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Functional Strength Training for the Endurance Athlete: Part 2

Friday, September 17th, 2010

Functional Strength Training for the Endurance Athlete: Part 2

So you’ve now had an insight into the benefits of appropriate and functional strength training for the endurance athlete, and now it’s time to give you an idea on exactly what it is that should/needs to be trained in order to maximize specific functional strength and power output for your sport.

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It’s first necessary to take a quick look at what is written in training books for the endurance athlete. I’m sat here with my 4 favourite ones, and just recapping on exactly what they recommend in terms of exercises and programming. Now, before I say anything at all, it’s important to mention that I am by no means slating any of these authors, as they are all experts in their chosen fields, have given and continue to give huge amounts of fantasic information to the sport and I respect them all very much for their contribution to the endurance sports world, and my own personal knowledge also. That said, here are my thoughts:

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What is prevalent in all these books is single joint isolation exercises, fixed path machines, bilateral (2 legged) exercises, a few stability ball and resistance band exercises.

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What largely isn’t present is multi-planar movement (the body works in 3 planes of motion; side to side, forward/backward, rotating), uni-lateral (single legged) exercises, any emphasis on exercises that work on your opposite shoulder to hip relationship through integrated core training, or any real bodyweight training.

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The above are a few of the very basic things that MUST be in your strength program to achieve the performance results you are after, yet for some reason are neglected in just about every book out there that covers strength training for the endurance athlete. Here’s why they’re so key:

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Multi-planar movement

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As stated, the body works in 3 planes of motion. The frontal plane, which works side to side, the saggital plane, which works forwards and backwards, and the transverse plane, that works rotation. These planes are all prevalent in endurance sports and so must be trained. Running was initially thought of as a purely saggital movement (you’re moving forwards). However, all 3 planes of motion are present. To pinpoint a couple, in addition to the obvious saggital movement, there is the frontal plane movement of the weight shifting from one side to the other, and the transverse movement through the torso as your shoulder and opposite hip link up. Even in cycling there is an element of transverse and frontal plane motion, for instance as you turn corners, and shift your weight side to side to climb a hill respectively.

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Single legged movement

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This is an easy one. One of the biggest endurance sports out there is running. How often in a run are both feet firmly planted on the floor? So why should you train for running, with two feet on the floor, or even worse, with your legs strapped into a leg curl or extension machine? It makes no sense. In order to improve running strength, economy and power output, you need to be strong and stable on a single leg. You get a lot of ground reaction forces with running, and it’s important to ensure that your ankle, knee and hip joints are all working efficiently and well enough to cope with the demands without injury. Any exercise you can do on 2 legs or sat down, you can do on 1 (or an equivalent exercise at least). These are a few very basic and general exercises this can be applied to: If you’re doing seated bicep curls, get up on 1 leg and do them. If you’re squatting, do them on one leg. If you’re doing bench press, get up and do it on 1 leg using a band or cable. Now I’m not saying that every exercise needs to be on one leg, it doesn’t, and shouldn’t be. However, it IS important to have an ELEMENT of single legged work in your program. Exercises like single leg reaches are great for improving running mechanics as well as working on hamstring and glute strength, and single legged, single arm band presses will give a great workout for your spinal rotators as well as providing shoulder stability work, and again, looking at that shoulder to hip relationship.

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Integrated core training

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Core training and core stability is something that has gotten a lot of emphasis over recent years, and rightly so. Ensuring you have a healthy, strong core is necessary to remain injury free and for top performance in sports. However, many people seem to think that core training is all about doing all your exercises standing on a BOSU or stability ball, laying in a plank position, throwing in a pile of sit ups, and maybe a few hyperextensions on the mat. It’s so much more than this, and half the exercises I see people doing in the gym environment every day for ‘core stability’ are doing precious little of anything.

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Without going into big detail, your core is pretty much all the muscles from your ribs to your knees, and is the thing that connects your upper to lower body. From the big externally visible muscles to the smaller hidden muscles, all your major muscles attach to the core in one way or another, either directly or indirectly. If the core is weak, then the link between upper and lower body is weak, so your power output will be weak, your movement patterns will be less than efficient, and you stand a bigger risk of injury.

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Your core affects every big movement you make in endurance sports, from pulling your arm through the water, to spinning your pedals, to running in a straight line, and has big implications on, to name a few, stride length and frequency, pulling power, and out of the saddle hill climbing.

