Sunday, November 2, 2008

Thoughts on Volume

There is little doubt that the key to high performance is getting the intensity of training right in the last few weeks before a race. Volume is much less important at that time on the year. But now is the time of year when summer-sport endurance athletes in the northern hemisphere should be devoting a great deal of time to training aerobically. Bumping up the volume can provide a significant payback later on. The primary benefits to be achieved with high-volume, low-intensity training take place primarily in the muscles: increased mitochondrial density for the production of energy from fat, increased capillary density for the delivery of oxygen and fuel to the muscles, and enhanced activity of aerobic, fat-metabolizing enzymes. These adaptations take years to maximize. Kenyan runners are a great example of this. They spend much of their childhood using running as transportation since their families often don’t have cars. It’s during these years that they develop superior aerobic fitness which serves as the base of their high-performance training later in life.

High-volume training should be conducted at an intensity well below the anaerobic/lactate threshold to be affective. I like to have the athletes I train do the bulk of such training in their heart rate or power 2 zones. This is about 80 to 89% of lactate threshold heart rate and 65 to 75% of functional threshold power (FTP). Throughout the base period I compare their heart rates with their power or pace when doing such steady-state workouts to see how much drift is taking place. I call this “decoupling.” They should be able to do quite long workouts with minimal decoupling (less than 5%) before starting into the build period of training. For details on this go
here and read the article on “AeT Training.”

Webinars Archive: On another topic...TrainingBible Coaching now has posted webinars our coaches and I have done in the last few months. Included are triathlon swim strategies, the Paleo diet for athletes and race pacing strategies. They may be viewed here.


At November 2, 2008 5:58 PM , Anonymous Ted Darling said...

Joe, the LSD (Long Slow Distance) concept is great, but not very practical when you live in the Northeast where the snow starts flying in mid-November. That relegates the cyclist to time on the trainer, where LSD is brutally boring. While I usually do a training camp in Tuscon or CA in the late winter, after which I can begin riding more outside, what do you recommend for athletes that live in cold climates with minimal daylight during the late fall and early winter months?

At November 3, 2008 6:49 AM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

Hi Ted--That is a very good point. I used to live in the frozen northland myself and know what you are talking about. It's a little different in Phoenix area, which is why I live here. :)

One of the cyclists I coach, 6 years now, lives in Wisconsin. They have some nasty winters there. The keys to his building an aerobic base are cross-training and consistency. He runs quite a bit in the winter. This helps with central system development (heart, lungs, blood) but does little for peripheral systems (muscles, as described in post above). He also rides indoors several times a week with a focus on aerobic threshold workouts (the "AeT Training" article mentioned here explains this). He doesn't ride long indoors. 1-1.5 hours is common. But we emphasize purposeful rides. He also lifts weights to build force. Whenever the weather breaks he gets outside for a long ride, if possible. Like you he gets away once mid-winter to some place warm for a week of riding. His first race is usually in April and he comes to it in quite good shape.

BTW, TrainingBible Coaching will offer a camp in Tucson this February for anyone wanting to escape the snow and get in some miles. Check back at home page for details. I'll also mention it here when the dates are firm.

At November 4, 2008 8:17 AM , Blogger Astorian said...

Hello Joe

I am an avid reader of your blog and a Cyclist's Training Bible (3rd Edition) disciple. Thanks for the amazing resource! Quick question relating to intensity, volume, and the Training Bible's workout appendix.

When I purchased my PowerTap, I also picked up Training and Racing With A Power Meter.

Comparing the workouts in both books gets a little confusing. Hunter describes things like "Blow Out" efforts, combines 30min threshold efforts with 10 "hill jams", doing 8x2s in the third hour of a long ride, micro bursts, etc. Overall, the workouts seem to have more variability (combining work in different zones), complexity, and intensity. In the sample workouts the authors seem to be ignoring base and LSD altogether.

For example:

5 hours. Most of this ride is just getting in the miles and having fun. But also include two 30-minute efforts, both done at threshold, and at least ten solid hill jams (hills can be 30 seconds to 2 minutes) with watts at 300 or greater.

Is this a difference in training philosophy, or just a function of Coggan/Allen targeting people with power meters who might have more willingness to pursue complex combinations of intervals in a single ride? I'd like to stick with the Cyclist's Training Bible appendix but I get this silly feeling that I'm somehow missing the boat on more complex workouts.

