, less energy, over longer periods of time and with less chance of injury.

You will often overhear athletes and coaches talking about or read about the importance of an athlete’s Vo2 Max (the maximum amount of oxygen an athlete can utilize). This number is often used as a comparison between athletes or to measure the potential they may have in endurance sports.

While an athlete’s Vo2 Max is certainly an important value, another equally important (if not possibly more so) is the measure of an athlete’s efficiency.

Take two similar runners with identical Vo2 Max values; the runner with greater running efficiency will out-run the other with less efficiency because she is wasting less energy and therefore can sustain a higher percentage of her Vo2 Max for a longer period of time. In fact, movement efficiency is so important that a “hard working” athlete with a genetically lower Vo2 Max can out-perform the more “naturally talented” athlete with the higher Vo2 Max by being more efficient and wasting less energy. And the longer the test (or race) the more noticeable the effect of improved efficiency is.

It could be said that success in endurance sports is directly related to efficiency. In the study of physics, efficiency is the ratio of output to input. In the equation (r = P/C) P is the produced output and C is the consumed energy. The produced output (P) can never be higher than the consumed energy (C), therefore efficiency can never be higher than 100%, with the higher the percentage equaling less wasted energy (in endurance sports, energy not directly being used to move yourself forward). Your goal as an endurance athlete is to achieve the highest level of efficiency through skill proficiency so you can tap into the highest percentage of your given Vo2 Max. We do all the training we do to maximize our endurance, strength and speed to achieve the highest Vo2 Max possible, but if we neglect the skill proficiency piece of the puzzle, we are limiting the percentage of the trained Vo2 Max we can tap into. On race day, it eventually all comes down to minimizing the the amount of energy wasted that leads to fatigue that slows us down. Look at the elite fields at any high level endurance event and the abilities of the top level athletes are very similar; they all have similar Vo2 Max values and they all train and race at near similar speeds.

The athletes that cross the finish lines first are not always the fastest athletes in the race, but rather, they are usually the athletes that slow down the least.

They are the athletes who waste the least amount of energy and are the most efficient. Improving one’s skill and technique equates to less wasted energy, higher efficiency and faster race times.

Skill proficiency and the subsequent improved efficiency can be developed in two ways. The first being the concept of simply time spent performing an activity. This is in line with the “10,000 hour theory”; stating that if you spend enough time doing a particular activity (10,000 hours according to the theory) you will become highly proficient at it. But what if you don’t have 10,000 hours to wait for this improved proficiency and you want to get better at your sport in less time?

Good news, you can!

With specific and deliberate practice through technique drills you can accelerate your learning curve.

We can improve our individual muscular strength, stability, mobility and flexibility by performing an endless variety of exercises off the playing field in a gym or our own homes. While this practice is critical to long term development and success in sport (see previous article addressing this concept), these exercises are rarely specific to our exact movements we are trying to improve in our sport. Performing glute bridges for example, is a great exercise to improve hip stability, however we do not come anywhere close to performing a glute bridge in our actual competition. Performing technique drills however do just that; technique drills typically take you through a very specific movement pattern (often broken into a smaller segment or skill of the movement) pertaining to your specific sport. Technique drills effectively incorporate sport-specific development of strength, stability, mobility, flexibility, balance and/or coordination. For this reason alone, all elite level athletes perform technique drills in their training programs throughout their entire year and all age-group athletes should do the same.

We’ve all seen the poor swimmers at the pool with the wonky arms, sinking hips, or dropped elbow. We’ve also all seen the cyclists with the bobbing upper body, or crazy low cadence, not to mention the runners missing any knee lift, or dropping their hips with every step or extended ground contact time and loping strides. Don’t be that person! Your skill and technique can be easily developed with deliberate and consistent practice, throughout your entire training year. It’s in your control.

In fact, aside from dropping excessive body weight, improving your skill and efficiency of movement is probably the fastest and easiest way to improve your race times!

