Friday, November 13, 2009

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.


At November 13, 2009 8:00 AM , Blogger anon said...

Joe-My post is in reference to one of your earlier posts on scheduling. I was wondering how you might modify your training plan if an athlete is training for the collegiate cycling season (which starts in early March). For much of Jan and Feb, the weather can be too bad (especially on the northeast) to ride outside. In other words, when we're supposed to be transitioning to more on-the-bike time, it's getting harder and harder to ride outside. How would you modify scheduling/the distribution of workouts in this case?

At November 13, 2009 8:24 AM , Blogger Tim said...

I now realize what I've been doing wrong. My "aerobic" rides tend to slip into zone 3/4 as I give in to the temptation to ride harder.

Perhaps I might benefit from doing my zone 2 aerobic rides in the gym on a stationary bike.

At November 13, 2009 9:08 AM , Blogger Aldy said...

With regards to decoupling, should there any adjustment for heat? I live in a tropical climate and I know that the decoupling comes about faster the warmer/more humid it is.

How reliable is the test under warm/hot conditions?

At November 13, 2009 10:18 AM , Blogger Marshall said...

I've just read this :

I'm surprised by what seems to be a tremendous amount of zone 1, low zone 2 training by the best endurance athletes in the world.

Would in your judgement, given the time to ride 30,000miles/yr, would it be better to do so at the low intensity these world class athletes train at, or would you suggest a similar TSS score via fewer miles spent closer to the top of zone 2?

Thank you,

At November 13, 2009 11:02 AM , Blogger Jim said...


Your system for determining if AeT is fully developed is awesome. I've used it extensively ever since I read total heart rate training. A couple of questions:

In this post you said that you are looking for 2 hours for biking and 90 minutes for running. The new training bible says that the Olympic Distance triathlete should shoot for 90 minutes biking and 60 running. I've usually shot for the former higher numbers (actually 3:00 on the bike) can you give some more insight into how to determine how long you should be able to stay coupled per sport per distance?

Last year I finished base 1 able to stay coupled for 2:00 on the bike and 90 minutes on the run. However my paces / power levels were very low (9:30 run pace and 150 average watts bike power). I tested again and LTHR indicated that my zones seemed about right. I don't think I was really fully developed aerobically because of the low pace/power. Can you give some insight if I was on track on developing AeT fully?

How do you structure AeT to maintain it? Does it look like a long bike one week and a long run the next?

Finally, how long should a competitive age group athlete be able to run / ride in zone 3 by the end of base 3, in your estimation?

At November 13, 2009 5:04 PM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

Jim--Wow. Lots of questions. You guys are relentless - even when I'm on vacation. :) I'll try to answer them...

I vary the AeT workout durations based on the event for which the athlete is traning. And quite honestly I don't recall the ranges off the top of my head by race durations right now. They're in my latest editions of the Tri Training Bible.

What you want to see hapen over time is that you get faster/more powerful at the same HR. This takes some time. Be patient.

As for maintaining it I typically have them alternate weeks for AeT run and bike workouts.

There is a tremendous variance in the duration athletes can sustain a z3 effort. Any place from 90 minutes to 4 hours or so.

At November 13, 2009 5:17 PM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

Marshall--Not sure if you're asking if the world class riders should ride at a higher intensity or people in general. Don't think I can answer that question without knowing who the rider is and what their limiters are.

At November 13, 2009 5:26 PM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

Aldy--I'll give you an example. I used to coach an IM athlete who lives in Phoenix area. Worked nights so could only train during day. Did Hawaii every year. So from June to October he trained in the hottest art of the day. Average high then is 108F. It's monoon season then also so humidity is 50-60%. At start of summer he would decouple quite a bit. By end of summer he was always less than 5%. You adapt to heat if you work at it.

At November 13, 2009 5:32 PM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

anon--Yeah, it can be a problem to have ride indoors a lot to get th saddle time in. I understnd. It's a matter of training for the specific race stress you need for your early season races. That stress comes from some combinatuion of duration and intensity. Much of this will need to be done on a trainer. No way to get aound that sometimes.

At November 14, 2009 8:38 AM , Anonymous Bart said...

Joe, thanks for all the insight over the years. I have a couple of quick questions about decoupling. 1. What is a reasonable amount of decoupling as a percentage of HR drift? You mention 5%, I am wondering if that is the goal number. And 2. Is there an expected higher percentage of drift over a longer time interval? I would expect your answer to be yes, based on intuition and my own training logs. It seems you measure decoupling mostly over a 30 minute period following a mainset of Z4/Z5 intervals. And I guess I have three questions 3. I would bet your advice is that it's probably best to start testing aerobic decoupling in the mid to late base periods, once the body has begun to adapt to E2 workouts. Should the testing be done as part of a combined mainset (like the examples in your previous decoupling blogs), or can results be obtained from a 90 min Z3 steady-state workout? This relates to my second question, IMHO less than 5% drift over an hour plus in zone 3 would indicate terrific aerobic fitness (either running or swimming.)

Thanks again Joe! Enjoy your vaca and I hope your drives are long and straight.

At November 14, 2009 1:36 PM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

Bart--1. Goal is low as possible. 2. The longer you go the more likely it is to decouple. But the goal remains <5%. 3. Test for decoupling weekly in base period. You're doing a long workout anyway. It is the test.

At November 16, 2009 3:19 PM , Blogger Pton98 said...

Do the heartrate zone calculations apply to experienced and novice athletes equally?
I have done the 30 minute all-out time trial to determine my lactate threshold, for the bike and for the run. Based on that HR, I used your formulas to calculate the HR zones for each sport. But reading the description of what Zone 2 should feel like (conversational pace), I worry that I have set Zone 2 too high, even though the LTHR has been consistent/slightly higher in each successive test. On the other hand approximately 5-10 beats lower feels right.
What I can push myself to do for 30 minutes (and especially the last 20 minutes) is waaay different than what I could push myself through for 1 hour, or 2 hours. Would a more experienced athlete would have more compressed ranges?
Should the novice athlete adjust their zones lower than the formulas suggest?
Put differently, does a relatively untrained athlete have a lower Zone 2 as a percetange of lactate threshold than an athlete with a larger endurance base?

At November 16, 2009 5:28 PM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

pton98--Well, not really. LTHR is LTHR regardless of one's fitness level. It's just that as one becomes more fit initially LTHR may rise. Of course, it's different for each sport.


Post a Comment

<< Home