Get stronger, faster, durable, more skilled this fall….

The fall is a wonderful time of year… The temperatures are cooler and you can introduce focus blocks into your training to improve on personal limiters. During the race season, the focus is on race specific preparation, but the fall allows you to step back, be disciplined and address gaps when you don’t have so many competing priorities.

Good examples are:

  1. Improve your run speed potential – Complete a focused run program with speed work aimed at a short higher intensity race such as a 5k or 10K. You have to run faster to run fast.
  2. Lack force development on the bike – Complete a focused progression of strength development including anatomical adaptation, maximum strength, and power development phases, before returning back to a strength maintenance routine.
  3. Want to improve your FTP – Complete a focused program of higher intensity intervals on the bike that drive up your lactate threshold and V02Max, before returning back to longer endurance work.
  4. Lack flexibility and constantly plagued by niggles & injuries that slow down your season progress – Get off the couch, focus on strength development & stretching to improve your durability and range of motion.
  5. Not comfortable on your bike at high speed or in a group – Complete a bike skills workshop & then integrate the skills practice into your weekly routine.

The key to year over year improvement is to use the early part of the season to close a gap in your athletic capabilities. Focus on 1 gap not 5. We all have 5 things we want to fix. Try fixing 1. You will be amazed what a difference it will make and how you will release new performances in the next year.

The successful and improving athletes are the ones who are disciplined and look to improve one aspect of their overall performance each year. Do this now when the stakes are lower, and then you can integrate this progress into your regular training progression in the new year. Trying to do this when the weather is warmer and races are upcoming is too late.

Not sure what to do. Speak to a coach. A detailed discussion about your strengths and opportunities is a place to start followed by commitment to a few smaller goals during the tail end of the year.

See you out there….

Peter

Recover right!

Tired AthleteTraining creates stress impulses, and these stress impulses create adaptive responses in the body.  This adaptation can be either functional or non-functional. As athletes, we always aim for functional adaptations that improve performance.

Humans are adaptive machines, but we cannot always predict the ways in which our bodies will react. One workout sequence may develop your performance perfectly well for one training cycle and yet in another have a totally different effect. The way we influence the body to adapt functionally is through progressive increases in training load and also through recovery!

Athletes spend a lot of time adapting to an increasing training load. However, what is often left out is the other component of the equation, which is recovery.

Training + Recovery = Optimal (functional) adaptation = performance

The key is to optimize both components of the equation to achieve optimal adaptation and thus performance.

Everyone pretty much agrees that 1) a 3-4 week cycle of progressive increases in training load including a week of decreased training load; and 2) specific days off are very important to ensure adequate recovery. What is often missed or neglected is an intentional approach to recovery between workouts. Having an intentional recovery protocol between training bouts prepares the athlete more quickly for the next session and maximizes the opportunity to improve quickly.

Not being intentional and implementing a recovery protocol means athletes leave huge opportunities for performance gains on the table. They cannot train as hard, as long, or as often. Here are some key thoughts to take way.

Before workouts:

  1. Eat & Drink – Ensure you have a pre workout meal and enter the workout well hydrated. Do not force the body into energy or hydration deficit before workouts.
  2. Warm up – Perform a complete warm up before executing a hard workout. Dynamic stretching, a slow jog/ride, and drills are excellent. This will maximize blood flow to the tissues, stimulate neuromuscular pathways, increase performance, and reduce injury risk.

During workouts:

  1. Eat & Drink – Ensure you walk into each workout with an appropriate nutrition & hydration plan for the intensity & duration of the workout. Execute the plan.

After workout recovery:

  1. Cool down – Perform an adequate cool down after a hard workout. Walk it out. Return muscles from a state of high tension to relaxation.
  2. Stretch – Always stretch and do it while still warm to ensure your muscles stay flexible.
  3. Eat & Drink – Eat your post workout recovery meal within 30 minutes of the workout including both protein (non soy) & carbohydrates to maximize the opportunity muscle resynthesis and to restore glycogen stores. This is especially important for women. Restore fluids lost through exercise.
  4. Ice – Ice joints and sore tendons after workouts.
  5. Rest/Nap – Put your feet up & get a cat nap. Nothing good comes from executing a hard workout and then standing on your feet all day.

