There’s a funny phenomenon in endurance sports that I like to call “becoming a one-speed athlete.” It happens to runners, cyclists and triathletes whose training becomes so focused on sustained efforts at race intensity that their ability to work at higher intensity levels disapears! Their low end capabilities also become nullified because of the idea that the athlete needs to perform at “race” speed, or work hard. The one-speed athlete phenomenon presents itself most notably when endurance athletes do shorter races and feel annoyed by proving unable to go any faster over the shorter distance than they intend to go over the longer. A great, gaping hole in their fitness is revealed for all to see.
A recent example involves Ryan Hall, the brilliant young American distance runner who set a new American debut marathon record of 2:08:24 in London. That’s 4:53 per mile. A few months later, while in the thick of training for the U.S. Olympic team trials marathon, Hall ran the U.S. Outdoor Track and Field Championships 10,000 meters, finishing seventh with a time of 28:51. That’s 4:38 per mile, or just marginally faster than the pace he was capable of sustaining for another 20 miles. That’s the one-speed athlete phenomenon for you.
The problem with becoming a one-speed athlete is that it hinders performance in long-distance races as well as in shorter ones. Here’s how: Recent research has shown that rating of perceived exertion (RPE)—not heart rate or blood-lactate level or any other physiological factor—is the best predictor of fatigue during exercise. In maximal efforts over any distance, the athlete’s RPE increases linearly throughout the event, consistently reaching a level 6/7, or “hard”, rating after 20 percent of the distance has been covered and peaking at a level 10, or “maximal”, rating when the finish line is within sight. (The only exceptions to this pattern are beginners who are inexperienced in how the body feels and as a result lose the effect that makes RPE such a reliable fatigue predictor in experienced athletes).
Athletes improve by training in ways that make a pace that once felt hard at the 20-percent mark of a given race distance seem slightly easier in the next race—thus enabling the athlete to sustain a faster pace while working at the same RPE. This change occurs as a natural result of everything you do in a sensible training program. For example, simply increasing the amount of basic aerobic training you do will increase your aerobic capacity and efficiency, enabling you to race faster with equal perceived effort. But there are also specific things you can do to exploit the relationship between RPE and fatigue to your benefit. One of these things is performing hard workouts at pace levels exceeding your race pace so your race pace feels easier. When you cut back on such training too much in the pursuit of peak performance at long distances, your brain will hit the panic button when you try to race faster at shorter distances, causing your RPE to spike and therefore limiting your pace perhaps more than necessary. Hence the one-speed phenomenon. But your performance at longer distances also will be negatively affected by too much training specialization at your race pace. Exposing your body to fatigue in prolonged efforts at faster paces will result in nervous system changes that push back the wall of fatigue in your long-distance peak race.
Long, slow rides and race-pace rides of course have their place in the bike training of long-distance athletes, but these workouts need to be supplemented with others that expose your body to fatigue at slightly higher intensities.
Don’t become a one-speed cyclist. Incorporate faster/harder workouts into your training for long-distance races and reap the benefits on race day.
Long, slow rides/runs and race-pace rides certainly have their place in the training of long-distance athletes, but these workouts need to be supplemented with others that expose your body to fatigue at slightly higher intensities.
Stretching helps reduce stiffness and injury
This is the easy bit! Sounds easy and is easy, but it’s often neglected or under appreciated. Crazy as it may sound, rest is just as important as exercise. Too many people focus on cramming in more/harder training and forget to take the time out, in their day, week or season. Time to find out why…
Rest Is Best
The body gets fitter/stronger/healthier by being exposed to stresses (i.e. training or exercise). Once you’ve done this, the body then needs time to adapt to these stresses and for this there must be a period of recovery. Recovery and rest are also key in preventing injuries.
New to Exercise
If you’re new to training, it’s imperative that you start slowly to allow the body to adapt to the demands of sport. Maybe try exercising on two consecutive days, but have a rest on the third day. If you just keep going, without any rest, your body will soon start to fatigue and you’ll find it difficult to complete (or even start!) any exercise sessions.
If you have just started physical activity or performed a new exercise for the first time, you might be feeling a little sore or stiff but don’t start doubting all those promises of feeling better for exercising just yet. In most cases this is a reaction from your body as it tries to adapt to the new experience. Starting exercise or performing a new movement pattern can result in:
Sleep is a great way to recover from trainin
• Severe muscle soreness
• Muscle stiffness
• Decreases in strength
• Decreases in skill levels
The feelings you may be experiencing are referred to as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or DOMS for short. Although DOMS is not fully understood, it is thought that the feelings generally materialise sometime after the exercise is performed (hence the ‘Delayed’), this can be as long as 24hours after. Feelings may last from a couple of days or even reports of up to a week or longer. It is suggested that some recovery strategies may help prevent or a least reduce some of the associated feelings. (See below – Recovery Strategies) The more an activity is repeated, you are less likely to feel the effects DOMS, or to a less extent.
