Are Desroches and Duncan Mad?

Last week Triathlon Magazine Canada posted on their Workout Wednesday installment, a session designed by 70.3 pro triathlete Antoine Jolicoeur Desroches. If you missed it, then here is the suggested workout (here is the link):

10 x 4 min as:

  • 10 seconds all-out, 50 seconds rest
  • 20 seconds all-out, 40 seconds rest
  • 30 seconds all-out, 30 seconds rest
  • 40 seconds all-out, 20 seconds rest

These were the follow up notes to go along with the workout:

  • This is an aerobic workout.
  • After each set, there is no rest.
  • Add a warm up and cool down as needed.

Alrighty then, let’s get something clear… (i) this is what an all-out effort looks like (below), and (ii) an all-out effort is the absolute furthest thing from aerobic training:

This is National Champ, World Cup Champion, and Olympian German track cyclist Robert Förstemann giving an all-out effort (approx. 1min averaging 700watts). This is what an all-out effort from an athlete who has stood on national and international podiums 22x looks like.

This is what Robert Förstemann looks like after giving one, just one all out effort…

To see the entire video, click here

Just let that sink in for a second.  That is what Förstemann looks like after giving one (1) all out effort. It does not appear to me that this Olympian is ready to deliver 40 all-out efforts in a row, not even with 50 whole seconds of rest Desroches offers in his workout.

If an athlete who has been training for over a decade, who has stood on the podium of international competitions innumerable times, needs to lie down after an all-out effort, then who is Desroches expecting the readers of Triathlon Magazine Canada to be? Machines?

Triathlon pro Antoine Jolicoeur Desroches goes on to suggest (his words not mine) that:

“No matter how fit you are, you can still do the workout.”

Say what? Anyone? Any fitness level? Novice athletes, brand new triathletes, athletes training for Try-A-Tri to iron distance events and all in between, anyone coming to Triathlon Magazine Canada for a workout idea can and should do this workout? An Olympian is on the ground trying to recover from one all out effort and Desroches advises that anyone can do his workout of 40 all out repeats.


What about athletes returning from an injury, or who recently suffered an illness, or time off due to business or family issues? Anyone can do this workout? Anytime? No conditions, no risks?

Unrestrained madness!

Obviously Desroches has never heard of the J curve: that the risk of cardiovascular accidents rise exponentially with hi-intensity training. Why would Desroches offer coaching without taking the time to appreciate the risks to the well-being of individuals who trust that his workout is well thought-out, appropriate, and safe? Why would Triathlon Magazine Canada published coaching advice from one who is unqualified? Are the editors failing to perform their own due diligence, placing their readers at risk of fake coaching and fake coaches?

This workout is careless and irresponsible. I leave the reader to decide if it indicates incompetence and/or negligence.

This mindlessness led to the following comment submitted to Triathlon Magazine Canada, which was never posted… (surprise surprise)

Click to enlarge

At the time that this workout was posted, I was reading Jens Voigt’s autobiography titled “Shut Up Legs” (fyi… awesome book, especially for cycling enthusiasts), anyhow… on page 110 of the hardcover version Jens reviews one of the workouts that Bjarne Riis had him do: 40/20s, as in 40secs hard, 20secs recovery. Before Riis, such workouts were not part of Voigt’s training. The first time Voigt did a workout similar to what Desroches prescribes was a decade into his professional career.

Who is Jens Voigt? A former cycling pro who rode on multiple UCI WorldTour teams during a career that spanned nearly two decades. He raced the Tour de France on several occasions, and took the podium in stage wins a few times. To become a cycling pro Voigt put in thousands and thousands of kilometers during his early years (teens), continued to put in thousands upon thousands of kilometers annually as a pro, and on top was racing thousands upon thousands of kilometers annually. Voigt was no amateur, he was no neo-pro when he started such training.

Yet Voigt’s workout of 40/20s wasn’t all-out, during the 40secs Riis expected him to go hard, not all-out… and he was a cycling pro at the time.

Meanwhile, Desroches suggests that banging out all-out efforts for 40mins is appropriate for anyone and everyone.

It is this sort of mindless, ignorant, non-individualized coaching that infuriates me.

It is such incomprehensible disrespect and carelessness towards the health and well-being of a fellow human being that is unbearable to me.

To assume that the reader knows how to train, how to deliver an effort properly, how to do it while retaining proper technique, that training beyond one’s technique is incorrect no matter what effort level is called for, and worst, assumes that the reader is healthy enough without ever checking, without asking, and without listing any conditions or criteria is inexcusable.

Maximal, all-out, 10 out of 10, red zone efforts are not given the respect required despite the fact that training at these intensities poses a serious threat to those without a minimum level of health, and to those who lack sufficient awareness of their own body and its signals. They are called red-zone efforts for a reason… red is the colour of danger.

This sort of ‘all-out’ advice is coming more and more from those like Desroches who apparently seem to lack even a basic understanding of physiology, psychology, let alone pathology, yet feel obliged to dish out advice on training, diet, nutrition, injuries, rehab, and anything else since they have concluded that they are ‘experienced’ because they once had an experience, or because lo and behold they are registered as a pro athlete.

Triathlon Magazine Canada [TMC] wasn’t finished promoting madness (where is Mr Wonderful aka Kevin O’Leary of Shark Tank when we need the madness stopped), in this week’s Workout Wednesday installment the editors of TMC posted this workout from someone who calls themselves a coach.

