Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Source E and KCCX/ Verge pb Challlenge Tires presents a CX Clinic

SourceE KCCX CX Clinic

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Benefits of a Mid-Season Break, Part 3:The Spoils

Before we get into the fun stuff below, let's talk about managing the mid-season break.  There are two types of conditions that every break will meet.  Planned and unplanned.  Examples of each (let's see if you can figure them out): vacation, illness, business trips, injury...  easy right. 

The majority of clients Source Endurance works with have 2-3 peaks per season and depending on the individual, everyone needs some sort of break.  The mid season break can come in many forms; complete off the bike, some easy riding, unstructured training or any combination.  The goal of the break is to rest, re-motivate and prepare for that next peak on the horizon.

Here are a couple of Source Endurance Clients that have taken the mid-season break, in both of the aforementioned conditions.

Athlete 1: Unplanned.  Injury.
This athlete was hot on the heels of some of the best form of his life.  Just peaked, was looking forward to a couple more races, then onto a bit of respite from the High Intensity (1,2,3) Training he had been executing to perfection when it happened..... A bad crash (circled) left him with some nasty road rash and a fair number of stitches along with a number of other maladies which left him off the bike for 9 days, more than he's ever been out of commission in his adult life.

The most important thing to convey to Athlete 1 is that now, getting well became the #1 priority.  He likes to ride and train as cycling helps keep him sane, and happy. These injuries are definitely degrading his quality of life and must be addressed before any recoup of fitness can be had. 

There was and always will be a detraining effect when one is on injured reserve for that much time.  Studies show that doing nothing can quickly lead to loss of fitness.  However, it's important to remember that detraining is relative to some degree.  His form was not gained in 9 days and thus he will not lose it all in 9 days.

Following his return to training, a slow build was necessary to ensure that there were no aggravation of the injuries.  Once he got into his normal  rhythm again, the trajectory was impressive.  Within one training cycle he was at the same level that took him all of 2010 to achieve.  Equally as important is that now he is rested, refreshed and ready to do some hard work again.  This combination will allow him to finish out his road season strong at the state road championships in October.

Athlete 2: Vacation in Italy May 24-June 2
Athlete 2 has had a very good 14 months on the bike.  He earned his upgrade at Superweek in 2009 and now is placed on his team's Elite squad.  With this comes some elevated expectations.  No longer is it simply okay to "just finish" a race.  He is expected to contribute in some way at every team race he competes in.  A tall order for a newly upgraded athlete.  However, he took the challenge head on and made some great strides in 2010.

Athlete 2 is also very good about knowing his own limitations as well as keeping his life in balance.  To this end, he understands that if he does not take some down time, his motivation wanes and he will be effectively done for the season.  The best remedy: Vacation in Italy, of course!

Athlete 2 finished off his successful spring campaign, then jet set himself to Europe for some well deserved R and R.  When he came back, he found that all the remaining races were indeed "big deal" events.  Time to get back to work.

We've been concentrating on more short term powers with a focus on repeatability since his return to competition.  The numbers don't lie.  There has been improvement across the board.  Athlete 2 has shown improvement relative to his pre-vacation form in every major energy system across the board.  This should bode well for him and his team as the season progresses into the final stages of the 2010 road season.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Benefits of a Mid- Season Break, Part 2.

As the season progresses, many athletes see a degrading performance, both absolute and relative.  Indeed the athlete has begun to burn up.  The reasons for this are many and no one-reason is an answer that can be easily remedied.  However, the underlying root of the issue is that the fitness trajectory at the onset of training was unsustainable  in the long term, and fatigue is now beginning to show on the athlete.  Typically, the textbook case for this is the athletes who transition, in one day, from "base miles" in the the spring, to doing every event and group ride on a week in, week out basis.  The athlete goes from little or no intensity to 3-5 high intensity workouts per week.  Then, they find themselves out of gas in July, limping through August and totally packing in their 4 month road season before Labor Day reciting, "back in my day," and vowing to do next year even better.

