Tag Archives: running

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.

Running Consistent Pace Times

5 June 2015
By: Alex Hutchinson
Published at www.runnersworld.com

Earlier this year, researchers published a paper analyzing 92,000 marathon performances to determine that women are “better” at pacing themselves—that is, women slowed down by 11.7 percent on average in the second half of their races, while men slowed down by 15.6 percent.

Click here for the Abstract from the research paper on pacing.

Click here for the article from Runner’s World.


Take away from the research and the article on pacing…

There are layers upon layers of complexity in the execution of every skill within a sport, and flawless execution of any skill is the result of free interchange across all three dimensions (i.e. physical, mental, and emotional).

A point which arises from the hypotheses of the researchers is that due to the complexity and multi-dimensionality of our being, there is a time when physical training (i.e. single dimension) solutions are sufficient to improve, and there is also a time when all the pace training in the world will yield diminishing returns as training must evolve in order for the athlete to evolve (i.e. a multi-dimensional solution is required).

Using the hypotheses by Deaner and Hunter as a backdrop, lets examine pacing differences between the sexes during endurance competitions (i.e. marathon) beyond the physical dimension:

Male athletes who train repetition after repetition on a track to develop pacing can discard the strategy well before the race begins as they fall prey to a surge from pre-race energy, their taper, and the heat of the starting line. They repeat the pattern of going out too fast and blowing up.  The unseen competition for position of alpha male at the start overrides months of pace training as the bang of the starters pistol bursts an adrenalin filled bubble.

Female athletes are often able to sustain steady pacing from the outset of the race immune to the alpha competition setting themselves up for a negative split and a strong finish, but are unable to utilize reserves to finish the race with a final kick as they find themselves stuck in the mud. Female stability becomes a double-edged sword as the escape velocity required to change pace, to kick into a higher gear, to surge into the finish is overwhelming when fatigue is already at a maximum.

Competition after competition, because of deeply embedded behaviour patterns to which the athlete is blind, the planned and trained strategy is not followed and the athlete fails to achieve desired race results.  Without appreciation for our multi-dimensionality, athletes are trapped to repeat the same error(s) time after time despite hours of reviewing race results and training data, as the hope becomes that digging deeper – in the same hole – will yield the solution… next time.

Consider how a change in mindset – how mental and emotion training – could release both male and female athletes from sex based pacing error bondage, allowing them to finally take advantage of months of training which has so far failed to deliver results.


So how do you find that next level of performance, how do you solve training errors which lead to execution failures in competition?  Dig deeper, or start to dig… but in different holes.

Dig deeper into evaluating performances across all dimensions, and have your performances observed, evaluated, and reviewed by an experienced coach, so that your training is redesigned to take you with specific intent to the next level.  Being honest with ourselves is not necessarily a gift we are each in equal possession, but it is a skill which can be developed; especially with repetition, and honest feedback from a trusted knowledgeable source who has a healthy vested interest in your success.

It is for this reason that athletes work with coaches, and at times change coaches: to gain perspective on themselves from a different dimension, a different angle.

Tiger Woods has changed coaches throughout his career so that his golf game continued to evolve and to remain relevant amongst new competitors.  Recently, female triathlete and iron distance record holder Mary Beth Ellis shared her decision to leave coach Siri Lindley, returning to coach Brett Sutton as a result of being stuck: unable to translate training into competition. In his book, “The Way of The Fight“, Georges St Pierre (GSP) shares how his coaches refined him.  It was by being humbled that GSP became aware of weaknesses which would prevent him from reaching his highest potential: UFC Champion.  One coach had GSP attempt simple gymnastic moves which an age group gymnast could perform, knowing that GSP would fail, threatening his narratives, self image, and his ego.  Instead of protecting his weaknesses, defending his pride, GSP took ownership, accepted them, and used the lesson to redefine his training protocol to develop flexible power, strength, and endurance unlike any of his opponents.

Champions are champions not because they were without weaknesses, but because they sought out, chased after their weaknesses, and defeated them in training so that in the midst of competition there was nothing left that could take them down.

Champions train to be free: uninhibited and unhindered from delivering a peak performance.

Importance of Running Drills

Articles in running magazines and on triathlon websites typically focus on running mileage and intensity as keys to improving, but little mention is made of running technique.  Seems that the skill of running is taken for granted… left, right, left, right.  What more is there?

Watch any international track & field competition or the leaders of a road race and you will surely see the skill of running performed as effortless.  When executed correctly, running is a skill of floating over the ground with little more than a touch of a foot to sustain forward momentum. Yet, little is written about ‘how’ to run, ‘how’ to improve running technique and efficiency.   It should come as no surprise then that many runners suffer repeated injuries, and struggle against resistance which makes consistent improvement seem impossible.  What else can be expected when mileage and intensity are believed to be the pivot points of training?

Coaches of the Oakville Legion Track & Field Club and the Burlington Track & Field Club make mileage, volume, and interval repetitions secondary to the training of technique, form, and posture.  In the book ‘Running with Kenyans‘, author Adharanand Finn interviews Brother Colm O’Connell – famed Irish priest who established the first training camp in Iten, Kenya and who has become the coach of numerous Olympic Gold medalists.  Brother Colm highlights the importance of developing technique despite the fact that Kenyans come to him already as beautiful runners.   But Brother Colm doesn’t want just good technique, he wants exquisite technique, ideal posture, impeccable form; hence his training program focuses on drills to develop good runners into excellent runners.  Olympic Decathlete and Long Jumper Jackie Joyner-Kersee reflects in her autobiography on how her coach Bob Kersee demanded perfect technique and wouldn’t allow his athletes to continue in a session until their performance errors were eliminated.

With this in mind, let’s distill running to a simple equation:

speed  =  stride length  x  turnover

Stride length is proportional to flexibility, and turnover is the outcome of both efficient technique at race pace cadence and conditioning to sustain race pace cadence.  Runners will talk endlessly about conditioning, but flexibility is typically met with a groan.  Yet flexibility is critical to stride length, and to minimizing effort and energy expenditure while running.  The role of flexibility in peak performance has been discussed in this blog here and here, and since articles on conditioning are plentiful, let’s turn the attention to technique at race pace cadence.

We don’t learn new skills at max effort or top speed.  New skills and strategies need to be introduced at an exertion level where an athlete can focus entirely on the concept without having to monitor anything else.  In running, drills teach the athlete to obtain movement from correct joints and muscle groups, developing patterns to utilize their range of motion and power with ease.  Practiced at low speeds, drills cause the brain to form new neural patterns for balance and muscle coordination.  With repetition, the speed at which these drills can be executed is slowly brought up to race pace cadence.  The outcome is that the athlete becomes capable of maintaining technique, form, and posture at competition pace maximizing efficiency. Then the athlete can use their conditioning to move towards the finish line as opposed to fighting against themselves (i.e. inflexibility) or the road (i.e. poor technique).

To help runners develop form, track drill and interval sessions are being held at Gary Allan HDSB this summer. The ‘New Programs’ link at the top of the webpage leads to registration.

The following videos demonstrate a few of the drills that will be used to learn proper technique:


These videos along with others are posted at the Track Star USA website.