Something About A Forest and Its Trees

October 20, 2018

We bought a studio! Sorry, let me rephrase…QT2 Systems, LLC bought a studio! A cycling studio. Ok, so I’m a little late with this. We bought it a year ago. It is exactly what we always wanted to do, but simply never saw as a feasible option, because the start-up costs would be such a tremendous obstacle. Well, sometimes feasibility has a way of working itself out. Somebody builds it out, exactly as you would have wanted it, creates a business around it, runs it, and then comes to a point where life simply takes them in a different direction than originally planned. That’s pretty much how we found ourselves with a studio. It’s a beauty, too. It is located in Whitman, MA, right on route 18, connected to the longstanding Bike Barn. If you’re looking at the building from the front, Bike Barn is on the right, and we, Cycle Life Studio, are on the left.

I may get some of these specifics wrong, as I’m not exactly known as a slave to details, but the studio is equipped with 20 Computrainers, connected to the PerfPro training software, for cyclists and triathletes to suffer on. We have a treadmill, a universal weight system, 11 TRX stations, three NormaTec Boots Recovery Stations, bike storage, oh…and 24 Kaiser indoor spin bikes. The indoor cycling room is sound-proofed, and has a special airflow system which I neither understand, nor can pretend to explain. We bought it because it was exactly what we always wanted, but never saw a path into. And, most importantly, because it became available. It was a year ago, now, and if I am remembering correctly, that was a pretty exciting time for all of us at QT2. More than just a studio, it gave us a place to store all of the stuff that we have accumulated over the years. A place to hold our annual December Coaches Meeting. A place to run Run Formula run programs out of (three different uses of the word ‘run’ inside of four words – beat that). A place for an indoor time trial series. A place for just about anything that we wanted to do. Quite simply, a place for QT2/ORR/TRF/CD/TCF to call home.

So, it is with that excitement that I texted a triathlete buddy of mine, who I have known for years, and who knew the studio well, “Hey, we’re buying Cycle Life!” He simply wrote back…”Why would you do that?” Ha! He knocked the wind right out of my sail! Here I was, thinking that we were making this great move, on so many levels, only to all of a sudden have the fear of God put into me. What didn’t we know? What were we missing? It was the spin bikes, wasn’t it? Nope. They’re actually of the highest quality…Or, the Computrainers! They’re junk. I knew it! Not at all. Bomb-proof, and extremely well-maintained. What the heck could it be? And then, all of a sudden, in 140 characters or less, he put my mind at ease. A few years earlier, he had begun going to the studio, but soon became frustrated, because the workouts that the studio offered didn’t fit with the workouts in his QT2 Mission Plan. Cycle Life Studio was offering classes on the days that he needed them, but the workout and intensity profiles just looked much, much different. Phew…The ceiling wasn’t going to cave in on us, and the plumbing didn’t leak. Things suddenly got a whole lot less scary. “Dude (I still call people dude), we could just adjust your workouts…”

My point in this writing is not to tell you about, and sing the praises of, our studio. Though, it is pretty great…Come on down to check it out…First class FREE…QT2 LLC clients get 40% off all class packs…But, I digress. My point in this writing is that it occurred to me that what was so crystal clear to me (“Dude, we could just adjust your workouts”), may not have been as obvious to everyone else. In my buddy’s defense - we’ll call him Dave - he had had, and experienced, so much success doing things a certain way, and listening to us talk about our protocols, that he, and so many others, started to believe that our/their successes were due to specific workouts, and executing them exactly as written. And, to veer away from that precision would, in their minds, diminish the potential level of attainable success. When that rationale occurred to me, it made perfect sense that Dave, and anybody else, could think that way. It is very, very easy to get distracted by individual, singular workouts as being “difference-makers”. To have a favorite set in the pool, intervals on the bike, and/or session on the track, all of which will directly translate into getting faster - Training potions for speed. But, it simply ain’t true. And we haven’t done a very good job of explaining that.

So, let me give it a shot.

Our success, with athletes of all levels – from IRONMAN champions to those taking on triathlon as part of a healthier lifestyle – is quite simple. We do a very good job of identifying and addressing athlete limiters, and then we apply an appropriate amount of training stress, over time. Yeah, yeah…We do race fueling, day-to-day nutrition, race pacing, mental fitness work, etc., as well. But, I’m trying to keep it simple, here…Success comes as a result of the consistent application of appropriate training stress, day in, and day out. To make it really, really simple…If you want to get faster, get, and stay, consistent. A set of 800s on the track, or above-threshold intervals on the trainer, will make you a better, faster athlete, if part of a holistic training approach, being consistently executed day-in, and day-out…day-in, and day-out. Treated as just a small variable in the ‘means to an end’ equation, these types of sessions can be very, very powerful. But, if given too much credence, and essentially overvalued, they can have a very opposite effect.

There is nothing magical about 2x15 minute intervals, at Z2. 6x5 minute intervals, at a best sustainable effort, are equally as unexceptional. The secret (shhh!!!!) is in the context in which these specific workouts, and workouts like them, exist. We do 2x15 minute intervals, at Z2, when we are in a tempo phase of training. 30 minutes of tempo work is 30 minutes of tempo work, regardless of how you slice and dice it. We do things like 6x5 minutes, at best effort, when we are in an anaerobic phase of training. Again, 30 minutes of anaerobic training is 30 minutes of anaerobic training. We could have just as easily done 3x10 minutes, at best effort, or 15x2minutes, at best effort. Though, the latter would be pretty rough…You get my point. Sure, the 5 minute intervals are going to be completed at a noticeably higher wattage than the 10 minute intervals, but only for half of the time, each time. The overall stress is much the same. Not exactly the same. But, pretty damned close. Not different enough to worry about. And, certainly not different enough to NOT do something that you would really like to do, for fear that it won’t fit.

It all boils down to one simple rule…”Maintain the spirit of the day”. That’s the key! Intent. What does the workout intend for you to accomplish? Your training plan calls for tempo intervals? Then it is, likely, wholly inappropriate to be doing a workout of best effort intervals. Flip it around – Your training plan calls for best effort intervals? Then, tempo intervals or steady state aerobic work doesn’t fit the bill. In these instances, the ‘spirit of the workout’ isn’t being maintained. And hence, Dave’s frustration with trying to meld his QT2 Mission Plan with Cycle Life Studio’s classes starts to make a whole lot of sense.

But, any studio worth going to is going to know exactly how to account for this. It just requires a little bit of communication between the rider, and the class’s instructor. At Cycle Life, our classes are run on the PerfPro software, which sets relative intensities by Functional Threshold Power (FTP). At the beginning of each class, as the instructor is loading each rider into the software, they assign a set FTP (based upon the athlete’s data, of course). This FTP number is wholly adjustable, before, during, and after the class. And there it is…We have an adjustable variable. Couple this with the notion that the instructor has a very good sense of what he/she is throwing at you that night, and we have enough information to adapt to the athlete’s needs, pretty much whatever they may be. 

~Tim Snow - QT2 Coach and Operations Director