Monday, August 25, 2014

Another view of bike focused training

First time I've seen this 5:1 ratio. When I get the chance I will check my ratios. But mine is a marathon plan so I expect something more balanced.

Should you do a run focused training block

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Nutrition for young athletes, and the lack thereof

Wednesday afternoons I meet up with Pattie and whomever else we can coerce into joining us for a spin class, led by our good friend and coach Dorian Cuccia. We started out in Dorian's back yard, then tried Makiki District Park until we got fed up with the lack of parking and the abundance of homeless people, and ended up at Manoa District Park, on the grass south of the swimming pool under big, shady trees. There cannot be a better outdoor spin class venue on the planet.

I see a lot of kids at the park engaged in a variety of sports. Tennis, swimming, running, baseball, football, soccer, and a crossfit program. No doubt I could see volleyball and basket ball if I went looking for them. It should not surprise you that I also see a lot of parents. Nor would I expect you to be surprised that virtually none of the parents look physically fit, and a great many are seriously obese. They expect their kid to go run around the playing field when it is all they can do to carry a folding chair from their car to the edge of the fied. A few never make it past the sidewalk.

It shouldn't be this way. Parents should set the example.

As I was packing up my gear after class I saw a boy in a nearby van -- maybe eight or ten -- who had just finished football practice, gurgling the last of a large cup of soda. The cup was from McDonald's, which just happens to be the only handy fast food place in the valley. I heard someone nearby shout "We're going to McDonald's, see you there?" I spotted three or four mom types, all fat and jiggly. "Burgers, fries, and soda. Just what you need," I said to myself.

I busted out my chocolate milk and drove away thinking how much better kids could be at their sport if someone taught them the basics of nutrition for athletes. Who would do that? Shouldn't the coaches do that? But the football coaches I've seen are no better than the general population, out of shape and seriously overweight. Who is going to impress upon these kids, and their moms, that before practice they need to eat something. Not a large french fries and diet coke. A Cliff bar, or a half a peanut butter and jam sandwich on whole grain bread, and just plain, common water. They should all have a recovery drink to consume as soon as practice ends. What kid doesn't like chocolate milk?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

It's a drag

Last Sunday's bike ride plan called for 30 miles, a modest increase from the previous week's 25 and well within my current comfort zone. That 25 mile ride went exactly as planned, but my time estimate for the 30 mile ride was off by a lot. Plan was for 1:45 but I did it in 2:30. What happened?

The first thing I noticed was that to do 30 miles in 1:45 required an average speed of 17.1 m.p.h. That is a bit faster that my Tinman average speed of 15.2. What made me think I would do a training ride at race pace? These rides are supposed to build endurance, and that means riding predominantly in zones 1 and 2. Not blazing fast. Besides, despite their long duration they are not supposed to leave me drained to where I spend the rest of the day sitting on the sofa watching TV.

When I developed my twenty week plan I used an average bike speed of 16. How did it get to be 17.1? Rounding. Looking back at my spreadsheet, my plan for Sunday was 30 miles in 1:52:30. Going from that data set, which was liner, to the adjusted set which included periodization, I rounded off the times to the nearest quarter hour. Perhaps my rounding rule should have been to always round down, because going faster is not really an option. A little, maybe, but that's it.

That got me to within 30 minutes, but how do I explain those 30 minutes?

The Tinman route included a climb over Diamond Head with cold legs as well as Heart Break Hill, and I was not going all-out in order to protect my run. Sunday's route started in Kahala so no Diamond Head, included Heart Break, and Makapuu with the turn-around at Waimanalo District Park. As for effort, I should have been under my Tinman effort.

Hills take huge chucks of time, which is why they are so useful in creating gaps in races. I could see how my goal pace of 16 m.p.h. was unreasonable when my ride went to Waimanalo, but why was I off by so much? Sure I had to climb up Heart Break Hill and Makapuu, but I got to go down both climbs so shouldn't that be a wash? The speed lost going up come back on the way down. Conservation of energy and all that.

It doesn't work that way.

