March Training Recap

Hi! Remember me? I use to blog here!

Woof! March has been a crazy month. You know what they say… in like a lion and out like a lamb! The first week of March was a solid training week. I went in the second week strong as well, but soon developed the sniffles. By the weekend I was starting to feel a cold coming on.

A second round of sickness was making its way around the office. I lucked out and missed the first one – the flu! But managed to catch the latest around of germs being passed around the water cooler. I was able to complete most of my workouts during week 2, but by Friday I was exhausted and dealing with a massive headache. I took that Friday as a rest day and had to teach spin the following morning at the Bay Club.

I woke up that Saturday feeling worst than ever, but still taught spin. I arrived a few minutes late to the class because I forgot my shoes at home and had to go back to my house after I realized the missing shoes. Urgh! The owner of the club was in my class observing making sure that I was actually capable of teaching spin classes. The class went well. I used one of my more tough interval workouts and everyone loved the class. Personally for me it was a rough class for two reasons: 1) I got stuck with the broken bike that wouldn’t adjust the resistance to an easier resistance, and 2) I felt like crap and almost passed out a few times. But, I survived! The owner had nothing but good things to say about my teaching style and one guy even told her I was varsity. Yay me!

The new car!

The new car!

That following Monday my car died on my way home from work. I stopped at a stop sign to make a righthand turn and she died. Luckily, a nice man pushed my car around the corner for me so I wasn’t blocking traffic and AAA came and towed my car to my mechanic after waiting for over an hour. So embarrassing! My mechanic looked at my car and determined it was most likely the fuel pump. At this point in my car’s life I decided that it was time for her retirement after all she is over 14 years old with over 165,000 miles. Last week I purchased a new car! Eeek. It’s bittersweet. I really love my new car, but now I have a monthly car payment. Urgh, now I’m really an adult. I guess you have to grow up sometime, right?

I finally got over my cold by the end of last week and got in a few spin sessions, but no rigorous workouts. I’m back on track now though since my first tri of the year is in 4 weeks! Yikes!

~ Happy Training!

Winter Training Blues…




I live in Maine. It snows a lot. And it’s cold. This winter has been no exception. I can’t complain too much because I choose to live here. If I really hated the cold and the snow then I would probably move south or to California. I will admit, I’m definitely thinking south or west coast for graduate school in a few years! Wouldn’t it be fabulous if I could ride my bike year-round outside instead of spinning in place for countless hours!?

Triathlon training thus far as gone well; but, I’ll be honest; I’ve missed some workouts and/or moved some round due to weather. I’ve found that it’s hard to swim when all the pools close early due to storms! It’s hard to run on ice! And it’s hard to get out of bed in the early mornings when the temperature is -20 degrees!

Excuses, excuses! This is has been a hard winter for training. I’ve discussed this with multiple athletes and we’re all in the same boat – spending countless hours on the trainer and/or treadmill! I’m beginning to feel like a hamster – around and round on a hamster wheel I go….

I’m lucky that I live in Maine where we have miles upon miles of trails that I can cross-country ski or snowshoe on. There’s plenty of ski mountains for downhill skiing and several fabulous hot yoga studios to warm up in afterwards. You know what they say… when life gives you lemons, make lemonade…

This past Fall I was out for several months with yet another hip-related issue where I wasn’t allow to run (or really do anything). I was finally able to resume running again around Thanksgiving. Winter began early this year in Maine and I soon found the roads too snowy, icy, and cold. Okay, perhaps I’ve become a total wuss this year!

Due to my injury, I’ve been taking my run training slowly. I’ve missed quite a few runs this winter due to icy roads and have done many on the treadmill (or as I affectionately call… the dreadmill). As much as I love running outside, I’ve decided to be smart and not run if the conditions are bad. I don’t want to risk injuring myself now as I just come back from an injury. It sucks, but I hope in the long run, it will pay off. Instead, I’ve spent more time on my bike than I have in a long while during base training and also strength training.

Oh, have I missed strength training! I’ve been participating in one or two circuit classes at Zone 3 Fitness (where I teach spin classes!) and a Pilates class once a week. In just a few short weeks I have already felt a difference in strength, especially in my core and hip region.

Source (Photo by Francis Bompard/Agence/Zoom/Getty Images)

Source (Photo by Francis Bompard/Agence/Zoom/Getty Images)

Here are a few of my tips to get through this cold and snowy winter:

  • Can’t run? Try cross-country skiing or snowshoeing!
  • Feeling weak? Add strength training into your training program. You can hit the gym or try out various strength-focused classes at a gym or studio.
  • Cold? Try a hot yoga class. Your muscles will thank you and you’ll warm up fast!
  • Bored on the trainer? Try watching a movie or listen to podcasts. Also add intervals into your workout to break up the time and for a more productive workout. Check out three workouts that I posted a month ago: A Few of My Favorite Indoor Trainer Rides!
  • Tired of the same ole’ routine? Try something new. Have you always wanted to try boxing? Or martial arts? Do something to keep you motivated and moving!

