Wednesday, November 21, 2012

making the most of your swim time.

When it comes to Winter and swim training there are as many schools of thought as there are on lifting weights for endurance athletes.  we won't go there... yet. 
I get asked a lot how I and many of my triathlon athletes are so good in the water on such minimal training time.  At the same time I find myself wondering and asking athletes who we only put a few minutes on in the swim that only started swim training in the last 3-4 months if its really worth it?

How Do We make the Most of Our Swim Training Time
Swimming does cost us allot of time. most of us are swimming at a gym so there is getting there and home, changing, saying hi to overly friendly trainer, etc...

Make the most of your time:
EK Endurance Coaching athletes have seen big gains with minimal time in the pool. why? remember in school when you discovered that when you had a ton of work to do yet it somehow got done faster? And you maybe even got better grades? I do. when you’re working on something as complex and dynamic as swimming and you do it a mere 1 hour a week, total focus and concentration are required!  For many Masters or your club swim is at way-to-early:30. if your gona get up that early and swim, put your game face on! work hard, get tech tips from the coach, work drills for your problems areas and keep swimming!! you will be surprised how much extra an easy 50 every time you’re waiting for the coach to give you the next set will add up to.
~And what about going to the gym. get your core work in, spinn class after swim, what else can you do to "Get Faster" and make the most of your trip?
~Make it part of your commute to work, miss traffic in the am or pm.
~Ask the coach, "what do I need work on?" my goal is XYZ, what are your thoughts? if I come alone what workout should I do? The Coaches are there for a reason use them! most will be happy you asked.

The Magic Workout:
when I lived in the Boston area some friends and I signed up for a 1/2 ironman. some of us were seasoned triathletes, some not and out of shape, some (me) had a whopping 4 weeks to prepare after the cycling season ended? I hadn't run in 3 years. it was my main worry but I had to swim some? right?
while training late in the summer we discovered what was referred to as the magic workout and still is by some old friends there.
~30' ride to Walden pond (local popular swimming area)
~30' swim. (across the pond and back)
~and a ride home. (sometimes the long way if time allowed)
my training partner quickly noted, "that is a kick a** workout!".  It was but I was more impressed by its functionality and great use of time.
We got a ride in. A 30' swim (similar to the distance and time for our 1/2 ironman swim. he also finished a 1 minute or so before me on each end of the swim allowing him to see my stroke and give a few pointers for the return trip). Swim cap and goggles fit nicely into our pocket and we got a the very key swim bike brick (more on that later)
2 sports, great workout, a brick effect, in 90 minutes!!  you can't beat that with a kick board!
bottom line here, look for and explore all your resources, and use them!
What we like to see from a master swim class:
~Instructor that can give you tech tips all the time.
~You should be focusing on tech always. esp. as you get tired near the end of the session.
~Minimal chatting at the wall.
~Long sets, minimal rest.
~Lots of threshold work and longer steady sets.
~With the above being said MIX IT UP. doing some sessions with some harder, all out work will make you a better overall swimmer!
~A fun group to swim with!! 
If you set up any pace training zones after a test they will likely not be used in many masters classes. However being aware of how hard you’re swimming, pacing yourself well during the class and during long sets is KEY!  This will make you a more aware athlete. you will get more out of each class and be a faster triathlete! 

Final thoughts:
  Swimming is a large time commitment for little real time gains in the race but realize it's a tough, full body, very tech. sensitive sport which is first in the race. Meaning a "Better" swim might not mean time gained in the swim but later in the race as well!!

Talk to your mentors, training partners, coach and swim coach. Make a well educated decision regarding your swimming needs and sch. accordingly.
Remember everyone is different. everyone's situation, resources, goals, fitness level, goal race.
"Train YOU before you train the race." 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Off season training article #3

Putting it all to work.  the last piece of the puzzle.

By the time we rest get re-focused and on track again it’s winter. Don’t despair! Before we get to specifics lets go over a few points so we don’t get side tracked this winter.

