Welcome to Episode #337 of the 303 Endurance Podcast. You are listening to your weekly connection to coaches, experts, and pro athletes to help you reach your endurance goals. We're your hosts coach Rich Soares and 303 Chief Bill Plock. Thanks for joining us for another week of endurance interviews and discussion.
Format recently has been less interview focused.
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In Today's Show
Training Discussion: Consistency Is Key
Last week I spoke about how regular testing of your threshold intensities in each discipline will keep training zones current to make sure you are training at the correct intensities. In that discussion I used the example of training in your threshold training intensity zone. If you want to increase your threshold power you need to train at that Z4 Threshold zone to train your body to process muscle lactate efficiently. The more time you spend in that zone, the more adaptation you get. Without the FTP number or accurate substitute, you may be training in the wrong zone (eg Z3 or Z5), neither of which create the same adaptation of teaching your body to improve lactate processing and increasing your capacity to do work.
I also mentioned that training regularly and progressively overloading the correct training zones over the course of 3 weeks will set you up on the 4th week for your retest. If things are working, the next FTP test is at a higher average power than the one 4 weeks earlier. You then adjust the training zones. In this case increasing the power ranges for each zone. Another 3 weeks of training at the new (accurate) zones causes another adaptation, another test, another increase, another adjustment to training zones, etc.
This week I'd like to build on that concept and talk about the importance of consistency in training and how inconsistency can sabotage the process and will likely result in no improvement in the month over month testing.
Lets first discuss the concept of progressive overload and we'll use a simple example. Last week we used training at threshold as the example, but I want to be clear that the concept of progressive overload to achieve adaptation is not limited to the threshold training zone. If we break it down to a fundamental level, there are just a few adaptations that we are trying to affect in our training. We want to adapt our body to have greater endurance (go longer) and we want adapt our speed (go faster). The faster we go for longer, the better our race performances will be.
To improve our endurance, we want to be more efficient at an aerobic intensity. To improve our speed, we want to have a higher anaerobic capacity. Besides doing "field testing" like the Swim CSS, Bike FTP and Run TT, one scientific way to test is how well the body processes muscle lactate. If you've ever done a Lactate Threshold Test (LTT), here's how the test administrator interprets the lactate measurement to determine your training zones.
The LTT is performed by starting the athlete a warmup at a very easy intensity. We'll use the run discipline for this example. The athlete will walk on a treadmill for 10 minutes before starting the test and once the test starts, the intensity is increased every 2 minutes. At the beginning of the 10 minutes, the test administrator takes 4 metrics - pace, rate of perceived exertion (RPE), heart rate (HR) and lactate millimoles per liter of blood with a blood sample and lab kit. The lactate compared to the pace is the primary metric and the HR and RPE are secondary but useful to confirm and interpret the data. The administrator takes those same 4 metrics at the end of the 10 minutes and every 2 minutes there after. Every 2 minutes the treadmill pace is increased by 30 seconds of pace (11:00, 10:30, 10:00, 9:30 and so on).
There are two key inflection points the test administrator is looking for. When the intensity is increased and the lactate level remains the same as the previous level means that the subject athlete is predominantly aerobic (zones 1-2). When the lactate level increases and levels out after each increase the athlete is in between aerobic and anaerobic (zone 3). When the lactate level continues to rise without an increase to intensity, the athlete is above lactate threshold (zone 4-5).
Let's set aside other adaptations like muscle and tendon strength and flexibility as well as other adaptations to prevent injury. To achieve greater aerobic efficiency and aerobic capacity requires consistent and progressive overload dosing of aerobic and anaerobic training. Think of dosing as the number of minutes in each zone that we are trying to affect. The following example is conceptual, but can be extrapolated to fit a training plan for different distance events or performance goals.
Assume that your baseline of training is 200 minutes in aerobic training the week before your last threshold test. To progressive overload dosing, you would increase the load of training over the next 3 weeks as 210, 220 and 230 minutes. It's the same with anaerobic adaptions. Assume you had 20 minutes of anaerobic training in the week before your last test. To progressively overload the dosing of anaerobic training, you may increase that as 43, 46 and 49 over then next three weeks.
