It is one of those never-ending topics of conversation, and I would like nothing more than to weigh in and provide some insight on some observations over the years. Much like most strength and conditioning coaches out there, I have had my mind made up, then changed, then blown wide open, then made up, then changed again, and so on and so forth. So where am I writing this from right now? Good question. I guess you could say this is the best I have felt about coaching and understanding true speed and endurance performance. I am seeing what works on the highest levels, and additionally, feeling the pros and cons of a lot of different tactics and then compiling all the good things into one big concept. That concept is that for ANYONE who ever has a desire to truly reach their full potential in any discipline related to speed (running, cycling, olympic lifts; to name a few common areas) they have to be prepared to train at an intense level. That can basically go without too much description, it makes sense, but gets overlooked often in my opinion. To run faster you must actually run faster at some point, even if it is only for 10 seconds. The belief of running often is nice, but not enough to really increase your energy production or oxygen handling at a heavier pace. Not to mention the ability of your muscles to handle all of the external forces that increase as your do things at a higher intensity. Going for a 5 mile run 5 days a week just isn’t going to teach your body to crack that 6 minute mile, in fact it might just slowly lull your body to sleep and decrease that excitement that running usually gives you, and that is a true nightmare. I’ve learned how to really organize your training and give yourself little goals, so today I want to really talk about what a strong musculoskeletal system can do in getting you to reach that new gear.
Over-Time, not Over-Night
Everyone has spoken with this person before, “you know I am really going to hit the gym this year and put on some muscle so that I can get leaner when I really start my training.” Nod yes if you have ever had this discussion, because I feel like that is really all it gets someone… a nice little head-nod. First issue with this case is the idea that going to the gym is not part of their “training.” As I’ve learned from my experiences in the last few years, if we have a desire to perform (and performance happens in a LOT of ways) we have to look at the big picture, and hitting the gym when the weather is cold and nasty is not just an alternative… it needs to be part of the plan.
The best idea is to really approach your training from a “business-perspective.” Most people have the understanding of what a yearly work cycle looks like for whatever their business looks like, or maybe even a quarter (Q1, Q2, etc.) So what if we used this type of programming to give us a yearly plan. This is truly necessary to any athlete, and though it is never written in stone it gives us a backbone that we can always fall to and make decisions from.
Let’s look at an example (my plan from 2013):
January - March: Pre-Season Training - The Focus here is to truly just work on different disciplines (keeping specific swim, bike, run ability) and physical strength and power. Lots of powerful runs on hills and trails, powerful swims, and LOTS of good strength training to try and synchronize and coordinate muscular efforts. This was a phase where my STRENGTH was a KEY FOCUS, maybe 3-4 sessions a week, and often on the beginning or end of a sport-specific session (I would lift upper body after a swim, or prep for a run with Step Ups and Deadlifts).
April - June: Sport-Specific Power - With a few big events in this phase, my season plan didn’t really involve maxing out to perform my best in these races, and I was OK with that. They were used for preparation and just to keep the sport in my head. As the duration and intensity went UP in my sport-specific training (swim, bike, run) I had to sacrifice the FREQUENCY at which I was strength training to 2 real solid sessions a week, but those sessions were BY THEMSELVES and FOCUSED. I have learned that it can be far more valuable to train your physical/muscular strength and power by itself during a season. The common thought here is to spend every hour on the bike or in the pool, to drive that adaptation, but even now in the season is way too early. So it made my decisions easier, if I had an option between a 40 minute run and a 40 minute plyo and strength session, I would spend the time on the plyo and strength, because inside my head I am still not to the point where I need to be getting in extra runs. This paid HUGE dividends in preventing myself from over-training early, and left me excited for the specific sessions.
** For reference, I knew I was doing my first 70.3 last year, and there would be plenty of time to swim/bike/run later**
July - September: GAME TIME - And boy was I stoked for it! With a big race (NYC Tri) early in the phase, and culminating with my first 70.3 race (in Montauk, re-visiting one of my first real seasons as an endurance athlete) I was ready to let it fly and start spending some real time as a triathlete. Bike rides got longer and more demanding, runs got much longer, and less higher-intensity, swims got much longer, and the strength remains to keep me in tune and my joints healthy, muscles working properly. I can truly say that if I hadn’t spent time in the gym all year, then my entire physiology would just be worn out of this endurance training and I would have lost an edge. We have to remember, mind and body are 1 thing, and for my body to feel gaps in health between joints, tension, stiffness, and overall weakness… my mind would fall second. The LAST thing anyone needs in going into a 70.3 race is a mental feeling of weakness… not good bed-fellows.
October - December: Post-Season Recovery and Build - Truly a fun yet critical piece of every athlete’s year, and can really set the tone for the next season. There should be a break and multi-lateral focus. For me? I still get the please of having the Brooklyn Tri in this phase, and that should be fun simply because I will be going in feeling fresh and some extra built-up strength. It will be like an icing on the cake of a HEAVY season of work and adaptation.
Overall, even if you look at my calendar of sessions upon sessions upon sessions (in polarpersonaltrainer.com) I still know that the work is far from over. It was a jump in adaptation, but I am not expecting to change yet, I know it will take another season like that to adapt, and really feel like strength sets in. It happens over-time, and the biggest point from here would be that IF I didn’t focus on the strength and getting in the gym, I would have been worn-out, un-excited, and ultimately who knows if I would even care about next season. I will try it again this year, and MAYBE, just maybe, there will be some better strength and speed in there!
So now I am approaching the big season of multiple 70.3 races, but even then I am still thinking beyond it and saying, actually wow I love can’t wait to work on my lifts and body this Post-Season and Pre-Season at Crossfit South Brooklyn this year with my woman and group of truly inspiring coaches/athletes. They have been a huge help in my training this year, and as I was saying before… sometimes its hard for endurance people to say “well I could run or go to the gym” and actually select the gym. For me, and with that extra motivation and community it was easy to trust in them and say “that’s easy, today is a CFSB day.” I have been was working through sets at around 60-70% of my estimated max and it felt great. However, so far this year I have increased my Squat PR and Deadlift PR. Not too mention I have been increasing my upper body strength pretty dramatically with the pull up and ring sets, I have never felt stronger shoulders in my life, and that is a HUGE deal in getting ready for bigger swims. The 20-30 minutes of mobility and joint health that we do keeps my feeling good and loose.
Once Pre-Season hits I won’t really have much issue in syncing into the runs, the bikes (I keep the swims simply because it is my weakness and needs more cycles of training) and really getting strong and muscularly powerful. CFSB will be a huge help… and I will be ready to tackle 2014.
For some additional info, I recommend checking out the Founder of CFSB, David Osorio, and his new blog Inside the Affiliate
Just for fun, here is my page on the KEY events that I am hoping for in 2014 :
So now here we are! On to the new year! A big plan, and a solid execution is your key... lets tackle 2014!