Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Periodization Training Model

Now that I have the results from my Lactate Threshold (LT) test, in conjunction with a coaching plan from TrainingPeaks, I have developed my base-level endurance building plan for the next 12 weeks.

Part of the service Boulder Center for Sports Medicine (BCSM) provides when you have a LT test is a consultation with Neal Henderson. Neal is sports science manager at BCSM and a well-regarded elite-level coach. Henderson’s clients include Garmin-Chipotle’s Taylor Phinney, Jelly Belly’s Scott Tietzel and Trish Downing, a nationally ranked paraplegic athlete. Henderson is also the winter triathlon coach for the U.S. national triathlon team, and this year was named USA Cycling National Development Coach of the Year. [Another reason the BCSM evaluation is such a bargain.]

Neal reviewed my admittedly insipid results with a straight face and helped me plan my training program.

Endurance athletes typically use a “periodization” training model. That means training volume and intensity change through a season. One of the key principles used is overload – you must increase training stress to improve fitness. But if you continually increase the amount of training you do, you will quickly reach a point of exhaustion. To avoid that problem, periodization includes blocks of increasing stress followed by recovery periods.

Typically, the plans you’ll see on the various on-line coaching sites call for 3 weeks of increasing training load (either volume or intensity or both), followed by 1 recovery week. Neal stated that when he coaches Masters level athletes (meaning old coots like me and Phil), he prefers a 2 weeks on/1 week off model.

At this point in our season – 10 months in advance of our planned event peak – our focus is on building our base-level endurance. This involves training at a low, steady heart rate. It allows your body to improve its aerobic efficiency, build endurance and burn fat as the fuel for the effort.

It is tedious, sweaty work and deceptive. It just doesn't feel like you are working hard enough to improve your fitness. After a workout at this intensity I’m typically not fatigued – it seems like a big waste of time. Many athletes make the mistake of going harder than they ought to during this phase. That results in fitness without a strong enough foundation to support sustained efforts. Their sought-after fitness goals may never be reached due to lack of proper foundation.

Fully 75% of my training time over the next 12 weeks will be spent in this “overdistance” training zone (for me, that means 70 -100 Watts and keeping my heart rate (HR) below 122).

About 15% of my remaining training time during this base building period will be spent in the “Endurance” training zone (100 -125 Watts; HR between 122 -135). The Endurance zone feels like work after you maintain the effort for 30 or more minutes. By 90 minutes to 2 hours my legs are definitely fatigued.

The final 10% of my training time will be split between Tempo and Lactate Threshold training. The perceived level of exertion for those training sessions is between “hard” and “I’d really like to throw up now.” I hope to use cyclocross races for this training level. It is easier to give that level of effort in a race setting rather than on our CompuTrainers in the basement. We are beginning to incorporate some light core training 2 days a week, and the plan is to also add in 2 sessions of yoga each week.

None of this sounds like much fun, but when my fitness allows me to get out and ride in beautiful places with my favorite people all the time and effort seems worthwhile.

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