March is Transition Month
As we head into March we hope the worst is behind us in terms of weather and tough outdoor training conditions. Racing, particularly the spring run events are close enough now that our winter training blaws should be evaporating and we are feeling some new energy towards our workouts.
April provides us some great local 5 and 10 km run events to test our run form, and looking into May, many are gearing up for the Vancouver, Calgary or Saskatoon marathons.
May 27-29: Rocky Mountain Cycling Camp in Jasper
We are so excited to be back hosting our cycling camps. Our first one will be in the beautiful rocky mountains out of Jasper.
This camp will offer two main objectives. For the novice groups you will develop the skills to perform group rides safely, learn to descend with confidence, cornering, braking, and shifting gears to optimize your efficiency riding all the while developing a new level of fitness to take on your summer riding goals.
Our experienced groups will review all the essential skills in group riding/racing, as its been a few years since we have raced, learn how to attack descents with more speed and push your fitness limits with a challenging weekend of riding at altitude.
Details found online at aerobicpower.com
Rachel: Brand new to Cycling and participant in our Learn to Train with Power Course.
My motivation to participate in the Cycling with Power course with Kevin came from wanting to be a more confident and efficient cyclist. I'm very much a beginner cyclist and beyond getting on the bike and pedalling, I didn't know much about cycling at all. The first couple of weeks were a bit overwhelming, fitting in 3-4 cycling workouts between my running and strength sessions and trying to get my indoor training set-up just right. I had to learn cycling "language" and how to use the indoor trainer with the apps and try and understand what I was seeing on the screen and what it all meant. I had never done any training drills on a bike and everything was very new. Kevin is great, and patient, taking the time to explain the numbers and techniques and trying to help me troubleshoot some gear issues I was having. Kevin works with you where you are at physically and mentally and is happy to make adjustments to the workouts to help you get the most out of them. He is open to answering the (many) questions I have and provides feedback and ideas for making the next work out better than the last. I have a ways to go but I feel I have come a long way since the first session and my cycling has improved alot. I'm looking forward to the bike camp in May so I can take my new skills out on the road.
THIS MONTH in TRAINING
Unless racing in April already, March is where training plans may start to cater to specific race dates. Generally, on the bike most will begin to see some Maximal Aerobic Power work and even longer Sweet Spot work. How much and how long depends on their personal goals and experience, length of athlete’s races, and time out from their races.
Many have targeted 5km to Marathon races over the course of the next couple of months. I often encourage this as it provides some early season incentives when trying to get through a long winter. In which case these runners will be approaching some more specific energy system work for their race distance and the marathoners will be enjoying some nice long runs shortly if they haven’t already.
COACH’s TRIALS and TRIBULATIONS
It was a real treat being able to get away in February and enjoy some optimal run conditions. It was also fun in a nervous way being back in an event after 6 years. Obviously still had some experiences to draw from but I did feel some newbie excitement.
I still remembered to figure out my route to the start race morning and making sure I knew what and where breakfast was race morning. Downtown Vancouver on a Sunday the options are not plentiful. The idea of a half marathon versus a full marathon provided me some mental latitude on all the pre-race prep as I figure I can handle a screw up better in a 1.5-hour event versus a 3-hour event.
I did have a plan going into it, a conservative one, having not really gained a lot of insight as to where I felt my race fitness wise going into it. Like many other runners, the horrific winter of either super cold temps or dangerously icy sidewalks, has made it difficult to gauge my preparation. Things went to plan for the first…..30 seconds maybe. I felt like so many people took off so fast that I just got swept up. Yes, it’s an excuse that would be inexcusable, but I fell victim to the “but it felt so good”. To top it off my watch was set to show 3 metrics on the watch face which as it turns out made them to small to see any of them. So not only did I get swept up carelessly I couldn’t see my watch as a last hope of someone or something talking some sense into me and get me to slow down.
Turns out instead of starting at 7min/miles, it was a ~6:30/mile. So I quickly justified with the idea that I was looking for a test, but that I also had to be prepared for a painful and dismal blow-up anywhere around ~ 14km was my estimation. I tried to focus on all the important cues, run tall, quick turnover, tempo breathing, anything to delay the onslaught. As I hit the midway point and further and awaited the collapse it didn’t seem happen. I waited, 12km, 13km, at 14km I decided I actually felt good and consciously picked it up and started passing runners, and this gave me more confidence and so I just kept pushing. It was the perfect plan if my plan was to run an even race at 6:30-6:20/mile. As I hit ~ 18 km, things started to hurt, but that’s ok, its suppose to hurt there, that’s where I just tried to pick a few runners just ahead of me and stay with them or pass them. Not to beat them but to keep me chasing for the finish line. At the end of it all I finished with an extremely satisfying 1 hour 25-minute half marathon.
I was a good reminder effort and consistency do count in training even as conditions challenged the willingness to deal with adversity and the need for the comforting feedback of perfect pacing times.
It also confirmed the strategy of focusing on the building of the engine with 60-90 minute race effort intervals that were more dictated by footing and temperatures but always specific target HR’s, and or perceived efforts and on the odd day correct pacing. Amazingly enough, I can honestly say I never ran a single interval at a 6:20/mile pace out there between October when I started and last week.
Why Aerobic Power uses more of the Sweet Spot Methodology
Recently, there have been 2 more popular and talked about methods of training on all the podcasts, polarized training and sweet spot training.
Polarized Training (80/20)
Majority of training utilizes the two extreme ends of the training intensity continuum. An athlete would spend 80 % of training time working at 55-65% of Functional Threshold Power (FTP) and 20% of training time working at over 90% of FTP.
Tempo / Sweet Spot Training
Tempo is a training zone ranging from 75% - 90% of your FTP. Usually called Level 3 or Zone 3 on one’s training profile.
The “Sweet Spot” as coined by power training guru Hunter Allen is a label for a specific training intensity that falls at the higher end of Tempo training in most training zone profiles, 88-93% of Functional Threshold Power.
The majority of training time would be spent between 75-90% of FTP and probably more of that between 80-90% of FTP.
I think the key variable one must consider when evaluating your early season training methodology is time and most athletes who I work with do not have much of it. Working cyclists and especially those who are fitting in swims and runs usually have 4-9 hours per week on their bike. This is not enough time on the bike to be spending 80% of that at 65% or less of FTP and expect to gain all the benefits associated with polarized training.
Professionals and other cyclists who have prescribed to polarized training are able to put in a minimum of 12+ hours a week to gain the desired adaptations from polarized training.
All things being equal using polarized during parts of your training may have some fantastic benefits towards building a bigger, broader aerobic engine or foundation to build your specific fitness onto but when things are not equal and you need to optimize your limited time, training at tempo / sweet spot lends itself to that same objective of building a big aerobic engine while being mindful of minimizing risk of over training or peaking too early in the season.
When utilizing the sweet spot focused training cyclists must be very mindful of their perceived efforts and resulting metrics. It is very important to not let that effort and watts number creep up close to or over threshold. If we let this urge get the best of us, we will begin to start to dig that deep hole into over training. In this case, in these types of workouts more or harder is not better. It is vital that you focus on and work within the suggested range in order to achieve the gains without building up too much fatigue.
We just wrapped up our first in person camp in many years, our swim camp instructed by Kris Schultz took place yesterday. 14 swimmers ranging from very new to very experienced all gained another level of comfort through improved technique increasing their efficiency and for some of the newer swimmers decreasing their fear after having missed events for 2+ years now. Stay tuned for our follow up clinic and an open water swim clinic.