The most saddening part of this formula is that the best form of the season was never realized.  Usually 4-8 days into the "off-season" the athlete is great again and would probably be on great form with just a little work.  A similar scenario plays out for those who are targeting a two peak season.  Following that first peak, it is common for an athlete to be both mentally and physically drained.  They have been working hard and keeping focus on the task and now with no new shining peak on the horizon, the question of "why?" comes to mind.  Don't fight it.  Take some time to relax and rest.  The internal pressure of those "A" races should not be marginalized.  They are hard and they do come with a cost.

Also, in order to properly prepare for that first peak, it is not uncommon for the athlete to have undertaken that unsustainable fitness trajectory.  Even still, improvements are quick and fitness is good.  However, the cost that comes with the steep trajectory is that a break must happen to continue the improvement.  Failure to do this will result in constantly degrading powers and performance which can have disastrous effects and tend to push an athlete towards one extreme or the other.  On one hand the athlete may decide that in order to gain fitness, more training must be completed, which will exacerbate the problem and result in a complete breakdown (typically illness).  Heading the other direction we've already discussed, quitting the season.  Both of these methods deprive the athlete of the opportunity to do something truly special late in the season, like hitting new peak powers, setting new PRs, and putting a notch in the "W" column.

What's the difference between Burning Up and Over Training:
Difference between burning up (overreaching) and over-training is this: When riders burn up, they mostly just need to rest for a few days.  It's nearly impossible for an athlete who is 'riding by feel' to over-train.  This is because they typically succumb to burn out, illness, or injury, and simply stop training all together.  Over-training is not something that happens in such a short time as a month or two, but rather is something that occurs in a more chronic state.  If you take 3-4 days off and you feel rested, you are not over-trained but burned up/ over-reached.

In the final piece, we'll look at how to manage a mid season break and look at a couple of athletes that have benefited from the break already in 2010.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Benefits of a Mid- Season Break, part 1

 Ahhh, the mid-season break.  Where the rider can sit back, relax, digest the previous months of training and prepare for that second peak.  The benefits of a mid-season break can be many and depending on your goals, a break may be the only thing that can save or preserve your season.  The mid season break does a few things: prevents burn out, prevents burning up, and provides for a transition between disciplines.  In the next posts, we'll look at these and show how the break can be a good thing.

Burn out.  It's that desire to do absolutely nothing.  You know that feeling, when you want to go ride, but you don't want to ride hard.  Or when you just want to sit at the coffee shop an extra hour then head home.  Burn out comes most often for the ones that see marked improvement early in the season, in part because they are driven to succeed more by the improvement they've seen already seen; and partly because they have immense internal pressure on themselves to continue to see success.  Then, as soon as the improvement stops, BAM! It all comes crashing down and their season is, for all intents and purposes, over.  Burn out is as much to blame for the loss of star athletes from sport as injuries, school or anything else and it must be managed.

Your mid season break should put your training on a secondary focus for a while.  Sure, go train some but not very long and only if you want to.  However, it's a great time for a vacation!   The mountains, the beach, or even just chill-axing at home on your stay-cation.  Or, even.... re-re modeling your basement (sorry Tom)!  The goal is to step away and come back with a refreshed mental state.  You'll need it as late season peaks are tough.  No longer can you rely on the winter and reduced daylight hours to slow your competition.  Everyone is going fast and you'll need to step it up to see success late in the season.  Look around at those that succeed in August every year, is it coincidence that they probably started late or took some time off?  Doubtful.

The length of the season is daunting.  For those in the south, it starts in late January and runs through October.  For those north of the Mason Dixon line, it begins in April and runs through Cross Nationals in December.  Either way, that's a LONG time to be on form.  Maintaining that desire to succeed for an entire macro-cycle is very difficult. Something as simple as inter-cycle rests help to keep the athlete mentally sharp.  Keeping your goals and expectations in line with your fitness is essential to managing that mental drive.  Like physical form, that mental drive is a finite resource and must be managed.