Did you know Eric Kenney was a collegiate rower and coaches rowing as well as triathlon and cycling. He owns EK Endurance Coaching and runs the Boulder racing team made up of some of the top triathletes in the Boulder area. We met up with Eric just before Christmas in 2020 in his home in the foothills of Boulder. We learned about how he got into endurance sports and how being on the college crew team really changed the course of his collegiate experience and ultimately his career.
Eric has coached some well known Colorado athletes; notably pro cyclist Amy Charity and pro triathlete Sam Long. He is often seen with his athletes at the track in Boulder, riding the roads around Boulder county and at the pool at Rally Sport. Learn more about Eric, his philosophy and his thoughts on the sport of triathlon and some life in general!
It’s almost May and the triathlon season is about to start. How can you get the most out of your training with the limited time we have left? BTC Sponsor and multi-sport coach Eric Kenney of EK Endurance Coaching will give you helpful answers to that question and help get you ready for the upcoming season.
At the end of the season, it’s important to take time off to fully rest and recover. Today we share Coach Eric Kenney’s EK Minute series on taking time off to rest and recover and then how to re-start your training.
Don’t miss Coach Kenney’s upcoming clinic at CMS on Winter Training. Details here
Champions are made in the off-season.
Coach Eric Kenney of EK Endurance Coaching will discuss the topics in “Four keys of winter training” Article and the 3 steps to the off season rest, unstructured training and re-setting to train again.
Get a new perspective on training in the off season and maximum adaptation for minimal fatigue. Eliminate your weaknesses and arrive at your summer races fresher and faster!
Being consistent is so important. It is better to do 6 x 45-minute trainer rides before you do 1 x 5-hour ride and nothing else all week. Think of your weekly training as a set of intervals. You rarely go out to do a threshold workout as 1-hour, all-out effort. You break it up into 10- or 20-minute intervals. Same thing here. Plan ahead and “pay it forward” a bit by saving some energy (both physical and mental) on Wednesday so you can get in another session on Thursday or Friday. It’s not the training you do this week; rather it’s what you do for this 3-4 months.
Here, EK Endurance Coaching training pyramid shows you consistency is the foundation for EVERYTHING. This is not to say you have to train as long or as often as you might in spring or summer but you do need to find a manageable workload you can consistently complete.
2. STRUCTURED ENDURANCE TRAINING
Something many people don’t realize is that if you are working at your lactate threshold or below, you are getting the same adaptations as you do from doing long slow distance (LSD) training. What’s the catch? Well of course, the harder you ride the less time you can hold that effort for. But it’s winter and you are reading this because you don’t want to spend three hours on your trainer on Tuesday morning. So the old adage of “if you only have a short amount of time go hammer!” is sort of true in this case. However, do it with purpose and structure. Our Hour Of Power cycling workout library is designed for just this. Quality training that keeps you focused (distracted) while still having fun and getting your workout in.
A solid standard trainer set might look like this. This one isn’t the most exciting but it gets the job done:
15 minutes easy
10’ Zone 3-upper Zone 3
8’ higher power than last interval
6’ higher power than last interval
4’ higher power than last interval
2’ higher power than last interval
Take 2’ rest between all intervals
5- 10 minutes and you’ve done a nice hard, aerobic descending interval set that goes by quite quickly and can be done in 1 hour.
3. WEAKNESS TRAINING
I have been talking about and practicing this in my coaching since I began working with athletes over a decade ago. If you want to improve, you must discover your weak areas and bring them up to par for your goals.
I have done webinars, written articles on our blog, and had teams hire me to instruct them on the ways to find what your true weak area is and then how to train it. What you need here is:
They don’t lie. I have seen this many times with athletes, including myself. We think we are good at something we want to be good at, when in reality, we are not. Get a power meter and do the proper field testing.
An objective view:
This is where a coach can be critical but it doesn’t necessarily have to come from a coach. A trusted, experienced teammate or training partner can help an enormous amount.
Work without ego:
I have quoted GI Joe before in regards to training. “Knowing is half the battle”. Now it’s time for the other half. The WORK! I always say to my athletes “You have to train with what you have, not what you want to have”. Be patient, improvement won’t happen overnight—but it will happen if you keep at it.
