Methods of Endurance Training: Winter 2010/2011 Part 4

In Methods of Endurance Training: Winter 2010/2011 Part 3, I walked you through how I had designed my weekly schedule by showing you how I slotted everything in piece by piece.  Summing up, I had arrived at the following ‘optimal’ schedule and led you through the process by which I did it.

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Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Morning Slideboard Cycling OFF Slideboard Cycling Slideboard OFF
Noon Weights Weights
Afternoon RFBD RFBD Cycling
Evening Running EFX Running EFX

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In brief, I had set things up so that my key slideboard workouts (which are of primary importance) were either done after a complete day off (Monday/Thursday) or an easy day (Saturday).   Running was placed after weights since it’s before the soreness kicks in, cycling was done at home and the EFX was done when I was out and about.  The other details of why things went where are in Part 1 and you should go read that if you missed it.

I’d note that I didn’t actually jump straight into that level of training.  Having taken a week completely off and coming into it not in peak shape, I started by sort of shaking the cobwebs out over the first week or two.  That’s always the best coming back from a layoff or low training period.  You have to get back in shape to train again.  With my previous years of base, it never takes more than a couple of weeks, mind you; but I always start slow and build up.

My goal after the week completely off icing my nuts after my hysterectomy was to build up (in this order): the frequency of my training, the duration of my training and finally the intensity of my training.  That is, I wanted to get every workout slotted in consistently, then build up the duration and then start worrying about raising workloads/intensity.  It wasn’t as if I was in a real hurry, I had 5 months until my first race.

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Never-ending Questions

This raised a handful of other questions.  One was about durations.  My major goal for all conditioning workouts is an hour as a baseline (perhaps 1.5 hours for cycling workouts although this pushes me to my mental limits).  As you’ll see in the actual workouts below, the slideboard is a bit different and after my initial buildup I use a progression that lets me build set time and then total time over the course of each week.  It runs from about 40 minutes to 60 minutes of total down time (not counting my short rest intervals).

The next was about intensity.  As discussed in the Methods of Endurance Training series, the current trend among most endurance athletes is to do the major bulk of their training (70-80%) at easy aerobic levels with the rest being done at higher intensities.  Since I was still in a base period, I had no intention of doing truly high level work.  But I had noticed back in SLC that, given the relatively short duration of my workouts, basic aerobic work didn’t get it done; my fitness never went up pissing around at 140-150 for a few hours per week.

Rather, tempo workouts are sort of my bread and butter intensity; that means 155-160 HR.  It’s steady state but you are working.  That’s the only thing that will improve my fitness but too much of it rapidly burns me out.  So I decided on a schedule where I’d do almost all of my conditioning work at aerobic levels with EFX workout (Tuesday) and one bike ride (Saturday) at tempo levels.  The Thursday run eventually moved to tempo levels as well giving me three total tempo workouts; one in each mode.

If you’re wondering why I didn’t do at least one tempo slideboard workout the reason is this: it’s actually harder than you think to raise difficulty on the slideboard, going faster side to side doesn’t really mimick actual skating and there’s no way to load it practically (a weighted vest doesn’t work so don’t suggest it in the comments).  This left me building my actual fitness with tempo workouts in non-specific modes and hoping that sliding back and forth like an idiot with panty hose on his feet three times per week would get me transfer. I’d get plenty enough intensity when I transitioned to my skates.

Everything actually started at aerobic levels (heart rate on the slideboard is always higher initially), I didn’t start with the tempo work on Tuesday and Saturday until the first week of December (4th week of training after 3 build-up weeks) with the tempo run being brought in even later.

Note that the Tempo workouts occur at the end of each mini-block before a day off.  This is avoid any fatigue from those workout interfering with anything else.  So not only do I get my important workouts fresh, I get my quality workouts before the days off.  Even with the tempo running workout on Thursday, I still had two easy workouts on Friday to recovery before Saturday which was enough time.  So my weekly schedule with intensities identified appears below.

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Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Morning Slideboard (Aer) Cycling (Aer) OFF Slideboard (Aer) Cycling (Aer) Slideboard (Aer) OFF
Noon Weights Weights
Afternoon RFBD RFBD Cycling (Tempo)
Evening Running (Aer) EFX (Tempo) Running (Tempo) EFX (Aer)

Notes:
Aer = maximum heart rate of 150 and usually closer to 145.  RPE 2-3 (maybe pushing 4)
Tempo = heart rate of 160 or thereabouts. RPE 4-5

As noted my goal time for all conditioning workouts was an hour and since I had 10 of them that meant 10 hours of total endurance work with 2-3 hours of tempo work.  So a split of 70-80% easy and 20-30% harder. Perfectly in accord with what I put in the Methods of Endurance Training series and current ‘best practices’ of elite endurance athletes.

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Man vs. Iron

I suppose I should lay out my weight workout, if for no other reason than to shut up certain bulletheads (who think that having read a starting strength book makes them an expert) who like to get in my face about how they think I train.  Here’s what I do on Monday and Thursday.  Keep in mind I’m coming straight from the slideboard so I’m already pretty warm.  Not that I ever did extensive warm-up for the weight room historically.

