Progression workouts for sensible, flexible training!

Training plans are written as a best case scenario, but there is no way for you or your coach to know how your body & mind are going to feel on a particular day.  No way to know how much of a toll all the other stresses of life have put on you.  How much sleep you have been getting, the quality of your nutrition/hydration, any injuries, work, family, etc...  All of these things can factor into your workout for that day.

How fast you progress to in any particular training session will be based on the goals of the session and what your body & mind have available to deliver on that day.  I like to give my clients workouts that are what I call "progression on feel".  This allows them to listen to their body and progress to their limits for the day or if the body is a bit off, then just progress to what is available.  I believe this helps keep injury potential down and continues to teach the athlete to listen to the signals their body is sending so they can keep training or recovering if that is the case.

Progression workouts are really quite simple, you start off at a pace you can handle and increase your intensity as the workout progresses.  They are great for teaching athletes how to pace themselves at the beginning of a training session, so they will have enough energy to finish the session as fast or faster than they started.  It is much better to dictate the pace you are going to move at rather than have the pace dictated to you because you went out too fast.

For those that train with power or heart rate, you can easily measure whether or not the intensity is increasing.  While going on feel is great, the numbers don't lie and a good tool to use to compliment your training.  Over time your feel will get better as your ability to gauge your perceived effort improves.  This is important because you do not want to be a slave to the numbers and what happens on race day if technology fails you?  You should have a very good idea what a particular effort feels like, and how long you can sustain it.

Remember that consistency in training is one of the keys to improvement.  This coupled with a balance of stress plus recovery will enable an athlete to progress their training throughout the year.  So try implementing a few "progression on feel" workouts during the coming weeks to help maximize the training that you do.

Train Smart... Race Fast!

Coach Eric

Want to Get Faster… Work on limiters, maintain strengths

Often times as a coach, I hear athletes state "I want to get faster but I don't know what to do".  One of the easiest thing you can do is to identify your strengths and weaknesses (limiters) in the sports you do.
A Romanian sports scientist Tudor Bompa, Ph.D.,  did some of the early work on periodization and has shared his findings in a great book called. "The Theory and Methodology of Training".  Joe Friel, has simplified things for the everyday athlete to easily understand and calls it "The Training Triad".  You can read in more detail about this in one of his books, "Total Heart Rate Training", but here are the basics to get you started.

He states that in any sport, there are six physical abilities related to performance:  Endurance, Force, Speed Skill, Muscular Endurance, Anaerobic Endurance and Power.  He further states that endurance, force and speed skill are the "basic abilities" and muscular endurance, anaerobic endurance and power are the "advanced abilities".  Athletes regardless of sport will need to develop their basic abilities to their full potential before the advanced abilities can be developed fully.  The reason for this is to develop your muscular endurance fully you need both endurance and force.  Anaerobic endurance requires endurance and speed skill while power requires force and speed skill.  Beginner athletes will stand to gain the most by just working on the basic skills while a more seasoned athlete can devote time to the advanced abilities to improve performance as long as the basic abilities are maintained.

Identifying your limiters and subsequently learning how to train for them is a key ingredient to getting faster.  This will make setting up your training plan whether self coached or using a coach a bit easier because you will know exactly what you need to work on.  Make time to do your homework and you will be on your way to getting faster.

Train smart, race fast!

Coach Eric

1/2 Ironman Race Pace Swim Set

A month ago, I posted one of my favorite Ironman swim training sets and had a few people ask me what they could do to prepare for a 1/2 Ironman swim distance.  The 1/2 Ironman distance is a little over 2100 yards or 1900 meters.  Specificity of training is key, so it is important to do broken swims at or near race pace with some rest from time to time.  If you can not swim race speed with rest, it is going to be VERY difficult to swim it with no rest.

The set 
2100 Yards/1900 meters

Strong, but in control:
6 x 50 on short rest interval :05-10 sec.  This helps simulate the beginning chaos of the race.  Arms flailing around you, feet kicking, bodies pressed together.  Best to get a little uncomfortable in practice with these 50's so race day will be less challenging.  Think of swimming these 50's as a strong, broken 300 and that will allow you be consistent and not over achieve too soon.

