I continue to think about this whole program as i train for the arrowhead. I'm beginning to realize that i need to flesh out some of the ideas - particularly when it comes to the maintenance of a base level of fitness. about 12 weeks ago i decided to target my training for this arrowhead race and crafted a schedule that would aim towards this. the problem is that my expectations were that i would see improvement every week. given my relatively 'high' base level of fitness, this turned out to be a tall order. In looking back over the past 6 months and beyond, i recognized that i typically felt the best, strongest, fastest, and closest to my 'peak' typically after about six weeks of dedicated, 'ramped up' training. Mentally, especially when coming off of a maintenance period, i'm easily able to sustain increased motivational levels for this period and have solid, focused, consistently more intense workouts. After this amount of time i've tended to feel some sort of a plateau - probably mainly motivational but perhaps somewhat physical - and end up coping with this by hitting kind of 'reset' button after a number of less than satisfactory workouts. What i'm finding out now, however, is that after hitting reset i tend to have a couple good workouts and then start to stagnate again. In reflecting a bit and re-reading some of the original theory that i wrote about, i think i know how to deal with and correct the issue.
I have what i think of as a 'maintenance' zone for my training. There is a bottom level fitness that i feel comfortable having and as long as i'm maintaining these basic capabilities, if i'm not training specifically for anything, i am content. During these times there is much less pressure mentally during my workouts - i'm never lazy but i also don't have a specific agenda/goal with each workout (at least not going in - i often craft one immediately before or during the warm-up, based on my percieved energy levels/fatigue at the time, this keeps me from having any truly 'easy' workouts) - so there's no anxiety attached as there sometimes is going into, say, a preplanned speed workout where i'm trying to meet or exceed some benchmark. Essentially what i've done is place my 'mainenance' zone in a place where i'm able to maintain/develop/increase a relatively high level of all around fitness without worrying about motivational and/or mental struggles. This zone then is an already well positioned springboard from which a small amount of dedicated and more mentally difficult training can produce a jump in ability targeted at a particular race or discipline.
I believe that i can maintain this fitness easily on the three hour a week schedule in (possibly) up to three disciplines. This would allow for competetive age group performance in triathlons and adventure racing, in addition to single discipline events such as endurance running or mountain biking. There are a couple of things that need to be made explicit:
1). My maintenance zone is NOT comparable to many other training programs 'off season's'. I don't take any off season. I commit three hours a week to a reasonably high intensity work, but without a particular agenda. If i considered myself an adventure racer, for example, i might bike, run, and paddle one day each week, with a rotating schedule of speed, tempo, and endurance focused workouts. This ensures variety and that in time, the power, muscular endurance, and aerobic endurance can all be trained for each discipline. In addition, because of the limited training time, no 'off season' is needed to prevent overtraining and recovery.
2) Maintenance zone workouts are not 'easy'. The goal is to develop and improve what will be considered your base level of fitness in the disciplines that you are interested in. as such, it will be important to continue to challenge yourself occasionally (i've decided to have one workout a week be considered my 'challenge' workout during periods of maintenance, hitting a different discipline each week) with a higher than normal level of intensity. All other workouts should be aimed at or above what you want to be your 'base' level of fitness. For example, when i started running seriously a couple years ago i decided i wanted my base level of running ability to enable me to run a 1:30-1:35 half marathon, and worked to get it there. This means that today, even though i'm only running once a week, typically for less than 40 minutes - i could go out and do this tomorrow if i needed too (though the next day would be interesting...). I hope (and plan) that barring those times i'm ill or recovering from an event i'll be able to do so essentially on a whim. In a sense your 'base' level of fitness is your floor - it's your 'off the couch' ability because, well, it's as 'off the couch' as you ever plan to get.
3) Although i haven't yet tried, i'm thinking that, as suggested above, six to eight weeks of dedicated training will be the right amount of time to move from my base level to near my peak level of fitness (based on a three hours a week program). Again, this is just based on past data, but i'll have a chance to try it out after the arrowhead - when i plan to return to a mainenance schedule until about six weeks before the chippewa triathlon in June. we'll see how it goes.
One last thought - I had a decent workout yesterday on the treadmill that i think is a great 'maintenance workout' - it is random (which leaves nothing to be anxious about), allows for the challenge to be built slowly and be dependent upon immediate feedback, and has built in intensity intervals. It's going to serve fairly exclusively as my run workout over the next three weeks - since i'm only running minimally now in a maintenance phase as i get ready for the impending arrowhead race. i'll detail it in the next post.
YogaSlackers Women Who Sport
4 months ago