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In terms of integrating core training, your body doesn’t work in isolation, it works in integration, so train that way. I have nothing against sit-ups, hyperextensions, or any other valid exercise, but it’s about using the right tool for the right job. How is banging a load of sit ups going to help your running? And why would doing biceps curls on a BOSU ball help you run better?

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Core training needs to focus on a few things such as strengthening the diagonal force production and transfer (exercises such as diagonal chops, single arm-single leg presses/pulls are great for this), opening up the hips to help counteract seated positions (posterior reaches, staggered stance reverse band flys, and ensuring your midsection is able to cope with what you ask it to. If the core is not strong enough, is not stable enough, and is not stiff enough when required, when you go to push it harder in the swim, hammer it up hill on the bike, or quickly slowing yourself down to turn a corner on a run, it’s like you’re shooting a cannon from a canoe. Integrate your core training by ensuring all your exercises require it to be working. Push ups and recline rows rather than fixed machine chest presses and rows, squatting rather than leg pressing, cable chops instead of sit ups, the list goes on.

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Bodyweight training

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I won’t spend long on this at all, but for some reason, and I don’t know why, this is often massively neglected. It seems that most peoples perceptions of what is functional and beneficial, involves the use of some bit of kit. BOSU balls, stability balls, dumbbells, benches, barbells, power plates, body blades, balance boards an whatever the hell else is out there. But what ever happened to bodyweight training? It seems as though it’s mostly been lost somewhere along the way. The importance of bodyweight training can be summed up in the answer to this question - What is it you carry around with you in every workout, every practice, every race, all day every day? Your body. So why would you not train your body, with just your body? In order to master your performance in a sport, surely you need to have total control of your body, how it moves, and how it performs. Functional strength training for the endurance athlete must start with bodyweight work, or at least the vast majority of it must be bodyweight based.

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Importance of knowing your sport

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One of the key aspects of training for functional strength is making it specific to the environment and demands of your sport, as well as the movements and forces that are present within that sport.

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Take swimming for example. This of course takes place in water, and so ground reaction forces, gravity and momentum don’t play a big part as they would in other disciplines such as running. We (usually) swim in a prone position, and so the force we generate comes not from the ground, but is largely generated by our core musculature. Every movement comes from the core, as each body part involved in swimming is anchored at the spine and hips, and so core stiffness and strength is a major factor in efficient and powerful swimming. With the swim, you must also realize the rotational forces transferred through the body, with every kick and every arm movement causing your body to rotate in the water. Stability within the shoulder and hip joints is also essential for the swimmer. If these joints are strong and stable, combined with a strong core, incorrect muscle firing and movement patterns will significantly decrease, leading to increased economy and power output and a decreased risk of injury. So if you’re someone who frequently gets shoulder or lower back pain while swimming.

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I was recently speaking with a runner friend of mine who religiously completes a ‘run specific’ strength training routine that was given to him by a fellow runner, 2-3 times per week, although doesn’t really feel any real benefits from the program. He’s kindly let me have a look at it, and I’ll share it with you now:

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Bench press: 4 x 6-12

Machine leg press 3 x 10

Machine hamstring curls 3 x 10

Lat pull down 3 x 10-15

Dumbbell ‘arm running’ 3 x 30 seconds

Biceps curls 4 x 6-12

Tricep dips 3 x 6-12

Twisting sit-ups 3 x 20

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It doesn’t take a genius to see that this isn’t in any way run specific at all. As with most peoples training programs, it follows more of a traditional, ‘bodybuilding’ type workout, and it’s easy to see why he hasn’t been getting the gains he hoped for. After all, what has heavy bench press or curls got to do with running?! What I did for the guy, is completely revamp his workout into a much more run specific session. I’ll explain the exercise selection a little as we go:

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Bench press is swapped for push ups: The push up is a fantastic full body exercise, and not only does it hit the pecs, triceps and shoulders, but also works on providing core strength during deceleration.

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Leg press has been changed for a single leg squat: The single leg squat is much more run specific than a heavy leg press. By using this exercise, he is now getting a great workout for not only his quads, glutes and hamstrings, but also for the strength, stability and integrity of the knee, hip and ankle joints, while also causing a much more specific core workout at the same time, as the body stabilises itself on the single leg.

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Machine hamstring curls swapped for stability ball hip lifts: The position I’ve got him using during the hip lift simulates the point at which the leg is pulling back against the ground to propel the runner forward, and is giving the hamstrings and glutes the specific strength they require to do this effectively, powerfully, and efficiently.