I’ve seen so many athletes come to me with technique issues, and by spending just a small amount of time every week addressing these weaknesses, they have seen enormous improvements in not only speed and endurance but also the enjoyment of their sport.

Written by Cody Waite, professional XTERRA athlete, endurance sport coach and founder of Endurance Performance Coaching. Check out EPC’s Personal Coaching, XTERRA Group Coaching, and Custom Training Plan options.

EPC Tips

EPC Tips – Muscular Stability Exercises

Last week we discussed the reasons behind the importance of muscular stability training for endurance athletes.

If you missed the article, you can find it HERE. To reiterate, stability training is the combination of strength, mobility, and flexibility training that improves our force production, muscle recruitment, and range of motion that increases our movement efficiency by allowing us to generate more power, resist fatigue, and reduce occurrence of injury. The majority of this type of training involves executing multi-joint, multi-plane movements that engage the core muscles of the hips and shoulders. These exercises can include everything from the more complicated olympic lifts that are best performed under the watchful eye of a coach to very simple body weight movements like push-ups and pull-ups and the multitude of core exercises that can easily be performed on your own at home or on the road.

I have received a lot of email questions over the last week asking what are some of the exercises I recommend.

This week I would like to respond with six exercises that I include in my own training as well as nearly all of the athletes we work with at Endurance Performance Coaching (EPC).

There are a lot of resources available out there on the internet and in books and magazines for strength exercises for endurance athletes. For the most part, there are no ‘bad’ exercises and the more variety you can include the more likely you’ll stick with consistent weekly strength and stability training throughout your entire year of training and racing. I encourage you to add the following routine to your training program 2-3 times a week for 6-8 weeks and see the improvements for yourself. Begin with 2-3 sets of 10 reps of each and as you adapt you can progress the reps to as many as 30 reps or extended duration hold times. Good luck and have fun!

Read More

Written by Cody Waite, professional XTERRA athlete, endurance sport coach and founder of Endurance Performance Coaching. Check out EPC’s Personal Coaching, XTERRA Group Coaching, and Custom Training Plan options.

EPC Tips - Improved Strength

EPC Tips – Improved Strength and Stability

Our concept of “6 Components to Endurance Sports Success” was introduced at the first of the year (read about it HERE). The idea that there are six areas of development required for endurance athletes to maximize their fitness and racing performance came about from our years of working with amateur endurance athletes coming from all kinds of different backgrounds. One area that we continually see needing attention in nearly every athlete we work with (including ourselves) is improved strength and stability. Even the athletes coming from high levels of single-sport competition, and even some from weight lifting backgrounds (especially those coming from a weight lifting background), can seriously lack strength and stability in the areas required for successful endurance sport competition. We’re not talking about moving big weights around, making a lot grunting noises (well, maybe a little grunting), and using the word “bro” throughout your training dialogue kind of strength training; we’re talking about relatively light to no weight exercises performed in functional movements that apply to our sports.  Developing the core stability required to maintain form and function when you’re deep into your race should be the goal in your strength training and the following paragraphs will help you understand why.

Most endurance athletes are surprisingly weak.

Sure they can complete a marathon, an Ironman, or even a 100 mile foot race through mountainous terrain, but none of that necessarily equates to them being particularly strong or stable. Strong in will and determination, perhaps, but ask them to perform a one-legged squat and not have their knee track to the inside or execute a single-leg prone bridge and not have their hip drop, and more often than not, they can’t do it. Many will claim that endurance athletes don’t need to be “strong”, rather, they argue that aerobic fitness is the most important thing and that any time spent training outside of their primary sport is a waste of time. They say for example, “If you want to be better at running, you simply need to run more.” Aerobic fitness is certainly required to participate in endurance sports and it is true the more you run the better a runner you will become; however, time spent improving your muscle recruitment, strength, flexibility, and stability will improve your economy of movement. This means you will be able to move (with what fitness you have) more powerfully and efficiently while wasting less energy and minimizing potential injuries. All, which in turn, yield faster speeds and increased endurance at the same level of aerobic fitness.

