Tuesday: Something new. Minimalist Intervals

Yesterday, I was up at 3:30am, on a flight at 6, then in meetings to 6 and dinner until 9:30, add in the time zone change and it was a 21 hour day on 2 hours of sleep.  I was pretty tired.

Tuesday:  I had to be at a meeting by 8 so I didn’t have a ton of time.  On the flight out, I spent some time reading this book.

Screen Shot 2018-01-23 at 12.33.10 PM.png

Now, I was suspicious of this book right from the title, but the author is at McMaster University and he has published some well regarded research into HIT, so I thought I would give it a chance.  The book is based on a really good paper from 2012.

Physiological adaptations to low-volume, high-intensity interval training in health and disease

The thing that I am struggling to comprehend is that this research is showing a measurable effect on endurance.  My understanding before was that low intensity duration built endurance and HIT improved lactate tolerance, strength and power.  This seems to say that doing intervals above VO2Max power has a beneficial effect on endurance, which is just plain weird.

But, anyway, it seemed like good chance to give this nasty hard interval stuff a try.  So, I decided to do the same workout that they used in the 2012 study for the HIT group.

Screen Shot 2018-01-23 at 1.09.10 PM.png

The study was done with stationary bikes, but it seemed any mode would work: treadmill, elliptical, stationary bike or erg.  Today, I went to the fitness center and the elliptical was open so I jumped on that.   I just programmed a 30 minute manual session and started going at about a level 14.  After 4:25, I cranked the “level” up to 23-24 (out of 25) and pushed as hard as I could.  At this level, I could barely move the pedals at first and it was pretty tough to make it through 30 seconds at the intensity.  The HR increase was so sharp that the monitor seemed to lag a bit.  Next time I torture myself, I will try to use the OH1 and Polar H7 to compare.

Here’s the HR response.  The first one I only got the level up to 22 and I think it was a bit too easy.  The second one I got all the way to 25 and pushed so hard I nearly threw up.  I kind of settled on 24 after that and it was just manageable to get to the full 30 seconds (plus whatever extra I got by turning up the level early.

10-23

Since I am always pressed for time on the road, and I seem to be trading off workout time versus sleep time, I think that this kind of short interval work might be a good travel solution.   If I am reading the paper correctly, it may do a better job maintaining my endurance than the shorter LIT sessions I typically do on the road.  Anyway, it will be interesting to see what happens.  If I have time and an erg I will stick to the “real” training plan, but otherwise, I think I will tryout this HIIT style sessions on the road.

Tomorrow:  Another HIIT session before I fly down to LA for more meetings.

 

A bit better. An easy 40 minutes

Around 6pm, I decided I really wanted to exercise a bit more.  So, I jumped on the erg, dialed up 40 minutes and started rowing.

The thought was to just pile on some Cat VI meters.  And that’s what I did.

Workout Summary - media/20171223-2300300o.csv
--|Total|-Total-|--Avg--|-Avg-|Avg-|-Avg-|-Max-|-Avg
--|Dist-|-Time--|-Pace--|-Pwr-|SPM-|-HR--|-HR--|-DPS
--|09554|40:00.0|02:05.6|176.4|18.4|144.6|154.0|13.0
W-|09555|40:00.0|02:05.6|176.4|18.4|144.6|154.0|13.0
R-|00000|00:00.0|00:00.0|000.0|00.0|000.0|154.0|00.0
Workout Details
#-|SDist|-Split-|-SPace-|-Pwr-|SPM-|AvgHR|MaxHR|DPS-
00|02394|10:00.0|02:05.3|176.7|18.4|133.1|143.0|13.0
01|02386|10:00.0|02:05.7|176.1|18.6|144.4|146.0|12.8
02|02387|10:00.0|02:05.7|176.4|18.3|148.6|151.0|13.1
03|02387|10:00.0|02:05.7|176.4|18.4|152.4|154.0|13.0

I felt a bit better after that.  Tomorrow, more of the same.  4 x 20′ / 3′ – Cat VI.

 

 

Monday / Tuesday: Rowing on the road

I’m writing this from the United Lounge in SFO while I wait to board my flight to Taipei.  It departs at 12:05 and I’m looking forward to spending as much time on the flight as possible asleep.

