Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Sweet Spot-What is it and how do I get there?

Quite simply, the Sweet Spot (or to abbreviate for Sweet Spot Training, SST) is that rather large span of power output from upper L2 through to roughly, Functional Threshold power. This term was coined by Frank Overton, a man I've never met, but from his website, I would bet we'd see eye to eye on most discussions relating to endurance training. The graph above, which I lifted from Frank's site, was actually created by Andrew Coggan.
There is nothing revolutionary here. Good coaches like run guru Arthur Lydiard recognized many years ago (simmer down, I know that recognition of this phenomena likely predated him by 1000 years) there is a range of effort when training for endurance sports which maximizes 'bang for the buck' because it is hard enough to cause the most desireable adaptations but, not so hard that it causes excess fatigue, requiring extended recovery. This is THE key concept. You can train more at this level, which makes you better, without having to train 20-30 hrs/week. I think this was depicted beautifully in the graph by Dr. Coggan.
The reason it is SO sweet is because by increasing intensity from say 60-65% of functional threshold (typically where athletes self select for their endurance rides) to an effort most would describe as 'steady' to 'comfortably' hard, roughly 75-85% of FTP and doing so for up to about 3 hrs. instead of 5 or 6, an athlete can elicit greater gains in the key components which lead to greater endurance performance, namely increased mitochondrial enzymes, increased lactate threshold and increased glycogen storage and do so in less time. In other words, concentrate a little harder, but not too hard and get a lot better...good deal.
So why not just go as hard as you can then, say L5 or higher as much as possible and then just take a few days off or easy? Well, while this certainly works to improve the aforementioned components of fitness, but it doesn't do as effective a job of increasing the body's ability to store muscle glycogen or to convert type IIB to type IIA as SST does, which for a relatively new athlete is a key determinant of getting better 'endurance'. Plus, training in L5 and higher is really mentally tough!
SST works for all endurance sports and specifically, for all endurance cyclists...that's from 4km pursuitists to Ironman athletes. For the former, as much as 60% of energy produced during this short race is aerobic. For the latter, not only is it aerobic, but lower SST IS Ironman effort, or slightly harder for some. What could be more specific than that?

Thursday, March 6, 2008


It will be 4 weeks since I was struck by a hit & run driver and it is starting to sink in that my body will need a bit more time to heal. On the up-side, the greater tuberosity has remained stationary and therefore, it seems that I will not need surgery. This was not the doctor's first thought because it had been displaced by twice the '"limit in the literature" over which surgery was typically necessary. His reluctance to operate was the result of the second fracture in the upper humorous that would have possibly shattered as a result of screwing the tuberosity back into its rightful place. The down-side is that the shoulder is quite painful, especially in the evening when I am trying to sleep. Coupled with a back that "twinges" and goes occasionally into "spasm", I feel pretty tired most of the time. The doctor feels that the back issues should subside eventually...I hope so...I used to 'knock wood' that I've never had any problem with my back.
The other injuries, namely the deep cuts around my left eye that resulted when my Oakleys shattered upon impact with the ground (anyone else think that glasses marketed for sport should be safer?), are healing as best as possible. I have to apply a scar guard for the next few months and will always have to wear SPF 30+ sun block or stronger. The scar above the eye is partially hidden by the brow and not nearly as gruesome as the one below.
While Dina claims she likes me anyway, I do notice people looking at it when I'm at the shop. A funny aside regarding the eye happened with the plastic surgeon in the ER. Before he operated I asked Dina if she wanted him to do a little 'Brad Pitt thing' and he interrupted with 'hey, I'm good, but not THAT good'...nice.
I've been trying to spend some time on the indoor trainer just to feel like I'm doing 'something', but these sessions are short and somewhat uncomfortable, being that I really cannot stabilize myself to pedal, having only one arm. In addition to this, I perform a brief 'PT' session three times daily which serves to remind me just how banged up I really am.
I am in good hands, though. Dina has gone above and beyond what even a loving spouse can be expected to do and I have complete confidence in my doctor Steven Rokito and my PT and close friend, Don Rourke. The support from so many friends has been the 'silver lining' in all of this. I've reconnected with old friends that fell out of touch and come to appreciate the new ones.
That's about it for now...train hard, rest harder.