Monday 28 May 2012

First results of my Speed and Interval Training Block

This Sunday, I will already have finished the first 8-weeks of my 13-week Speed and Interval Training Block  – and the results are unbelievable!! Last Sunday I did a brick run on my 10 km loop through the river valley of Edmonton. This loop is everything but flat and also includes two set of stairs: One going down and one going up for about 30 sec each. Last year my personal best was a pace of 4:16 min/km (stand alone run) now it is a 4:06 min/km (off the bike). What was really amazing is that it felt way better than last year and I could have gone farther, although my average heat rate was 7 bpm higher (161 vs. 154 last year). To me this is clearly a sign that my body becomes used to faster running due to the 400 and 800 m track intervals that I am doing and gets more comfortable at higher heart rates.

As for cycling, my first race in Category 1/2 at the Pigeon Lake Road Race yesterday (137km) also turned out to be very successful. My goal was to keep my effort controlled, stay passive and just observe how people in the highest category in Alberta are racing – but for some reason I always find myself in breakaways. I just cannot resist the temptation to follow if someone is going for an attack :) 

In short: After a few attacks, I finally managed to be in a breakaway for 90 km with 3 other riders. We got caught with approximately 12 km to go. A series of attacks followed and for some reason I managed again to be in the breakaway. This time with two riders (one of them was in the first break as well) but I was pretty beaten-up at that point and I was suffering A LOT. About 600 m before the finish line the two started their sprint games and I just tried to rescue myself into the finish somehow and remain in third place, but as so often before it didn’t work out and I eventually finished 6th. Nonetheless, I was extremely happy and it showed that my Speed and Interval Training Block already pays off.

Now, I can’t wait to see how that translates into triathlon! In three weeks (June-16), I will have my first half Ironman distance race in Calgary and I can’t wait to see the results.

Until then train safe and check back in three weeks!


Friday 4 May 2012

What is performance and how to increase it?

The other day I spent quite some time thinking about what are the ingredients of high performance and how to manipulate them to become a faster athlete.
I identified six components (see below) which I think contribute most to performance and which can be easily altered just by my own will, determination and organization, e.g. they are for free and only require me to:

  1. Actively dissect my past training
  2. Make appropriate changes to increase performance
  3. Test them and re-evaluate their effects
  4. Repeat the procedure

The following list shows these six components:

  1. Speed
  2. Skill (Technique)
  3. Strength
  4. Stamina
  5. Endurance
  6. Recovery time

This list is ordered in my own personal way and reflects my focus. Things at the top need improvement, things at the bottom are pretty much under control and only need to be maintained.

The big question is however, how do I know what needs to be changed in my training regime, so that it would result in increased performance?

Well, here we are: The million-dollar question :)

I think there is no single answer. The answer depends on the character of the person who is devoting his or her time to it. If someone likes and needs detail and sophisticated methods, simple and uniform interval workouts probably won’t convince that person to devote their time and effort to it. For that person, in order to get a similar physiological response, this training session would need adjustments to meet his or her own needs. Ultimately, we have to believe in what we are doing since the muscles don’t really mind whether workouts are simple or sophisticated; I rather think we must sell the whole training package to ourselves and discuss with our inner voice whether to accept or reject it – whether we want to devote our time and effort to it or not. In other words, some training plans work better with some people and not as good with others. It’s like finding the perfect pair of running shoes. You have to try and experiment!

Coming back to the question above: In order to figure out what I needed to change, I decided to do all the things I usually neglected or didn’t like to do (see list above). That included speed and skill/technique for the most part. I would have always preferred a longer endurance session to an eyeball-popping interval session, and this year I will opt for the intervals (trying to keep my eyeballs in though!). The main idea is to first increase my general speed and economy on short intervals (1-1:30 min), in which I hope to increase my base speed, and then transfer this new level of speed into distance. I think that at my current training level just trying to run faster over long endurance intervals won’t make me significantly faster.

Please comment and let me know what you think and how you would try to improve your performance!

Thanks for reading!