Category Archives: Pedaling

Physiology of tapering – in brief

It’s about that time of year where you will be racing soon if you haven’t already.  Leading up to your race, you will probably want to know or learn about tapering.  This excerpt from Tapering and Peaking for Optimal Performance is reprinted with permission by Human Kinetics.

Figure 1.1

Figure 1.1

“The
main aim of the taper is to reduce the negative physiological and
psychological impact of daily training. In other words, a taper should
eliminate accumulated or residual fatigue, which translates into
additional fitness gains. To test this assumption, Mujika and
colleagues (1996a) analyzed the responses to three taper segments in a
group of national- and international-level swimmers by means of a
mathematical model, which computed fatigue and fitness indicators from
the combined effects of a negative and a positive function
representing, respectively, the negative and positive influence of
training on performance (figure 1.1). As can be observed in figure 1.1,
NI (negative influence) represents the initial decay in performance
taking place after a training bout and PI (positive influence) a
subsequent phase of supercompensation.

Figure 1.2

Figure 1.2

The
mathematical model indicated that performance gains during the tapering
segments were mainly related to marked reductions in the negative
influence of training, coupled with slight increases in the positive
influence of training (figure 1.2). The investigators suggested that
athletes should have achieved most or all of the expected physiological
adaptations by the time they start tapering, eliciting improved
performance levels as soon as accumulated fatigue fades away and
performance-enhancing adaptations become apparent.

The conclusions of Mujika and colleagues (1996a), drawn from real
training and competition data from elite athletes but attained by
mathematical procedures, were supported by several biological and
psychological findings extracted from the scientific literature on
tapering. For instance, in a subsequent study on competitive swimmers,
Mujika and colleagues (1996d) reported a significant correlation
between the percentage change in the testosterone-cortisol ratio and
the percentage performance improvement during a 4-week taper. Plasma
concentrations of androgens and cortisol have been used in the past as
indexes of anabolic and catabolic tissue activities, respectively
(Adlercreutz et al. 1986). Given that the balance between anabolic and
catabolic hormones may have important implications for recovery
processes after intense training bouts, the testosterone-cortisol ratio
has been proposed and used as a marker of training stress (Adlercreutz
et al. 1986, Kuoppasalmi and Adlercreutz 1985). Accordingly, the
observed increase in the testosterone-cortisol ratio during the taper
would indicate enhanced recovery and elimination of accumulated
fatigue. This would be the case regardless of whether the increase in
the testosterone-cortisol ratio was the result of a decreased cortisol
concentration (Bonifazi et al. 2000, Mujika et al. 1996c) or an
increased testosterone concentration subsequent to an enhanced
pituitary response to the preceding time of intensive training (Busso
et al. 1992, Mujika et al. 1996d, Mujika et al. 2002a).”

MIT’s “Chemistry of Sports” online course using triathlon

In the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Chemistry of Sports course, they “… will be focusing on three sports, swimming, cycling and running. There will be two components to the seminar, a classroom and a laboratory. The classroom component will introduce the students to the chemistry of their own biological system. Since we are looking at swimming, running and cycling as our sample sports, we will apply the classroom knowledge to complete a triathlon.

With Course Goals

  • Apply the principles of chemistry to studying sports. These principles include: atomic and molecular interactions, thermodynamics, acid/base chemistry, bonding, electrochemistry
  • There will be weekly reading of scientific literature related to the topic of the week
  • Understand the chemistry of their own biological system through observations written in a training journal
  • Study the science of a triathlon (swim, bike, run) from molecular/chemical/biological point of view
  • Improve your own personal fitness level by training for the Mooseman triathlon (either Olympic distance or half-Ironman) and earn PE credit or by maintaining you own exercise program.”

All materials are in PDF format and it’s worth a read if you’re interested, like I am, in the science behind your training.

Click here for the MIT course.

Designing Your Own Training Week

With one sport, you can understand how which days to train hard.  The following is an excerpt printed with permission from Human Kinetics book, Run Strong, by Kevin Beck.  It covers running only but the concepts cross sport lines.  Understanding training rules of thumb will put you on the path to designing your own training patterns.

