Monday, February 1, 2016

Strength Before Speed

by Gordo Byrn

The best advice I can give a new athlete is work before work rate.

Prove that you can “do” before you worry about what you do.

After you’ve proven then you can “do work” the next tip is strength before speed. Put plainly: get your work rate up by moving uphill, rather than focusing on going fast for a long period.

Until your work-rate training is established, the “fast” part of your training should be focused on quickness, rather than velocity.

Here’s one of my favorite work-rate workouts.

Find yourself a climb that will take 18 to 25 minutes. The climb needs to end where there is a moderate grade where you can run for 8 to 12 minutes.

Here in Boulder we have access to Flagstaff Mountain Road. Halfway up Flagstaff there is a turnoff that provides an excellent transition area.

The workout structure is simple: climb on the bike, then transition to a gradual uphill run. Start by driving to the transition area at the top of your climb then spin down and warm-up on the flat, or the lower part of the climb.

The first time you do the session just “do it” for two repeats. For clarity a rep cycle starts and finishes at the transition area at the top of the bike climb - spin down, bike up, run up, run down.

With the run, keep perfect form on the uphill running -- chest open, quick cadence, hands up, shoulders relaxed.

Jog the descent back down to your transition area.

As you become more experienced with the workout, you can extend the number of repeats to three or increase the average intensity of the session.

A good way for experienced athletes to play it…

Rep 1 - Just do it
Rep 2 - Mod-hard Effort
Rep 3 - Fast (ie Threshold) Effort

Another way…

Rep 1 - Still just do it
Rep 2 - TT position, big gear
Rep 3 - Fast (ie Threshold) Effort

Short course athletes can set the session up so that they target 60 minutes of climbing and 10K of running (total distance including descents). You can work towards a race-specific session where:

All reps - Hold bike TT wattage on the climb
All reps - Hold race run effort on the climb
All reps - Hold race run pace on the descent

No matter how you choose to structure it, this workout gives you a challenging power and pace session that doesn’t beat you up.

See you out there.

Source: This session goes back to the start of triathlon. Dr. John Hellemans developed this workout with the great Erin Baker in Christchurch, New Zealand. As fate would have it, I ended up living on the climb Erin would use and training with her husband, Scott Molina.

Gordo is the founder of Endurance Corner. You can find his personal blog at

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