A bike by itself creates almost no resistance to rolling. Most of what there is comes from chain friction and tire deformation. What keeps a bike from going 100 m.p.h. is drag, the energy required to push the bike and rider through the air. Most of the drag is generated by the rider's body, the other significant source being the wheel spokes.

Drag increases as the square of velocity. The speed loss when climbing is liner. To ride an average speed of 17 m.p.h. with a 5 minute climb at 5 m.p.h. will require a decent speed of 29 m.p.h.. The energy lost to drag will be less during the climb than the preceding flat section, but it will go up sharply on the decent -- there is no way to get back the energy lost on the climb.

It gets worse.

What moves the bike forward is energy provided by the rider. Elite, well financed cyclists can now measure the actual power being expended, by use of a power meter such as made my SRM and Garmin. The rest of us use a heart rate monitor to estimate power output. The harder we peddle, the higher our heart rate. This works surprisingly well.

Even if you do not grasp the significance of a term increasing as the square of another term, all you need to know is that the resistance to speed increases at a much faster rate than the speed increases. But in the case of power, the force required to overcome resistance (in our case, drag), things get ugly fast. Power increases as the cube of speed. The energy you must expend to double your speed will increase a thousandfold. Figuratively, anyway.  It is our power output that we feel when we consider how hard we are working, and our HRM is the tool we most often use to quantify that feeling.

Bear in mind I am not talking about land speed. That would be the speed at which we are traveling along the road, the speed I used to calculate my time and distance estimates. Here we are really talking about airspeed. Land speed and airspeed are the same as long as there is no wind. Sunday, there was wind. A lot more than we had in recent weeks, a lot more than for the Tinman.

By now you should see where this is going. Given an average wind speed of 10 m.p.h. from the east, the ride outbound along Kalanianaole will require far more power than the return. Because this ride was constrained more by power -- perceived effort -- than speed, the result is a much longer ride time than estimated. When two things are related exponentially, equal moves up and down along one term produce wild and crazy changes in the other term. This is why going just a little faster requires so much more energy, why the wind wrecks havoc on bike races, and why a streamlined ride position is so important. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Running with less running

Previously I described my idea to apply Ironman training concepts to my marathon training. The primary goal is to shift much of the endurance training from the run to the bike, the goal being to reduce the risk of injury. I still do a long run every weekend, but not nearly as long as if I were only running. I do the run on Saturday, and the long bike on Sunday. Again, putting the run before bike is to reduce the risk of injury.

As I trained for my first marathon just about everything I read said to go out and run every day. One hour on weekdays, longer on weekends. Run run run. One so-called expert claimed that anything less than an hour was a waste of time. I was surprised therefor to see that Matt Fitzgerald's run plans usually kept weekday runs to 30-40 minutes, but even so he had me doing them four days out of five.

Since then my reading has widened to include more on triathlon, as well as what is appropriate for old guys. (Would you believe the borderline often used for this is forty? What does that make me, antique?) The theme I see most often is to lower run training volume, increase cross training, and most of all increase strength training. As we age we naturally lose power. Just running will not do enough to prepare us for race day. Keep in mind that those books and Runners World pieces are aimed at twenty-somethings. I have to compensate for age.

Joe Friel recommends that old folks like me include two or three strength sessions during the base period, and at least one during build. Only stop doing strength workouts the week before a race. After the Tinman Triathlon I had one week of transition, followed by seven weeks of base. I have a weekly one hour workout with a weight trainer -- Dorian Cuccia -- which I will supplement with workouts either at home or at the gym.

Right up there with strength during the base period is flexibility. Later, as a race approaches, it is better to cut back on flexibility workouts as these can actually work against you. A good runner needs to be springy, not loose and floppy. The base period is the perfect time to work on flexibility, freedom of motion, and mechanics. To that end I have gotten back into yoga. I was doing yoga twice a week at work, but our instructor has moved away so I go once a week with Pattie.

One more thing I have done is set aside one run session a week to do drills. I did my first one today, going through all the drills I picked up from Bobby McGee. I managed to fill most of an hour on the track doing each drill two or three times. From now on I will pick four or five that address my limiters and spend more time on them. What is important to note is that these drills do not include very much running, yet during the session I was feeling the effects and by the end my legs were definitely burning. This is what I mean by running without running.

