breaking away....

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

In the Moment

Statistics are a fun thing for a lot of triathletes, they love the lap button on their Garmin, they can't wait to download and unveil the training session they have just completed.  Why?  So they can see how well they performed.  That approach is a little too late.  How will that information help your performance.  It is historical.  It is a good bench mark to see how you improve over time, but how does it help you improve now, at this moment, while you are training.

Treat each practice as an opportunity to do better, to challenge yourself to improve in the moment.  I love the garmin alarm for this, it is immediate feedback.  It tells you what you are doing in the moment, it allows you to change the course of your practice and allow you to meet the end goal of that practice.

In the swim, I use a tempo trainer and recently introduced the finis heart rate monitor to the other side of my swim cap.  I look quite goofy and I am seriously creating more drag with gizmo's.  What was I expecting to find out, I wanted to approach my training from  a learning mode of being in the moment.  The Finis heart rate monitor tells you at specific intervals what your heart rate is, no watch to look at, it speaks to you.  That little feature is perfect because the second it tells you your heart rate, if the results are going up, or down you should understand why.  If you don't you should be trying to understand why.

My goal this year is to be training at my Maximum Aerobic Function, a number calculated from Maffetone's equation for MAF.  This number is supposed to be used for the swim bike and run.  I thought that was an interesting change from the previous suggestions of scaling back by 10 percent from the run, to the bike, to the swim.  I looked at it and decided I wanted to give it a try.  After all I have had issues with aerobic threshold in the water and the run due to sports asthma.  Maybe a little training up there would give me a little bit better ability to push it during a race.  I was going where I didn't want to go before.

The Finis heart rate monitor woke me up in a hurry.  You can't change what you do not acknowledge.  I pushed off for my warm up.  I was swimming between 100 to 110 bpm.  That seemed hard to believe.  I could be walking and doing the same.  I got into a pace that I thought would be working, and the results were in the mid 120's.  Okay so now I had to kick it into overdrive, turn that tempo trainer up, I was really starting to wonder if I could get my heart rate up, it got there, but I also knew that was not my racing stroke rate.

I removed the tempo trainer and tested my pace without a tempo and just through my natural rhythm.  I was getting into the 130's but it was low.  I then decided to test the components of my practice to see what my heart rate would do.  I am a very lazy swimmer.  My heart rate didn't come into the 120's for kick, I just don't like going fast I guess.  On my back during back stroke it reached the high 120's while I was relaxed, apparently I am not as relaxed on my back, too many air holes pointing up I guess.

My next set proved the theory of how it all relates.  Although I kick during my swim apparently it is a gentle movement.  When my next set of practicing one flick kick per stroke, I achieved my heart rate goal.  My kick is what was missing to get my heart rate up.  That makes sense, as I was reducing it to keep my heart rate low.  What was very good to learn was that it only takes 1 kick per stroke to get there and that is what I am striving for.  Does that one kick per stroke affect my speed compared to my gentle kick per stroke?  I wouldn't want to apply something to jack up my heart rate if the return was seriously just heart rate with no speed result.  The one kick per stroke effectively reduced my stroke count by one.  How do I know that?  Because I am not using a gizmo that counts my strokes for me, I count my strokes every length.  I do not rely on historical data to answer my questions, I am training in the moment.  I am learning with every stroke.  With every pushoff I am trying to solve some question on how can I do this better.  I am not generally just hoping that with enough repeats of the same thing that I will intuitively learn something that profoundly affects my swim, I am actually planning ways to test ideas on what would help and changing my workout as I go through my practice based on the results from the previous set.  How do I know this made me faster?  I am using a tempo trainer, how much faster? 1.28 seconds faster on 25 meters.  I swam 100 meters, so I improved my speed by over 5 seconds on 100 meters.  In a race I would take that in a heart beat! actually about 8 heart beats.

On the bike.  I use cadence as my measure, I have a certain cadence that I feel is better suited for my limited lung capacity and my rather stronger legs.  I stay within 82 to 96 rpms.   I find it difficult to stay near 96 but I keep training there.  My race results are usually in the 82 rpm where it is easier to breath.  I also watch terrain and try to predict a change in resistance.  If there is a cross wind coming from the front, I am watching for tree breaks and gearing at the time I predict the resistance changes rather that wait to respond to an increase in cadence.  This saves me many seconds on a bike leg.  I use the same strategy for hills and head winds.  My whole race strategy is built around the wind and its direction, starting with a tail wind spells disaster to someone who likes to take advantage of a tail wind, they push too hard to get their highest overall speed with a tailwind forgetting the upcoming headwind to the finish line.  Then I hear them complaining about leg cramps on the run.

On the run, you have heart rate and cadence as well.  If you keep to a 90 cadence you will save your legs and probably avoid some of the leg issues that come from over striding.  Keeping a tighter gait will keep the foot turn over high, which limits the time in support and avoids getting high impact from long reaching strides.  This is all done in the moment.  It changes the outcome. 

Your strategy for your race should be as detailed as possible.  If you train in the moment you will have a better time during your race as you will have practiced a very special skill that you need when you race.  Be in the Moment, be in what you are doing, what you are experiencing and what your body is asking for.  This is the way you will race your best and train your best.  Use historical data for that, history, use what is happening now to shape the very next thing you do, do not leave it to chance. 

Happy training and practicing.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Heart Rate Training

The purpose of training by heart rate is to establish the intensity of a specific workout.  Most people may go by speeds, or perceived exertion, so why get so specific.  The heart rate is a measurement of what is going on in your body during the test.  It is specific to the individual.  You can have a high maximum heart rate, or a lower maximum heart rate, this is not an indication of your ability, it is a specific measurement of your heart rate, the number of beats your heart takes in a minute.
 My goal in writing this article is to make clear why you would use heart rate training and how do you establish your training zones and implement them.