Every day:

  1. Eat – Ensure your diet is healthy & you are not in a low energy state. Eat fruit, nuts, seeds, vegetables, lean protein (non soy), and lean dairy throughout the day – 5 times a day to manage energy stores and blood sugar levels. Ensure you have the nutritional components to build muscle in response to training demand
  2. Massage – Roll your muscles to maintain flexibility & eliminate tightness
  3. Sleep –  Human Growth hormone, essential to muscle repair & growth, is released as you sleep (typically in the 2-3rd hour of sleep). You get stronger when you sleep not when you are awake. So get to bed at a reasonable time & sleep.

Like training, where consistency is king, recovery benefits from a consistent approach as well.

Be intentional. Recovery is training.

What is base building?

Base building is the general phase of the annual training plan/progression where an athlete develops the fitness or chronic training load to complete their goal races. Each race has a specific demand in terms of overall training preparedness.

Focus areas:

  • Increase overall training duration to target peak training load by end of base period
  • Develop pace & power in line with a specific (10) % improvement target
  • Improve skills especially in the swim and bike handling
  • Address strength imbalances & weaknesses and other performance limiters

The workouts throughout the base should be sufficiently targeted and frequent to elicit a specific training response for each focus area. The way to get better at anything is repetition.

Elite athletes prepare with significantly higher target training loads for their A-races than do age-groupers. The guidelines below are informative. Intermediate athletes should consider the lower end of each range when setting the target training load  As you become a more durable athlete over multiple seasons, consider higher training loads in your annual training plan balancing work, home, and rest.

Target CTL Chart

Peter

Pondering what to do next season….

The fall is a wonderful time of year.. The temperatures cool and ambition grows. Athletes dream about the season to come. Now is the time to reach out to your coach to discuss your plans for next year.

It is tempting to get wrapped up in a season full of “peak bagging” where your schedule is just too full, too long, or is simply a mixed bag of races.  This can result in disappointment in your development as an athlete, over commitment, and burn out.

It is not uncommon to see a triathlete career of only 3 years. The way I think about it is the year of wonder, the year of excitement, followed by the year of work which can result in frustration and burnout. After which, the bike can become a clothes horse in the corner of the apartment. This is very sad for your bike and you can see it weeping quietly if you look carefully.

In your first year, your fitness grows by leaps and bounds & there is so much new information. The sport changes your life and introduces you to new community of friends. You feel invincible.

In your second year, you pack your schedule with races and race race race… You still develop rapidly, and spend a ton of money on your bike. At the end of the season, you are tired but look forward to next season with high ambitions. You are also looking for new challenges, perhaps Ironman,  a marathon or two, perhaps tough mudders…etc.

In your third year, your development needs are much more specific to your personal limiters and much more race specific. Your development curve flattens but your schedule is more complex with a mixed bag of races that often compete with each other for your time. Unless you are a extraordinary athlete, and few of us actually are, your racing is unlikely meet your expectations.

A good example is a marathon in the middle of your Ironman preparation. A well prepared marathoner will run far more, with much more specific run training than an Ironman athlete. I would estimate that a marathon blows a 1 month hole in your Ironman progression between taper & recovery not to mention the lack of focus on the bike & swim during the prior months of marathon training.

The key to getting faster is time & focus. The fast athletes in the field, excluding the genetically gifted, have been training for many years. Although they are older, in many instances they race faster than they ever have. The secret sauce is that they are still at it and they have seasons that are well structured and not beyond what their life & work can manage. Typically, these athletes will peak only a couple of times for key races, and interim races are about supporting their principal focus of the year. Their seasons are also have a transition period that is not too long, but is sufficient to come back into each year with a bounce in their step.

bed-bike-5

As you dream about your season ahead, be sure to check in with your coach for advice on your race schedule.

Race well and love your bike.

 

 

Transitioning from Triathlon to Marathon mid-season

It is not uncommon for multi-sport athletes to attempt completion of a marathon at season end. Typically, Triathletes are quite fit at this point of the season, but under trained on the run for a transition to marathon specific training with its more demanding run volume.

As you transition, ensure you keep a healthy mix of swimming, strength, and biking in the mix in the transition weeks. These additional workouts will keep your fitness up while you more gradually change the volume mix to more frequent running and ultimately longer runs. Don’t rush the transition. Trust in your fitness and focus on progressive adaptation to more running.