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Teaching Old Dogs New (Old) Tricks

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I spent Sunday at NENSA’s coaches clinic at the Dublin School in Dublin, New Hampshire.  Thanks to Rob Bradlee, Kathy Maddock and Dublin’s host, Brad Bates, for a great day.  On the 90 minute ride back to Norwich, I contemplated how Firstbeat’s technology can help junior athletes and coaches at all levels of sport - not just the elite level.  

 

I asked myself a simple question.  What is the single biggest lesson I have learned using Firstbeat?  The answer is just as simple.  The cost of poorly executed easy training is far greater than I ever imagined and surely results in (1) poorly executed intensity training, and (2) either overtraining and injury or the need to alter the training plan.  I have been actively involved in running and skiing since I was a child.  Yet here I am at 50 learning a lesson we all have known to be true for years.  

 

What is it about Firstbeat’s analysis that drives that point home?  Again, the answer is simple. Firstbeat provides a graphic representation of workload (EPOC) and we quickly learn that EPOC does not increase in a linear way.   A well executed easy run will produce a EPOC workload somewhere between 20 and 40 ml/kg.  It is shockingly easy to go slightly harder (5% change in average heart rate) and produce a workload that is even as high as 100 ml/kg — 2.5 times the optimal level.  Exacerbating this problem, it is easier for younger athletes and less well condition athletes to zoom right through the easier workload levels.  Consequently, in those times when one most needs easy, aerobic training it is easiest to make a mistake. 

 

Rob Bradlee astutely pointed out in the seminar that cross-country skiing and running tend to attract highly motivated kids.  Getting them to train hard is not difficult.  It is more difficult to teach them the importance of training easy.  Maybe with this new technology we can help kids learn this lesson well at 14 and 15 rather than writing about learning it 35 years later! 




F*&$ the Warm-up I have a Goal Pace!

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Who needs a warm-up on an easy day right?

Whenever I go out for a run whether easy or hard - I want to know my pace.  Current pace, average pace, pace for the first mile, pace for the last mile - you name it I want to see it.  Even on an easy day, I surely have a goal pace in mind as I head out the door.  Obviously, this fixation (addiction) comes with lots of potential training dangers.  

Let's focus on one for today - the need for a warm-up even on easy days.  What happens when an athlete jumps out the door, turns on the GPS and launches right into goal pace?   The results are not pretty.  

Using the term "athlete" loosely, Jim did a little experiment.  He ran the same 5 mile stretch of bike path on two different days.  One the first day he started out at his goal pace of 8:30 per mile.  His average HR for the day was 143 and his total EPOC workload was 132.  Several days later he ran the same route but this time he started out at 10:00 per mile for the first mile and then resumed his 8:30 pace.  His average heart rate was 136 and his EPOC workload was 97. 

Here are the screen shots from Firstbeat:

Day One



Day Two:



The training session without any warm-up resulted in a small increase in average heart rate - 5%.  But the workload was 27% greater!  Any benefit to the increased workload?  I don't think so.  Just another foolish withdrawal from the EPOC bank account.