Yet again:

  • No explanation as to who this workout is appropriate, as in what is your ‘A’ race? Try-A-Tri, Sprint, Olympic, iron distance events? FYI.. no iron distance triathlete needs all-out sprint efforts of 10-30secs for races that the bike portions are hours long and 100% aerobic.
  • No explanation as to who this workout is appropriate, as in what is your level of fitness? Just getting started, novice, intermediate, top age grouper or pro level? There is not a single newbie, novice or intermediate athlete that needs maximal/all-out sprint efforts, even if they are doing sprint events.
  • The first sentence states: “this workout will test anyone’s limits”… hold on, is this a workout, or is this a test set? If its a test, there ought to be conditions as to how to prepare for the test. Physiological tests are supervised, never conducted without supervision because pushing an athlete to their limits is simply a set up for an emergency situation. If its a workout, then why is the effort anywhere close to the athlete’s limits?
  • The second sentence states (paraphrased): this is a standalone workout, or a workout which can be incorporated into a longer session. Hold on… Duncan says that “if you do it right, you will have nothing left to give”… well how can this workout be part of a longer workout if I will have nothing left to give? Which is it?
  • There is no identification of the risks associated with hi intensity training, namely injury, illness, nor any suggestions as to how to handle the effort, or how the effort should feel.
  • What if an athlete is returning from an injury or illness or time off from training, is this workout still appropriate?

If that wasn’t enough Duncan down plays the intensity of an all-out workout stating that ‘the efforts are short enough that they will not beat you up’. Really? Did you see the image of Robert Förstemann above? He kinda looks a little done, and all he did was one all-out effort. Duncan on the other hand has 18 all out efforts in his workout… as if that’s not gonna leave a mark.

Once upon a time, coaching had something to do with teaching, educating, raising the understanding and knowledge of athletes… no more.

Now its about trying to figure out how to hurt people.

The definition of coaching has been perverted to the point that the belief is that the one who comes up with the gnarliest workouts of all, is tops. It’s absurd.

You want generic, verging on random advice which encourages you to harm yourself? Well, there is most certainly loads of it online. And believe it or not, these ‘coaches’ are so bold that they will even charge you for the ‘training programs’ they offer.

You want to improve as an athlete, then find a coach who teaches technique, skill acquisition and the development of energy system capacity. Find a coach who wants you to achieve your goals, but not at the risk of injury, illness, or ending up as an exercise addict. Find a coach who wants you to become healthier in the process of pursuing your fitness goals.

You are an individual, give yourself the respect you deserve… unique individuals require individualized solutions, not prescriptions arrived by CTRL-C (copy), followed by CTRL-V (paste).

Stop asking, stop taking, and stop receiving advice from those who have no skin-in-your-game.

If your advisors are not accountable to you, if they are not willing to be accountable to you for the counsel they give… then find those who respect you enough to be accountable.

If you truly seek health, wellness, develop a team of trusted professionals in your community who you can hold accountable and who want to be held accountable for the advice they offer.

Take the time to build a long term relationship with a professional or a team of pros. In time, as they get to know you, and you them, the advice they will be able to offer will become more and more attuned to you. You will achieve outcomes impossible with generic online downloaded programs, where coaches can only guess at how you respond to their training, how you recover, how you execute skills and sport specific technique, and essentially are gambling that they won’t put you into an early grave or an hospital ER in the process.

One thought on “Are Desroches and Duncan Mad?

  1. MGrodski Post author

    For added perspective on the workouts submitted by Desroches and Duncan…

    My son was watching GCN (Global Cycling Network) videos on Youtube, and found one with Marcel Kittel offering ideas on how a sprinter trains for the sprint points mid race and for the finish of a race. If you are not sure who Marcel Kittel is then see the links below at the bottom. FYI… his palmares ranges from Junior National road & TT Champ to multi stage winner at the Tour de France as well as other Grand Tour events. Kittel currently rides on the UCI WorldTour Etixx-Quickstep Team and in the past week won the opening two stages of the Tour of Dubai.

    Kittel Sprint Workout on the bike: at the start of an easy ride, 4×8 secs sprint with 2minutes rest between, and at the end of that same easy ride 4×12 secs sprint again with 2minutes rest between each effort. Between sets (that is if you are going to repeat the 4×8 or 4×12 sec sprints, take 10mins of rest). Kittel goes on to advice that if the sprint effort is going to be longer than 12secs than more rest is needed.

    Why do Desroches and Duncan have triathletes doing 10-50sec all-out efforts? Triathletes are not sprinters, triathlon is an endurance event focused on efficiency. A triathlete is more closely related to a GC rider than a group sprinter, and no GC rider is going to be doing 10sec sprint efforts. The shortest interval efforts Chris Froome does (as shared in his autobiography) are in durations of minutes, like 10 and 20 min intervals. Jens Voigt when preparing for the World Hour Record was doing 6mins intervals. If that wasn’t enough, Kittel – a pro cyclist – is taking 2mins of rest between efforts, and an additional 10mins after just 4 efforts. On the other hand, Desroches and Duncan want you to kill yourself because they offer mere seconds of rest between all out efforts.

    If the workouts your coach are giving you are (a) nothing that a pro athlete would subject themselves to, and (b) nothing that a pro triathlete competing in your event would do, then YOU have to ask yourself what exactly is the point of the workouts your coach is giving you? What if you asked your coach? You may be surprised that little thought when into the workout plan, which means that they are putting very little thought into you, your goals, your health, your well-being, your performance, your progression, your improvement.

    So what are they focusing on? Exactly what good are they as a coach if they aren’t focusing on you? What are you paying them for then? Think about it… its your health we are talking about, your well being.

    The links:
    GCN “How to Sprint Like a Pro”
    Wikipedia page for Marcel Kittel

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