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Active Expert: Gale Bernhardt

14 Posts tagged with the training tag


Hi Gale,

I've read a few articles by both you, Joel Friel and a few others about training and racing at altitude.  This year I'm racing Leadville and have access to a place in Frisco for training.  My plan is to do all of my higher intensity workouts here in Fort Collins and do longer, steady training rides on the weekends in Breckenridge and up around Leadville.  I've found discussions of benefits for >4 weeks and your suggestions for racing at >8500 ft:

Utilizing Altitude Training for Racing at Altitudes Above 8,500 Feet

  • Live at an     altitude between 5,000 and 8,500 feet for three to four weeks.
  • Drive to higher     altitudes for some training days and consider occasional overnight stays     prior to training days. Keep recovery periods at lower altitudes.
  • Keep power     output high by doing high-intensity work intervals at 5,000 to 8,500 feet     or lower. Or, consider using supplemental oxygen during workouts.


But do you get the benefits of living at high altitude by spending weekends at ~9000 ft or is it just not a large enough percentage of time to matter?  I've even dug around on a few Everest web sites that seem to indicate that a couple of extra days at higher camps is enough to help while spending the majority of time at base camp (although that might be too extreme of an example to make sense).


Anyway - thanks and I hope to see you at somerides/races this summer,




Hi A.J. ~

First, congrats on your Leadville entry. I am entered in Leadville this year as well, so maybe I’ll see you there – or training on the great trails in Northern Colorado.

For your question, “But do you get the benefits of living at high altitude by spending weekends at ~9000 ft or is it just not a large enough percentage of time to matter? “

In my opinion, yes, you do get benefits from spending weekends or perhaps every three weekends at altitude. I live on the Front Range close to you, as you know from the group ride listing. Here is a blog that I wrote about intermittent altitude exposure. 

I too have access to training around Frisco and I continue to collect one-person data on oxygen saturation. I do a mix of alpine and Nordic skiing through the winter and I’ve found the oxygen saturation data stays consistent. If I can get to Summit County roughly every three weeks, I can maintain higher oxygen saturation levels. Like you, I do most of my training at ~5,000 feet which I believe keeps power output high. I may know more about that (real data) this season.

Hope this helps. See you on the trails (or the road) ~



Detailed off-season plans for triathlon and cycling, along with event-specific running, cycling and triathlon plans are found here.

Comments and questions can be added on Facebook or Gale’s website.

Ironman and half-Ironman plans available on ActiveTrainer.

1,186 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: training, race, leadville, colorado, mountain_bike, lt100, frisco, 100_miles

Q. Hi Gale, I am in week 8 of your 27 week plan for the Half-Ironman training program. I tested this week and have made noticeable gains in both swimming and running (my limiters, so this was a big positive!). However, my T1(5) biketesting ended up with identical #s from my first test 8 weeks ago. Conditions were the same, on an indoor trainer, didn't feel tired, ate well, etc. Avg. watts 277, HR avg. 142, total time of 14:30. Any thoughts as to why or what I should do differently? I have not really skipped any workout to date and have clearly made progress in the other 2 disciplines. Thanks - S. T. 


A. Hi S.T.~


Thanks for using my training plan to help you succeed - and - congratulations on the swimming and running improvements! You mention those are your limiters so I suspect you are a very strong cyclist.


If that is the case, you require higher intensities to make improvements on the bike. But - you may not want to add that level of intensity as I suspect you'll trade swimming and running performance. Since those are your limiting sports, holding cycling steady isn't a bad thing right now.


I also suspect that as you progress through the plan and intensity increases, cycling should show some gains. Since you are already strong there, the gains may not be as much as swimming and running though.


Let me know if my assumption is true (strong cyclist) and keep me posted to the changes as you make your way through the plan. If you do decide to increase cycling intensity, monitor your fatigue. You may need to just keep cycling in a maintenance mode until you get stronger in the other two sports.





