Monday, January 20, 2020

The appliance of science to winter training

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At the end of my first full season of Triathlon, I'm the first to admit that my training over the last 14 months or so has lacked any real scientific or programmatic basis. Put (perhaps a little over) simply, I mainly concentrated on doing either a) what seemed to feel right, b) what I felt needed the most attention or c) fitting in with other people's training plans (hey, at least they had a 'plan'!). And given that I came to Triathlon without any proven track record in swimming, cycling or running, this 'seat of the pants' approach to training hasn't been all that bad, with some reasonably good performances recorded in 2010.

But is it a sustainable strategy? Well maybe; but not if I want to improve significantly for next season and beyond.

So it's time to apply a little intelligence to my training; and winter seems the logical time to do it.

Accepting that I don't have the patience to go and fully research all the available papers and views on off-season training, I've instead found someone I trust to help me form a plan that should see me arrive on the start line in better shape for 2011 (or, more importantly, to arrive at my nominated 'A' races in as good a shape as possible - am fully expecting to turn up for 'C' races already knackered!). And so begins 'winter base' training.
Having just started week #2 of the first 6-week tranche, it's definitely requiring a shift of mindset. As someone who probabaly spent 60-70% of training time 'going for it', a weekly regime that sees me almost exclusively at less than 70% of max HR is quite strange. It's also quite frustrating a times, especially on my runs, where it feels like I might as well be standing still. Thankfully, I'm allowed to batter myself silly with an all-out 5km Parkrun on a Saturday, to blow away any cobwebs!

Likewise, heavy weights sessions are something of a departure. As someone who was a bit of a gym bunny before finding triathlon, I'm no stranger to weights, but am not used to doing just 3-4 reps of a heavy weight, then taking a 3-minute rest period. I get the theory (use early winter base to focus on building muscle strength without increasing size) but it still feels bits a bit weird right now.

But... as I am discovering, trust is a major part of the athlete / coach relationship and therefore if coach says this is the right thing to be doing at this point in my winter training programme, then Matt trusts coach to be right. A large part of this comes down to my selection of a coach who has 'been there and done that'. My goals align nicely with his achievements, so it helps me trust that he knows what I need to do to acheive those goals. It also helps that he, and others around me, are very no-nonsense about my relative 'immaturity' in the sport, and blend encouragement with tempered advice on not running before walking (pardon the pun).

The purchase of a turbo trainer, combined with cadence-enabled bike computer, is also promising to be a good call - now I can accurately follow training sessions that dictate certain heart rate and cadence 'windows' and put in solid training whatever the weather.

As always there's more to do than time allows, and right now my swimming is taking something of a back seat, but that won't last forever. I'm still trying to do 1-2 hours a week in the pool, but I can see this increasing before the new year.

And a final note, the last thing I am having to consciously modify is my food intake! One of the (questionable) 'benefits' of the previous training regime was a higher calorie burn. Now, with a daily 4 mile jog at sub-140HR barely burning 350 calories I'm having to watch my calorie intake much more closely. Unfortunately, I don't feel any less hungry than before!

I've started using just to track my intake. I'm not going to get overly scientific about calculating expenditure versus intake, but so far I'm finding it useful to keep an eye on what's going in. Sometimes it's surprising how many 'hidden' calories I've consumed without really thinking about it.

So there you go; another rambling post, I'm afraid. I will probably post more on winter training as I get into it. Interested to hear your thoughts on what you'll be doing over the next 4-5 months to get ready for 2011?

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Matt Fisher runs - so it's all his fault! He pretends to be a triathlete, but really he is a husband, father and company VP. But he has raced for the GB Age Group squad a few times and is a two-times qualifier for the IM70.3 world champs