Revised review of Morris Book- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Revised review of Morris Book

    Hi All,
    Just FYI
    below is a revised review of the Morris book that I posted to Amazon. I had posted the first review of it, and in retrospect the original review failed to discuss some deficiencies the book had. I'm still a 100% fanatic of the Morris plan though, so keep that in mind.
    ---------------------------------------------

    This is a revised review based on having the book and following the program in the book since November 2003.

    This review will be split up into two parts, 1) revised comments on the book itself, and 2)a summary of how the program has worked for me personally. Caveat: Everyone is individual, and one personís experience will differ from another. I've tried many different programs from Friel to every other magic bullet article in Bicycling and I'm pretty observant of my body and its reaction to training, so I think my experience with the program has some merit to it. Also, I fall underneath the category of -married, full time job, father of 2 small children, with little to no genetic predisposition to being a good athlete. So I'm looking for something with the best bang for the little amount of time I can devote to it.

    Revised comments on the book:

    The book is relatively small, and you have to wonder how much useful information is in there. One thing I've found is that some concepts didn't sink in until seeing them for the 2nd or 3rd time. I don't think you get the full benefit from the book with just one quick reading.

    In a nutshell, Morris provides a FRAMEWORK for a training program. His particular philosophies such as the Block training methods and focusing on intervals at set power outputs are what really set this book apart from anything else out there.

    The problem with this presentation is that there needs to be more help for a self coached athlete to develop a program. Friel takes this notion to the other extreme allowing readers to set up a program down to the hour. I tried Friel and found that it was just too much information and got bogged down in all the different rides, etc. Problem with the Morris book is that he is at the opposite extreme and doesn't present enough guidance.
    Now in all fairness to Morris, what I'm asking for is really hard. This is the 'art of coaching'. Everyone is different. Each individual is going to have different goals, amount of time available, events they want to do, different reactions to stress and rest, etc... He could provide some examples, but what everyone will do is just copy the example which could prove more harm than good. But it would have been nice to see an entire year program shown in a calendar format.

    The reality is that 99% of the people who buy books like this are NOT going to get a coach for one reason or another. I think the above reviewer who feels that the book is just an advertisement for coaching services didnít try very hard to understand the book, but without more guidance for the self coached athlete many wonít take the time to get the most out of this book and this program.

    For example, Morris talks about using power as a quantitative measure of your training. The problem is that and SRM, Power Tap, or Computrainer may be out of reach of many. He should discuss what products are currently available and provide some comparisons. I found a Tacx Flow trainer on closeout for under $200 though. There should be more detail presented on alternative ways to quantify training. Such as riding at a set speed on a constant grade. Or using the power curves that most standard trainers have combined with a cycle computer with a rear wheel sensor. Or using perceived exertion.

    When discussing the different intervals, he provides ranges for duration, and intensity. These are pretty wide and more detail needs to be presented. For example, A SMSP interval is defined as 1-6 minutes at 105%+ of your sustainable power or heart rate. I wish there heíd break it down a little more such as 1min at x%, 2min at y%, 3min at z%, etc. Same goes for the other types of interval

    Also there needs to be some guidance for TOTAL WORK during an interval session. Such as if your doing 3 hr mtn bike races, shoot for total work of 25mins of ON at the beginning of a block and progressing to 35mins ON.

    The strength training section is pretty confusing. It took several times reading through it and putting the program into a spreadsheet to make sense. But once I did that it turned out to be really straightforward to follow.

    One thing missing is how to stairstep the training, Meaning, how to increase the overall work throughout the season. As you work, then rest, work, restÖ you should be able to increase the difficulty of training. In the strength training section is it easy to see how the difficulty increases between week 1 and week 2 of the strength period for example. But I wish heíd discuss more how to develop your own training program and increase the difficulty (varying the time and intensity) as time goes on. I guess you can do part of that yourself by retesting your sustainable power (which your training intensity is based on) every month. It should get higher as you train, so then the training would get harder too?

    He does provide several example programs based on different disciplines. I just think there needs to be more details for helping a self coached athlete take the frame work and create his own program. For example, how to change the framework for a sport class mountain bike racer vs vet expert.

    In conclusion, I still think the book is very unique compared to what else is out there, and the concepts have worked very well for me. I constantly refer to it, have bookmarks everywhere and get more from it every time I glance at it. But Iím pretty anal about all this stuff, and for most the book needs to present more guidance for a self coached athlete.

    Iíve been on the program since November 2003. Iím very pleased at the results. Years ago before kids Iíd put in between 12-15hrs on the bike. Now Iím doing between 6-8, and while not up to the fitness I had been at, I am riding pretty well given the amount of time put into it. The indoor intervals can be as mentally challenging as they are physically. But thereís ways of doing the hard riding outdoors even though it isnít as efficient. Several times Iíve overdone a block and gotten sick.

    Life has the tendency to get in the way of training. So often times my training turns into shooting from the hip, through I try my best to fit it into an overall macro block.

    But overall Iím excited to be able to ride again at a level where itís fun again. Where you have the ability to suffer and ride hard and ride at a speed on the climbs and singletrack where itís just plain fun.

  2. #2

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    Very well put!

    I am not per sey an advocate of Morris but the info you describe in his book made perfect sense but was very hard for me to work into a training program for myself. I use CTS partly due to the ease of having a set weekly schedule laid out for me as I at the beginning told them how much time I had available for training. I also like that I am held accountable daily as when the workouts are completed the info is forwarded to my coach.

    I have also read many other training guides and just found CTS to be easier to understand and incorperate. Your insight with Morris was very well put and glad I read it!

