Thursday, December 17, 2015

CrossFit and Endurance Athletes

I received an email today from a coach asking about my thoughts on CrossFit for endurance athletes. It's an interesting topic. I have experience, both as an athlete and coach, working with CrossFit and endurance sports. Note, I am not speaking about CrossFit Endurance, simply CrossFit.

Here's the email from Jane....

I was wondering if cross fit training has a place in the yearly cycle? A lot of people I KNOW ARE DOING IT , BUT I FEEL IT'S TO MUCH LIKE A COMPROMISE BETWEEN CARDIO AND STRENGTH TRAINING. What is your opinion?
My response to her was:

CrossFit is all about overall, general development of athleticism and strength, nothing specialized. That is basically what the general preparation phase of any endurance athlete is. So I think it has a place in that phase. For most endurance athletes, the type of high-intensity training that CrossFit provides is something many of them ignore, so there is definitely a need for most endurance athletes to include some of this type of training. How much? That's individual.  

The issue is more so the risk of injury, especially if trying to maintain a somewhat moderate level of endurance training. CrossFit instructors in general have a relatively high amount of intensity everyday in the training, and sooner or later, this catches up to the athlete, creating injuries, limiting progress. 

So it must be a careful and dedicated balance, or compromise as you mentioned. Not easy, but the risk can provide some high rewards if some of the principles are applied properly. 

Hope this helps. 

Coach Vance

Friday, October 30, 2015

Speaking on Running Power Meters in Kona 2015

While in Kona, I spoke at the Ironman Expo, for RPM2, (pronounced RPM squared), about the possibilities of power meters for running, as their product is one of this new technology.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Natural Running Network Podcast on Power Meters for Running

I recently did an interview on the Natural Running Network Podcast, discussing power meters for running, their potential, what we know so far, and more.

You can find the podcast interview here:

You can expect a lot more posts coming soon on power meters for running, how they work, how to interpret the data and more.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Data vs. Perception - An Example of the Relationship

One of my athletes logged a bike workout this week where he said...

"Loved the workout tonight. I feel like my power is going the wrong way."

But when I looked at the workout, and how it compared, it was his best session under me, for the type of workout it was, and his best 6 min power output in a year. When I replied to him with this info... 

"I'm not seeing that at all Ron. I expect you're a little tired, but this was one of your best workouts in a long time. See attached. 

Remember, we haven't even touched this type of intensity in awhile, and you showed you're still very strong at it. I am excited to see what you do when I let you loose soon on some harder, longer rides. "

This clearly brought a reality to his perception, that only numbers and data can do. His reply was...

"Thanks for the email!

That is why we can’t train by perception. Data doesn’t lie. Feelings do. I really enjoyed the workout tonight. I enjoy feeling a little worked afterwards."

While I agree the data doesn't lie and feelings do, I believe you can and should train on perception, BUT USE THE DATA to refine that perception. When your perception is in line with reality, you can trust it better, especially in those moments in a race or workout where you are feeling good, so the numbers don't control you, they just guide you. 

Here are two of the charts I sent him...

Use the data to refine your perception, and I think you'll find a better sense of yourself and fulfillment in your training and racing. 

Coach Vance

Monday, August 24, 2015

Presenting Benchmark Testing for Power at Interbike

I am looking forward to presenting the Benchmark Testing For Power at the Slowtwitch Cycling Power Coaching Certification Course at Interbike. I will teach coaches how to test for Functional Threshold Power, as well as other key tests, and how to interpret the results, and where those athletes rate based on the tests, which is also coming out in my new book soon. (More on that in a later post). 

Interested in attending? You can register at

Additional information about the Cycling Power Certification and Slowtwitch Coaching can be found here: 
Coach Vance

Monday, July 20, 2015

Ironman and 70.3 Speed and Pace Charts

Many athletes want to achieve a certain split, either for the bike or run, but have little idea of how fast that split actually is. The following charts are little cheat sheets I created for reference of the actual speed/pace that correlates to the time/split. For running, we did it in both min/km and min/mile.