Monday:

I left for California first thing Monday morning.  Before I left, I scouted potential Crossfit boxes to drop into while I was in the San Jose area.  I struck out on the first three that I contacted.  I guess that Crossfit is popular enough in the Bay Area that they don’t have the capacity to support drop ins.  The fourth place I tried, NorCal Crossfit in Santa Clara seemed happy to have me drop in and row.  Their policy was the first day was free and the second day was $30, which seemed pretty fair.

NorCal Crossfit is big!  With high ceilings and lots of floor space.  They could support a class of 20 people in the central area and additional smaller classes in other areas at the same time.  Everyone was really nice and they had an area with about 20 model D rowers all set up and nicely maintained.

I fly in the morning, then had meetings all afternoon, finishing up around 5:30pm.  Then I headed to NorCal Crossfit.  I was dehydrated, tired and hungry, but I was looking forward to a workout.

The plan was:

  • 4 x 12′ / 1’30”
  • Cat V: Pace – 2:01, rate: 22

I started off trying to use ergdata with a usb cable to the PM3.  That worked for about 8 minutes.  Then I started to get “Are you finished rowing” messages flashing up on the phone, and I would ignore.  They would go away in a few strokes and everything was fine.  However, in a minute or two, the ergdata screen stopped updating, but the PM3 kept happily counting down.  This is starting to piss me off.

The excitement of rowing in a new gym with all the activity around me caused me to row with a bit too much vigor in this first interval.  Instead of the target 2:01, I ended up with a 1:58.6 avg pace.  Bad Greg!

2017-12-04 19.11.31

So, determined to get my data, I changed machines.  The second machine I sat on, wouldn’t link up at all, and the third hung up about 3 and a half minutes into the second interval.

2017-12-04 19.10.56

By this point I had done enough experimentation on the USB connection, I decided to default to the good old days.  I connected my HR sensor to the wahoo app, which always works and did 3 more 12′ intervals that way.

2017-12-04 19.10.44

My heart rate was through the roof, even though I slowed down considerably.  At least I was able to get it to plateau around 160.

12-4a

12-4b

It was a pretty short workout so I am not overly worried about it being a black hole session.

Tuesday:

Back at NorCal Crossfit.  Today, I had no desire to screw around with ergdata and usb cables.  I just went with the tried and true manual method.

The Plan:

  • 5 x 2000m / 2′ rest
    • 1500m: r22, 2:01
    • 500m: r24, 1:55

I’ve done this workout a few times before and I’ve enjoyed it every time.  Today, I set it up as a variable interval session on the PM4 of the rower I picked so I could see an accurate avg pace for each segment.  This was an elaborate 11 segment workout that I managed to get exactly right the first time I tried.  It sure made me wish that there was a way to define workouts in an app and download them to the PM.  Maybe someday.

Anyway, the workout went great.  HR was a bit high, but was generally reasonable for the lack of sleep and large amount of caffeine that I had consumed during the day.  I tried to behave during all the reps until the last 500, when I got a bit crossfit happy.  I maintained the 24 spm rate, but pushed the pace below 1:50.  It was a very satisfying way to finish.

12-5a

12-5b

That’s a bit hard to deal with, so here it is in spreadsheet form.

Screen Shot 2017-12-06 at 1.13.27 AM

So, now I am flying to Taipei.  I will arrive around 6am local time.  I’m planning to go to the hotel, check in, take a quick nap and then head to the office for some meetings.  Then to a customer event in the afternoon and evening.  I lose Wednesday to time zones and Thursday is a rest day.

 

Great Video & Presentation: Optimizing endurance training adaptation – Stephen Seiler

Link to the video on the Oxford Brooks Video Portal

One of the articles that has had the biggest effect on how I train is a survey article by Stephen Seiler.  Published in 2009, I found it in 2012 and it was the first peer reviewed article that I had seen which laid out the case for polarized training, and even included some findings for recreational athletes.

I had seen research that showed that polarized training, with split of 80% low intensity (LIT) and 20% high intensity (HIT) was optimal for elite athletes who train >10 hours a week.  But what about schmucks like me, who train for fun and have jobs and lives.  The key question for me was whether the ratio between LIT and HIT should change if the amount of training is lower?  The article directly addresses that question…

Screen Shot 2017-12-04 at 11.09.02 AM.png

Screen Shot 2017-12-04 at 11.09.12 AM

This was hugely influential for me and I took the advice to heart.  I tried to keep the intensity of my endurance workouts low, and the duration as long as I had time for.

