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Explanation of Training Zones and Rate of Perceived Exertion

Zone 1 is a very easy effort, probably a 4/10 on the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale. It's so easy that it should feel almost guilt producingly easy. It’s also the intensity of an active Recovery Interval (RI) or a recovery session. You don't think you went hard enough; it didn't feel like a workout; you don't think there was any benefit because it felt too easy. If you have these types of thoughts after a Zone 1 workout, then congratulations, you are doing it right.

Zone 2 should feel pretty easy as well, at least in the beginning. But you should feel as though you have to put forth some effort if the duration lasts between two and several hours. This is your aerobic zone. You may even experience cardiac drift (which occurs when your HR increases over the duration of the workout even though the pace/effort level remains constant) towards the end of this workout. This is about a 5-6/10 on the RPE scale. You should be...

Exploding Diet Soda Can

I was chatting with a prospective client last week about training with Athlete Architecture. We talked about training philosophies, race scheduling, and nutrition. She is a strong CAT 3 cyclist and was asking about the affects of Diet Coke on athletic performance. Now I am no nutritionist or dietician, but I like to think I have a decent grasp of the food groups and how athletes can better feed themselves to improve performance. My advice usually starts with the 8 words of Michael Pollan uses to describe how we should all eat, athletes included:

Eat real food,

Not too much,

Mostly plants.

But her question did spark my interest into what exactly is in that little aluminum can and how the ingredients affect our bodies. Here are the disturbing facts.

Zero calories doesn’t mean zero caloric effect. Researchers from UT Health Science center in San Antonio found that weight gain in subjects who drink diet soda is attributed to aspartame, the artificial sweetener. Aspartame releases glucose into the blood stream and when the liver detects...


1. Why is it so easy for proper nutrition to fall by the wayside during training?

Mainly there are two reasons that this occurs; time and physiology.

A) Simply put, time is a precious commodity and often it feels like there is not enough time to fit everything in to the day. Due to this, many athletes do not put a high priority on nutrition nor do they understand the significance of a proper nutrition plan and how it affects future performance. Just as strength training tends to fall by the wayside when available training time is at a premium, nutrition is often an afterthought, as well. Neither strength training nor nutrition have the priority status that comes with weekly mileage totals or interval training goals, but both are equally as important to a well thought out training plan.

B) Physiology principles can play tricks on the athlete's mind. There is an appetite suppression of the hunger hormone, ghrelin, that occurs post workout. Therefore, even though the athlete may not feel hungry post workout it is vital that he or she re-fuel...

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Triathlete to Crit Racer

Here are a few key workouts to prepare triathletes or novice crit racers as they head out for some high intensity racing at The Driveway Criterium Series. These sessions are best suited for an athlete who has already completed a solid 8-12 week block of low intensity (Zone 2) riding.

1) Over and Unders.

The goal of this session is to tax, and therefore elevate, your lactate threshold (LT). LT is the exercise intensity at which the blood concentration of lactate and/or lactic acid begins to exponentially increase and is thought to be a factor contributing to fatigue. Elevating your LT is aided with knowledge of your Functional Threshold Power (FTP). FTP is the highest power a cyclist can maintain for 1 hour. Use your FTP to determine your exercise intensity levels. If you don’t know your FTP, use the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale to gauge exercise intensity. Your FTP equates to an intensity of 8/10. This session will mimic the intensity and pace changes that occur during a criterium. After a...


This is s great article by Lance Watson on incorporating focused training blocks to improve your triathlon limiters...

Triathlon is a complicated sport to train really well at, and we all have areas we need to work on. It’s not just a matter of swimming, biking and running—you have to consider when to focus on skills on the bike, overall strength, swim technique, etc. Athletes’ natural tendencies are to like what they are good at, and therefore they tend to train with a little more intensity or focus in their area of expertise. At some point you will want to improve a single aspect of your game and boost your weakness.

I regularly incorporate single-sport focus or emphasis phases in my athletes’ training to hone an individual event or a specific aspect of that sport. Twelve- to 16-week phases have the most impact on your long-term development, but you can also increase emphasis in one sport for 10 to 14 days and get a “boost” in that sport.