Pure muscular strength, the muscle’s ability to apply force to a stationary object, is what allows us to move. When swimming, we apply force to the water, pulling ourselves forward with every stroke. When riding a bike, we apply force to the pedals while turning the cranks at high cadences to produce more power. When running, every foot strike applies force to the ground for the push off, and with appropriate stability and flexibility allowing increased stride lengths and stride rates, we run faster and faster. Through the implementation of resistance training you can increase the force-producing capabilities of the “major muscles” that contribute to forward movement. Exercises like squats, deadlifts, leg curls, leg extensions (to name a few) will train the force-producing quadriceps, hamstrings and glute muscle groups; exercises like pull-ups, pull-downs, chest press, rows, shoulder shrugs and presses will train the larger back and shoulder muscles for force-producing movement strength. A stronger muscle will be able to produce more force for the power required to move as well as fatigue at a slower rate, thus increasing your muscular endurance.

There are several other factors to consider when addressing the concept of muscular strength. Equally important, and perhaps even more valuable to the endurance athlete is the concept of muscular stability. This concept focuses more on the “minor muscles” that don’t necessarily contribute directly to forward movement. These muscles include, but are not limited to, the collection of core muscles that surround the hips, including the lower back and deep abdominal muscles. Stability and power in all sports initiates from the hips and extends outwards to the limbs that make the movement happen.

Excess movement beyond that which is required to execute forward movement is wasted energy and this excess movement occurs from lack of stability.

Wasted energy occurs in running when your hips drop from side to side with each stride, or your knee dives inward or outward with each step, for example. “Fish-tailing” when swimming indicates lack of core stability and wastes energy as you move down the lane wiggling from side to side with each stroke. Rocking hips and/or upper body movement when cycling is another example of wasted energy that stems from a lack of stability in the hips. Along with hip stability, shoulder stability is another critical area that requires attention for swimmers (or any activity involving power production from the arms). Stabilize the hips and shoulders with specific training movements and you improve your form, efficiency, power production and endurance. Time well spent.

A factor that coincides with stability surrounding a joint is flexibility. Joint flexibility contributes to range of motion which is essential to producing power for movement. Anyone with inflexible joints can attest to the limited power and speed that is attainable. On the contrary, hypermobile joints that are “overly flexible” can create issues of instability and possible injury. An increase in muscular strength surrounding the hypermobile joint can often improve the stability for those individuals. Just like strengthening muscles with specific exercises, you can improve your flexibility and range of motion with specific exercises. By honing your flexibility (either minimizing or maximizing) your surrounding joints will become more stable and powerful, and in the long run, be less prone to injuries.

Being able to perform an endurance sport event requires your muscles to repeat movement over and over for many minutes to several hours. Overuse injuries are a major cause of missed training and unmet goals for endurance athletes. If your muscles are not functioning in the way they were designed, you are putting increased stress on your other soft tissue and joints.

Training muscles to function or ‘fire’ correctly when called upon, and for longer periods of time, requires specific training.

We engage our larger ‘primary mover’ muscles very easily when training, but often the smaller supporting muscles get overpowered or neglected causing them to ‘turn off.’ These muscle ‘imbalances’ often lead to frustrating niggles, if not full blown injuries, that can derail an athlete’s training and racing objectives. By activating these smaller muscles with stability training exercises, you allow them to ‘turn on’ in conjunction with your dominant muscles both improving your economy of movement and resistance to injury.

