Monday, August 6, 2012

The Benefits of Recovery Bike Rides

RECOVERY RIDES, Question: I have heard people talk about recovery rides but have never really thought about what it exactly means. Does "recovery" refer to something that actually enhances recovery or is it just an easy ride that doesn't do any damage.

In order to get faster and stronger, the endurance athlete requires a combination of work days (training) and rest days (recovery).  Training stress, which can also be described as ‘controlled injury’, as it breaks down the muscle and other tissues, must be followed by rest days and sound nutrition, allowing the body to compensate and rebuild to get stronger.   This cycle of work – rest – compensation is repeated over and over again and results in improved performance in one’s chosen sport. 

For years, coaches and athletes have incorporated ‘active recovery’ workouts into their weekly training programs.  Active recovery refers to short duration exercise days following more intense bouts of training, at roughly 60-70% of maximum heart rate, or in the case of cycling, less than 60% of one’s functional threshold power (FTP).  Active recovery days are different compared to complete or “passive” recovery days, where the athlete does practically no metabolism boosting activity beyond stretching or a light walk.  Both protocols deserve a place in a systematic training program.

Active recovery days on the bike are beneficial in that they enhance blood flow and nutrient delivery to muscles broken down by an intense training session. They also serve to maintain (or enhance) body composition by burning calories as well as keep the athlete “in the groove” in terms of muscle coordination and technique.  Most endurance athletes will confirm that short ‘easy does it’ workouts help them maintain momentum and allow them to feel stronger for future intense training days.   As a case in point, it’s noted that riders in multi-day stage races, like the Tour De France, will ride easy for 1-3 hours on a rest day in order to feel strong for an ensuing mountain stage.

For the age group triathlete who typically trains on the bike 3 or 4 days per week including a long aerobic endurance day, a lactate threshold focused day and a brick workout (bike to run) day, it might be advised to add a 30-60 minute easy spin to their weekly ride after a hard day or a race day.  This ride can be done on the roads or the trainer and consist of a 60-70% effort (i.e. low intensity), with light gearing focused on a cadence range of 90-100rpms to “shake the legs out”. 

The danger in adding recovery rides is that some athletes will tend to overdo it and misuse the ride, therefore just adding ‘junk miles’.  This usually occurs when the intended low intensity recovery effort becomes a full-blown “gray zone” ride, defined as a Zone 3 or steady effort just below lactate threshold heart rate, sabotaging the benefits of the recovery ride and possibly contributing to a state of over-reaching or over-training. 

As a practical matter, when used for their intended purpose, recovery rides can benefit the age group triathlete by helping them bounce back from hard training sessions, manage body weight and maintain their training momentum.

A former pro triathlete in the 1990’s and now a Masters triathlete, Troy Jacobson is the Official Coach of IRONMAN, Head Tri Coach of LIFE TIME FITNESS and the creator of the Spinervals Cycling Video series, including several recovery oriented indoor cycling workouts for download by clicking HERE.  For more information, visit

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Training Tip: New to Swimming... Help!

Coach Troy's Training Tips: New to Swimming... Help!

I'm new to triathlon and just started swimming laps.  It's by far the most difficult sport for me of the three. What are your suggestions for improving?

Welcome to your new sport! There's a ton to learn so be patient and absorb knowledge in small chunks.  You can't become an expert over'll take years and years of practice, but that's part of the fun.

Swimming is a highly technical sport and it's often difficult for adults to master.  Hours and hours of pool time are required to develop a 'feel for the water' and the conditioning necessary to swim fast.  Be prepared for that fact and don't get frustrated if things move along slowly with regard to your progress. 

The first thing I tell new swimmers to do is: focus on technique.  

Just getting in the pool, hammering out laps and improving your conditioning, is rewarding in the short term but can be devastating to your long term improvement and swimming speeds.  

The biggest culprit in holding people back is the development of an inefficient stroke...and it's hard to 'unlearn' bad bio-mechanical start off with learning good skills from the start.  

Start by reading books on proper swim technique or watching videos of champion swimmers, like Michael Phelps.  Ingrain their stroke technique into your brain, so that your stroke imitates theirs.  Become a student of swim-stroke technique and be able to explain what makes for an effective stroke.

Next: get comfortable in the water! 

Learn how to 'feel' the water and move your body through it.  Play around with it...practice sculling on your front, then on your back. Learn how to kick. Experiment with breathing on your right side, then your left.  Have some fun.

Now you're ready to do the work and to start becoming a swimmer.  

Technique drills should be a mainstay of all swim workouts, even as you become more advanced. 

