Sunday night and I'm sitting here for the first time in quite a while feeling pretty satisfied by a good solid legit week of training! It's funny b/c it wasn't really that big or hard of a week (last year it wouldn't have even made me blink!) but given how I've been training the last ~6 months it felt hard and more than once I used the word 'tired' in my post workout notes. And in some weird sick way I feel more content than I have in a while. I know 14-16 hours/week feels like good solid training for a lot of athletes, but I am a WORKHORSE and I am happier at closer to 20 and when my Garmin elevation profiles look something like this...
I don't know if you want to know all the details of what the involved or not, but I pretty much got to it all this past week... 5K hard swim, hard ocean swim, sprint swim, easy swim, heavy squats in the gym, hill reps on bike and run, long/easy bike and run, fartlek run, big gear work on the bike, tempo on the bike, 30' hard TT on bike (those last 3 were actually all one session yesterday YIKES), brick run OTB, double run day... I actually wrote in my notes earlier this week that I felt like maybe I should repent for any time I felt worried or concerned that maybe I just wasn't going to be working very hard this year... :) Clearly I am going to get to work hard but in good news I think it will work better for me this time around because I'm not going to repeat that week after week after week until I'm a complete zombie... but rather insert those weeks sometimes as appropriate then back off when it's time and allow for some recovery. My gut says this method is going to be good for me! AND, since I don't get to put together weeks like that every week, when they pop up on my schedule I get excited about tackling them vs feeling a pit in my stomach like shit can I really do all that??
Anyway, with that extra time to train came extra time to think and I spent most of that thinking about some of the athletes I'm working with right now. I have some athletes that I've worked with for years... many are workhorses and I can give them big training weeks and they thrive on those and come through them really well. They know that during those weeks they need to plan their eating and sleeping and manage their time really well to fit everything in... That might be one of the biggest differences between more experienced athletes vs the newbies. When the screws start to turn, they know how to buckle down and arrange everything to get the most benefit.
That said, I've taken on some less experienced athletes this year as well. I think this is actually really good for my development as a coach because I can watch and look for patterns and see how the newbies think and operate differently and then (hopefully!) guide them to start thinking and taking pro-active steps to avoid some pitfalls that are common to less durable athletes. Because that's the thing- fewer miles in an athletes legs means less durability and there's not really a way around that other than to be accumulating miles! And those miles for a newbie can feel killer unless they are done with an effort that is HIGHLY sustainable. And if an athlete hasn't done a lot of relaxed aerobic volume (and by 'a lot' I mean A LOT), they're probably more dependent on carbs to fuel their sessions which means they're going to bonk more often and earlier (unless they are just pounding down the carbs). I also find that some of my athletes who are new to the sport are GUNG-HO EXCITED and want to train A TON... and maybe they came to me thinking surely Queen BSC would give them A TON of work to do! And then they're disappointed when it seems I'm giving them less than they think they want and lots of it with a HR leash making them hold back... But here's the thing and I've seen this over and over... too much work breaks a newbie. It's a conundrum, isn't it? Because in order to become durable you have to do a lot of work- but a lot of work tends to makes an athlete sick, tired and/or injured.
The key, of course, is finding the right balance and that's tricky because it's different for everyone (which is why plans out of the back of a training book don't work!) I find myself more and more spending time trying to figure out what is a sustainable repeatable week for an athlete... one that they can get through repeatedly week after week while feeling good and achieving the goals of each session without feeling completely wiped. Once we get this, then we start pushing the envelope a bit and we see how the athlete reacts/responds. Do they crack mentally? Physically? Do their knees or hips or feet start complaining? Do they neglect to eat or sleep enough to support the new level of training?
It's the time of year where I have started turning the screws on some of my newer athletes and we've seen some blow-ups that present good lessons for us to learn. On Saturday one gal had a ride where the goal was to accumulate a significant amount of moderate effort climbing... I didn't give her any HR numbers to go by which in hindsight was probably a mistake, but in the end she was presented with a good lesson because essentially the effort of the ride beat her. Looking at the files I could see exactly why (HR max up to 191 on a climb in the first 1/2 of the ride!!). When I pointed this out she asked a good question- what HR should she be climbing at to avoid repeating that mistake again? Here was my response:
Well I didn't put a cap on there but I did write that each climb shouldn't be that hard but that the 'hard' would come simply because of the total amount of accumulated climbing. Part of your growth in the sport will be to start making the connections for yourself so you can choose accordingly how to pace yourself without necessarily being tied to the leash that is the HR monitor... we just use the HR monitor as a tool to teach us these things until we don't need it anymore! SO, you learned that when you ride the first 2x climbs of the day at HR 170+, you end up laying under a tree instead of being able to ride the last hill strongly. Given that info, if you were to ride that route again you'd want to climb the first 2x at closer to 160HR and see how that lands you at the end. I'd bet some money you'd feel 100x stronger at the end if you paced the ride that way. IF those climbs are such that you cannot get up them at HR 160, then until you can, choose alternate routes that involve climbing where you can keep HR in that range. As you get more and more fit you should eventually be able to get up those hills with less effort and that is what allows you to be stronger not just at the end of that particular ride, but the next day as well. :) Good lessons!
Not everyone has these same problems of course... some newer athletes don't have the strength or the knowledge of how to push hard enough on the bike to get their HRs up in the first place so obviously our focus there is (sometimes!) the complete opposite of the above!
Damn I feel like I could go on and on (and on!) here with all the potential limiters newer athletes face... injury risk on the run b/c they want to run too fast too hard too soon... endurance limiters in the pool that can ONLY be fixed by swimming MORE volume MORE often and learning to get uncomfortable and stay there... Those are going to have to be posts saved for another time though. Right now Mama has to get some sleep. :)