Roughly a 12 second warm-up with a dowel (snatch grip shoulder press, drop snatch, squat snatch from the hip)
A touch of bar work (clean grip series, snatch grip series)
Power snatch from the floor: warm-ups to 5 doubles, 3-5 singles with a slightly heavier weight or pyramiding
Clean and push jerk*: Warm-ups to 5 sets of 1+1
Back squat (Monday)/Front squat (Thursday): 3 work sets of 3
Push press/Chin: 3X3 alternate super-setted

* I don’t split jerk because I’m too lazy to learn it.  And while I started with power cleans, I eventually moved to squat cleans.

Just a basic full body training oriented around the OL’s (since that’s what the girls do).   And I don’t like high reps.  Doing 12-15 or even 25 reps for ‘endurance’ is meaningless when I get ~5400 reps per hour on the bike or EFX or god knows how many on the slideboard.  Weights are for strength/power and I want the stimulus to be as far away from my endurance training as possible with no overlap in terms of energy systems.  I had focused on 5’s (and sometimes 8’s) for the ice but now it’s 1-3.  It’s easy to count in any case.

If I push through without much rest interval, I can get it done in an hour.  When I screw around or there are more people in the gym (we rotate lifting to avoid distracting each other) it takes me 90 minutes start to finish.  Since I have nothing pressing afterwards, it doesn’t really matter.

I won’t bother outlining my progression.  I’ll only say that it is very simple and basic, it’s specific to me (it’s sort of auto-regulating and sort of just a stock standard ‘add a bit of weight every workout or every other workout’ kind of thing) and leave it at that.

At the end of the day this is just basic strength training, nothing fancy since it’s just general support work and not even that relevant to my sport.   It’s mostly just to keep me sane and it’s kind of fun I guess.   It’s a bit of a grind with a tired low back after slideboarding and I’m not always at 100% pop (my legs are toast by the 5th set of snatch doubles) but I don’t care; again it’s general work and of about quaternary importance (if that) to my overall training.  If it had more relevance/were more important, I’d be more concerned with the details of what I do.  Since I’m not, I don’t.

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Starting the Winter Grind

As I noted above, as I eased back into training, everything was done at easy aerobic levels.  Of course, between the summer of deconditioning and everything else, my heart rates were pretty high initially, I just used RPE instead with a goal of 2-3 on a 10-point scale.  I started to see things dropping about the 3-4 week mark and that was about right.

In terms of progressions, I pretty much never do formal testing.   I just adjust workloads as I see adaptations occur to keep HR and/or RPE where I want it.  Since individual workouts can be misleading, I wait to see the same drop across two workouts before adjusting things.

So if I see that my heart rate on the bike at a given wattage has dropped across two workouts, I’ll bump up the workload a bit to keep the heart rate/RPE where I want it.  Again, donkey work and it doesn’t really matter what I do so long as it gets done.

That is one advantage of training indoors on a non-changing schedule.  Every Monday is the same, every Thursday is the same.  If I see my HR drop on a given workout, I can’t attribute it to the wind or the weather, or whatever.  It’s usually a real physiological shift.

As noted above, after three weeks of easy work through November, I made two of the workouts (Tuesday night/Saturday night) into tempo workouts to push a bit more aerobic adaptations.  So rather than 140-150 goal HR, I moved up closer to 160.  A few weeks later I made the Thursday run a tempo workout although I started with only 20 minutes of tempo work and just added 10 minutes per week.  Later in my base period, I’ll get into sweet spot and threshold training.

To show you exactly how I progressed things, here is every workout I did starting from my first week after getting my nuts snipped until today.  The dates across the top indicate the week, each day runs down the left side.  You can see that I added workouts first, building time as I went and finally started to inject a touch of intensity once my frequency and durations were more or less at target levels.  The notation on the right is the Monday date of the week in question, the workouts are listed as noted below and notes are, well…notes.

You’ll see that some weeks some oddities happened.  I’d have some other obligation and miss an easy workout.  I’d either punt it or block it up on the next day to compensate.  Without exception, I pretty much never missed key workouts except for two slideboard workouts the week of Christmas.  For basic aerobic work, a missed workout just didn’t really matter.

