TPE Sports Coaching’s new partnerships

TPE Sports Coaching is pleased to announce that we have partnered with a number of global companies in the development of a one-stop destination for all things sport, and particularly for training for sports: All the top brands are there, and you can shop with confidence at these well-known stores. If you enter these stores through TPE Sports Coaching, we get a small commission, the amount of which does NOT come off the purchase price of your product.  But it will help us maintain our site and continue to make available top quality products at very, very competitive prices and low shipping rates.

We hope you can stop by soon to check out

Be sure also to go to our Sports-Stuff Facebook page, and LIKE it to keep updated with specials from our Stores as they come available at!/pages/Sports-Stuff/284220575022488

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Congratulations to Dr. Gayle Mayes!

In canoeing circles in Australia, Gayle is a legend. She represented Australia at the Barcelona Olympics in the LK4 event, was World Champion in kayaking (Marathon), and prior to 2012, has won six international medals for outrigger canoeing. Two of these were gold medals in the open and masters’ events at the World Sprint Championships in Sacramento in 1992 paddling a one-person craft.

In August 2012, she has done it again – gold medal in the Senior Master’s event at the World Sprint Championships in Calgary paddling in the single craft division. A mere 20 years later – and still going strong! She also won silver and bronze medals at these Championships as a paddler in team boats. Her next objective is the World Sprint Championships in Rio in 2016.

We don’t have any video of Gayle competing in Calgary, but as an example of just what a feat she has achieved, check out this video of the male world champion in the same craft back in 2008.

Gayle has worked with TPE Sports Coaching and The PEATS Program since the late 1980s, and has implemented the training principles in her own training and in the many athletes she has worked with as a successful outrigger canoeing and sprint kayak coach.

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Selecting for team boats


Your club has decided to enter a boat in this year’s Molokai race, and you have been appointed as the coach. Several things needed to be sorted out. More paddlers want to be part of the team than can be entered in the race and you need to make some decisions quickly because time is running out for preparation How do you go about selecting your crew of 9 or 10 from the 15 who would like to be part of the action? We present here a strategy that may be part of the tool kit you might use in deciding who will go and who will remain behind, assuming that you want the best possible boat on the start line at Molokai and have the podium in your sights. How can you go about this objectively so that each paddler knows what are the expectations?

It goes without saying that you will already have a selection process for the steerer positions, and that is beyond the scope of this article. It is also fair to say that different paddlers will excel at different seat positions, but we will gloss over that one for the purposes of this exercise. One of the first questions that need to be asked concerns endurance: how will each paddler cope with the length of time he or she will be in the boat each time? Let’s assume here that it will be 20 minutes. As the coach, it is important to have some understanding of the ability of each paddler to maintain a suitable work rate for the period they will be in the boat. It is not easy to develop an objective ranking system from your time in the boat with your list of 15. You have probably got a reasonable ranking in your mind that could come close to determining who will make up your selected team, but it is important that the final selection be done objectively rather than a subjective one, at least so that paddlers can see that a fair system has been employed for selection.

Here’s how we went about this many years ago for an OC6 team which was preparing to compete in the sprint worlds back then. It must have worked, because the team blitzed the regatta in all distances they entered: 500m, 1000m and 10km and came home with gold in each event.

An important piece of equipment for this task is an ergometer capable of providing accurate information, so this means ensuring that it is calibrated prior to the process. It may also be necessary to ensure the calibration is holding up throughout the testing session, and even to do this after every paddler if necessary (you should receive information on the procedure with your ergometer). Test this out beforehand so you know what you are working with. The ergometer should enable athletes to perform a paddle stroke as close as possible to the stroke production they would normally execute in the boat, and it should be accompanied by a monitor which provides a read-out in either distance (metres or yards) or work (joules or calories). If you can download the data directly onto a computer for later analysis, so much the better.