We all have different ideas on winter training. For some it is a vital time of year, laying the foundation for a big race mid summer or tuning speed for the early season duathlons,  Crits and road races.   For some, winter will be a success if we gain less than 10 pounds. What ever your motivations for this winter; balancing a structured plan with a good dose of spontaneity will get you in the best form ever, physically and mentally. 

Out look:
If you live in the northern states or anywhere that snows in the winter, and you’re not a pro, you simply can’t train as much in the winter. With darkness coming around 4:30pm, fridged morning temps and icy roads it just not possible. We won’t even get into jobs, girl friends, kids, wives, the Patriots game schedule, etc…
So now that we are at peace with the fact that we simply can’t put in as much time as we may want, we can focus on what to do with the time we have.

Find a Routine.
   With cold temps, warm beds and stale indoor air it is easy to get “off track”. Try to find some kind of routine. This could be one workout or rendezvous with a friend per week. ie. “every Wednesday morning John and I run together, no matter what.”  “Thursday night I do the spinning class at my gym.”  This one appointment can be the back bone of your winter success.  Find something that works with your schedule so it will be easy to keep this date and not get side tracked.
This can work for you in a great way if this one workout focuses on your weakness. I have seen athletes increase their max power by 10-14% over the course of 6 weeks during winter 2 focused workouts a week. Focus and consistency can get us VERY far, even if our volume is low.

The Bike:
These time constraints really hit hard when trying to work on your bike, especially if you are training for an early season race that’s long.   First thing to do is invest in the proper warm clothes. Water/wind proof booties and gloves. Warm tights, thermal cycling jacket, hat or helmet cover.  Investing in proper cycling winter gear will make your cold rides more enjoyable, more effective, and maybe a bit longer. One trick for cold feet is to use shoes 1 size to big and put in two insoles. And don’t jam your feet in there with to many socks. You’ll restrict circulation and have lumps for wood for feet in less than an hour.
   The trainer can be your worst enemy and your best ally all at once. If you are going to improve your riding regular visits to the trainer will be a must but they don’t have to be torture.
1. Don’t do the same thing day in day out. Mix it up with different workouts and the amount of time you spend on it. Try something new once every 2 weeks or so. Like watching football with your buddies.  3hr’s with big gear climbs every commercial, sprints every field goal, and hard tempo every time your team is on offence would make even the fittest cyclist slump over the handle bars by the final 2 minute drill. 

2. Keep your mind busy. When you’re not with your friends watch TV, listen to the radio, etc.
3.  Stay focused. I have just given you ways to distract your self from your work but the best way I find to make time fly is to have specific workout and stick to it. To the second. Warm up, cool down, some 10 minute strength intervals, rest intervals. You’ll find that riding for less than an hour becomes pretty difficult.   

These workouts I designed for just this reason. These can all be done in 1 hr – 90’ they are all very effective. There are a few endurance- threshold workouts. Strength workouts and 2 tough VO2 works. Enjoy!
* click on exercise library’s

 Take Care:
It is important that you take care of both your body and your equipment with the same care as you would in the summer months. Proper nutrition and stretching is vital to staying healthy and on the upward path. Care for your bike and trainer is also a must. Just because you are not out in the rain and dirt doesn’t mean you can just get off your bike and be done with it. Salt will build up on your bike and trainer and will destroy both if you don’t clean them. They will surely fail you when you need them most.

Getting to you, training your weaknesses:
Now that you know what your weak areas are (from fall training article #2) we can get right to it!  Trying to improve any weakness is not going to come easily or quickly so now is the time to start correcting them.

The key to training your weaknesses is a two part process.

  1. Break down the task at hand. 
a.       There is more to having great endurance than just pounding out the miles on the trainer or the swimming pool. Are you training at the optimal intensity? Make the workout Quality before Quantity.
b.      Endurance (for example) has 2 parts being able to resist fatigue (pounding out the quality miles) and efficiency.  How much of each pedal stroke is pushing the bike forward and how much is just moving your leg?  If you are .001% more efficient per pedal stroke, x 90 RPM’s x 60 minutes in 1 hr. for a 5 hour bike ride or race. That’s 27 % more efficiency!