Special thanks to Dan Feeney, for his help creating these. Enjoy and feel free to share, but please keep credit label on the images.


Coach Vance

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

7 Pre-Workout Routines for Better Performance

Here's an article I wrote for TrainingPeaks, which discusses some great routines I use with my athletes.

7 Pre-Workout Routines for Better Performance

Have you ever stumbled out of bed and wondered why it takes so long for you to gain your balance or be able to walk straight? Or have you ever sat for so long in a car or at a desk that the first few steps you wonder if your legs are listening to what your brain is telling them to do?
These are just a couple examples of how the connections between our brains and our muscles are sometimes not functioning properly due to periods of non-use. In the world of physical therapy, it is called neuromuscular activation. “Neuro” comes from the nervous system, which sends the signals from the brain to the “muscular” system, to activate the muscles.

Physical Therapy

Many physical therapists work with individuals just trying to get them to utilize muscles which aren’t firing or being used in common movements which would greatly enhance the strength and stability of the person during the movements. Most athletes scoff at this idea, but the research shows significant performance differences with neuromuscular activation improvements and some simple routines prior to bouts of exercise can be very effective at improving activation. For example, most athletes have seen dramatic neuromuscular improvements in the weight room, just in the first few weeks of lifting weights. It takes six weeks for athletes to show muscle growth from strength training, so those first six weeks of strength gains from those routines is almost entirely neuromuscular adaptation and improvements in activation.
You can read the rest of the article here...

Enjoy and good luck!

Coach Vance

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

It's Important to Know Your FTP

I had an email discussion today with an athlete who uses power, but told me they weren't sure of their FTP. Though it is great this athlete made the leap to use power and the data to help their training, but without a baseline point to use from which to judge the numbers, they really don't mean much.

The athlete stated to me they guessed their power was somewhere around 250-275 watts. This sounds fine, but the problem is this 25 watt range represents a difference of about 10%! That is huge when talking about FTP! An athlete who can even raise their FTP 10% in one season has either stated from a point of low fitness, or done a phenomenal job of training.

Every session being off by as much as 10% in the estimate of IF and TSS changes the entire load on the athlete, and what trends can be learned, strategies for pacing can be made, and more.

It is important to know you FTP, so don't waste time with it. Here's a simple test:
Warm-up easy for 10 mins, then do 5 mins of 15 secs fast, 45 seconds easy, then 5 mins build each minute individually, easy to fast, and the fast gets faster each minute. Then take a 2 min easy spin, and start a 20 minute time-trial, of the best power you can average for the whole 20 mins. Take 95% of the average power, and that is your estimated FTP. Cool down an easy 10-15 mins of spinning.

Do this, and the numbers you use will actually begin to make sense. Without knowing your FTP, they don't mean much.

Coach Vance

Friday, April 24, 2015

It's not always sunshine and nice breezes

Some athletes have an unrealistic expectation that every session should be a great one. That every training run should be faster than the one before it. That every day you should feel fresh and strong. That if you're tired, you should just quit the session and do nothing.

Every training day, just like every day in life, isn't a sun-shinny day. You've just got to put the work in, and stay the course. Yes, if you're constantly tired and not giving yourself the right recovery, you're doing something wrong. But just because you're tired, or not setting a new PR in a session, doesn't mean you're doing things wrong. If you don't have fatigue, you can't get fitter, it's a basic premise of training and performance.

So stop beating yourself if your session isn't a "home run," or if you feel like it needs to be perfect. There were many poor training days in the past, and there will likely be more in the future. If you know the goals of the session, and have a more marco/global plan, you will be fine.

Coach Vance

Thursday, April 23, 2015

USA Triathlon and NCAA Triathlon - Next Step

Big news today out of the world of triathlon, and the growth of the sport at the collegiate, NCAA level....

Pretty impressive to see a major D1 progam from the PAC-12 make the investment in a triathlon program. Excellent that other schools involved too, but when a big player in the sports world jumps in, that says a lot.

The sport continues to gain momentum.

