Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Offseason Training, Don't Waste Your Base (2 of 2)

By: John Hobbs, MEd. Senior Consultant

  Once it was observed that many of the benefits seen with longer and easier training sessions were also seen with shorter and harder workouts, the next step was to identify which changes do and do not occur among the two training modalities.  By analyzing training adaptations at different intensities in individuals of various fitness, multiple changes occur at the cellular and enzymatic level when any of the variables are altered.  So while aerobic gains of types do occur at very high intensities that also occur at lower intensities, as various enzymes and cells are pushed in different ways at the various workloads, the changes are not the same across the board.  Changes in fiber type of muscles, enzyme activity, expression of various proteins and a whole slew of activities are dependent on intensity, volume, and fitness of the individual.     As a result, hopping on the trainer and cranking out maximal efforts does not provide the same benefits as lower intensity efforts of longer duration.  Additionally, the negative health and training ramifications as well as stagnation that occur with long periods of intense training make the combination of early and late season intensity impractical and counterproductive to an athlete's form.
Which periodization model is best for you?
            The individual athlete is a key in the assessment of the changes.  A fit athlete may only see some of the changes observed in an individual of lower fitness level, and even then, the gains may be smaller.  Additionally the benefits seen by two individuals of similar performance levels may not be the same due to the fact that the one athlete has already exploited the changes in previous training (ie enzyme x increase significantly in one athlete but not the other).

What about this model? 
Does this one work? 
So many models!
At this point is seems that we've just talked ourselves in a corner by arguing the typical base training paradigm is not a good way to go in the off season and  neither are short hard rides.  In the end, the training has to fit the needs of the rider.  By moderately increasing exercise intensity to the tempo and steady state type work, we can compensate for the lack of volume that average athletes have.  This allows for an overload to take place, but still allowing for adaptations to occur that may not be seen at higher intensities.  The question still stands of how to address the demands of a 3+ hour race.  The overload provided during a standard training week with three to four hour ride in the typical base training zone on the weekend does not provide most athletes with sufficient overload of various physiological systems to provide a training benefit.  But by including intervals during the week, the overall training stress is increased which can, in-turn lead to stimulation of various adaptations.  And while it may seem like we are contradicting ourselves, training volume can increase even as intensity increases with training.  While following the periodization format exactly as the theory dictates would not allow for this, it can be done in proper increments as dictated by the overall stress of the current training.  This is where the coach and physiologist is able to bridge the gap between science and practical implication of training.  As coaches we realize that long rides are not available all weekends to every athlete. As physiologists, we have the expertise to adjust the training to allow for workouts to address the needs of longer events.  Athletes may see the duration of their long rides increase in periods of relatively high training intensity.  The increases may be small and not occur every week, but it allows for appropriate training for specific events.
It is possible none of these work for YOU.
Often times, SE consultants don't stick to any of these models. 
This one? Often times SE must generate a custom model.  
            As touched on earlier, the main variable in designing an off-season training plan is the athlete.  A blanket statement that high intensity workouts do not belong in the off-season would be inappropriate at the least.  These workouts may, in fact, be beneficial to a population of athletes under proper circumstances.
            While various physiological principals were covered and stances taken based on data, it is noted that no studies or peer-reviewed literature was cited, as is contrary to typical articles.  The frustration felt by those hoping to reference sources, critique the statements made, and those who are just fellow science geeks is understood.  Rather than explain a scientific principal, the goal of this article is to illustrate the madness behind the coaches’ methods and provide background information on the structure of training during this period.