A. Thanks Gale! Good advice and insight--cycling has been my strong suit. I will hold steady on that for now and let my swim and run 'catch up' before increasing bike intensities. I'll keep you updated; thanks for the plan--it's helped immensely so far. S.T. 





Detailed off-season plans for triathlon andcycling, along with event-specific running, cycling and more triathlonplans found here.

Comments can be added on Facebook.

Ironman and half-Ironman plans available on ActiveTrainer.

1,099 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: training, triathlon, bike, run, swim, plan, half-ironman, improvement

Top athletes that blog about their personal training schedules tell you precisely what they want you to know.  For example, several athletes I coach (or have coached) hide key workouts on public training sites such as Strava. 


These athletes don’t want others to know or to duplicate key workouts or workout combinations. One of my athletes discovered one of his followers was duplicating his workouts, lagging by a day or more. Many athletes feel that their training preparation is part of their success weaponry.

I’ve not had one of my athletes tell me they did this, but I have spoken to pro athletes that have told me they exaggerate training volume and intensity levels in their blogs. If their competitors attempt to follow the supposed training plan, they go into races with dead legs from excess volume and/or intensity.

Are some people 100-percent honest when blogging and posting about their training?


If you’re trying to replicate a top athlete’s training plan – do you know who is telling the 100-percent truth and who isn’t?

The secret about top athletes is they have secrets.



Detailed off-season plans for triathlon andcycling, along with event-specific running, cycling and more triathlonplans found here.

Comments can be added on Facebook.

Ironman and half-Ironman plans available on ActiveTrainer.

1,116 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: training, secrets


I’ve received several questions on racingin heat and humidity. I wrote a two-part column that can help you racesuccessfully. Here is an excerpt:

Whether you travel for racing or not, you may find yourself concerned with acclimation to heat and humidity. Consider the following situations:

  • You train in cool fall air and your next     race is in a hot environment.
  • You train in cool spring air and the     first race of the season is in a hot city.
  • You live in a city that is always cool     relative to the locations where you race.
  • You live in a hot, dry environment but     plan to travel to a hot, humid environment for a race.
  • You live and work in an air conditioned     environment but race in a hot and humid environment. 

Take a look at PartI - Acclimating to Heat and Humidity




Detailed off-season plans for triathlon andcycling, along with event-specific running, cycling and more triathlonplans found here.

Comments can be added on Facebook.

Ironman and half-Ironman plans available on ActiveTrainer.

905 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: training, and, racing, heat, humidity, acclimitization

I assigned a power-based workout to an athlete. It is a standard workout that I use for several of my cyclists and triathletes. When I modified the power goals for her, I inadvertently put in a range that was above her current tested goal range.

She tried the workout and was able to achieve the power numbers on the first three-minute interval, but her heart rate was higher than her threshold values that I was looking for. (I use a combination of heart rate and power to build fitness for athletes that have power meters.)

When she decided that I really wanted her to be at her threshold power values (tested within the last few weeks), she dropped the power down to the range we had previously used. That range produced less of a biological response (heart rate lower than threshold heart rate) than was intended for the workout.

The result?

We adjusted the power range up and now she is pushing higher power numbers and getting the heart rate response we want. Her good power performance wasn’t a one-time fluke workout.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had a similar situation occur with an athlete. Though I do like time trial tests to determine power or pace ranges, those tests are not infallible. Sometimes fatigue, dehydration or other factors cause the test values to be too low.

Use your training zones (power, pace or heart rate) with a grain of salt. Be sure you are achieving the power output for the cost (heart rate) that you’re looking to achieve - or vice versa. Watch for trends and make small adjustments. Examine the results and change – or don’t change – training zones accordingly.



Detailed off-season plans for triathlon andcycling, along with event-specific running, cycling and more triathlonplans found here.

Comments can be added on Facebook.

Ironman and half-Ironman plans available on ActiveTrainer.