More Experienced Athletes
For those who are more experienced exercisers and are maybe training for an event, rest and recovery is also vitally important. You may have heard of a term called ‘Progressive Overload’, the principles of which are as follows:
• Training is designed progressively to overload body systems and fuel stores
• If the training stress is insufficient to overload the body’s capabilities, no adaptations will occur.
• If the workload is too great (progressed too quickly/performed too often without adequate rest), then fatigue follows and subsequent performance will be reduced.
• Work alone is not enough to produce the best results; you need time to adapt to training stress.
• To encourage adaptation to training, it is important to plan recovery activities that reduce residual fatigue.
• The sooner you recover from fatigue, and the fresher you are when you undertake a training session, the better the chance of improving.
Plan your training carefully, include rest days where you let you’re body recover from the stress and begin to adapt to the training. Try thinking ahead to the race/event date, plan different sessions for each week. Maybe do a couple of weeks of more intensive and hard sessions, but follow that with an ‘easy week’ where you’re body can adapt to all the hard training you’ve been doing. This is known as periodisation. Most of my athletes work on the basis of 3 to 4 weeks of increasing training (maybe hours, or intensity toward particular targets) then a week of lower magnitude to allow that adaptation. Every week will have at least 1 rest day, sometimes two depending on the athlete and the intended target. Rest days can include some of the recovery strategies below, though we would tend to encourage these on a day to day basis anyway!
It’s all very well being encouraged to exercise, but if your body isn’t used to doing it, or you’ve started a new sport or even increased the amount of training you’re doing then you need to consider some recovery strategies to help your body to adjust.
Sleep is one of the most important forms of rest and provides time for the body to adapt to the physical and mental demands of training.
– Make sure you get enough sleep (8hours per night is a good guideline)
– Ensure your sleep is good quality, make sure the room is dark, quiet and peaceful.
Passive resting such as reading and listening to music are great ways for the body to relax, both physically and mentally.
Nutrition & Hydration
Ensuring the body is fully nourished and hydrated is vital for good recovery. It is most important to replace fluids after exercise and to replenish energy stores by eating the right foods at the right time. This can include eating higher protein snacks immediately after training or competing to help repair muscles and prevent catabolism (muscle breakdown). You could even look to specific sports nutrition – though this should be supplemental to what you already do rather than instead of.
Cool Down and Stretch
The cool down is a group of exercises performed immediately after training to provide an adjustment between exercise and rest. Its purpose is to increase muscular soreness and bring the cardiovascular system back to rest. Stretching is often combined with the cool down.
Alternating hot and cold showers/baths provides increased muscle flow to the working muscles and speeds the removal of lactic acid. The following guidelines should provide the most benefits:
Complete within 30 minutes of training/exercise
Begin and end with cold exposures
Cold should be between 10 and 16 degrees
Hot should be between 35 and 37 degrees
Repeat the alternations 3 or 4 times
Cold exposure should last between 30 and 60 seconds
Hot exposures should be between 3 and 4 minutes
Cold Baths (Cryotherapy)
If you body is plunged into a bath of icy cold water, the blood vessels constrict and the blood will be drained away from the muscles that have been working (removing lactic acid). Once you get out of the bath, the capillaries dilate and ‘new’ blood flow back into the muscles, bringing with it oxygen which help the functioning of the cells.
The physical benefits of a massage following exercise include:
• Increased blood flow, enhanced oxygen and nutrient delivery to fatigued muscles, increased removal of lactic acid
• Warming and stretching of soft tissues, increasing flexibility, removal of microtrauma, knots and adhesions
In addition to the physical benefits, massage has been reported to help improve mood state and help increase relaxation and reduce feelings of fatigue. See our partners at The Sports Performance Clinic, Energised Performance, or Tri Physiotherapy
Remember we all do sport to enjoy it! It’s not a job, you have friends, family and a job as well as a life to live before training comes in. Make rest and recovery a key part of your training schedule, and you will enjoy the active training far more – hopefully with far increased results! #RecoveryIsKey #TrainSmart
Last weekend I took a trip over to Lisbon in Portugal, to recce the area and facilities of the company who approached us to run training camps. Lisbon South is the brain child of Antonio Barbosa, a bike shop owner and keen cyclist, who didn’t see why athletes weren’t coming to Portugal as much as they do to mainland Spain, the Balearic Islands or the Canary Islands for warm weather training. What he has done is put together a package that hopefully will suit athletes of all levels from novice to elite, individuals, groups and families.
