Off season training from November to March is where most of my summer results stem from. Every year I sit down with my coach in the fall and plan out what the winters training schedule will entail. Part of a good training plan is being able to set goals for both long term and short. It isn’t until you clearly lay out your goals and aspirations that you will know how to much time or sacrifice you will need to make in other parts of your life. I use a simple model like the one below so that I can always refer back to it and help remind myself what and why I do this and what I want out of it.
I compete in the sport of duathlon because it combines two of my favourite things running and cycling. I enjoy both the aspects of fresh air in my face while riding down smooth road and chasing the runners high when I am out on a tempo run. I enjoy pushing my limits of my body and mind and no matter if I am racing or casually training, this provides me with great health and mental fortitude. I am a competitor and always have been, this sport gives me a way to funnel that energy into something productive that I am good at. Heart health is always a concern due to my genetic condition LQTS so being as healthy as I can for my family is most important bar none.
Setting goals and a making a plan.
I am a fast efficient runner, but the quest to be ever faster was my number one goal this past winter. Setting ambitious goals to increase my race pace has not been easy, but getting faster and building my endurance back to where it was before I started on medication for my heart has been the toughest part. Incorporating a treadmill at christmas was the first major step in the right direction, speed work is very difficult to keep up through the winter here in Ontario but this has allowed me to push harder than in previous years. Incorporating #fartlek techniques and progression (negative splits) has really increased my speed. Adopting speed work at the end of a tempo run for example has helped me adjust my legs to working harder when they are tired. For endurance I only have one long run 12k – 18k per week as the seasons change so do the length of the runs. In the winter I run for time and not distance which gives me a great understanding of my personal pacing. After changing beta-blockers this past mid-winter I had to re train my body to get used to the lower oxygen levels, which is difficult for lactic acid build up in particular. Having your hearts range “limited” by medication proves to be a detriment to athletes that require large amounts of oxygen to their muscles and it has taken months to build up a tolerance to it. That “foundation” of endurance has been built but even after my muscles have learned to working harder with less it is still a daily struggle. Long runs at first seem impossible but before you know it running 1:25:00 minutes seems like a piece of cake and only weeks before 45:00 seemed like and eternity. I can totally see the appeal for marathons, ironmans and ultra running people push the limits and see just how much the body can endure.
Cycling has been a strong for me since the beginning but that has just pushed me to set my goals even higher when it comes to power and watts/kg. I set a very enthusiastic goal of having a 300W FTP, while this seemed realistic at the time I know I have not made it…yet. With the power goal also came a dream of riding longer distances than in prior years, knowing that I want to transition to longer races (international distance duathlon) and one day perhaps a powerman. That is the ironman of the duathlon world 🙂
A mixture of power based “wattsclasses” and endurance spins on a turbo trainer (2:00:00+) has given me a solid foundation for this season outdoor riding. Computrainer (Race Mate) training is the best thing you can do to improve your cycling, pros and amateurs alike use this tool and the results speak for themselves. I suggest anyone who is looking to get stronger on the bike to either invest in a computrainer or join a club/group that offers access to them because you will see a huge improvement if you do. Having a high power to weight ratio is the goal and even though I haven’t reached mine this year I am still miles ahead of where I was year prior. Watts/kg is the name of the game and it is no wonder pros that train on computrainers all year round are such great cyclists. Riding on the computrainer lets you choose your workout so by mixing up endurance intervals and long steady rides you get the best of both worlds. Building leg strength comes from riding above you FTP (Functional Threshold Power) and the indoor training lets you do this very easily. Over time your power numbers increase as you get stronger and by doing a FTP test every 8-12 weeks it will insure that your training load increases as you get stronger.
My schedule typically consisted or the following and averaged around 7 hrs/week:
Monday – Fartleks / Tempo Run (5-8k
Tuesday – Track Repeats (7-12k)
Wednesday – REST DAY
Thursday – Tempo Run (8-10k) / Watts Class (1+ hr)
Friday – REST DAY
Saturday -Endurance Run (10-16k) / Watts Class (1+ hr)
Sunday – Endurance Bike (2+ hr)
This has provided me a great training base that covered speed, endurance and technique in both running and cycling. When my coach and I set up this schedule it first seemed a bit daunting with the double days looking like they might be the toughest. This type of training plan is so important to formulate and tweak along the way until you find works for you and your life balance. From week to week this didn’t change much but the odd day moved around occasionally.
The revolving schedule is 3 weeks on full load and 1 week off, but when I say off I mean lower intensity or shortened runs and so on. Except for the 2 weeks of no workouts at the end of race season in late September, early October there is not much down time.
What happens if I don’t meet a goal or target?
Setting goals is important but so is not achieving them. Honestly it build character in yourself, there is nothing wrong with setting your sights high and falling short. A harsh reality of goal setting is that you might not reach them at first but no matter what always believe you can. If you were able to attain every goal that you set then I would have to say you are not aiming high enough.
For me cycling is where this comes into play the most with my high power goal that I know now will not make this season. I set my goal, put in the hard work and sacrificed a lot along the way but still haven’t made that number yet. This is in no way a failure or missed attempt but rather a learning curve that I just have to take in stride. There are feelings of frustration and anyone who rides with me knows when I am yelling out during a spin class that is just my way of coping with it. After its all said and done even though I fell short I have still improved immensely from where I started and now I will use the frustration as a motivator for the tough moments that are sure to come in the future.
I use my emotions to my advantage and some people shut down completely, finding the balance is like walking on the edge of a knife blade. I always try and help encourage others and I have been known to need encouragement also, we are all human and we all have emotions so embrace yours. I love riding in group of people so that everyone can suffer together and motivate one another this truly is the best way to ride. Here is a great video from GCN (Global Cycling Network) on how to suffer like a pro, I watch it now and again to help remind myself of how suffering can be tolerated.
Sacrifices and Time management
This is the second hardest part of my training, no matter how much pain I feel during a high intensity watts class or sprinting laps of a track it is never as tough as family sacrifice like missing a family dinner with my wife.
A lot of people don’t talk about how this effects them , while everyones is different some have families and some don’t, being an athlete means a lot of compromise and hard work emotionally. This winter as part of my training plan and goals I changed a lot of runs to the early morning, this means no more sleeping in and shorter recovery times but a happier family life. Down time with Laura in the evening is important and as my best friend she has become my number one supporter, even when it’s frustrating to her and at time not fair. Using your time wisely is key to developing a workable training schedule that supports a good balance at home. As a young family we still don’t have children (yet) which provides both of us a lot of freedom we would not otherwise have.
So I guess what I am trying to say is combined with a hectic training schedule, balancing home life and a full time job I have become a master of time management! If you find yourself asking “do I have time to go for that training run”, just remember remember the quote below.
“A one hour run is only 4% of your day …lace them up!”
John Stanton – Founder of the RUNNING ROOM
Make a plan and stick to it no matter how hard it is. Sometime easier said than done but having supportive people around to encourage your progress is important to reaching your goals so set them high because you never know what you are capable of until you try.