OIM Canoe Ergometer

A canoe ergometer such as the OIM from would be eminently suitable for this purpose. If your club doesn’t have one of these items of equipment, it could make a very useful addition to your club assets, and would be very worthy of purchase at your next fund-raiser.

So assuming you have access to an ergometer which can perform this task, and each of your paddlers is experienced with its operation, let’s move on. We recommend that you perform the Performance Test (as recommended in The PEATS Program) for each paddler, and that the test be administered as follows.

  1. Firstly ensure that all your paddlers have been briefed on the details of the test protocol, that they should be rested and that glycogen levels should be maximized by attention to diet in the 48 hours prior to testing, along with minimal high intensity exercise.
  2. Because each paddler will be required to paddle for a 20-minute stretch in the race, we recommend that the test be conducted for 20 minutes for each individual.
  3. After a suitable warm-up that is the same for each paddler, instruct them to paddle for 20 minutes with the objective of covering the greatest distance (or to perform the most work) for the period of the test. This will depend upon the monitor on your ergometer.
  4. If you cannot download the data to a computer, you will need to set up a data sheet. Prior to this testing session, develop the Data Sheet which will enable you (or an assistant) to collect information from the Monitor during the test. We recommend that you do this at the end of each minute (or other multiple – depending on test duration), and that the data recorded is the number on the monitor which indicates distance covered (or work performed). What you want to achieve here is a set of data points that will provide you with meaningful information. The more points you can obtain, the more information you can glean from the data. Too many, though, may create a logistical problem in obtaining it. If you have the means to determine the number of strokes executed in each minute, that information will extend the value of your test. Alternatively, if you can download the data from the monitor, you can simply scan this information to move to the next step.
  5. What you are looking for is the distance (or work) covered per minute, or if you have downloaded data, this may do the job. The objective is to develop a chart of the paddler’s effort for the entirety of the paddle as illustrated in the diagram below.

Test results for six paddlers during 30-minute Performance Test

This chart was taken from testing of 37 OC6 paddlers, and the top two, bottom two and middle two were drawn for this illustration. In this instance, the data were taken every 5 minutes for a test duration of 30 minutes, and the data points represent the average work rate in watts for each 5-minute period. It is a very telling diagram, and really demonstrates the differences in ability or at least endurance capacity, and in the contribution that paddlers can make to the overall team effort. This is probably the type of chart which will demonstrate to you, the coach, the cross-section of ability in your team when it comes to endurance.

 Although not measured during the testing session illustrated here, as mentioned above, Stroke Count (SC) information could have improved the data yield from this test. With SC data, you would be able to calculate the Technical Economy Index (TEI), and gain some understanding of the technical ability of your group of paddlers, adding more objectivity into your selection process. For more information on this Index, consult our eBook, Critical Speed and the Physiology of Training. Here you will learn how to calculate the TEI and how it has been derived. We strongly recommend using this Index in conjunction with the overall pattern of work rate shown above in your selection criteria. A very useful way to maintain a database of this Index is to calculate the average TEI for the effort, and to rank paddlers according to that number. This will enable you to gain some understanding of the overall technical status of your paddlers. If you know the TEI for elite paddlers, then you have a benchmark that can be used as a motivational tool as your paddlers develop their skills, and have something to work towards.

 Another measure that you can determine from the test data is a Fatigue Index (FI). This measure takes into account the work rate at the beginning of the test and compares it with that at the end of the test. By expressing the reduction in work rate to the end of the test as a percentage of the initial work rate, you have a Fatigue Index. Again, this provides you with a slightly different measure of endurance capacity and overall performance. We can see from the test data in the diagram that paddlers 1, 2, 4 and 6 all were able to increase work rate at the end of the test – this is a characteristic that you, as coach, will be looking for. Paddlers 3 and 6, on the other hand, demonstrated a drop in work rate as the test progressed. This measure may give you some idea of the ability of each of your paddlers to back up for a second 20-minute stint, and a third, and a………….

