The phases of effort based training
Aerobic conditioning; 4 to 8 weeks
Aerobic capacity is fundamental to any athletes training program from novice to elite. Aerobic capacity this Is the biggest determining factor in an athlete’s final performance. Since all events over two minutes are primarily aerobic, the oxygen processing ability of the athlete sets the parameters for both their training capacity and speed development.
The aerobic metabolic system is the default system for life, and responds very quickly to stimulus. Don’t correctly, improvement can be seen on a weekly basis. Pace is not important in the early stages as important changes are taking place on many levels. These adaptations are cumulative and the aerobic capacity can keep increasing for many years. Generally the more aerobic time that you can handle comfortably without muscular or metabolic breakdown the more benefit you gain. Generally the recovery should be within 24 hours after any aerobic workout. Longer runs or rides may take more time to recover from because of tissue damage and from time on the feet, a common limitation for novice athletes. Therefore effort base training advocates running, and biking for time rather than distance.
Once you have established a basic fitness level (in other words they can run, or bike an hour comfortably) you can begin to organize the schedule in a more systematic fashion to further develop your aerobic capacity.
This consists of various longer runs and rides to increase muscular endurance along with several shorter faster (but still aerobic) runs and rides to push the envelope of your threshold level. You can average out your week with easy runs and rides for recovery. Increasingly include moderate aerobic effort hills and moderate aerobic effort fartleks in the early phases of training. Early moderate hill and fartlek workouts we’ll begin the adaptations for faster harder workouts later in the training cycle.
All of your bikes and runs should pass the talk test. However keep in mind no effort should be so easy it doesn’t feel like a workout. It should feel like a workout that you can recover from very quickly before moving on to the next scheduled work out.
During the aerobic development phase don’t be overly concerned with pace or weekly mileage. This is the time to develop your feeling base by tuning into your body’s physiology and learning how to read it correctly. And again avoid the temptation of correlating training pace and race times the two do not equate.
Aerobic and Muscular Endurance 4 to 8 weeks
Phase two or base two is it Is where you continue the development of the aerobic system however you start to give yourself workouts that will incorporate more muscular strength and endurance.
Once you have developed your aerobic foundation it’s time into the next physical adaptation of the training cycle. These workouts begin to introduce power and flexibility into the leg musculature through resistance and are an ideal transition in preparation for the faster more demanding workouts still to come. Ideally in the later phases of base one you began to incorporate more moderation so you are ready for this more rigorous activity.
Hills are your great form of plyometric and strength exercise. The slower you go up the hill the more resistance will be felt and the better the results. You do not want to work too hard in this phase of training. Again we are keeping the activity aerobic while we’re developing an anaerobic metabolism. So it is not desirable to push yourself too far into that anaerobic zone. That development will come later in harder phases.
When learning how to do moderate hill work learning proper form and running and riding uphill is key. Stay tall and erect, running into the hill, keeping your eyes on a spot 10 feet in front of you, not looking up or looking down. Keep your feet light in the pedals with circular movement to avoid mashing and overloading your quads. Also remember to practice your downhill running and riding. Each hill repeat should be a combination of running or riding up the hill at a very easy moderate pace and then coming back down the hill practicing falling forward, keeping your feet under your center mass and being in control.
You can start this phase on hills buy time as well. The novice runner or triathlete can start with 20 to 300 minutes segments and build into one hour segments. Don’t limit yourself by the number of hill repeats keep the focus on the time and the moderate effort.
During base 2 you can also introduce on a more frequent basis moderate effort fartlek runs and rides. These workouts again should be done on time basis. Keep your running and riding effort level that is equal to easy or zone two with fartlek burst in length from 2 to 3 minutes. Again based on your fitness level these fartlek work outs can range from 20 minutes 90 minutes in length. The key again is to stay aerobic.
Muscular Strength 2 to 6 weeks
If you’re to excel and achieve new personal best you need to prepare your body to perform during the uncomfortable state of oxygen deficit. This is where the demands of high intensity exercise cannot he met by your current aerobic capacity. Interval training will teach your body to buffer lactic acid and enzymes for anaerobic metabolism.
Anaerobic capacity is a limited function. Most people can achieve there VO2 max in 4 to 6 weeks. After this 4 to 6 week period most people will see a diminishing return. Due to tired muscles and general fatigue.
