Taking a look back on the training process and the gains I have made these past few seasons there have been a few things that stand out. A few ideas or additions to my program worked very well and a few things did not proceed as well as thought or planned. Some old ideas rolled back into play and a few ideas were modified.
Why modifications, the first and key reason for modifying training was to accommodate back pain and then the second was to accommodate for a achilles issue. Now that both issues have resolved themselves after a few years of specific strength work modifications are being made to account for this.
How did I over come the back pain, as I have mentioned a few times it was through static hold strength but the same is true for my achilles issue, static hold calf raises, holding heel off ground for 3 minutes. As was the case with the back pain it was not until I was able to do 3 minute holds was I able to run or ski without discomfort.
Through the period where I experienced back pain and then achilles pain I could only run or ski for 30 to 40 minutes before I would need to take a break, so I kept workouts short and I kept the racing short.
The exciting prospect of this, is that now that I am back pain free for both running and skiing in terms of my back and achilles, I can start to train higher milage and race longer races again.
What have I learned in the process of this or what am I thinking moving forward is that the milage increase will be through easy recovery work reducing the volume of tempo work but with a continued focus on technique with proper hip hinge.
Strength training will continue to be the corner stone of my training with long static holds and long plyometric sets. The intervals that I do will continue to be short in duration from 30 seconds to 4 minutes but predominately on downhills to increase the neuromuscular portion as this increases turn over and speed. The effort of intervals will also be slightly reduced as I have found with the short intervals there is a tendency to complete them too fast. The aim will be in that sweet spot of 90% effort as for myself 100% effort intervals are too hard on the body and recover is reduced.
The interval workouts themselves will be shorter in duration than in past years but the warm up and cool down portions will be considerably longer. I think the speed / interval work is important but I feel that the workouts are sometimes too long and they lose their effectiveness and the body needs more time to warm up and prepare as well as more time to flush and allow a longer regeneration period thus allowing for better sleep quality and in turn better recovery from training load.
Similar idea with the recovery runs, the speed at which they are completed can sometimes be overall too fast for the purpose intended which is recovery and building aerobic fitness. The goal here will be to move as effortlessly as possible with the lowest heart rate possible based on the terrain with quality technique. Quality technique is the over riding factor in that having heart rate go up to maintain technique is sometimes needed for a better training effect.
First nordic race is under the belt and it was a thing, I most definitely worked myself too hard.
The qualifying round in the sprints was a thing of beauty but then I faded like a boss. The morning of the distance race took some convincing but once I got myself to the line I think I represented well.
Now we have three weeks until the next nordic, time to work the upper body strength and build the core even further.
Static holds have been the key to my recovery from back pain going back as far a high school and are what have allowed me to race again without pain as a masters athlete and now after two years of static holds and reduced aerobic training I am feeling good postural strength.
Postural strength, in my mind, is the key component for any athlete pushing their limits, as you need that control so that you can limit over use injuries. With my lack of postural strength in both running and skiing once I got to a certain level my lack of postural strength would lead to overloaded back muscles and disc deterioration.
These static holds started at a very short 30 seconds and over time I built strength to able to hold positions for 3 minutes. During this time my ability to run or ski for longer than 30 to 60 minutes was hard on the back so to compensate for this inability to run long workouts I started to utilize USRPT workouts as the short intervals at race pace were easier on my back and allowed me to maintain a good level of aerobic fitness.
The USRPT workouts may not be ideal for athletes racing more endurance based events but in my particular case they allowed me to maintain a good training level while focusing on building postural strength.
At points I progressed too fast and I had a number of set backs along the way but I feel I am at a point where I can start to absorb some additional plyometric strength and with this I can start to increase interval length to build aerobic fitness further without irritating the back muscles.
I have utilized plyometrics many times in the past few years but they were not always absorbed well. I started with very short sessions as strength allowed and have now started to increase sets with lunge jumps and plyo pushups for two to three minutes.
At this point I feel the body is handling the load and the back has continued to maintain good postural position while building aerobic fitness by way of increasing the length of intervals but still keeping workouts short.
