October 2009 Triathlon Training Chat with Coach AJ - The Powermeter Edition

author : Coach AJ
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Discussions on winter maintenance fitness, training and traveling, coaching, and the benefits of training with a powermeter for those that haven't yet commited to one.

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[Coach AJ]
  Who’s going to ask the first question?

[Gregkl]  Is the winter maintenance program supposed to be tough?

[Coach AJ]    Well, winter maintenance programs depends a lot on how fit you were at the end of the season. It should be challenging in the sense that you want to work on your limiter rather than do hard/tough runs.

[Gregkl]   Okay, the individual workouts aren’t too bad, but I sleep well! I am a little undertrained due to no races this season so I am hoping this next 20 weeks will prepare me for 26 weeks of IM training.

[Coach AJ]   Then the key for you would be to do the APPROPRIATE amount of work. If you are a little undertrained, work on your base to get back into the shape to handle a higher workload.

[Socks]   Ok....what are your thoughts RE: P90X and crossfit type programs...there are a growing number of people who feel that this is the new magic bullet (I am not a believer) Also a growing # who think this is the best path to weight loss especially for women.

[Coach AJ]   Socks, I like Cross fit type workouts for the reason that they mix things up. I wouldn’t recommend them in season, but to stay in shape and keep you fresh mentally, I think they have merit.

[Gregkl]   I am looking at one of Gale Bernhardt's IM plans. I used her plan for my HIM and was pleased with the results. I travel a lot with work and the layout of the workouts is very important. Her plans are set so that I will miss a minimum of training sessions, especially when it comes to the bike. However, it has been said that I should peak with about 12000 yards swimming, 300 miles biking, and 60 miles running in a given week. Her plans run short of this.

[Coach AJ]   Anyone can throw out minimum yards/time, but really, what makes that statement valid? You need to remember that training is very individual. I would say that if you can hit those targets without injury, with good recovery and keeping the home life together, they are pretty good. However, if you start to get injured, or have other issues, modify it for YOUR needs.  Plans are great and work well, but there will always be a point where you need to modify it due to family time, injury, fatigue. So while you need to have a plan, you don’t have to stick to it at all costs.

[Gregkl]   Okay, that sounds good. I remember when I was training for my first marathon and someone saw how long one of my runs was and made a comment about whether I was training for a half marathon instead of a full. I did well following my plan. Absurd amounts of mileage don’t work as well as specific sessions with varying intensities. For me, I mean.

[Coach AJ]   Exactly. There are world champions that have trained very differently. The key is to find what works for you. If you know it’s quality work, that’s great. Remember, you don’t get to show your log at the end of a race and get time deducted for big weekly numbers. Many athletes get caught up in the numbers for their logs without paying attention to if it’s working or not.

[rstocks3]   That was one of the best things about having a coach the last few years.
  When workouts didn’t happen due to life he could adapt workouts.

[Coach AJ]   That’s what a good coach does, they modify the plan as needed. When you have a good working relationship with a coach, they can really pin down your needs and make the plan accordingly.

[Gregkl]   Yeah, someday when this economy gets a little better, maybe I will get one. I am sure they could help me with my insane travel schedule.

[Coach AJ]   I’ve worked with athletes that travel 2-3 x a week and it’s a challenge for sure. In those situations I’ve found that when they are home you get in the quality work, and on the road you get in what you can.  Bungee swimming in the hotel pool is a great example of modifying a workout based on what you can do.  Nutrition is so hard on the road too. Even if you want to eat healthy it’s not always available.  Bars, trail mix, and of course fruit is great to have on hand.

[laurie2829]   I am a newbie and all this talk is WAY out of my league..LOL...quick question, if the furthest I have ran is 8 miles and 30 miles on the bike and a mile in the pool, would you suggest I start a training plan or being it’s off season just keep trying to increase miles? I feel as if I’m burning my body out without a plan.

[Coach AJ]   I think you can do both in a way. Set your season goals to give you something to work for, then set up a plan, or buy a plan that works for your goal. Increasing mileage is always a key component of a training plan if you are hoping to do a longer race. Aerobic conditioning is the base fitness that every triathlete needs. Basically, every time you get out the door, have a purpose!

Numbers are always relative. You should always do the amount of work you can absorb and nothing more. Aerobic capacity takes a lot of time to build, but without it you run a risk of injury and sub par performance.

[laurie2829]     LOL..good..I feel a little better now... How long did you train before you were ready for your first HIM?? A year or longer?

[Coach AJ]     Personally, I did 3 years of sprints and olympic distance races before my first HIM. If you have a history in distance running or cycling I think you can do it a bit earlier. I always worry about athletes that do there first HIM in their first year of tri.  Progression works best. Again, take your time and do it when you feel ready. HIM’s aren’t going away any time soon. With any program you have to build your aerobic engine, then take that fitness and make it specific to your race.

[JoshR]   I took the last 4 months off of biking, and I am now trying to very slowly rebuild my biking to see if my knee will be okay. Is there anything special I should do?