Based on my experience as an athlete and a coach, I believe that the most valuable tool for any self-coached runner is an outline to guide decisions regarding which workouts are appropriate. The various types of training, …

With one sport, you can understand how which days to train hard.  The following is an excerpt printed with permission from Human Kinetics book, Run Strong, by Kevin Beck.  It covers running only but the concepts cross sport lines.  Understanding training rules of thumb will put you on the path to designing your own training patterns.

Based on my experience as an athlete and a coach, I believe that the most valuable tool for any self-coached runner is an outline to guide decisions regarding which workouts are appropriate. The various types of training, such as long runs, interval work, tempo runs, and so on, are all important and necessary for helping you improve as a runner. The key is classifying the various workouts and then scheduling them into your training consistently. Following a map–one that successful runners have used time and again–can ease the uncertainty and doubts that creep into every athlete’s mind. Following an outline that has led to success allows runners to train with greater focus and purpose, knowing their work will achieve long-term results. A workable training schedule brings workouts together to form a routine that addresses every relevant energy system necessary for top racing performance and continued improvement over time.

I cannot name one individual heroic workout that will take someone to the next level, but there are a few workouts that, when done consistently and repetitively as part of a training schedule, can lead to substantial progress for the majority of runners. The surprising thing for many runners is realizing that the training principles are the same for any distance you want to race. It doesn’t matter if the event is the mile, 5K, 10K, marathon, steeplechase, or cross country; the same training elements and concepts apply. As a coach, if I base an athlete’s training on the key elements, the athlete invariably maintains his or her health throughout the season, improves his or her race performances throughout the year, and competes well at specific goal races. It’s basic, it’s fairly brainless to follow, and most important, it works.

The following suggestions will help you fit each of the six elements into your training consistently within your standard training cycles. Some advanced athletes who recover quickly can address all six within a single week. Athletes who require more time between hard efforts to recover fully should consider fitting these within a two- or three-week cycle. You can also try a 10-day cycle if one week doesn’t work for you, but given that most people have schedules that revolve around a standard 7-day week, we tend to stick with 7, 14, or 21 days as the standard options.

For my athletes, I generally schedule two harder workouts every week, cycling through anaerobic-conditioning, aerobic-capacity, and anaerobic-capacity training. Once we’ve addressed each of these individually, we start the sequence of workouts over again; this allows us to elevate the athlete’s fitness level by concurrently working all of the energy systems necessary for distance running success. For athletes who recover especially quickly, I schedule a separate anaerobic-conditioning, aerobic-capacity, or anaerobic-capacity session each week, thereby allowing the athlete to address all energy systems within a single training week. For those who require additional recovery, a single session each week of one of these types of training is sufficient, allowing the athlete to address all relevant energy systems within a three-week period. Here’s the most effective route to incorporating the six elements in your program:

Step 1. Designate Your Recovery Day

Because most of the athletes I work with have families and careers, a recovery day is usually one on which they’d like to complete additional chores around the house, spend time with their families, or socialize. It may be a day to do little or nothing except read a book and relax. Others travel frequently for business and have a floating schedule; these runners need a day on which they can miss a run without feeling guilty. View the recovery day as a day to let your body and mind unwind and allow modern life to take priority over training. As an added benefit, it’ll keep you healthy, allow you to improve, and help keep you motivated.

Step 2. Determine Your Long-Run Day

This is pretty simple because most athletes do their weekly long run on either Saturday or Sunday. Whatever works for you is fine, as long as you do it consistently. I don’t have a hard and fast rule regarding spacing recovery days around the long run. In most cases, my athletes run a harder effort on Saturday, run long on Sunday, and run an easier day on Monday. This allows Saturday to be fairly hard and Sunday moderate while providing a recovery day following these back-to-back harder run days.

