Methods of Endurance Training: Results Part 1

I’m going to take a brief break from the never-ending overtraining series (I’ll finish it up next week) and want to return to the topic of endurance training.  I’d note that this post could also have been an add-on to the No Regrets series, you’ll see why shortly.

In any case, having completed the massive Methods of Endurance Training series, I had done a followup called Methods of Endurance Training: Putting it Together where I gave a real-world example of how I was structuring my own training for my return to outdoor inline racing. I’ll recap some of it below for ease of reading but anybody who wants the details of why I did what I did should read the full piece.  I’ll wait.

But continuing that series, I’m going to do another follow-up on that, discussing how my own training for outdoor inline training has progressed/evolved and then show you the real-world results of the training.  The timing is only relevant as I completed my first race this past Saturday which is why I’m taking the break from the Overtraining series.

Since I’m wordy as usual, this will be a two parter.  Today I’m going to focus mostly on training physiology and application of some of the concepts I talked about endlessly in the previous articles.   Friday I’m going to prattle self-indulgently about myself a bit (with pictures) to show you how my training ended up serving me at my first inline race in over 15 years.

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Summing up the First Block

In Methods of Endurance Training: Putting it Together, I described how I was setting up my training and gave many whys and wherefores as to the reasons behind my madness.  That is, why I set things up when and where I set them up.  To save everyone having to click one whole link, I’ve reproduced that training schedule below.  If you want the details of why I set it up that way, you will have to get over your phobia of clicking on blue text and go read the original piece.

 

Day AM PM
Monday Run: 60′ @ 145-150 HR (Easy) Long-track
Tuesday No workout Bike: 60′ @ 200w (Sweet Spot)
Wednesday Run: 60′ @ 145-150 HR (Easy) Long-track
Thursday Bike: 90’@185w (Low Tempo) Short-track
Friday No workout Run: 60′ @ 145-150 HR (Easy)
Saturday Long-track Bike: 60′ @ 200w (Sweet Spot)
Sunday Off

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For the most part, I followed that schedule unchanged with one major exception.  First of January, my knee started bothering me.  I suspect it was due to a skiing adventure where I got a bit twisted up, I started getting pain deep in the knee, it felt meniscal or possibly ligament related.  So I had to stop running and replaced all run workouts with the EFX (elliptical machine) at my apartment complex.  Neither skating nor the bike bothered it, only running and the impact involved was a problem.

While I didn’t care for the EFX much at first, in some ways it may have additional benefits for skating.  There can be a lot of upper back fatigue during skating and getting some aerobic fitness in the upper body with the arm part of the EFX could have benefits.  As well, muscles that aren’t being used during high-intensity activity can actually serve as a buffer for acid, this could have some potential performance benefits even for leg-dominant activities.  Yes, I can rationalize with the best of them.

Originally, I had planned to follow this overall schedule for my first 18 weeks of training.

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Dates Length Key Workouts Frequency
Mid November-End January 10 Weeks Sweet Spot 2XWeek
February 4 Weeks Threshold (2X20) 2XWeek
March 3 Weeks Vo2 Max (6X3’/3′) 2XWeek

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But it didn’t actually quite work out that way.  Rather than 4 weeks of threshold work and 3 weeks of VO2 max work to peak it out, I actually combined the workouts.  I did my threshold workout on Tuesday and did a VO2 max workout on Saturday and I did that for the final 6 weeks or so.  So I got the same number of workouts on each, just in a combined fashion rather than sequentially.

The main reason is that by Saturday of the week I was toast and the idea of grinding another threshold workout was just too daunting; it would have been a poor workout anyhow.  But I could suffer through 3X3′ intervals at VO2 max.  So I’d hit my threshold workouts earlier in the week when I was fresher and then ‘peak it out’ with a shorter more intensive workout on Saturday.  Call it the Utah Method, ha ha.