I always advise new swimmers to seek the help of a coach to monitor their stroke development and make suggestions on how to improve.  Having someone on deck who can help is invaluable.  Frequent video taping helps too, allowing you to actually see what you're doing right and what you're doing wrong.

Once you feel comfortable and confident in the water, consider joining a Masters Program.   

Swimming with other athletes is fun, motivating and improves your learning curve.  Jump in the slower lane and learn proper lap swimming etiquette.  Focus on your technique and your conditioning will improve simultaneously. And as you become faster, you'll be rewarded with moving up to a faster lane.

To recap... it's important for new swimmers to be patient and to start by focusing on the fundamentals. 

Don't learn bad technique; educate yourself as to what a good stroke 'looks like', and then try to develop a 'feel' for the water.  

Then—by working with a coach—learn drills that will aid in your stroke development. 

When you're ready, join a Masters swim program and be prepared to see your swimming results take off!

Good luck!

Coach Troy

Monday, June 4, 2012

Training Tip: How Do I Prioritize My Training?

Coach Troy's Training Tips: How do i prioritize my training?

I have a full time job and a family... how do I prioritize my training?

The less time you have available to train, the more focused and purposeful your training needs to be in order to be effective. 
The good news is: I've discovered that most people can see marked improvement in the Sprint-to-Olympic distances on 7-10 hours per week, and in the Half and Full Ironman distances on 12-15 hours per week.
The keys to success are:
     1. Timing of the training progression.
     2. Frequency of how often you train each sport.
     3. Intensity of how hard you do each workout. 
And while logging 20-30 hours a week of training can work too (i.e. the Volume theory), we'll reserve that training-time commitment for the pros and AG'ers with lots of free time on their hands.  
For the ultra busy person, success starts with a plan of attack. Get a training plan! 
One of mine would certainly be effective, but there are many others out there too that work just fine. You need that blueprint to follow and to help you stay on track, accountable and focused on your goals.
Next, make training an important priority and always do your key workout for the day FIRST.  
They always say that the first thing you do in the morning (after going to the bathroom!) is the most important thing for you to do that day.  When it comes to training for three sports, this makes sense.  
I like for my athletes to train their key sport first, when their energy level is high and their muscles (and nervous system) is fresh. This way, the day won't "Get away" from you and next thing you missed your key workout session due to other stuff that cluttered your day. 
Train early... get it done! 
I mentioned that frequency is important—train often, not long—when you are short on time.  If you only have 20 minutes, use it to do a run or to hit the elastic cords from some dryland work.  
Try to maintain your momentum and boost your aerobic energy systems by doing 3-5 workouts per sport, each week, even if the workouts are short in duration.
Busy people are the best at managing time and getting the most bang for the buck when it comes to training for triathlon. You don't need to train all day in order to become a stronger athlete.

I love answering your questions...if you have one, please submit it to the blog, facebook, or twitter.
Train smart,
Coach Troy

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Hill Climbing Technique 101: Climb Like a Mountain Goat

When the road tilts up, how well do you ride? Do you employ a proper hill climbing strategy that helps you, or one that's inefficient and slows you down? While your power to weight ratio is all-important (losing weight while maintaining or improving output), different hills require varying techniques in order to maximize your performance and "climb like a mountain goat".

In this video that I made several years ago, I go over some fundamental hill climbing techniques that you might find useful.  Give them a shot and let me know if you have any questions on FACEBOOK or TWITTER.   Also, don't forget to put in the time doing hill repeats and hard intervals on the trainer! There are no shortcuts to success.  Good luck and ride safely.

- Coach Troy

p.s. Try our newest hill climbing workout, 41.0, found in this new Spinervals 3-Pack or check out our Ride Uphill Faster 4-Pack!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Icing on the Cake: Super6 Phase II - Strength & Speed:

Super6 - Phase II, Strengh & Speed:  Starts Mon. Feb. 13th, 2012

You have endured 6 weeks of focused training, day after day after day.  Your legs are tired but you can see the muscle definition, your pants fit a little looser, you sleep better at night and your power output is up anywhere from 5-10% since the start of the New Year. Even your spouse has said how you look 5 years younger.  Life is good and your hard work is paying off! Now, R U ready for the icing on the cake??!

In Spinervals Super6 - Phase I, you developed your base with a focus on aerobic zone intensity training intermixed with some threshold and muscular endurance work.  Super6 - Phase II, takes a slightly different approach with a focus of more intensity along with lower overall volume. Both programs incorporate suggestions for cross-training workouts, either in the form of run sessions for the triathlete or other non-impact 'cardio' for non-triathletes.  I even threw in a couple swim workouts this time in week three "just for giggles"  for triathletes... but for specific triathlon training plans, be sure to check out our other offerings at

Remember, this program is cycling focused and is designed to bring your bike legs into competition form... so triathletes will need to add swim and run training per their individual needs. Touring cyclists and everyone doing the plan for improved overall fitness should do the extra workouts within their limitations.   