Settling in:
3 x 300 @ :20 sec rest steady pace.  Not a lot of rest, but enough to keep your swim speed honest.  Try not to slow down too much from the initial swim speed of the 6 x 50's.  So, if your 50's above were :40 seconds then you should aim for 300's around 4:05-4:10

Stay settled or pick it up:
3 x 200 (2 x 200 if Meters) @ :20 sec rest.  Here is where you need to decide, do I stay on these feet I am drafting or possibly make and effort to pass and/or find feet moving slightly faster.  By practicing this in training you will have a pretty good idea in a race at this point what you should do.  So keep the pace the same as the 300's or pick it up 1-2 seconds per 100.

Finish strong:
6 x 50 on short rest interval :05-10 sec Graduay build the legs and hold on to your stroke biomechanics This will help minimize your chances of falling down when it is time to stand up and run to T1 and help the legs prepare for the bike.

A set like this could be done once every 2-3 weeks to help measure if you are improving and also dial in your swimming pace.  Perception and reality are often two different things.  For example if you are good on the 50's but fade on the 300's, chances are you went out too fast.  If you get through the 300's knowing you can swim faster, you are in a good place and should be able to hold pace on the 200's or slightly faster.

Train Smart, Race Fast

Coach Eric


Get FASTER!….Get out of your comfort zone!

How many of you are training by doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting a different result?  It is easy to fall into the same routine with exercise and don't get me wrong, routine is a good thing.  But, if you want to improve, I believe from time to time you will need to get out of your comfort zone and change up the routine a bit.  A client of mine gave me the name  "The Evil Genius" and I think it largely came from the fact that I challenge him to reach beyond what he thinks is possible.

Lets take a simple swimming set of 10 x 100 @ 1:30
There are 3 ways to modify this set to make it more challenging.

1. Intensity - Same number of repeats, same interval but increase speed.
2. Duration - Same speed, same interval but add more repeats 12 x 100 or 15 x 100
3. Rest - Same number of repeats, same speed but on shorter rest interval of 1:25
What you choose to modify should focus on what your limiters are.  You can apply this to your cycling and running when planning workouts.  In addition, the type of training route you choose (flat, rolling, hilly) can help get you out of your comfort zone.

How often should you get out of your comfort zone?  Once a week for beginners would be a good place to start.  A more seasoned athlete may choose twice a week.  Keep in mind there is not only a physical toll on these workouts, but a mental one.  Often times the real gains come from the latter as the physical ability was always there, but the mind was lagging a bit in confidence or preconceived self imposed limits.

Get comfortable being uncomfortable and watch your fitness and performance improve.

Train smart, race fast!

Coach Eric

Triathlon 101 – The Basics Starting off… Keep it Simple

So you want to do a Triathlon but not sure how to go about training for it.  Triathlon is comprised of three sports, swimming, biking and running and the events are typically completed in that order.  A very common race distance that athletes will start with is called a sprint triathlon.  The swim will usually be between 500-750 yards, the bike about 12 miles and the run 3.1miles. 
The Swim – 10-20% of your race depending on ability.  Of the three sports, the swim can be the most intimidating for people, especially when you are learning as an adult.  One of the best things you can do in addition to getting to the pool and practicing is hire a coach to help you with your swimming stroke.   A good set of eyes should quickly be able to determine where improvements can be made in technique to help you, swim faster and hopefully with less effort. 
The Bike – 40-50% of your race depending on ability.  The bike typically is the largest portion of the race in terms of distance and time.  For many first time triathlete’s, I would encourage you to just ride whatever type of bike is available to you.  No need to go out and spend $100’s if not $1,000’s of dollars on a bike before you know that you are going to be doing this sport for a while.  A basic mountain or road bike should do the job.  Plenty of gears to choose from and it may be a more comfortable ride compared to a time trial bike.  They do have clip pedals now where you can clip your shoe right onto the pedal, but your running shoes and a pair of stomp pedals will work just fine and help keep the initial cost of your first race down.
The Run - 30-40% of your race depending on ability.  Now most of us at one time or another either growing up or as adults have run at some point.  While running may not be your favorite of the three events, it is the one event you can pretty much train for anywhere and all you need is a good pair of shoes.  Take the time to get a proper fit for a pair of shoes that are the best for your feet. 
Before you lay out a training plan to prepare for you first triathlon, it is important to identify which sports you’re strong in and which ones need a bit more attention.  That way during the training, you can properly balance training for the three sports, work on improving your weaker ones and maintaining your strengths.
Setting up a training week does require a bit of thought but here are 5 simple to make that a bit easier.
1.     Identify the best days and times of day for you to train.
2.     When appropriate, find a workout buddy, as you are more likely to stick with a scheduled workout if meeting a friend.
3.     Be flexible.  Life does throw changes at us all the time, so having the ability to move things around when needed is a bit help.
4.     Schedule a day off each week, where all you may do is take a leisurely walk for 20-30 minute if you feel antsy.
5.     Brick workouts are very specific training.  They may be challenging at first, but will help better prepare you for transitioning from one sport to another.
Training like a triathlete is a great way to stay fit even if you don't plan on racing.  The variety of training generally helps athletes avoid overuse injuries from just doing a single sport and there are endless ways to structure workouts depending on your strengths and weaknesses.  Lastly, as I have stated before, have fun with your training whether you train alone or with a group.  
Train Smart, Race Fast....
Coach Eric