The next bit of Seiler wisdom that I found helpful was a study about individualization of training.  I have previously written about it here.  The great thing about this study was reinforcing just how big the differences in response was between different athletes for the same training stimulus.  He cited a study that was comparing different approaches to block periodization.  There was a slight, statistical advantage to one approach, but the variation of response between athletes in each training group was much larger.  His conclusion was that the same approach will not work for everyone.  This is a pretty important lesson to learn since there are a lot of people who will cite their own results (or a national team’s results) as “proof” that a certain approach works.

So much of what works and doesn’t work has to do with how well a training approach matches your basic physiology and current training state.  If you have tons of slow twitch muscles and do better at long distances, then you are likely to have different training needs than if you a fast twitch sprinter.  In my own training, it has become apparent over time that I need a LOT of low intensity rowing to make improvements in my endurance.  Others can by with a lot less.

So, it is with that background that I watched the video linked at the beginning of this post.  I am inclined to pay attention to stuff that he presents because it seems to be well researched, and because it has resulted in good results for me.

This video reviews a fair amount of stuff that he has done before, but introduces a couple of useful conceptual frameworks to understand training.

The first is Seiler’s Hierarchy.  Here is a link to an article explaining it.  This set’s up a pyramid to illustrate the priority of different elements of training on race day performance.

Screen Shot 2017-12-04 at 12.26.42 PM.png

At the base of the pyramid is training volume.  As he puts it, there is a lot of peer reviewed research that shows a strong correlation between training volume and race performance.  Miles do make champions.

The next level of the pyramid is High Intensity Training.  The point here is that you need more than just the long slow stuff to actually improve.  In addition, you need training that is hard enough to push your heart rate to 90% of your max, or higher to deliver adaptation.   So, within that framework, I guess it is safe to safe that “No Pain / No Gain”.  He discusses potential ways to do High Intensity Training and cites a study comparing 4 minute, 8 minute, and 16 minute intervals.  He didn’t show this in the video, but it summarizes the finding of that study.

Screen Shot 2017-12-04 at 12.09.21 PM.png

He made the point that there might be a sweet spot around the 90% HR level and that workouts that maximized the time at or around the 90% level might be more effective than shorter workouts that achieve higher heart rates, but for shorter durations.

The third level of the Pyramid is Training intensity distribution.  This is where polarization comes in.  He presented findings from rowing, skiing and running that showed that elite athletes generally spend their time training at much slower or faster paces than the actual race pace.  This is where 80/20 comes from.

These three tiers represent the solid base of a training plan.  Beyond that, you get into areas that are likely to have an impact, but the effect is less and the research is less solid.  In the linked presentation, but not the video, he goes into detail about the study on block periodization studies.  This research compared three block periodization strategies.

 

Then they looked at the results for the athletes that participated.

Screen Shot 2017-12-04 at 12.20.40 PM.png

So, basically, all three worked great for some athletes and didn’t work at all for some athletes.  This is the basis of his talk about individualization.  You need to track what you’re doing and if you aren’t making progress, you should try something different with regard to periodization.  There is good evidence that doing the same thing for longer than 8-10 weeks will result in diminished improvement, but it doesn’t matter as much what change you make.

The remaining levels of the pyramid are essentially the icing on the cake.  They have been shown to have some benefit on race performance, but can’t be used to substitute for having a good base.

The other useful concept in the video was a discussion of dose/response curves.  He described the similarity between training and medication.  Basically, you have two effects as you increase the dosage of something on the subject.  There is a desired effect, and there are side effects. The desired effects of training are increases in maximum power, VO2Max, Lactate Threshold, and aerobic endurance.  The side effects of too much training are injury, illness and in my case an angry spouse.

