Six keys to athletic performance

Top-ranked XTERRA triathlete Cody Waite and his wife Kathy Tank Waite run EPC Mulitsport, an endurance sports coaching and training company in Lakewood, CO. Cody and Kathy are both full-on shredders with elite-level fitness.

Cody recently placed 15th at his first Leadville 100 (in 7:01). Let’s learn about Team Waite’s well-rounded approach to training (and Life).

On EPC Mulitsport it says:

Our coaching and training revolves around our concept of addressing the “Six Components of Endurance Sport Success.” By identifying an athletes strengths and weaknesses in aerobic conditioning, muscular stability, skill proficiency, diet & nutrition, stress management, and mental fitness we can help athletes to not only improve but thrive in endurance sports competition. Challenge your limits by pushing through them to achieve new levels of fitness, form and function.

Cody, are these the big pieces of the puzzle:
• aerobic conditioning,
• muscular stability,
• skill proficiency,
• diet & nutrition,
• stress management and
• mental fitness?

Yes. Kathy and I came up with these over the past eight or 10 years of coaching, and they’re the six big pieces for any sort of sports. Not just biking or endurance. All sports.

We put more energy into training people for general fitness rather than a specific event.

Your Facebok post of Taylor Phinney lifting weights a week before the USA Pro Challenge was so cool. Here’s one of the world’s best endurance athletes, a super fit, skinny road bike type guy. Here he is in August doing squats and deadlifts.

What’s the key to optimizing your aerobic conditioning?

Roughtly speaking there are two ways:

1. You’re a full on pro racer, and you put in big volume. You ride your bike all day every day during winter, and you get into very good aerobic condition. But most people can’t do that. They have families and jobs, and they’re just not fit enough to do that. If I ride six hours a couple days in a row, even I’m gassed. This only works for a select few: in their 20s, in their peak.

2. If you can’t put in tons of time, you have put in tons of quality. Make the most of your time by doing structured workouts. Train in specific intensity zones according to your event and where you are in the buildup. This brings out the most fitness in the least training time. In general, power riders tend to focus on shorter, harder intervals, while endurance riders tend to focus on threshold power, but I think it’s important to hit all training zones regularly regardless of your event.

See the Prepare to Pin It in-season training program >>>

You say muscular stability, not doing preacher curls in the mirror.

Ha, that’s right. Stability is a combination of strength and mobility. It’s the ability to move a heavy amount of weight through a full range of motion.

Not just curling in the mirror with one joint and one muscle group. It’s way better to do multi-joint exercises that are more like the movements you use in action. Moves like dead lifts, squats, shoulder presses and push presses are way more functional.

As we get older, we lose muscle mass and range of motion. The more you train stability, the more you can minimize the losses. You’ll be able to enjoy life longer — even if you don’t compete.

I know you believe in the power of skills. Tell us more.

Skills are easily overlooked by many endurance athletes. Learning to be more skillful on the bike was a big one for me. I was able to reach a high level of fitness, but I would get dropped on the downhills and technical sections. That’s when I called you up. Learning the skills, practicing them and making them part of the regular training routine is so critical.

Cody rocks a class with me at Valmont Bike Park.

How do you incorporate skills into your training routine?

On a lighter training day or recovery day I’ll do actual skill drills — especially early in the season after I’ve been off the bike all winter. I go to the bike park or a fun trail and remember the basics: heavy feet, light hands; looking where you want to go; pumping over obstacles … During the season, instead of zoning out on the downhills it’s better to use every corner and obstacle to refine those skills and expand your limits.

It’s definitely a never ending process. That’s what makes it fun.

Tell us about diet and nutrition, on Facebook I often see you with coffee and a donut.

Barring any medical condition or allergy, we don’t believe in limiting any ingredient or type of food. That said, you need to be aware of what you’re eating, when. Everyone’s different but basically:

• Maximize fruits and vegetables. Shoot for 10 servings per day, about one-half of what you eat.

• Eat the cleanest protein you can afford. Free range, grass fed, wild vs. farmed. I don’t think endurance athletes need as much protein as we’re told. Once a day is plenty for most people. I only eat meat 2-3 times per week, and I treat it as a delicacy.

• If you’re doing a lot of exercise, you need carbs. We’re not afraid of grains, especially whole grains. Use grains as fuel, not a pleasure source. But if you’re depleted from a big training session, a donut won’t hurt you.

Stress management seems like a tricky one.

Yep, that’s a big one. We initially thought of it as recovery, but stress management makes more sense.

It’s a sliding scale. If your life stress — work, family, relationships — goes up, your training stress has to go down. The more stressed you are, the less exercise you can handle and recover from. Managing life stress is critical to success. Everywhere in life.

Team Waite!

What do you mean by mental fitness?

This is the final piece of the puzzle, and it’s one of the hardest ones to train or teach. For me it’s one of the biggest limiters.

There’s a lot to it, but it’s basically all the psychological aspects. Believing in yourself, setting goals, establishing pre-race rituals, creating mantras you repeat to yourself while racing. That’s super valuable, but it’s so easy to shirk off and feel goofy about.

What did you say to yourself during Leadville?

For me, the simple word FOCUS really works. I have to say it out loud. In a group you have to let it go. If I find myself losing focus, I tell myself “FOCUS,” and it really helps.

Thank you Cody. I eat a lot of carbs for pleasure, but I ain’t stopping.

For endurance sports coaching and training in the Denver, CO area, check out EPC Multisport

For efficient pre- and in-season training programs, check out Pump Up the Base and Prepare to Pin It.


Know more. Have more fun!

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