Step 3. Determine Your Primary Workout Days

On primary workout days you run scheduled harder workouts. My athletes schedule primary workouts every Tuesday and Friday in the fall. In the spring, the longer-distance athletes maintain this schedule, while the middle-distance runners adopt a Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday schedule. Depending on the length of your workout cycle, combinations of hard days vary. A 7-day cycle might include primary workouts on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Runners on a 14-day cycle might designate Monday and Thursday as primary hard-workout days. On the other hand, some runners can only tolerate a single hard workout each week and are therefore on a 21-day cycle. Based on your particular goal event, rotate workouts in this order:

1. 200s, 300s, or 400s at faster than 5K race pace (anaerobic capacity)
2. 800- to 2,400-meter intervals at 5K to 10K race pace (aerobic capacity)
3. Tempo run of approximately 30 minutes at threshold pace (anaerobic conditioning)

On the fourth hard-effort day, start over again with the 200s, 300s, or 400s at faster than 5K pace and work your way through the lineup again. In this manner, you address all the relevant energy systems needed for top-level performance. The 800- to 2,400-meter intervals at 5K to 10K pace handle aerobic capacity, the tempo runs address anaerobic conditioning, and the 200s, 300s, or 400s at faster than 5K race pace develop anaerobic capacity (economy).

Most runners use a 14-day schedule of two primary, harder workouts each week during the two-week period. The question arises: There are four harder workout days and three primary workouts to do, so should I adjust the schedule? Rather than starting again with workout one on the fourth workout day, would there be a benefit to focusing on one area of fitness more than the other? I allow for the following slight variations based on the fact that most athletes see the greatest improvement in race times by giving increased focus to aerobic-capacity development.

Week 1: Aerobic-capacity workout, anaerobic-conditioning workout

Week 2: Aerobic-capacity workout, anaerobic-capacity workout

During the final four to eight weeks of the training year before the championship racing season, I make the following adjustments based on event focus:

1,500 meters. Each week perform an aerobic-capacity workout on one day and an anaerobic-capacity workout on another.

5K to 10K. During week one, perform an aerobic-capacity workout one day and an anaerobic conditioning workout the second harder day of that week. During week two perform an aerobic-capacity workout one day and an anaerobic-capacity workout the second harder day.

Marathon. Each week perform an aerobic-capacity workout on one day and an anaerobic-conditioning workout on another.

Step 4. Schedule Your Double Days

I generally schedule double days on the primary harder workout days of the week because I want the athlete’s hard days to be hard. Without exception, my top athletes do a minimum of two double days per week on Tuesdays and Fridays, the same days we schedule either the 200s, 300s, and 400s, the 800- to 2,400-meter intervals, or the tempo run. The more experienced athletes add double days on an additional two to four days per week as they see fit.

Step 5. Fill In Rest With Aerobic-Conditioning Runs

The remaining days should consist of runs varying in distance from 45 to 90 minutes. Whether you choose to do two-a-days and whether you keep to the shorter end of the 45- to 90-minute range or the longer end is as much a matter of preference and “recoverability” as it is a function of your chosen race distance.

To help illustrate the previous concepts in detail, tables 3.1 through 3.3 provide some sample training weeks using this program. These are not set in stone, but rather are intended to illustrate how to apply the training principles to the everyday training of fast competitive athletes who also happen to have careers and family obligations.

So that’s it. Designing a training plan is important yet simple. I’ve described the elements it should include and provided examples of runners across the race-distance spectrum who have used these elements to form training plans that have taken them to the top of their game. Now, it’s your turn. Reread this chapter along with the other information in this book, set clear goals, grab a pen and paper (or a mouse and computer), and go to it.

Potential Physiological Benefits of Altitude Training

This is an excellent excerpt reprinted from Burke’s book with permission with permission from Human Kinetics, High-Tech Cycling-2nd Edition.

“Human physiology is affected in different ways at high altitude. In general, the various systems of the human body—pulmonary, cardiovascular, endocrine, skeletal muscles—respond and adjust in an effort to provide enough oxygen to survive in the hypoxic environment of high altitude. Some of these life-supporting physiological responses may also enhance athletic performance, particularly in endurance sports.

