In Methods of Endurance Training: Winter 2010 Part 1 and Methods of Endurance Training Winter 2010/2011 Part 2, I talked about how I had moved into transition after getting my head out of my ass enough to do the Houston race and the thought process I had put into deciding what I wanted to do during my winter training. While it may have seemed primarily like self-important prattling, if you paid attention you might have gotten some ideas of how to think through setting up your own training programs.
The basic summary was that I’d spend at least December through February as my base training with a combination of slideboard, running, cycling, the EFX and two weight workouts per week. The whys and wherefores for this is laid out in Methods of Endurance Training Winter 2010/2011 Part 2 so read it first if you haven’t already. Now I want to start showing you how I put everything together which will give you a bit of a primer on how to set up training programs in more detail.
A Final Decision: Days Per Week of Training
Before showing the process I used to set up my actual week, I’d mention that I made one final decision regarding my winter training. During the summer, I had done a total of 9 training units across 6 days before it all went so horribly wrong. I did two workouts per day on three days/week and one workout per day on the others. It made it into a basic hard day/easy day kind of thing.
But, honestly, that becomes a real grind because you’ve only got the one day off. Combined with a lot of indoor training you just lose it. I do anyhow. Case in point: one of the worst training periods I’ve recently experienced was a two week span in Salt Lake where, due to some workouts I had added and a change to our normal schedule, I went 13 days without a single day off. Physically it was fine but mentally it was just gruelling.
Every day you feel like you have to do something and it becomes mentally stressful. On a 6 on/1 off schedule with the kind of training I do, by day 6 all you want to do is lie down. You live desperately for your single day off but it’s never long enough before you start the next weekly grind. Sure, many endurance athletes do it but that’s usually when they are training outdoors. It makes a huge difference.
When you’re doing a large portion of your training indoors, there is this mental stress of “God, I don’t want to go do ANOTHER hour on the EFX trapped inside the gym”. Some of that was my own fault for training indoors but the reality of winter training is I’d be doing every workout indoors. Having to face that 6 days out of 7 was just too much without the variety that the ice had provided in SLC.
So I decided that I would only train 5 total days/week during the Austin winter. But that I would actually do MORE training units across those five days (10-12 vs. 9, see below for an explanation of 10-12). This may seem counter-intuitive, doing more work on less total days, but it’s not for several reasons. Sure, it’s more training but it’s a tad different when it’s blocked onto less days. Each individual day is often harder but you get more total days off to recover both mentally and physically.
For example, my own coach in SLC had developed a program based around 8 units/week but done only 4 days/week as two-a-days. Mostly it was to keep us fresh for skating (all of which is high quality and requires fresh legs) but data later showed up that you may get better adaptations to training compared to training once/day daily or whatever. A key word there is ‘may’.
So our ice training always came first and then we either did metabolic conditioning (bike rides) or weights. With everything ideally sequenced to keep us fresh for the ice and get optimal adaptations (e.g. weight work after sprint work on the ice, bike rides after metabolic work on the ice). In his program, it was primarily a concession to keeping us fresh for the technical demands of the ice. But the approach still has some merit. Doing 8 units on 4 days is very different physiologically and mentally than doing it across more days per week.
In any case, with only 5 days of training, I’d get two full days off per week, that meant a big mental break for me. I’d get two days of training than a day to screw around all day. I could go to the Austin Humane Shelter, play DJ Hero 2, maybe actually do some work (yeah, right). Play with ALFIE!. Just a mental break as much as physical with a little block training thrown in for good measure.
Then I’d have three more days of training (which is a bit of a mental grind by day 3) before another complete day off. And since I usually eat a ton of carbs on off-days, I reload some glycogen and push recovery on the days I’m resting completely. Ultimately, despite more total training, it would be less mentally stressful to put training on only 5 days/week.
Putting it All Together: Introduction
So I had all the pieces of the puzzle as described above. I knew what training I wanted to do and how many days I had to distribute my training across. Now I had to put it all together into both a weekly plan and a long-term plan for the first three months of base training.
At some point I’ll actually write something more comprehensive about how to build a training plan (call it a ‘Bible of Program Design’ but mine won’t suck) but the key aspect is that your most important workouts have to be slotted into your training week first. You don’t EVER compromise the important stuff for irrelevant stuff even if many do that; they prioritize the training they enjoy doing rather than the stuff that they actually should be doing (which they often suck at).