OK, there is some fussy math in there but you get the point. If endurance is some thing you’re working on you don’t necessarily have to ride the trainer until 11pm and swim until your whole body prunes.  Incorporate drills into your training. Lots of drills.
To address this issue FP drills are key.

Workout #1: 3x5’ F.P. Pedal as fast as you can while still being in control. 110-120 is a great range .take 3’ rest. Build up to doing these at the end of your ride.
 Notes: This will work your Neurological durability as well as your general “endurance” as most people think of it.  Also when on the trainer realize you have no 0 time.  In a bike race you may only avg. 70ish rpms per minute.  And have 1/3 of your time at 0 watts or in a recovery zone! That allot! On the trainer doing the workout above you could avg. 100+ rpms and have 100% of your time in zone 2 and 3.
Recently I compared a team training ride with a ride a friend did the day before. “I only had 90’ to ride” he said in disappointment. After comparing his data with mine I noted that if you tock out the nearly 2 hours of 0 and recovery wattage time in my ride he had done the virtually same training as me!  90’ in zone 2 and 3. You could say mine was better because of the fatigue from the longer duration, or… one could say his was more effective because his effort was a continuous effort while mine had several “rest periods”…   a topic for another time. This is a great example of maximizing your time.

Workout #2. Zone training. Do 45’ or more in zone 3 after a good warm up/at end of your ride. Build up to 90 minutes of zone 3 time.
 Notes: Bump up the intensity! Do your “endurance” work in zone 3. Riding sub threshold has the same physiological adaptations as riding in zones 1-2 but they happen faster. The cost is greater fatigue and decreased repeat-ability  But if you don’t have the time to do 3+ hours every day then do it up! The key to this is doing your Z3 work as one steady interval and staying in your zone(no coasting)! Having detailed and accurate training zones is vital for this. A power meter is king here. This will rack up your kilojoules (total workload) must faster than riding in a group or doing zone 1-2 and will give you maximum return on your training time. By riding in zone 3 (tempo) you could do twice as much “work” in the time given than on along group ride. Two tips for making this work.
1.       Don’t go out to hard
2.       don’t spike your power on hills, when you stand, etc…

In a seminar I do every fall there are 2 slides. #1 is a power file from a group ride. 3:45 long.(riding time, more waiting for people etc.) and I accumulated 2100 kilojoules. (again just a number of total workload).
The 2nd slide is a power file from steady tempo ride . the ride was 2hr’s long and I accumulated 1862 kilojoules. That’s almost 900 kj’s/ hr compared to 540 kj’s / hr.   now this is NOT to say you don’t need to do the long rides. But the numbers speak for themselves.  Don’t’ have time and your looking to build some endurance. Zone 3 is your best friend!

2.      Stay true to the grand plan.
Lower intensity “endurance” training will most likely take up much of your training time in winter. So when training your weakness keep the overall intensity down! If you are working on your hill climbing go easy. Find a hill with a low grade so you can work on your climbing pedal stroke.
If you are working your sprinting power or anaerobic endurance, work the cadence aspect of it. Short, high cadence, spin ups are great for this.  Keep your recoveries on the long side.  Let your HR drop to Z3 or Z2 and keep the gear easy. With will allow you to work the neurological and technical aspect of these skills with out the cost of excess muscle damage and lactate build up. Working strength or sprint power again here. Push out that sprint or big geared stomp hard. But again long recoveries. This is keep the overall cost of the training session low. We’re not looking to mimic a race here! At least not yet… 

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Off season Training, Part II

Time to lay out the plans…

Your thinking “its the holidays! What could I possibly do for training??? Turkey Carving is some of the best deltoid training there is! This will make you more stable on the bike and resist fatigue longer! Don’t miss the opportunity.  Actually I am kidding. Thanksgiving marks the beginning on the holidays and the beginning of the long difficult road to start training again. I myself, have fallen victim to the following scenario before. First its time to rest, then turkey day comes along, then Christmas, Hanukkah  etc. which slams full speed into new years. Throw some travel for work in there, a vacation and maybe a wedding (went to a new years wedding a few years back. Best time ever) and the next thing you know its February, your turning 29. Again.  And you are barely going to get in 6 weeks of base training before spring.  