Hematological
The scientific rationale for using altitude training for the enhancement of aerobic performance is based on the body’s response to changes in the partial pressure of inspired oxygen (PIO2) and the partial pressure of oxygen in the arterial blood (PaO2). PIO2 at sea level is equal to 149 mmHg. At Mexico City (2300 m, 7544 ft), PIO2 drops to approximately 123 mmHg. At the summit of Mt. Everest (8852 m, 29,035 ft), PIO2 is approximately 50 mmHg or only about 30% of sea level PIO2.

High-Tech Cycling book coverBecause of the altitude-induced decrease in PIO2, there is a decrease in PaO2, which leads to a drop in renal PaO2 and renal tissue oxygenation (Ou et al. 1998; Richalet et al. 1994). It is hypothesized that this reduction in renal tissue oxygenation stimulates the synthesis and release of erythropoietin (EPO) (Porter and Goldberg 1994; Richalet et al. 1994), the principal hormone that regulates erythrocyte (RBC) and hemoglobin production. In turn, an increase in serum EPO concentration stimulates the synthesis of new RBCs in the red bone marrow by promoting the cellular growth of immature erythrocytes, specifically the colony-forming unit-erythroid (CFU-E). Erythropoietin receptors are present on the surface of CFU-E. Binding of EPO to CFU-E receptors initiates the production of cellular transcription factors, synthesis of membrane and cytoskeletal proteins, synthesis of heme and hemoglobin, and the terminal differentiation of cells (Bell 1996). The RBC maturation process takes five to seven days from the initial altitude-induced increase in serum EPO (Bell 1996; Flaharty et al. 1990).

These hematological changes may significantly improve an athlete’s V·O2max by enhancing the blood’s ability to deliver oxygen to exercising muscles. It has been shown that improvements in RBC mass, hemoglobin concentration, and V·O2max enhance aerobic performance (Berglund and Ekblom 1991; Birkeland et al. 2000; Ekblom and Berglund 1991). Essentially, many athletes and coaches view altitude training as a natural or legal method of blood doping.

Research by Chapman, Stray-Gundersen, and Levine (1998) suggests that some athletes experience a better hematological response at altitude than others do. Female and male collegiate runners who completed either LHTL or traditional “live high, train high” altitude training were classified as responders or nonresponders based on their performance in a postaltitude 5-km run. On average, responders demonstrated a significant 4% improvement (37 s) in the postaltitude 5-km run versus their prealtitude performance; nonresponders were approximately 1% slower (14 s). Hematological data showed that responders had a significantly larger increase in serum EPO (52%) compared with nonresponders, who demonstrated a 34% increase in serum EPO. Similarly, postaltitude RBC mass for responders was 8% higher (p < 0.05), but nonresponders’ RBC mass was only 1% higher (not statistically significant) compared with prealtitude values. A breakdown of responders indicated that 82% came from the LHTL group, and 18% came from the “live high, train high” group. The authors concluded that each athlete may need to follow an altitude training program that places the athlete at an individualized, optimal altitude for living and another altitude for training, thereby producing the best possible hematological response.

Skeletal Muscle
As described, the primary reason endurance athletes train at altitude is to increase RBC mass and hemoglobin concentration. In addition, they may gain secondary physiological benefits as a result of altitude exposure. For example, altitude training has been shown to increase skeletal muscle capillarity (Desplanches et al. 1993; Mizuno et al. 1990). In theory, this physiological adaptation enhances the exercising muscles’ ability to extract oxygen from the blood.

Other favorable skeletal muscle microstructure changes that occur as a result of training at altitude include increased concentrations of myoglobin (Terrados et al. 1990), increased mitochondrial oxidative enzyme activity (Terrados et al. 1990), and a greater number of mitochondria (Desplanches et al. 1993), all of which serve to enhance the rate of oxygen utilization and aerobic energy production.

