Thursday, March 17, 2011

Training and taking a good look at my mistakes

The past couple of weeks i have done a far bit of training by my standards. After 30hrs, 1000km and a hell of alot of climbing and time trial bike time logged to rack this up i have had alot of time to reflect on exactly what i am trying to achieve while training. This reflection came about as also during this week i completed climbing testing on the Sacro monte perched behind varese with team trainer Paolo Slongo. While my results seemed to be very encourageing i felt like i wanted to know more. How did i arrive in this condition? and also what to i have to do to improve and most importantly implement it into a racing. The test i did was the 4mmol test made famour by Lance armstrong and commonly used in all endurance sports to evaluate your sustainable power output. It envolves a section of rd rising 100m in roughtly 1.2km and you begin at a low wattage and increase by 30watt increments and repeat the climb as many times as is required to reach 4mmol of lactic acid in the blood. The wattage attained at this level is determined to be your lactate threshold or power zone you can hold between 50-60min.

So with the results and my training going well i started to ask myself some questions. What am i trying to achieve when i am out training on the bike. It is somthing that drew ginn challenged me on last year and while i gave it consideration i did not perhaps give it enough thought. Basically i have finally realised you can train and you can train. You can go out and log hr after hr and you will get a benefit from that. But what sets the likes of Drew Ginn or Ivan Basso appart from the 1000's of other rowers and cyclists alight like spend an equal amount of time flogging themselves? well i dont know but i am going to make an educated guess that the application to that training even if it is identical has a huge amount to do with it. So back to my reflection. This week our team trainer set me a pretty solid workload. Alot of km's, alot of intervals, and plenty of time to study what i am doing in the process of completeing the work. While micro management may not work for everybody, it is somthing that i find gets the best out of me so i am trying to take this approach. While climbing now instead of punch 400watts and being happy i think about how my legs feeling, are they doing this comfortably? can i sustain this for a long period? if not dont kid myself and suffer though it back off to 380watts and give you body a chance to build all the blocks required to get to your peak condition. The heart is obviously the most important muscle for everybody let alone athletes. Therefore i have focused alot more on what it telling me. If my heart rate outside my target zone it is telling me somthing, either push harder or pull back, obvious, but i have realised this is somthing that i have ignored for far to long. In the past looked at my watts and thats it, sure i see if i am tired or not but really previously if i have been able to hit the numbers i have not really cared about how i did it or any forsight for what is the most important part of cycling, being able to replicate that effort on the next climb or the next day or day after that. So during my intervals i have found myself constantly asking the question am i doing whats prescibed to get me where oi want to go, are the sensation correct, and most important is my heart rate and wattage telling me the same story. Though my new found enthusiasm for learning about my sport and my body i have discovered somthing called vam. Basically this is the vertical speed you are climbing at per hr. This is used by all sports cyclists to particually evaluate the performance of cyclists in races where they do not have power meter data to look. Now i through in this calculation along with power and heartrate and i am constantly getting a much more realistic picture of where i am at. Even small things like what speed i am doing at different power and what does a change in position or cadence do to effect that speed? untill now i would have no idea but i have found in this past week starting to think about these things. So basically i just wanted to say a bit about training and training, i have always known there was a difference and thought i was a good "trainer", thankfully this past week has taught me that i have a seriously long way to go to actually train properly and hopfully one day get to a point where every second logged in training is purposfull, that would be great but with my limited sporting ability i doubt whether i will get to that point. My biggest downfall however is perhaps not my approach to training but my negligence of to recovering properly. In the past i have always neglected the small things, massage, ice baths, stretching, all the simple things we know work but are easy to neglect. This week when not on the bike i have tried to take the same approach to recover as i have to training. I have all day to do my job so why not use it. This has meant work on core and stretching before breakfast and again after training, things in the past i have found very easy to put asside and sleep in or just take a shower. As a result i feel much better and have got to know in one week how my body will feel that day on the bike from the mornings warmup rountine in my lounge room. Also which muscles need more stretching than others following different types of intervals on the bike, be it normal climbing, strength, spints, time trial, agility. All these require varying loads on different muscles and i have found specifically targeting this in stretching has mad a big difference to recovery. Next has been nutrition. While i have for a long time been a big advocate for if it aint worth burning it off dont consume it and am doing my best to approach nutrition with a little more professionalism. Again i have been very negligent n this area by being fixated on being skinny or light and not thinking really about what will fuel my body out on the road. I have basically been 71kg for 10years now and have changed shape malot in that time so i dont forsee that really changing much. The only way i can make a difference is the fuel that i put in and when i am relaly hard on myself realise i have been far from thinking about nutrition in the right way for a very long time. Nutrition now i have made part of my recovery routine, during the last 5min of my streching and core post ride i boil the water, pop the pasta in when i am finished and jump straight in the shower. By the time i have finished my shower and am dressed the pasta is cooked and i can immediately sit down and refuel the system without wasteing a second. It is very simple and i am sure that most athletes already do things this way but for me it is whole new way of focusing and getting the most from my recovery time. As much as i always though it was not neccessary to count calories i have finally realised for atleast it is important. Not because i eat to much but because otherwise i dont eat enough and now know that if i get the fuel right i can train so much more constructively. I guess the big word is accountability and i have decided it is time to really do my best to be accountable to my profession. Often the daily workouts are replicated from week to week so doing the exact same course gives me another indicator of where i am at, did i do it in the same time? faster, slower? why? All small questions i have never thought to ask myself before but until this week when i opened my eyes a bit more to what i was doing realised there was so much more i could do. My final area of self analysis has come by using that crucial muscle as an indicator agiain, the heart! Before bed i check my resting pulse rate and also again in the morning and now know that if it has not dropped by atleast 6 beats then i have not had adequate rest and rest to perhaps urr on the side of caution for the days training or perhaps have an extra hrs sleep. Sure there are many factors that effect your heartrate at these time of the day!!! but if you do the checks enough under similar conditions i have found it to be a good indicator not only of how hard you worked that day and what it took out of you but also how well you have recovered for the next days workload. This info helps to establish how much sleep i think i need and also if i am benefiting from the work i am doing or it is just putting me in a whole. I may be way of with this type of analysis but i am going to keep using it and see what it tells me. For now i have found it very usefull.

After 10years in elite sport i am pretty annoyed with myself that it has taken me this long to starte to open my eyes more to why we train and take training much more seriously. At the end of the day we spend alot more time training than competing and competing is the only thing that counts so on that logic you cant afford to stuff up training. I have been fortunate enough to have some of the worlds best coaches advising me and i am sure they have pulled there hair out at my stupidity at times but i realise that this is a lesson you must learn yourself, i hope now i have finally realised this i dont waste the opportunity to work and learn from such amazing trainers. Sure great athlets like drew can try and ope you eyes to the benefits of training properly but until you want to do it yourself i have realised you can never really understand the importance of it. I am certain i am still a very long away from getting my preperation time spot on but for now i will settle for an improvement and hope that if i can keep making small improvements with application to racing and training then one day i might even end up being a good athlete.

Now time for me to relax on my recovery day and do what it's meant for, doing apsolutly nothing!!!

cjw