When training your weakness in the winter, break it down to its most raw element. I had a conversation with a road cyclist in the winter of 2008- 2009. I determined he had weak neuromuscular power. He had trouble with high-speed crits and repeated accelerations in races. So are we going to have him do jumps and sprints with short rest and mimic crits on the trainer doing lactic acid bath workouts? No. We are going to focus on that maximum power. Different types of short, maximal efforts with long rests. Over the course of six weeks that winter we improved his 5-second power by 14%. From 1250 to over 1400 watts. That year he upgraded to Category 1, getting good results in hilly road races, TT’s and short crits.
4. FLEXIBILITY AND REST
Rest is very important—maybe the most important part of your training. Just because you are not logging 3-hour rides doesn’t mean you don’t need off days, recovery rides and stretching. Often I see more tightness and injuries in winter than in summer. Why? I feel it’s because athletes don’t take the time to cool down as much and stretch/recover properly. When their last interval is done, all they can think is, “Please get me off this thing!”. They grab some water and food and then are off to wherever. Stretch! Cool down after hard sessions! That extra five minutes now will pay you back the next time you throw your leg over the bike.
Be flexible. If the weather turns nice, bag the structured trainer workout and get outside! Not feeling the mojo today? Save it for tomorrow’s session. Be dynamic and flexible this winter. Think long-term. It’s not the training you get in this week, it’s about the all the training you get in these 3-4 months.
The fact is that riding the trainer can be like getting out of bed. It’s rough! But the act of starting is often the worst part. Get on, warm up, just spin, and after a few minutes images of racing, working hard for teammates and making the winning break will soon fill your head. Do this over and over again, and you will be on your way to having the best season ever.
Every Fall I talk about the same thing. Over and over. Why? well, people still ask, athletes still don’t know, and every year there are new athletes, new dreams new goals and new ambitions.
I wrote this first article many years ago. I have made some additions and updates, it needs more updates I’m sure. This is the first of three articles and they address what I feel is the most important time of year and the most important training you will do all year! Every year people ask my clients how they are so strong in spring and how they seem to never burn out, never get injured, and improve every single year. the next three articles will get you in the right track.
It’s the “Off Season” what do I … not do?
Article one in our three part series
I get this question often this time of yr. “how do you NOT train?” Especially for the competitive cyclist or triathlete who has been racing all summer, sometimes every weekend, not training hard and racing all the time can feel very strange.
The Off Season: First off I want to stress the word “OFF” in off season. Off means Off! The first and most important aspect of your next season is being totally fresh and completely motivated for next season. Now is the time to start that process.
Less is better here. Catch up on work, family, and drop off the bike at the shop for a tune up. Have them check it over for cracks in the frame along with full safety check. Racing is very hard on your equipment. The key with this phase is to make sure you are 110% ready to start training come the start of your program. The under trained, over motivated athlete will beat the perfectly training under motivated athlete every time! Come the beginning of “base training” you should be itching to train. It should be all you think about, so when its 20 degrees and freezing rain, your pumped up and ready to put in a solid training effort! This is also the best time to sit down with your coach and/or teammates to discus what your goals will be for next year. How did you perform this year? What was good? What was bad? What will have to be different with your preparation for 20, etc
Ok some terms we need to get straight. “Base” is not a verb. it is not an type of training. it describes a time frame. Some coaches use other terms like foundation phase, etc. so just drop it from your vocab. “Speed” is also NOT a type of training but lets say it is. Speed is relative. Take two athletes, tell them to do “speed work” of their choice and you will see totally different workouts. I always say “start with the science, then work in the real world, your resources, etc” What energy zones are you training? What are you focusing on during the training sessions? Are you lactate threshold intervals? VO2 int. tempo (Zone 3) work? what? start there. if you want to call it “speed work”, fine.
Here are several easy steps for an effective off season
Off time: Take an extended time of ZERO training. This will be different for every one. 2 weeks for some, 2 months for others. How ever much time you need to be totally rested and motivated to train again.
2. Recovery: Any lagging injury’s? Bike not working quite right for the last 2 months, been wanting to get that nagging cough looked at. Do it!! Get a massage, go to the doctor, dentist, what ever you need to do to feel 110 percent physically and mentally for the next season. This is active recovery, taking aggressive action towards healing. These are the most important aspects of off season training.
