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Ben Day is a performance coach at the Team BikeExchange WorldTour team, founder of DaybyDay Coaching, and coach of professional long distance triathletes Chris Leiferman and Greg Close. Ben also raced (cycling) professionally himself for 14 years. In this interview, Ben shares his thoughts and experience on many aspects of training and coaching in both triathlon and cycling.
In this Episode you'll learn about:
- Ben's coaching philosophy
- The balance of training volume and training intent and quality
- Training the bike component for long-distance triathlon
- The balance of aerobic base training and specific training for the race demands
- The importance of the coach-athlete relationship
- Top tips for age-group athletes
- My name is Ben Day and I was a professional cyclist myself for 14 years, half of the time I was based in Europe and the other half in the United States.
- Half way through my career I started to think about what I would engage in next post my career as a professional cyclist, and came to realize that I am very passionate about coaching.
Currently, I live in Girona, Spain, where I work as a performance consultant (coach) for Team BikeExchange.
I mostly coach cyclists but I also have a few triathletes on my coaching roster (currently I am for instance working with Chris Leiferman).
- As a coach, I have found it very educational to coach both triathletes and cyclists.
I have learnt a lot from cycling coaching that I have been able to implement in triathlon coaching and vice versa.
One of those things is to have a very clear intent with every session and increase the ”quality” of the training and hence cut down the volume a little bit.
- As said, I strongly believe in a slightly lower volume approach to training compared to many other coaches.
Instead I try and focus on always having a very strong intent with every session and through in slightly more quality training.
However, sometimes I do prescribe high volume training weeks to my professional triathletes (30-35h), but regularly I tend to prescribe 20-25h of training on average.
When I do high volume training weeks, I make sure and cut the quality of the training down substantially.
Moreover, I am very careful with prescribing too much run volume and run quality at the same time as this appears to be increasing the injury risk quite much.
- Typically my athletes train up to 15-16h on the bike and 5-6h running and swimming respectively.
- A lot of coaches are very ”power driven” in their coaching, I am more ”speed driven” as this is the ultimate performance metric that we are targeting.
Top three tips to improve the bike leg of a triathlon
- I use to prescribe a lot of training in the ”middle zone”, where metabolic efficiency is highly promoted (it’s not very hard the first 20mins but after 2h it’s really hard).
- I also let my athletes do plenty of strength work (low cadence) as this seems to facilitate metabolic efficiency very well also.
- Third, I do think it is important to mix up the stimuli from time to time, which basically means that you throw in a 3-4 weeks block of high intensity training sometimes pretty early during the build up.
Differences between cycling and triathlon bike training
- My professional cyclists train between 20-35h per week, which is much more than the triathletes.
- Basically all cycling races are very dynamic in nature, which I must prepare my athletes for.
It’s about founding a balance between being very metabolically efficient but also have that top end power and ”edge” at the same time so that the athletes can attack and push well above threshold power over shorter durations.
Physiological profiling of athletes
- I am always trying to find ”the lowest hanging fruit”, and try to target the ”weakest link” of each athlete’s physiology and improve that.
For self-coached athletes I am a strong advocator of looking at cardiac drift as an indicator of aerobic capacity.
- I do believe that it is very important for athletes (even endurance athletes) to fuel with plenty of carbohydrates since even on relatively ”low” intensities, carbohydrates is an essential energy substrate.
In my experience, it is simply not viable to implement a diet where you cut down on the carbs even though scientifically it seems to stimulate an aerobic/endurance phenotype.
Top three tips to amateur athletes
- Have a good life-job-training balance.
- Consistency is king!
- Balance the training very well, you need to have a good balance between the different physiological systems (the aerobic and the anaerobic system).
However, having a good aerobic foundation is absolutely crucial and is the most important (even more so for triathletes), it is also here that the greatest difference between professional and non-professional athletes exist.
- As previously mentioned, having a balanced physiology (at more or less all the time) is extremely essential.
- I will give you an example from my days as a professional cyclist.
Prior to one season I almost exclusively targeted the aerobic system in my training and I displayed an incredible capacity in this system (I could hold 340w for 5h straight weighing 68kg).
In the build towards this season I performed a lot of training in zone 2 and lower spectrum of zone 3, which stimulates aerobic development and metabolic efficiency very well.
However, I basically had zero anaerobic ”resources”, which made it impossible for me to keep up in the Peloton when things started to ”move”.
So after that I came to realize the you are in need of both systems in order to perform well.
- For long distance triathlon, however, one could argue that you actually wouldn’t need much of an anaerobic system to perform well (potentially professional athletes that ”race” would probably need a little bit of that though).
Giving my 10 years younger self an advice
- I have come to realize that run volume is very important for the run leg in an Ironman, one cannot substitute run volume for quality when training for the IM and if I would have to choose between these two I would favor volume before quality on the run.
Rapid fire questions
- What is your favorite book, blog or resource related to endurance sports? Talking to other coaches and scientists within the field.
- What is your favorite piece of gear or equipment? I love everything that has to do with aerodynamics so everything that has to do with wind tunnels, track testing etc.
- What is a personal habit that has helped you achieve success? Engagement with my athletes to create a personal relationship.