Just for kicks I have included this week's training plan. Most weeks follow this pattern, but no two are exactly alike.

    AM run 30 min 50% zone 2
    PM swim Oahu Club 40 min
    AM run 40 min mostly zone 2
    AM strength 1 hr
    PM yoga 1.5 hr
    AM run drills 45 min
    PM bike spin class 1 hr
    AM run 45 min strides up and down hill
    Noon strength gym 1 hr
    PM swim Oahu Club 40 min
    Recovery Day
    AM long run 6 mi
    AM long bike 35 mi

Planned time: 11:30
    Swim: 1:20
    Bike: 2:45
    Xtrn: 1:30
    Strength: 2:00

With this plan I spend more time running than anything else, but I spend less than half my time running. With so much variety I should easily avoid the workout blahs that so other show up mid-way to our goal.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Plans and graphs, with a little luck

This is the day hurricane Iselle was supposed to roll over Oahu, but as luck would have it the storm fell apart as it crashed into the Big Island. Friday's are my rest day so no workouts were compromised, and I fought off the boredom of watching endless storm coverage on TV by running through Jay Dicharry's flexibility assessment drills, followed by a little free weight exercise.

After reviewing Dicharry I concluded I need to do a set of flexibility exercises every day, to include at a minimum the "chair of death" (a.k.a. bilateral squat), hamstring stretch (laying on back with one leg straight up is a good one), and kneeling hip flexor stretch. For best results each stretch should be held for 3-5 minutes, so we are looking at about 30 minutes a day. This will take some planning.

Talking about planning, previously I wrote about my plan to blend marathon training with triathlon training. My initial plan incorporated Joe Friel's periodiztion guidelines as presented in his book, The Triathlete's Training Bible. The same "two hard one easy" weekly pattern shows up on my Training Peaks Annual Training Plan, because I was honest about my age and training goals when I created my plan.

My next step was to use the Training Peaks Virtual Coach to help fill in the weekly workouts. It was during this step that I realized how the Virtual Coach puts into effect the recommendations Friel makes concerning easy weeks and testing. Every third week my training volume is reduced to seven hours, and on every one of those weeks the Virtual Coach recommended some kind of test. In the past this puzzled me, because a test has to be done all out, which does not seem restful to me. Now, finally, I got it. Yes, the effort level is high, actually higher than workouts during hard weeks.What makes it "easy" is the short duration. No test is ever perfect, so by doing several of them you can smooth out the irregularities and get a more accurate picture of overall progress.

Friels uses two tests. The first one (LTHR) is just a measure of your lactate threshold as measured by heart rate. This is how we establish our HR zones.

Warm up well. Then run a 30 minute time trial on flat course/track. Punch HR monitor 'lap' button 10 minutes into Time Trial. Average heart rate for last 20 minutes predicts Lactate threshold heart rate (LTHR).

The second (TTT), is based on the LTHR results from the earlier tests but is more focused on all out, maximum performance.

Warm up for about 15 minutes raising heart rate to 10 bpm below Lactate threshold heart rate (LTHR). Then start 1 mile at 9-11 bpm below LTHR. (recover for 400m). 1.5 miles all out. Times? Heart rates?

My twenty week marathon plan includes three LTHR tests, the first tomorrow, and three TTT tests.

The problem I ran into in incorporating these tests into my workout plan is that my plan is based on specific times and distances, based on a reasonable pace. For these tests, that approach is thrown out the window. When you do these tests you should only be looking at your HRM for time and distance. In the case of the LTHR, only time. You are not trying to hit a particular pace or heart rate, you are going as fast as you can for thirty minutes, just by feel alone.  I know the LTHR will take forty-five minutes because I allow fifteen minutes to warm up and the test itself is thirty minutes. What I can't say is how far I will run that day. Estimating the duration of the TTT is even harder, so I made a wild guess of fifty minutes. Again, no idea of distance. Obviously more that 2.5 miles, but how much more?

