Endurance Training Protocols
Our photo this week is Team MonGo doing wheat-grass shots at the Noosa Farmer's Market -- don't mind our goofy hats but the UV was 13 and we were trying to save our skin!
I was going to write about “mood management” (aka depression) but that doesn’t strike me as very festive – and, besides, I’m feeling better… …so we will pick that topic up in the new year.
Before we kick off a brief update on our Tucson Camps. We are doing two camps – March 22-30 (five spots left) and April 19-27 (three spots left). The camps will have a bike focus and are appropriate for athletes that are in 13-hour Ironman shape and faster. Looking around the internet, you have a lot of choices for 2008 camps. Here’s a bit on how we differentiate ourselves.
What makes us unique is our people. Our coaching/support team is a mixture of elite and highly successful agegroup athletes. We can tell you “what it takes” and also give you an objective view on “what’s realistic” within your life.
Jeff Shilt – Endurance Corner Doc, works full-time as an orthopedic surgeon/clinician. Multiple Ironman and Epic Camp finisher, most recently a Top 50 finisher at Ironman
Justin Daerr – been up on stage as an agegrouper in Kona and recently 8:40 at Ironman
Alan Couzens – Endurance Corner Exercise Physiologist, our sports science go-to-man. IM finisher and long term student of Olympic coaches/athletes.
Mat Steinmetz – graduate degree in exercise science, Mat heads up the testing program at our lab. Finished his first IM this year in Kentucky.
Gordo Byrn – from totally out of shape in the mid-90s to Ultraman Hawaii Champion (2002) and Top Ten fastest all-time result IM Canada (2004, 8:29). Co-author Going Long (over 20,000 copies sold). Former private equity partner (Schroder Ventures) and co-founder Heritor’s Group.
Monica Byrn (end of each camp) – one of the fastest swimmers (male or female) in our sport. IM Swim personal best of 46 minutes (IM New Zealand 2005). Monica will be offering up swim tips and leading a break-out session for the ladies.
Kevin Purcell (March Only) – husband, parent, leading coach and over-50 triathlete. Multiple Epic Camp finishes, Kona qualifications and agegroup podiums. Kevin is a particular expert with issues facing female and veteran athletes.
Robbie Ventura (April Only) – founder of Vision Quest Coaching, former elite cyclist on US Postal. Robbie brings a fresh look to long course racing. He’s attending the camp to prepare for Ironman Canada 2008.
My opinion is that what makes us truly special is our set-backs; failures; disappointments; and flaws. Of course, laying all those out wouldn’t be particularly motivating! Suffice to say, if you are facing a personal challenge in your life then we have personal experience with it, or have advised others in dealing with it.
We run the highest level of support you will find anywhere – maps, vehicles, sag, meals, laundry, sports nutrition, massage. The support means that you will get more training done.
Drop me a line if you want more information. I’m happy to answer any questions. The camps are intimate so we are able to tailor the schedule to meet personal needs (please remember to tell us).
My recent article on XTri got my mail box humming with various questions. I’ll pick these up as well as explain some philosophical points about endurance training.
What’s the best training protocol for me to use?
Start by considering what your goals are as well as the items that are holding your back.
Think along a three-year timeframe – what are the pieces that you will need to put together to achieve your goal? Most clients that come to me are seeking their ultimate success by the end of the next year. Life doesn’t work that way – nor would it be particularly rewarding if it did.
Many athletes are limited by factors outside their athletic lives (financial instability, poor nutrition, drug/alcohol use, conflict within their peer group, personal planning, ethical weakness, spousal abuse, sleep). Until these factors are addressed – no protocol is optimal.
To achieve our true athletic potential, we need to be operating from a position of harmony and stability. We also need to be willing to change.
What are you willing to change? Most people say they are willing to change but when they hit a true roadblock – revert to past patterns. There is an illogical (but real) comfort in our disfunctions.
Plateau’ed athletes are most often held back by these non-athletic factors – many chase various athletic protocols looking for the magic formula to over-ride these non-athletic limiters. Time and time again they crash due to the energy-draining impact of disharmony and lack of stability with their lives.