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Lat pull down swapped for a recline row: The recline row allows him to target his lats, biceps and rear delts, while also helping to open up the hips in order to counteract poor postures, as well as being able play around with various leg and foot positions to increase/alter the core demands of the exercise.

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Dumbbell arm running replaced with band resisted single leg step ups: Driving your arms forward and backward with some light dumbbells does nothing to improve your endurance running! The exercise I replaced this with provides a beast of a workout through the entire leg, which also providing single leg stability training and some kick ass core work too, while also allowing the runner to work on arm mechanics for running.

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Bicep curls replaced with dumbbell single leg reach-curl-press: Hitting the beach weights won’t help any endurance runner to get faster or better. SO what I’ve done here is incorporate the curl into a run specific exercise that targets the ankle, knee and hip joints and their surrounding muscles, while also hitting the shoulder-hip relationship, but still alowing him to bang out some curls!

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Tricep dips has been replaced with a slit stance overhead band triceps extension: The position we adopt here actually stretches the hip flexors and opens up the hips, while also providing some great deceleration training through the core, as well as enabling him to hit some triceps at the same time.

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Twisting sit ups were replace with a high to low cable chop: The chop is a great way to work on the shoulder-hip relationship, and also provides a great workout for the spinal rotators and stabilisers, much more so than any sit up can ever do.

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So that’s what we did with his workout. In the 8 weeks it’s been since I changed his program, he has put a poor start to the season behind him and has smashed his previous PB’s in both 5k and 10k races. Is it all to do with the strength training? No. Did it have a good effect? Clearly.

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I hope that this article has given you some food for thought, and will cause you to think seriously about integrating an appropriate strength training program into your regime. You WILL feel and see the differences, in the way you look, feel, and most importantly, in your race times.

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Andy ;-)

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Circuit Training Weymouth - Wednesday Class at Budmouth

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

Thought I’d drop you a quick one to remind you that the all new Wednesday night circuit class at Budmouth sports centre is kicking off tomorrow night!

The original circuit brought to you from Procision Fitness has been slightly revamped and after a short break is just about ready to kick off once more on Weds 15th September.

Courses run for 6 weeks, and the start dates for the next 2 courses are as follows:

Weds 15th Sept

Weds 27th Oct

The price for the 6 session program is £24. There is a maximum number of 20 participants per course. If the session hasn’t reached full capacity by the start date, sessions will be available on a pay and play basis at £5 per session.

A full diet and workout program is also available, totally free, if you require it!

Looking forward to seeing you all there tomorrow night!

Andy Sloan BA (Hons), MMA – CSCC

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Monday Night Outdoor Fitness Class Weymouth

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

This Monday just past (Sept 5th) was the final Monday night Move it and Lose it session, and I’ve decided I don’t like the sound of that!

So, I have some good news and some bad news for you.

The GOOD news: I’d previously thought that as soon as summer was over that I wouldn’t be able to run another Monday night program due to another commitment I have with a class up on Portland. BUT . . . I’ve enjoyed this program so much that I’ve managed to swing it so that I can deliver another round for you, and have another trainer pal of mine run my Portland session for a few weeks. Bonus.

The BAD news: You’re stuck with me and my nasty little protocols for another 6 weeks of training! Ok, so maybe it’s not so bad after all ;-)
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Anyway, the program is going to run right off the back of this one, meaning that session 1 is going to be Monday 13th Sept. I’m going to run it as an 8 week cycle this time around, and again the program will give you a full nutritional and exercise strategy that will (if followed properly) give you some blinding results in much the same way as my one to one clients get to achieve with me.
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I’m also going to be mixing things up that little bit more this time around, and taking you guys through some pretty ‘out of the box’ training methods that’ll get you dropping pounds in some seriously fast times. I not gonna tell you any of these just yet, but I can GUARANTEE you’ll not have done most or all of them, and you probably won’t have even thought you COULD do them. But believe me, YOU CAN, and YOU WILL!!! You can probably tell that I’m kind of excited about this,  and the fact you’re still reading this tells me you are too. Am I right?!
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Great!
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In terms of itinerary, I’m gong to give you the first 4 weeks right now, and the second 4 weeks will be decided a little further down the line so I can make sure there’s plenty of light wherever we go and also factor in a couple of other things too. So here’s where we are in weeks 1-4:

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Mon 13th Sept:  Café Oasis, Overcome Corner
Mon 20th Sept:  Lodmoor Car park, opposite Go Karts
Mon 27th Sept:  Esplanade, Red mine by Pavillion
Mon 4th Oct:    Lodmoor car park, opposite Go Karts
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Now, seeing as we’re just less than one week away from this program kicking off, we need to move pretty fast on this one. So, in order to sign yourself up, first off I need you to hit me back as soon as you can (hopefully right now) to let me know you’re ‘IN’. Secondly, sometime on or before Saturday Sept 11th, I need you to head over to http://www.procisionfitness.com/ and make payment of £40 via the ‘Summer Slimmer’ PayPal link, on the bottom left of the home page (yes I know this isn’t the Summer Slimmer, program, but it saves me putting a new button on ;-) . When all that’s done, you’ll be fully signed up and ready to rumble.

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I think that’s just about all bases covered for now. As soon as I have everyone’s confirmations in, I’ll be emailing out the new home based workout program, nutritional strategy, and whatever else I need to send through.

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I’ll leave you in peace now, so make sure you hit me back letting me know you’re keen for this next program and we can get things moving along right away ;-)

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Can’t wait to hear from you!

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Andy Sloan BA (Hons), MMA - CSCC

Procision Fitness

Dorset’s ONLY guaranteed results personal trainer

T - 07843438173
E - andy@procisionfitness.com
W - www.procisionfitness.com

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Weymouth Outdoor Fitness Class - Early Mornings

Monday, September 6th, 2010

Summer is over, and so is Summer Slimmer :-(


At the end of this week I’ll be eagerly awaiting the results of those who have been completing Program F over the past 3 weeks, and I’ve already heard of some pretty great results, with weight loss in the first week alone of up to 8lbs!


So anyway, here’s what’s going to happen.


From Monday Sept 13th I’ll be running another early morning program, in much the same manner as Summer Slimmer (I’d keep the name, but Summer is on its way out, so the name must do too!). The new program,
Wake Up and Shape Up, is going to be Monday and Friday mornings, 6.30am til 7.15am, at various outdoor locations around Weymouth.


Once again, the program is going to be 100% focused on helping YOU lose those pounds and inches that you don’t want hanging around any longer. I’ll be giving you another full nutrition and exercise program so you know exactly what you need to do in your own time to succeed, and you’ll be able to email/call me as much as you need to in order to stay motivated and hit your targets.


Here’s the itinerary and dates:


Mon 13th Sept:  Café Oasis, Overcombe
Fri 17th Sept:  Lodmoor car park, opposite entrance to Sealife Centre
Mon 20th Sept:  Weymouth Swimming Pool, car park
Fri 24th Sept:  Esplanade, Red mine opposite Alexandra Gardens
Mon 27th Sept:  Café Oasis, Overcombe
Fri 1st Oct:    Lodmoor Country park, opposite entrance to Sealife Centre
Mon 4th Oct:    Weymouth Swimming Pool, car park
Fri 8th Oct:    Esplanade, Red mine opposite Alexandra Gardens


Just as before, the full program costs £40, and can be paid for via http://www.procisionfitness.com/ (via the Summer Slimmer PayPal button on the bottom left of the screen), so it’s nice and easy to sign up. In order to secure your place on the program, please send me an email letting me know that you’ll be attending, and then if you could head over to http://www.procisionfitness.com/ and make your payment sometime before midnight on Sat 11th Sept, then that’ll be you all signed up ;-)


Finally, it’d be great to get some new faces on the program, so here’s an incentive:  Recommend a friend, and you’ll BOTH get 2 x free sessions for my new Wednesday evening circuit class, kicking off later this month! So, if you have a friend, acquaintance, family member, colleague or anyone else who may be keen to sign up, send them the details, and when they email me letting me know YOU sent them, I’ll ping you both an email with 2 free sessions each once the program starts!


That’s it from me for now, so I look forward to hearing from you soon!


To your success

Andy Sloan BA (Hons), MMA – CSCC

Procision Fitness

Dorset’s ONLY guaranteed results personal trainer

T – 07843438173
E – andy@procisionfitness.com
W – www.procisionfitness.com

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Triathlon Specific Conditioning Class

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

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To the MAX is on it’s way back!

That’s right, you read it correctly, the much talked about To the MAX – Triathlon and Endurance Sports Conditioning sessions are coming back, and this time there’s a BIG twist!