615 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: training, power, zones

I was consulting with an athlete that wondered why his progress was stunted and he couldn’t gain fitness. He told me verbally what he was doing for workouts and strength training.

When we examined logged data, his volume was actually 30 percent lower than his memory recalled.

Log your workouts - no matter what system you use. If you’re not logging your workouts, your memory may be too generous and all that does is limit your progress.




Detailed off-season plans for triathlon andcycling, along with event-specific running, cycling and more triathlonplans found here.

Comments can be added on Facebook.

Ironman and half-Ironman plans available on ActiveTrainer.

557 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: training, log

If you are doing a cable pull down exercise to work your abdominal muscles, you can consider a couple of modifications to the way many athletes do this exercise - shown here.


If you’ve been following the blog, you know I’ve been emphasizing balance exercises. The modifications I’m going to suggest to the cable pull down or cable crunch were driven my desire to improve my double-poling power while Nordic skiing. However, I think these exercises are good for other endurance sports as well.


First, move the pulley mechanism so the pulling force comes from in front of you rather than above your head. The force should come from roughly a 45-degree angle. The second modification is to stand on one leg while doing the pulling maneuver. (Yes, like using a double-polling technique while skiing.) Finally, when you rise up, don’t hyperextend your spine, rather keep it in a more neutral position.


This one works best with lighter weights.

653 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: training, weight, strength, skiing, cable, pull, down, nordic

In the last blog I mentioned that I would cover why I was able to ride within my lactate threshold heart rate range for two hours and forty-five minutes. That’s not possible – is it?


Recapping some of the altitude specifics, the mainstay of my training over the summer was directed at doing mountain bike races between 8 and 11 hours long and at altitudes between 9,000 and 12,600 feet. I live atroughly 5,000 feet. The September race where I accumulated near three hours at lactate threshold intensity was at altitudes between 3,000 and 6,000 feet.


I’ve written a couple of two-part columns that will give you background of altitude affects on training and racing. The first one is “Altitude Training for Athletic Success” and the second one is “Acclimating to Altitude”. From the columns, a couple of key points:

  • Heart rate increases in response to higher altitudes – but you cannot maintain the same speed or power output for that given heart rate at increased altitude. This means that lactate threshold heart rate at increased altitude is lower than your home base.
  • For a given speed or power output at a lower-than-your-home-base altitude, the corresponding heart rate will be lower. (Assuming temperature and humidity conditions are similar.)


To know my actual heart rate training zones for all ofthe corresponding altitudes where I raced this summer, I would need to do a test at each location. Since that is logistically not possible for me, I use the same data collection zones for all altitudes and adjust accordingly – I raced according to my rating of perceived exertion (RPE) for the lower altitude event. This means the data for my race at a lower altitude is not really all within an accurate lactate threshold zone. So no, I didn’t spend near three hours at lactate threshold.


Also recall within the altitude columns that you can produce higher speeds and more power output at lower altitudes. (The reason why the Olympians living in Colorado Springs train with supplemental oxygen sources for sea level racing.)


Sans actual power data, I believe I did not have the training to tolerate the power outputs I was generating at the lower altitude race.  If the neuromuscular and metabolic systems have not been trained for the speed and power outputs (duration and intensity) possible at lower altitudes, then I believe there is a possibility of cramping.



Questions and discussion can be found on my Facebook page.

Cycling and mountain bike training plans can be found here.

669 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: training, altitude, racing, power, heart_rate, acclimitization, lactate_threhold

I love to get these notes. It feels great to know I can helppeople meet their goals.



Dear Ms. Bernhardt:


I'm writing to thank you for the great training program you outlined in your Training Plans for Multisport Athletes book for the 12 Week Program for a Sprint Triathlon.  I successfully completed my first Triathlon yesterday.  It was fun. It was exciting.  And it was a major accomplishment for this 54 year old male.


