Wednesday, June 28, 2017

When Short On Time...Climb

When short on time, climb.
"Excuses will always be there, opportunity will not."  - Anonymous

It's common for athletes with jobs, families, and other commitments to occasionally find themselves struggling to put in training units as they were originally planned.  The age old question then becomes..."Do I skip it, or push it to another day?".

A Matter of Interference
A thoughtfully crafted training plan uses the theory of interference to associate three training units; yesterday's workout, today's workout, and tomorrow's workout.  Depending on the adaptation objective (ie. stacking to create fatigue or varied to create relative rest) those training units have a specifically prescribed modality, intensity, and duration.  When a training unit is pushed ahead a day, even to a "relative rest" day, it potentially upsets the prescribed interference.  It's often better to take a rest day than push a workout ahead.  

Not All Training Units Are Created Equal
However, for athletes whose events are less than ninety minutes or for whom ascents are a key element (ie. mountain running), there are some training units that are more physiologically important than others.  Those training units are typically the ones designed to improve anaerobic threshold (in runners) or functional threshold power (in cyclists).  Because these training units are so rigorous they are used sparingly and typically only once or twice a week.  If an athlete finds themselves trying to decide whether or not to skip one of these higher intensity training units the following expression helps to solve the dilemma...when short on time, climb.

The Most Bang For The Buck
It's always better to put in a hard 30 minute effort than to take a zero.  And there is perhaps no better training terrain than hills to hit so many important performance variables.  Hills help to improve anaerobic threshold, functional threshold power, strength endurance, and mental toughness.  If a longer threshold or tempo training unit isn't going to be feasible because life gets in the way, try one of these two SOT (short on time) workouts;

For Runners
Uphill Tabatas
10 minute-warm up
4 minutes of uphill tabatas; 10 seconds of max effort followed by 20 seconds of jogging (x8)
5-10 minute cool-down

For Cyclists
Sweet Spot 10
10 minute warm-up
10 minutes of climbing at just under FTP with 10 seconds out of the saddle surges every 3 minutes.
5-10 minute cool-down

While not specifically designed to replace an original threshold or tempo training unit, this short on time approach is far superior than a zero.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Take Rest Before You Need Rest

Joe Grey wins his 4th
consecutive MWRR.
Photo: Joe Viger Photography
"Take rest; a field that has rested yields a beautiful crop."  -Ovid

Athletes are taught that effort yields results.  And while it is most certainly sound physiologic principle, it is also true that periodic restoration allows the mind to refresh and the body to rejuvenate.  

The months of preparation for an "A" (or high priority) race tend to take a tremendous toll on an athlete psychologically and physiologically.  What you do following an "A" race may determine the next 6-8 months of training and racing.  Follow these guidelines to give yourself the best chance to go after your goals this fall.

Schedule A Transition
Transitions are periods in an athlete's training during which they come off a structured plan.  Generally these are scheduled after a macrocycle (8-12 weeks of training) and most commonly after an "A" race.  Without this important "time off" the grind of months of training followed by the emotional and physical toll of a big race can make an athlete susceptible to illness, injury, and burn out.  

During a transition the athlete can continue to exercise for physical and mental health but the pressure to log structured training units is removed.  The length of a transition (week or weeks) is directly related to the length of the "A" race with ultra's and marathons requiring up to four (4) weeks.  Effective transitions result in the athlete feeling mentally refreshed and physically rejuvenated. 

Take Care of Nagging Niggles
Within the last few weeks of a training cycle, leading up to a high priority event, it's easy to ignore nagging minor aches and pains (ie. "niggles").  Most athletes experience them.  The transition period is the perfect time to tend to and resolve these issues.  "Minor" physical issues have the predisposition to turn into "major" physical issues if proper attention isn't given to them.  In nearly every circumstance with a little rest (absolute or relative) these "niggles" resolve.  

Get Back In The Gym
A solid strength training program is the most overlooked and underappreciated training modality for endurance athletes.  It's usually the first thing to fall by the wayside during a focused training cycle.  Transition periods are a great time to recommit to getting to the gym on a regular basis.

It is always better to take rest before you need rest.  An effective transition is like hitting the reset button.  It allows athletes to push ahead once again toward big goals without increasing the risk of getting sick, injured, or burning out. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Effort Follows Attitude

Ken Wiley at the 2016
Wilmington Whiteface 100k
(Photo courtesy of WW100k)
“Keep your face always toward the sunshine - and shadows will fall behind you." -Walt Whitman

We all have mental and physical limits.  Some races test them more than others.  At the 2016 Wilmington Whiteface 100k mountain bike race Ken Wiley endured a driving rainstorm that turned the course into 60 miles of slick roots and more mud than any drive train could handle.  Multiple broken chains may have slowed his progress but did not deter his will.  His 5:34 finish was good enough for 100th place but more than that his experience taught an important lesson.

A Lesson In Attitude & Effort
Once an event has started we can only control two things; our attitude and our effort.  Attention directed at anything else (the weather, course conditions, our competition) steals vital energy and may affect performance.  Athletes that are able to overcome tremendous obstacles and adversity understand that their effort follows their attitude.  It's normal human behavior to have negative thoughts.  It's common to have these thoughts during challenging athletic endeavors.  Successful athletes have the same negative inner dialogue as anyone else but the difference is they identify these thoughts as counter to their goals and quickly redirect attention to positive affirmations (ie. "I am prepared to suffer.").  If a negative attitude dominates the consciousness, the effort begins to feel exponentially more difficult and a vicious cycle of negative attitude and increased effort leading to a more negative attitude throws them into a devastating downward performance spiral.

On race day remember that you only have control of two things; your attitude and your effort.  But these are the most important two things to you reaching your performance goals.  It's okay to have negative thoughts.  Just be prepared to identify them and then redirect them toward positive affirmations that improve attitude and therefore performance.