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  Transition Base
Day Time N15 N22 N29 D6 D13 D20 D27 J3 J10
Mon AM S:10X1’/1 S:10X2’/1′ S:10X3’/1′ S:10X4’/1′ S:8X5’/1′ S:7X6’/1′ S:6X7’/1′ S:5X8’/1′ S:4X9/1′
  Noon W W W W W W W W W
  PM E: 30’@15 R: 30’@6.0 R:40’@6.2 R:50’@6.2 R:60’@6.5 R:15’@6.5
R:30’@7.0
R:15’@6.5
R:60’@6.5 Off R:60’@6.7
Tue AM R:20’@6.0 E:3X10’@15
+5’@16
B: 45’@175 B:60’@175 B:60’@170 B:60’@200 B:60’@180 B:60’@190 B:60’@200
  PM Off E: 40’@16 E: 60’@16 E: 45’@17 Off Off E: 4X10’/17
+5’@18
E:60’@17 E:60’@17
Wed   OFF OFF OFF OFF OFF Travel OFF OFF OFF
Thu AM 12X1’/1′ 12X2’/1′ 12X3’/1′ 12X4’/1′ 10X5’/1′ 60′ Stepmill 7X7’/1′ 6X8’/1′ 6X9’/1′
  Noon W W W W W W W W W
  PM E: 45’@15 Off R:45’@6.2 R:45’@6.5 R:20’@7.0 Off R: 40’@7.0 R:50’@7.6 R:60’@7.6
Fri AM E:45’@15 R:35’@6.2 B:45’@175 B:45’@175 B:60’@180 R: 30’@6.5
E: 60′
R: 30’@6.5
B:60’@190 B:60’@200 B:60’@200
  PM R: 35’@6.0 E: 60’@16 E:60’@16 E:60’@16 Off Off E: 60’@16 E:60’@17 E:60@17
Sat AM 15X1’/1′ 15X2’/1′ 15X3’/1′ 15X4’/1′ 12X5’/1′ X-MAS 8X7’/1′ 7X8’/1′ 7X9’/1′
  PM E: 45’@15 E:60’@16 Rags to Wags B:45’@200 B: 60’@200   B: 60’@220 B:20’@220+
20’@230+
20’@220
B: 10’@220
+10’@230+
20’@220+
10’@230+
10’@220
Sun   OFF OFF OFF OFF OFF OFF OFF OFF OFF

Notes:
S = Slideboard.  Workout is listed as sets X time on/rest time.
R = Run. Workout is listed as time X speed.
E = EFX.  Workout is listed as time X machine level.
B = Bike.  Workout is listed as time X wattage.
W = Weights.

If you see a workout such as EFX 3X10’@15 + 5’@16 it means it was an aerobic interval workout.  I would do 10′ at level 15, go to level 16 for 5 minutes and repeat that three times.  I do this when I’m sort of ‘in the middle of’ two levels intensity wise.  You can see the same thing on my tempo bike rides on Saturday, my ideal wattage is actually 225w but my bike will only make 10 watt jumps so I’ll just move around that range until I get the adaptation.

I won’t bother listing heart rate, the chart is too busy as it is. The main point is this: I sort of plugged the workouts in over the first few weeks, some things came up (e.g. the event on Saturday in Week 3) and I didn’t get all of the workouts in until week 4.  I was building the time gradually as well, adding 5′ of running at each workout and gradually increasing the EFX duration up to 60′.

The slideboard is a basic progression with a goal of 60′ of total downtime but I had to give my adductors and ankles time to adapt.  Hence the very short workouts at the outset.  You can see that I first worked up to 40 minutes of total downtime and then simply went roughly 40′ downtime on Monday, 50′ on Wednesday and 60′ on Saturday.  The broken sets are just for mental reasons.  It’s like swimming, the workout is just so dull that even short breaks (kept to less than one minute, the aerobic system doesn’t wind down) go a long way towards making the workout tolerable.

Finally, the reason I wasn’t cycling in the first 3 weeks was that there was an issue with the trainer I bought, I was waiting for a replacement reisistance unit (the folks at Toga Bikes were EXCELLENT in getting this taken care of; I could not have asked for better customer service) so I just plugged in extra EFX work until I had it working.  Hopefully everything else is fairly explanatory.

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Keep On Keeping On

At this point I’m just in a nice rhythm.  I’m continuing to bump the slideboard by 1′ per set per week and I’ll get to maybe 20 minute sets by the time I move outdoors.  Or thereabouts.  The other workouts are static at the durations listed (all an hour) with bumps in intensity as I see the adaptations.  I’ll just keep on plugging away at this until the end of February and then make adjustments moving into the next block of training.

That’s what works for me, I’m one of those people who can just plug along on the same workout (I prefer static schemes to variety) and make pretty consistent progress.  I almost never have bad workouts and just make pretty consistent progress that way.  The weight room is becoming hit or miss now as the slideboard is taking more out of me every week.  It’s not awful but I can feel that my pop isn’t there anymore as the weights get heavier.

At some point I may take a 5 day freshening up break as discussed in The Importance of Rest.  If I can make it, I’ll use it at the very end of Februrary to end the cycle.  If I need it before then I’ll take it.    And that’s where I’m at right now.  So far things in the cycle are going wonderfully but, as I learned last summer, the best training program on paper doesn’t always work out in real life.  I’m more flexible with adjustments these days, if I need to back off I will.  But until I feel the need I’ll keep hammering away.

And that ends this batch of self-important prattle.  Hopefully in following how I laid out my program and why, you might have some ideas about how to set up things for yourself.  But mainly it was so I could talk about my second favorite thing in the world right now: myself.

Read Methods of Endurance Training: Winter 2010/2011 Part 5.

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