Saturday, November 14, 2009

Coaching Novice Athletes, Part 4

Now we move on to the last three abilities, the more advanced ones. The outcomes of races are determined by these three. They are also the most stressful in training, so for the novice athlete caution must be applied. The risk of injury and burnout increases as these abilities are added to the training mix.

4. Muscular Endurance. This ability is the most important for triathlon and running races. For the cyclist this is critical for time trialing. It has less impact on the outcome of a road race but allows the rider to hang in with a fast moving group. I include it in the training of all novice athletes, but generally delay introducing it until they are well into the Base period when it is apparent that aerobic endurance and force are progressing well. Working on muscular endurance before these more basic abilities are developed is not very effective.

Muscular endurance (ME) workouts involve relatively long intervals with short recoveries, or long, steady state efforts. The intensity is at lactate/anaerobic/functional threshold or slightly below. Using my heart rate zone system, this would be zones 3 through 5a.

For the novice I start with zone 3 steady states in the late Base period. An experienced athlete will typically begin this training in Base 2. A typical workout is swimming, riding or running steadily for 20 minutes in zone 3. For advanced athletes I look to see if there is much decoupling (as explained in Part 3). If aerobic endurance is coming along well the advanced athlete should experience little decoupling and so we can move on very soon to ME intervals. For the novice athlete it may take several weeks to achieve an acceptable level of decoupling before advancing with training.

For advanced athletes ME intervals, which I call 'cruise intervals' (I stole that term from a swim coach), are about 6 to 12 minutes long. But for the novice athlete I will start with about 3-minute durations. The recovery intervals are about one-fourth of the work interval duration. So after a 3-minute work interval the recovery is 75 seconds, and after a 12-minute interval the recovery is 3 minutes (for swimming these recoveries may be shortened by half). The work interval duration increases as the athlete adapts to this new form of stress. The intensity is now zones 4-5a. For the novice I start with about 12 minutes of cruise intervals in a single session once a week (per sport for triathletes so long as the novice is handling the training load well). The advanced athlete will do 20 to 30 minutes of cruise intervals in a single session weekly in the Base period. In the Build period the session volume of these intervals increases to whatever the athlete can manage. Again, this type of training is critical for steady state events such as time trials, triathlon, and running races.

There are many variations on cruise intervals. For example, they may be done on long hills when preparing for a hilly race, or to maintain force along with ME in the Build period. For long-course triathlon, especially half-Ironman distance, I often use 20-minute cruise intervals on the bike totalling 80 to 120 minutes of work interval time (4-6 intervals). I save this type of training for advanced triathletes only.

Once ME training begins in the Base period it continues uninterrupted through the remainder of the season and remains a primary focus of training for the novice athlete.

If time allows I will follow up with the next post on power training followed by anaerobic endurance soon after. Travel back to Scottsdale may delay these last two installments. We'll see what happens.

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At November 14, 2009 4:09 AM , Blogger gerhardsletten said...

Hi Joe

Really like how you are explaining the ME training. Heading for my 3rd season doing ironmans, I am trying to follow your periodization from Triathlon Bible. And I am now in the end of first week in Base 1.

According to that program, force is applyed later in the base and in build, but if this ability is no. 1 limiter for your cycle skills, should I spent more time on this rather than speed skills and endurance (allready in Base 1)?

At November 14, 2009 7:05 AM , Blogger Ethan said...


Sorry to bug you again on your vacation, but I just wanted to clarify something regarding my last question. For those of living in "winter wonderlands" who continue cross training into our base periods is it important to keep the intensity down to zones 1 and 2, or is it ok if our activity has us in zones 3,4, and 5 if we only do it once week?

thanks again

At November 14, 2009 1:39 PM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

Ethan--Yes, it's ok to do some higher intensity training rather than suffering through several hours indoors. But I'd use that to focus primarily on force, speed skills, ME and power. Minimize anaerobic endurance training in base.

At November 14, 2009 1:42 PM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

gerhard--I don't see why you couldn't work on force along with speed skills and aerobic endurance in base 1. Or perhaps I'm misreading your question. It's also ok to continue working on force into Build since it's a limiter. Good luck!

At November 15, 2009 6:45 AM , Blogger gerhardsletten said...

Hi, Joe

Refering to page 98 in Triathlon Bible (2. edition) you write that force workouts should start in Base 2, and in Base 1: "..mark the Endurance and Speed Skills columns for each weeek..". Is there something with the way our body respond to periodization that makes is more "right" do start force workouts in Base 2 and not Base 1?

Under the suggested force workout in Triathlon Bible you write that one should raise the front wheel to simulate hills. Is this necessary? (right now I don't have any equipment to use for this, and I would need to make something)

In Norway many cyclist are training something they call "Styrketråkk" which is like this:
10x4min at 40-45 rpm in HR zone 1-2 with 2 min breaks. Under the suggested workouts mention above you write minimum 60 rpm. Will this "Styrketråkk" workout be suitable as a force workout, or should I raise the rpm to 60?

At November 15, 2009 1:55 PM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

gerhard--I love it when people quote me to suggest I'm wrong. Funny.

Force includes weight training that reaches a peak in base 1. After that froce on bike begins in base 2. I wouldn't recommend heavy weights and forec work on bike both in base 1.

So long as 40rpm doesn't aggravate your knees it's ok.

Coming to my Oslo clinic next week?

At November 15, 2009 2:23 PM , Blogger gerhardsletten said...

// gerhard--I love it when people quote me to suggest I'm wrong. Funny.

My apologies. Only trying to understand whats laying beneath periodization in training.

// I wouldn't recommend heavy weights and force work on bike both in base 1.

Seems very reasonable, we are converting to more sport spesific strength.

// Coming to my Oslo clinic next week?

Jepp. Looking very forward to to this event. (Am the dude making the webpage for it ;-)

At November 16, 2009 8:53 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is the difference between Muscular Endurance and functional threshold power?

At November 17, 2009 2:52 AM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

anon--ME is an ability you train to improve race fitness. FTP is a proxy for anaerobic threshold power.

At November 20, 2009 5:32 AM , Blogger Fabiano - FCA Sports said...

Do you believe that ME training may be more beneficial to mountain bikers (XC and marathoners) compared to AE?

At November 20, 2009 6:15 AM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

Fabiano--Generally, I think that is true since MTB is more steady state than road racing. Hills and obstacles are usually what cause shifts in steady riding in MTB. So some AE training beneficial here. More so than triathlon.


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