I finally figured out how to make graphs in Google Docs. No doubt someone with more experience could make something better, but at least I was able to graph my weekly long bike and long run workouts. Nothing reveals the ups and downs in a table of numbers better than a graph.

My first graph plots time. You can clearly see the three week periodization. Did I mention that to hit seven hours without giving up everything during the week I had to drop most easy week Sunday bike rides?  That is why the bike lines goes to zero on those weeks.

I also plotted distance, and here you really see how the bike provides the bulk of the endurance training. See where the blue line goes to zero every third week? That is not really a zero, I just don't know what to but there. It should end up looking like the time chart.
No plan ever gets put into practice without some changes. I know that I may have to make adjustments based on my reaction to this training load -- us old guys need a lot more time to recover than the young grasshoppers -- but I also know that life has a way of getting in the way. To pull this off successfully will need more than good planning. Now where did I put my dice?

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Run workout shorthand

When I started to get seriously into swimming I was at a loss to interpret the jargon used by swim coaches to specify workouts. Things like this were as meaningful to me as a doctor's prescription.

300 smooth pull or swim:15 sec rest
200 2(50 fast heavy on legs,50 ez) :15 sec rest
100 change stroke ea. 25
4x25's fast heavy on legs or kick
4x50's add :10 sec #1 stay on pace
4x75 add :15 sec # 1 stay on pace

I have a bit more experience with running. Here is this morning's strides workout:

5 min 1Z
5 min 2Z
6 x (30 sec 4Z/1:30 1Z)
5 min 2Z
5 min 1Z

32 min

To put this into a really practical context, I start this workout on Kilauea Avenue close to the Aloha gas station, after getting a sip of water at the professional building next to the church preschool. I run on the east sidewalk headed south. The route is slightly downhill, which simplifies warming up. Five minutes gets me to a spot just past the elementary school where I can slip into Kahala Park, so the second half of the ten minute warmup period is spent running across the huge grass playing field. The plan says to bring HR up into zone 2, but I like to keep ramping up gradually so that I am at or close to zone 3 for the start of the interval set.

I do the six repeats running in a large oval or sometimes a meandering path on the grass. The outfield of the big baseball field is always good as it is well maintained; just don't step on the dirt. At my age, the recovery interval, ninety seconds in zone 1, is best done walking. The idea is to bring the HR down and give the legs a good rest before the next hard effort.

Wherever I end up on the field when the reps are done I head for the narrow entry point, out onto the sidewalk, and head back up towards the Aloha gas station. Somewhere along the way I get to the last line, five minutes in zone 1, and I continue running at a very easy pace even if my HR stays up a bit in zone 2. If there is time left I divide by two, turn around and run back towards the park, then turn around again until time runs out.

My point is that those five cryptic lines unpack into a while bunch of details that I could not have known the first few times I did it. I know I can vary the repeated section any way I want, because it all happens on the playing field and as long as I include ten minutes on either side I have plenty of time to get there and back. I have a similar arrangement for hill intervals, also on Kilauea but up at the mauka end past Wilson Elementary, where it kicks up between five and ten percent.

I used to have to write this stuff on my arm with a ball point pen until I learned how to program workouts like this into my Garmin FR610. I can do it directly on the watch, or I can do it at the Garmin Connect web site and download the workout to the watch. Here is a video on YouTube that describes the process.  I just wish the text display were larger, as my tired old eyes have a hard time seeing some of the detail, especially in the dark like it was this morning.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

I once was a hippy

Those who know me well should not be surprised that at Kailua High School  in 1967 I was one of the leaders of the counter-culture movement generally referred to as hippies. The summer before my senior year I let my hair grow long and I stopped shaving. Naturally at that age a summer growth of facial hair produced little more than peach fuzz, but at the time it was a radical statement.

It was a confusing time for me. As much as I liked Bob Dylan and Canned Heat and that crazy San Francisco scene, I also loved cars and hung out with greasers -- local slang for hot rodders. Then there was the classical music and the jazz and the Indian music. All very complicated.