Lisbon South is situated in Alcochete, a little village on the south of the River Tejo. When I arrived at the airport in Lisbon, rather than taking the 20 minute drive over the river to the hotel initially, we went and explored west of Lisbon, toward the beautiful Cascais, Guincho beach and Sintra. It is this side of town that Antonio has his bike shop with his business partner Joao, and as a Trek bike dealer gives him the opportunity to rent out top level Trek Madones – as well as offering lots of other support (spares, mechanic, sports nutrition, GPS etc). Unfortunately you can’t ride over from the base to this area – bikes aren’t allowed to be ridden across the Vasco de Gama bridge, but it can be arranged to transport bikes over to Sintra to ride around the region. What really struck me was that even in the car, at rush hour, once we were out of the city itself, the roads were almost empty bar cyclists!
While I was in Portugal I had the opportunity to swim, ride and run. One of the services that the Lisbon South package offers is guides for bike routes – and at speeds to suit! If you are an experienced, high end athlete, Joao will lead you a merry dance across the varied countryside – he has raced at Portuguese elite national championships on the road and mountain bike. Don’t let this put you off however; if you are just starting out or feeling more circumspect on a bike, Antonio knows the area well – and his good humour and knowledge will keep you interested on whatever rides you feel up to. If neither of these options are up your street, and you just want to explore, Antonio can furnish you with a GPS unit to help point you in the right direction and route maps for if you find yourself lost! Being out on the road was a pleasure having had some interesting experiences at home – the roads were 95% smooth, and where there were potholes there wasn’t the need to swing right in to the road to avoid them. Even the biggest roads were quiet by British standards and there was a real variety of terrain and views.
East of Alcochete is prime breeding ground both for bulls and horses.
Running around Alcochete was good fun – predominantly flat with a few gradual climbs – but plenty to do both on road and off. Running along the river was lovely, especially early in the morning when no-one was around! Because this part of the river is the estuary, you can swim in the river here, it’s great for open water swimming. Alternatively there is a great 25m pool facility a short travel from the hotel for the more tri minded athletes. Finally for the athletes looking for a full training programme will be pleased to know that a 2 minute walk from the hotel is a gym with a full complement of equipment – machines, free weights, TRX/stability equipment – and a sauna/steam room! The gym also does sports massage for those coming out and doing hard training weeks and in need of a little assistance with recovery! Outside the gym is a 60m sprint track as well for athletes wanting to do some power work.
Alcochete is a picturesque little village with plenty of places to eat, drink or just chill out. Because it is quiet, its great for downtime between training sessions, though on the edge of town there are places to go out dancing if your training week is more about balance than all out work!
Alcochete is like a view out of a postcard
Having been out to Lisbon South, I’d happily go again as an athlete – no questions asked. The flight is short, the weather is fairly guaranteed, the area is lovely. Its a minor downside that not all the facilities are right on base – but given that its all pretty much within walking distance for gym or pool swim from the Hotel Alfoz, its certainly a competitive option to elsewhere on the continent.
The intention for us is that we can run camps for Lisbon South – for varying levels of cyclist or triathlete – and also run camps/training weeks under our own banner, hopefully encouraging some fun in our usual way with training but also giving the option to go and see the sights, get some culture!
We are very pleased to announce that we will be running training days with Events Logic up at Lake 62 in the Cotswolds! Initially the first events will be familiarisation sessions for novices and intermediates, but we are looking to expand both in numbers and also into more intense “training days” for varying abilities.
The benefits of the days that we will be running will be that you can come along for any of the 3 sessions – or all 3! The idea is that we want the day to appeal to individual sports athletes as well as someone wanting to learn more about all three disciplines.
If you are new to the sport – or slightly longer in the tooth and wanting to improve some skills, come and have a look!
Over the last 2 months or so, we’ve been talking to Antonio and Joao in Alcochete – home to a new training base venue Lisbon South. We can’t wait to see more of what they’ve got – and the amazing surroundings – so we’re going out on Thursday for a long weekend of training there and to recce what the area is like!
The idea with partnering with a business like this is that we can offer extra services; We will be able to run our own camps (see here for further news as it happens), and be able to offer athletes an option in training holidays with a bit of culture and something different to enjoy!
With the opportunity to swim in open water, bike in the hills or on the flat and run on and off road, there are plenty of options, making this an ideal venue to visit!
Its only taken us 11 months from idea to actual realisation, but we now have have a functioning website to work from, to offer information and post handy hints and tips! I’m writing this while watching the build up to the Boat Race – and feeling disappointed that we didn’t get to race last week because of the high winds!!
Have a look around, the website is due to be an evolving process but certainly offers everything we want to show from a swim, bike and run coaching perspective!