Your heart rate is a measure of  how many times your heart  beats per minute.  Stroke volume is the amount of blood pumped with each heartbeat.  With increased conditioning a person’s heart will start to pump more blood volume per beat.  This increase provides more oxygen rich blood to the body per beat, this eventually is evident by a lowering of the resting heart rate, and increased ability at the same heart rate.  Why does this matter?  If you have been training by speed alone a decrease in heart rate at the same speed means you are working at a lower level, you may eventually be under training for the purpose of a specific workout.  If you want to make sure your training is quality training and not junk miles, strap on a heart rate monitor and begin to train with purpose and a clear goal for each workout.

 If you understand the need for different types of workouts, then understanding heart rate zones is easy.

 Heart Rate Training Zones:
First you should establish your resting heart rate.  To accomplish this, first thing in the morning before you get up, you should put on your heart monitor and record your heart rate.  It will usually stay close to the same.  If it is up 3 or more beats per minute over the norm it could mean you are fighting a bug or are overtraining.
Resting Heart Rate: ___________
Zone 1:          Active Recovery 65 – 75 % of Lactate Threshold.  Training            in this zone: is used for Active Recovery Workouts for the day     following high intensity workouts; uses stored fat for energy.

Zone 2:          Aerobic 75 – 85 % of Lactate Threshold.  Training in this Zone: burns a mix of fat and glycogen for energy; will improve your  ability to transport oxygen.  Endurance intensity.
Zone 3:          Threshold 85 – 95 % of Lactate Threshold.  Training in this           Zone: burns mainly glycogen for energy; is the best zone to climb hills in as it takes less recovery than higher zones;  will improve your ability to burn carbohydrates.
Zone 4:          Lactate 95 – 105% of Lactate Threshold.  Training in this Zone: burns glycogen for energy but without enough oxygen,        therefore it is anaerobic; builds speed and a tolerance for lactate acid;    raises your lactate threshold; is hard on the body and takes a couple          days to recover.
Zone 5:          VO2 Max  > 105% of Lactate Threshold  Training in this zone: is done without oxygen it is completely anaerobic; Short efforts          in this zone will increase your VO2 max, the ability of your body to transport oxygen to the working muscles.

Max Heart Rate: ______________

In a Triathlon training season you will be focusing on many different styles of workout, but the most important one would be your aerobic workouts, you want to increase the ability to burn fat for energy.  You want to create a training program that doesn’t leave you overtrained and depleted.

 How do you establish your training zones?  Go to a lab for testing.  Use the calculated zones for your specific training.

How to implement heart rate training in your plan.  Heart rate monitors are effective in measuring the body’s response to an increase in workload, but where an increase in speed on a treadmill is immediate, the heart rate response has a lag.  It may take a full minute to reach the level it needs to do that work level.  For this reason it is valuable to use your heart rate as a target for your long distance runs, keep your heart rate for top of zone 2 your ceiling, you do not want to cross this.  For shorter harder intervals, the lag in response makes the heart rate a poor choice for setting your speed.  For this reason I use a run test which maps heart rate to speed.  This allows me to see what speed gets an athlete into their zone 4 effort.  This is helpful as it allows me to retest often to make sure this is still a zone 4 effort and that they are still working hard enough.  For zone 4 workouts I give speed targets, not heart rate targets, I can assume the heart rate from the test.
What happens when the results are not showing what we had hoped, an increase in heart rate can be an indication that the body is under stress.  Stress can be from training, work, home life, nutrition, or illness coming on.  Keeping a diary of resting heart rate can show you when there is an increase in resting heart rate, and what happened in the days leading up to this as far as workouts and life stress.  Respect your heart rate on those days and maybe substitute that planned interval run for a recovery run or complete rest.  If your heart rate is telling you what is going on inside it is important to learn from this.

 Be aware that in the warm up phase of training your body is slow to respond to the bodies call for oxygen. You may experience heart rate spikes during warm up, another reason to start slow and gently warm up, I suggest walking before you begin your runs, this is enough for your body to already start to increase the heart rate and supply the body with the oxygen it needs.

In conclusion you can benefit from heart rate training as it gives you a window into what is going on inside.  You will know if you are working easy enough, or hard enough depending on the  goal of the workout.  You will also be able to run tests to show a change in conditioning which can signal a need to change your program up.  This is key, training with a purpose will get you to your goals.

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year and New Goals

I am currently working on a heart rate training article to put up later this week, and realize that with the New Year, I got to see quite a few people I haven't seen since Ironman taking their first dip in the pool.  I am happy they were able to break from the routine for a good break so that they were ready to come back in the New Year.  Some people never do take that break, it is essential to have a beginning and end to the training plan.  You need a break from the constant focus on goals.  Now that that break is over for most, I am here to remind people to go back slowly.

Exercise patience and know that with patience you can build it back up without injury.  You can get that personal best without trashing your body.  You can focus on one thing at a time with absolute clarity and make that change happen.  Focus on the few things this year that haunted you last year.  Was it your technique, now is a good time to make that a priority, with focused practice.  Was it shoulder and breathing problems, go to yoga and work on breathing and mobility.  Look for the most benefit you can get from the low heart rate training that will have the most lasting effect on your sport.  Your best bet is anything that is knowledge and habit based, it takes a long time to create change.  Begin today with a goal and work towards that goal.

You can't change what you don't acknowledge, so give yourself time to analyze what one thing could you change that would have a lasting effect, make that your goal.

Happy New Years, I anticipate great things this year, as I sit in a Canadian winter that seems to be the eternal fall or spring, this gives me hope our summer will be warm and of course produce some fast, fast races.