 

Each curve is basically s-shaped.  You need to get to some minimum dose before you start to see the desired effect, then that effect increases with increasing dose.  At some level, the desired effect levels off, even with higher doses.  The key to finding the right dose is figure out a level where the desired effect is maximized, but the side effect is still low.  This is a good concept to keep in mind to ward off the “more is better” mindset.  It is also useful to keep in mind around polarized training.  The intent of long slow training is different than that of intense HIT.  Each has it’s own dose / response curve, but they can effect each other.  A way to think of this is that the desired effect curve is specific to the exercise intensity, but the side effect curve is driven by sum of all the training.

The challenge is that it’s pretty tough to know where the knees of the desired response and side effect curves are in practice.  That’s where we end up relying on rules of thumb.  Examples of these rules:

  • You need to accumulate time above 90% HRMax to get a good response to HIT
  • That the side effects of LIT volume are driven mostly by the specific type of sport being trained.  They are lower for running and higher for non-impact sports like rowing
  • That decreased Heart Rate Variability is a sign of over training

These are all pretty squishy and that’s where training planning gets tougher.

 

 

 

 

 

60′ L4

60′ L4

168/172/176/180/168/172

8-2a

Tough sweaty work.

Then I packed up and headed to the airport and flew to Tokyo.  I’m posting this from the back of a Tesla on the way to my hotel (in car wifi is pretty cool!)

Tomorrow:  We’ll have to see what kind of a gym the hotel has.

Hooray, the hotel has an erg!

Monday, July 24 and Tuesday, July 25:  (No Training)

I woke up at the ungodly hour of 4:30am to get to the airportfor my 7am flight.  I was flying to Shanghai via Chicago, total flight time 17 and a half hours.  Total travel time 22 and a half hours.  With the time zone changes, I got into my hotel room at 3:00pm Tuesday afternoon.  I took a shower and went to work, then a customer dinner.

I was back in my hotel room by 9:00pm and asleep at 9:01pm (approximately)

I guess you’d call that 2 rest days, but it didn’t feel very restful.

Wednesday, July 26:

I slept pretty well considering the jet lag.  I woke up around midnight, but got right back to sleep.  I woke up at 3:00am and slept fitfully until 5am.  I was in the gym by about 5:30am and what a gym it was.

IMG_2330

I’m staying in the Kerry Hotel in Pudong and the fitness center is incredible.  The main gym has ceilings two stories high, there is a spinning room and a group room off to the side.  They have lots of treadmills, ellipticals, bikes, weight machines, TRX, free weights, kettle bells, all in brand new condition.  And they had 2 perfectly maintained concept2 Model D rowing machines with PM4s.  I couldn’t believe my good fortune.

When I arrived there was someone using one of the rowers, and so I settled into the second one.

Plan:

  • 80′ L4
  • 4×20’/1′ rest
  • rate/power
    • 16 – 150W
    • 18 – 170W
    • 20 – 190W
    • 22 – 210W
  • stroke sequence:  I decided to go for my all time favorite classic L4 sequence.  In shorthand it’s a 2x(168/172/176/180).  That means 168 strokes in the first 10 minutes, then 172, then 176, then 180.  So, here’s how that looks.

7-25c

I had a blast!  The intensity was just about perfect.  The fastest bits pushed me above the top of my UT1 zone, but my HR dropped back in the slower pieces.

I really should get a USB cable so I can use ergdata with the PM3 and PM4, but for now all I get is HR data.

7-25a

Tomorrow:  I think I’ll stick with the Wolverine theme and do this month’s CTC.  It will be slow, but I’d like to put a score on the board.

 

 

Planning an adventure

As I have been struggling with motivation and balancing work, travel, life and training, there has been one consistent bright spot for me.  The thought of doing the Blackburn challenge.  I have been having a blast rowing open water, I like the adventure of it and the newness of it.

So, we are heading back to the cape this weekend, and the weather looks favorable to do a long row.  The forecast for Saturday morning is for partly sunny, around 50F, and light wind from the east.  That is my new favorite wind direction because it is an offshore wind and that keeps the waves under control.

The tide will be low, so I want to stick to deeper water,  That gives me an opportunity to work on rowing to a compass heading and following a planned course.

I laid out a course that is just about 23km (12.5nm).  This is a bit over half the length of the Blackburn Challenge (22nm) , but a good long row.  It should take me just over 2 hours, depending on the sea state.

Here’s the course plan.

Screen Shot 2017-05-10 at 9.27.40 PM.png

For a fun comparison, here’s the annotated course map for the Blackburn.