 While in this article, we have discussed testing in preparation for team selection for a marathon event, the same principles could be employed to select for a sprint event – the difference would be to decrease the test duration to one which closely mirrors the duration of the event you are aiming for – say 5 minutes. In this case, you could take measures at the end of each minute. If the race has approximately a two-minute duration, then perhaps every 15 seconds would be appropriate for the test data interval.

 Because of the usefulness of this information, our strong recommendation is that you take an extra step in your testing session. Measure both a long- and a short-duration test in exactly the same way – the only difference will be the data collection duration as described above. With the two tests performed, you have the information to calculate Critical Speed (if your data is measured by distance) or Critical Power (if your data is a measure of work), and you can perform this calculation on our website. Then with this information, you have a range of possibilities relating to training program design. So for a little extra work, you could have a lot of valuable options at your fingertips, and add another dimension to your preparation for the Big Race. Read our core eBook, Critical Speed and the Physiology of Training for detailed information of the components of training program design that are incorporated into The PEATS Program. Our add-on eBook, Paddle Sports, serves to illustrate these components for paddle sports specifically. Both of these eBook are available now for download here.

 Of course, there are other aspects that come into play when selecting your team, and endurance is only one of these, albeit an important one. While some may believe that testing strength and other things are valuable additions to the test battery, at the end of the day, it is the paddling that will win the race, not how well an individual can bench press, for example. That has relevance of course, but it is more in keeping with the training program development than assessing the ability of a paddler to perform in competition.  Measuring in a sport-specific way ensures you are measuring paddling, and that will incorporate an indirect strength component that is far more predictive than testing non-specific strength exercises. Testing for strength and other physical characteristics should be part of an all-round assessment of paddlers to ascertain strengths and weaknesses to guide training program design, but it is our position that it should not be included as a selection criteria.

 If you do set up a testing session such as this, please share your experiences with us all on our Blog. Thank you.




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Critical Power or Critical Speed?

Where do they come from and when are they used?

These two concepts are central to The PEATS Program. Our system of training program design and monitoring uses them both, but in different circumstances. The key aspect of the decision for selecting one or the other rests with the fundamental nature of the sport being tested and the equipment that is conventionally used to conduct performance testing.

Monark Cycle Ergometer

These concepts became part of exercise science back in the 1960s, but it was really only after the early 1980s that they took off, and it was research into Critical Power which led the way. Because exercise research is generally conducted in a performance laboratory, and most laboratories of the day possessed cycle ergometers (in those days, it was probably a Monark ergometer), a large body of research was published using a cycling modality. During exercise testing, researchers collect data during the testing procedure or protocol, the measure determined is that of work, and expressed in joules, and represents the total amount of work performed in a given time. The work rate, that is, the intensity of the exercise, is measured in watts. Critical Power measurement requires exercise to be performed for a given duration (usually) and at the end of that duration, the total work is determined (in joules or kilojoules), and from this, the researcher is able to calculate the work rate (watts): one joule per second = 1 watt. One of the problems with the Monark ergometer, particularly for elite cyclists, was that the positioning of the athlete during the test was quite different from what would be adopted in actually performing the sport, and results may not have been optimal for these athletes.  This is an important consideration in the selection of an ergometer.

Any ergometer which was capable of measuring work could be used to determine Critical Power, and several were on the market back then. Hence Critical Power research moved from cycling to sports like rowing, canoeing and kayaking.  In recent years, the introduction of the power crank has been revolutionary for testing and training for cyclists. All that is required is a slight modification of the athlete’s bicycle, and testing can be performed at any time using his/her own racing or training bike, and consequently the information is valid. Additionally, the crank provides continuous data output during competition or training, giving the athlete considerable control over intensities at all times.