A well designed training plan will have this progressive overload concept built into the cumulative training for each week over the course of the weeks between tests. Each training session will have a goal number of minutes for specific training zones which collectively make up the dosing for the week. Using the previous example of threshold dosing, let's assume there were two run training sessions in week 1 that cumulatively added up to 23 minutes of threshold dosing and you nailed the total of 43 minutes. In week 2 your goal was to achieve 46 minutes and assume there were again 2 sessions that totaled 46 minutes of threshold. The first session prescribed 20 minutes, which you nailed.
Lets assume you cut the second session and instead of 23 minutes of threshold you only get in 10 minutes, resulting in 30 total minutes for the 2nd week. Even if you nail the 3rd week of 49 minutes, you have interrupted the progressive overload process. Just looking at the run threshold stress load for each week, the minutes of threshold dosing in minutes would be 43 for week 1, 30 for week 2, and 49 for week 3; 43, 20 and 49. The training stress is inconsistent and the body's reaction to the stress will likely stagnate resulting in plateauing performance.
Cutting workouts short or missing the altogether across a single or all disciplines can sabotage your adaptations, training progress and race performance. There is another problem as well. When you miss or cut training stress short, your body is less prepared for subsequent training. When you try to do that next harder week of training, you can potentially present more stress than the body is prepared for, which can lead to risk of injury. Athletes will try to make up for missed workouts by adding the missed training. Using the previous example, imagine if you tried to add the missed 16 minutes to the 3rd week and did 46, 20 and 65 (49+16), the risk of injury becomes even greater.
Training software helps athletes by converting training dosing into training stress scores across each discipline to help you track your progress and consistency. Some even weight higher intensities with a higher stress coefficient. This will give you visibility to the inconsistency but its after the fact. One of the things I like about TriDot is that it makes the goal dosing in minutes for each training zone visible before the workout. Most workouts will have a warmup, main set and cooldown, each with goal minutes by zone. The workouts can be pushed to your Garmin or other device and alert you if you are out of the prescribed intensity zone, helping you achieve the goal training stress. TriDot gives the athlete a training execution score called TrainX. If the athlete follows the prescribed training and consistently get high TrainX scores, they get faster results with fewer injuries.
If you want to talk further about how to train consistently to get better results, reach out at Rich@303colorado.com or message me @tripodcasterrich.
Check out the TriDot Free Trial https://app.tridot.com/onboard/sign-up/richsoares
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The Varia’s high-definition camera will record everything behind you and its radar will alert you to approaching vehicles. Garmin has released the Varia RCT715, a new version of its tail light that features a high-definition camera to record any incidents out on the road.
The Varia RCT715 features the same radar technology as its predecessors. When paired with a Garmin bike computer or smartwatch, the Varia will alert users to vehicles approaching from behind up to 140m away. Garmin says the device can be paired with selected cycling apps such as Ride with GPS. This will enable users to overlay maps with the radar notifications.
Garmin claims the Varia RCT715’s tail light can be seen up to one mile away in daylight. The camera records continuously and will save footage if an incident is detected. Garmin says the Varia’s camera will “capture sharp, clear footage” at up 1080 pixels and 30 frames per second.
The camera will record constantly when the Varia is in use. If an incident is detected, via Garmin’s Incident Detection feature, the camera will automatically save footage from before, during and after the event. According to Dan Bartel, Garmin’s vice president of global consumer sales, this is to provide users with evidence of an incident “should they ever need it”.
However, the camera also provides more recreational functions, in line with how you might use a GoPro. Via the Garmin Varia app, users can access the video footage, transfer files and customise the camera’s settings, to do things such as overlay data, including speed and location.
Garmin says the use of the camera will be prohibited or regulated in some jurisdictions, adding that it is the responsibility of the user to know and comply with applicable laws and rights to privacy. While Garmin has added a camera to the Varia, it has retained the radar and tail light functionality of the device.
Like the previous Garmin Varia RTL515, the radar on the new version will still detect and alert users to vehicles approaching from behind to the same distance of 140m.