 

Learning about myself

Tuesday:  I planned to get up at 5:15AM to go rowing.  I did get up at 5:15.  Went to the bathroom and felt so awful that I went back to bed.  I didn’t feel really sick, just a bit shakey and very, very tired.  I slept until about 7, and then showered and went to work.  No training.

Wednesday:  I put out all my rowing clothes and I went to bed at a reasonable hour, but when the alarm went off at 5:15, I just turned it off, rolled over and slept until 8AM.  I drove to work and since I didn’t have anything on my schedule until 11, I went to the gym and did an easy 10K.  Mostly as a diagnostic test to see if I was really “off”.  My typical endurance training power is around 180W (2:05 pace) these days, so I just set out to flat pace the 10K and watch what my HR did.  If I was coming down with something, I figured that my HR would rise abnormally fast.  If not, that I just dug myself into a deep hole with my festival of mulching on Saturday that I had to recover from.

The verdict is inadequate recovery.

5-10a

The heart rate was a little high, but not unusually so.  I would have had to slow down if I was continuing for another 40 minutes.

So, what does it all mean?  I’ve never had good instincts for listening to my body.  And by most metrics, my training load is very light.  I’m doing way fewer meters than I did a couple of years ago.  But, there are two things that are different.  First, I am traveling a lot more and I think that the travel is causing a serious chronic level of fatigue.  The other is (I hate to even write it down because it feels like a cop out) that I am getting older.  I’m 54 now, and I don’t feel like I am recovering as quickly as I did a couple of years ago.

This brings up all kinds of complicated thoughts.  Will I ever see another sub-6:40 2K?  Will I ever do better than middle of the pack at HOCR?  Does that stuff matter?

I think it’s time to dust off my Principles and see if they still fit.

As I write this, I am, once again, flying to California.  I will spend Thursday in San Diego and take the red eye home.  Ah, the injustice of needing to make a living.

Tomorrow morning I am planning to bop over the Del Mar Crossfit and do the OTW session I was supposed to do today on the erg.

Edit:  I did a bit of research on my travel.  We are in the 18th week of 2017.  Over that period, I have been traveling in 12 of those weeks.  I have made 3 trips to asia, and 6 other trips.  Almost all of them included at least one overnight flight.  This has made me feel a bit better about the fatigue I’m feeling.  I think I’ve earned it.

 

Sunday: 2 x 45′ / 4′ rest (HR cap at 155)

The plan called for:

5-Mar W8-D M3 2 x 30′ / 3′ MP or slower 80.0% (149)

But I have been missing endurance sessions and cheating down the durations, so I decided to go long.

5-Mar W8-D M3 2 x 45′ / 4′ MP or slower 80.0% (149)

I did this session at home on the dynamic.  Still not sure how I feel about it.  I feel like I am slower, and it sure is “grindy-er”.  It  makes a lot of noise and it does not feel smooth.  I still wonder if something is wrong with it.  I have to find another dynamic somewhere to compare.

The workout was uneventful.  My HR shot up a bit quicker than it should have, but plateaued around 150 for the first piece and 155 for the second.

3-5a

Workout Summary - media/Import_29058623.csv
--|Total|-Total-|--Avg--|-Avg-|Avg-|-Avg-|-Max-|-Avg
--|Dist-|-Time--|-Pace--|-Pwr-|SPM-|-HR--|-HR--|-DPS
--|22116|93:59.0|02:07.5|167.1|20.2|145.8|157.0|11.6
W-|21468|90:00.0|02:05.8|173.3|20.2|147.6|157.0|11.8
R-|00648|03:59.0|03:04.6|057.2|20.5|114.3|157.0|00.0
Workout Details
#-|SDist|-Split-|-SPace-|-Pwr-|SPM-|AvgHR|MaxHR|DPS-
00|10728|45:00.0|02:05.8|173.8|19.9|142.9|151.0|12.0
01|10740|45:00.7|02:05.7|172.7|20.5|152.3|157.0|11.7

I did this same session on a static erg back on January 27th.  Here’s a comparison

  • Power was the within a couple watts.
  • Stroke rate was a bit higher on the dynamic
  • HR was persistently higher on the dynamic.