Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Train Easier For Your Next PR

by Derick Williamson, M.Ed.

It’s in our nature, we’re triathletes, we like to run bike and swim, often times we like to do these things fast or hard because it feels like it’s providing us the greatest benefit. During the week we can find ourselves strapped for time and the time we have to train turns into a race effort instead of a well thought through workout. Sure it feels good when you are done but are you really getting the most out of your time and is your fitness really going to improve? Moreover this practice could lead to an overuse injury, staleness or unnecessary fatigue leaving you in a cycle of never training hard enough to really get better because you never really train slow enough to optimally recover. Many triathletes can better prepare themselves for this season by training slower, that’s right I said it, train slower.

Sounds too good to be true, eh? Train easier and get faster, well it’s only part of the equation (but it’s a big part) as by training easier on those recovery days you can then train faster on your hard days. It’s that ability to push harder on your key workout days and then adequately recover, that will push you beyond a plateau and onto a new fitness peak.

Begin to look at your training weeks as a series of overload and recovery days. Overload days are what we consider to be those hard workout days, these are the key workouts that we do such as long runs or rides, hard masters’ sets, tempos, Fartleks, hill repeats, threshold intervals, etc. Even the most elite triathletes can only handle about 2-3 of these type of overload blocks in a week. For the most part, the remainder of the week should be centered around maintenance of volume and recovery, both from the previous workout as well as in preparation for the subsequent workouts. If doing double workouts, try making both of those workouts an overload workout so that the next day can be devoted to a recovery session.

Overload may come in several forms, you may overload the duration such as increasing a tempo run from 2 to 3 miles while maintaining the same pace, the overload may come from intensity such as doing cycling intervals at a power or heart rate higher than before, overload can also come from frequency such as altering the amount of recovery time between intervals or it can be a combination of all of three. The idea is that you always want to be inducing a stress on the body that will create an overload in a progressive nature; this gives your body enough time to make adaptations without getting injured.

Recovery can be classified in several categories active recovery, full recovery and even recovery weeks. Active recovery takes into account those workouts that are done at very low intensities and shorter durations. These workouts are designed to help maintain your training volume while at the same time providing an increased blood flow which delivers oxygen and nutrients to the muscle and facilitates recovery. Active recovery can be done as easy runs, rides, swimming or even as cross training such as XC skiing or aqua jogging. Full recovery, as the name implies, is the day entirely off of training and recovery weeks entail a reduction in intensity and volume through the week.

The reason this concept of overload and recovery goes back to one of the most common mistakes triathletes can make and that is they train to hard on their easy workouts. Thus really make sure to do the recovery sessions at an intensity that truly allows recovery. Do not let yourself spend too much time in the “gray” zone plodding from one workout to the next and never really getting the most out of your training. The best way to keep yourself from getting into this routine is to set up a 7-day training cycle and identify 2 days during the week that are going to be devoted to overload workouts such as intervals or a hard set as well as a long run and ride on the weekend. The other days should be devoted to recovering from these workouts. Give yourself 24-48 hours recovery between the overload days by either cross training or training at low intensities. As a good rule of thumb you should finish a recovery workout feeling better than you did when you started it, if this isn’t the case you were going to long, to hard or both. Often recovery workouts are done at about 60-75% of your heart rate max and they should feel about like a 6 on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being an all out race type effort. The duration of recovery workouts should be between 20-90 minutes of training. Those that have a greater amount of mileage in their legs or are cross training on their recovery days may find they recover well with a workout that is upwards of 90minutes, others will want to begin with shorter durations.

Try incorporating more structured recovery into your training program, it just might let you train slower to that next PR.

To learn more about training programs, check out www.duratatraining.com.

1 comment:

CHeSKa said...

Thanks, this was perfect timing.