Coach Vance

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Test Workouts and Data

One of the biggest reasons I use data with athletes isn't to simply stare at numbers and restrict athletes with the numbers. It's actually to help the athlete see their improvement, raising their confidence as the key events near, so they are on the start line, prepared and believing they can perform well. Yesterday, an athlete logged this in TrainingPeaks, which shows the value of the data from test workouts, and how it affects the athlete's confidence, excitement, and even sense of fulfillment from the work they are doing...

    Monster day on the bike. I noticed last year I did this exact same workout 17 days out from Nationals also. Check out the comparison:
    Today's Wattage by 5 min: 415, 395, 404, 403, 400, 393, 395, 398
    Last year wattage by 5 min: 348, 370, 347, 345, 349, 334, 325, 333

The workout was 8x5 mins, with 2 min recovery. And he was the one who went back and looked up the workout from the prior year, and listed the numbers from the session, not me. The data was so clear to him and his improvement, he was excited to look back and see how it compared.

This athlete is preparing for USAT Collegiate Triathlon Nationals in a few weeks. Last year he set the bike course record at Nationals, so seeing this big of improvement in his numbers, he knows he is capable of even better this year, and excited about it. That success in training is the basis for his mental preparation and focus on the startline, able to focus on himself, not worrying about the competition, or other things out of his control.

If you don't have data to compare your workouts, and track how your training is going, you're missing an opportunity to be truly confident and mentally ready to race.

Coach Vance

Monday, March 16, 2015

Now is the time...

To address all the things you've been ignoring. Things in training you've not been doing over the past year, like types of workouts, different warm-ups, testing new products, different bike position, new strength routine, your diet, new training group, new coach, or whatever else you think might need to be changed.

You can't wait until the middle of the season, it will be too late or too risky to see the benefit. If you're really interested in seeing what works, just change one thing. Pick the biggest need or what you're most motivated to change, and go with that. If you change too much, you risk injury, or not really knowing which one affected you the most, (positive or negative).

Make the commitment now, before it's too late to reap the rewards this season.

Coach Vance

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Pre-Workout Preparation and Routine

Trainingpeaks asked me to write an article on things to do before a workout, and I thought it was a great topic. I think a lot of athletes just jump into a workout, without proper preparation to maximize the time and investment. Here's what I wrote....

5 Things to Do Before Every Workout

Many athletes start their workout by lacing up their shoes or throwing on a helmet, and getting right into their session. Of course just getting started can be a difficult step at times, but paying attention to a few specific preparation keys before you start a workout can mean the difference between getting the training response you want and possibly taking steps backwards.
Here are five things every athlete should do in this order, before they workout, to maximize the training session.

1. Clear Your Mind

All athletes have stresses in their daily lives that have nothing to do with workouts, training, or racing. Instead, they have life, work, family and other stresses, all which can take away from the quality of a session. If an athlete comes into a session with a focus on the negatives, it can be hard to accomplish positive things.
I have seen a number of athletes quit a session that was going well, change a session entirely simply because of attitude, or fail to execute a session effectively, because they are too distracted with the other aspects of their life. Sometimes athletes want to take their aggression out in a session, which may be the exact opposite of the purpose of the session, such as a recovery spin or technical development session.
A little bit of pause to relax, clear the mind and put 100 percent mental focus into the session will get higher quality and better training response from the session.

Read the rest of the article here:

Coach Vance

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Race Planning - Better than Good

“Everyone has a plan 'till they get punched in the mouth.”
-          Mike Tyson

Mike Tyson was one of the most feared fighters in the history of boxing. Yet, there were plenty of experts in the sport who spoke of his weaknesses and how to beat him, as though it were not that hard. Many of his opponents trained and planned to beat him according to his weaknesses. And much like the quote above from Tyson, those plans may have been very well devised, but once the match started and they took those first few punches, dealing with the adversity of the match, it became a challenge to stick to the plan.

That’s triathlon and racing. No matter how well you plan, when you get into the big races, against the toughest competition, your resolve and steadfastness to that plan will be tested greatly. 

Your plan better not be good, it must be great. And it should have contingencies if the punch to mouth was more than you expected. 

Coach Vance