by Alan Couzens, MS (Sports Science)
In my last blog post, I offered a quick retrospective on some of the things that I would like to do differently as my squad heads into 2013.
While it’s always good to look back on the past with a critical eye, it is equally important to celebrate the successes -- the changes that we made this year that led to some breakthrough performances. I’ll attempt to recount some of those in this article, so that you, the reader, can apply them to your own 2013 plan and have your own breakthrough year!
- By all means, try some “fancy stuff” early in the year, but when the training really matters, stick with the areas that the athlete is strong and that most tie in with the specific demands of the event.
It probably doesn’t aid my business as a “science based” coach, but a big lesson from 2011 was that things tended to fall apart the “fancier” I got with the training plan. Specifically, when we attempted to rectify athletic weaknesses late in the season, it invariably led to a reduction in training load and overall fitness. I changed that up this year so that any “fancy stuff” happened early and that the bulk of the late season was spent on using the athlete’s strengths to both get really fit and get very familiar with the specific demands of the event (which are fundamentally very simple in themselves). Train weaknesses first. Train strengths later. This is a change I will be carrying forward into 2013.
- Try a little more volume and a little less intensity in your key ironman taper.
Of course, tapers are very specific to the individual athlete, but my “standard” ironman taper before this year was:
- Big week four to five weeks out
- Two to three week “peak” of significantly reduced volume but increased intensity
- Race week -- more diminished volume, with an emphasis on “fast” rather than “hard” intensity
While physically this worked well, it took a little bit for the head to catch up with the psychology of moving from the long hard workouts of the big week to the short hard workouts of the peak weeks. Also, the lack of long stuff close to the event sometimes led to the athlete feeling a little flat late in the race.
This year, I tried the following with a few of the “volume responder” type athletes and it seemed to work better on both counts:
- Five weeks out: Big week
- Four weeks out: Medium volume, low structure
- Three weeks out: High intensity, low structure
- Two weeks out: High intensity with a little more structure/benchmarks and a final medium long workout five to seven days before the race
- Race week: Peppy low structure
- The difference between who qualifies and who doesn’t is starting to come down to multiple training camps.
It’s a reality of the numbers that with the growth of serious athletes within the sport, there are a lot of athletes doing standard training weeks around the 20-hour mark and only a limited number of slots for these athletes. It’s no coincidence that the Chronic Training Load numbers that lead to qualification in the competitive age groups are just a notch above what’s generally sustainable in the context of a working life. That “notch” usually comes from the addition of two to three weeks of intensified training spaced through the build leading to an athletic peak. The fitness bump that comes from a properly placed, well absorbed, overload week simply cannot be replicated under the low time, high stress constraints of normal life. It’s a fact that serious athletes are beginning to devote two to three weeks of their vacation time each year to “live like a pro.” I will be continuing to encourage my serious age group athletes to exploit this strategy for all it’s worth in 2013.
If you want to train with the EC crew, Endurance Corner hosts a number of camps throughout the year. I will also be doing an EC partner camp with top age-grouper Nicolas Theopold in Mallorca, Spain, in April.
You can find more detail on the ins and outs of the process of season planning in this article series but when getting wrapped up in your 2013 spreadsheets, don’t underestimate the power of incorporating these three simple strategies.