Friday, January 16, 2009

Pushing and Pulling

I have had most success in approaching endurance training by pushing fitness up from below until I can no longer push it up anymore, before pulling it up the last bit from there. There are far more pronouns than my English teacher Mrs. Gerek would ever permit, so I'll be more clear.

I believe in first pushing threshold power and pace to higher levels by first beginning below threshold until gains at threshold cease. I have found that as an athlete approaches about 90% of VO2 max, threshold ceases to rise. I then raise the ceiling, or VO2 max in the given sport by pushing output at VO2 max up from just below VO2 max. It's what I typically witness while raising the ceiling that has convinced me to push whenever possible and only pull as the races close in. As VO2 max power or pace rises during a VO2 focused push, threshold ether stays put or, goes up slightly. If I start to pull up on VO2 by either focusing on AWC or simply by racing a lot & continuing to train hard mid-week, fitness soars after 4-6 weeks, reaches a crescendo, and if I then switch to a schedule in which the athlete essentially races, rests and opens before the next race, this can go on for a few to several weeks (3-6...depending primarily on 'base' fitness and years training, yata, yata), but then threshold drops and then so does VO2 max. Only by pulling too long or hard on an individual in an attempt to tweak 'em that last 1% have I realized the signs of pulling too hard.

Those familiar with endurance training will recognize the former situation as peaking. Those who have left their best legs out on the track or on the road training will recognize the latter.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Addition by Subtraction

There's an expression that goes 'you never know what you've got 'til it's gone'. The understanding being that you don't appreciate how good a situation is until it isn't 'is' anymore, but 'was'. Sometimes the opposite is true, though. A related corollary should read 'you never know how bad what you have is until you don't have it anymore'.

We've all had a friend in bad situation that continued to make bad decision after bad decision in hopes of correcting for a prior bad decision, instead of going back to square one and changing the original mistake. Usually, the friend is in a bad relationship and cannot bring himself to sever ties or perhaps, is in a bad work situation and lacks the self confidence to 'make a move'.

Often, the unsuspecting friend does not realize their situation exists and if they do, are paralyzed when faced with the thought of changing it.

On a lesser level, I see it in athletes' training programs and/or race execution. One such example is when I hear a cyclist talking about why he missed the race winning break after attacking futilely for the first three quarters of the race. For triathletes, the most common error when looking back at a poor race performance, where their run was far below the level of their current run ability, is to redouble their efforts in run training...more 'speedwork', more miles.

The cyclist above changes his training thinking that he's missing the late move because he just can't go hard enough for 10' that it takes to establish the break, so trains far above threshold intensity too long and too often, leading to stagnation and fatigue and even more poor race performances. The triathlete ignores the importance of her swim and/or bike training to focus on the run which let her down and then expects to swim X minutes and bike at Y watts, so is ready to quit the sport when she still can't run well after thrashing herself trying to do the unrealistic during the time before T2.

The cyclist needs to subtract time spent launching ill fated solo attacks early in the race when everyone feels good and ready to an old teacher told me 'you can only truly attack twice in a race...and when you do, you must create 30 seconds separation almost immediately'.

For the triathlete, she needs to eliminate the idea that her run is the problem. She needs to assess where her fitness lies in all three sports and then consider what she is expecting to do in the race in each as it relates to that fitness. Certainly, she cannot expect to hold 80% of threshold for 112 miles and stand any chance of running a marathon within 20' of her stand alone time.

In an effort to practice what I preach, I've done a personal inventory, considering work situations that needed to be eliminated and training and racing mistakes that when subtracted will lead to an addition in the quality of my time.