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Methods of Endurance Training: Winter 2010/2011 Part 6

In Methods of Endurance Training: Winter 2010/2011 Part 5 I did a quick review of the first 8 weeks of my winter training and how they played out along with looking at three major factors that went into my re-evaluating/adjusting my training right as I finished that piece.  In some order of importance they included the forming up of my race schedule, including the overly important (for personal reasons) Texas Road Rash, the feeling that I was coming up onto the edge of overtraining, along with a minor injury I sustained while running.

But wait there’s more!  There was one other consideration that went into the changes I made to my training as the winter grind continued.  I’ll look at that first and then show you how and what I changed specifically as I moved through the middle part of January through to March.  As it turns out and I’m writing this, the weather in Austin is breaking and I’m making the final change to my training that should carry me through the rest of the season (at least in scheduling terms). You’ll have to wait a month to find out about that.

I Want to Ride my Bicycle

After they finally announced the date for the Texas Road Rash, I also started looking at some cycling races to round out my competition schedule and I want to discuss several reasons I’ll be including bicycle racing this year.  The first is that there are a limited number of inline races (especially early in the year) and inserting some cycling events makes sense both psychologically and physiologically.

I enjoy competing and with only a handful of inline races, it can be hard to maintain motivation across a long, hot Austin summer.  Putting in some bike races will help to keep me focused and sharp.  Oddly, for as many years as I’ve ridden bikes, I’ve never actually raced.  That alone is reason enough to get my feet wet this year.

Bike races will act as good high quality training rides for skating (it can be tough to suffer without some form of competition to work against and realistically I won’t have anybody to skate with); cycling also introduces some speed changes (breaks, sprints, etc.) that I don’t readily get in my training otherwise unless the terrain mandates it.

Bike racing will also help to teach me some tactical skills along with pack dynamics that carries over to skating; the race dynamics are almost identical so anything I can practice on the bike can only help me on my inlines.  And while it goes against my control-freak nature when it comes to training, getting involved in some local group rides can only be beneficial.  It not only provides good pack experience but also will get me some social interaction (which I tend to lack completely in my own training); important to avoid going nuts with boredom and monotony like I did last summer.

Thankfully there’s quite a bit of bike racing in the Texas area and racing is plentiful.  Between a variety of local races along with a weekly Criterium Series called the Driveway Series.  When all is said and done I could race more or less weekly if I wanted although I sort of doubted I would.

Realizing all of the above, I got on the Texas Bicycle Racing Association (TxBRA) website and started pencilling in potential races.  This would, of course, necessitate purchasing a real road bike; as much as I’d love to race on my single speed, it’s simply dumb to limit myself like that.  As it turned out, there were some early season road races that would work well as a tune-up for the Texas Road Rash so that was a double bonus.  I could use them as a combination of quality training rides and to get early race experience so I’d be as dialed for the Texas Road Rash as possible.

So those were the pieces: the timing of the Texas Road Rash, my feeling that I was coming up on overtraining, a minor running injury and a desire to get into bike racing.  It was time to sit down and plot out the changes I was going to make going forwards, what I was going to add, subtract or simply alter.


Finalizing the Plan

Now that I finally had a racing schedule, the first thing I needed to do was put in my race dates to see how long I had to work through my various physiological goals.   Although the chart will be depressingly long, I’m going to show you how I write up my training in my planner by showing you each individual week in at least general terms.

The first thing I do, not shown here, is to plot out the entire training year.  I use a spreadsheet print out with 52 rows and number them from 1-52; this is usually divided into a 48-50 week year with a 2-4 week transition phase.  We always took a full 4 week break from the ice but the intensity was very high; I only took a 2 week transition this year because of what happened in the summer of 2010.  I simply didn’t need any more.

Then, depending on when I start my transition months, I start at the top and write every week’s Monday starting from that point in the far left column.  That shows me the entire year in overview.  I can also write in any specific things I know will interfere with training.  Holidays and so forth that I know will interrupt normal training.

In that many events are usually held at roughly the same time each year, I also pencil in those rough dates.  Nothing gets put in in pen until it’s finalized.  I’m not going to show you my full annual planner, I think you get the idea of how it’s laid out.  Rather, I want to show you how I blocked out the rest of my winter training since that’s what this article series is ostensibly about.

On the far left I’ve indicated that week’s Monday which is just how I keep track of my training weeks.  In the middle I’ve indicated the focus of the training along with the frequency of key workouts (all other conditioning workouts are just support aerobic work).  I also went ahead and wrote in potential races as I found them.

The right hand side will require some explanation since it’s actually the most important bit; but it’s key in letting me determine how to know when to change focus for my training.  First I like to number the total number of weeks from start to finish of each major block but it’s not relevant here).  So I had 21 weeks for my first macrocycle, general prep through to my first major race.  In that the race was on week 21, I really had 20 weeks of preparation into a short-taper before the Texas Road Rash.

