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Monday, July 13, 2009

Bobbysez 2

This week I’d like to get into an issue that has long intrigued me – ever since I got into the business of coaching as a school teacher way back in 1981: The whole issue of jargon.

Some of what I do is analyze training plans in an effort to optimize their effectiveness. Besides changing up the workouts to upgrade adaptation responses*, I almost always have to meet with the individual in order to understand their coding & language before I can give any input. The gap between exercise science & the athletic community is often quite large, hence the prolific existence of training myths & confusing terminology that was often birthed in the 60s & 70s.

Words like intervals, anaerobic, aerobic, fartlek (really old), VO2 Max and lactic acid come to mind. Add to this the more modern influx of concepts that are widely known, but somewhat poorly understood, like lactate threshold, OBLA (onset of blood lactate), tlim VO2 Max (The duration of time that a person can actually exercise at VO2max before becoming exhausted) & eccentric muscle contraction, & we have a community that in many instances may not really be doing what they think they are doing.

I think it is really important to compare apples to apples when designing training. Part of what creates a successful training plan is economy of repetitious work that provides diminishing conditioning returns with volume increase beyond safe adaptation limits & consequent increasing risk of injury. When athletes base workout intensities on a faulty understanding of a principle they can become injured, or may not get the intended response.

In my latest book, Run Workouts in a Binder for Runners & Triathletes I try very hard to move away from confusing terminology, by simply giving each type of workout a name that is an abbreviated definition of what the workout actually is, like 30min EP (30 minute Effort/Pace). In this way runners knows implicitly what they are doing, based on a correct understanding & based on a test that specifically determined that intensity. Now some may think this a somewhat renegade approach – but some of the best coaches have “created” their own language to meet the demands of the events that their athletes are training for. Coaches like Jack Daniels (see picture at beginning of blog) (VDOT tables) & Joe Friel (Training Zones) have helped countless athletes achieve success by closely defining workouts & intensities in this way. Sebastian Coe’s father, Peter was an engineer & approaches schedule design like an engineer from what he called “1st Principles”.
I suggest we take a careful look at our training, try to quantify it all down to 1st principles & make sure through regular evaluation & assessment of racing results that we are doing the best training possible in terms of what we can handle & the demands of our event. Shy away from doing “stuff” that we have a poor understanding of & that we are not sure is efficacious or safe.

Till next time train with grace, gratitude & guts

*Better runners with plenty of experience & who coach themselves are often guilty of using tried & tested workouts, but their response to them is less & less effective as they master the workout & become a specialist of that workout, with less carryover to racing fitness

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