Fortunately, many endurance athletes embrace the idea of strength training. Most athletes typically include some form of strength training for several weeks during their off-season. Unfortunately, most athletes end up dropping their strength training sometime early in their pre-season training, either because they are bored due to limited knowledge of core exercises or they feel it gets in the way of their sport-specific training. This is an unfortunate occurrence. For long-term continuing improvements to occur from year to year, it is critical to include strength and stability training throughout the entire year. Your return on investment in strength and stability training includes increased force and power production with decreased rate of muscular fatigue for forward movement, increased economy of movement with less wasted energy and ability to tap into more of your given aerobic capacity, and more consistent training and capacity for higher training loads due to increased injury resistance. For these reasons alone, endurance sports athletes should make strength and stability training a high priority in their overall annual training program in order to reach their highest level of performance.

Written by Cody Waite, professional endurance athlete, endurance sport coach and founder of Endurance Performance Coaching. Looking for help with your training for 2015? Check out EPC’s Personal CoachingGroup Coaching, and Custom Training Plan options created to fit your needs and budget.

EPC Tips - Base Building

EPC Tips – Early Season Base Building

With January coming to an end in another week, most northern hemisphere athletes are polishing off their off-season training programs and transitioning into their early season base building programs.

As I discussed in a previous article (I. Aerobic Conditioning), it’s important for athletes not to fall into the trap of only long, slow, distance training during their base building phase of training. The goal during this pre-season time of training is to prepare the body for the demands of your Race Preparation phase of training that gets you into race fitness. You’ve hopefully come off your off-season training program with improved skills and general strength and conditioning, and now you’re ready to dig into the aerobic conditioning endurance athletes love to do.

For most endurance athletes this pre-season training should focus on sport specific strength and endurance along with appropriate amounts high intensity efforts to train speed and power over short, manageable distances.

The following session is a great one that can be easily adapted to a swim, bike or run sessions. The session targets both ends of the aerobic conditioning spectrum making it very time effective for athletes on a tight schedule. After a warm-up, you perform multiple sets of short, powerful intervals with adequate rest. You want to tap into some of your fastest speeds here, as they are broken up over very short repetitions, making the efforts achievable and not overly stressful. After the power sets, you transition to a strength set to develop sport specific strength and endurance.

The example that follows is for a run session intended to be done on a track near a hill.  You can also do this on a treadmill (by adjusting distance for time, and incline for hill) if a track and/or hill are not available.

WARM-UP:
5:00 Dynamic Warm-up exercises
5:00 Drill Progression (practice a specific drill you learned during the off season)
10:00 easy run
4:00 build to tempo effort
1:00 walk

SPEED/POWER SET:
Multiple Sets of the following:
4x[100m at 400m speed/pace, 300m easy jog]
800m easy run
Repeat 2-4 times

STRENGTH SET:
Run uphill for 5:00-15:00 at a moderate effort, with downhill recoveries
Repeat 2-3 times as desired to achieve 10:00-30:00 minutes of uphill running

WARM-DOWN:
5:00+ easy running
5:00 walk

Written by Cody Waite, professional XTERRA athlete, endurance sport coach and founder of Endurance Performance Coaching. Check out EPC’s Personal Coaching, XTERRA Group Coaching, and Custom Training Plan options.

EPC Tips

EPC Tips – Aerobic Conditioning

Last week EPC coach Cody Waite discussed the 6 Components of Endurance Sport Success.

“If you missed it, I encourage you to read it to get an idea of what we’re referring to as the ‘6 Components’ and where we will be going with this concept,” sais Waite.

This week Waite expands more on the first component: Aerobic Conditioning.

When most athletes think of endurance sports training, aerobic conditioning is typically where the mind goes. Building up the endurance to go the distance is a primary objective for those athletes newer to endurance sports and/or those training for ultra-distance endurance events. But training to go long is not the only piece of the aerobic conditioning puzzle to complete your metabolic masterpiece.

Aerobic conditioning can be thought of as two distinct elements: endurance and speed.