Nevertheless, scientific data in support of altitude-induced skeletal muscle adaptations are minimal, particularly among well-trained athletes. Only Mizuno and colleagues (1990) examined elite athletes; Desplanches and colleagues (1993) and Terrados and colleagues (1990) examined the effect of altitude training on the skeletal muscle characteristics of untrained individuals. Additional studies conducted on elite athletes failed to demonstrate significant changes in skeletal muscle microstructure caused by altitude training (Saltin et al. 1995; Terrados et al. 1988). Furthermore, Desplanches and colleagues (1993) conducted their study at impractical simulated elevations (4100 to 5700 m, 13,450 to 18,700 ft), an altitude too high for athletes to train at. Thus, based on the current scientific literature, it is unclear whether altitude training, as practiced by most elite athletes at moderate elevations of 1800 to 3050 m (6000 to 10,000 ft) improves oxygen extraction and utilization via favorable changes in skeletal muscle capillarity, myoglobin, mitochondrial oxidative enzyme activity, and mitochondrial density. Additional research is warranted.

Another important physiological adaptation that may occur as a result of exposure to moderate altitude is an improvement in the capacity of the skeletal muscle and blood to buffer the concentration of hydrogen ions (H+). High concentrations of H+ are known to contribute to skeletal muscle fatigue by impairing actin-myosin crossbridge cycling, reducing the sensitivity of troponin for calcium (Ca2+) and inhibiting the enzyme phosphofructokinase (PFK) (McComas 1996). Thus, an enhanced H+ buffering capacity may have a beneficial effect on aerobic and anaerobic performance.

In support of this, Mizuno and colleagues (1990) reported a significant 6% increase in the buffering capacity of the gastrocnemius muscle of elite male cross-country skiers who lived at 2100 m (6890 ft) and trained at 2700 m (8860 ft) for 14 days. Significant improvements in maximal O2 deficit (29%) and treadmill run time to exhaustion (17%) were observed after the athletes returned to sea level. In addition, a positive correlation (r = 0.91, p < 0.05) was demonstrated between the relative increase in buffering capacity of the gastrocnemius muscle and treadmill run time to exhaustion.

Gore and colleagues (2001) reported that skeletal muscle buffer capacity increased 18% (p < 0.05) in male triathletes, cyclists, and cross-country skiers following 23 days of living at 3000 m (9840 ft) and training at 600 m (1970 ft). Furthermore, they found that mechanical efficiency significantly improved during a 4 3 4-min submaximal cycling test following the 23-day LHTL period.

The precise mechanisms responsible for enhanced skeletal muscle buffering capacity following high altitude training are unclear but may be related to changes in creatine phosphate and/or muscle protein concentrations (Mizuno et al. 1990). Improvements in blood buffering capacity may be due to increases in bicarbonate (Nummela and Rusko 2000) or hemoglobin concentration.

Triathlon Base Preparation Phase

For some reason, triathlon attracts many who want to dig into the science of how to train, researching questions like, “Why do I need long runs AND short fast runs?” “Why should I train my core so much if I am not in a sit-up competition?” “Swimming is really the only technique-oriented sport, right?”

It all starts with base training. Marc Evans writes about base training in Triathlete’s Edge. The following is an excerpt from his book reprinted here with permission from Human Kinetics.

traithlon base training“The ability to compete at peak athletic levels depends first and foremost on the athlete’s base preparation. A concentrated base is the foundation, core, and framework that best performances rely on. Base preparation includes exercising at low intensities for long durations—the building blocks used to construct the higher intensity efforts that come later. Dryland training (strength, core, flexibility) plays a chief role in base preparation training to comprehensively prepare the triathlete.

Too many triathletes want to get to the more intense work and neglect this important training. As I like to say, “The bigger the base, the better you’ll race.” Base training is the most important training and preparation part of the season.

As noted in chapter 6, the base preparation period of training picks up from active restoration and includes 16 weeks of foundational work in endurance, strength, flexibility, and technique. The general benefits of base preparation training include the following:

* Develops sport-specific aerobic endurance
* Develops strength, flexibility, neuromuscular coordination, and technique
* Strengthens connective tissue
* Increases the number of mitochondria and capillaries within the muscles
* Increases blood volume
* Enhances glycogen storage and capacity
* Decreases resting HR and increases stroke volume

These benefits are achieved by meeting the objectives of the phase, which include:

