Monthly Archives: January 2016

Training Schedules, Planning & Life’s Impacts

Life with children, jobs and schedules that do not conform to a training schedule is probably the biggest challenge any amateur athletes faces. I am no different, and for me, there was a very hard lesson in that, dealing with a training plan while being flexible to an ever changing life schedule. There are times when sticking to the plan is a near impossibility, and worse, any deviation from ‘the plan’ just created more stress and friction, which made the problems cascade.

Somewhere along the way, someone reminded me of the most important tidbit that I was letting slip; this is supposed to be fun too. It is hard, sometimes it hurts, but at the end of the day, I am doing it because I want to, not because I have to. Remembering that, I found a need to reengineer how I train and workout, and more specifically, how I build my training plans. Once I hit the end of the season last year, I started with a new philosophy, and I am finding that I am so much better mentally and physically.

10-15 Workouts a Week

In the past, I set up rigid schedules.
* Monday was Swim/Bike ( recovery pacing )
* Tuesday was Core/Run ( tempo )
* Wednesday was Swim/Lift/Bike ( fast twitch )
* Thursday was Core/Run ( fast twitch )
* Friday was Rest Day
* Saturday was Bike/Run/Cross ( endurance )
* Sunday was Swim/Run/Cross ( endurance )

Missed workouts made me stressed about not hitting goals, and honestly, going into the later portions of the season, I was in grind mode. It wasn’t much fun.

This season, I decided to change it, and build in some fun along with some adaptability. Instead of such a rigid schedule, I set up my workout plan and adjust as life dictates. A missed workout isn’t a crisis, and I am switching to a regimen that emphasizes volume in Z2-Z3 over more traditional Z4 high intensity workouts. The intent is that I should spend 85% of my training time in low Z3 or lower, but I will probably accumulate more miles and hours than I did in the past.

What does this look like in practice though?

Let’s look at last week for example. Last week was a baseline week, so it was about measurements.

  1. Swim ( easy pace 2000 meters )
  2. Bike ( FTP test, 60 minutes )
  3. Core ( body weight only core, 30 minutes )
  4. Run ( easy pace shortest of 30 minutes or 3 miles )
  5. Swim ( Speed test, warmup, 1000 meters at threshold timed, cool down )
  6. Pilates ( abs/core focus, 30 minutes )
  7. Bike ( 60 minutes, athletes choice )
  8. Yoga Stretching ( whole body, breathing focus for 30 minutes )
  9. Run ( Lactate Threshold Test, crying is allowed )
  10. Life-Style Exercise ( Golf, Walk, Hike, Swim, Bike, athletes choice, 60 minutes )
  11. Bike/Run Brick ( endurance pace, 90 minutes bike, 30 run )
  12. Swim ( endurance pace, 60 minutes )
  13. Life-Style Exercise ( minimum 60 minutes )

There are not rigid days for getting these done, so last week, 1,2 & 3 all got done on Monday. Tuesday was just 4. Wednesday got 5,6 & 7 done. Thursday saw 8 & 9. Friday, got 11 done, and Saturday saw 10 get done, and due to some schedule conflicts, a 60 minute bike was subbed in for 12. Sunday? it was a treated as a Rest Day with cleaning house as the Life-Style exercise. Trust me, that’s a workout, we have kids in the house.

The key is to look at the body of work, and be fine with missing a workout here or there, and being willing to adapt. Missing a swim isn’t going to break a race, but getting bent out of shape because it got missed, or because Saturday is overbooked and getting angry (or missing out on important life events) because of a workout might ruin a race. In addition, each week I flag 5 workouts as key workouts that are the ‘important’ ones, and if something has to be cut, these are the last to go.

In full disclosure, my weight is up about 10 lbs from my race weight of 185 lbs. I do not consider this a crisis, as it will come off over the coming months. My LTR is right where it was at the end of last season. I was hoping it would have come down a little, and since I did the test indoors on a treadmill, it may well have. I do not cool as well indoors. The bike FTP number is actually a little higher than I expected. For the test this session, I used the numbers from the TACX Bushido trainer instead of off the crank based 4iiii Precision power meter. The Bushido has been consistently about 8% lower than the Precision, and it was again for this test, but the output number is 1 watt greater than my end of season FTP test using the Precision..

So what does this first build week look like?