Or maybe having a PM simply increases the riders desire to play around with different intervals and masochistic workouts instead of hammering out slow miles?

Thanks again for your thoughtful work. John.

At November 4, 2008 12:54 PM , Anonymous Michael Foley said...

Yes...Ted articulates my exact dilema with this advice. Mentally, I can only spend 60 minutes on the trainer per day indoors.

So let me frame a hypothetical question: should I only do 6 hours of this low-intensity training per week....or is it okay to bump the intensity into higher zones if I can handle a higher workload (still saying out of zone 5)?

Not to mingle coaching acronyms...but Carmichael's FIT (Frequency, Intensity, Time) comes to mind. I see lowering the *overall* FIT in the off-season....but since T or Time is so reduced in winter on the may be OK to bump up the I or Intensity?

At November 4, 2008 1:32 PM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

Hi Astorian - There are many different ways to train. Any of them can be successful for someone so long as they pick the one that best suits their needs which is maybe as much mental as physical. The workout you describe above from the book is along the lines of what I would have an athlete do in base 3 or possibly even base 2 for an aerobically advanced athlete. There would have been a build up to such a workout going on in the previous periods. One of the biggest problems I see is athletes wanting to start doing high intensity workouts many months in advance of their first race. Some high intensity is ok so long as it doesn't reduce the development of aerobic endurance.

At November 4, 2008 1:59 PM , Blogger Astorian said...

I noticed how you have a couple training plans up on 'Peaks that coincide with your training periods. Great! I'll have to check one out.

I was just getting confused. Pick up one magazine, or one book, or read one blog, and you're bound to get one snapshot of a plan.

The Training Bible is one of the few books that really empowers people to design their own plan and get the big picture. Thanks!

At November 4, 2008 2:34 PM , Blogger Doug said...

Good comments here, as they echo a lot of things that are front and center in my mind. I was looking for some type of marriage between training (Training Bible) and process (Training and Racing with Power Meter). Joe's article on the resource page is a good companion.

ted darling hit on something I'm going through. I'm restricted to indoor workouts right now, and will likely have to trade off aerobic endurance for muscular endurance workouts. Similar to the athlete in Wisconsin, I will be focusing on 1hr sessions but I was thinking more of steady state tempo workouts along with some sub-threshold workouts. After reading Joe's AeT article, perhaps the tempo workout would be lessened to an aerobic workout. My concern is that my cross-training is restricted due to some rehab, and even though I won't be tuning the exact "correct" system by doing Tempo workouts, I think I would be somehow getting "more fit" because of the higher intensity of the Tempo zone.

Joe, what do you see as the major trade-offs between the aerobic (or AeT) indoor workout vs. a 1hr Tempo workout? Maybe the differences are quite subtle, since one zone is blending into the next (ie my AeT would be 156bpm whereas Tempo is 160 to 168).

I wonder if there is a market for a book or Training Plan (ie the $89 training plans on that focuses on indoor/time restrictive athletes? I think there are a lot of people like myself that have limiters due to weather and family commitments, but still would like to maximize our training for recreational racing.


At November 5, 2008 9:22 AM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

Michael--As always, it depends. If you are training for 45 min crits or sprint triathlons then a steady diet of 60-minute rides is going to work pretty well in the early base so long as you get out on the road when possible for longer sessions. If you are training for 3-hour road races or long course tris then you've got a bigger dilemma with 1 hour rides. Of course, then it would come down to when the race is. If it's an Ironman in January you've got a tremendous problem. One hour, high-intensity rides are not the same as 6-hour, zone 2 race efforts. So it is very difficult to answer this question without knowing what the end point is supposed to be. But let's assume it's Olympic tri or 2 hour road racing and the A race is in late April. In Nov the emphasis would be on force (weights), pedaling economy which is a great 1-hour ride, and aerobic endurance. One-hour rides in this scenario done at a steady high zone 2 would be fine. But in Dec the training stress would need to increase. Force training should move to hills (real hills are best but simulated can work). Economy workouts stay much the same. Aerobic endurance needs much more attention. I'd strongly suggest that now you need to find a way to get some longer rides in. Short, high intensity stress is not the same as long, moderate intensity stress in terms of benefits. Now the bottom line is that you may race just as well as everyone else assuming you race in your locale and everyone else had the same horrendous weather and was unable to get any volume in. But there are always athletes who go beyond what most others are willing to endure. I believe it was Lance who said something like he won the TdF in the winter and was famous for his almost daily 6-hour rides.