Lately my life has gotten even more complicated. I have gone from hippies and hipsters to the pursuit of greater hip mobility. Not to be confused with upward mobility. Nothing philosophical or cultural about it. Just plain, simple body motion. Never in my wildest dreams did I see myself becoming athletic, yet here I am, enjoying myself just as much as I did playing in the Honolulu Symphony, or jazz with Dave and Ken Wild, or studying sitar with Nikhil Banerjee.

Last year I was working on increasing my running cadence. I had learned from a number of sources that a faster cadence (stride rate, SR) increases efficiency and reduces the risk of injury. A value of 90 or better foot strikes per minute is a reasonable goal. For musicians, a classic march tempo is 120 and each foot hits the ground on a beat, left-right-left-right ... so for runners that would be a cadence of 60BPM.  I was getting up to around 85BPM last fall when my hernia derailed my marathon plans. Back then I noticed two limiting factors. First, my feet just did not want to go that fast. Second, my heart rate (HR) would go really high.

This past winter I followed Matt Fitzgerald's Intermediate Half-Marathon training plan. He specifies nearly all long runs to be done in zone 2, and I could never get above 80BPM without my HR going up into zone 3. I ended up doing some speed work on weekday mornings when a little high intensity is not going to cause problems, and tried my best to throttle back my Sunday morning runs along Kalanianaole to stay in zone 2. I was very happy with my result at the Hapalua Half Marathon in April. My average pace was 14:07, average HR was 136 (mid zone 3) and average cadence was 82BPM. Better still, my peak 60 minutes cadence was 84 and my peak 5 minutes was 86. (Training Peaks gives me all that sort of data.)

So I was getting faster, but that 90BPM goal still seemed out of reach. With this year's marathon training staring me in the face I decided to ask an expert. I posted this question to Bobby McGee's Facebook page:

I want to increase my cadence from around 83 to 86-90. When I run at the higher cadence my HR goes high. Will strides improve this? What else do you recommend and how often per week?

Yesterday I received an answer. From Bobby himself! How cool is that? It is very long and detailed and I am not going to repeat it here, only some excerpts:

Music to my ears when someone wants to improve their cadence! Remember running speed is SR (stride rate/cadence) times SL (stride length). Stride length is more variable than stride rate & is at the “mercy” of ROM (range of motion), leg length (especially relative to torso length) & elastic power. Stride rate (cadence) increases, (or should increase) with speed, but remain within a certain bandwidth so to speak. Runners with really low velocities, (slower than 11min per mile) can have stride rates just less than 80 steps per minute with 1 leg. Faster though & we are looking at 82/84 plus as being “healthy” lower limb-saving cadence. 

Did you catch that part about really low velocities? He's talking slower than 11 and I am at 14. I'm a turtle! But he is correct, my cadence used to be around 78 and only got above 80 after a lot of hard work. Also, don't overlook his mention of ROM.

An increase in stride rate should not be pursued as a primary objective – i.e. cognitively trying to move up your stride rate is just about an exercise in futility – you’ll become inefficient, feel uncomfortable, get tired & may even injure yourself.

Putting yourself into a position where a higher stride rate is a response to correct posture, rhythm & movement is crucial. An increased stride rate must be a reaction, not an action to improved running dynamics.

I find this to be a fascinating challenge, because what he says is so mysterious. I know my posture and movement has been abysmal, and that I am improving thanks to a lot of helpful coaching.

Midfoot strikers can actually drive their foot down under themselves a little quicker, dabbing at the surface with a stiff ankle, knee & hip – this increases spring loading & rapid return of the knee to the front (if they have the range of motion to get that thigh far back enough).

Lastly the shorter the lever of the leg is when it is returned to the front after toe off, the quicker the cadence. So great runners actually get their heels either in contact with their butts or damn near it when at speed. The lever length thus of the leg until the heel passes under the pelvis is only as long as the femur. Even slow running requires that our shin be at least parallel as our heel comes under our pelvis. A prerequisite to achieve this is having the rhythm & hip mobility to do so. I spend a LOT of time working on hip mobility with my athletes.

