Those of you hoping to mountain bike during the upcoming holiday weekend in Colorado’s high country just as well leave the bike home and bring skis or snowshoes. The snow this season has been unusual in the Colorado high country. A SNOTEL snowpack update map has us at 232% of normal as of May 25th. That is a lot of snow.
Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuous paved highway in the United States, will remain closed for Memorial Day this year. The holiday weekend is the traditional opening of the road for the summer season. Just a week ago, the Estes Park Gazette reported that a snowstorm produced 17-foot drifts.
It doesn’t matter if you ski, ride, run or paddle – be safe and enjoy your holiday weekend.
In past blogs I’ve mentioned that I live in a city (Loveland, Colorado) where there are several bronze foundries and an international art show.
This morning on my way to have coffee at the Coffee Tree there was a huge bronze sculpture loaded on a trailer getting ready for transport. The title of the piece is “Rock ‘n Roll” by George Lundeen. A couple of shots are included below. The chain on the piece is real (and still flexible for now). The cyclist will surely need to replace the derailleur because it is crashed into a rock.
Last week I traveled to Belize City as one of the facilitators for an International Triathlon Union (ITU) Level I Coach Education Course. I consider it a tremendous honor to be chosen to be an instructor for coach education courses around the world.
As soon as the report is posted on the ITU website, I’ll post a link here. That link will contain more information about the course itself. Coach education is part of ITU’s world-wide effort Sport Development portfolio.
Participants included Aesha Garel, Giovanni Alamilla, Jamie Usher and Peter Castillo from Belize. Maria Shakira Gooding and Quanah Patino from Trinidad. Felix Molina came from Mexico and Brett Petersen traveled from the U.S.A. Course facilitators were Rodrigo Milazzo from Brazil and myself.
As a special privilege, we were invited to do the swim practical session at a private island owned by Victor Foreman’s family for 50 years. Named Forman Isles, this small two-acre island is home base for the family lobster fishing business. Not an easy business, as they have to defend their livelihood against thieves, hurricanes and sharks.
Luckily, we didn’t encounter thieves, hurricanes or sharks. You can see in the photos below that the group enjoyed the beautiful water, Peter tried out fishing, Aesha found sea urchins, Rodrigo found a lobster hiding in a conch shell and Maria was able to capture the group having fun.
I’m a lucky dog to meet such smart and wonderful people ~
Above, back row left to right: Peter, Felix, Brett, Rodrigo, and Giovanni. Front row left to right: Jaime, Quanah and Aesha.
Peter doing fishing with a throw line - spool stowed on his head.
Aesha finds sea urchins.
Rodrigo shows a lobster living in a conch shell.
Island owner Victor Foreman shows the jawbone of a shark. (A Nurse Shark?)
If read deeper into the research paper from yesterday’s column, you’ll find this comment:
Elite endurance athletes train 10-12 sessions and 15-30 h each week. Is the pattern of 80 % below and 20 % above lactate threshold appropriate for recreational athletes training 4-5 times and 6-10 hours per week? There are almost no published data addressing this question.
First, I’d like to separate non-elite athletes into two categories:
- Recreational Athletes: Training and racing is for fun and fitness. Though they would like to perform well at races and in comparison to training partners, training and racing in not a priority compared to many other things life has to offer. These athletes are not concerned with every angle possible to improve performance.
- Serious Age Group Athletes: Training and racing is a key part of lifestyle. Performance at races and in training is a priority. Training plans, recovery techniques, equipment advantages and many of the aspects of elite racers are utilized. These athletes ARE concerned with every angle possible to improve performance.
For the remainder of the blog, I’m talking to the serious age group athlete. If that is you, keep reading.
You see, you are a complicated beast. You want to emulate professional racer’s training – but few of you have the privileges of the pros. (Complete recovery, quality fueling, massage, ice baths, sleeping 8-10 hours every night with naps during the day, spouses or staff to help you with anything that doesn’t involve training and/or racing, youth, etc.)