  3. #3

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    Can you post the name of the book and the full name of the author? I am always interested in reading anything and everything about training for cycling. Maybe a link?

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    Nevermind, I found it at amazon. Ordered it for $9.50. I use Friel for my yearly structure but I'm always looking for alternative information on training. Thanks for letting me know this book exists.

  5. #5
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    Is a really good book, is almost a technical book

    Quote Originally Posted by mattv2099
    Nevermind, I found it at amazon. Ordered it for $9.50. I use Friel for my yearly structure but I'm always looking for alternative information on training. Thanks for letting me know this book exists.
    not a whole lot of fluff and bull. He could go into more detail, but I guess all he wants to give you is guide lines so you can build your own plan. He doesnt know any of us, or our conditioning to give any reliable advice. I'm on my second read, it makes more sense and the training guidelines are easy to follow without been overly complicated. I also have Friel and Burke. Keep the mind open to diferent training ideas, remember what was law and true a few years ago is bonk now.
    Short bucket list.
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  6. #6
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    Another voice in the wilderness!

    You really nailed the dissapointing aspect of the Morris book. The majority of the people buying the book are like us, self-coached and looking for a useful guide that doesn't smother you in detail. Just when you feel like Morris is getting to the meat of the matter he suggests you hire a coach to interpret your needs! What a dissapointment. None the less the book provides some very interesting and useful information. Your review seems to mirror the experiences of many of us wandering about in the wilderness of training programs. Thanks.

    Andrew

  7. #7
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    The problems with self coaching

    Quote Originally Posted by AndrewMcD
    You really nailed the dissapointing aspect of the Morris book. The majority of the people buying the book are like us, self-coached and looking for a useful guide that doesn't smother you in detail. Just when you feel like Morris is getting to the meat of the matter he suggests you hire a coach to interpret your needs! What a dissapointment. None the less the book provides some very interesting and useful information. Your review seems to mirror the experiences of many of us wandering about in the wilderness of training programs. Thanks.

    Andrew
    I'm reaching the conclusion that I'll never be able to self coach without at least getting a few years done by a real coach. I've tried this stuff for over 10 years, and fail for a variety of reasons
    -second guessing myself
    -losing focus over the course of the year
    -lacking objectivity of the overall picture. The abiltiy to look at both the micro and macro view to put it all together.

    So regardless of the drawbacks in Morris' book. I'm not so sure how much a lot more detail would help in the long run. Friel's book allows one to develop a plan down to the n'th detail for an entire year. You know how long I lasted on it. 2 months.

    The beauty of Morris and why I think it has been successful for me, is that even if I lose sight of the long term progression and macro view, by following the micro block format of 2on 1 off, 3 on 2 off. that I continue to make progression with much less time in the saddle.

    Anyway, yeah the book needs some work. But personally, this book and the program has 'saved' me in the mountain bike spiritual sense. After having kids, I tried the 'ride for fun, ride to smell the roses' route.

    After any fitness that I'd had before kids was gone, I was miserable. Yeah yeah I was outside on the trails enjoying the sunshine...etc... But I was also coughing up a lung on every climb, or walking, couldn't keep up with anyone, etc. Started doing the block training with short ride 1-1.5 hrs and pretty soon. I am having fun again. I reached that speed threshold of fun again.

    So just my humble opinion, but I think he rules

  8. #8
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    Yeah, I was turned on to Morris by MTBDOC, and have made some great gains using the block and interval concepts. I actually came here today to ask about increasing work. Like Ashwinearl, I'm confused about the best way to step up the workout to the next level. Do you increase resistance, or do you do longer intervals? Do more reps per set, or less rest between work? I'm really getting faster, but want to "step it up" the right way... I fall into the married with 3 small children (2 1/2 y.o. and twin 1 y.o.s), full time job and homeowner responsibilities, and this is the best bang for the buck IMO.

  9. #9

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    Over the years I worked with Dave, and through many conversations, we gradually increased the amount of work that I did, but not tremendously. More important was pushing through the workout at a level 10W higher...remember, I've done virtually all of my structured intervals on a Computrainer, setting the wattage in 10 W increments. And you would be amazed at what is a hard but "able to be completed without a gun to the head" workout, that becomes almost impossible simply by increasing the setting 10 watts!

    Also, specific workouts for peaking for certain events...I would go do climbing repeats at Oak Mtn...the long gravel road climb (which has some brief down-grades) takes about 12 min (or did, when I was a little stronger and a little lighter!)...ride the 35 min of singletrack over there, climb 4 times (racing back down to start over)...cool down. That made a substantial difference for Nationals at the ski resort courses (and yes, I'm talking about some longer but VERY HARD efforts)...just 3 times over a month as part of "peaking".

    I think that the real "art" in all of this is being able to identify strengths and weaknesses, or specific demands. Dave has described to me how they went about training pursuit racers for the "3 parts" of that event on the track...VERY SPECIFIC workouts. In his book, he describes developing the power for a time-trialist by performing work at the required power, breaking it into smaller "chunks", and gradually reducing the rest periods. Like the 3 on, 1 off workout that he LOVES to abuse riders with (as do I...in fact, I abused myself with that on Friday!).

    I believe that he has done a remarkable job of describing PRINCIPLES, not providing a cookbook. Each of us has separate needs...one rider I'm working with has made great strides in power, and we're going to focus this summer on maintaining it while dropping a good bit more weight...another simply needs more absolute horsepower, so his workouts are different...yet another has turned into the road-racer from hell, and we haven't even had him doing any sprint work or crit-specific training yet, so we will shift his focus a bit...SPECIFICITY!

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