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Day 54 – Training Accurately

121 days until IRONMAN 70.3 Chattanooga

Commentary

I think a lot about accuracy. Let’s not confuse that with precision for now. Accuracy can be mathematically described several ways, but the way I think about it is the relationship between what we really want to do and what we are actually doing. When you look at it that way, it can be quantified in a correlation.

Let’s forget the math for a moment and relate this to training in our zones.

Beginners

People who are new to endurance training or those who took a long hiatus can benefit from any level of training. This group of people doesn’t have to consider zones and lactate and power. All they have to do is pay attention to relative perceived exertion and do some easy to moderate runs and bike rides. For swim, they might benefit from drills and pacing. They are bound to get more fit.

At some point, they are going to hit a plateau and they are going to stop gaining fitness unless they refine their training.

Advanced

In order to move past a plateau, it is essential to change the thought patterns that lead up to the plateau. I’m not referring to positive attitudes and meditation, although those are good things. I’m talking about education.

The term plateau is, itself, derived from a mathematical concept. Referring to the chart below, fitness stops increasing at week 12 and the red line becomes horizontal instead of sloped. That’s a plateau.

Yes. I am being Captain Obvious, but I’m trying to demonstrate the point that what our hypothetical athlete needs at this point is probably not a new bike. That would just shift the whole curve up a little (or a lot if the old bike is the same one my grandmother rode to the post office every day in the 1940’s. ) A shift in the curve is OK, but we are trying to break that plateau and in order to do that we need accuracy.

When we were beginners, we were just training our general fitness. In order to be more accurate, we need to train our aerobic and anaerobic fitness. But that requires knowledge, information and data.

High Accuracy Training

Back in the 1970’s and 80’s my father used to measure his heart rate several times during long runs. I never understood that until I began training for endurance sports.

Zone training has been around for a long time and many of us have, at least, a vague notion of our heart rate, power, or pace zones. What we don’t often think about is that most zone estimates are exactly that: estimates. Not only are they estimates, but for most of us, they are poor estimates.

Yet, even though they are estimates, they are much better than nothing. They will probably help us break that plateau because we are more accurately modeling our physiology than if we didn’t use those poor estimates.

If we stay with those poor estimates we will likely hit another plateau which can only be broken with — you guessed it — more accurate zone estimates or a more accurate model of our physiology other than the zone model.

There are labs that will measure things like VO2max and lactate thresholds quite accurately, but that’s an expensive way to get your zones calculated. On the other hand, it may not be too expensive.

For the amount of fitness you can gain from accurately measuring your zones, the money you spend on lactate testing will probably be more well spent than the money you throw at a new aero helmet.

As for me, I’m still using the poor estimates because I can benefit from them. Later in the season or early next season, that may change.

Workout

BRICK. I love a good brick. Running immediately after cycling is, for me, exciting.

I’m still in my first base period for the season, so everything is nice and easy. That will change for the bike training next week, but today was easy intervals.

The Garmin 735 watch is still dropping watts, but not as many as in previous workouts.

Looking at these numbers, we have to keep in mind that some of them are just estimates. The time, distance, speed and watts are quite accurate. But the kcal, TSS and IF are only estimates of my physiology. Actually the kcal might be pretty accurate because it is closely related to power. TSS is an estimate of the physiological impact this workout had on my body. It is estimated from FTP (functional threshold power) which is, itself, an estimate of the 2nd lactate threshold which is, itself, and estimate of physiological stress. It’s actually a good estimator of physiological stress, but my point is that the numbers should be taken with the understanding that they are just estimates.

The run part of the brick was also easy. We’ve talked enough about numbers, so I’ll spare you the run details.

Until tomorrow…

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