Those of you who attended previous phases of TTM already know the benefits of the type of training I’ll be putting you through. The evening sessions, combined with the winning attitudes from participants, helped to enable several of the group to compete in and complete their first IRONMAN triathlon, several people to complete their very FIRST triathlon, and a pile of people to smash their PB’s. The conditioning also helped me to complete 2 x Ironman races in the space of 5 weeks, both in faster times than last year (the 2nd of this year was the fastest yet!). And the next few months of conditioning are also going to help me complete Ironman events on back to back weekends in 2011 too. Bottom line: IT WORKS. Below the bottom line: It’s going to be EVEN BETTER this time around! Here’s why:


Earlier this year I headed out to Florida to undergo some professional development at the world famous
Institute of Human Performance, which is the facility created and directed by world renowned strength and functional training coach, Juan Carlos Santana. While over there I became one of just 3 people in the whole of the UK to become an IHP certified functional training specialist, but that’s not the really important bit.



The really important bit,
is that while over there, I told JC that I wanted to drop my training volume but still get great results in Ironman. You see, in December I’d had a shoulder operation which put me out for a while, and had left me with just 18 weeks to train. With the shortage of weeks, and the fact that I was working anything from a 45-65 hour week all in, time wasn’t on my side. I told JC that I knew it was possible for us to get me in great condition in no time at all, and that I was sure there’s a better way of training for long distance without having to put in the 5-10,000m in the pool, 200-300 miles per week on a bike, or the 40-80 miles a week running volume that you hear of elite age groupers and pros talking about. We needed to come up with a way to hit my targets, but with approximately 40-50% less volume than I’d completed per week in the previous season, and in 34 weeks less.


So, we sat down, discussed every aspect of my past training, what works, what doesn’t work, and then began to devise a plan. What we came up with was something (so far as we’re aware) that had never before trialed in the triathlon or endurance sports world, and something that broke pretty much every rule of training for long distance. So what was involved? I won’t break down specifics YET, but: My training hours for the 18 weeks were 7-12 per week, including 2-3 x strength and conditioning sessions per week. I swam on average just twice per week. My only long rides were the 4 that I did between 70-83 miles. I did only one long run (this was 15 miles). Compared with the 14-20 hours per week I trained last year, in that 18 week period, I must have SAVED myself maybe 120-150 hours! That’s 5 or 6 days!


Did the training work? Absolutely. Ironman France was faster than IMUK the previous year, and IMUK this year was faster than them both!


So why am I telling YOU this?


Because, through To the MAX, I plan to deliver a full 42 week training program, using the same system that JC and I devised, to help YOU and another 19 people to achieve their triathlon goals, with minimum training, but maximum effect. You may be training for Ironman like myself and a pile of other guys from
Bustinskin Tri club, you may be training for 70.3, or standard distance, maybe sprint or super sprint. You may be a total novice, or possibly an elite age grouper, but one thing that there is no maybe about, is the fact that whatever you want to do, you want to do it well, you want to be injury free, and you want to be able to ENJOY training for it, and completing it. And that’s why I’m telling you this. Whatever distance you’re training for, whatever level you’re competing at, this program WILL work for you. It’s going to give you a total blueprint of exactly what you have to do on each day, and will even be taking you through nutritional strategies for triathlon success. To cap it off, I’ll be delivering the strength and conditioning program to you through the To the MAX sessions (these will be 1-2 evenings per week for one hour). I’m taking literally all the guesswork out of your training, and giving you the chance to spend more time with your family and friends, and just relaxing, and less time wasting time on junk miles in the pool and on the road.


I know it’s not quite the end of this season yet, and that’s why this program will be kicking off in mid October. BUT I wanted to touch base with you right now, to wet your appetite, give you an idea of what’s going on, and let you know that YOU have the chance to be part of something special. Once this program has been completed, and results show that it works for you as well as it worked for me (probably even better as we’re improving it RIGHT NOW), JC and I plan to undertake some sort of a project, either a book or a DVD detailing the new way to train for going long, without ever needing to go long.

That’s it from me for today. If you’re remotely interested or excited by this (and I’m guessing you are seeing as you’ve taken the time to read this loooong email), then please send me an email letting me know. Feel free to include a couple of details about yourself if you like, such as the event you wish to train for, your current level, any significant achievements thus far etc.

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Over to you . . . .

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