Coaching and Training Plan

Introduction

I mentioned in another post that I had decided to enlist an active coach. By this I mean that rather than work with a coach in a consultative fashion, I will work actively with the coach and follow direction and training schedules from the coach. In the past couple of years as I returned to a focus on training, I would periodically consult with a coach, obtain input, and personally develop my training plans. Although this approach has been quite functional, I knew that I was not ‘bending the curve’ to derive a maximum benefit from the time spent training. Although I expected self-coaching to be a challenge, I found that it is even more  difficult than anticipated. It is perhaps nearly impossible to view one’s own training and consistently make clear observations that lead to proper adjustments in the training program and therefore consistent, steady improvement. A trained, experienced, independent eye on one’s training plan is a good way to get a training plan dialed and improvements on track. So I now have a coach. Fortunately this coach is a very experienced and accomplished endurance athlete (2 time Olympian), highly trained in exercise physiology and nutrition, and has a history of coaching. She is also my wife and sometimes training partner and therefore she will be able to observe (and comment on, I am certain) many aspects that no traditional coach-athlete relationship would normally have access to. We will have to see how this works out, but so far all is well.

Physical Parameters

height: 5’7″

weight: 125-130 lbs (125-127 during running season / 128-130 during ski season)

age: old! (58 years)

body fat: 8.0% – 9.0% (est.)

Heart Rate (HR) Data:

Max HR: 165

Lactate Threshold: 153-155

zone 1: <132 (L1)

zone 2: 132-141 (L2)

zone 3: 142-148 (L3)

zone 4: 149-154 (L4)

zone 5a: 155-158 (L5a)

zone 5b: 159-164 (L5b)

zone 5c: 165+ (L5c)

I use the Friel HR zone protocol as the approach utilizes LT as the basis for determining the zones. As such this protocol has at least a foothold in establishing a relationship between individual physiology and training zones. Also, these values have best fit my own grading of reported perceived exertion level (RPE).

The Training Plan Framework

After a review of my training to date and some conversations about goals we developed a plan for the Nordic ski racing season now upon us (December 2013- early March 2014). Coming in with a substantial base from ultrarunning and consistent Nordic skiing specificity throughout the summer and fall (roller skiing), a plan that sharpens off this base with race-specific sessions that address the reality of the shorter race duration in skiing relative to ultrarunning (0.5 – 2.5 hrs (10 km-50 km) for skiing  vs 4-8 hrs (50 km-50 mi) for ultrarunning). This plan has a framework of regularly scheduled workout types on a seven day cycle designed in such a way that adjustments for race weeks and longer term goals are easily incorporated. I have found in my 30-odd years of participation in focused training, that a ‘basis framework’ of regularity works best for me. Iterating off the framework allows for proper adjustments but still keeps the regularity that my personality-type prefers. The framework is as follows:

Sunday – Over-distance (OD) at L1-L2

Monday – off/easy

Tuesday – intervals

Wednesday – OD at L1-L2

Thursday – off/easy

Friday – intervals (or speeds if racing on the weekend)

Saturday – Flex- depending how week has gone this session will be adjusted- typically Steady-State, Tempo, TT, or race, but sometimes easy/off

Additional details:

OD is 3+ hours (for Nordic Skiing time is the essential variable since pace can vary drastically depending upon snow conditions).

Interval designs will vary depending on weekly training load (TRIMP) and racing schedule.

Tempo is minimum 10km (about 23-25 minutes) with substantial w/u and c/d- with a minimum 20km total ski length (about 1hr 30 – 2hrs).

A monthly (approx.) TT to monitor progress is used as a functional monitor for feedback into the training program.

Sample Workouts

Presented here are plots of heart rate (red) and elevation (green) of typical Nordic Skiing (classic technique) workouts used in this training plan.

OD:

This is an OD workout of about 3 hours and, in this case, about 40 km (shown in both time domain and distance domain):

OD Workout time domain

OD Workout distance domain

A bit of unwanted cardiac drift is apparent at the end of this workout, but for this classic-technique session the conditions were rapidly changing toward the end and my wax was beginning to slip so the effort level went up a bit high just to get back up the hill.