I know it's easy for me to say this given that I live in the sunny and warm Phoenix valley. But I also spent 30 years in northern Colorado up against the foothills. There were riders on the roada and trails all winter regardless of the weather. My son still lives there and gets out on trails on a 'cross bike or MTB when the roads aren't safe. My mother used to say that where there's a will, there's a way.

At November 5, 2008 9:33 AM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

Hi Doug--Another good question. In my answer to Michael's question I was assuming he was referring to intensity in terms of it being anaerobic. I may have read him wrong. I believe any training you do at any intensity will improve aerobic fitness. The reseasrch supports even 30-second intervals at CP6 as good for this. But I'm also concerned about how the stress is applied relative to a calendar. I believe the body adapts best when the changes in stress, especially intensity, are gradual and steadily progressive. Suddenly doing lots of CP6 workouts in November after a few weeks off the bike just doesn't seem like a good training strategy even if it improves aerobic system function. Such training carried out for the next 6 months until the first A race is almost sure to result in an early fitness peak. This is how you produce 'Christmas stars.' I think such training would also lead to a short season due to loss of motivation.

At November 5, 2008 10:23 AM , Anonymous Dave P said...

Hello Joe!
I have a couple of questions leading back to your "drink only when thirsty" blog article (which I completely agree with).
In the bike leg of an Ironman if I were to drink to thirst how often should I expect to pee? The older, out-dated thinking was to drink every X amount of minutes so you'd most likely have to pee at least 2-3 times throughout the bike ride, but this thinking should change now too, correct?
Also too, is it possible to drink enough while doing an Ironman that you wouldn't have to pee at all because you'd simply be replacing the fluids you lost through sweat and not drinking too much fluids, thus not having to making you pee?
Looking forward to your thoughts on these questions!

Thank you!
Dave P

At November 5, 2008 1:13 PM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

Hi Dave--That's an interesting question about peeing in an IM relative to drinking to thirst. In the past few months I've had an athlete I coach pee a couple of times and another not pee at all. Both were sub-5 hour rides. So I really can't answer that question definitively. But I'm not sure it is necessary to know. If you drink to thirst you are avoiding both excessive dehydration and hyponatremia. Those are really the key issues.

At November 9, 2008 9:33 AM , Blogger Doug said...

Another volume related question...

How should people reconcile bike commuting to/from work with training? It is added stress and can add significant time to on-bike riding. For example, an athlete that is planning a 300hr training year will have weekly workouts from 4 to 8hrs. Adding a 30min commute brings the total up to between 9 and 13hrs on the bike.

Personally I have two approaches to this situation. First, it is possible that some training rides can be combined with a commute. Perhaps the athlete can extend the commute by an hour and do an interval workout. Secondly, bike commuting is a lifestyle choice for many people and I guess it's just the cost of doing business.

Joe, how much difference is there between doing a 1.5hr endurance ride (aerobic zone) as opposed to doing two 45min endurance rides on the same day (ie riding to and from work)?

At November 9, 2008 11:40 AM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

Hi Doug--I would suggest counting commute time as training so long as you fit it into the training plan in terms of volume and intensity. As for the benefits of 2 x 45 min rides vs 1 x 90 minute ride in a given day, it depends on the purpose. A 90-minute ride has greater potential for improving aerobic endurance than 2 x 45. But shorter rides have greater potential for improving anaerobic endurance since one is not limited by aerobic endurance. But given that we're talking about a relatively short amount of time daily either way I don't think the differences would be too great.

At November 30, 2008 7:43 PM , Blogger s said...

Hi Joe
Question on your Total Heart Rate Training book... I'm trying to get a feel for the HR zones to concentrate on during the periods of training (prep, base, build etc...)

I find the Appendix 4 a bit misleading in terms of what zones to focus on... Would it be safe to assume that anything before the "build" phase should be kept at an aerobic threshold and step it up to "tempo" during the build phases?

I'm mainly talking about the long workouts like the long rides, the long bikes etc... Obviously the intervals and speed work should be done at the indicated HR zone indicated in your book.



Post a Comment

<< Home