For new readers

To get an idea of what I'm trying to do and why I think it's possible, check out the following entries, they'll help get you up to speed.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

periodization on three hours a week

The goal of 'the program' as i'll call it, is to develop a high enough level of fitness to complete and compete in pretty much any type of endurance event there is.  Again, there are the obvious caveats - events that require skill can only be trained for once the skill is mastered, etc.  But assuming one has these skills and wants to get fit enough to be able to do something 'big' with them, without a 'big' time committment, then if the mind cooperates, i think it can be done. In fact, I personally have trained for multi-day events as well as races where continuous 24+ hour pushes were required using these principles. 

I read once (and i'll try to track down the source when i have time) that any serious effort over a few hours can't really be considered training in the same way lesser durations are.  The argument goes that when you push hard for three hours or so you start requiring things from your body beyond what it's been able to physiologically adapt for.  You start tearing things down.  This makes sense when you take care to define what is meant by 'serious effort' - if you refer to training zones i'm using the term to mean a Zone 3 or above effort.  In the language of Joel Friel, my introduction to training zones, this equates to training muscular endurance, aerobic threshold, or anaerobic endurance.  In the more common language of intensity, we're talking about high intensity training (HIT), which is roughly characterized as training at between 70-95% of your maximum heart rate (MHR).  Now when we're talking about a three hour workout, you're definitely going to be confined at the lower ranges (lower Zone 3, 70% MHR).  Remember, these definitions are subjective, so it's really,even just based on the logic of the words, not possible to go out and do a long workout in these zones.  If you're going out for a six hour ride - you're not riding in Zone 3 or 4.

Most endurance workout schedules spend lots, if not the majority of time, not doing HIT work.  And this is probably smart - HIT training is brutal.  if you're putting in 20 hours a week and s significant amout of that was HIT, you wouldn't have ample time to recover - you'd be overtraining and your fitness wouldn't improve.  Research has shown that the physiological adaptations provided by HIT training are far greater than equal time training at lesser intensities (no surprise), but perhaps more importantly, that there are no specific adaptations provided for by long duration low intensity training that can't also be realized through HIT work.  So why are people still spending hours doing low intensity work, you might ask?  Well for one, HIT training is hard - really hard - both mentally and physically.  some people are happy to put in 10 hours of more moderate work to get the benefits that might be afforded by 3 hours of gut busting effort - they may have the time and get something else out of the training as well - time to think, time for themselves, endorphins, comraderie, etc.  In addition, there's a fairly tradition (and lots of conventional wisdom) that still suggests that the only way to prepare for a long event is to grind out the miles.  Luckily for those like me who are ambitious and time crunched, i'm pretty confident that this this wisdom, like so much other conventional wisdom, is outdated and untrue.

When i've got an event on my calendar, i typically try to start a focused training cycle about 8 weeks out.  Personally i've found success using any multiple of 4 week blocks, but find that to truly push the intensity and maintain my motivation for more than 8 weeks is difficult.  Coming off a 'general' training phase, which will be described later - and assuming that my 'event' is on the weekend of the 8th week, i'll structure my weekly hours as follows:
  1. 3 hours
    1. 40 min workout (speed) - primary
    2. 1 hour workout (tempo)
    3. 1:20 workout (Long) - primary
  2. 3 hours
    1. 30 min workout (speed)
    2. 1 hour workout (tempo) - primary
    3. 1:30 workout (long) - primary
  3. 4 hours
    1. 30 min (speed) - primary
    2. 1 hour (tempo) - primary
    3. 30 min (speed)
    4. 2 hours (long) - primary
  4. 2 hours
    1. 45 (tempo)
    2. 30 (speed) - primary
    3. 45 (tempo) - primary
  5. 3.5 hours
    1. 40 speed
    2. 50 tempo - primary
    3. 2 hours (long) - primary
  6. 2.5 hours
    1. 1 hour (tempo)
    2. 40 (speed) - primary
    3. 50 (tempo) - primary
  7. 4.5 hours
    1. 3 (long) - primary
    2. 1 hour (tempo)
    3. 30 (speed) primary
  8. 1.5 hours
    1. 1 hour (tempo/easy) - early in week
    2. 30 min (speed/easy) - primary.  half the usual number of intervals.  leave one-two days before event.
    3. RACE/EVENT!
i'll explain in more detail the speed, tempo, and long labels in the next post.  here primary refers to the discipline of the race (ie running for a marathon).  things get a little more complicated for multi-disciplinary events - two disciplines is relatively straightforward, three (triathlon) a bit trickier as it involves adding a fourth workout each week, which means the workout times change. I'll give sample workout plans for various events (triathlon, adventure racing, etc) in a later post.  It can be noted that every two weeks only requires 6 training hours - three hours per week.  I'm a firm believer in the potential for this type of schedule - i think if you're able to stick to such a limited and intense program you'll see far greater gains in fitness, speed and endurace than you would with many other programs that require three times (or more) as many training hours.  you still get some long workouts which can be important mentally (getting the feeling of sustained effort) and logistically - lots of things require attention after the first hour - hydration and nutrition most obviously.  There's ample recovery time which means you'll be able to pour more into each workout and have to worry alot less about the specter of overtraining.  every fourth week is an 'easy week' in terms of training volume - i'll often include a benchmark workout during this week to gauge my progress.  Next post i'll talk in more detail about an individual week and each of the three key workout types, speed, tempo, and long.

1 comment:

  1. Andy, I really found your philosophy toward training very interesting. A couple of questions/comments came to mind, however, when reading. I was wondering what your thoughts were on base training. Seems to me that this type of plan would work great for someone who already has built a significant endurance base. But for the novice/beginner, conventional wisdom would suggest that a significant base is needed in order to push at the intensity needed as well as recover, to benefit from the lower volume HIT. Also, it's always been told/taught to me that training for long durations in Z1 trains the body to use fat deposits sooner during an event, saving the glycogen deposits for later when more anaerobic movements are required, the old mantra being "fat first, glycogen for when you're gassed." I've always been taught/coached in the "old school" philosophy, but now that I'm no longer a student any more, work among other pursuits seem to take priority over training. So more and more I am looking for newer/better ways to make the most of my limited training time. Your posts have been enlightening, thank you.