News Letter (#2) Feb 2012
Welcome to the second Newsletter for February 2012.
Why a second Newsletter, I hear you ask. In short, I had so much response to the first one, with many similar queries, that I thought I'd share some of the Q&A's.
I've restricted myself to just three topics as its possible to write a whole book on each. I hope its all useful stuff but please give some feedback if youthink it's too long and boring.
Q - What is meant by the term Base-Phase?
A - The best way to structure your training is to follow a principle known as Periodisation, which involves dividing your macro-cycle (the year) into sections or periods that reflect different modes & focuses of training. The names given to each phase may vary depending upon application of the periodisation model, but I like to stick with the following:
  • Preparation-Phase is a period that loosely covers aspects such as
    • establishing routine
    • learning/honing skill/technique
    • developing balance/coordination/physical self-awareness
    • establishing 'core-stability' and relevant movement patterns
  • Base-Phase is all about laying down a foundation of fitness where the main objective is to condition the body to Distance & Duration relevant to the main event.
  • Build-Phase focuses on developing Speed for the relevant Distance/Duration.
  • Competition-Phase, I like to relate this to all categories of race (A, B, C and Other), and hence it will probably overlap with Base-Phase when 'race' events are chosen and used for motivational purposes or as distance-trials at sub-peaks along the training continuum.
  • Maintenance-Phase, overlaps with Competition-Phase and specifically starts at the first Cat-A event. It finishes when peak-performance is no longer needed, for example, at the end of a specific race series or multi-event tournament.
  • Transition-Phase, this is the period of powering-down at the end of the season when all Cat-A races are over. Its main purpose is to promote recovery and allow the body to return to a normal level of active daily living.
As you can see, there's a lot of overlap [of phases] so its best to think in terms of "degrees of focus" rather than solid boundaries.
Q - Why is Base-Phase mostly at low intensity?
A - When training, we use the term Intensity to indicate how hard a person should be working whilst doing a particular task/activity. The body's ability to deliver a specific amount / rate of work is governed by its fitness and through training we aim to make improvements in the various aspects of fitness (skill, physical, mechanical, mental and metabolic).
The main training objective of Base-Phase should be to condition the body to cope with the Distance & Duration relevant to the main goal, which in your case is probably a Triathlon or Run event. We do this at low intensity because its easier for the body to cope with, recover and adapt to this type of stress before moving on to higher intensities of speed-work. Given that there is a strong correlation between [work] intensity and muscle-fibre damage it's enormously impotant to implement a training plan that takes control of the various stress variables. Working on Speed as well as pushing Distance at the same time would certainly be too stressful and counter-productive during the Base-Phase.
There are also physiological reasons why its important to keep the intensity low. In simple terms, low-intensity activity mostly uses the aerobic system which is the most efficient of the body's three energy systems. The bi-products of aerobic metabolism are also less problematic for the body to deal with (we simply breath out CO2), hence we are able to continue exercising for extended periods. This means that breathing (much over-rated!) is not the limiting factor and hence we can condition the body for the mechanical stresses of long-distance work.
****Speedy's Top Tip**** It's sensible to think about training variables (speed, distance, resistance, incline, head-wind, etc) as accumalative and all contributing to the overall stress level. When training, focus on a single factor and minimise or control the rest. A flat bike route with a strong headwind can present a harder workout than a hilly route with no wind. A hilly session with headwind may leave you over-worked and injured, thus its best to minimise one of the stress factors.
Q - How should I control the intensity of my workout?  
A - Whilst training, one way to know how hard the body is working is to use a Heart Rate Monitor. There are other body-responses or outputs that can be measured, such as perceived-effort, oxygen uptake, blood-lactate levels or power-output, but using a HRM is very simple, fairly accurate and, nowadays, very accessible/cheap.
The effects of training are very specific, which means it's important to be doing the right thing if looking for particular outcomes. In terms of heart rate, this means working within HR Zones.
There are many schools of thought when it comes to setting HR Training Zones, some advocate nothing less than seven zones and others opt for a more simplistic 4 zones. Given that heart rate is affected by so many different factors its important to be realistic as to what you [as an individual] can achieve in terms of consistency and control within your training and lifestyle. Its a very personal thing.
Without going into too much detail, I tend to use five zones when I'm not being too serious about my season ahead, but use seven when I'm fired-up for a season of proper racing.
Zone 1    Active Recovery.
Zone 2    Endurance.
Zone 3    Tempo.
Zone 4    Lactate Threshold.
Zone 5    VO2(max).
Zone 6    Anaerobic Capacity.
Zone 7    Neuromuscular Power.
Each zone corresponds to a range [of heart-rates] that are calculated specifically against YOUR cardiac ability.
If you are not interested in How & Why, just use the software that came with the HRM when you bought it!
If you would like further help applying any of the above to your own training, please give me a call on 07545 115562 or email to
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Happy racing!


Mob: 07545 – 115562