I like to think of these two elements in these defining ways: endurance is the ability to maintain pace while speed is the ability to create pace. To be successful in endurance sports you need to maximize both endurance and speed through creative training strategies that address both segments in effective quantities. The shorter your goal event, the greater an emphasis on speed will be required, while the longer your goal event, the greater an emphasis on endurance will be required. However, regardless of the distance of events you are training for, you need to train both elements to maximize your aerobic conditioning and endurance racing success.

Picture aerobic conditioning as a sliding scale. On one end you have the shortest duration, highest intensity output, the ‘alactate’ burst of maximum speed; on the other end you have the ‘all day’ maximum endurance effort. In between these two extremes you have the classic physiological energy systems of anaerobic power (30-seconds to 2-minute max output), Vo2 max (3-minute to 7-minute output), lactate threshold (30-minute to 60-minute output), aerobic threshold (1-hour to 3-hour output) and aerobic endurance (extended output). Training all six of these ‘zones’ of intensity is critical for all endurance athletes, regardless of the event for which they’re training. Balancing the amount of each level of intensity and at what point in their training year it is emphasized is what makes up an endurance athlete’s aerobic conditioning training program.

Aerobic conditioning is highly trainable, although it can take many years to fully maximize in human physiology.

Every human is born with an innate capacity to process oxygen, known as maximum oxygen uptake or, simply, Vo2 max. The more oxygen an athlete can take in and supply to their working muscles, the faster and/or longer they can go. Vo2max is trainable to a certain extent, but everyone has their genetic ceiling of maximum uptake. One of the primary goals with aerobic conditioning is to maximize the sustainable percentage of their Vo2max they can reach in training and racing. Improving one’s ability to perform at the highest sustainable percentage of their Vo2max can be achieved by training any of the above mentioned energy systems, but is most effective by training all of the energy systems through an effective training program.

Training longer durations at lower intensities has many identified benefits such as increased mitochondria and capillary density to improve oxygen delivery, maximizing the use of slow twitch muscle fibers, improved fuel utilization and carbohydrate storage, and an increase in the volume of blood your heart can move with each beat. Long, slow distance training has been a staple of endurance sport training for years. For athletes that are coming to endurance sports from a ‘speed based’ background, are relatively young, healthy, have the time, and have lofty goals of racing performance, high volume training can help them succeed. Although as valuable as the benefits of low-intensity training are, you must have the time to put into this method as it requires increasingly higher and higher volumes to create the stimulus needed for improved fitness. Most amateur athletes with a job and family to balance with their training schedule usually can only find time for limited amounts of high volume training, leading us to consider how else can we improve our aerobic conditioning?

Training the short, powerful, high intensity energy systems happens to also have many identified benefits, and these can often be achieved with much lower training volumes. Benefits of high intensity training include increased oxygen utilization, improved lactate tolerance/utilization, maximizing the recruitment of both slow and fast twitch muscle fibers, increased hormone production, reduced insulin dependency, and improved mechanical/movement efficiency. The benefits of high intensity training cannot be ignored, nor should the high intensity training in your training program. High intensity training definitely has its place in the endurance sport training program, with the amount and timing of it being a key part of the metabolic puzzle.

Every individual has their own genetically given strengths; some athletes are more powerful and faster over short distances, while others are built for the long haul and can maintain moderate outputs for extended periods of time. To maximize your endurance sports performance you must identify your strengths and weaknesses and then create a training program that will improve your weaknesses while maximizing your strengths. Put simply, by improving your short-term high intensity energy systems you can go faster for longer, and by improving your long-term low intensity energy systems you can extend your speed over longer periods. These opposing ends of the physiological energy system scale should come together at some point inline with your targeted race-day intensity level you plan to predominantly utilize during your goal events.

Regardless of your strengths and weaknesses, your objective should be to create your own aerobic training program to give you the right amount of training stress to minimize fatigue and maximize performance.