Little things go a long way

Spring is in full bloom throughout most of the county and more and more people will be ramping up their training for upcoming races. Along with the increase in training, comes the potential for over use injuries if the athlete is not mindful of their bodies signals.  Here are 3 parts to pretty much any workout that if done properly will give you the best chance of success. 

Warm up - Make sure you take time to let your body come online for the workout. A combination of aerobic activity gradually building intensity along with some sport specific, dynamic exercises is a great way to prepare the body for the session.

During workout - This is where you really need to pay attention.  Some days you are going to feel great, so take advantage of that.  Other days you are just not going to have it.  Kind of like Captain Kirk's request for more power and Scotty says "captain I'm given her all she's got". These days are best spent working on technique and basic endurance skills.  So, when the body is feeling good, you have the good biomechanics in place to when you crank things up.
Cool down - As the training session comes to a close, take the time to GRADUALLY cool down.  Some post exercise flexibility in areas of tension would be most beneficial along with some myofacial release work with "The Stick", foam roller, or any combination of tools that will help you loosen up
Two orher big things you can do when not training would be adequate sleep & balanced nutrition.  Lets keep this real simple: We are all different on our own individual sleep needs so find what is best for you and get to bed.  The same goes for the foods you give your body.  Find what works for you and not the latest fad or what a professional athlete may be eating who is training 20+ hours a week.
Exercising and training for a race is a privaledge and such a great way to spend some free time. So, make sure you take the time to do the little things so your training and racing can be at their best. 
Train Smart, Race Fast!
Coach Eric 

Group Training & Racing = Fast and Fun

Canyonlands 1/2 Marathon Crew pre-race. Moab, UT
Training and racing with a group from time to time is is a great way to mix things up.  Last weekend, a group I coach and run with headed for Moab, UT for the Moab 1/2 Marathon.  The trip reminded me once again how much fun can be had when you get a group of people together for some exercise.

Post race hike Arches National Park Moab, UT

Incase you have never had the opportunity to workout with a group, here are a just a few benefits of group training:

  • Training partners
  • Someone to push you and go into the hurt locker with
  • Someone to just cruise when you need it
  • Socializing during workout
  • Coaching
  • Someone to draft in the pool, lake or ocean
  • Accountability knowing you are meeting a friend for a workout
  • Potential cool photo opportunities
  • Someone to draft on the bike when you're dragging ass or rotate through on a paceline
  • Post work social activities... need I say more
  • Carpooling to workout and/or race which leads too...'
  • Roadtrips!
  • Therapy... usually cheaper than retail therapy
  • Laughter, think about it, when is the last group workout you did and there was no laughing?
As you plan out your training in the coming days and weeks, think about ways that you may be able to add a group workout into your schedule.
Lace um up and have a great week,
Coach Eric

Northern Colorado Triathlon Club (NoCo Tri) has launched!!!

There are many small groups of endurance athletes working out in Northern Colorado, and even more people working out by themselves. What if these groups could be brought together for training, racing, educational and social activities?