Many of you are A-type personalities that are driven to success. Some of this drive made you perform above and beyond the call of duty to get to your current status in life. If others work hard, you will work harder.You now want to apply what made you succesful in school, business and life to athletics.
Some of you believe that because you don’t have the volume of time to train that the pros have – you should train more volume at higher intensities. I cannot prove that this is - or is not true.
I can make the argument that the 80:20 rule applies across the board. But, of course I cannot prove that this is - or is not true with hard data.
I’d like you to contemplate a few things:
- Athletes that cook themselves into illness or injury are seldom willing to publicize this failure. It doesn’t matter whether it’s done with intensity or volume. Repetitive injury or chronic fatigue is not good.
- The multisport athlete’s training is more complicated than a single-sport athlete.
- Though the research defines “intensity” – should the same intensity weighting be given to all training zones? (Several sources have designed training stress scoring systems based on power, pace and heart rate to name a few. Zone 3 intensity is less stressful than Zone 5b – how should this be accounted for across all sports?)
- Should the same intensity weighting be given to Zone 4 cycling and swimming that Zone 4 running receives?
- Do athletes living at altitude need another factor because there is less oxygen at altitude to recover from hard workouts? Maybe these athletes need less than 20 percent of the volume at intensity? (Altitude Training for Athletic Success)
And the biggest question is….
What is the absolute minimum amount of intensity that will bring athletic improvement?
This number not only brings athletic success but also minimizes risk of illness and injury.
I think the number is individual and I think several athletes can be less than the 20-percent number and see success. I also think there are some athletes that need slightly more than the 20-percent value.
So, if you’re a self-coached athlete, where do you begin?
1. First track what you have been doing and get a picture of your current status.
2. Make calculated changes and then track your success or failure.
3. If it all becomes too confusing, use the 80:20 and the 2-4 key workouts per week rules of thumb as a starting place.
For those of you that want the answer upfront, here it is:
There is reasonable evidence that an ~80:20 ratio of low to high intensity training gives excellent long-term results among endurance athletes that train daily.
This means that about 20 percent of your training volume should be at high intensity.
For those of you that need more details, settle in.
I do a fair amount of training plan consulting for athletes that I’ve trained in a one-on-one situation in previous years. These athletes want to take more responsibility for planning their own training and they love the challenge of putting together the puzzle pieces. One of the athletes that loves this kind of fun is Steve Kwiatkowski. You can find his blog here.
A few weeks back we entered a discussion about how much intensity to include in a training plan. The short of it is I spent a good part of my weekend doing research. The reference materials are listed at the end of the blog.
After all that research, I came to the conclusion that my previous guidelines are still valid:
You should have 2 and no more than 4 key/breakthrough/stressful workouts each week. This includes big volume days, high intensity days or the combination of both.
The volume of weekly intensity should be about 20 percent of your total weekly training volume.
I know these guidelines bring up more questions, but I can only squeeze so much into one blog. I’ll go into more discussion in future blogs.
For those of you that still want even more details I’m going to give you a few excerpts from the best collective research paper I found, with the link to the paper at the end of the blog:
If doing some HIT (1-2 bouts per week) gives a performance boost, is more even better? Billat and colleagues explored this question in a group of middle distance runners initially training six sessions per week of continuous training below lactate turn point (CT) only. They found that a training intensification to four CT sessions, one high intensity (HIT) session, and one lactate threshold (LT) session resulted in improved running speed at VO2max (but not VO2max itself) and running economy. Further intensification to two CT sessions, three HIT sessions and one LT session each week gave no additional adaptive benefit, but did increase subjective training stress and indicators of impending overtraining (Billat et al., 1999). In fact, training intensification over periods of 2-8 wk with frequent high-intensity bouts (3-4 sessions per week) is an effective means of temporarily compromising performance and inducing overreaching and possibly overtraining symptoms in athletes (Halson and Jeukendrup, 2004). There is likely an appropriate balance between high- and low-intensity training in the day-to-day intensity distribution of the endurance athlete. These findings bring us to two related questions: how do really good endurance athletes actually train, and is there an optimal training intensity distribution for long-term performance development?