One of my favorite running reads is Anatomy for Runners: Unlocking Your Athletic Potential for Health, Speed, and Injury Prevention, by Jay Dicharry. I think it is time to re-read this book, especially chapter 9, "Assessment and Development of the Athlete Within -- Redefining the Body You've Come to Know and Love." Jay lists three attributes a running must have; notice in particular what is #1:

  1. Enough mobility to get the leg behind you in stance.
  2. Stability of the core, hips, and foot to maintain posture and optimize transfer of energy. 
  3. Strength and power from the glute to drive the body up and forward.

He follows this with a set of mobility assessment tests and corrective actions. Test #3 is Hip extension, and that is where I expect to be spending a lot of time over the next two months.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Random thoughts

They seriously have to make this blogging thing more idiot proof.  Is there perhaps an old persons version?  Kind of like that cell phone for old folks that have the really big buttons and call only certain numbers?

As I plogged along this morning, I realized that unlike many of the people I started training with for the Tinman triathlon some 10 years ago, I have not aspired to do a half ironman or even thought about an ironman.  My only thought while I was in the midst of my first Tinman was that the next time I have a midlife crisis, I'm getting that red sports car.  I was obviously not listening to my inner Maxine.  I never got the red sports car but did get a titanium bicycle.

Until last year, I managed to cut my tri efforts to the Na Wahine swim and spin which made me soooo happy since I despise running.  Then it, I was selected as a  YMX ambassador.  Looking at all the other athletic women selected, I figured I better up my game.  I signed up for the full Na Wahine sprint.  I started running.....or in my case plogging.  A whole year has gone by, I'm still plogging grouchily along and signed up for the Na Wahine sprint.  I will spend the next few weeks wondering what I was thinking.

Unlike Gary, I do not have training charts.  I have guilt which tells me I should swim at Queen surf, I need to go up Montsarrat on my bike and worst of all I need to keep plogging.  All things I dislike.  I'm always sure I will be eaten by something while I swim and I consider queen surf open deep water. There are not enough gears to make it worth going uphill on a bicycle and I seriously walk faster then I plog.  So why do I do it?

It has become a habit.  The best way to conquer my fear of swimming at queen surf is just to put my head down and swim.  The best way for me to go uphill on my bicycle is to go up nice and easy and not stress about all those hard bodies racing by me.  I plog slow and sure and hope I make it to the finish before the guys come by to take the cones away.  Best of all, if I can get through a Na Wahine so can any other woman.  I don't worry about being last anymore.  I finished and that is more then a lot of 60+ year old women can say.

The path to Half-Ironman training load, from smooth to lumpy

Last May, Pattie and I traveled to Kona with the Try Fitness team in the role of sherpas for the Honu Half-Ironman Triathlon. After the race there was a fair bit of beer consumed, and in a state of compromised common sense I gave in to assurances that I could do this race. My brain was not entirely crippled; I agreed to do the race in 2016, giving myself two years to prepare. After I ran my first marathon in 2012 I thought doing a triathlon would be easy, as all I had to do was learn to swim. Having hugely underestimated how long it would take me to learn to swim properly -- I did my first triathlon one year after I thought I would -- I was not about to make the same mistake.

Some of the material I had studied while training for triathlon delved into longer distances, including Ironman and Half-Ironman events. I went back and reviewed those sections to see what amount of training I should expect to do. One source I especially liked was an article on Training Peaks by Nicole Drummer which stresses the need to cut back on the training load to avoid injury, and to shift endurance training from run to bike for the same reason. She offers these guidelines for Ironman and Half-Ironman longest day bike and run workouts:



Matt Fitzgerald recommends specifying short day runs by duration and long day runs by distance, as races are usually based on distances. To convert Drummer's recommendations into distances I would need to decide on a pace. At this point I am doing rough estimates, with an emphasis on slow-and-long, so I used conservative values that I have hit often in recent events, a 15:00 min/mile run pace and a 13 m.p.h. bike pace.



It was around this point that I realized I could start now on Half-Ironman training as the basis for my marathon training. I looked around to see if anyone else was doing this and could not find anything. If I do this it will be a voyage of exploration (cue Star Trek theme).