So when you sit down with your weekly planner to set up your training, the first thing you write in is the key workouts that are the most important to your goal. Everything else comes second even if they have to be compromised. I’m lucky in that my schedule is relatively flexible and I don’t have any workouts limited by facilities availability or my ‘work’ schedule or what have you.
If that is the case (as it was in SLC due to when we could get on the ice), that’s an additional factor. If you can’t get to the weight room on Sunday or your gym closes early on Saturday and you won’t get that workout in consistently or whatever, you have to take that into account when you set up your week. The best planned training doesn’t work if you can’t actually do it and ideal training and reality often clash.
In my case, that meant that my skate specific training was the main priority; that meant the slideboard. Cycling is arguably a second priority since I may do some bike racing as well. Everything else came after those two (though as you’ll see the relatively unimportant weights played a huge decision in a lot of things). But I’m an inline skater first; therefore skating always trumps everything else I’m doing so everything had to revolve around that.
Being able to do skating specific stuff in a fresh (or at least semi-fresh) state was key. Otherwise I’d risk picking up bad technical habits; it’s tough to do on the slideboard but it can be done. Even if technique wasn’t an issue, doing the slideboard fatigued would prevent me from doing the workouts I wanted/needed to do to accomplish what I wanted to accomplish physiologically. Man that sentence sucks. Anyhow, no other workouts could interfere with my slideboarding/skate specific training and that was the primary driver on where I choose to put what.
What About Weights?
The above is actually not entirely true. One consideration to my overall schedule was when I lifted even if, in the big scheme of things, it’s not that important to my overall training. The issue is that weights, because I always get sore, tends to impact on my other workouts to a greater degree than anything else I do. So figuring out where to put weights and then arranging other stuff around that was actually going to be necessary.
This was doubly true since part of the premise of my lifting was to be in the gym with my friends; that meant that I had to work slightly around their schedule. They are pure OL’ers and lift Monday/Tuesday/Thursday and either Friday or Saturday depending on factors that are not relevant here.
For various reasons Saturday was unworkable for me and since they don’t always lift on Friday and since I like to space my training out, that meant selecting Monday and Thursday as my ideal lifting days. It also fit my schedule since Mon/Thursday is a lunch-time workout for them.
Even if they had lifted Saturday consistently, they lifted in the morning and that wouldn’t have fit my overall schedule. I’d note that other spacings such as Tuesday/Friday, Tuesday/Saturday or Monday/Friday are workable schedules for endurance athletes (I often lifted Wed/Sat in SLC) but just didn’t fit my flow. So that’s what I slotted into my training first, when I’d lift and those workouts would happen on Monday and Thursday at lunch time.
Another consideration was my volunteer activtities; while the Austin Humane Shelter is a ‘when I get over there situation’, I do my work at the Reading for the Blind and Dyslexic on Tuesday and Thursday from 5-6:30 pm since that’s the reading crew I like the most. As well, since it’s close to the gym I will not name, that was another consideration in my training; it made the most sense to plan gym workouts (as opposed to home workout) after that since I was already in the area. So I went ahead and put that into the schedule as well.
You’ll note that my off days got slotted into Wed/Sunday since I wanted to be as fresh as possible for weights and whatever else went on those days. Ultimately, what I had done is this: put the things into my schedule that couldn’t be moved around. That’s what you do first. If you can’t lift on a given day, mark it off the schedule. If you have an obligation, it has to go in. For me lifting and my volunteer obligations determined other aspects of the training rather than the other way around so they slotted in first. My weekly planner now looked like this:
Everything Else: Part 1
Now I had to figure out where to put the slideboard workouts, cycling, running and the EFX. As mentioned already, slideboarding is my key workout and that would come first; I also wanted to get three workouts in per week. Cycling was secondary, another three workouts per week was the ideal. Running and the EFX were less important but you’ll see that I did put them in specific places for specific reasons.
As noted, I prefer to do the slideboard on as fresh legs as possible. With the above schedule it would be impossible to do all three after a day off; I don’t have enough days off. But you can see that I can easily put the slideboard workouts on two days after a complete day off. That’s right, on Monday and Thursday before weights.