This past Thanksgiving long weekend I found some good skiing in Canmore on the Rundle trail. The highest elevation trail at the CNC. The trail had been rolled and had surprisingly good snow depth.
First on snow session of the year and I hit the trail with two light USRPT sessions focusing on technique. Striding felt strong but timing a little off with the double pole. Since coming home from Canmore the focus has been on building upper body strength with ring work to improve the DP.
This coming weekend I am looking to head down to Camrose for the ACAC XC running event and then the Sunday Throwdown roller ski race on Sunday.
Frozen Thunder is just four short weeks away and its time to get nordic ready which will entail some nordic specific strength, SkiErg and some short roller ski efforts.
On the XC running side we will wind things down with the last Franks XC Races of the season and maintain the running fitness daily with the USRPT training and will look to incorportae a few indoor track races over the winter to keep the speed up for the Nordic Sprint events through the winter.
On the strength side I quite excited with the addition of gymnastic style ring work and light plyometrics for the legs as I feel this is going to transfer well for both the skiing and running.
Reading through some old notes I made when I chatted with Dr Brent Rushall about USRPT I forgot that he had mentioned when applying USRPT to running and skiing you may need to increase rest portion from 20 seconds to 40 seconds to account for not having the cooling aspect of being in the water as you have with swimming.
The other note I made, when applying the USRPT concept to longer distance events such as the half marathon and marathon distances, would be to keep the sets the same, so 30 x 40 seconds with 20 seconds off, but take a 6 to 12 minute recovery break and then complete a second set for the half marathon and a third set for the full marathon as a long run weekend option.
If I was to look at training for a longer event, I would look to keep the mid week sessions to two 30 minute sessions per day. When two workouts per day are not an option then I am looking to do 2 sets within one workout which would possibly give a greater aerobic stimulus then just the one set. The benefit of the shorter sets, I feel, is it allows the pace to stay sharp without the fatigue of the longer workout.
From there I like the possibly at looking at a forth set once every three weeks if I was to take on the marathon distance.
As I say these are conversations at this point and too soon to say if they are to be effective but I have been feeling strong in events and refreshed after workouts with the workouts I have been doing. At this point my only consideration while doing the short intervals has been technique and using pace only as a reference.
After a few weeks of USRPT sets I have started to add a second set of intervals after a short break between sets.
The first set is aimed at 10km race pace with the 20 second and 40 second intervals and then after a 6 minute break I do another shorter set at 5km race pace with 10 second intervals, all with 20 seconds rest.
The first set takes 30 minutes after a 6 to 12 minute warm up and then the second set takes 10 minutes at this point and will add more time as things progress.
The fall training project has been progressing well with ultra short intervals with short rest. On average I have completed two workouts per day with 40 x 20 seconds with 20 seconds off in the morning and 30 x 40 seconds with 20 seconds off in the evening. Each workout takes 30 minutes to complete and I use the first 10 intervals to get up to desired pace after either a 6 or 12 minute warm up.
In both the morning set and the afternoon set I included ISO static holds with the the same 20 second hold, 20 second rest format. The workouts get after it quickly and are manageable, the best part is the constant technique focus as the short intervals keep you on point.
Fitness, am I stronger, I believe so, aerobically and technically.
Track season has come to a close and the focus now is on transitioning to the upcoming XC running season.
In terms of the track season I feel I made good progress in terms of overall postural strength and now run with no back pain. Things that will continue to be a focus are hamstring strength and ankle mobility.
The one area that needs addressing is nutrition as I let things slide over the course of the summer and by the end of the track season I could feel the effects.
Moving forward the focus will be the following key items;
Looking at the training side, looking forward to November, the key components will be as follows;
Note: As a reference my last 10km road race was completed in 37 minutes which converts to 5:57 minute pace and my max pace hit would be in my last 800m event in 2:19 which converts to 4:40 pace.
In terms of Master Track Nationals the scheduling didn't quite work out and spent a little more time at the beach taking in the views but I am looking forward to XC Nationals in November and the start of the Nordic ski season.
Passionate runner and nordic skier who happens to own a run & ski shop!