Many training sources advise increasing training load by no more than 5% per week. Since I do not currently train at Ironman levels I decided to treat them as goals and work backwards to see where I would need to start. I used twenty weeks as my timeline, the gap between the Tinman and the Honolulu Marathon. Here are the numbers for the Half-Ironman, reversed in time to simplify the spreadsheet formulas and using the midpoint of Drummer's ranges:


Those starting numbers -- 20 mile bike ride and 3 mile run -- fit easily into my current training load. Remember, these are not bricks. The long runs will be on Saturday, after a Friday rest day, and the long bike rides on Sunday. This lets me run on fresh legs, which reduces the risk of injury. With a reasonable starting point and a reasonable 5% per week rate of increase, I should get to Half-Ironman long day training volume in time for the marathon.

The Matt Fitzgerald marathon plan would have me running fifteen miles or more five times in the last ten weeks, including twenty miles in week fifteen and twenty-two miles in week seventeen. I know from experience such long runs will leave me worthless for the rest of the day. With my plan, most of the endurance strength and aerobic capacity gained on the bike will transfer to the run while keeping run distances manageable.

A twenty week training plan should not consist of a continuous increase in volume. The 5% rule is an overall guide. For best results the long climb in volume needs to be broken up by weeks of low volume, and there should be one or two peaks along the way. In the plan below I have added in volume reductions using the three week training cycle recommended for old guys like me. I also rounded off the values and arranged the columns in the correct order. Week 18 is a race simulator.

Sat RunSun Bike

1Very Low00:00:0000:00:00

This is not the finished product. Actually a plan like this is never finished, it changes to accommodate life's unpredictability. But I can already tell you that I have made changes, based on roughing in the weekly activities. More on that later. Today is the first day of week two of this plan. I hope I can get the run and bike done without being preempted by the weather.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Hard weeks and not so hard weeks

For optimal results a workout plan should alternate between hard efforts and easy efforts. Exactly how this is done depends a lot on the individual. For a novice runner it can be as simple as running three days a week with at least one rest day between run days. As fitness builds, one of those runs can be longer, and it is common practice to put two rest days after the long run. For someone who does not want to run on Sunday this might be

Mon rest
Tue short run
Wed rest
Thu short run
Fri rest
Sat long run
Sun rest

Rest days are sacred!

As fitness increases the time will come when running everyday feels right. Even then, one day a week should be set aside as a rest day. This is to give the body plenty of time to adjust to the workload. But, not every day should be the same. There should be hard days and easy days. Ideally these will alternate, but real life is never that simple so the perfect plan may require a few little wrinkles here and there.

Just enough hours in a day.

Triathlon makes even more demands. It is hard enough to fit in workouts for a single discipline. A triathlete must somehow squeeze in three.One way to do this is to double up. On a three workouts a week schedule, pair them up, something like this:

Tue swim run
Thu swim bike
Sat run bike

This is fine if the goal is modest, or the athlete is already fit and skilled and just wants to maintain their level, but serious improvement requires more time. For average folks with a full time job and family obligations, finding the time is not easy.

What I have been doing is at least one workout per day and often two, one in the morning and one after work, creating the effect of alternating hard days with easy days by adjusting disciplines. Biking and running use similar muscle groups, basically the legs, but biking is much easier on the body than running. Swimming is so different that it almost counts as rest, when viewed from the aspect of legs. (Keep in mind that triathlon style swimming minimizes kicking.) In contrast, the transition from bike to run is so hard on the legs that it must be practiced as if it were an event all its own.

There are at least three more cycles longer than the weekly plan we have been considering. At the next higher level is the hard week easy week cycle. Young adults can easily manage three hard weeks followed by one easy week. As we age we need more time to recover, so a two hard one easy cycle is better. At the highest level (well, there is the year above that) is the training cycle level. I just finished a ten week Olympic triathlon training cycle, and am starting a twenty week marathon training cycle. A training cycle usually culminates in a race. In between the training cycle and the weekly cycle is one that rises and falls something like the tide. Rather than plan out a single long continuous volume increase over twenty weeks, a good plan will have one or two high points along the way. The overall trend is up, but the body gets some ups and downs along the way.

In future posts I will describe how I came up with my twenty week plan, which starts Monday.