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What and Why - First Training Block of Self-Coaching



This blog post is aimed at sharing not only what training I am doing, but why I am choosing to do it and the thought that goes into it. Likewise, I hope to share some information that may be helpful to other athletes or coaches. Finally, I hope this information sparks engaging conversations that promote learning. I believe there is a lot of benefit to sharing training ideas and methods with other athletes, and I hope this blog increases the knowledge of others as well as myself. Below, I outline what my training looked like during the 6 weeks leading into CLASH Miami and then highlight what I plan to do over the next 8 weeks leading into 70.3 Mallorca. I hope you enjoy!


Training Before Miami:

During the 6 weeks leading in to Clash Miami, I had straightforward training objectives. The first was to shift LT2 right. This applied to all 3 sports and, therefore, LT2 workouts were the priority. The second objective was to maintain aerobic base and promote recovery via sub LT1 training. Therefore, any non-LT2 training was viewed as supplementary (yet critical) and done at easy intensities (zone 1/2, but mainly z1).

To determine LT2 for the swim, I tested blood lactate frequently during workouts of all intensities to gauge lactate production at all paces. I had also recently done a ramp test of 400 meter repeats starting below LT1, building to above LT2. Lactate values below LT1 were, in my opinion, too high, which prompted me to ensure all easy swimming was certainly below LT1 and all hard swimming was below LT2. This strategy was aimed at reducing anaerobic energy contribution at all swimming paces to spare glycogen for the bike and run. I also placed an emphasis on improving my swim technique through some specific drills and the use of paddles with an ankle band.



For the bike and run, I used a ramp test to get myself in the right ballpark of intensity zones and to get a better picture of my metabolic profile, then used frequent blood lactate spot checks at all intensities during training to have finer control of intensity on a daily basis.


I believe this method of setting a baseline via ramp test and then doing frequent “spot checks” during training worked well. The frequent blood samples were beneficial for two reasons.


First, they allowed for near-continuous intensity control. For example, during a swim set of 5x400 yards aiming for an intensity just below LT2, I could easily identify any undesired metabolic shift between reps, even with just a slight increase in pace and a negligible increase in perceived exertion. For reference, in my first set of 5x400, the pace on rep 1 and 2 was 1:14/100 yards with a lactate of 2.2mmol-2.5mmol. From my testing and previous spot-checks, this was spot-on in terms of desired stimulus. However, with an increase to 1:12-1:13 pace on rep 3, lactate values quickly increased to 3.2mmol. This increase in lactate suggested that the 1:12-1:13 pace was slightly above LT2, so I backed off to 1:14 pace. Simple enough, but effective, unquestionable, and real-time. This method of constant spot-checking between LT2 reps was also applied to bike and run workouts.


Second, and most important to me, the frequent testing allowed me to gain a far deeper understanding of lactate dynamics and factors besides intensity that affect metabolic activity during exercise. One such factor is glycogen availability, both in terms of glycogen usage/depletion within a single workout, as well as throughout a day or over the course of a few days.


From my understanding and experience, “responsibly” depleted glycogen stores allow for both a higher output during LT2 workouts as well as a greater amount of time able to be spent at LT2 during a session (without shifting to a higher anaerobic contribution). I believe that the depleted glycogen (fuel for glycolysis) reduced the anaerobic energy contribution, manifesting itself in a lower blood lactate value. To me, this indicated that a greater percentage of energy was coming from the aerobic system, the primary system I was aiming to stress. Because of this aerobic “isolation”, I selectively exploited the lowered-glycogen-state-workouts and increased both the power/pace and number of reps during these sessions.


Since I believed these workouts were allowing for a bigger and more isolated stimulus to the aerobic system, I tried several methods to maximize these sessions. The first method was applied within a single LT2 workout. After an easy warm up below LT1 ending with a short build to just below LT2, I chose to have a relatively long-duration first rep at an intensity just under LT2, being careful to not exceed LT2. This longer rep at what most would call “tempo” effort seemed to do a decent job at lowering glycogen stores early in the workout. After this initial “prep-rep”, I was able to increase power/pace without seeing an increase in blood lactate. Actually, I saw a decrease in blood lactate and took this as a cue to steadily increase the power/pace output as long as blood lactate was in the desired range and stable between reps.


The second method took advantage of a more long-term approach and utilized double LT2 sessions within a single day, either in the form of an LT2 swim in the morning followed by LT2 bike or run in the evening, or two LT2 sessions in the same sport in the same day. This method seemed to be extremely effective at allowing an increase in power/pace while maintaining the desired energy system contribution. For example, LT2 session number 1 of the day would contain a longer “prep-rep” (20-30’) followed by medium length reps (10-15’) at slightly higher power/pace, all under LT2 (determined by the fact that blood lactate was not increasing). This first workout would contain 30-50 minutes spent just below LT2. Then, in the evening, the second LT2 workout would consist of shorter reps (5-10’), able to be completed at a considerably higher power/pace at lower and still stable blood lactate values. These second sessions were a clear example of how to use semi-depleted glycogen stores to increase the time spent at LT2, as well as the power at LT2.