1. Assessing current fitness
2. Gradually increasing aerobic capacity and endurance (oxygen consumption)
3. Adding to core and maximal muscle strength
4. Progressively overloading and building up workout frequency, volume, and intensity
5. Promoting neurological development of proper technique patterns to improve economy
6. Training with drills to improve flexibility and coordination (technical exercises)
7. Managing nutrition and rest
8. Transitioning (aerobic/stamina) to bike-to-run workouts of longer duration and low intensity

Base preparation begins by assessing and establishing the athlete’s current baseline fitness and from there establishing short-term, midrange, and long-range goals. I use a battery of pretests to determine an athlete’s swimming, cycling, and running fitness. This is followed by another or several periodic retests to evaluate progress throughout this phase. These tests help define the direction of the training plan by establishing objective training benchmarks, which can be repeated over time. From these benchmarks, an athlete can better establish realistic goals that will give their training and racing a sense of purpose and direction.”

The Lactate Curve

What is the lactate curve? Why do I need to know the lactate curve? How does it fit into my triathlon training? When should it fit in my triathlon training? How does it affect my triathlon racing? What does the lactate curve mean to endurance athletes?

Peter Jannsen answers many of these questions in his book, “Lactate Threshold Training.” An excerpt follows that will likely wet your appetite to learn more about how it can help your racing.

lactate threshold training“The lactate content of the blood is a parameter of great importance. This content is measured in millimoles of lactate per liter of blood. Healthy persons at rest have values roughly between 1 and 2 millimoles per liter, and strenuous exercise increases this value. Even slight increases in lactate content (6 to 8 millimoles per liter) may impair an athlete’s coordination. Regularly high lactate values impair aerobic endurance capacity.

THE LACTATE CURVE
For this reason, athletes should be prudent with the number of intensive workloads they undergo in a certain period of time. The workload intensities needed for various workouts can be determined by means of the lactate curve. Graph 89 shows the relationship between lactate content of the blood and the intensity of exercise. Intensity is expressed as running pace in meters per second.

To obtain a lactate curve, the athlete should run the same distance a number of times, each time at a higher pace. After every run, determine the lactate concentration in the blood. Every distance should be run at an even pace, and the running pace should be increased in small steps. The length of the run should be such that the athlete needs at least 5 minutes to cover the distance. When well-trained athletes run slowly, they have low lactate values; their energy supplies are fully aerobic. When the pace is increased, the curve begins to rise; the working muscles do produce lactate, but the quantities are so small that, for the most part, they can be neutralized by the body. It is a widespread belief that this is the case between 2 and 4 millimoles per liter. Therefore, this area is called the aerobic-anaerobic transition zone.

Each athlete can maintain a certain running pace for a long period of time without lactate accumulation in the body. If the pace is increased to a certain point, ongoing acidosis will occur, depending on the degree and duration of the increase, and at a certain moment this acidosis will force the athlete to stop. The lactate content that is measured at this borderline pace is also called the anaerobic threshold. The anaerobic threshold value is around a lactate content of 4 millimoles per liter. Exercise surpassing the anaerobic threshold will inevitably increase lactate content within the body.

Thus, exercise up to this level of the aerobic threshold is fully aerobic. Lactate content at the aerobic threshold is about 2 millimoles per liter. Exercise within the aerobic-anaerobic transition zone is more intensive, and energy supply is both aerobic and anaerobic. Production and neutralization of lactate are balanced. This zone is between 2 and 4 millimoles per liter.

The anaerobic threshold occurs when exercise at a high intensity results in an accumulation of lactate in the blood. Therefore, this type of exercise can be maintained for a limited period of time. But at an intensity just below the anaerobic threshold, this lactate content can be kept at a steady-state level, and this type of exercise may be maintained for a longer period of time, about 1 to 1.5 hours.

Lactate content at the anaerobic threshold is for many athletes about 4 millimoles per liter, but there are wide individual variations among athletes. Anaerobic threshold can be as low as 2 to 3 millimoles per liter or as high as 6 to 8 millimoles per liter. By drawing a lactate curve for every athlete, the anaerobic threshold can be found and subsequently used to set training intensities. The best way to find the anaerobic threshold is to determine maximal lactate steady state (MLSS), which is discussed elsewhere in the book.

