Monday, November 26, 2007

training principles (training notes 11/25/07)

started up the build cycle again this week.

hit some positives, with the biggie being a solid long bike (290 minutes). i was kind of surprised by this ride. i was worried i was going to be suffering, with the headwinds being 10-15 mph during a 30 mile stretch, but i managed to hold things together. i was also worried about soreness (for the last 2 years, i've gotten soreness off bike rides that took weeks to get away), but i'm feeling fine 2 days after (well...fine as in no soreness, although i can tell there's no way i'd go out and do the same ride again right now). both are big positives compared to the training cycles from previous seasons.

i don't know why things are better this season. it could be my body is starting to adjust to Ironman training distances (i was told you need 3-4 iterations of the Ironman cycle before your body starts to adjust; this is my 3rd iteration). it could be i'm spending more time in recovery and less time in workouts (although, whether this is smart remains to be seen on race day). it could very well also be i'm not going as hard as i think i am (or should be going), and am under a delusion of adequate training that is actually deficient (i don't even want to think about that).

i have to say that i'm taking a number of different approaches this year:
  • for the past 5 years that i've been in triathlon, i operated under the principle of "pushing." by that, i mean that i pushed hard in workouts (effort level) and pushed hard to get workouts (volume per workout and quantity of total workouts). this year, i'm operating under the principle of "holding back," meaning that i'm controlling effort level in workouts (sticking to the workout goal: aerobic conditioning means aerobic zone heart rate, anaerobic conditioning means anaerobic zone heart rate...and never confuse the 2--see below), and spacing out workouts (set the volume and quantity of workouts to allow more recovery--see below). this change in principle came after some discussion with coaches, who told me that in Ironman, you have to know--and more importantly, balance--2 opposing dualities: the art of knowing when and how to push, and the art of knowing when and how to hold back. it's tricky, which is why it takes some iterations of the Ironman cycle to get a feel for it.
  • keep the easy workouts easy, and the hard workouts hard. NEVER confuse the 2, otherwise your workouts just become a muddle...and race day reflects your training: if you train in a muddle, you race in a muddle. the reason to keep "easy" and "hard" workouts separate is that training is about developing specific aspects of your fitness, which involves targeting specific systems in your body in specific patterns that allow recovery time to adjust to greater performance demands while still allowing simultaneous training of other systems (e.g., you do an aerobic swim workout, stressing the muscles in your upper body, then later do an aerobic run workout which allows your upper body to recover but still develops your lower body muscles). muddling means you keep stressing the same system over and over, denying recovery time to build fitness; keeping workouts divided allows recovery for individual systems while maintaining overall progression in fitness. this means that in a given week, you target maybe 1, 2, or at the most 3 workout as the "hard" workouts ("hard" as in high volume, or high intensity) to incite adaptive change in the body, but then keep the others very "easy" ("easy" as in lower volume or lower intensity, or even both) to allow recovery while maintaining conditioning and technique. this year, if a workout is meant to be aerobic, zone 3, i try to keep it aerobic zone 3 (even if i feel the temptation to open up the throttle, i ignore it), and if a workout is meant to be anaerobic, zone 5, i try to go anaerobic, zone 5 (or i just don't do it at all).
  • space the workouts to allow more recovery time. i used to think that packing more training in less time meant better training (as in better performance gains). not so much anymore. after talking things over with some coaches, i started becoming much more spare with how many "hard" workouts i cram into any given week or build cycle. this past 5-hour bike ride, for example, i did with the knowledge that it would take me about a week for my body to really recover, and that any workouts i did during this time would have to be aimed more for maintenance of fitness, or otherwise i risked just simply overtraining and prevention of recovery that would deny any fitness gains from the ride. at this point, i'm holding to no more than 2 hard workouts in any given week.
  • training is about 3 things: workouts, nutrition, recovery. i used to obsess about the workouts, focusing on numbers (heart rate, distance, time) and feeling (amount of fatigue, amount of sweat). but now i'm spending a lot more time thinking about food (particularly in terms of nutrients like protein, complex carbohydrates, fats) and recovery (especially with respect to how i feel: stronger, vibrant, restless, or fatigued, listless, sluggish).
  • in "feel the Force." this is where you get into the Zen. i'm dedicating a lot more care into sensing my body and my emotions--i know this is crossing over into "touchy-feely" territory, but i'm figuring that my body and my mind are giving me signals as to training, and i need to monitor them if i want to make sure the training results in fitness gains (as opposed to fitness losses). i'm starting to realize that if you have a 3-hour run scheduled and you wake up that morning 2 hours late and struggling just to get out of bed, any attempt you make to train is going to be weak, likely to fall short of whatever training goals the workout was meant to have, and thereby just a waste of time, since it risks expenditure of energy with no fitness gain. if anything, it's likely to push you into an overtraining mode, meaning you actually lose fitness. these kinds of feeling are your body telling your mind that it needs more time to recover. in which case, the smart thing to do is to understand the signals and hold don't push the Force, you follow the Force; if you push the Force you only hurt yourself. you have to allow the Force to flow through you.
i should note that last piece is suspiciously like Taoism (not that i'm Taoist...i'm not, but it's interesting to see how George Lucas borrowed from Taoist and Zen philosophies). in Taoist terms: you cannot push the Tao (i.e., the Way), or the Tao will only allow you to hurt yourself; to use the Tao, you must follow the Tao, flow with the Tao, so that the Tao helps you.

so far, all this has helped me with my training, in the sense that i'm able to get through the hard workouts without suffering so much. and i'm feeling a lot fresher in my daily life. meaning that i'm easier for other people to be around, and more enthusiastic about training.

of course, the real question is what this means for race day...and for that i have no idea. and i don't think anyone ever really knows, given all the random unforeseen chaos that occurs on race day. all i can do is hope that i'm coming in maximally prepared and at my peak. we'll see.

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