During those roughly 6 weeks of peaking work, I saw improvements weekly in wattages on the bike on both the threshold and VO2 workouts.  At the end of it, I was holding for 20 minutes power output that before had murdered me for maybe 8 minutes 2 years before when I was training solely for the ice. Whereas 220w for 10 minutes had been a grind in previous years, I was doing my long aerobic workouts (90 minutes) at that level.  I also took my VO2 max wattages from a starting point of 270w (which nearly killed me) to about 320w by the end.

As discussed in the No Regrets series, that’s about when I left SLC and for the next 2 weeks I was travelling and sort of training in a catch as catch-can way, just getting workouts as I could.  It ended up acting as a reduced volume/frequency taper in a lot of ways which is what I would have done formally had I not been travelling.

I rocked the Stepmill in Austin before skating the Veloway and killed it wattage wise; coming down from altitude gave me about 3 weeks of pure awesomeness where my aerobic range just jumped.  In Nashville, I did some Stepmill and a bit of outdoor skating and culminated that week with a Stepmill workout to mimic a 10k race.

To whit, after a single 20 minute threshold set and a 10 minute break, I started my second threshold set. I started with 15 minutes at my threshold power output and then started ramping it up.  I’d go up a level a minute for the first 4 minutes and then pushed it to the top of my limits in the last minute, ramping every 15 seconds.  Just mimicking a race situation where you go from threshold to above threshold to a full out sprint at the end.

But the cycle had been massively successful.  I’d used volume (tempo and aerobic work) to build potential and peaked it over roughly 6-8 weeks to a new upper high level.  I was leaner than I’d been in years and my fitness (gauging by power outputs) was higher than at any point during the time I was in Salt Lake City.  All doing more work at lower intensities.

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Back in Austin

After some toing and froing of no relevance to this article, I ended up settling back in Austin, Texas.  My first two weeks of training were pretty haphazard, I was finding a place to live, scoping out places to skate for training, the weather was unpredictable.  It had the benefit of both some active recovery and letting me gradually ramp up into the next training block.

And while I’d love to plan it out in detail like I did the first block, with races on the schedule, I don’t have quite as much flexibility.  I’ll have to be making adjustments to my training based on race performance in any case, just based on what my strengths and weaknesses are and what needs to be fixed.  My overreaching goal, mind you, is to continue building my aerobic engine but there will have to be deviations from any fixed plan due to race schedule dynamics.

In any case, after more toing and froing figuring out gyms, spending time skating indoor inline that would have been better served by skating outdoors, I’ve finally settled on the following ‘ideal’ weekly schedule which I’ll explain a bit below.

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Day AM PM
Saturday 90′ easy aerobic Off
Sunday Aerobic inline 60′ Tempo run (160 HR)
Monday 90′ easy aerobic Off
Tuesday Aerobic inline 60′ Tempo run (160 HR)
Wednesday 90′ easy aerobic Off
Thursday Aerobic inline 60′ Tempo Run (160 HR)
Friday OFF  

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As you can see, I’m not on a completely normal weekly schedule, I technically run Saturday to Thursday and choose to make Friday may day off for a couple of reasons.  One is that most races are on the weekends and I need to be in the habit of skating then; it’s no good being used to having Sunday as an off day if that’s when I have to race.  The second is that I need some circle practice for crossovers and the only suitable lot I’ve found is at a local mall, I can get out there Sunday morning before it opens and not get kicked out by the mall cops.  Friday became the best day to take completely off.

The 90′ easy aerobic workout on Sat/Mon/Wed is currently broken up into 15′ easy running, 60′ on the elliptical, and 15′ more easy running; I break it up mainly for boredom reasons, there’s no strong physiological reason to do so.  Heart rate during this workout never tops 150 and is usually closer to 145; I’ll bump up speeds/level as I adapt but the focus here is on duration NOT intensity or speed.