We concluded that the greater polarization observed might have been due to better management of intensity (keeping hard training hard and easy training easy) among the most successful athletes. This polarization might protect against overstress. (Gale's comment: Easy training should be easy and fast training should be at intensities aimed at improving performance at the given goal distance.)
The first study on runners to quantify training intensity using three intensity zones was that of Esteve-Lanao et al. (2005). They followed the training of eight regional- and national-class Spanish distance runners over a six-month period broken into eight, 3-wk mesocycles. Heart rate was measured for every training session to calculate the time spent in each heart-rate zone defined by treadmill testing. All told, they quantified over 1000 heart-rate recordings. On average these athletes ran 70 km.wk-1 during the six-month period, with 71 % of running time in Zone 1, 21 % in Zone 2, and 8 % in Zone 3. Mean training intensity was 64 %VO2max. They also reported that performance times in both long and short races were highly negatively correlated with total training time in Zone 1. They found no significant correlation between the amount of high-intensity training and race performance.
Comparing the intended and achieved distributions highlights a typical training error committed by recreational athletes. We can call it falling into a training intensity “black hole.” It is hard to keep recreational people training 45-60 min a day 3-5 days a week from accumulating a lot of training time at their lactate threshold. Training intended to be longer and slower becomes too fast and shorter in duration, and interval training fails to reach the desired intensity. The result is that most training sessions end up being performed at the same threshold intensity. Foster et al. (2001b) also found that athletes tend to run harder on easy days and easier on hard days, compared to coaches' training plans. Esteve Lanao did succeed in getting two groups to distribute intensity very differently. The group that trained more polarized, with more training time at lower intensity, actually improved their 10-km performance significantly more at 7 and 11 wk. So, recreational athletes could also benefit from keeping low- and high-intensity sessions at the intended intensity.
The excerpts come from this paper:
Seiler, S., Espen, T., Intervals, Thresholds, and Long Slow Distance: the Role of Intensity and Duration in Endurance Training, Sportscience 13, 32-53, 2009 (sportsci.org/2009/ss.htm)
Finally, the weather has warmed up on the Colorado Front Range. Everyone, and everything, was out today.
Kent Winters, Bill Beyers and I headed out for a mountain bike ride on the popular Blue Sky Trail, just off the Coyote Ridge connector trail. Kent was the strongest rider of the day and was in the lead. Bill rode second and I brought up the tail.
Outbound, Kent didn’t see a snake sunning itself in the trail. Bill pointed it out as he went by and I was nearly on top of it by the time I saw it. It was scream worthy.
Kent was stopped in the trail about 25 yards ahead of Bill and I. We thought it was another snake, but no, Kent thought he saw a cat leap across the trail and into the bushes. Not a house cat, but a mountain lion. He't not 100 percent certain, but pretty sure.
We watched for awhile and never did see the cat.
Coming back, several people warned us of a rattlesnake in the trail. Kent rolled right past it and Bill saw the snake move or tumble toward the trail. (I’ve visualized the snake striking at Kent, but I have a vivid imagination.)
The snake was coiled and in the strike ready position. Though we tried to move it off the trail, it wouldn’t budge. Kent offered to take a closer photo with my phone. While Kent was moving closer toward the snake, I was backing up. I would have climbed on top of Bill’s shoulders if I thought I could pull it off. Let’s just say I like to give snakes plenty of room to navigate.
We ended up walking off trail in the weeds. (Probably where the snake’s friends were hanging out…my imagination tells me.)
We made it back to the trailhead with no snake bites. It’s a good time to refresh my snake savvy.