Three-Month Sport Emphasis Phase

For a three-month emphasis, pick a meaningful event to end the phase with,...


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Managing the Clock

“Where does the time go?”

We have all said this at one time or another. The puzzling thing is that we make this statement during a period in history where everything is designed to save time. Phones act as computers, social media outlets post updates to friends and family in an instant, and fast internet speeds allow us to download a movie or song in seconds. Our society prides itself on multi-tasking. Yet, we are consistently pressed for time. We juggle time for our families, for our careers, and for training. In the hopes of finding additional time for training, here are a few tips to maximize your training schedule.

Become a Scheduler

The most effective way to manage endurance training on a limited time budget is to schedule your time. Set aside, in advance, time blocks that are devoted to training. Consider these blocks appointments and give them the same priority as you would a work engagement. Share this schedule with your family so that the expectation is clear that you will be training during...


Every athlete has a particular tip or trick they use while training and racing, and after 25 years of racing triathlons, I even have a few of my own. However, I thought I would ask our local elite athletes and sports scientists what they considered to be the best advice for Austin’s endurance community. What follows (in no particular order) are the top five training methods that endurance athletes should include in their training plan.

1. Consume carbohydrates with protein within 8 minutes of completing a hard training session.

This is an easy rule to follow and incorporate into your post exercise routine. For any high intensity training session or training session lasting more than two hours, you need to consume carbohydrates and protein (4:1 ratio) within 8 minutes of completion. This means as soon as you have finished the workout, your first priority is to take in fluids that meet this ratio. You can get fancy with your favorite commercial sports recovery drink or keep it simple and drink chocolate milk. Chocolate milk just happens to have the proper 4:1 ratio of...


Guess what? You are here, and you can do a triathlon. Triathlons aren’t the gruel-fests they used to be. Make no mistake, there are plenty of tough triathlons for those so inclined, but the majority of races are geared toward first time athletes. This is great news for the budding triathlete. Events such as the Texas Tri Series, are great ways to start small, with The Rookie Tri, and end big, with the Kerrville Triathlon, over the course of a season.

Only three rudimentary skills are needed to complete a triathlon: swimming, biking and running. However, the most difficult skill for a new triathletes to master is patience. Modern society teaches us to expect results immediately. Many things can be accomplished these days with the click of a button. Thankfully, success in endurance sports is not immediate. I use the term thankfully because it’s nice to put time, effort, sweat, and sacrifice in to achieve a goal. I may sound old school, but I believe that the reward is much sweeter if the effort required challenges us.

Let me get back to my argument as to why anyone...


Snowy Summer Racing in the High Sierras

It’s the day before September 22, 2013 and the cold front that has been anticipated all week for Lake Tahoe has blown in right on time. In time, that is, to boost the local weatherman’s confidence in his cold and snowy predictions. But for the 2000 triathletes prepping for what will soon be known as the toughest Ironman on the circuit, the timing couldn’t be worse. All week the weather had been picture perfect in the high sierras…sunny blue skies with temperatures and humidity that seem to have been custom ordered for endurance racing. That was all about to change and spirits were fading for fast times at the inaugural Lake Tahoe Ironman.

As athletes completed the obligatory pre race bag drop along the beach at T1, off to their left the water in Lake Tahoe was being whipped up into a frothy mess by the winds of the approaching cold front. 3 foot white caps were visible all along the 21-mile length of 1000-foot deep lake. A few intrepid athletes could be seen slowly donning their wetsuits, thinking twice if a pre race swim was...


In the world of triathlon, training philosophies are abundant. Often, a training program appears to have more credibility because of its complexity. While a focused and organized training plan is crucial to improve performance, its structure need not be complicated. Herein lies the basic concept of the 80/20 rule, a training philosophy that is followed by the majority of elite athletes around the world. What follows is a brief, non-complicated, review of the 80/20 rule from a study by Seiler and Tønnessen1.

The 80/20 rule consists of two types of endurance training intensities: Low intensity training (LIT) and high intensity training (HIT). LIT, or what is commonly referred to as long slow distance, is defined as a training session that is greater than 30 minutes, below lactate threshold, and at 60-75% of your VO2max. Conversely, HIT, or interval training, are repeated bouts of exercise lasting 1-8 minutes, performed at 90-100% of VO2max, and separated by a recovery period.