Similarly, the tail light on the new version is said to be visible up to one mile away in daylight, which is the same as the Varia RTL515. But while the RTL515 has a claimed battery life of up to 16 hours, the RCT715 has a shorter claimed battery life.
The Varia RCT715’s battery life is said to be up to four hours with radar and the tail light on ‘solid high’ or ‘night flash’, and up to six hours with the light flashing. The reduction in battery life is presumably because the camera is recording continuously.
An interesting new study by researchers at Sweden’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology, working with the Swedish military and colleagues in Slovenia. They’d noticed that soldiers on night marches seemed to burn more energy than would be expected from the physical demands of the mission, especially when wearing night-vision goggles that restrict peripheral vision. They wondered whether not being able to see forced the soldiers to alter their strides, sacrificing efficiency for stability, so they decided to test this theory.
The new study, published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, had 15 volunteers do a series of ten-minute treadmill walks in four conditions: with and without a 56-pound pack, and with and without a blindfold on. The treadmill was set at a comfortable pace of around 30 minutes per mile, with a laser warning system to alert them if they were about to fall off the back of the treadmill.
The results showed that oxygen use (a proxy for energy consumption), breathing, and heart rate all increased substantially when wearing the heavy pack, as you’d expect. The surprise was that they increased by nearly the same amount when adding a blindfold. Here are the graphs of those three parameters, with (circles) or without (squares) the blindfold:
If you compare the circles on the left (i.e. blindfolded with no backpack) to the squares on the right (i.e. not blindfolded with a backpack), you see they’re almost the same. In other words, walking with a blindfold takes as much extra effort as walking with a 56-pound pack. To be precise, the backpack increased oxygen consumption by 20 percent, while blindfolding increased oxygen consumption 19 percent.
The explanation for this effect seems to be that the subjects adjusted their strides when blindfolded: their steps got 11 percent shorter and 6 percent wider, and they also lifted their feet 18 percent higher. Bear in mind that this is on a perfectly flat treadmill, so there are no bumps or potholes to avoid: this is just an instinctive response. It’s also worth noting that the effect probably isn’t just because they’re unfamiliar with the challenge of walking while blindfolded: a similar test of blind subjects found that they burned about 25 percent more energy while walking than sighted controls.
Of course, being blindfolded is significantly more disruptive than wearing night goggles, or simply being out at night in poorly lit conditions. That means the size of the effect is probably exaggerated. And walking is different from running. But it seems reasonable to assume that similar mechanisms are at work when you’re running in the dark—along with other, more subtle mechanisms like optic flow, which is the pattern of objects flowing through your vision as you move through space.
When you’re running or cycling in the dark, you can only see objects that are relatively close to you. That means that they appear in your field of vision only briefly before disappearing behind you, which corresponds to faster optic flow than you’d experience in daylight. A few previous studies, most notably those by Dave Parry and Dominic Micklewright of the University of Essex, have tried manipulating optic flow in virtual reality setups, making the scenery fly past more quickly or slowly than the speed of the treadmill or exercise bike. Sure enough, when optic flow is faster—as you’d experience in dark conditions—you feel like you’re moving faster, and any given pace feels harder.
There’s an interesting corollary to these findings about optic flow, as Parry explained to Runner’s World’s Scott Douglas back in 2012. “Running in an environment where most of the visual reference points you can see are close by, you experience a greater sensation of speed than when in an environment where your reference points are far away,” he said. That means running through a forest or through city streets will likely feel faster than running across an open field.
Ever since reading about those optical flow results, I’ve dismissed the gap between my actual and perceived pace during night runs as a quirk of how my brain estimates effort. During most of my runs, that gap doesn’t matter—but if I’m trying to do a tempo run or hard workout before sunrise, the slower pace can be a bummer. So I’ll take the new Swedish results as reassurance that night running might really be physiologically harder, not just a brain error—and if that’s what it takes to avoid tripping in the dark, I’ll accept the trade-off.
What's New in the 303:
Costa Rica Leatherback Turtle Conservation
Video of the Week:
Good luck to those racing Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga and Ironman Tulsa this weekend!
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Stay tuned, train informed, and enjoy the endurance journey!