  1. Swim ( Z3 intervals 4×100 meters )
  2. Bike ( Z2-Z3 intervals 6×6 minutes / 2 minute recovery )
  3. Core ( body weight only core, 30 minutes )
  4. Run ( easy pace shortest of 30 minutes or 3 miles )
  5. Swim ( tempo, 2000 metere )
  6. Pilates ( abs/core focus, 30 minutes )
  7. Bike ( 60 minutes, recreational pace )
  8. Yoga Stretching ( whole body, breathing focus for 30 minutes )
  9. Run ( cadence drill, 10 minute warmup, 30 minutes at 175 spm cadence w/ metronome, 5 minute cooldown )
  10. Life-Style Exercise ( Golf, Walk, Hike, Swim, Bike, athletes choice, 60 minutes )
  11. Bike/Run Brick ( endurance pace w/ hills, 90+ minutes bike, 30 run )
  12. Swim ( endurance pace, 60 minutes )
  13. Life-Style Exercise ( minimum 60 minutes )

When the week forces adjustments, they’ll be made, and I know going into each week exactly what can be adjusted. I also know that if Friday’s schedule sets up to make those workouts exceptionally difficult to fit in, then I can adjust my ‘rest’ to Friday, or pick it up somewhere in the middle if needed.

Talking Power

Clean and Ready to Roll

With the start of training season, that means it is time to set base lines. Or more specifically, time to test current fitness levels in order to set training zones and target where I need to improve. Last night was the first of those tests, the infamous bike FTP test. The FTP, or Functional Threshold Power is a number that, in theory at least, an athlete can maintain for an hour without going into the zones where your muscle begin to accumulate lactate.

As a triathlete, I target about 80% of that FTP number as my average power output for a long course race. For sprint courses, I’ll go at or above 100% of that number, because it’s “only” a 5k run off the bike :), but I never claimed that I race sprints “smart”.

For this year, I decided to use Zwift’s workout mode to test it, and to run a comparison with both power meters running at the same time. They produced similar numbers, so for the future, I will likely rely on the trainer numbers, which with Zwift came out very close to what was expected.

The number for the test came up at 237 watts as my FTP, which is fine, but invariably, people get an FTP and immediately want to start comparing their numbers to mine. Don’t do it, it is a comparison that means absolutely nothing, because watts produced is only a small part of the picture. IF you must compare something, the number you would want to compare is watts per kilogram, because that is a far more accurate indicator of strength.

Looking at it that way, I am an almost 200b male (195 lbs. November and December were not good months for my weight). Converted to kilograms, that is about 88.5kg. 237 watts divided by 88.5 kilograms, gives you a number that has some meaning, roughly 2.7 watts/kg. To put that into some perspective, Andrew Coggan put together a chart of how W/kg numbers compare, and it is largely accepted as the baseline. PowerProfile Looking at that chart, what you will quickly see is that my numbers puts me firmly into the “Fair” grouping.

If I want to improve that number I need to improve my W/kg. That becomes an interesting balance of work. Let’s say I want to climb into that “Moderate” group. That would require an increase to a 3.25 W/kg. In order to get there without changing my weight, I would need to pick up an additional 50 watts. Those kinds of gains are unreasonable in a single season, so that really is not a realistic goal. Looking at weight though, could that help?

If you figure 1 kilogram is 2.2 pounds, then getting back to my race weight from the end of last summer of 180 lbs, would put me at 81.7 kg. Now all of the sudden a 3.25 W/kg is an FTP of 266 watts, only a 30 point jump, which is still a massive uptick for someone with a decent base of fitness, but 20 points is probably in reach, which would be roughly 3.1 W/kg, or right at the bridge between Fair and Moderate. Considering my size and age, that is probably nearing the upper limits of where pure power training will get me.

Everything else becomes about riding the bike, learning to use the terrain to my advantage, good aero and body positions and proper nutrition, because at the end of the day, you cannot overpower bad form, bad nutrition or poor bike skills out not he course.

This season, I will be posting my progress on my improvements, and talking about some of the tools, because the biggest lesson I took away from last year was that triathlon success, be it finishing, hitting a time goal, or a podium is all built on the training.

The Offseason is Over

Hiking @ Vogel State Park

Hiking @ Vogel State Park

Well, the new year also means that there offseason is officially over. It is now time to get back into gear, and get back to serious training.

Personally, I always find the period from Thanksgiving through New Years to be the hardest time to keep a consistent routine. It is a time when food, particularly, junk food, is constantly in reach, and the time when I usually train is consumed by time with extended family and friends that I don’t get to see most of the year.

This year, I tried something different, and I think it worked fairly well.

Instead of trying to stay on a regimented plan, I simply set a base goal. Workout for at least 30 minutes 6 days a week. Workouts could be a run, a swim (not), core, or a bike ride. Included in the workout categories for the offseason were hikes, walking round of golf, and even casual jogs. Basically, anything that would elevate the heart rate.

The intent? minimize the fitness loss while allowing the unstructured weeks to flow around the light schedule. The result? I feel fresher than I have in months, and ready to jump back into the saddle, both figuratively and literally.