M2 & Carmichael Share Principles & their Application

I just saw this article on XTRI.COM, by Chris Carmichael, also known as coach to Lance Armstrong. The article discusses the principles involved in training the body for 3 sports—those of you familiar with my oft-stated Training Principles and their application might very well think that I wrote the article myself.

In any case, although I am confident of my training concepts, having seen them validated over and over for many years, whereas triathlon is awash with redundant and unproductive training and a host of loosely defined coaches to match, it might be interesting to some to see a credible and pedigreed source such such as Carmichael espousing m2 Training principles and their application, almost verbatim at that. Carmichael article exerpts are in parentheses, followed by my comments.

M2 Quality versus Quantity “Your goal is to increase the amount of work you can do with your aerobic engine before relying heavily on anaerobic metabolism for energy. You want to increase the total amount of work you can produce as you near lactate threshold, as well as increase the length of time you can sustain efforts at that intensity.”

“Success in triathlon comes from improving economy of motion, and in order to do that you have to increase the economy of your overall training program. Instead of long workouts that only moderately improve your fitness, focus your time on more intense, sport-specific intervals.”

This is precisely what we are trying to do with our aptly m2 named Enhanced Aerobic (EA) workouts by progressively building our interval aggregate while simultaneously shifting intensities from predominant L1 to more of a balance of L1-L3. All athletes regardless of race distance can benefit tremendously by establishing a broad EA base. Athletes can train this system for months and expect continuous improvement throughout. Relevant article is Rethinking Base Training.

You should all know that I have done every one of the workouts on the vast m2 workout list, and thus know firsthand how they all flow from one to another, build logically, and how one should feel in their course. This first-hand knowledge is a far cry from that of other less experienced coaches who must rely on renting workout lists from other coaches.

Efficiency & Economization
“Economy of motion refers to the amount of energy you’re burning to maintain a specific pace, and improving your economy means using less energy to maintain a high pace. ”

People who attend my track sessions will hear me constantly harping on them to tighten up stride, gait, extraneous motion, etc. The Grips described in my article Get a Grip help do this for many.

Many of you will be advancing to Running progressions which feature a series of 400/600/800 repeats where the primary stress variable becomes an ever reducing RI, and thus a prime efficiency and economization stimulator or inducement if you will. Learning to go fast, over many repeats, sustaining the effort, with a RI that each time becomes shorter and shorter.

Bike sees PE1 exercises and constant spinscan reference to enhance pedaling efficiency and ability to sustain a given effort. Instructions for EA workouts are to practice these same exercises in order to keep HR from exceeding prescribed zones.

Swimming is knowing your stroke count and reducing this #. Faster swimmers always take less strokes.

Overall efficiency is training smart, thinking not of how much training we do, but what kind of training we do.

“Studies have shown that increasing muscular strength leads to improved economy of motion. The idea is that when your muscles are stronger, you use less of each muscle fiber’s full potential with every stride, stroke, or pedal revolution. This allows you to burn fuel more efficiently and delay the onset of muscular fatigue.

This is why all endurance athletes, whether they compete in single-sport events or multi-sport events, should incorporate workouts that increase sport-specific strength.”

M2 Articles that you might enjoy reviewing and which speak precisely to combining sport specific strength training with lactate threshold training are Training Backwards the Pyramid Turned Upside Down, and The Matrix. The Pyramid article includes a weightlifting analogy that makes intuitive sense but which is lost on so many in the endurance training world.

Strength Training reflected in m2 program is very sport specific, beginning with Total Body Training(TBT) which many of use off-season, early season, or pre-intro track training. The Bike/Run specific leg lifting exercises that so many of my athletes do are are very transferable to gains in both bike and run.

Examples of sport specific workouts and training progressions that build strength schematically and which you will do in some form are;

  • Bike Basic Strength Progression
  • Bike Strength Endurance
  • Bike Muscle Endurance
  • Run Hill Focus I & II
  • Total Body Training

In general terms, a program that features more focused intensity workouts such as M2’s will also stimulate strength growth, not to mention performance gains


Many of the points highlighted above are things that my experienced athletes know to be true. Newer athletes might be stoked to see a credible source such as Carmichael preaching the same concepts.

Take time also to consider the dubious quality of many of the other so-called programs that populate the airwaves.

Consider that Mark Allen bases his program on HR training which involves subtracting an irrelevant # like age from an arbitrary 180, and making this the basis of all your training. Kind of amazing when you can easily see two athletes the same age but with lactate threshold #s as much as 40 beats apart!

I am also constantly amazed at how many athletes come to me from other programs, but who have never been tested for something so basic and fundamental as lactate threshold. I could not refer to a program so devoid of substance as coaching.

A recent swim camp by a well-known coach featured a swim workout of 10 x 600m, all at low intensity. For the record, I have never once in my life swum more than 4500m in a single workout, much less all at the same boring, mind & body numbing, and unproductive intensity.

Training Effectiveness Litmus Test:

  • Are you enjoying your workouts?
  • Do you look forward to them?
  • Do you see yourself improving?

In 10 years of coaching, my experience is that the athletes that follow the details of m2 programs consistently answer yes to all of these questions, and in the process become more educated athletes.

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