Endurance capacity can best be trained by endurance workouts around the level of the anaerobic threshold, that is, workouts with lactate values of 2 to 6 millimoles per liter. These values may be determined according to the athlete’s test results. Very well-trained people mostly train their endurance capacity at somewhat lower values, between 2 and 3 millimoles per liter. Less well-trained persons often cannot help but peak to higher levels. They then surpass their anaerobic threshold and make their workouts less effective. Though they often feel satisfied with a strenuous workout, this type of workout does more damage than good.

The threshold pace is the speed that corresponds with the anaerobic threshold. Above the anaerobic threshold this speed can be maintained for a short period of time, but below the threshold it can be maintained 1 to 1.5 hours. The threshold pace, the running or cycling speed at the heart rate deflection point (HRdefl), is also called the V4 pace, as discussed in chapter 3. However, the term V4 is somewhat misleading, because many athletes have an anaerobic threshold over or under 4 millimoles per liters. For example, an athlete with an anaerobic threshold of 6 millimoles per liter could be said to have a threshold pace of V6.

Sport-specific performance capacity could be defined as the speed that is reached at a lactate content of 4 millimoles per liter, or V4. V4 is an important indicator of the athlete’s capacities. Any improvement of V4 pace will also improve performance capacity. Regular V4 tests indicate the athlete’s condition, so athletes can be monitored in their development and can be mutually compared. But remember that V4 is not the threshold pace for everybody, because many athletes have an anaerobic threshold under or over 4 millimoles per liter. Therefore, it might be better to test MLSS than V4.

Recovery workouts should not be intensive, and lactate content should remain less than 2 millimoles per liter. Intensive interval workouts give high lactate values, far surpassing 4 millimoles per liter. The effect of training will be that the lactate curve shifts to the right, as shown in graph 90.

Therefore, training intensities should be readjusted from time to time, and a new test procedure with blood sampling will be necessary. Not every athlete has access to blood testing, but other methods can supply the same or at least the most important information. All these other methods of finding the anaerobic threshold are discussed elsewhere in this book.”

Peaking for a race

There’s a good article on trifuel on peaking for a race. I disagree there is “much confusion” (in the first paragraph) but it is a good article on tapering and peaking for your race which you DO need to plan in advance.

Periodization is the science of peaking for any athletic event for any athlete. Periodization Training For Sports is the book I recommend – a terrific read and 2nd edition has information for triathlon.

Intervals Workouts for Triathlon

If you’ve had a significant amount of base training and want to run faster, this article is for you. This excellent excerpt reprinted with permission from Human Kinetics of Triathlon Workout Planner by John Mora

Triathlon Workout Planner“Intervals (also known as repeats) are short bursts of speed repeated over a measured distance with recovery periods between each interval. As I discussed in the previous chapter, intervals are a key component of training for swimming and running. In this chapter, we’ll further explore 80/20 running workouts and also learn how to apply interval training to cycling.

Elite runner and author Jeff Galloway once wrote, “Intervals are based on a simple principle: The only way to run faster is to run faster” (Galloway 1984). Although that premise is true, there are some specific guidelines to interval training that can help you prevent injury and get the most out of your hard work.

* Base training first. Never begin any kind of speed work without a year’s solid base of consistent distance running. Intervals are demanding and can be very rough on your body, so it’s important that you’ve developed the muscle strength and joint integrity to support the effort.

* Set a baseline with a time trial. It’s a good idea to start off your interval training with a performance benchmark that tells you where you are now so that you can measure your speed improvements down the road. To set a baseline with a time trial, warm up at a slow pace for 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) on a running track that’s at least a quarter-mile (0.4 kilometer) long so that you don’t have the constant turning. Perform a 1-mile (1.6-kilometer) time trial at a hard pace you can sustain throughout the entire distance. Time yourself with a stopwatch (or have somebody time you). Cool down for another 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) of easy jogging. Make sure you record your trial time (not including warm-up or recovery distance) in your training log. Once every other month, repeat your 1-mile time trials, and you should see some steady, measurable improvements.

