Note: I am re-posting this from Nov. 13, 2013 since I feel it still applies quite well and helps many of my newer athletes understand the training a bit better. -Chris
Many athletes might think that this means the same format year after year. But as most of my long term athletes can tell you – my coaching plans and training approach never repeats itself. The concepts of adaptation and stimulus might, but not the specific training needed to bring about the adaptation. Every year is different, but the road map rarely changes.
Let me remind you of my core mission as a coach to you: I am looking to coach you with a plan that allows you to train effectively enough (time available) to stimulate the appropriate adaptation (progression applicable to you towards your goals). Key words: enough and appropriate
Important is to also understand that this is a very general road map, but it allows me to time your season properly, stay within the phases, and build mini training plans within each phase. It also allows me to take your feedback, races and testing data and keep them in line with our timing towards that ‘A’ race. Sometimes its too late to address a specific need, so we place that need into the next syllabus…
The Road Map: We basically need 25 weeks. If you had all the flexibility of time without work, family, personal life as well as health and recovery getting in the way: 25 weeks is ideal. It follows a simple pyramid growth:
a. 8 weeks to apply the correct Z2 platform of aerobic base with 2 recovery weeks built in
b. 6 weeks to start incorporating Z3 and tempo work with 2 recovery weeks built in
c. 4 weeks for race specific steady state and race pace interval work with 1 recovery week built in
d. 2 weeks to taper and sharpen the blade
Looks quite simple right? Lets break it down a bit more:
Z2 platform: important is to come in with a solid base and the proper testing to truly apply 8 great weeks in a very tight range of watts/HR in order to maximize the Z2 aerobic platform. This is the first piece where individuality comes in: some need more weeks than others PRIOR to these 8 weeks. Those of you working with me for a season or two usually hit this within 4 weeks. Newer athletes usually require 6 weeks just to shift their energy systems to feel and understand Z2 aerobic work. Its hard to give me the feedback needed in the logs without knowing what Z2 aerobic training actually should feel like. Again: 8 weeks of aerobic Z2 work in order to stimulate the appropriate adaptation. What is enough coming in varies for all of you.
Z3 and tempo: Here is where things really become individual: The testing validates how much Z3/tempo work we will want to sprinkle in and your personal limiters help determine which discipline requires some extra attention: swimming, biking or running? Where to focus more time – what is our limiter in races? How much Z3 work, what format (cadence vs. muscular power?) – what is your appropriate adaptation – do you historically respond better to quality or quantity? The syllabus calls for about 60% still Z2 aerobic work in this phase – and 40% at Z3 tempo. So on a 16hr training week, that means 6.5 hrs of your week are Z3 tempo intervals or paces! Solid training!
Race Specific steady state and race pace intervals: even more individual training plans here: IM, HIM? Oly distance? Ultra running? Race course dynamics or profile? Temperatures (6-8 weeks out is when you want to start heat or altitude work etc.) – Depending on distance and limiters – now the ratios also change: 50% Z2? 50% Z3+ Z4? Or still 60/40? Or for IM, maybe 70/30 but the testing and your fitness gains make the aerobic work quite hard due to volume etc.
And finally resting/tapering: what works for you? How do you absorb the last phase as well as can you hold form until race day? How do we keep you sharp yet not tired?
As you can see – as your season advances, your plan becomes so much more individual and specific to you. Yet the most important ingredient for this entire syllabus is missing: your input and feedback. As we move through the season, your insights, observations, feedback, notes, and complaints are vital to make this plan effective. In order to train effectively enough to stimulate the appropriate adaptation, I need to hear from you, I need to validate our training with testing, and we need to apply in the real world of racing. This constant exchange of coaching and feedback keeps the syllabus applicable to you and allows for true progression: am I better today than yesterday? Why? Because the coach/athlete feedback loop is constantly being applied to tomorrows training plan.
And finally – what makes this syllabus change year over year, from athlete to athlete, is what I call Wedge Weeks. If we follow the weeks listed in the syllabus above, then the season starts about 30 weeks out from the A race (4-5 weeks to enter with the right platform plus the 25 weeks listed). Wedge weeks are what makes this training plan a realistic one: Wedge weeks are weeks inserted into those 30 weeks at any point in time due to injury, sickness, extra rest needed or life/family events. Any one of these reasons might require the plan to be delayed for a week or two. Work travel or a project overwhelming? Wedge Week…Sickness? Wedge Week. Family overwhelmed or Holidays? Wedge Week. Friend getting married in Bora Bora? Wedge Week.
Most of us went Pro in something other than the sport were are training for, which means we have plenty of Wedge Weeks (Pros have Wedge Weeks too!). On average, I see about 6 a season…Now, the plan is 36 weeks…That means if you start this next week, your ‘A’ race is the first week of August…