Coaching Novice Athletes, Part 3
I'm up early before my wife and friends where we're staying on St. Thomas so here's another installment in how I coach novices.
3. Aerobic Endurance. While most athletes want to start here with their training I hold off a few weeks as speed skill and force are coming along. These abilities will begin to develop aerobic endurance without any additional training.
I define aerobic endurance as extensive, steady state training which is done at near the aerobic threshold. I'll explain this.
By 'extensive' I mean 45 minutes for swimming, 2 hours for cycling and 90 minutes for running. Once the athlete has built up to these levels we are doing aerobic endurance training. How rapidly the athlete progresses is an individual matter. For some these levels are reached in a few weeks while for others it is months.
'Steady state' means that the training is done continuously at the prescribed intensity without a lot of variance. Someone sent me an email today saying that he rides with a group once a week that does a 3- to 4-hour zone 2 ride. At the end there is a 2km climb which they 'race' up. Is this finish detrimental to their training, he asked. My answer was that such a finish is fine. Several hours riding steadily in zone 2 is excellent at this time of year. A few minutes going anaerobic is not a big deal physiologically. I've read some saying that something such as this would negate the gains made previously in the workout. I sincerely doubt it. The body doesn't work that way.
Using my heart rate and pace systems the aerobic threshold is zone 2. With Coggan's power zones it is also the second lowest zone. This will seem quite easy as you start an aerobic endurance workout, so easy that you'll be tempted to go harder. Don't do it. Be patient and you'll reap the benefits with much greater aerobic fitness, which is, after all, at the core of endurance training. By the end of the workout you will understand what we're trying to accomplish here.
Since I require everyone I coach to have a heart rate monitor, power meter (bike) and a speed-distance device (run), after such a workout I compare their heart rate (input) with their power or pace (output) to see how aerobically fit they are. WKO+ software does this for me and so I look for what I call 'decoupling' in these aerobic endurance workouts. That means input and output are separating as the workout progresses. Either heart rate is rising while power/pace is steady or power/pace is dropping off while heart rate remains steady. I've found aerobically fit athletes decouple less than 5%. I don't consider the athlete aerobically fit until we achieve this.
Such training may be done once a week for the novice. Experienced athletes may do it 2 or 3 times weekly at this time of year.
As with speed skill and force, once aerobic endurance is built to a satisfactory level it is maintained by doing such a workout every other week throughout the Build period.
In the next post on this topic I'll discuss muscular endurance.