3. Maintenance training: After this you may be ready to train but your program doesn’t start for another month. What to do? Many pro’s and age groupers alike will take part in “unstructured training ”Its best to make is something different than your primary sport, try something new. It will most likely improve some skills needed in your primary sports. Just stay active, (cross training) will maintain your base fitness and, depending on your activity, can address your weakness leaving you fit, motivated and with stronger limiters than you had last year. A perfect way to start your next season!!
4. Cross Train! Go Mt. biking , running, play basketball, tennis whatever you like and have put off for the past summer. Working on stuff like this will help keep you injury free next year.
5. Most important have fun! Do those old training rides you did when you first started riding. Plan a trip. I have done a few long rides with friends in the fall that have proved to be lots of fun and great endurance training.
Five Vixxens put their early-season training to the test this past March at Ironman St. George 70.3. With an age group podium, three top-ten AG finishes, and a course PR, race day was a strong start to the season for many on the team. But how did we get there? Early season races are challenging given the winter limitations of riding and running outside and necessary time off after the fall. We spent some time talking to Eric Kenney, the Performance Director of Vixxen Racing and Coach of EK Endurance, about preparing for early season races and the growth of the team.
YOU DID ST. GEORGE RACE PREP WITH THE VIXXENS LAST YEAR. WHAT’S DIFFERENT THIS YEAR? HOW HAS THE TEAM CHANGED?
One of the main things that is different from last year is that there are new athletes that bring up a different dynamic because of their backgrounds and strengths. The team grew this year, so there are a wider range of backgrounds. The veteran athletes have more experience, so they’re approaching St. George with a lot of knowledge from last year. They know that the perfectly mapped out training rarely happens – you’re always having to execute it in the real world – so they’re ready to roll with those unexpected situations.
Also, last year it was snowing, raining, and cold the weekend we tried to do a simulation so we had to do something inside to get some heat. The race ended up being cold and rainy anyway. This year we had good weather and were able to get an outside race prep in.
In terms of the team goals – those were the same. But how we actually implemented them were different because of the weather, timing, and athletes themselves.
WHAT KIND OF PRE-RACE PREP DID YOU DO WITH THE VIXXENS THIS YEAR?
We did a brick workout leaving from Tom Watson park in Boulder. I choose a bike route that was hill-heavy towards the end like St, George. It was designed to break the athletes’ rhythm, to force them to change their efforts. I chose that because I wanted them to face those things before the race and get out of their comfort zones. They needed to get used to that varying terrain. The fitness part was secondary – it was more about being prepared for pacing and varied conditions.
One of the things I talk about with race execution on the bike – and in general – is being in control. Everything you’re doing should be on purpose – watts, RPM, nutrition. The route I selected was made to challenge the athletes’ ability to be in control of their effort and pacing. We wanted a distance close to the distance of the race, but also dealing with the options we had. We focused on time instead of distance.
I told the more advanced athletes that the course was shorter than in actually was to throw a wrench in their mental game. We don’t want things like that to get in the way on race day. There are so many variables and if you let those small potential changes get to you, it can throw you completely off.
We followed up with a 4 mile run at race pace. I tracked the athletes’ heart rates to see if there was any cardiac drift. Being in control of their pacing on the bike can help them prevent issues during the run.
The main goal of this workout was to get them mentally prepared for the unique challenges of the St. George course – it’s hilly and can be hot and there is the Snow Canyon climb. Especially for the new athletes, learning to be control in those conditions can be a challenge
HOW DO YOU MANAGE COACHING A TEAM AND ALSO PROVIDING INDIVIDUAL FEEDBACK?
We all came together to meet for our race prep workout, but I gave different instructions to athletes based on their experience and fitness. They all rode at their own pace and we met at the end. More advanced athletes were given specific wattage and efforts in different portions of the ride while the less experienced focused on paying attention to controlling effort on the changing terrain.
Each athlete’s race execution comes down to their specific physiology and fitness level and they should treat their training that way. For example, if an athlete is a weaker runner, they need to be more cautious on their exertion on the bike independent of their biking abilities. To be a successful triathlete you have to take into account how each sport affects the others.
After giving individualized instruction, I’m also able to give individual feedback based on an athlete’s heart rate and power data, especially the difference between the bike and run efforts.