[Coach AJ]   Obviously keep the tension low and just spin easy. Trainer sessions are probably safest since you can stop if you feel any pain. You may also want to look at a professional bike fit. Just be wary of changing too much at once.

[Gregkl]  Today I did a ride outside. WU, 5 x 3” intervals steadily increasing HR utill by the 5th interval, I was in Z4.  I did two sets of those with 10 minutes ez spinning in between. Is that too much for this time of year?

[Coach AJ]  Not necessarily. You want to keep in touch with zone 3-4 over the off season, just only hit that zone every 7-10 days or so. Short interval like the 5 x 3” works great.

[laurie2829]   Do you wear your HR monitor every time you bike and run?

[Coach AJ]   Yes, I do, but mostly just to ensure I’m doing what I wanted to do. I like it especially for easy days to keep from going too hard on an EZ day.

[Gregkl]   How easy do you go on an EZ run? To stay in zone 1-2 I have to be just about walking....

[Coach AJ]   If zone 1-2 is walking, you may not have the right zones set. 1-2 is VERY easy, you should be able to hold a conversation with ease. You may want to do an LT test to make sure your HR zones are correct.

[losta]   Coach do you have any tips for beginning training with power?

[Coach AJ]  Power is a great tool. I would do a basic 20’ all out test to get your watts at LT then use that number to create your zones. Then you can set a plan based on those numbers. Also, nothing beats Cyclingpeaks WKO as an analysis tool. Without analyzing the data, a power meter is just a basic computer. You may also want to check out Andrew Coggan’s book Training with Power. It’s pretty much the bible when it comes to using power.

[Socks]  Do you think the power meter technology is good enough at this point (any brand) that you can buy it, install it and have it work reliably with no muss or fuss? Seems like everyone I know has so much trouble with the blasted things.  I BARELY have time to do the training. I DO NOT have an extra hour a session to mess with technology.

[Coach AJ]   ABSOLUTELY! Power meter technology is very simple to use. All of the current brands are very user friendly. Don’t worry about installation or set up. You don’t need to have a PhD to set it up.  The beauty of the powermeter is that you never waste a minute. If you need to be in watt zone 2, you can always know if you’re there or not. It doesn’t flucuate like HR, or try to keep your HR up on a downhill. It’s a perfect measure of the amount of work you are doing. I love powermeters for time crunched athletes because I can ensure they are getting nothing but quality. I can also be VERY exact with bike workouts.

With the powermeter, 300 watts is 300 watts, no matter if you are going uphill or on the flats. I’ve used PowerTap for the last 3 years and have never had an issue. They are wireless, so all you do is put the wheel on, put the computer on your bars and go!  Put it this way, the data you can gather is so amazing it outweighs any electrical gremlins that may occur

[Socks]   I have always been curious about how the WIND affects my power...cause I get loads of wind here in FL.

[Coach AJ]   Right! That’s what’s great about the powermeter. You can keep your watts up going downhill, even if your HR goes down. If I need to hit 200-250 watts, I simply put in the effort needed. HR fluctuates based on diet, sleep, fatigue, etc. But watts are watts, every time.   Wind doesn’t effect power, it only effects speed. With a powermeter if you are doing 200 watts and are going 4 MPH it’s no different then doing 200 watts and going 24 MPH. The workload is the same.

[Gregkl]  So even though I am going into a 15 mph wind, with my HR climbing to say 150, then I turn around and maintain or increase my speed and my HR drops to 140, I am putting the same wattage out?

[Coach AJ]   Sure, a stronger wind slows you down more. This is why average speed is a terrible measure of effort. I can work super hard into a headwind or spin easy with a tailwind. In one scenario I am doing a lot of work for little speed and in the other it’s little work for lots of speed.

If you are putting out the same watts into the wind or with a tailwind, the speed and HR are irrelevant. Simply put, you just nail the watt zone you need to be in at the time and let your HR and speed go where they will.

[Socks]   It doesn’t matter WHAT I do on the bike my run will be bad.

[Coach AJ]   Yep, your run is always a function of your bike. Bike hard and the run may suffer. Bike too slow and you leave too much in the tank. The powermeter can really make a difference in metering out the bike effort.  It’s a matter of reaching your FULL potential.

[Gregkl]   I am thinking the other part to the power equation is working with a coach. If I stick with Gale’s book, I won’t really know what wattage I should train at. Or is wattage a product derived from LT testing?

[Coach AJ]  Wattage zones are easy to find out with a simple 20’ all out test. The tricky issue of training with watts is knowing when to ride in certain zones and how to use the powermeter to make progress. A coach can really help with that. The training load has to be correct with or without a powermeter.

[Coach AJ]   Alright gang, thanks for all the great questions. Train hard, train smart and train safe!   Thanks everyone for being on tonight, I hope to see you on the next chat!

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date: November 24, 2009

Coach AJ

USAT Level 1 Coach
"My coaching philosophy can be summed up in two words: listening and balance. By combining these two elements I feel I can help each athlete achieve their full potential."

avatarCoach AJ

USAT Level 1 Coach
"My coaching philosophy can be summed up in two words: listening and balance. By combining these two elements I feel I can help each athlete achieve their full potential."

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