So, How Many Hats Do You Wear?

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Pensacola, Florida, United States
Husband. *Dog Dad.* Instructional Systems Specialist. Runner. (Swim-challenged) Triathlete (on hiatus). USATF LDR Surveyor. USAT (Elite Rules) CRO/2, NTO/1. RRCA Rep., FL (North). Observer Of The Human Condition.

Monday, March 17, 2008

A Matter of Quality

The other week, I came out to the track at five minutes before the start of practice and found a team member jogging laps. Rather than be pleased at their motivation to start early, I was a little less than happy. ‘You’re not going to need those junk miles,’ I said, ‘do you know what I have planned for this workout?’ It’s not so much that I wanted to be authoritarian; I looked at conditions and adjusted my plan accordingly…in this particular case, I moved the warm-up from the track out onto the trails.It’s almost a month before the last races of the late spring season here (we don't race anything other than triathlons during the summer here!), so the time for easy-paced mileage is beginning to pass, at least at the track. The track workouts for my more experienced team members is going to increase (a little) in intensity; higher perceived effort, shorter rest interval or longer distance…two of the three (in the case of some team members, all three) variables more often than not.
I made a comment while writing last month's club newsletter, something to the extent of ‘if you’re not running the repeat at the right intensity level you’re wasting your time.’ This also lends itself to a phrase one of my college coaches used to remind me, ‘you can run hard and you can run long, but you don’t run hard AND long.’ Easy days are where your body - and your mind - makes its gains in fitness. If you hammer all of your workouts, day after day after day…your mind will probably rebel (burnout); hopefully before the point where your body breaks down and you suffer an injury that will leave you frustrated and focusing on rehabilitation.
How do you gauge how hard you’re working; when to back off, when to take it easy? I gauge my workouts by percentage of maximum heart rate above 50 percent (by tens, so 50-59 percent would merit a 1, 60-69 a 2, 70-79 a 3, and so on...) multiplied by time, so if I run for 60 minutes at 50 percent of max heart rate, I score a 60 (1 x 60). Ride a bike for four hours at 50 percent effort would equal 240 (240 x 1), the same as an hour of running with an average heart rate of 80-90 percent (60 x 4), more or less.
You can check your pulse at the end of repeats – rather than your stopwatch - in much the same way as I check my athletes if they have no monitor and I want to know how hard they've been working. A perceived effort scale to “ballpark” your effort works great for weight training, where heart rates are less intense, if you don't want to check your pulse all afternoon.
If you felt the effort on a track workout was 8 on a 1-to-10 scale, then subtract five and multiply by the workout duration (90 minutes, usually), which would give, in this case, a 270. A number in the 100s is an “easy” day; a score above 300 might merit easy workouts for the next day or two, or perhaps a rest day and an easy day. If you’re not doing too much the next day at work you can probably stand to go out and run for an hour, as long as you keep the effort between a 6 and a 7 on that 10-point perceived effort scale.As you approach the racing season, if performing well is your goal, your training focus needs to move away from ‘more miles are better’ and closer to ‘how comfortable am I at this speed? Can I hold this for an entire race?’

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