Category Archives: Off Season

Intermediate to Advanced: The Different Types of Training

In my interactions with my coach M2, I have learned that there are 6 types of training. These are:
1. Neuro-muscular – training of the nervous system to do something either differently, better, or to some form which maximizes efficiency and minimizes effort. Example: super short high speed treadmill intervals for 15-30 seconds per interval, form focus workouts for swimming.
2. Speed – training that results in being faster. Examples: swimming speed sets, sprinting track workouts for running.
3. Strength – training that results in you being stronger, and to put out more energy at the same effort. Examples: hill climbing in running, hill climbing or more watts on the computrainer in cycling.
4. Endurance – training for the ability to race or produce energy output for some length of time. Example: gradually lengthening the duration of a long run over a period of weeks.
4b. Stamina – I make this a sub-section to endurance, which is the ability to maintain a level of speed/strength for a long period of time. Example: gradually increasing the time of your intervals and reducing your rest periods while maintaining the same wattages during Computrainer bike interval workouts.
5. Recovery – stimulation of blood flow by raising heart rate and circulation but not raising effort to flush the body of exercise by-products and promote healing. Example: cycling on a computrainer at negligible watts, but high RPMs for about 20-30min.
It is somewhat obvious that whenever you go out to train, you’re most likely training more than one of these areas simultaneously. However, I wanted to point out:
1. You can train to focus on only one of these areas.
2. It’s good to have a mix of all 6 areas as you’re building for a race. The mix depends on where you are in your training schedule.
3. You have to be aware that potentially you could be detracting other areas if you’re not focusing on these areas.
Let’s talk about the first point.
Focusing on one thing is possible and many times desirable. Of the 6 training types, I’ve focused on mostly neuro-muscular, strength, and recovery. It’s all based on what you individually need.
For example, over the winter, I did a lot of treadmill training where I’d warmup with track drills, ie. kick backs, skipping, and then started doing 30 min intervals at super high speed, building from 6 MPH to as much as 11 MPH (where the interval drops to 15-20 seconds due to the fact that the treadmill takes too long to accelerate to that speed). By the way, I have not found a gym treadmill that goes faster than 11 MPH, although I have heard that you can actually get treadmills that go that fast. What this achieved for me, is not necessarily the ability to maintain an 11 MPH/5:27 min/mile pace over a race. It does help train my neuromuscular system to fire my muscles quicker so that I get used to running at a higher turnover rate, at paces I can maintain. This results in me being faster simply because my body is accustomed to moving my legs faster.
For strength training, over the last 2 years I started climbing and doing laps on Old La Honda and Kings Mountain. These laps have built up my leg strength considerably and increased their resilience on hill climbs, where I was defeated utterly at Ironman Austria a few years back.
I am also a big user of recovery workouts. I figure out if, for a given workout, I need to back off. If I do need to back off severely, often I’ll do a recovery workout. An example of this is a pedaling efficiency workout involving a lot of high RPM one-legged pedaling drills at minimal wattage. It doesn’t stress my muscles from a power standpoint, but it raises my heart rate and circulation so that blood is flowing through my muscles and the flushing effect helps my recovery so that the next day I’ll be able to perform a normal workout.
Second point: The mix.
Training all in one type means that you’re not gaining the full benefits or reaching your potential for a race. If all you’re doing is sprinting workouts on the bike, you may not be able to last an entire century. If all you’re doing is running at endurance pace every workout, you may find that you aren’t increasing your speed, or you don’t have enough strength to pass someone when you want to.
You need to mix it up and include all types and improve on them all. You can figure out, as I have, where my deficiencies are, and do some focus on improving some areas. But overall, you need to train all 6 types as you build through your season to the big race.
I tend to focus on neuromuscular workouts during the offseason, as they don’t stress my aerobic system and are great for recovery workouts. Then I move from neuromuscular focus as my training season starts to building speed and strength with a lesser endurance emphasis. This is because endurance is easiest to build, but speed and strength take lot more time. As I hit mid-season, I am adding more endurance and stamina into the mix as I try to extend the speed and strength I’ve built up to longer times.
Third point, watch out for what you’re not focusing on and don’t let it slide.
As you’re focusing on certain aspects of training, you have to watch out that you don’t reduce other aspects. An easy example is that as you build endurance, you may find that your form (neuromuscular aspect) gets really messy as you get tired. This is very bad! The trick is to maintain form even when you’re butt tired, and as you focus on building endurance. Otherwise, you could injure yourself through poor form, as your muscles are tiring and you engage other weaker muscles to compensate.
Another example is when you’re supposed to be doing a recovery workout, but yet you feel energized and so you try to push harder and do something with more energy. But then all of a sudden, half way through the workout, you find that you burn through that initial burst of energy which fails you later because you weren’t fully recovered and you don’t have enough stamina to continue. Recovery when you have to and don’t force yourself to do something your body just isn’t OK for.
Yet another example is not gradually increasing your workout intervals to improve stamina. You mentally don’t feel like doing fast intervals beyond a certain point, and thus your stamina never improves. You hit race day and you find that as you try to maintain speed, you can’t and you’re slowing down as you move through the miles.
While training typically involves the simultaneous training of all 6 types of training, I think that there is a lot of benefit to identifying where your personal needs are, and coupled with where you are in your training season, you can focus on specific areas which need improvement and advance them greatly. Categorizing the different types of training really helps in thinking about training and how to race faster.