The sub-week is the division of the secondary cycles. So as I sat down to block this out, I wrote in the Texas Road Rash on week 21 and counted back to Week 8 which I had just finished. Since week 21 was my taper, that meant 12 weeks to the race starting in Week 9.  I wanted a full 6-week peaking phase and I penciled that in first by working backwards from the last week of prep; studies show that interval work tops out after about 6 workouts and I wanted them all.

As it turned out, this left me exactly 6 weeks to make the sweet spot transition from my base training.  Had I had less time for sweet-spot training, that’s the block that would have been truncated (e.g. 4 weeks if I had started with a 16 week preparation period).    It was honestly just a coincidence that both the late base and peaking cycle were 6 weeks in length.

I’d note that had I had longer for general prep, I’d have extended the tempo/base aerobic phase of my training and milked it for all it was worth and changed training focus only when I stopped making improvements.  So next year when I start my general preparation in October instead of November, I’ll end up with a 24 week cycle or so and do an extra month of tempo work (or maybe 2 extra weeks of tempo and 2 extra weeks of sweet-spot depending on how I’m progressing) before moving into full blown sweet-spot training and then peaking it all out.  In any case, here’s my entire winter training cycle from start to my first inline race.


Monday Focus Key Workout Frequency Race/Notes Week Sub-Week
N22 Early Base N/A 1
N29 Early Base N/A 2
D6 Early Base Tempo 3X 3
D13 Early Base Tempo 3X 4
D20 Early Base Tempo 3X 5
D27 Early Base Tempo 3X 6
J3 Early Base Tempo 3X 7
J10 Early Base Tempo 3X 8
J17 Late Base Sweet Spot/Tempo 1X/2X 9 1
J24 Late Base Sweet Spot/Tempo 1X/2X 10 2
J31 Late Base Sweet Spot/Tempo 1X/2X 11 3
F7 Late Base Sweet Spot/Tempo 1X/2X Begin outdoor transition 12 4
F14 Late Base Sweet Spot/Tempo 1X/2X 13 5
F21 Late Base Sweet Spot/Tempo 1X/2X 14 6
F28 Peak Threshold/VO2 1X/1X Lago Vista Road Race 15 1
M7 Peak Threshold/VO2 1X/1X 16 2
M14 Peak Threshold/VO2 1X/1X Fayetteville Stage Race 17 3
M21 Peak Threshold/VO2 1X/1X Ronde Von Manor 18 4
M28 Peak Threshold/VO2 1X/1X 19 5
A4 Peak Threshold/VO2 1X/1X 20 6
A11 Taper Road Rash 21
A8 Recovery N/A N/A 22


So the first change you can see moving out of Week 8 was a move to sweet spot training (actually, as you’ll see below, a combination of sweet spot and tempo training) to continue building my aerobic engine on the base of pure tempo training I’d been doing.  You can also see that in Week 12 (this week as it turns out), I began my transition to outdoor training.  I’ll talk about that in the next series of updates in about a month.

As discussed in the Methods of Endurance Training series, sweet spot training is a bridge from tempo work to true threshold work.  It’s definitely work but not quite so grindingly miserable as threshold work often is.  That sweet spot work was combined with one high-tempo workout and one lower-tempo workout during the week that I’ll describe further down.

That would be followed by a 6-week peaking cycle of true threshold and VO2 max work leading up to the Texas Road Rash.  For that final cycle, the threshold work acts to ‘push’ the functional threshold up from the bottom while the Vo2 max work ‘pulls’ it up from the top.    I’d get some neuromuscular/speed work on my skates and/or bike during outdoor training.  I hadn’t needed anaerobic training the previous year and didn’t see much reason for it now.

You can see where I had slotted some potential bike races; since I didn’t have early inline races as tune-ups, bike racing would have to suffice instead.  I needed the experience anyhow  I wasn’t sure at this point if I’d do all of them but I went ahead and wrote them in.   Lago Vista was really early in the year and was very tentative.  A lot would depend on how much time I got to spend riding outdoors leading up to it.

The Fayetteville Stage Race is three races across two days which might be too much for me at this point.  I suppose I could just do one part of it.  But I was also considering doing the Saturday elimination race part of the Texas Road Rash before the Sunday road race; one thing I’d need to have the ability to do is race two days in a row without a break.  I could potentially use Fayetteville for that purpose; a HARD two day training/racing simulation.

The only one that was a for sure on my schedule was the last one, the Ronde Von Manor, a 35 mile criterium (I use ‘crit’ loosely here since it’s on a very big loop) which was 3 weeks before the Texas Road Rash.  Not only was this a good distance (the race duration would be between 90-120 minutes tops) but was far enough out from my main race to let me fully recover.  Even if I didn’t do the earlier races, I was definitely going to do that one.

Conceptually, all I’d done was set up something akin to Issurin’s block training (or earlier still, Lydiard’s classical 18 week cycle) where the normal single year cycle is shortened into a smaller period.  I’ve mentioned that I do well with this kind of training, I have no issue with linear style periodization and it all fit my goal of a monster aerobic engine topped off with some speed work.