Following is a list of the workouts from the Spinervals Video Series that are recommended for this plan.    Click HERE to view our online shopping cart area for descriptions and to purchase these titles. Please remember that members of automatically receive 20% OFF on all DVD purchases.

8.0 - Recovery and Technique
11.0 - Big Gear Strength
12.0 -Recharge
13.0 - Tough Love
14.0 - Totally Time Trial
16.0 - Aero Base Builder I
17.0 - Aero Base Builder II
19.0 - Bending Crank Arms
20.0 - The Sprinting Machine
22.0 - Time Trialapalooza
25.0 - Aero Base Builder, Compilation
27.0 - Threshold Test
30.0 - Muscular Endurance PLUS
31.0 - Endurance Booster
34.0 - Super High Intensity
35.0 - Cycling Tech Focus
36.0 - Warrior Training
38.0 - Develop Technique / Power
39.0 - Aerobic Base, 10K Feet
40.0 - Have Mercy, Part III
41.0 - Ascending Mountains
Team Sports Vol's I and II

Buy these DVDs for 20% off by joining our Team.

To review and begin Phase II of the Spinervals Super6, you'll need to register for a free account, linked to me.  If you already have an account from doing the original Super6 (or other programs), you can register for Super6 Phase II by clicking HERE and following the instructions.  Please contact support at with any technical programs when using their website. 

When the Super6 Program is completed, you'll be ready to tackle competition level events with a high level of fitness across the ENTIRE intensity spectrum.  Your goal at that point should be to maintain your hard earned fitness, as well as refine your training to focus on your specific event(s).  Again, we can help you with that through our one on one (1:1) coaching services and other trainingpeaks based training plans.

I hope you are enjoying the program so far and like your results. I so much look forward to visiting the Spinervals Facebook page each day and seeing training related comments, motivation and inspiration from everyone.  Thanks for your energy and for using this program to accomplish your personal athletic and fitness goals!

Good luck and train safe.

Coach Troy

p.s. A couple quick reminders. The training plan is FREE, but the workouts are not.  Borrow them from a training buddy or buy them from us or from an authorized dealer.  Also, check with your doctor before starting this or any serious exercise program. You'll be training very hard at times at your own risk, so maintain good health and listen to your body. Best of luck.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Here's How To Train Harder on the Bike for Faster Splits

Training for Ironman in a smart and efficient manner is more than just logging lots of miles.  To race effectively and near your potential, you need to incorporate a steady diet of threshold work too in order to 'raise the ceiling' and enable a faster pace across the entire intensity spectrum.

In this short video, I talk about threshold training on the bike and why it's important to also 'monitor the gauges' and listen to your body.  And while I like my athletes doing some of their quality work on the roads, I really feel that trainer work is even more effective in getting the most bang for the buck.   We have a number of solid LTHR workouts in the Spinervals series, but two of my current favorites include:

22.0 - Time Trialapalooza
36.0 - Warrior Training

Both are pace based sessions that simultaneously boost your tolerance to increasing intensity while also teaching you to pace yourself more effectively. "Burning matches" too fast in these workouts quickly and painfully teaches you pacing discipline.  Here's a good example of a set for you to try:

W/up 15-20 minutes
3 x 10 min. LTHR (80-85 rpms) @ 3 min. recovery (NOTE: try to build intensity for each 10 min. rep.  Start the first 10 min. rep at just below threshold. Push the second rep a little harder and then let it all hang out for rep #3.  Try not to allow for power to decline on rep #3, and you've done a good job of pacing yourself through reps #1 and #2.)
Cooldown 15-20 min.

Once or twice a week during your in-season training phase, be sure to add LTHR workouts into your routine and you'll see significant improvements in your bike split as well as increased energy reserves for a faster run time.

Good luck!
-Coach Troy

p.s. The Spinervals Super6 - Phase II, Strength & Speed Program starts Feb. 13th. It's free and builds on your early season base development. Visit our FB page to learn more and to download the plan.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Great Quote - Remember It

I am a huge fan of inspirational quotes and phrases.  They help to keep me focused and remind me of what it takes to be at the top of my game.  Here's a recent favorite from an unknown author, that I think you'll enjoy. Print it out and post it to your fridge or near your computer.

Train smart,