Monday, October 31, 2011

Take It To The Limit

I've had a new coach since the start of the summer after working with the previous coach for about 6 or 7 years. Its always interesting to have someone else look at your training and race results. With the outdoor time trials over for thsi year and the monthly indoor time trials starting in two weeks my coach has been looking over my power data and questioning whether I am really riding as hard as possible. She asked me if I ever train until failure. I said that the closest I come to that would be in the 3 minute power intervals. I might be able to hold 400+ for the first two but then I drop to 380, 360 and lower. She suggested that we test my power over longer times.

After gradually raising the wattage goals and time in the intervals over the last couple of weeks she assigned me two 20 minute efforts at 360 watts, about 10 watts above what I would hold at the 10.2 mile tt at Cleves or the 10 mile at the Blue Streak. Seemed doable even under a non-competitve environment.

I rode out US 52 starting the first effort just past the entry to Coney Island and finished near the Beckjord Power Plant in New Richmond. Average power--350. Seemed like I was holding 360-380 a lot but obviously not enough. HR was at 95% of max or or 109% of FTP at the end and averaged about 102% of FTP. I took about 8 minutes between and started the next effort. I knew 5 minutes in that I wasn't going to be close on the power but HR was way up there. In the end power was about 335 and HR was higher than the first effort by another % of FTP.

While I didn't push so hard that I had to stop I wasn't too far from the point where power was dropping enough that it wouldn't have been beneficial to continue. The other barometer would have been taking my HR to 98% of max or 110-112% of FTP. I can get there but can't hold that for long. It's like doing the VO2 test on the road.

The point here isn't that you should train to failure every time and in fact you really shouldn't but it is good every once in a while to find that point of failure. The best training zone to develop power over time is right around your FTP. Spend enough time there and you'll gradually increase the power that you can hold in that range.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Updates from Webinars and Conferences

In the last two weeks I've listened in on a few USAC webinars and also attended a two day seminar at Eastern Tennessee State University at their College of Sports Science. I'm working towards the 200 CEU's I need to become a Level 1 coach. I'm just over 150 so hopefully in the next year I'm able to attend the Level 1 certification conference in Colorado Springs at the US Olympic Training Center. In the meantime I'll note some of the highlights of the webinars and seminars.

The one webinar dealt with training athletes over the age of 50. I'll turn 50 in 2012 and don't really consider it an issue since I know I can keep getting faster. I know that the athletes I coach approaching that age or over that age feel the same way. For the general population there is a loss of muscle mass, increase in body fat, reduction in growth hormones, reduced resting metabolic rate and max Hr and stroke volume, and a drop in VO2 max (about .7% per year from age 25-65). Thats some really depressing news but thats only for those who aren't training properly. If you are using interval training and pushing yourself into zone 5 (or at your VO2) you can actually expand your blood volume, increase Hr output, maintain or increase VO2, improve your musular efficiency and increase your power output well into your 50's. You can even hold that level of fitness until you're in your 60's. If you want to see some data to back this up just look at the times from the Masters Nationals time trial. This event is all about power and holding your HR at 92%+ of max HR or holding 100%+ of your Functional Threshold Power. The times in the 50+ brackets are competitive with the lower brackets every year.

For any age athlete your training should include an aerobic component, plenty of intervals that specifically highlight the strengths needed for your discipline, and strength training. The conference at ETSU covered the these areas. Moderated by Meg Stone (1980 and 1984 Olympian from Great Britain) and her husband Mike Stone (long history in exercise physiology including heading that department with the US Olympic Committee), the conference offered presentations by Olympic coaches and plent of Ph.D's in exercise physiology covering topics like Acute Stratgeies to Improve Performance, Practical Aspects of the Training Process, Physiology of Sprint and Road Cycling, Training for Endurance and Sprint Cycling, Nutrition for Individual and Team Sports, etc. Throw in the great food at the Millenium Center on the ETSU campus and the presentation at dinner on Friday night on the history of the Olympics and it was a great two days. ETSU is actually trying to become an Olympic Training Center and given their program and facilities it may happen.

While some of the talks were over way head (an hour on mysosin light chains!) there was a lot of great information that will take me months to sort through and integrate into training programs. The one topic that was emphasized was the need for endurance athletes to add strength training to their schedule. Three one hour sessions per week in the winter and two sessions per week during the season were recommended. It was noted that even 30 to 45 minutes would be fine for the time crunched athlete. The cycling team at ETSU is regularly using a system of strength training that includes power cleans, the clean and jerk, the snatch and other moves that you see in weightlifting competitions. After watching the 60 minute presentation to succesfully perform these moves I would not recommend going to the gym after just watching a youtube video on these. I could see plenty of ruptured discs and blown knees. The point is that strength training will benefit cyclists by improving power to the pedals, enabling you to hold your position in crits with a strong upper body, helping you maintain proper form on those really long rides, reducing the chance of breaking bones should you go down, etc. Runners and swimmers would find similar benefits in improving their efficiency, developing a longer time to exhaustion, reducing the chance of injury, etc. And you really wont bulk up from this training. If anything you'll exchange fat for muscle and ideally lose weight in the long term.

I'll start posting at least once a week as we get into winter training.

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