Off Season into Base Training: Like Pulling My Legs Out of Sludge

Well I’m finally on the edge of being completely out of off season and about mid-way through my base training. The reason I say I’m not completely out of off season is because of some injury which has forced a reversal back to pre-base to allow for healing.
My off season this year was the longest yet. It was about 3 months total before beginning the base training ramp. And wow that extra month made a huge difference in a negative way.
Since I only have one major race this year, IM Florida, and it’s way late in the year on Nov. 1, I thought I would give my body some extra rest and healing before ramping again this year. I think the extra rest and healing did happen but it also had some detrimental effects.
I do not have an athlete’s base. I never did athletics when younger and so my body is still trying to adapt to the stresses of being an Iroman athlete. So I react differently than other more conditioned athletes in that I may get injured when others don’t, or I need more rest than others in the same situation. Or at least I reach some higher conditioned state.
The extra month of off season seemed to have pulled my fitness so far back that when I tried to ramp, albeit gently, I still got injured on both feet, right foot having a plantar fascia issue which caused the ball of my foot to swell, and my left ankle’s tendons getting strained. I think this would have not happened with other more conditioned athletes.
This caused me to interrupt my run bulid and finally just stop running altogether to let it heal completely, as running in between just aggravated both and never let the pain go away. I stopped for 3 weeks of running, but I was able to build swimming and cycling.
As for cycling, this was also interesting. Throughout off season, I used my Powercranks to do strength workouts on my bike and gained a lot. But extending that strength into my core Computrainer workouts has been tough; I had to take the strategy of doing a workout 2-3 times in succession, starting with conservative wattage and increasing it on the same interval workout. My wattage seems to have increased a bit, but it feels that I did not gain as much as I would have liked. Still, it’s early and I have not done long outdoor bikes yet.
That extra month of off season really made it tough to come back, more so than in previous years of only two months of off season. It’s been like pulling my legs out of sludge; it feels SOOOOOO slow to build back the strength and endurance that I had last year. At last, as I come up on May, I feel I am almost there. Another 2 weeks of gentle run building with the addition of fartleks to prepare for track workouts and speed, and I hope to be ready to get on the build to Ironman Florida this November.
Next year, only 2 months of off season and that’s it! And after watching online my buddies race at a murderously hot/humid Ironman China yesterday, I’m psyched to get into some serious training…

Bikram Yoga in the Off Season

These last few weeks I’ve been trying out Bikram Yoga.
Previously I had never been a big fan of yoga. This is because I’m not very flexible and yoga deals heavily in what I would call “flexible strength”.
Flexible strength means that you apply power when your muscles are in a stretched position. Many people who are more flexible than me can do this relatively easily, or at least do it in a way that the muscles can stand it. In the past, I’ve been so inflexible that when I put my muscles in a stretched state and then attempt to flex them, I inevitably pull the muscle due to the strain.
This really sucked and I stopped after trying yoga many years ago.
However, after much training this year, and with the help of my physical therapist’s suggestions on stretches and exercises, and couple that with ART, I have found that I can actually survive yoga poses and build my ability to execute them without pulling muscles.
Unfortunately, I think that Bikram will require many months, if not years of training to get to some level of proficiency. My race season training is about to start and I think that given time constraints, and the added stress training puts on my muscles, that I won’t be able to continue this once real training begins early next year.
It’s too bad. My coach thinks it is great heat acclimatizing training since you do it in a room that is heated to 100+ degrees.

Off Season Aches and Pains

I’m heavy into the off season now, and not doing much training at all. It’s a great time for recovery, for recharging my body and brain from all the stress I’ve put on it over the past year.
But one thing has been confounding me.
Why is it when I am doing practically nothing, that I feel all these sharp aches and pains in my legs? And they feel as bad as when I REALLY have tweaked them during heavy training?
I asked my physical therapist about it. He says it’s because during the normal, heavy training season, you’ve got your body flooded with nice pain-killing endorphins. They’re there to kill as much pain as possible and keep you functioning despite all the damage your muscles are receiving (which is required for growth and improvement).
However, during the off-season when your training has backed off – guess what – so have your endorphin levels. So now you have nowhere near as many endorphins in your system and thus, small aches and pains which you may not have felt at all during the training/racing season are now brought to the forefront, and in greater pain levels than you would think. Small tweaks during the race season aren’t even felt and drop below the noise level created by the endorphins!
Then, I asked my physical therapist about the knots that have formed in my muscles. How could they form, when I rarely put my muscles in a stressed, contracted state as I normally see during race season training? I can feel them clearly as I roll my hands/fingers across my thighs and IT band.
He said that during periods of high activity, the muscles constantly move against each other, and there is a natural effect of breaking down these knots and adhesions as muscle fibers glide against each other. Once you remove that, there is a tendency for these muscle adhesions to form because there is less muscle activity to clear the small adhesions out.
All this just makes me itch to get back into race training – guess that’s what the off-season break is all about…!