The phenomenon that is Debra Brown, with Lori Faughnan and Glen Pepin getting stronger in the background. ©2010 JF Houpert

It’s been awhile since my last post, but Michelle Paiement and I have been busy busy busy. It’s a bit belated, but I have an announcement to make, and I want to talk about where we’re at in terms of our approach to coaching…

TTS now has an “embedded” indoor training area at the YM-YWHA!

We started classes on October 18, and enrollment  exceeded our projections by a mile. All morning and evening classes were booked instantly! As a result, we’ve reorganized our schedules in an effort to offer more morning classes in January, so stay tuned for future announcements. We still have some daytime spots available. Contact if you’re interested in current or future classes. Or contact either of us if you are interested in one-on-one coaching. You can reach me at

Where We Are Heading…

Through our discussions with the YM-YWHA, we gained a clear sense of our current goals as coaches. One thing we have always been clear about is that we are not interested in cultivating an elitist environment. We are interested in the experience of excellence.

Joly-Smith (Rocky Mtn) and Blackburn (Rio Tinto/Martin Swiss) in the break from the gun at the 2010 Provincial Championships. ©2010 Antoine Becotte

The root of the word “excel” conveys the action of rising up. Specifically, those that excel rise up in relation to others. It is therefore easy to confuse the pursuit of excellence with elitism. We see this historically in the figure of “his Excellency”. Members of the court for example, would bow down before his or her Excellency. This act would physically manifest the superiority of his Excellency. Bowing would literally give his Excellency a heightened viewpoint, and in this way bowing is a symbolic offering of political power to one’s “superiors”. To excel, however, has always had a moral and ethical component. That is to say, ideally, rising up above others entails being “good” at something, and being virtuous. In sports, therefore, I associate excellence with rising above one’s context in ways that make the context better for everyone. My point is that you cannot experience the exhilaration of excellence unless it is shared. Great athletes make their teammates better and even the crowd can share in this uplifting experience.

You don’t even have to win to excel. I have seen athletes experience excellence during workouts in which they did not fully achieve their goals. Their approach to the workout, their consistency, and passion were nonetheless capable of raising the capacities of those around them. Judith Hayes does this on a regular basis. So does Debra Brown, William Blackburn, Lorne Bienstock, Harold Stotland, Elaine Malus, Peter Kalichman… etc. So many of us training together are committed to excellence as a means to raise the level of our fitness and performance.

"Once I get my cadence to match the slapping sound of the tire on the boards I will be able to keep up with Philippe Raymond and Stephane Le Beau!!!

For Michelle and I, the cultivation of excellence is part of our coaching methodology: we believe it is a means to producing better cyclists and a love of the sport. I personally cannot stand when people champion “pain” as the route to fitness. In my experience, cultures of pain are usually coupled with arch-elitism and we can all easily think of political structures that have historically resulted in such a marriage. That’s a kind of “fitness” we can all do without. Hence the decision to work out of a community gym, as opposed to opening my own studio. We want to work with all levels of riders, and with people who choose to cycle to get fit from all walks of life. I think I really learned this lesson concretely in my discussions first with people at the YMYWHA: Christopher Laurin, and then Marla Gold. They have been so helpful on so many levels. It has made the prospect of working with the YMYWHA a no-brainer.

Uhh, Robert, what are you doing here?!! I'm trying to talk about "excellence"! Oh, and don't think I'm oblivious to your subtle efforts to prove yourself worthy of training on the coveted blue bike!! ©2010 JF Houpert

Another thing that I became more aware of during my talks with the Y was that I wanted to coach in a small group format. This lesson I learned from Michelle Paiement. We decided to start with four computrainers because we wanted to coach “in people’s ears.” One of the most rewarding comments I’ve received from clients over the years is that they could hear my voice in their head during stressful moments on the bike–and it helped them get through it. Well, when I think about how we are expanding, I hear Michelle’s voice reminding me that you must always hold on to what makes you a successful coach and not get caught-up in the excitement of expansion for expansion’s sake. I guess the basic lesson is that I don’t want to be one of those coaches that talks more about equipment and studio shower facilities than I do about coaching.

TTS "embedded" at the YMYWHA... I know I know...ur staring at the blue bike! We've already been through this on our facebook thingy! ©2010 TTS

Towards that end, I evaluated last year’s indoor training programs. Once again, everyone raised their 20-minute threshold power. As I looked back, however, I realised my documentation of rider workouts was really lacking. As a result, I cannot say with confidence that everyone improved their peak power, their 3-6 min power, their ability to hammer for an hour (ftp) etc. Just because someone is getting better at riding hard for 20 mins does not mean they are getting better at being able to perform multiple high-end attacks, or hard accelerations on hills. So this year our riders will do a lot more testing during the base period, which we will use to establish “basic” parameters by which we can measure their fitness gains across a greater variety of scenarios. In other words, we’ll be following more closely the basic power-training regimes set forth by American coaches such as Andy Coggan and Alan Hunter. These parameters will be incorporated more rigorously into what we are trying to do at TTS: scenario-based training. Our clients should expect tests that measure their ability to respond to classic scenes one encounters when riding or racing with others. These scenes will have various standardized tests tucked inside.

More testing over a variety of durations and scenes will hopefully reduce the anxiety that some athletes experience in relation to tests because there won’t be one nail-biting “test day” at the beginning and end of a session. This structure results in riders understanding cycling solely in relation to the watts they can produce on test day. As I’ve said before, I believe this to be a narrow approach to coaching and the sport.

We want to avoid the burnout from watts watts watts

Finally, the success of our younger Cat 1 riders was a notable high-point of last summer. We had riders winning races and making the provincial team. Throughout the summer they were consistently in breaks. At the Provincial Championships, William Blackburn and Max Joly Smith took off from the gun. William, on a bike he borrowed just before the start of the race (don’t get me started) suffered back cramps, while Max was caught by chase groups  after 130km, and held on for 8th place. There was a basic structure I used for many of their workouts. We’re going to use this structure consistently in our indoor classes. And as an aside, William and Max are fully sponsored for next year and the winner of the Provincial Championships, William Goodfellow, is now training with TTS!

In sum, our focus is on coaching first, and then expansion and equipment. We know what has taken us to this point, and now we have a more clear sense of where we are going next. So here’s a photo of our modest training area. Oh, and notice that one bike is blue?!! EVERYONE wants the blue bike. Whoda thunkit?!

The Friday at 6:30am crew: L-R Marc Yedid, Lorne Bienstock, Peter Kalichman, Jimmy April-all slouching unabashedly infront of the coach!! Note: Lorne got the coveted BLUE did that happen?!! And hey, our banner will be arriving any day now! Thanks Marla and Cindy!! ©2010 JF Houpert

About Scott Toguri McFarlane

Scott Toguri McFarlane is a former Elite racer, and the founder of Toguri Training Services. For more than a decade, his approach to training has helped aspiring professional racers, provincial team members, and recreational cyclists of all ages and ability achieve their goals, including gold medals at National and Provincial Championships.

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