This can be a bit of a grind and lifting with a tired low back is not ideal (I had done it in SLC all the time but our lifting was much wimpier); but lifting is secondary to skating. So I take the hit on weights since the slideboard is more important. If weights had been a priority, my scheduling would have been different. Again, this is the take-home to a lot of this: always put the key/priority workouts as a priority. Don’t dilute them for the stuff that is less important unless there’s simply no way around it.
Since I like an even spacing, that meant that the third slideboard workout would come on Saturday morning. This was the other reason that lifting Saturday with my friends wouldn’t work. I can do the slideboard around 10:30am for a noon lifting workout (I just finish and head straight over to lift). For a 10am lifting workout….well, I’m just not getting up that damn early to slide back and forth sideways. So I slotted in my three slideboard workouts on Monday/Thursday/Saturday and my schedule now looked like this.
Two of my three slideboard workouts would be done as fresh as possible. And by carefully controlling the intensity on Friday’s training, Saturday wouldn’t be too bad either. While it’s a bit of a grind being the third day of three, I always get through it so long as I keep it in my pants on Friday.
Now, it would logically make sense to put in the cycling workouts next since they were my second priority but that’s not actually what I did. Instead, I slotted in running. And here’s why. I have found that running on sore legs is problematic; fine motor control is lost and the risk of injury is higher. But I can ride the bike trainer or EFX with sore legs just fine. I also don’t usually get sore from a Monday weight workout until the next day.
That meant that it made the most sense to put my running workouts on Monday and Thursday later in the day after weights with cycling and EFX on the day after weights. Sure, endurance training shuts down some of the weight training adaptations but most of those are growth related. I’m not looking to get jacked and I don’t do more than 3 reps in anything in the weight room. And since I don’t really like running anyhow, that limited me to two running days which is about two more than I’d like to do. So I slotted those in and my schedule now looked like this.
Finally I had to put in my cycling and EFX workouts. As mentioned, cycling is a bigger priority and I ideally wanted three cycling workouts per week to prepare me for any racing I do. The EFX is less important and would only get two workouts. Now I do my bike rides at the house on the wind trainer I showed you in Methods of Endurance Training: Winter 2010 Part 1. And EFX workouts are done at the gym I will not name that is close to the reading project/when I’m out and about.
So it made the most sense to slot in the bike rides on Tuesday/Thursday morning and Saturday (giving me a nice even spacing) evening and the EFX on Tuesday/Friday night. An added advantage is that the EFX doesn’t take as much out of me since more muscles are involved (the bike doesn’t either); this would leave me as fresh as possible for Saturday’s slideboard workout. And this is what it looked like after I put in cycling and the EFX.
The above also gave me more spacing between the two bike rides on Friday and Saturday, morning Friday and afternoon/evening Saturday. It’s a mental thing more than anything but the EFX and slideboard workouts in-between sort of breaks up the monotony a bit compared to riding the bike and having to ride it again 24 hours later. Trust me, over weeks and months of training, little stuff like that adds up.
And that was that. I now had my full weekly schedule laid out and everything fit in perfectly. I had designed it for optimal time efficiency (in terms of trekking across the city to different locations vs. when I was at home) on top of minimizing overlap or fatigue from one workout impacting on important stuff.
And depending on how you looked at it, I had either 10 or 12 training units. The confusion is this: I go straight from the slideboard to the weight room, I get maybe a 15 minute break. In one sense that’s one workout giving me 10 total. But they are physiologically distinct (aerobic vs. weights) and I think I should get credit since there are 12 distinct workouts per week. Whatever, doesn’t matter at the end of the day so long as it works.
Weights took arguably the biggest hit from the early slideboard workout but it’s also arguably the least important of my training. Slideboard would be done after a day off two days/week and after an easy day the third. Everything looked good. I had three slideboard workouts, three cycling workouts and two of everything else which made sense given my prioritization of training (skating first, cycling second, everything else last).
The next task was then to assign intensities to my various workouts to get optimal adaptations, again this would take careful consideration to avoid overlap or workouts interfering with the others. And that, along with the exact workouts I did from my transition period to now will be in the final part of this article on Tuesday. See you then.
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