What to do?

Its time to plan.  The answer here is this is not the time to stress about training but to plan ahead.  And before we can plan ahead one must look back at the past. Looking at your past year or more of racing and training can be the best thing you do in planning for the next season.
Here are some steeps to get you on the road to success.
   1. Write down your general goals. Things that you want to focus on in general. Ie. Become a stronger runner, spend more time training on the bike.
   2. Then write down specific training objectives: these can be precisely measured.  Increase threshold wattage to 250.  Run sub 30:30 minute 10k, etc.
   3.  Then write down your goals, “win the state championships”. For races write down there dates and rank them in priority. 
   4. Most importantly identify your weak areas.

Finding these can be harder than it seems. Here are a few methods for analyzing your season and finding your weakness to get you started right in 2012.

Step one: Analyze Your Season
Did you meet your racing goals and training objectives? Did you peak when you wanted to? Did you go as fast as you predicted?  These should be pretty simple yes or no questions.  Look then at your training objectives as stated above. .  They should be measurable goals that are stair steps to you major goals. If you did not meet your major goals of the year the answer, or at least part of the answer, to why may be right there.  As you keep looking into why you did or did not meet your goals look at everything: job, personal life, relationship, etc. Stress out side of the athletic world is the number cause of people under performing. If you’re a lawyer working 60+ hours a week and training 20 hours a week as well as being a mother or father, you may be setting out about things in the wrong manner. There are only so many hours in the day!
Note what worked for you and what did not. The things that worked you will want to keep in your bag of tricks as these things will likely work again. The things that didn’t work, get rid of them! We’ll come up with something better!

Step two: Finding Your Weakness
There are 2 ways to look at this. A good starting point is finding your weakness by the numbers. On the bike, the easiest way to do this is test your power profile. Test your maximum power out put for 5 seconds, 1 minute, 5 minutes and your threshold power.
A power profile chart can show you where you are lacking. This is particularly good data for the rodie. Is this written in stone?  Is this the end of the road?  No, but it is a good starting point. A similar method would be to get tested in a lab.  Even if you don’t “need” the areas you are weak in they may still be holding you back.  For example, an ironman triathlete having a weak 5 sec. and 1 minute power. They don’t need that ability but if it is weak enough it is something that will hold your other abilities back. If it is an A race specific weakness (going to the Tour of the Gila and you’re not climbing well) then you have work to do!

Part two of this is comparing your weakness to your competition? “But Eric I don’t race other people I race my self.”  That’s great and I applaud that self motivation but if you want to improve the best place to look is to the people that are better than you.  For example, in your triathlon results if you’re coming in 50th on the swim 50th on the bike and 450th on the run time after time again working on your running would be a good place to start. If you’re getting dropped on short hills in bike races, short hills or 1 to 5 minute power outputs might be your weak point.  Before you make the decision as to what your weakness is make sure you have more than one or two examples that show your weakness.  Your ranked lowest in the run, you % loss is highest in the run,you’re your brick runs always feel “off” compared to fresh runs.
    Look at this deeply. This is very important. Are you not running well because you’re and bad runner OR because your swim and bike are not up to par and you’re paying for it on the run/ at the end of the race?  Are you getting dropped on the hills because you’re a bad climber or because the hills are at the end of the race and you have trouble there because your threshold power and endurance is not as good as your competition? Take some time with this, consult a coach and or trusted training partner or both.

All of this may look straight forward on paper but it’s harder to implement than it looks. Getting some one else to give you a good objective look at your self could be the best thing you do this fall.

Lets Put it to work!
Now you know where you want to go and have an idea on how to get there.  You are now armed with essential tools for planning and training for your season.          
1. You have you goal races down in the calendar.
2. You should know what key skill and abilities you will need to meet your goals at these events.
3. You should know what weakness you have, how severe they are and if they are specific to your main season goals.