Two local coaches, Jon Mason & Eric Neilsen had a vision of a triathlon club that would unify the endurance athletes of Northern Colorado.  They also wanted to make a difference in the community they live in.  After some further discussion it was decided to move forward and start taking the necessary steps to forming the club.   Knowing they would need the support of other like-minded individuals in the community, a meeting was held in mid-December to see who might want to be involved in the leadership as the club was being formed.  Fifteen people showed up for the first meeting and from that group they filled roughly 2/3 of the officer and committee chair positions that would lead the club in 2014.  

Next up was planning for the first meeting and filling the remaining leadership positions.  Jon and Eric along with the club officers Brent Phinney, Michelle Alexander, Jennifer Schneider and Diane Schultz worked on the agenda and logistics for the kick-off party to be held on January 15th.  They had a great turnout for the event with 85-90 people showing up.  The evening consisted of socializing, seeing old friends, and meeting new friends along with hearing about the nuts and bolts of why the club was being formed.   The turnout of people for the first meeting exceeded expectations and is a good sign that the people of Northern Colorado are interested in making this happen.

People join clubs for many reasons: social, training groups, education, racing.  We envision the NoCo Tri Club serving all these needs and more as interest continues to build in 2014.   

For more info on the Northern Colorado Triathlon Club please visit www.nocotri.comor check out the Facebook page

Make it a great week of training where ever you're at and take a few minutes to check out your local triathlon club.

Swimming reference set for Ironman Training

Swim Start Ironman World Championship view from Kona Inn on Ali'i Drive

March is here and if you are preparing for an early season Ironman, this is a great 3500yard/meter

workout you can insert into your training plan.  Also, good for swimmers preparing for open water swims and/or the time crunched athlete.  Continues reinforcing the need to build into swims making early pacing critical to maximizing your performance.  

The workout
1 x 500 Free Warm
2 x 400 Faster pace per 100 than 500 this should be easy since 500 was warm up
3 x 300 Faster pace per 100 than 400's
4 x 200 Faster pace per 100 than 300's
5 x 100 Cool down
Total 3500

500 on :30 sec rest
400's 300's and 200's on your normal base example 1:30/100M
so 400's on 6:00, 300's on 4:30, 200's on 3:00
100's on :10 sec rest mix strokes as you like

You could repeat this set every 3-4 weeks to measure your improvement as the season progresses and it works well before a bike session as the first part of a swim/bike brick.

Make it a great week of training and please email me at eric@coachericneilsen with topics you are interested in learning more about.

Coach Eric

Powerful Glutes… Powerful Athlete!

Recently I was corresponding with a client that will be preparing for some triathlons later this year and we got to talking about strength training, in particular strength exercises for the glutes aka "the butt" and how important it was to have functional strength in this area for multisport athletes.  There are three muscles comprising the glueteal region Gluteus Maximus, Gluteus Medius & Gluteius Minimus and a 4th smaller muscle the Tensor Fasciae Latae.  Click on the links below to read more about each specific muscle. 

Gluteus Maximus
Gluteus Medius 
Gluteus Minimus 
Tensor Fasciae Latae

There are many exercises for the glutes but here are three that she found to be very helpful in her strength program.  All these exercises do not require that much balance, can be done with body weight, then progressed to an unweighted Smith bar.  When doing an exercise for the first time, work on technique and check body position to create body memory before adding weight.

1.  Split lunges with back foot on a bench or ball with bodyweight or weighted on Smith machine.  Narrow stance works quads more, wider stance works glutes/hamstrings, push up through heel.  Knee do not pass toes.

2.  Sumo squats either with bar or on bosu ball.  Key is for thighs to drop below parallel to engage glutes/hamstrings, keep butt out (do not curve lower back or tail bone in).  This can be difficult for people with tight Achilles.  You can use plie squats with a landmine just to vary it up (this is a wider stance with toes pointed out like in plie).
3.  Wide stance leg press brings in more glutes/hamstring, narrow stance quads/vastus lateralis.  Try to bend knees past 90 and push through heels. 

Do the time in the gym NOW, so you can cut loose when its time to go fast later this season.

Make it a great week of training.

Coach Eric