I've never taken the time to write to an author before but I found your program informative, easy to understand and a real confidence boost to make my participation a reality.


I'm looking forward to setting my next fitness goal.


All the best,


T. Webber



Hi Gale,


I'm A. Carratta from Italy,


I wrote you in November about a swim question and after the email I bought thebook with the swim work-out.


I follow your table "26 Weeks to IM" and now I'M AN IRONMAN!!!


I did


Swim : 198.55Km
Bike: 3,596.12Km
Running: 1,084.26Km
Total: 4,878.93Km


And the IM time was:


Swim : 01:50:57         ( I'm not aswimmer and my first IM without wetsuit was terrible and infinite! )
Bike: 06:41:27        ( explosion oninner tube and mechanical problems )
Run : 04:13:38        ( i think to doin 3:45, but the hot temperature .- 40° - was terrible and i relax myself)


Now I'm following "13 weeks to 70.3"


A. Carratta




I've used a number of your training plans for successful IM and 70.3 races.  I finished the 2012 IM Lake Placid in 11:08 and would love a plan that can get me in under 11 hrs.  

Thanks & regards,


E. Siebert

788 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: training, triathlon, sprint, plan, ironman_training_plan

Some athletes struggle with balancing life responsibilities and athletic goals. When the dreamy world of training like a professional athlete collides with the reality of life, it can be disappointing.


I’ve found that the more stress an athlete has in his or her life, the less training volume and intensity they can handle. Too much of either volume or intensity and there is a higher risk of illness or injury.


Something has to give. You are not bulletproof.


There is a stress scale, the Holmes and Hahe Stress Scale, which can be used to rank stressful events in your life. A handy automatic calculator for the scale can be found on


This stress scale estimates the likelihood of illness based on the number of stressful events in your life. If your score is 300 or more, you are at a high risk of illness. Scores between 150 and 299 indicate a moderate chance of illness (50-50). Scores 150 or below indicate a slight risk of illness.


Keep in mind this scale was designed for “normal” people, not those aiming high for athletic accomplishment.


When you find your stress scale is on the increase, consider reducing the amount of volume and/or intensity in your training.


The extra rest just might keep you healthy and make you a better athlete as a result.

826 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: training, cycling, triathlon, mountain_biking, stress, illness, endurance_sports

I received a question via Twitter from Krister Dunn about advice for low-sleep training for a person working 9-5 plus some graveyard shift work.


If your shift cycle is predictable, try to plan your training in cycle with your shifts. For example, a common rotation is to work this repeating three-week cycle:

Week 1:   7:00am to 3:00 pm

Week 2:   3:00 pm to 11:00 pm

Week 3:   11:00 pm to 7:00 am (graveyard)


Usually the day and evening shifts aren’t too bad for getting training accomplished. Schedule your heavy intensity or volume weeks for these two weeks. On the week you are working graveyard, make that your rest week. Cut volume and intensity back so your athletic training doesn’t take a toll on your body – in addition to the work load.


For the shift work people I’ve dealt with, there isn’t a consensus on the best time to workout when on the graveyard shift. Some people preferred to workout before going to work, while others preferred a morning workout after the shift, a meal and then sleep. A smaller number of people went home after work and slept short (a few hours) got up and did a workout followed by another few-hour sleep.There is personal preference and family situation coordination affecting the patterns as well.


The trick is to arrange workouts and sleep so that you can be alert at work and for your family, while optimizing your health and performance. Easier written than done.


If your shift rotation changes every few days or is a 12-hour shift rotation, it is a little trickier. Though more tricky, there is a pattern to most all rotations I’ve seen. Take a look at the pattern and arrange your workout schedule to fit the work pattern.


This likely means you need to arrange your workouts on a different cycle than seven days. For example, three days “on” and three days “off” of training. You may not be able to get much more than 30 minutes of workout time accomplished on your 12-hour work days and that’s okay. Most of the time a run or strength training is the easiest to pull off during the days short on personal time. Sometimes people can get a short workout in during lunch and that helps.


