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Invitation to Disagree!! Thoughts on Threshold Training

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Ok so a blog post trumpheting the Galanes' disagreeable nature is hardly news.  But please read on.  One of our goals for this blog and indeed for our training concept is to foster discussion that might in the long run help athletes train smarter and better and as a result ski, bike or run faster.  So - we pugnaciously invite you to comment and see if we can all learn a little something.

We have noticed following skiers' and coaches' blogs that there seems to be a broad consensus toward doing lots of Level 3 training (often referred to as threshold training) and limited focus on Level 4 (MaxVO2 training) particularly in the summer months.  In response to this observation - we have tried to understand what are the physiological gains that athletes and coaches are hoping to reap from that "threshold" training and how do those gains balance against the heavy workloads those training sessions demand and how do the demands of racing fit those two types of training sessions.

Our non-expert review of available scientific literature seemed to suggest that in a population of highly conditioned athletes high level submaximal work did not improve performance.  On the other hand, the literature seemed to demonstrate that maximal training (>90% of max) did improve performance.  The evidence is admittedly far from conclusive in either case.

As we discussed in our previous blog post - we like to think of each week's training like a bank account with a fixed balance - say 500 EPOC.  We know the physiological loads for a longer threshold session and a MaxVO2 session are similar.  The rate at which EPOC accumulates in a MaxVO2 session will be greater but the shorter duration of the workout and longer recovery periods between intervals will result in total EPOC that is very similar to "threshold" training.  Each of those workouts will usually total somewhere around 200 EPOC.  Even with highly conditioned athletes this is a big workload - perhaps as much as 40% of a week's total EPOC workload.

So, where does that leave us? Assuming EPOC is a valid measure of workload, (1) we know the cost of "threshold" and MaxVO2 training are similarly high; (2) in my mind, the gains from "threshold" training appear less well understood; and (3) the physiological gains from 90%+ training appear to be validated by exercise physiology.    

Given those factors we would be cautious with threshold training.  It produces workloads very similar to maximal training yet the gains appear to be less well established.  Additional, I suspect there is a higher risk of cumulative fatigue with threshold training as it is popularly believed that these workouts are less tiring than maximal training.  

That is not to say there is no place for "threshold" training.  As race lengths for athletes increase beyond one hour it seems logical that the need for more sustained harder efforts would likewise increase.  In younger athletes, however, who typically race much shorter distances, it would seem logical to recommend spending their limited  EPOC allowance on maximal training.  Getting more bang for the EPOC buck in other words.  

That's just one way of looking at this complicated issue. We would love to hear countervailing views.  Neither Jim nor I are as stubborn as we may be remembered.

Let's hear from you!  

Overdraft and the Allure of Shiny Training Babbles

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o·ver·draft noun " a deficit in a bank account caused by drawing more money than the account holds."


What does this have to do with training?  Let me explain.  In the two years I have been using Firstbeat’s HRV - EPOC training monitoring system, I have come to think of EPOC workload like a bank account.  


Let’s assume that I have decided that my weekly cumulative training load should not exceed 500 ml/kg of EPOC.   In other words I have 500 EPOC in the Galanes EPOC Bank.  Now, let’s assume I have a moderately easy 1:00 run scheduled for Monday.  My run should be well below 78% of my maximum heart rate and it should not cost me more than 40 EPOC.  

I am out on my run and I feel great.  I am running 10 seconds per mile faster than I was two weeks ago at a similar HR!  Hey if 10 seconds per mile faster feels good why not make it 15? I push the pace a little.  My heart rate bounces over the upper boundaries of the prescribed 78% limit on some of the uphills and it doesn't drop as low on the downhills.  It doesn't feel too much harder.  Afterall, I am feeling good!  But, then the bad news.  Because of my little daliance with extra speed, my run cost me 100 EPOC rather than 40.     


How does this relate to overdraft?  Well I just blew a 60 EPOC hole in my weekly budget. Something is going to have to give now.  I am going to have to either modify my training or go into EPOC debt.  I know I am going to need somewhere around 200 EPOC for my MaxVO2 training (now I am up to 300 for the week with only two training sessions) and i will need 40 for my long easy run on Sunday (340).  I have four other training days left in the week but only 160 EPOC left to spend.  That pretty much rules out any additional quality training unless I take the three remaining days off.  

For what gain?   None!  I blew an extra 60 EPOC in a training that produced no more physiological gain than if I had run it at 40 EPOC.  Did pushing the pace on Monday make any sense?  Not a bit.  But we all know it happens with athletes all the time.  

Maybe looking at training as a objectively measurable EPOC bank account can help your athletes avoid overdraft.  Get your athletes to focus on spending their EPOC where they get the most bang for their buck rather than wasting it on shiny training babbles that produce nothing.


What is EPOC and How Does Tracking it Help You?

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Obviously Epoc Performance Training thinks EPOC is a key component to structuring and implementing training - It is so important we named our company after it! 

Recovery Follow-Up

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Recovery Analysis - A Follow-Up In a recent post we asked a question:  "How Much is Effective Recovery Analysis Worth to You?"   Today we thought it might be helpful to make the discussion a bit more theoretical.  We want to provide you with Firstbeat's basis for its Recovery analysis as compared to other methodologies.  Rather than recreate the wheel, we are providing a link to Firstbeat's White Paper;  Recovery Analysis for Athletic Training Based on Heart Rate Variability

How Much is Effective Recovery Analysis Worth to You?

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Training does not make you stronger, faster or fitter. Those benefits only come during recovery, when adaptation takes place. No matter how hard you train, without adequate recovery, you’ll not only squander your hard training effort – you’ll also struggle to recuperate for your next session. 

EPT's New Blog Is Launched!

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Jim Galanes and his team at Epoc Performance Training are excited to announce the launch of their new blog.  We hope to post interesting, challenging and thought-provoke training ideas on a regular basis.  Please stop by from time to time.  We welcome a free exchange of ideas and would particularly love to hear from anyone who may disagree with our point of view.  There's no better way to learn than through a respectful exchange of ideas!