It’s mainly just boring but is keeping me lean and acts as both recovery/regeneration/a mild aerobic stimulus between the three harder days of training.  To avoid going nuts, I’m going to get a bike and train outdoors more often than not for easy aerobic training.  I’ll spend enough time during the winter indoors without going crazy now.

The aerobic inline workouts started at about 30-40 minutes and have now built to an hour and 15 minutes.  My HR is more variable here since I’m outdoors and contending with wind, traffic and hills but my average is usually in the mid 150’s according to my Garmin monitor.  As well, the odd nature of skating along with the posture makes working at a 145 heart rate nearly impossible but effort wise, a mid 150’s workout skating is equivalent to a mid-140’s on a bike or something.  So it’s still pretty easy aerobic training.  The heart rate/effort relationship is just a bit skewed.

Over time, I’ll build the skating workouts to 90-120 minutes total which will be more than enough for the races I’m targeting.  As noted, these are meant to be easy workouts done aerobically although the vagaries of training outdoors mean that headwinds or hills will raise intensity a bit.  In addition, I’ll usually try to throw in 4-6 short 10-15 second sprints which is the sum total of my speed work right now.  One of my courses has a specific section marked off by streetlamps and I’ll either sprint for 20 total strokes or alternate 10 sprint strokes with 6 cruise strokes with 10 sprint strokes (to mimic breakaway dynamics).  I’ve done zero threshold work and zero formal interval work on my skates.

But as with my first block of training, my key workouts each week are the three hard runs and the week is set up on a hard day (skate+run) easy day (aerobic) schedule with the one day off.   This also ensures that skating is always done with fresh legs after the easier training day.  And yes, my knee healed.  Staying off it for 3 months accompanied with horse doses of glucosamine sulfate and MSM from Costco did the trick.

Weather hasn’t been a problem to date but it can be, if and when I get rained out, that’s when I’ll go indoors to get some time on my skates and move the tempo run to the morning.  It’s not ideal but that’s life when you have rain to contend with.  Alternately, I may use my slideboard if I get rained out since it’s more specific to the physiology of outdoor racing.   Basically, I’ll use indoor when I have to (and during the winter);  if I can skate outdoors, I should skate outdoors.  Specificity trumps everything else.

If you’re wondering why the skating isn’t at a higher intensity, the reasons are two-fold.  One is that it’s too early in the season to burn myself out skating hard.  The second is of more importance: technique.  I’m still getting used to the distances involved, the nature of skating pavement instead of perfect ice, etc.

My outdoor skills have come back quickly but they aren’t there entirely.   If I were to try to go harder skating, I wouldn’t be able to lock in the technique I spent 5.5 years developing and that’s my main priority for this first year: to make my technique automatic.  So I’m keeping the skating aerobic (or as aerobic as it can be) and using the runs to build fitness.  Since I’m skating consistently, I should get transfer.

The extra aerobic work jogging/EFX’ing is just that, keep a consistent aerobic stimulus, stay lean, blah, blah.  So, again there’s a mix of training: I’m skating outdoor inline since that’s as specific as it gets, using three tempo workouts to improve fitness and just doing a lot of other easy aerobic work to do easy aerobic work.

If you’re wondering why I’m not skating more, here’s why: I can’t at the moment.  My low back hasn’t adapted to the distances I’m skating yet and the one time I tried to skate two days in a row, I was just wrecked.  My technique was crap, I couldn’t do it in a useful fashion (I called that workout after 10 minutes and went to the gym for aerobic work).

Once I adapt, I’ll move up to 4 skates per week and pull out one of the run/EFX sessions.  But that’s weeks away right now; I’m in no hurry.  I may also add some short slideboard sets to get more skate specific aerobic fitness on the easy aerobic days, maybe 20-30 minutes in the afternoon.  I have one in my office now.

And, at this point, what I’m doing is working quite well so I’m actually hesitant to change it. You’ll see how well on Friday when I prattle a bit self-indulgently about my first race.

Read Methods of Endurance Training: Results Part 2.

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