The goal within your training program should be to apply just the right amount of low intensity and high intensity training to create the perfect amount of stimulus for your body to adapt to. Too much stimulus (often the case with endurance athletes) and you get tired, sick or injured; not enough stimulus and you fail to continue improving and don’t reach your fullest potential. You also have to keep in mind when designing your training schedule that  your ‘training stress’ is just one part of the equation. You must also consider your ‘life stress’ when determining your overall training load. Those with busy lives, stressful jobs, and families typically cannot maintain as high a training load as say someone with minimal commitments, financial stress, and family obligations. Stress is stress, regardless if it is physical or mental stress. It affects how you think, feel, perform and recover. Mixing the right amount of training stress (intensity and volume) and life stress (job, family, finances) into an individual’s training program is the secret to maximizing aerobic fitness and is unique to every athlete.

Written by Cody Waite, professional XTERRA athlete, endurance sport coach and founder of Endurance Performance Coaching. Check out EPC’s Personal Coaching, XTERRA Group Coaching, and Custom Training Plan options.

EPC Tips - Power Run

EPC Tips – Six Components to Endurance Sports Success

XTERRA Pro and Endurance Performance Coach Cody Waite is back in 2015 to deliver a wealth of training tips and workouts for the Tribe. Cody is kick-starting the season with an overview of the “six components to endurance sports success” and will elaborate on each in the weeks to come. Be sure to check out EPC’s XTERRA specific Group CoachingPersonal Coaching and Custom Training Plan options Cody has created to fit every athletes needs and budget…

Welcome all XTERRA athletes from around the globe to 2015! It’s time to start thinking seriously about your training program and getting yourself ready for the XTERRA race season ahead. My previous article “Welcome to the Off Season” discussed some strategies for making good use of your training time in between racing seasons. With the new year upon us, we must begin to concentrate our efforts on becoming the best prepared athletes we can be before our priority events.

There are many factors that go into preparing yourself for racing endurance events like XTERRA triathlons. Through our years of coaching endurance sports athletes, I have identified six key components that lead to endurance sports’ success. In the follow paragraphs, I’ll briefly touch on each of them, get you thinking, and help you get on the right track to XTERRA racing success. In the coming weeks I’ll dig a little deeper into each component and provide helpful information you can choose to integrate into your own training program. Hopefully, the following concepts will help you improve and allow you to reach your fullest potential throughout your entire XTERRA racing season. I’ll see you at the races!

Six Components to Endurance Sport Success

It’s common thought that to become a better endurance athlete you simply need to go longer and harder in your training to be successful.

Many athletes are familiar with the 10,000 hour rule which states that it requires 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to obtain elite level proficiency in your sport. In many ways this concept holds true; you need to put in the time for your body to adapt and to learn the skills and movements required to perform at a high level of sport. However, there is likely more to the equation of improvement in endurance sports. In fact, what we have found is that success in endurance sports hinges on several different factors. Through working with hundreds of different athletes coming from all shapes and sizes of background in sport, we have learned that there are six essential components required to maximize endurance sport development.

You certainly can and do become a better endurance athlete simply by doing more of what you are striving to improve; more hours on the bike, more miles on the run, and more yardage in the pool. Assuming you have the time and luxury to spend 5+ hours a day on the bike,  much like I did for 6 years in my late teens and early twenties while pursuing a professional cycling career, you will become a highly competent cyclist allowing you to compete at a very high level. There’s no question that if you put in the time, you will improve. But is this high volume, single-focused training approach the right way to maximize performance? Maybe, maybe not. Is it the only way to maximize performance? Definitely not.

What is the ‘right’ way or ‘best’ way to improve as an endurance athlete?

There are many theories, however most physiologists and coaches will agree that the best answer is, “It depends.” It depends on who the athlete is. How old is the athlete, what is the athlete’s background in sport, what is the athlete’s lifestyle, do they have a job, do they have a family, do they have the time, energy and physical capacity to allow them to train 30+ hours a week, week in and week out? If you’re a 20-something year old, athletic individual with minimal life stress and plenty of financial backing then it’s time to put in the big volume. However, if you’re over thirty, have to make money to support yourself and/or your family, and are a less than perfect physical specimen, then simply going longer and doing more of the same is not the best path to follow to reach your fullest potential.