We have tested athletes’ Critical Power on kayak and canoeing ergometers, cyclists and triathletes on cycle ergometers (in the days before the SRM and other power cranks). Early rowing ergometers provided power measurement, but many ergometers such as the Concept II and its more recent versions, also include distance measurement. This means that you can calculate either Critical Power or Critical Speed to apply into your training programs. The images below were kindly made available by Steve Tingay at and illustrate the sophistication of modern paddling ergometers.  

Ergometers are now available for kayak, canoe, stand-up paddling, rowing, skiing, swimming to mention a few. In The PEATS Program, we employ ergometers to test for Critical Power, but they are also an extremely useful training device because of their ability to employ a specific work rate. It goes without saying that they also provide an alternative training session when weather conditions make it difficult to train outdoors. Consequently, they can provide a very effective training component in The PEATS Program.

We can see from the information above that there are many sports for which both power measurement and testing on an ergometer are inappropriate. Many runners in past decades have been tested on treadmills, but that is very different from running on a track or a cross-country course. Swimming ergometers are available, but they provide for a movement pattern with some differences from swimming in a pool. Further, neither  running on a track nor swimming in a pool measures power: the typical measurements for them are usually metres and time. Enter Critical Speed (or Critical Velocity).

Critical Speed determination is made using the same procedures as for Critical Power, and the only difference is in the units of measurement employed: distance and time, instead of joules and time.

So if your sport is one which incorporates distance into your competitive events, then you will more than likely use Critical Speed for preference over Critical Power. We have tested Critical Speed in athletes from a very wide range of sports: swimming, kayaking, canoeing, slalom, rowing, surf boat, squash, hockey, football, speed skating, wheelchair track, running, and triathlon. The purpose of the testing was to incorporate the Critical Speed intensity into training program design. Our core eBook, Critical Speed and the Physiology of Training outlines how to do this to enable athletes to test themselves and to develop their own training programs.

Testing for Critical Speed is very simple. Only two items are required – a stopwatch and a course whose distance is accurately measured or a GPS device. For example, swimmers would be tested in a swimming pool, runners on a track or suitable road course, rowers, canoeists and kayakers on a regatta course, hockey players on a running track, etc. Of course, where an ergometer accurately measures distance, it can also be employed to determine Critical Speed. We moved from testing kayak paddlers for Critical Power on an ergometer to testing Critical Speed on-water. At the outset, we conducted both procedures at the same time to ensure that we were measuring the same physiological characteristics, as determined by heart rate and blood lactate measurements. From then on, all testing was for Critical Speed and conducted on-water.

There may be some sports where there is some ‘grey area’ surrounding the decision about Critical Power and Critical Speed. For example, outrigger canoeists and dragon boat paddlers could be tested for Critical Speed, given the nature of the event: distance and time. But, these sports mostly compete in team boats (OC2 and OC6, and dragon boats have up to 22 paddlers), and determining optimal training intensities for each team member is not possible in the team environment. You could measure the CS for the craft with the full team, but this doesn’t provide useful information for each paddler. We recommend testing athletes individually either on a sport-specific paddling ergometer or with the use of an individual craft on a flatwater course. We also recommend that team boat athletes conduct some of their training with individual craft or ergometer in order that they might maximize performance adaptations.

Hopefully, this doesn’t seem too complicated. When you begin using Critical Power or Critical Speed to design a training program, you will soon realize how very simple it is. It is simple to calculate, simple to determine training zones, and simple to incorporate these into a training program for a season, or longer. And importantly, it works! Learn more about The PEATS Program.



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New training resource for canoeing and other paddle sports

TPE Sports Coaching is pleased to announce the publication of its latest eBook.

Train to be a champion with The PEATS Program

Paddle Sports: The PEATS Program is the second in the series of sport-specific guidelines for training program design for all paddle sports. This eBook has been designed as an add-on to our core eBook, Critical Speed and the Physiology of Training: The PEATS program which details the components of a complete athlete training system.

You can read more about Paddle Sports or download your copy here.


Paddle Sports: The PEATS Program


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