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, February 16, 2011

planning a day - long workouts

Long workouts are my favorite - as i find them to be mentally rejuvenating rather than stressful.  In keeping the universe in balance, however, they also tend to be the most physically depleting.

For long workouts i try to have a time/distance goal - i'm pretty anal so i usually use the time alloted and a pace determined by armchair ambition to set a distance and use it to plot my course.  if i manage to come in under time (which rarely happens) i'll add on a couple minutes of easy running until i've hit the time mark.  if i end up being off pace, i'll try to pick it up at the end and finish the distance in as close to the 'allotted' time as possible.  occasionally i'll run a couple of minutes longer than the workout prescribes, but never more than a couple.

I like the long runs because i don't have to psyche myself up much - all i've got to do is make sure i start.  i usually have some energy at the beginning so am able to settle into a decent pace rather quickly and feel good about it.  by the time the pace doesn't feel good anymore, i'm mentally committed to the workout, the adrenaline/endorphins/whatever-other-chemicals-are-up-there-in-my-synapses are full strength, i'm grooving to my tunes, and ready to push a bit. 

The key to getting the most out of these workouts is to strive for sustained Zone 3 effort (i refer you again to Joe Friel's website for information on training zones).  Zone three, or 'muscular endurance', shouldn't feel easy by any means, but it won't be the sustained effort that your tempo runs are (where you should be pushing lactate threshold, or Zone 4 during the work phase).  Joe call's zone 3 'happy hard' - it's hard enough so that you really feel like you're doing something, which makes you happy.  Most long runs in this program are less than 2 hours and so the aim is to build until you can spend as much of that time outside your comfort zone - going happy hard - as possible.  This is very different from many ultra endurance training regimines  based on classic conventional wisdom which advocate spending lots of time in Zone 1 and 2, very little in Zone 3, 10-15 % in Zone 4, and a few brief intervals above lactate threshold, in Zone 5.  If you're training on limited volume, this breakdown doesn't allow for enough stress to be placed on your physical system for much improvement.  And if your goal is to perform well over the long haul on such a schedule, mentally it's even worse.  

The idea is to mentally (again, if you've read my introductory posts you should recall how important i think mental fitness is to having success in endurance events) make a phase shift up the scale of zones - to move towards a point where the mental effort that was previously required for physical activity in Zone 2 can now sustain activity in Zone 3.  Zone 2 becomes the easiest training zone you access in this program, and even so you use it sparingly - for recovery between work intervals in the tempo workouts, as warm-up and cool down efforts on long and speed workouts.  Mentally it becomes your 'easy' pace - a great boon when you head out for that 50 mile race or century ride.  Of course training in Zone 3 is much more physically demanding than in Zone 2 - which means that even this 'long' workout will result in some of the significant muscular soreness that is usually associated with shorter, more intense workouts.  But of course you knew that there were no gimmie days in the program, didn't you.  At least you get to take the next day off (:

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