* Train for your distance. The interval workout for an Ironman-distance triathlon is much different than that for a sprint distance. For example, if you’re training for an Ironman-distance triathlon, you should be running half-mile (0.8-kilometer) intervals, 1-mile (1.6-kilometer) intervals, or a combination of both. This regimen builds your stamina and improves form for longer distances. For Olympic- or sprint-distance races, your workout should consist of a combination of half-mile (0.8-kilometer) and quarter-mile (0.4-kilometer) repeats.

* Sandwich intervals with easy workouts. Speed work is very demanding, so you need to be relatively fresh going into one and give yourself a day or two of easy work afterward.

* Base your speed on your best running race times. Most intervals come in three distances: quarter-, half-, or 1-mile (0.4-, 0.8-, or 1.6-kilometer) intervals. How fast should you run them? You should feel as though you’re running close to your redline of effort, but err on the side of caution. If you feel as if you’re blowing a gasket, ease off. For a quarter-mile interval, run 5 to 7 seconds faster than your 5K to 10K race pace. For a half-mile interval, you should run at 5K pace to 5 seconds faster. For a mile interval, you should run at 5K to 10K pace.

* Increase gradually. The first time on a track (once you’ve done a proper warm-up and a performance benchmark time trial as previously described) you’ll want to start with only one or two repeats. It may even seem like an easy or short workout at first, but err on the side of caution. Gradually increase the number of intervals according to your race distance and goal.

* Watch your form. The tendency for some triathletes is to lose proper running form after a long and arduous bike leg. Track workouts are an ideal time to focus on your form and make an effort to keep your body under control during sustained, high-intensity efforts. Similar to proper technique in the pool, good running form helps you become more efficient and avoid injury with good biomechanics. If you feel yourself running awkwardly or find your feet striking the track improperly during the latter half of an interval workout, consciously bring your body back to running smoothly and effortlessly.

* Aim for consistent interval times. Done properly, interval workouts help your body to adapt to the prolonged hard effort of the running leg of a triathlon. By “properly” I mean a consistent pace on all the intervals. If there is more than a 5-second difference between interval times, you’re probably going out too fast for the first few. You need to hone your internal pace clock, which is in itself a valuable skill to have during any running event.

Although athletes most often associate intervals with running on a track, you can employ this type of speedwork just as easily on the bicycle, with great success. Professional cyclists have known for decades that a track isn’t always necessary for interval work.”

Periodization of Training for Triathletes

The competitive season for triathlons is typically May through September. Within that period you might have a race you really want to do well in, often called your “A” race, and those used more for tracking progress.

Periodization of training means planning your training cycles to maximize your performance for competition. You might know this intuitively but did not know there was a science behind it. There is a Tudor Bompa is regarded as the guru of periodization of training. I read his first edition “Periodization Training for Sports” when my son was on the high school track team. I was actually able to email correspond with an athlete who said he used that book as his training bible, and he went on to win a gold medal at the Olympics.

Training is broken down into yearly cycles, or phases:

  • Anatomical Adaptation (getting your body and soft tissues ready for training)
  • Hypertrophy (building muscle mass)
  • Maximum Strength (taking the gains is mass and making them stronger)
  • Conversion (taking strength gains and converting them to sport-specific power)
  • Competitive and Transition (your races and before you start the training year over again)

Periodization of Training

In the second edition of Periodization Training for Sports, Tudor Bompa and Michael Carrera add some things that might be more interest to triathletes than just the science. It offers a yearly plan including the phases above. If you don’t think triathletes need strength training, ask Joe Friel and Tudor Bompa. You can benefit from strength training. The book walks you through the science of what to do, how to plan it, and break it down to smaller cycles (monthly and weekly) to maximize your performance.

It tells you the dominant energy sources, energy suppliers, limiting factors and training objectives, plans to train each energy systems, and nutrition. By the time you reach the plans, you understand and can immediately apply them because you already understand the science and how to get the most out of your training.

Here’s a good excerpt on Principles of Strength Training.

If you’re like me, you will enjoy learning the science behind the training theory. Then you will adapt to your own training and maximize your performance.