Saturday, 21 November 2009

Training Advice for Young Athletes

Advice on ATHR training for young athletes from Joe Friel.

Anaerobic Endurance. This is the training ability that has the greatest risk-reward associated with it. Doing workouts in this category have been shown to greatly improve aerobic capacity (VO2max), lactate/anaerobic threshold, and economy. And those are the big 3 when it comes to fitness. Lots of reward. But also lots of risk. Injury, illness, and burnout can all result from a steady diet of anaerobic endurance (AE) training. This is the most challenging workout the athlete can do, and since most serious athletes are of the "never enough" mindset, they often take this to the extreme.

So the bottom line is that it is highly unusual for me to have novice athletes do AE workouts. In fact, I can't recall having any do it, but it may have happened a long time ago. If so, someone would bring it to my attention, I'm sure. I seldom have experienced triathletes do AE training also. And then primarily those who are seeking to compete at the highest level at the shorter distances. I have on a few occasions had pro long-course triathletes do shortened versions of AE workouts to bump up their fitness in the late Base period. But this is rare.

For experienced road cyclists AE training is critical to success. Road races often come down to 2- to 3-minute episodes that determine the final selection (the break that succeeds). These episodes are played out on climbs and when there are strong cross winds or when a team is clearly superior. Motivation plays a big role in doing such hard workouts. You have to get "up" for the workout well in advance. This is why road cyclists like to do their group rides. These are usually mini-races made up of lots of AE efforts.

So what is an AE workout? There are many, many variations. Here is the most basic:

5 x 3 minutes at CP6 (3 minute recoveries)

What this means is do an interval workout (after warming up) made up of 3-minute intervals done 5 times for a total of 15 minutes of AE effort. Each interval is done at an intensity of CP6 ("critical power/pace" for 6 minutes). CP6 is the highest, average power or pace you can produce in 6 minutes. This is about your VO2max power/pace. After each work interval recover for 3 minutes.

I call these "intervals til you puke." The name comes from my college track days when all my coach knew were these killer workouts. We did this every day, or some variation on it. Five days a week (we took weekends off back then). There was no reasoning behind it then. No measurement of effort (other than the coach reminding us of how miserably slow we were after he timed each interval as he sat in the stands sipping a soda). It was sickening. Literally. Guys used to vomit during the workout. Someone did that every day. Me included. It's no wonder so many of us were injured and fried by the season's end. We just thought we were wimps.

The variations on AE interval workouts include hills and shortened workout intervals with equally short recovery intervals. Research supports work intervals of as short as 10 seconds for this type of training. The key is to design a workout like this so that it takes on the characteristics of what you will experience in the race for which you are training. AE intervals may be mixed with other ability workouts in the Build period (which is when AE training is usually scheduled) to create workouts that closely simulate race conditions. This could be something such as a muscular endurance steady state followed by anaerobic endurance intervals followed by power repetitions. That's pretty much what happens in a road race.

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