Interval training has been around since the 1920’s and the debates about which has a greater...


There was a time when only one ironman distance race existed, that was the Hawaiian Ironman in 1978.

Fast-forward 35 years. Now, there are 32 ironman distance triathlons every year around the world, 15 of those in North America. There are also 59 half-ironman distance races per year, 30 of those in North America. And those are just the World Triathlon Corporation sponsored events. Thousands of other corporate and independent races occur worldwide annually. There is no longer an off-season. At any time of year and in any corner of the world, you can race a triathlon. As a result, an athlete needs to train consistently throughout the year in order to improve performance and remain race-ready. Whether you are competing many times throughout the year or you need to peak for only one race, consistent training year after year is a hallmark characteristic of all successful endurance athletes. The caveat here, however, is that the training phases are variable. The days of an unfocused off-season are over. Focused training must continue throughout the year. Goals, objectives,...


There are moments of opportunity in training for every athlete during preparation for an Ironman. Over the years I have talked with many athletes as they prepare for or recount their Ironman experiences. What follows are some common themes gleaned from those conversations. Enjoy!

Success=Planning and Timing. Training for an Ironman requires planning. Whether detailed or free form, some type of plan needs to be in place as you begin your Ironman campaign. Do not get entrenched in the same routine week in and week out. Often a 10 or 14 day training “week” is more compatible with the athlete’s work/family life. Within your plan there will be phases, and these phases need to be dynamic and become increasingly more specific as the race approaches. You will hear all sorts of terms for them: Preparatory phase, Endurance phase, etc. Do not be overly concerned with the semantics, just understand that your training will change and adapt as the race approaches. That is the PLANNING portion of the equation. Let’s look at the other piece…TIMING. I am referring here to...



Concentration, Composure, Confidence, and Commitment are four qualities athletes need to achieve high performance in training and racing. I will briefly describe the aspects of each quality to help you succeed in your athletic pursuits.

Concentration has three parts: the ability to focus on a task at hand, maintaining that focus, and redirecting that focus when it is disrupted. Managing these three elements during a race can be difficult as internal and external factors try to draw your attention and concentration away. External factors, such as getting boxed in during the swim or suffering a punctured tire during the bike, are often outside of the athlete’s control. Nevertheless, an athlete needs to respond appropriately to these external factors in order to have the best possible outcome. Internal factors are thoughts about those external distractions. For example, the athlete might think, “I can’t get out of this pack of swimmers. This is going to be a horrible swim”. Or, “I will never be able to place well after this flat tire”. Often...


Heart rate training

Here is an article from Mark Allen that really drives home an important training concept...Enjoy!

During my 15 years of racing in the sport of triathlons I searched for those few golden tools that would allow me to maximize my training time and come up with the race results I envisioned. At the top of that list was heart rate training. It was and still is the single most potent tool an endurance athlete can use to set the intensity levels of workouts in a way that will allow for long-term athletic performance. Yes, there are other options like lactate testing, power output and pace, but all of these have certain shortcomings that make them less universally applicable than heart rate.

In our sport there are three key areas of fitness that you will be developing. These are speed, strength and endurance. Strength is fairly straightforward to do. Two days per week in the gym focusing on an overall body- strengthening program is what will do the trick. More time for a triathlete usually ends up giving diminished returns on any additional strength...


“If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail.”


In the early days of triathlon athletes did not have references or resources for information on endurance training theory. The triathlon coach did not exist and research about triathletes was non-existent. We all trained a bit haphazardly, using what little information was provided by triathlon magazines, or by the only book on triathlon training at the time, Dave Scott’s Triathlon Training (1986). I can speak from experience that all of us triathletes here in Austin during the late 80’s trained together and were very competitive during training sessions. These group sessions were great for building up the fringe triathlete community that we were becoming, but they were terrible for developing the ability to perform well and predictably during races. We just didn’t know any better and had no examples to draw from. I failed many times. I was much faster and competed much better in the classic Tuesday night training rides than I did in my priority ‘A’ races. Why was this? After all, the goal of training...