If the graveyard shift is totally random (i.e. you’re on call), then you may have to skip a workout now and then or rearrange the workouts so you do the key workouts when you are most rested rather than when they are shown on a training plan chart.


Hope this helps. If you have a more specific question, let me know.

1,385 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: training, sleep, shift_work

I’ve written about Navy SEALs before. I have a tremendous amount of respect for what they do and the training it takes to become a SEAL.


This week, The Today Show has been doing a series on what it takes to become a SEAL. What perked my attention was the mental toughness aspect. Turns out the SEALs are doing a good amount of research into the mental side of the sport and even helping Olympians with this research.


On today’s broadcast, Captain Adam Curtis commented that the best SEAL candidates come from sports that have “a high training hardness factor” – and it’s not football. His list included water polo, triathlon, rugby, lacrosse, boxing and wrestling. Later in the program, swimmers are also mentioned as potential recruits due to their mental toughness profiling.


Yep, triathletes are tough.

2,581 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: training, triathlon, navy_seal

To help 100-mile mountain bike racers with some training references, this blog is a good start. Many of the resources can help 100-mile mountain bike racers for any event. Some of the resources are Leadville 100 specific.


First, training plan help.


In my newest book, Training Plans for Cyclists, you will find two foundation fitness training plans. (You can see the table of contents online.) The two foundation fitness plans are designed to help cyclists maintain or improve fitness in the off-season. Often, there are two Levels of training plan presented in the book. Level I is for completion and Level II is more competitive. Level I and Level II descriptions are also relative to event distance. For example, I classify a Level I rider looking at a 100-mile mountain bike race differently than a Level I road rider looking to complete a century. Of course, the event route itself can have a major influence.


The book contains detailed, daily workouts. (Not just general instructions on how to assemble your own plan.) Here are athlete profile descriptions:


Level I Profile (Chapter 19)

The plan in this chapter is designed for a Level I rider. Before beginning the plan, you are riding two or three times per week, indoors or outdoors; but, your workouts are not consistent. It is not a problem for you to ride for an hour, though.


You are looking to build strength, endurance and increase your riding speed. You’d like to begin a weight training program, but don’t know where to begin.


One big issue you have is time. There is never enough time and you don’t have much of it to devote to staying fit. If you can see a training plan that would whip you into shape on three to six hours a week, you’d jump up and down.


Get ready to jump.


(This plan is available in electronic form on TrainingPeaks )


Level II Profile

The plan in this chapter is designed for a Level II cyclist that is riding three or four times per week before beginning the plan. You are currently capable of comfortably completing a two-and-a-half hour ride. Your current long ride is mostly aerobic, but may include a small amount of intensity.


You are looking to build strength, endurance and increase your riding speed for next season. You want a weight training program included in your plan that will deliver on-the-bike speed later.


Your schedule allows you to train six or seven days per week.


(This plan is available in electronic form on TrainingPeaks )


It really doesn’t matter what your season goals are (road vs. mountain) because the foundation fitness plans can be used for preparation for century rides, multi-day tours, short-course mountain bike racing, 24-hour races or 100-mile mountain bike races.


After you have built foundation fitness on your own or used one of the above plans, then you transfer that fitness to a more event-specific plan taking you right up to race day.


Keeping attention focused on just the mountain bike events for now, below are the plan descriptions contained in the book:


Chapter 16, Level I Rider, 100 Mile Mountain Bike Race, 16 Week Plan


Before beginning this plan, you are riding consistently and doing between five and six hours of training each week. Your long ride is around two hours long and it includes some intensity as well as hill riding. At least one other ride during the week contains some intensity. That ride can be an indoor spinning class.


If your current fitness does not meet the description above, begin your training journey in Chapter 19 to build foundation fitness. After the last week of the Chapter 19 training plan, begin with Week 1 of this chapter.