OK, I have my life in order, what do you recommend?
There isn’t one magic formula and I have doubts as to whether protocol has a large physical impact. We make endurance training far more complex and difficult than it needs to be. An effective protocol enhances mental state improving nutrition and athletic consistency. Similarly, an effective protocol has sensible limits that enhance consistency and speed recovery.
What works for an athlete finishing Top-5 in Kona will, likely, be totally inappropriate for an athlete seeking to qualify for Kona. In turn, the aspiring Kona-qualifier will be able to absorb a very different program than a first-timer.
Often we find ourselves training at a level that we aspire to attain – rather than – the level appropriate for our current fitness. Clients often compare my recommendations to the published programs of athletes that are, literally, hours ahead of them on race day.
As an aside, you should be wary of using any data that you have not directly measured across weeks (perhaps months). Much of the training data that I read is incorrect, or misleading in presentation.
If I had to point you in a direction then I’d say – search for the program that will enable you to maximize the amount of training you can absorb across a three-year timeframe. Then, do everything you can to avoid self-sabotage and promote consistency.
Some specific tips for this time of year:
Structure – lay out a Basic Week that you believe you can handle every week for the first 12 weeks of 2008.
Volume – go back to your log for January to March 2007. Calculate your average weekly volume.
Reality Check – most people will find that their Actual 2007 Week is 25-50% less than their Goal 2008 Week. At this stage, you will be tempted to make excuses for why this year will be different. That is a mistake –your actual performance is where you are currently at. That’s OK. The goal is to maximize your actual position.
Adjust – trim your Goal 2008 Week so that is lined up with your Actual 2007 week.
Execute – Weeks 1/4/7/10, do your goal week; Weeks 2/5/7/11, OK to increase volume with extra workout frequency (if you want); and Weeks 3/6/9/12 should be about 20% less than target.
Intensity – Keep your heart rate/power/pace under the lower of your VT1/LT heart rate/power/pace. Which ever ceiling you hit first -- stop there, that's fast enough. If you don’t have access to physiological testing then use Mark Allen’s MAP method.
Two exceptions: (a) big gear, low cadence work on the bike – you can exceed VT1/LT wattage, but not HR; (b) short bursts of high power/pace exercise swim/bike/run – you can exceed VT1/LT power/pace, but not HR.
As an aside, if your VT1/LT heart rate is lower than your MAP heart rate – use the VT1/LT heart rate (I recommend that you check it by sport). When you are honestly applying Mark’s protocol and it isn’t working then your VT1/LT heart rate is likely lower than your MAP heart rate. Athletes with this profile will nearly always think that the protocol didn’t work because they were going too easy! In fact, they were training too intensely to build the desired endurance adaptations.
If your VT1/LT heart rate is higher than your MAP heart rate then I would stick to MAP for your early season endurance training. After three months of endurance training, I would retest (by sport) and do your mod-hard (tempo) training slightly under VT1/LT power/pace with a cap of VT1/LT heart rate.
NOTE on MAP
Most people do not deviate on the high side – I think I am the only one we’ve seen so far in the lab (and my 39-year old physiology is far from normal). Even then, it might simply be an early season abnormality. We will know more as we use the met cart to track me across an entire year.
Far more common is VT1/LT occurring under MAP – as a result endurance adaptations are compromised when athletes use MAP as a target, rather than a ceiling – athletes show this very frequently in their bike data.
Many coaches use VT1/LT as the bottom of their endurance training zones – while you will get measurable fitness adaptations training at (and above) VT1/LT, desirable long distance endurance adaptations are compromised.
Nutrition – You will have more energy than last winter and be sick less often. Use your increased energy to increase the quality of your nutrition. We don't need to have cancer, to find an anti-cancer diet effective. I've found the nutritional method that we share in Going Long to be highly effective.
If you apply this protocol for the first quarter of 2008 then I absolutely guarantee that you will hit April 2008 fitter than April 2007. In addition, you will find that you have space in your life to be successful in much deeper sense than athletics alone.
Justin's Coach CV, Word Doc