Elvis Joins the Army
Elvis Joins the Army

Elvis Joins the Army

Welcome to all returning and new clients at TTS!

Just so you know, we’ve made some aesthetic and functional upgrades in the studio because we want to look sharp for when Gary Shapiro, Sherri Issenman, Cindy Krupka, Matthew Stotland and others come back from surgeries, accidents and honeymoons. There was obviously lots of sufferin’ and lovin’ over the summer… and perhaps a lot of lovin’ sufferin’ on the bike!!

But now it is the Fall–a season of transition as pet videos and food photos are replaced by images of glassy lakes and fallen leaves on Facebook. TTS is also in a time of gentle change. I’ve been busy in years past, but last year was ridiculously demanding. Toguri Training grew by more than 20% and our race team took out a UCI Continental License under the name, Silber Pro Cycling. We became the #1 team in Canada. Stay tuned for a series of exciting announcements about the racing team. It is incredible how that project has taken off, and it still amazes me that TTS continues to experience substantial growth.

One reason for our success, I hope, is our ability to recognize the limits of our cycling knowledge at TTS. I am NOT saying we lack knowledge, but rather, we do not have a comprehensive understanding of the sport. This is a risky admission in the marketplace of coaching, but I do not aspire to be all-encompassing or comprehensive because firstly that is impossible. Developments in sports physiology, nutrition, the entire bike industry, etc have been sprawling and exponential over the last two decades. You can wake up in your altitude tent, eat breakfast with beet juice and beta alanine… then train on a carbon bike with electric shifting, a power meter and high profile carbon wheels, while wearing a ‘race suit’ with stitching designed to promote desirable turbulence… then shower and head to university to get a degree in ‘exercise science’!?! Anyone who aspires to be comprehensive in their knowledge of cycling ironically does not recognize the historical moment of growth in the knowledge industry related to cycling.

Don’t get me wrong: I want to learn as much as I can about cycling. As a coach, however, I want to establish a network of people who can share current knowledge with clients–and myself. I believe that a dynamic social network is more in touch with the ways in which cycling knowledge is currently developing and being distributed. I therefore no longer aspire to say that after 20 years of working with athletes I have developed a system. Rather, I want to establish an open network of resources coordinated by my ongoing development as a student of the sport.

Here’s an example. During the 1990s, the claim that high-intensity workouts comprised of short anaerobic intervals were time-efficient and effective gained support from a growing number of scientific studies performed on cyclists. The classic structure of these studies was to take two groups of cyclists and test their aerobic fitness by, for example, measuring the average power measured in watts that they could produce over a 12 to 20 minute effort. Then one group would ride moderately for 1 to 1.5h, four times a week. The other group would do 4-6 x 30-60 sec bursts with a few minutes recovery between… again 3-4 times a week. After 3-6 weeks, the group doing the short intervals would test better than the group riding steady.

One result of these studies was an increased understanding of how anaerobic training positively impacts aerobic metabolic activity. Another result was that the celebration of high intensity workouts led to the rise of indoor training facilities. You could now market short workouts as effective and time-efficient. The typical training studio that arose during this period therefore usually celebrates “pain”, “power” and “suffering.” They measure the success of their programs NOT on the ability to teach cycling, but rather, on the ability to improve your 12-20 min average power output. The excitement shared is primarily derived from the general challenge of overcoming pain and “hitting your numbers.” A “good” workout is therefore equated with a “hard, intense” series of bursts. This is about capitalizing on the “time crunch” as not only a situation many of us live in, but also as a means to workout!

I find this approach to be reductive on several levels. Firstly, professional cyclists don’t train this way and not just because they race for 6 hours. Cyclists cannot improve over time by simply doing short intervals. Cycling is an aerobic endurance sport and the physiological benefits of riding moderately for longer periods have never been denied. Incorporating longer, moderate cycling exercises in a training program, for example, enhances oxidative energy production by increasing the number of capillaries muscle fibers and mitochondria in muscle cells. In other words, a training program that emphasizes longer intervals of riding, is focused on building your engine over time. Again, the proven benefits of steady training regimes were well-known, but they were under-represented in scientific journals by studies of the effects of short intervals that took place over periods of only 3-6 weeks. Lastly, if each client is so “time crunched”, what are the cumulative effects on the nervous system of high intensity interval training? The scientific and coaching community understands that high intensity training is only a small part of a successful training program. Training to become a better cyclist cannot be reduced to narrow readings of scientific studies.

Last but not least, the celebration of short intervals as the best approach to bike training is reductive for anyone who loves the sport. All the coaches at TTS love cycling. They love the challenges of bike-handling, foot speed, climbing and the various scenarios that get played out on group rides. In fact many of our clients get most excited talking about LONG rides they went on and what happened amongst their weekday morning rides or on their charity rides or during their races. What if you raise your average watts over 20 minutes by 4% while learning to love the sport? Shouldn’t a good cycling program advertise and promote cycling?

So now imagine coming to Toguri Training for a one-hour workout, once or maybe twice a week. How do I effectively transmit my knowledge as a coach? I know one thing: I can’t claim to be implementing a “system”. There are too many variables during your week for me to make such a claim! If you go skiing for 4 hours on Sunday and then come train on Monday morning with me, how do I measure the benefits of what I’m doing? How do I deal with scar tissue from your recent surgery? The death of a parent? I can’t master the dramatic rise of exercise science, physiotherapy, sports psychology and the technological advance of the bike industry. The way I understand it, my job is to offer coaching and by that I mean access to an unfolding network of knowledge. I aspire to do that better this year than last year.

In the Fall Session, active clients will receive newsletters on various topics. Consider them the basis of conversations with your coach. Two newsletters will address nutrition. After they have circulated, our clients will get an opportunity to attend a short talk followed by a question and answer period with a naturopathic nutritionist. They will also get the opportunity in the Winter session to meet a sports nutritionist. We want different knowledge bases to be circulating in the studio. Another Fall topic will concern the rise of physiology and physiotherapy in relation to bike fit. Again, clients will get the opportunity to make an appointment with one of the city’s most important physiotherapists who will work alongside a “Retul” bike-fitter. Retul is a system that uses sensors to accurately capture the cyclist’s movements and thereby allow optimal positioning, regardless of bike brand or type. The goal will be for clients to get a physiological assessment, corrective exercises if necessary, and then fitted on their bikes in relation to the assessment.

In conclusion, a wise reader will have noticed that I have dodged the question about clients coming into train for 1 hour after I’ve celebrated longer moderate exercise. To begin, don’t be surprised if you walk out of some of your fall workouts with energy left in the tank. I’m trying to subtly change the culture of indoor training. I want to go “old skool” and use a traditional pyramid structure whereby we spend the first 8 weeks establishing a “base.” This “base”, however, will be constituted by “basic” knowledge that you can apply throughout the week which will help you value moderate intensity workouts, improve your bike fit and pedaling efficiency, tweek your nutrition and get gradually stronger on the bike while keeping your body rested enough for the new year. I like the idea of an old skool pyramid structure that supports new developments in the sport. The approach is broad, dynamic, caring, and committed to the culture of cycling. I’m not sure, however, if it will work… but what if it does?!!

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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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