Sunday, March 18, 2012

Are you Wasting Training Time?

I monitor the metrics of my athletes pretty closely, so I know if/when they're not getting the most bang for their training-time buck. For many people, the object of their training is to "just do it", or to just go out to run a little further this week than last, or ride a little harder (maybe on a hillier course than last week). Will this get them to their training goal? Maybe, and in many cases, I suspect yes, when their goal is just to finish, or to just finish a bit faster than their last year's time. The problem is that this kind of training takes more hours and delivers a lower ROI (return on investment) than when you go out to train with a specific purpose in mind.

Given that if you're reading this blog you are at the very least "aware" of periodization and the importance of first developing an endurance base early in the year, followed by working on some intensity or pace work, followed by some time that is very race specific to your "A" race goal. Here's some quick tips on what I recommend:
  1. Make sure that your training and racing season at a minimum has a broad brush "annual training plan" that is written. Print out a calendar and mark down the weeks that will be for for base building, pace and speed work and pre-race preparation.
  2. Given where we are in the year right now, you are likely ready to start building your ability to go faster now that you've established your ability to go far. Going out and riding "faster than usual" will likely improve your performance, but you'll achieve greater improvement in fewer hours by following a good routine of intervals. In my last newsletter, I outlined some recommendations and some of the reasons why you should follow some general parameters for your interval work. The bottom line is that if you want to improve your body's ability to burn Fat as fuel and more effectively utilize your "Type II" muscle fiber during aerobic events (which all triathlons are), you have to get your heart rate up to the appropriate level (80-120% of Heart Rate at VO2 Max) and accumulate a minimum amount of time at this level among several intervals in order to achieve the benefit. 
  3. You've heard this before: avoid "junk miles". Just riding or running to log the hours is not productive and can certainly be counter productive. Doing a "recovery run" or "recovery ride" is okay, but staying low on the intensity scale, keeping it short and spinning at a high cadence is crucial.
  4. You get stronger when you're resting, not when you're working. During your recovery days (and weeks built into your schedule) your body has a chance to rebuild itself, much like scar tissue that builds an injury back up to be stronger than it was before so that the injury does not recur. Imagine continuing to aggravate a cut and not allowing it time to heal! Alternate your hard days and easy days and monitor your metrics (daily resting heart rate for a very simple check, and your performance management chart for a longer term monitoring of fatigue.
As the saying goes: Train Smarter, not Harder!
Enjoy the Spring training season!