The timing and placement of muscular strength work Is critical to you development. Once this work begins it must be done regularly through this portion of the training cycle.
Muscular strength works creates conditions in the body that are very stressful, therefore it is very important that you monitor your recovery needs judiciously.
Muscular strength work is not often recommended for beginner athletes. Some beginners may benefit from light anaerobic sessions after they have done an extensive period of base building. However absolute beginners should refrain from this type of training until their second complete training cycle.
Make sure you’re recovered from the last interval workout before attempting another. Never give yourself back to back interval workouts.
Never do anaerobic training if there’re signs of infections in the body, sore throats, colds, etc.
Always remember it is better to under do anaerobic workouts then overdo anaerobic workouts.
There is no physiological benefits for pushing yourself for those few seconds faster.
Systematic training is most effective if key physiological principles are understood and followed. One of the purposes of endurance sports training, is to give the body a tough workout followed by just the right amount of rest. Theoretically you get stronger and more fit. Without overload there is very little stimulation for your body to improve its ability to handle higher levels of training stress. In other words you got to “break it down to build it up.”
Endurance power and strength will improve if an appropriate load imposes a demand on the body’s systems. As a body adapts to training, usually with the correct mix of stress and rest, an increased workload stimulates further improvements in conditioning. This relates to the gradual increases in time and intensity throughout the base and intensity stages which are intended to impose enough demand on the body to stimulate growth. Endurance overload will allow the energy systems and the oxygen transport systems to adapt and grow. The protein in muscles can increase if there is a strength overload followed by appropriate rest.
Years ago at a sports medicine conference Frank shorter was discussing his “two-week two month” rule. The essence of his message was that when you make a significant change in your training, whether it’s increasing hours, intensity, or even altitude, you can count on it taking your mind and body two weeks to adjust to the new stress, but about two months before you fully adapt to the changes. That theory has been put to test time and time again by effort based and heart rate based training methods. All the evidence that has been accumulated shows that Shorter’s observations were very astute and full of wisdom.
Physiologically stressing the body and training will bring subtle changes as the body makes adjustments and finally adapts to these imposed demands. It improves circulation, respiratory function, heart function, increased muscle endurance, strength and power: sturdier connective tissue, tendons and ligaments and bones are all part of the body adaptation to appropriate training stress.
Athletes training too much or too fast too soon, are likely candidates for illness or injury having overstressed the body too much before it could adapt.
Physiologically an adjustment and adaptation process also happens with an increase in training load if the fitness plan is just right. Your confidence, attitude and motivation may ebb and flow but the overall trend will be a steady growth toward greater success.
Your body will adapt well to increasing training overloads only if there is a proper progression. You should always be considering several factors when formulating the correct progression for your training plans. These include the weekly pattern the number of sessions per week the percentage of a total years training volume used in a 3 to 4 week training cycle.
The progression from week to week, and cycle to cycle needs not be a steady increase in training time and intensity. A periodization pattern for each training cycle should allow a staircase or pyramid like progression that overloads the body for the first two or three weeks followed by a week of decreased training volume and intensity for recovery. When tapering for a race the periodization pattern or pyramid pattern reverses. The three or four week cycle could be a descending staircase or pyramid with the first week of the cycle providing the most stress, and the last week of the cycle the least volume and intensity. This allows the body to rest up fully for race at the end of the cycle.
A progression in training volume and intensity should take place from training cycle to training cycle by gradually overloading the system using progression and adaptation, rather than an excessively aggressive approach. This means taking time to gradually build up the conditioning, but it is way easier on the body.
If you are limited on fixed training time per week you’ll need to modify the periodization patterns within the three week or four week training cycle. You might end up training the same amount of time each week but the intensity and duration of workouts would vary from hard week to easy week in order to promote adequate recovery.
Look, as the saying goes Rome was not built in a day. Unfortunately we live in a sensation seeking society that lacks patience, and is plagued by unrealistic goals and dreams. Fortunately the human body hasn’t caught up with this mindset. Our body’s have amazing abilities to tell us how to train properly if only our minds would listen. It’s been my experience that long term training progressions from year to year, leave long term sustainable improvements.
Be Healthy, Train Smart, Have Fun