Spring will be here in about 6 weeks. At least on the calendar it will. Who knows when all this snow will melt though! Sometimes you just need to embrace the “suck” of winter and stay active. Just remember, athletes are made in the winter months! It may be cold and snowy, but there are plenty of ways to get in shape for the summer season.

~ Happy Training!

How to Conduct a Heart Rate Test


Why do a majority of endurance sport coaches want/require you to train with a Heart Rate (HR) monitor?

It’s a great question! I know a lot of athletes who have fancy Garmin watches who don’t wear their straps. Personally, I think they are making a big mistake here. Now, HR isn’t a 100% accurate and there is certainly some day-to-day variability (i.e., heat, stress, time of day, etc.); but, overall, HR training is effectivearv

Why should you wear that annoying little strap that is probably chafing your skin? Here are some good reasons:

  • Wearing a HR strap ensures that your easy days are easy and your hard days are hard. Most athletes (myself included) have a tendency to work too hard on easy days and not hard enough on hard days. By knowing your HR zones you can ensure that you are working at the correct intensity levels to ensure the best physiological adaptations in your body.
  • Wearing a HR strap will aid you in determining what level of intensity you should be working at during exercise. We’ll discuss HR zones later below, but each HR zone specializes and trains different physiological adaptations and metabolic pathways in the body. For example, if you want to improve aerobic or endurance fitness then you should train primarily in Zone 2 (at or below aerobic threshold).
  • Wearing a HR strap can help you lose weight and “teach” your body to utilize fat for fuel. Now, we should emphasize the word “can.” Everyone’s metabolism is slightly different and not everyone will have the same results. While working at a lower intensity, HR between 55-65% of maximal HR, the body will utilize more fat molecules to fuel the body instead of glycogen. This is important for long-course triathletes. Staying in lower intensities will allow the body to use more fat vs glycogen (carbs) since fat is essentially an infinite fuel source vs. glycogen, which is a finite fuel source. Note: If you are not an endurance athlete and looking to lose weight, then you want to utilize a different method. We’ll discuss that another time.

As I mentioned above, there are HR zones. Depending who you ask, there may be slightly different versions of the HR Zones. Below is what I use with my athletes:

  • Zone 1 – Active Recovery (aerobic) or 50-60% of Maximum Heart Rate (MHR)
  • Zone 2 – Aerobic Endurance or 60-70% of MHR
  • Zone 3 – Aerobic Stamina/Tempo Pace or 70-80% of MHR
  • Zone 4 – Economy (anaerobic) or 80-90% of MHR
  • Zone 5 – Speed (anaerobic) or 90-100% of MHR

You might also see zones broken down by lactate threshold. Lactate threshold is the point in training intensity where lactic acid (or commonly called lactate) starts to accumulate in the bloodstream. In a nutshell, lactic acid is a by-product of metabolism at certain exercise intensities.

In order to determine an athlete’s HR zones, an athlete must undergo a Maximal Heart Rate Test. These, of course, can be done in the laboratory setting, but most athletes don’t have the time or money to do so. A field test works for most people.

You’ve probably read in a billion books and magazines that you can calculate your HR using a simple mathematical formula. You can, but, it’s not the most accurate, because the results can vary due to genetic differences between individuals and also between different activities. However, if you’re interested you can calculate your MHR using Karvonen’s Formula:

MHR = 220 – age or

The newer gender specific calculation:

Male = 214 – (0.8xage)

Female = 209 – (0.9xage)

For a more accurate test, I suggest conducting a Maximal Heart Rate Test for each running and cycling. Generally, your MHR will be about 5 beats per minute (bpm) higher during running than cycling.

Disclaimer: Heart rate tests are very stressful on the body. PLEASE get cleared by your medical provider before attempting any HR testing. This is especially important if you have any known heart conditions. Attempt at your own risk.

Here is the below protocol I generally use with my athletes for both cycling and running.

  • 5 minutes – warm up slowly to a pace where at the end you breathe a little hard, but are able to complete a full sentence without grasping for air
  • 5 minutes – maintain pace, but increase a bit during the less 60-90 seconds
  • 5 minutes – increase pace to labored breathing
  • 5 minutes – on a gradual incline, increase your pace from breathing hard to breathing very hard
  • 2 minutes – all out sprint on incline to maximum pace you can hold for 2 minutes
  • 1 minute – push absolute maximum speed (this should feel like hell)
  • 10-15 minutes – cool down at an easy pace to bring HR down and breathing should return to normal

This could be done on a flat surface or a treadmill, but I find that a gradual hill works best because my own personal HR increases higher when running on a hill.

The same protocol above can also be utilized on the bike. I recommend using an indoor trainer, but certainly it can be completed outside as well. It is important to maintain a consistent cadence, usually between 85-95rpm (aiming for 90rpm), throughout the test. As you progress through the test protocol, increase your gearing to a harder gear.