I had 14 weeks of progressively more intense base training (easy aerobic->tempo->sweet spot) followed by 6 weeks of peaking (threshold+Vo2) to my first major race; with some cycling races plugged in for hard workouts/technical/tactical training and fun.  I planned to take a very easy week after the Texas Road Rash before starting the next build and essentially repeat the cycle.  Most of the other inline races on my schedule were much later in the year so I’d have another full (albeit shorter) block of developmental training to fit in.  I’ll describe that at a later date.  I imagine it will be a series called Methods of Endurance Training: Summer 2011.  Just a guess.

But I wasn’t done yet, the devil is in the details and I’m nothing if not detail oriented when it comes to this stuff.  So there were still many questions remaining to answer.  I still had to address the issue of overtraining (especially as I was intensifying other aspects of my training) along with the minor injury.  Here’s what I changed through Weeks 9-12.


The Weight Room: Moving to Maintenance

Feeling a bit broken off through Week 9, my first change was to make Thursday a lighter day that week.  As it turned out, going into Week 10, I made Monday a maintenance workout as well and there it would stay for the remainder of winter prep.  The other training was just taking too much out of me to make strength gains a reality.

And at the end of the day, with weights being relatively irrelevant to my goals, putting energy into pushing up my poundages not only accomplished nothing beneficial but arguably did more harm than good; it was just wiping out my legs.  As much as I’d hated it in Salt Lake City, I’d been on maintenance weights for basically my final 2 years.  I had all the strength I needed and there wasn’t any point in wrecking myself on something irrelevant that negatively impacted what was important.

So I’d warm up, hit 10 power snatch singles on the minute and then 5 squat clean and push jerk singles.  I’d follow that with one top set of squats (rather than the 3X3 I had been doing) and then some push press and chin work.  It took me 45 minutes start to finish since I wasn’t trying to go as heavy or do quite as much volume.


Other Changes

Because of the minor injury, and the fact that I dislike running anyhow, I went ahead and dropped running out entirely going into Week 10.  It was just taking too much out of my legs with the impact and I was already feeling under-recovered.  I didn’t want the injury to get any worse and, since running is arguably a very minor part of my preparation, I saw no problem in dropping it completely.

I simply slotted in more work on the EFX instead; this also helped address the overtraining issue since the EFX takes far less out of me physically than either cycling or running since the stress is spread out across more muscle groups.  It did make my training a bit more motonous, mind you, but I pretty much just zone out and watch TV while I do it.

Along with that, since cycling was a secondary competition goal (and arguably more relevant to improving my actual skating performance), I decided to do all three of my quality workouts on the bike.  That is, in addition to dropping running entirely (including the tempo run), I also dropped the tempo EFX workout.  More accurately, I switched it to an easy aerobic workout.

Which is the other major change I made: while the slideboard was already easy aerobic (HR around 135-140), since I was intensifying the bike work, I needed to drastically lower the intensity on everything else.  Basically, my training was going to become more polarized; as the intensity of the hard workouts went up, the intensity of the easy workouts went down (as discussed in Keep the Hard Days Hard and the Easy Days Easy).

Specifically, my four EFX workouts would all be done at a very easy aerobic level.  At level 16 on the machine, I run around a 132 heart rate or so (if I bump to level 17 I jump to 145-150 which was just a bit higher than I wanted).  It’s piss easy and takes almost nothing out of me; between the low heart rate and being spread out over so many muscle groups it’s just cake.  This would not only allow me to be fresher for the workouts that mattered but would help me to recover from the near overtraining.  So now my final weekly cycle moving into the next block of training (Week 9+) looked like this.


Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Morning Slideboard (Aer) Cycling
(Hi Tempo)
OFF Slideboard (Aer) Cycling
(Low Tempo)
Slideboard (Aer) OFF
Noon Weights (Maint) Weights (Maint)
Afternoon RFBD RFBD Cycling
(Sweet Spot)
Evening EFX (Aer) EFX (Aer) EFX (Aer) EFX (Aer)

Aer = heart rate around 135-140
Hi tempo = heart rate 160
Low tempo = heart rate 150
Sweet spot = heart rate 165-170

So now I had one true sweet spot workout (usually done as 2X20 minutes with a 5-10 minute break) on Saturday before my day off, one high tempo workout (60′ at a heart rate of 160) on Tuesday before my other day off and one low tempo workout (60-90 minutes at a heart rate nearer 150) in the middle of my three day block.  So three quality workouts of varying intensity and volumes along with the slideboard work.  Weights were at maintenance and the EFX was basically active recovery work.

Of course, the above would change again, in Week 12 as it turned out, as I started the transition to outdoor training and did a bit of rearrangement to accommodate some other issues that had cropped up.  But you’ll have to wait about a month to hear about all of that in excruciating detail.  I’ll show the exact workouts I did over those 8 weeks then as well.

For the time being, my winter training was back on-track.  I’d dealt with the injury, the overtraining and blocked everything out to get me into some early cycling races and have me as ready as I could be for the Texas Road Rash.  I had a rendevouz with a 14 year old and I intended to be ready for it.

Read Methods of Endurance Training: 2011 Season Part 7.

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