The Off-Season Part 2

In my last post I began describing how I am putting the off-season to good use. I mentioned that I believe the areas of improvement that will have the biggest bang for their buck are:

  1. Swimming
  2. Biking
  3. Nutrition
  4. Smarter training
  5. Strength training
  6. Better rehab (e.g. massage)
  7. Sleep
  8. Running

Swimming is a major weakness of mine, and it is the event that I am furthest behind the best in the world in, so it likely has the biggest potential for pay off on time invested. Biking on the other hand I do not consider to be a weakness, yet I still think it has big potential for pay off on time invested. There are several reasons for this logic.

First off, I have not been biking for very long. I rode the BMX bike as a mode of transportation as a kid, but other than that, my bike training really only started in 2010. In reality, it wasn’t until 2012 that I began to get serious about training for the bike. Up until then I didn’t do much biking over the winter, and any of the biking I did in the summer didn’t have much substance. My idea of a bike workout was going out and riding for 100km, that’s about it. In 2012 a friend of mine introduced me to the scientific basis of training, as well as loaned me a PowerTap wheel. It was at this point that I began learning how to properly train for the bike.

What I have found over those three years is that bike training is very complex. If you go out and smash bike workouts day in and day out, you most definitely will get better at riding the bike. This same logic is not true of swimming. But, as I am coming to find very recently, there is a further degree of complexity to smashing bike workouts very hard. Some of the questions that must be asked are:

  1. How hard should I ride? Said another way, what are the various intensities I should ride at?
  2. For what duration should I ride at each intensity?
  3. How often should I ride at each intensity?
  4. What intensity should I recover at?
  5. For what duration should I recover?
  6. How long should I go in a block of training before giving the body a planned rest?

You could go out and ride hard every day and two months later you will likely be a stronger biker. But, are you the strongest biker you could be? Is riding hard every day an efficient way to achieve your true potential? I have adopted this sort of philosophy over the last year or two. The conclusion I am coming to is that it is not the best path to reach your full potential.

What it appears I have been doing in the past is trying to ride as hard as I can, as much as I can. I believe this logic can get you a long way. After the Ironman 70.3 World Championship, I felt as though I had reached a plateau on the bike. In that race I pushed around 360w. I weighed in somewhere around 165lbs. In watts/kg that is something like 4.8. That was good for the fastest pro bike split. While reflecting back in the days after that race I found it difficult to imagine pushing any more power than that over that distance. In fact, I found it hard to believe that I had even been able to push that much during the race! In practice leading up to that race I rarely pushed 360w for any considerable amount of time. I had been doing most of my moderate length intervals at around 345w. In the races leading up to 70.3 Worlds I had come to find that whatever power output I was holding in moderate length intervals in practice, I usually could push 10-15w more in the race setting. Thus, that is how I came up with the 360w value as an upper limit to shoot for.

Below is a workout I did on August 27th. This was one of my peak workouts that I was really happy with going into 70.3 Worlds, and gave me the confidence to strive to push 360w for the 90k. The intention of the workout was to do 6x(2 minutes @400w with 2 minutes recovery to 10 minutes @345w with 3 minutes recovery). The actual value of the six ten minuters were: 347, 349, 352, 356, 354, 350. That workout was very hard. I knew 360w was a very ambitious number to go after.

Peak Bike Workout

When I successfully pushed 360w for the 90k it was bitter sweet. Sweet in the sense that I had accomplished something I was not sure was even possible in the beginning. Bitter in the sense that I could not see pushing a wattage significantly higher than this, EVER. I thought I had come very close to my limits. Purely by chance, I chimed in on a Slowtwitch post. Very quickly I was challenged by someone I believe to be a respected Slowtwitcher. If you want to read the entire post you can find it here. If not, this was his response to me:

desert dude Dec 27, 14 11:39

Post #14 of 34 (1485 views)

Re: Running off the Bike in Training- Beneficial or Recipe for Injury [LSandersTri] [In reply to] Quote | Reply

I wonder how fast you could run if you actually thought about what you typed and what may happen if you changed how you do things?

It, your running, could be even scarier.

sorry man but I see low hanging fruit on your tree. Brian Stover Accelerate3 Coaching :: @accelerate3 :: Facebook  AeroCamp 3.0: 2 hours of testing that will make you faster than a month of training

 

I gave this response some deep thought, with regards to all three sports. Had I become set in my ways? Had my training philosophy hardened into training fact? I then asked myself the questions I mentioned above, and began to stockpile all of the things I had taken for granted. What really stuck out for me were my Active Recovery and Easy intensities and durations.

In the bike workout mentioned above, my Active Recovery wattage was 240w. Where did this number come from? Why was it not 200w, 150w, 100w? The average power during my four hour long ride just two days prior to this workout was 288w. Where had this wattage come from? I really started to tear apart the bike training I was doing. I decided that in my next bike workout I was going to lower the recovery pace significantly. The workout I ended up doing was: 8m@360w to 10x4m@400w to 2x8m@370w all with 3 minutes recovery at 130w. Here is the data:

Paradigm Shift

I couldn’t believe I had finished this workout. I had never pushed 370w for any significant duration, and then to do it after doing 10x4m@400w, really helped put things in perspective. I had been doing my recovery paces too hard. In other words, I wasn’t recovering during my recovery. It was amazing, a light bulb immediately went on. With just this tiny little change I have had 11 straight bike workouts that in my opinion, all would surpass the “peak bike workout” I did going into 70.3 Worlds. For instance, below is one I did two weeks ago that is very comparable to the one from August 27th. It was 3x20minutes with 10 minutes recovery. I ended up pushing 361, 366 and 375w. Even 5 weeks ago I could not have fathomed doing this workout in practice.

3x20m

Long story short, I have had a paradigm shift in both my run and bike training. Since that time I have been doing the best workouts of my life. The moral of the story is that you should continually stock pile all of the training “facts” you have accumulated and question them from every angle. It is possible that you may not be on a physiological plateau, but a plateau caused by your current training philosophy / methods.

Thanks for reading!