Wednesday, July 25, 2007

More on Risk-Reward

A few weeks ago I wrote here about risk and reward in training. It seems I run into this issue a lot when talking with age-group athletes any more. It is seldom an issue with pros who tend to be more conservative in their choice of workouts. Amateurs are much more willing to take risks by doing workouts that are ridiculously intense or long or, usually, both.

Every workout has a reward associated with it as well as a risk. Typically, workouts that are low risk are also low reward. And high risk workouts generally have a high reward associated with them. A good example of the latter is plyometrics. For runners, especially, plyometrics offers a high reward but this comes with a high amount of risk. Eccentric plyo is even riskier than concentric plyo and comes with a higher reward. Weight training with heavy loads is risky but also has the potential for high reward. And within heavy weight training squats have a higher risk-reward factor than leg press.

The same is true of the typical workouts in endurance sports such as swimming, cycling, running and cross-country skiing. Of these, the highest risk are highly intense intervals and force-overload workouts such as big gear hill work on a bike and resisted swim workouts. The risk usually has to do with injury but may also be more subtle by increasing the athlete's fatigue level so much that normal training is delayed for days. If this high fatigue is ignored, overtraining may soon be a result of training and cost the athlete weeks if not months of training. I've seen it happen. When it is most likely to happen is when the athlete is in great shape. When fitness is at a high point in the season there is a feeling of invincibility and a willingness to take more risk due to feeling of being "bullet proof."

When in great shape you are only one workout away from losing it all. Now is the time of year to be cautious with your training. Respect the risk associated with challenging workouts and decide if the risk is worth the reward. As a coach I almost always decide in favor of taking less risk.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Camps and Clinics

I'm asked from time to time where I will next be speaking. You can check out all of my upcoming appearances on my website . Click on 'Camps and Clinics.' There are two I would like to comment on that are scheduled for November.

On November 15-17 John Cobb and I will offer a camp at Texas A&M, College Station , Texas. Intended for cycling and triathlon coaches, we will teach you about the wind tunnel and power training. Both are hands-on camps so you will be fit in the wind tunnel and learn how to fit others. And you'll ride with a power meter and then analyze the data and discuss what you learned afterwards. This will be a great experience for coaches. For more info write to coach Tom Rodgers ( .

The second appearance is a triathlon expo on November 24-25 in Bournemouth, England. I'll be talking about both ends of the triathlon spectrum--how to get started in triathlon doing sprint-distance races and also on how to train and race Ironman-distance races. For more info go here.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Tour Prologue Thoughts

Watching the Tour de France prologue time trial today reinforced a couple of topics I have recently discussed with athletes I coach--helmet drag and pedaling from the hips. The worst thing you can do when wearing an aerodynamic helmet is to look down. When you do that the long tail of the helmet sticks straight up in the air becoming a very effective drag device. I see this all the time in triathlons and time trials. Even many of the pros in the Prologue did this repeatedly as if they had to check every few seconds to see what gears they were in. David Millar, for someone who otherwise is a good TT'er, did this every time he was shown during his race. Several seconds could be lost even in a nine-minute time trial by looking down. Those who kept their heads locked in place very nicely were Wiggins, Leipheimer, Hincapie, Vinokourev and Cancellara.

I've also talked with athletes I coach about pedaling from the hips rather than from the shoulders. When you pedal from the hips the upper body stays quiet. Contrast that with riders whose shoulders rock from side to side as they try to get their centers of gravity over the pedals. They are pushing too high of a gear for their fitness level. The next time you see a TdF time trial notice how rock steady in the saddle world TT champ Cancellara is. There is no movement of the upper body as he drives the pedals. And, as mentioned, his head is locked in place rather than looking down at his gears repeatedly. His head is also below his back which makes for great aerodynamics.

As you watch the next few stages try to learn a few things about how to ride a bike from the best riders in the world. Occasionally check the cadences of riders by counting revolutions per minute. Notice how aerodynamic some such as Voight are even on road bikes. Watch how when climbing the smaller riders stay out of the saddle most of the time while the bigger riders stay seated. Notice where the center of gravity is relative to the bottom bracket when sprinting. How much of what they do can you adopt to improve your riding?