During the week, you are limited to an hour of training on three days. You need two days off for other activities. Additionally, you do not have time to commute to a mountain course, so the training needs to be on an indoor trainer, spin class or a road bike.



Your goal is to comfortably complete a 100-mile mountain bike race. While you want to ride in a time that is as fast as possible, you realize you are restricted for training time. You want the best time, given your limited training time.


(The biggest training week is 13:30. The online version of this race-specific plan is found here.)


Chapter 17, Level II Rider, 100 Mile Mountain Bike Race, 14 Week Plan


Before beginning this plan, you are training approximately nine hours per week. You are riding two long rides each week. One ride is around two hours long and the second one is roughly three hours in length.


You are riding two or three other weekday rides that are an hour each. You may or may not be strength training.


This plan is designed to follow the Level II Foundation Fitness training plan found in Chapter 20. After completing 18 weeks of that plan, you can move directly into the plan in this chapter. That combination provides you with 32 weeks of training.


If you are not using the Chapter 20 training plan, review the last few weeks of that training plan. Before beginning this training plan you should be capable of completing those workouts, or similar workouts, both in time and intensity.


Due to the volume of training necessary to complete this plan you will need to focus on recovery as much as you focus on accomplishing the training. Improved performance is accompanied by recovery techniques and high density nutrition. In summary, in addition to completing the training sessions, you need to get adequate rest and eat nutritious foods that fuel a high performance body. Be sure to read Chapter 3 that covers nutrition.



Your goal is to ride a 100-mile mountain bike race in a personal best time. This competitive goal is more than just completing the event, it is competing at the event. The competition may be for a spot on the podium or to beat a past personal record (PR). You want a new PR.


(The biggest training week is 22:00. The online version of this race plan is found here.)


Now that the training portion is covered, below is more information within columns and blogs:


Description of key points and challenges in the Leadville 100 mountain bike race: (Note that the entry numbers are low compared to 2009 because the column was written in 2005):

Race Across the Sky: The Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Race – Part I


Description of key training elements to any 100-mile mountain bike race and a few Leadville specifics:

Race Across the Sky: The Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Race – Part II


Two-part training-specific interview with Dave Wiens after he beat Lance Armstrong in the 2008 race:

How to Win the Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Race, An Interview with Dave Wiens Part I

How to Win the Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Race, An Interview with Dave Wiens Part II


Acclimatizing to altitude before a race:

Acclimating to Altitude Before a Race Part I

Acclimating to Altitude Before a Race Part II


Altitude training strategies:

Altitude training for athletic success Part I

Altitude training for athletic success Part II


Post-race analysis of items that affected one of my personal races

Snow can be on the course in the weeks pre-race

Wiens and Williams family photos – for fun


A general list of columns that can be used by all endurance athletes.


Found here is my personal training plan, unconventional for a mountain bike racer. I will often post what I’m doing for training on this blog, Twitter and Facebook. I also try to answer as many questions as I can on this blog.

12,660 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: training, bike, mountain, race_across_the_sky, training_plans, lance_armstrong, 100, altitude_training, susan_williams, dave_wiens, leadville_100_mountain_bike_race_training_plans, leadville_100_training_plan, leadville_100_training, lt100, leadville_100_training_plans, leadville_trail

Current Events

Posted by Gale Bernhardt Jun 14, 2007

Welcome to my blog. Many of you may be familiar with my columns or training plans on the Active Network. Those tools will continue to exist.


What you will see in the blog is a variety of current-event oriented topics. That means a mix of my personal adventures, training information I find useful for the athletes I coach, answers about how to modify pre-built triathlon training plans or cycling training plans to meet personal needs, advanced-athlete topics and more.


I look forward to traveling the blog journey with you.


Gale Bernhardt

1,200 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: training, cycling, triathlon, gale, bernhardt