So how is the aspiring endurance athlete going to maximize improvement when spending endless hours cranking out the miles is not an option? We have found over the years that all athletes must make endurance sport a lifestyle, much like a professional, focusing on both the large and the small components of fitness to build the best possible athlete they can be. We have identified six key components that are crucial to endurance sports success, and they can all be implemented regardless of their experience level or the amount of time the athlete has to devote to their sport. By learning, incorporating and striving to always improve upon these six key components of fitness, an athlete will be better able to reach their fullest potential.

The Six Components to Endurance Sports Success

– Aerobic Conditioning
– Muscular Stability
– Skill Proficiency
– Optimal Nutrition
– Recovery Management
– Mental Strength

The first three components, aerobic conditioning, muscular stability, and skill proficiency, make up the physical “training” an athlete with do. Aerobic conditioning can be achieved by not only spending more time performing their sport, but also through various modalities of cross-training during specific times of the year. Training endurance by going longer at times, as well as incorporating moderate and high intensity interval training, at and above an athlete’s aerobic and anaerobic thresholds at specific points in their training year, will improve their aerobic conditioning. Muscular stability involves a combination of both strength and mobility. Incorporating stability training in an athletes year round program can improve an athlete’s muscular strength and flexibility, range of motion of joints, application of force, and overall durability. Improper joint mobility and/or joint stability limits nearly every athlete in some manner. Improving these characteristics through proper strength training modalities, an athlete will become more efficient and able to use more of their given maximal aerobic capacity. Developing the skills to move the body in the most efficient manner is critical to maximizing both speed and endurance. Wasted energy through improper movements not only slows you down but wastes valuable energy, limiting your performance. By incorporating drills into an athlete’s training program throughout the year, they will again achieve a higher usage of their given maximal aerobic capacity.

The last three key components, optimal nutrition, recovery management, and mental strength are the efforts made in between the actual ‘training’ sessions. These details require as much or more effort to incorporate into an athlete’s routine, but they can also often yield some of the biggest results. Most athletes are aware of the importance of nutrition but few actually take it seriously for any length of time. Through optimal nutrition you not only perform better on race day, but you are also able to achieve optimal body composition for improved performance, optimal energy levels to improve training capacity, and optimal hormone operation within the body to improve health and recovery. Managing recovery between training sessions is critical to maximize your training consistency and adaptation. Learning and incorporating proper recovery methods and modalities will allow you to train more frequently and get more from each training session. Finally, perhaps the most neglected and overlooked component of success in sport is the power of the mind. Getting yourself in the right mindset to train to your fullest potential and race to maximum ability is one of the toughest things for athletes to learn. It is subsequently also one of the most important abilities for athletes to transform themselves into champions. Practicing mental strategies and learning how to train and compete to your true ability will unlock the complete athlete within you.

To become the best athlete you can become and reach your fullest potential in the least amount of time possible, you must address these six crucial components of fitness development: aerobic conditioning, muscular stability, skill proficiency, optimal nutrition, recovery management, and mental strength. When any one of these components is neglected or underdeveloped, an athlete will fall short of their maximum ability. By incorporating these components into your training lifestyle you will be able to consistently improve your performance year after year. Don’t fall into the trap that

there is only one path to improvement, doing the same thing over and over. Rather, choose to expand your vision and athletic ability by addressing these six components of fitness to allow yourself to continually evolve and improve as an endurance athlete.

The Off-Season

EPC Tips – Welcome to The Off Season

With 2014 winding down and coming to a close this month, now is that time narrow-focused endurance athletes begin to look towards not only the new year but the new racing season that lies ahead. Most endurance athletes (in the northern hemisphere, anyway) have brought their competitive racing season to a close in the previous weeks/months and have been enjoying some downtime coupled perhaps with some cross-training and/or easier aerobic training/fun as they settle into the off season.

