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Endurance Program Off-Season

December 08 2015 Program Structure
For those of you who have been following or who are thinking about following our Endurance Program next year, we have entered our off-season phase.What does this look like?

Well it looks a whole lot like Strength building, developing conditioning using constantly varied, functional movements performed at high intensity across a broad set of time and modal domains, targeted mobility work, and dedicated skill work. To some of you, this might sound a whole lot like CrossFit – you would be neither wrong or right. With our endurance atheltes we use the exact same philosophy for CrossFit as the base but we avoid many of the higher/refined skill pieces that don’t give us as much bang for our buck. As always, our version of CrossFit – a core strength and conditioning program – forms the anaerobic and strength base. Then we layer on sport specific skills and aerobic capacity work to meet the competitive goals of the athlete, much like how a hockey player must train and play their sport on top of achieving fitness in the controlled gym environment.

As a quick reminder, our in season work involves 4 main parts: 1) skill work (in the sport of choice 20 minutes before endurance efforts or on off days); 2) sport specific work which usually means short interval work (e.g. in running 50 m – 800 m repeats or 10 sec – 2 min maximum efforts with scheduled rest), long interval work (e.g. 1 km + repeats), time trials (e.g. run 10 km for time), and tempo work (e.g. run 12 km at 90% of your 10 km pace); 3) Strength work (squat, deadlift, press etc.); and 4) GPP conditioning work (i.e. CrossFit style circuit training using CV HI FM). We strive to maximize endurance capacity while maintaining a distinctly low-volume approach to training which focuses on skill, strength, speed, and anaerobic efforts. Make sure you head over to our Endurance Page for more information if you need it.

The off-season template switches to a focus on strength and recovery from a long aerobic season. We want to restore tissue quality, address mobility restrictions, build strength, improve body composition, and most importantly give the athlete a much needed mental break from racing.

To stick with runners as an example, the off-season shockingly sees very little outdoor running. In Nova Scotia especially, I’m hesitant to program short sprint-intervals or long intervals outdoors. The magic is in footspeed, skill reinforcement, and peak intensity – none of which are ideally realized on icy or snow covered sidewalks. Indeed running on slippery surfaces leads to significant degradation of running skill and increased risk of acute and chronic injury. Likewise, running on a treadmill (classic motorized belt) also leads to poor technique when translated to outdoors. For this reason I treat the late fall / winter period as a true off-season for runners. I program 1 long run outdoors on a weekly basis, all at 70% effort or less, to be performed by the athlete within a few day window when weather conditions are best. Short and long intervals will instead be performed on the Erg (Rowing Ergometer) to maximize the cardiovascular effect. Rowing has also been proven to be highly beneficial for runners as it challenges the antagonist muscles while maintaining or improving lower-limb endurance. Occasionally an AirBike will be programmed to challenge the body with a different stimulus while delivering a brutal cardiovascular workout. For runners with access to a Woodway Curve or TrueForm self-propelled treadmill, I would suggest substitution of the long intervals on a weekly basis if pose technique is adequate. Running skill-work in the gym will instead become a priority before and/or after bouts of rowing intervals.

For runners, the template will look like this:*

Monday – Squat variation & 5-20 minute GPP (CrossFit) METCON

Tuesday – Short Running intervals (e.g. 8 x 200m Sprints, rest 3 mins)

Wednesday – Press/Pull variation (Bench /Row, shoulder press, push press, weighted pullups) & 5-20 minute METCON

Thursday – Long Intervals (e.g. 6 x 1 km repeats, rest 5 minutes)

Friday – Pull variation (i.e. deadlift, hang power clean, or other) & 5-20 minute METCON

Saturday – Rest

Sunday – Group Run or steady state outdoor run (weather permitting) performed at 70% or less; medium to long duration.

* modified on an individual basis depending on goals/needs/current ability

Athletes from all other endurance sports would see a very similar template, again modified on an individual basis. Triathletes, for example, would rotate through 1 of each cycling, swimming, and running efforts on a weekly basis for each session “type” (short, long, maintenance) while also doing a secondary short or long piece on the rower when required.


Other pieces for Endurance Athletes

If you are an endurance athlete following our off-season you will also get lots of homework, including the following:

What you should be doing every session:

  • 20 minute dynamic warmup (Read a great option here)
  • 10 minute specific warmup (CrossFit Sessions) e.g. squat with empty bar, pause squats, speed drills.
  • 20 minute skills and drills (Sport specific sessions) – check out the various drills here: Swim / Bike / Run / Row / Military
  • 10 minute cool down (Linked)

What you should be doing on your own time:

  • 5 to 15 minutes daily of targeted mobility work, with one long 45 to 60 minute session at least once per week. Think foam rolling, active release and myofascial release with a lacrosse ball or other object, banded work, deep long stretches, and breathing drills. mono-structural endurance sports are hard on the body and lead to sticky tissue, dysfunction, and shortened muscles if not regularly addressed. Take the time to invest in improving your Range of Motion and sliding surfaces. Sneak the work in while you are watching TV, or during your breaks at work if need be. Check out our resources page for more info or come to a Mobility class at the gym to learn how to perform a number of self-care techniques.
  • Meal prep days and improving food intake and nutrition practices so the next season is easier to manage when intensity and volume increase.
  • Yoga once a week for 45 minutes

Hopefully this sets the stage (and expectations) for a healthy off-season training protocol. As mentioned above, the default programming for the endurance track is SS (Single Sport) running as it is the most common (and easiest to perform outside of the gym during the endurance season). For any athletes looking for specific templates and programming for other endurance sports, please contact me via email. If you are a member of the gym, I would be happy to add to the endurance template on your behalf. I also take remote coaching and individually coached clients with very specific goals in mind.


May your carbs be clean and your running shoes dirty!