Our next training article will address common weak areas and discuss workouts to address them.
Happy holidays!

Thursday, November 01, 2012

"Off" Seaon Training! What the heck does that mean?

Every Fall I talk about the same thing. Over and over. Why? well, people still ask, athletes still don't know, and every year there are new athletes, new dreams new goals and new ambitions.   
last yr. I did 8 live seminars at various locations around CO on these topics.    I wrote this first article 4, maybe more years ago. I have made some additions and updates, it needs more updates i'm sure. This is the first of 3 articles and they address what I feel is the most important time of year and the most important training you will do all year!   every year people ask my clients how they are so strong in spring and how they seem to never burn out, never get injured, and improve every single year.  the next 3 articles will get you in the right track. 
                                                                                      It’s the “Off Season” what do I … not do? 
          article one in our 3 part series.

  I get this question often this time of yr. “how do you NOT train?” Especially for the competitive cyclist or triathlete who has been racing all summer, sometimes every weekend, not training hard and racing all the time can feel very strange.

The Off Season:First off I want to stress the word “OFF” in off season. Off means   Off! The first and most important aspect of your next season is being totally fresh and completely motivated for next season. Now is the time to start that process.
Less is better here. Catch up on work, family, and drop off the bike at the shop for a tune up. Have them check it over for cracks in the frame along with full safety check. Racing is very hard on your equipment. The key with this phase is to make sure you are 110% ready to start training come the start of your program. The under trained, over motivated athlete will beat the perfectly training under motivated athlete every time! Come the beginning of “base training” you should be itching to train. It should be all you think about, so when its 20 degrees and freezing rain, your pumped up and ready to put in a solid training effort! This is also the best time to sit down with your coach and/or teammates   to discus what your goals will be for next year. How did you perform this year? What was good? What was bad? What will have to be different with your preparation for 20, etc

Ok some terms we need to get straight.  "Base" is not a verb. it is not an type of training. it describes a time frame. some coaches use other terms like foundation phase, etc. so just drop it from your vocab.   "Speed" is also NOT a type of training but lets say it is. speed is relative  take two athletes tell them to do "speed work" of their choice and you will see totally different workouts.  I always say "start with the science, then work in the real world, your resources, etc"  what energy zones are you    training? what are you focusing on during the training sessions? are you lactate threshold intervals? VO2 int. tempo (Zone 3) work? what? start there. if you want to call it "speed work", fine. 

Here are three easy steps for an effective off season.
1. Off time: Take an extended time of ZERO training. This will be deferent for every one. 2 weeks for some, 2 months for others. How ever much time you need to be totally rested and motivated to train again.
2. Recovery: Any lagging injury’s? Bike not working quite right for the last 2 months, been wanting to   get that nagging cough looked at. Do it!! Get a message go to the doctor, dentist, what ever you need to do to feel 110 percent physically and mentally for the next season. This is active recovery, taking   aggressive action towards healing. These are the most important aspects of off season training.
 3. Maintenance training: After this you may be ready to train but your program doesn't start for another month. What to do? Many pro’s and age groupers alike will take part in “unstructured training ”Its best to make is something different than your primary sport, try something new. It will most likely improve some skills needed in your primary sports. Just stay active, (cross training) will maintain your base fitness and, depending on your activity, can address your weakness leaving you fit, motivated and with stronger limiters than you had last year. A perfect way to start your next season!!

4. Cross Train! Go Mt. biking , running, play basket ball, tennis whatever you like and have put off  for the past summer. Working on stuff like this will help keep you injury free next year.

5. Most important have fun! Do those old training rides you did when you first started riding. Plan a trip. I have done a few long rides with friends in the fall that have proved to be lots of fun and great endurance training.
I'll be straight up. this is a bit of a teaser. Article 2 and 3 have much more substance, mush more specific "do this" and a bigger call to action. So hang tight it's coming next week!