The term “off season is often misunderstood and misused in training talk.

The off season is not a time to take off from training, but rather the time you take off from racing. You have your racing season and your non-racing season, or off season, as it’s commonly referred to. With the pressure of being in top racing shape removed, you can now focus on a consistent training program without being interrupted by racing and recovering. Now is the time you can focus on your weaknesses and train to improve yourself as an endurance athlete.

Regarding how you should train during the off season, there are countless numbers of different training philosophies out there from which to choose. What I’ve found to work well for most athletes, regardless of chosen training methodology, is to train progressively from ‘least race specific’ to ‘most race specific’ as you build up to your key events. Put simply, this means the further out you are from your priority events the less event specific your training can be; and as you move closer to your A-race your training becomes more specific to the fitness requirements called for on race day.

Triathlon, regardless of distance, is an aerobic sport. As we near race day we want to achieve the best possible aerobic conditioning in order to race to the best possible result.

When we are months away from competitive racing, we can train far from the aerobic end of training and focus more of our efforts on technique, strength, speed and power.

These often neglected areas of fitness development will improve our movement efficiency allowing us to utilize more of our given aerobic capacity as we transition to larger aerobic training volumes. This equates to faster maintainable aerobic training paces over greater distances as you build towards your priority events.

This training approach goes against much of the traditional off season ‘base training’ methods that endurance athletes may be familiar with: the long, slow distance theory of off season training to build the aerobic system prior to sharpening up with high intensity training as you build towards your key events. Many current physiologists and top coaches from around the world are now beginning to agree that this classic method, created by the ‘strength/power sports’ community (ie. weight lifting), to be flawed for endurance sports.

The new school thought is to train first from the less race specific, higher intensity strength, speed, and power, then adding the race specific aerobic volume as you near your goal races.

When you view it from this angle you can see why the classic periodization model (low intensity/high volume followed by high intensity/low volume as your peak events neared) was successful for sports like weight lifting, track running, short and middle distance swimming, and other strength, speed, power dominant sports.

Here we are at the end of the year, and it’s time to first dial in your racing schedule for the new year ahead. Once you have that in hand it’s time to figure out your training program, either on your own, with the help of others, or with your coach so you can make the most of this off season. Be better prepared for the racing season ahead with an effective off season training program that emphasizes technique, strength, speed and power and save the long slow (or not so slow) distance efforts for later. It takes less time, can be highly effective performed indoors as daylight disappears and cold weather sets in, and it’s something different for you to experiment with which will all likely lead to improved fitness and fun.

After all, a smart friend of mine says, “ Training is just an adult form of play.”

Have fun!

Written by Cody Waite, professional XTERRA athlete, endurance sport coach and founder of Endurance Performance Coaching. Looking for help with your training for 2015? Check out EPC’s Personal CoachingGroup Coaching, and Custom Training Plan options created to fit your needs and budget.  www.epcmultisport.com

Run Jump

EPC Tips – Bike – Run Workout Before Your Big Race

Ready for race day with this bike-run workout the week before your big race…

Taper time is about resting and recovering, while maintaining your feel and sharpness necessary for a peak performance. Try this session about a week out from your A-priority race to maintain your race-day energy systems, while not being too fatiguing. It’s best to do the session on the bike you’ll race on and terrain similar to what you’ll experience on race day.

BIKE:

  • 30:00 easy to moderate
  • 2-3x[10:00 race pace effort/power + 5:00 easy]
  • transition to run below

RUN:

  • off the bike…
  • 3-4x[5:00 race pace effort + 2:30 easy jog]
  • 10:00 easy

The ‘Workouts of the Week’ are brought to you by coach, Cody Waite. Racing XTERRA USA and/or World Championships this Fall? Then checkout our XTERRA Championship specific Group Coaching Program for a complete XTERRA specific program leading up to the BIG races!