As I have asserted many times in these pages, it takes about 15 hours a week to bring out the best performances in a recreational endurance athlete. Professionals typically train 20-30 hours but lack the other stressors in their lives like real jobs that add to the total physiologic and psychologic stress load. This "non training stress" (NTS) is something the majority of recreational athletes fail to recognize and consider when developing training programs. Any advising coach who fails in this regard is doing a huge disservice to their clients.
These additional factors cause all kinds of havoc to the recovery process hindering any movement toward optimal performance. Periods of increased vocational/relationship stress or sleep deprivation must be balanced with a decrease in training volume and/or intensity. The degree to which these adjustments must be made depends upon the individual and how they absorb these variables. But fail to adjust appropriately and frustrating training and racing performance soon ensues.
Using a tool like Restwise takes some of the guess work out of the process of adjusting training and recovery as various stressors fluctuate. I cover it's development and utilization more thoroughly here. My on-going discussions with Restwise developers have made me realize that for most high level athletes, improved performance will not arise from some new interval scheme but rather from more intelligent attention to recovery and the proper dosing of training. Most of you know how to work hard. Now, if we can just get you guys to rest.
Numerous are stories of passionate recreational athletes who simply get up earlier or train later in order to "get it all in" and then find themselves months later in pit of despair, sleeping like shit, going slow and hating the world. Don't be that guy.
My lead up to the recent Ski Mountaineering National Championships in Jackson Hole was fraught with a significant load of NTS. Seems like everyone in Wyoming wanted to get their elective surgery done before the end of this year's insurance deductible period. For me this meant long days in the operating room and clinic followed by limited training time after work. Couple this with some seriously cold temps and the desire to go out at 8pm in -5 degrees to train was, shall we say, lacking.
And NOT heading out may have been just the ticket. Either this or going out for only an hour seemed to be the best tact. When I have time, I like to get at least 2 hours in for a typical mid-week training bout. But start something like this late and everything gets pushed back. The meal to follow is late and sleep is ultimately compromised. This is bad.
Initially, these adjustments caused me chest pain (figuratively speaking). I thought my preparation was going to be compromised. But what happened was an across-the-board lightening of my load which ultimately paid dividends in performance. I was able to shorten my week day workouts, focus on quality or recovery and get the volume I needed on the weekend. It seemed to work out perfectly. The benefit of getting home to eat at 8pm rather than 9pm cannot be overstated.
I didn't always get the target 15 hours. But I usually got close and could rely on a large endurance base developed over the last few years to carry me through these leaner times. A look at the Movescount training week summary from this period reveals a slight increase in higher level training but a general adherence to zone ratios that have proven effective over the years.
I was still able to get the threshold training bouts I needed but simply eliminated any prolonged warm-up/warm-down. There was no significant Z1-2 or base accumulation during the week. I did some of this work but it tended to only be an hour or so. My interval days were also stripped of extraneous volume, getting the work done and going home. These days were never over 90 minutes. I would then aim for around 8 hours over the weekend split between a Z1-2 day and a Z3-4 day.
I don't think this kind of truncated schedule carried out indefinitely will lead to my best performance but when NTS conspires against me, it gets me pretty damn close. Then, when the schedule opens up more, tacking on another 2-3 hours will likely give that last 1-2%. This is just my opinion, of course, but one formed after several seasons of minding the variables. The take-home message here is to recognize the impact of non-training stress on our preparation and adjust the program appropriately to manage it.