*Note on potential mistakes/misunderstandings: Despite a low blood lactate value, lactate production in the muscle can still be high. This high lactate production can be “hidden” by a strong aerobic system that is using this lactate as fuel, therefore the lactate is not seen in the blood. My concern is that these workouts might actually be providing a stronger anaerobic stimulus than I realize. Because of this, I am going to modulate my use of LT2-focused blocks of training. Leading into races, LT2 workouts will take priority. After races and leading into these LT2 blocks, I will maintain some LT2 work. However, the percentage of time spent at LT2 will decrease and time at or below LT1 will increase. This is to avoid losing my aerobic base and to continue bolstering the mitochondria of the ST fibers.


*Note on the glycogen depleted LT2 sessions: Glycogen is an important fuel source and should not be intentionally driven to too low of levels, at least not frequently. Remember, the goal is to maximize time spent at LT2, and that requires fuel stores to be maintained over the course of the week. Driving glycogen too low certainly reduces the total time spent at LT2 over the long term due to inability to perform with too-low of glycogen stores. This will also impact recovery and end up negatively affecting all aspects of training.


*Note on double LT2 run sessions: Because you are able to hold a higher pace at a relatively lower anaerobic stress during the second LT2 workout in a single day, monitoring mechanical stress to bone and soft tissue is essential. Both the increased time spent at LT2 as well as the increased impact brought on from higher speeds puts a high load on the musculoskeletal system and can easily result in overuse injury if not monitored closely. This will obviously differ between athletes depending upon the athlete’s susceptibility to musculoskeletal injuries. Personally, I will need to be cautious.


*Note on blood lactate values: I have noticed that the actual blood lactate value of LT2 can change depending on glycogen state, fatigue, time of day, etc. For this reason, it is important to have a decent understanding of lactate dynamics and metabolism before using blood lactate to determine and control intensity. For example, LT2/MLSS can occur at different blood lactate values depending on each individual’s relative contribution of aerobic and anaerobic energy, which changes over time. For this reason, I believe that simply knowing the blood lactate value is not a good means to control intensity.


*Note on LT2 repetition length: Despite controlling blood lactate and, therefore, energy system contribution, I found the longer reps to be more taxing than shorter reps, despite total time at LT2 during a single workout remaining constant. I believe this may be due to increased muscular fatigue during the longer reps. I believe that:

1- fatigue resistance during longer reps is trainable, so the longer reps will become relatively less fatiguing over time, and:

2- despite the fact that longer reps seem more fatiguing, they should be incorporated somewhat closer to races in order to achieve greater race specificity as the race approaches. This also depends on how the training has been set up beforehand.


Results:


After ~6 weeks of LT2 focus, I was able to see a clear rightward shift in LT2 in all three sports. For the swim, LT2 started at approximately 1:15-1:16 pace and ended at 1:11-1:13 pace depending on the day. For the bike, LT started around 250 watts and ended between 270-280 watts. For the run, LT2 pace started at 5:30-5:25/mile and ended at 5:20-5:15/mile. Likewise, and to my liking, I also saw a rightward shift in LT1 in all three sports despite the lack of time dedicated to intentionally pushing LT1 right. I believe that the lack of anaerobic stimulus as well as an increase in volume of sub-LT1 training is to thank for this secondary beneficial effect. A secondary positive effect I noticed was muscular. Due to the increased time spent at LT2 intensity, I became more tolerant of this intensity. For example, in the beginning, I would be muscularly sore after LT2 workouts and have to closely monitor muscular soreness. However, with more workouts completed, I found that muscular soreness became nearly irrelevant compared to my starting point. I think this increase in physical durability is import for both increasing/managing training load as well as for decreasing muscular/technique breakdown in long races like triathlons.


Looking Forward:


After the seemingly successful completion of this 6 week LT2 block and race in Miami, my near-term plan is straightforward and consists of two steps. With 8 weeks to 70.3 Mallorca, I will spend the first 4 weeks focusing primarily on shifting LT1 right. The stimulus required is a high volume of work completed at or below LT1. I will complete a ramp test in all three sports to gain a better feel for the paces/power outputs associated with LT1, as well as continue spot checking in workouts. Unlike in the previous 6 weeks, I will dedicate specific workouts to increasing LT1 by exercising directly below LT1. My hope is to push LT1 to a moderately high pace/power over this timeframe. Despite the fact that 4 weeks is not long enough to elicit the full possible response, I believe that returning to this LT1 focus between racing/LT2 blocks is critical to maintain and build upon aerobic capacity throughout the year. Nonetheless, I will still still keep a small portion of LT2 workouts to maintain the functional adaptations brought on by this type of stressor.


The last 3 weeks of this 8 week block will consist of a return to LT2 focus. Again the primary goal will be to continue a rightward shift of LT2 heading into racing. The final week will be a race-prep week as well as a travel week to Europe.


Thanks for reading, and feel free to email any questions or comments to rdeckard14@gmail.com or message on IG.







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