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Specificity

September 22, 2017

This week's blog is a little case study on the importance of tailoring your training for each sport you do.  Even if it's only one, your training should be designed around your individual needs, not just whatever the group is doing this week.

 

Our case study athlete is an experienced triathlete but with only a couple months of base training after a year off from anything consistent.  Initial Lactate tests showed reasonable improvement in both cycling and running over an initial 8-week training block with a focus on long slow endurance (80% in Zones 1 & 2).

 

However, additional Lactate tests six months on, show marked improvement for running but a decrease in sustainable wattage in cycling.  How can this be? Endurance training is endurance training, right?  Shouldn't he see improvements in both cycling and running?  Well, not exactly.

 

For running, the testing protocol was the same for both tests.  It started at the same pace and increased 30 seconds per mile.  In July (orange), the athlete was able to run two stages longer than January (blue).  He ran faster for those stages with less Lactate Production (a good indication of athletic performance).

 This right-shift is the desired outcome of good training.

 

Again, the cycling protocol was the same for January and July tests - started at the same wattage and increased 25W per stage.  However, after months of training this triathlete actually got worse - fewer stages, lower wattage and higher Lactate production.

 This left-shift is an indication of inferior performance or de-training.

 

Let's take a look at the specific training of each and see what happened.

 

The graph below represents time in zones.  As you can see, the athlete is spending a ton of time in Zone 2 still.  He's running slower to get faster.  The key is he is minimizing time in Zone 3, but still spending about 8-10% of his runs in Zone 4 (tempo type of work) and Zone 5 (fast intervals) each week.

Run (1/8/17 - 7/27/17): Z1&2 - 83.48%, Z3 - 7.63%, Z4&5 - 8.87%

 

Now compare the run training to the cycle training graph below.  Still a sizable chunk of time in Zones 1 & 2 and even more time in Zones 4 & 5.  He's riding faster, so he should be seeing improvements right?  The answer lies in Zone 3.  The problem with Z3 is it's not hard enough to cause your body to adapt and it's not easy enough to recover and build endurance.

Bike (1/14/17 - 7/18/17): Z1&2 - 66.8%, Z3 - 19.6%, Z4&5 - 13.64%

 

Zone 1 & 2 is where endurance gets built.  Zone 4 is where you develop muscular endurance or sustained speed.  Zone 5 is where you develop your top end speed.  Zone 3 does nothing for you.  It's no man's land, so stay out!

 

So, while there is carryover in any endurance training, pay specific attention to the work you do in each sport to make the most of your training.  The right amount of training at the right intensities will help keep you moving toward your goals.  And the "right amount" varies periodically, so evaluated periodically too. 

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