Intervals:

A few types of intervals will be common- 3-5 repetition long length (10+ minutes), 5-10 repetition medium length (3-5 minutes), and 10-20 repetition short length (30 seconds- 1 minute) as well as various ladder designs. Presented here are examples of two medium interval workouts (5X 5 minutes and 10X 3 minutes) and one ladder workout (1min-2min-3-4-5-5-4-3-2-1min with 1min-2min-2-2-3-2-2-2-1min rest). Time is the correct domain to use as one should be interested in the recovery level and the recovery rates for analysis of load and fitness.

5X 5 minutes (high L4-L5a):

intervals combo 13 Dec 2013

10X 3 minutes (high L4-L5a):

L$ Intervals 17 Dec 2013

ladder 1min-2-3-4-5-5-4-3-2-1min (L4-L5a):

Ladder intervals 1-2-3-4-5-5-4-3-2-1 27 Dec 2013

Tempo:

Tempo workouts are very important for race preparation and economical technique development. One such workout per week (or a race) should be sufficient provided additional time is spent on technique on easy days.

Presented below are time and distance domain graphs of an approximately 1h 30 min, 25 km Tempo Nordic Skiing (classic technique) workout (2km warm-up and 5 km cool-down are not shown) with an average HR of 146 (high L3-low L4 effort):

Tempo workout time domain

Tempo Workout

A steady effort is important here as it mimics cardiovascular stress under race conditions.

Concluding Remarks

The framework outlined above and the associated training schedule (adjusted as needed on a weekly/twice weekly basis) is intended for the current ‘race season’ and will be between 12 and 18 hrs per week of training time. This schedule has a significant increase in interval/VO2 max work- like twice as much as I have been doing the past three years. I discovered upon returning to serious training that I was not able to support two-a-week interval/VO2max sessions as I had when I was younger. My recovery was lacking and over a few weeks of two-a-week interval/VO2max sessions I experienced significant soreness and fatigue. I chalked this up to age and a diminished ability to recover fully and found support for this conclusion recently from Friel. However my coach disagrees and contends that the reason I have not been able to support the two weekly interval/VO2max sessions is that I was not going easy enough on the easy days, therefore I did not have the ability to make the hard days hard enough, frequent enough, or of consistent quality. I discuss this briefly in my 2013 training year summary in a section on yearly training zone distribution. My coach says that I continue to log too much zone 3 and not enough zone 4-5 and zone 1-2. With the training schedule outlined above, my zone 4-5 should increase by at least 30% to a total of about 25% for a year of training. This, I am informed, is a necessary level of interval/VO2max work to allow for progression. We shall see if I can actually support this amount of intensity.

Nordic Skiing, being a seasonal sport, has a defined racing season with weekly races (or race effort time trials when there is no race). The remainder of the training year (for a single sport athlete) is broken into training blocks of base, intensity/strength, intensity/volume, and pre-season prep (focus on technique, TTs, and intensity tests while ensuring significant rest going into the race season). Athletes participating competitively in another sport in addition to Nordic Skiing will have a very different training year cycle. In my case the mountain ultra trail (MUT) running season starts up in late April just about a month and a half after the last Nordic skiing races here in the Rocky Mountain West. I transition into running in March and look toward starting up the  race season in May. Although one will bring a significant level of fitness into the running season from the Nordic Racing season, it takes a while to ‘harden-off’ one’s legs after very little hard surface running through the winter. Although I run a couple of times a week (about 12-18 miles) through the Nordic Skiing season, this volume is just not sufficient to keep the running-specific impact damage/repair cycle going (Nordic Skiing is a very low-impact sport- provided that one keeps the black sides of the skis down!). We will develop a running-specific training schedule in February-March time-frame, however the general structure will stay the same where, for instance, the ODs become long runs and the other elements will be as stated in the Nordic Skiing program here, just done while running.

As of this writing I am four weeks into the ‘season’ with this training plan and all is going surprising well. The volume seems to be at a near-optimal level as I have no issues with maintaining or recovery. Also, the two-a-week interval/VO2max sessions are working quite well- I am able to ensure the quality and consistency with adequate recovery and I can feel the improvements- the first race will be a true indicator of the efficacy of the plan however. Time will tell if I can truly support this protocol, but so far so good. Updates to come.

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