Once you have completed your test, download your data. If you have a coach, give the data file to your coach for analysis. If you use TrainingPeaks then you can easily figure out your HR zones through their software. If not, you can do it the manual way. Take your MHR value and multiple it by each zones’ percentage. For example:

MHR = 190


Minimum   Zone

Maximum   Zone

Zone 1 (50-60%) 190*0.5 = 95bpm 190*0.6 = 114bpm
Zone 2 (60-70%) 190*0.6 = 114bpm 190*0.7 = 133bpm
Zone 3 (70-80%) 190*0.7 = 133bpm 190*0.8 = 152bpm
Zone 4 (80-90%) 190*0.8 = 152bpm 190*0.9 = 171bpm
Zone 5 (90-100%) 190*0.9 = 171bpm 190*1.0 = 190bpm

Your zones may vary slightly depending on what HR zone calculations are used. Some zone calculations will break Zone 5 into Zone 5a, 5b, and 5c. If you work with a coach, your coach will help you with this. The above is just one method you can use. Once you know your HR zones, you can begin training. Now, if you have a power meter on your bike, then you will probably train using power metrics and thus you must complete a Functional Threshold Power (FTP) test. More on that later this week!

~ Happy Training!

Periodization Basics

If you have a coach or are following a solid, structured training plan then you may be familiar with the term periodization. Not only is (and should) periodization be part of endurance training, but also strength training programs as well.

Periodization can be defined as training for specific physiological benefits, such as cardiovascular endurance, strength, speed, and power. Periodization began its roots with Hans Selye’s General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) model, which describes the body’s biological response to stress. Leo Metveyev and Tudor Bompa are considered the modern-day fathers of periodization.

Periodization is divided into three cycles:

  1. Macrocycle – The overall phase of your training plan. This generally tends to be a 12-month time frame, but could be 3-5 years depending on an athlete’s goals, i.e. competing at the Olympics.
  2. Mesocycle – The mesocycle is the number of continuous weeks of specific training that emphasizes a type of physical adaptation, i.e. strength or speed.
  3. Microcycle – The microcycle is typically a one or two-week cycle that includes daily variations in your training plan.

In order to fully understand the concept of periodization, one must understand the six basic principles of exercise physiology:

  1. Stress – In order to build endurance, strength, speed, and/or power, you must stress each of these physiological systems in order to grow and adapt in these areas.
  2. Adaptation – Your body will adapt to physiological stress over time. This is how the body becomes fitter, stronger, and faster. Adaptation in a nutshell is the body’s response to physical stress.
  3. Progression – Over time the body will adapt to its current training and thus in order for your body to continue to improve, you must increase and change stresses.
  4. Specificity – Training should be specific. If you want to build more power on the bike, then you must train for power on the bike!
  5. Individualization – Every person is unique and responses differently to training stress. Training plans should be specific to an individual to maximize the outcome.
  6. Reversibility – Rest is critical, especially a few weeks of unstructured training at the end of the season. Training gains will reverse when extended breaks are taken, so try to be active throughout the year so you don’t lose too much fitness over time.

The body has several physiological  energy systems that it utilizes to produce energy for movement. Here is a brief overview of each:

  • ATP-PC system (phosphagen system) – This system is utilized first by the body because it requires no oxygen. However, it can only provide energy for about 8-10 seconds. This system is used most during short sprints and strength training.
  • Glycolysis – This system starts after the ATP-PC system ends. No oxygen is required to break down glucose or glycogen to pyruvic acid. It generally lasts for a couple minutes at most. Glycosis is often referred to as the anaerobic system.
  • Aerobic System – The aerobic system begins after about 2 minutes and requires oxygen to produce ATP (fuel source of the body). As long as your body has oxygen then the aerobic system will produce energy.

When a coach builds an athlete’s Annual Training Plan (ATP) or macrocycle training plan, they will break down the plan into mesocycles or blocks. An ATP usually breaks down into the following training blocks:

  • Base Building – A majority of athletes will spend most of their training cycle time in base building. Base building generally lasts between 12-16 weeks, depending on race schedule and goals. This block is focused on developing aerobic endurance and building mileage.
  • Strength Building – The focus of this block is building muscular strength. This block generally lasts between 6-8 weeks.
  • Speed Building – The focus of this block is on developing neuromuscular movement and building speed. This block generally lasts between 6-8 weeks.
  • Racing & Maintenance – This period focuses on racing and resting between races. This time period varies depending on the athlete’s season and goals.
  • Recovery – The focus of this block is to recover and rest from a long season. Training is generally unstructured and easy. This block lasts usually between 2-4 weeks.

The above information is just a basic introduction to periodization and training plans. As a coach I love creating training plans based on the periodization concept and the individual athlete. As an athlete, I am a strong believer that the concept works. Over the next few months I plan to provide a more in-depth overview of each training block or mesocycle to help you understand your own training plans. Stay tuned! 🙂

~ Happy Training!