Spring has sprung and so have the goals. Outdoor track season is on the horizon and the training has begun. the focus this year aerobic best training and olympic lifting.
Aerobic best a Lydiard system or maximum aerobic function MAF a Phil Maffetone system, very similar approaches and I'm on board, I refer to them as aerobic tempo runs maximizing technique, pace and mental clarity at my maximum aerobic heart rate of 129 or 180 - age.
Olympic lifting, well I love olympic lifting, so I have decided to make it my focus with daily lifting working on technique and form. I have tried a number of approaches to strength training and olympic lifting is the one that appeals to me the most and I throughly enjoy the process and the technique aspect.
The aerobic best runs are short, focused and the olympic lifting sessions are light, working with the bar only, lasting 20 to 40 minutes with warm up and cool down lifts.
Training and racing, it kind of fun, like so much fun!
DFL today at the Ski Nationals 50km in 3:05 and loved every minute. A 50km Classic ski race on some monster climbs with no back pain, I consider that a win, a huge win. Smashed a pole, in the stadium. But of course. Shit happens when you stomp on your pole.
May have crashed not once but twice but I don’t think anyone saw the second crash so I get a pass. Like I said there were some monster uphills followed by some monster downhills.
Went with skin skis and gripped like a boss for the full 50km, but did sacrifice some glide in doing so. In the warm up I sheared off a good portion of my klister on my race skis as the morning conditions were pretty abrasive and if you ran the numbers I would have had to double pole the last 30km at that rate and sure as shit I wanted no part of that.
Did I mention the hills.
I am still smiling that after 7 laps the stadium took me by surprise each and every time.
It has been a busy few weeks with renovating the shop and spending time with Shauna’s aunt Phyllis at the Misericordia most mornings and evenings. In helping Phyllis with her meals and helping her adjust her position in bed I managed to put my back out last week and things progressed slowly but each day with easy aerobic training the back pain has eased off.
Shauna had a meeting in Vancouver with clients this past Friday so we decided to make a weekend of it traveling back Saturday night so I could do the National Masters 3000m event at the Butterdome here in Edmonton. The back starting to come around with the aerobic runs we did while we were there.
As the alarm went off Sunday morning and I headed down stairs for a coffee I just didn't have it in me to prepare myself for a hard 3km with my back still tender from the week and the flight so turned off the coffee and went back to bed. I am not a morning person so I am not going to lie, had the race started at noon and not 8:30am and I had more time to shake out the cobwebs I would have most likely done just fine.
In the end I had a relaxing morning with Raven and Shauna and Shauna and I had a glorious ski out at Blackfoot and a wonderful visit with Phyllis, she is doing much better, so the day was quite nice regardless.
With the back flaring up and having this nagging chest infection a hard effort at the Butterdome might not have been the best decision as ones health is the primary concern.
On the Nordic side I have the National Championships coming up in Ottawa next Tuesday with the 50k being my goal event of the season. I had signed up for the Sprint event as well but with the back flare up I think it will be best to skip the sprint and focus solely on the 50k. So the plan as it stands if the back continues to improve with the chest clearing up I will fly out to Ottawa on Sunday, train in Ottawa on Monday, race Tuesday and fly home Tuesday night.
I have been doing my aerobic best as of late and it has been quite good, the pace at the same heart rate has been increasing and the body is responding nicely. I consider the workouts aerobic time trials and try to run as fast as I can at a heart rate of 128, so pretty low, but I do everything I can to increase the pace without going over the 128 heart rate in terms of relaxation, technique and visualization.
I use the same heart rate for running and skiing and have noticed I am more aerobically fit running than skiing which makes a good amount of sense seeing that I tend to run more than I ski just due to time commitments and current weather patterns making the treadmill an attractive option.
When running or skiing outdoors while I have to be very patient when going uphill I can really increase the pace on the flats and push quite hard on the gradual downhills, specifically with skiing where the double poling can be at very high rate of turn over.
Along with the aerobic work, the strength work continues with a mix of holds, plyometrics and olympic lifting. I quite enjoy olympic lifting, I am not very good technically but that will come with time and patience.
On the event side I have Master Indoor Track Nationals here in Edmonton with the 1500m and 3000m events and then Nordic Nationals in Ottawa with the 1.4km Long Sprint Free, 50km Mass Start Classic and if I can convince a FTRS team-mate to join me, the 1.3km Team Sprint.
Training and racing has been going well with a few indoor track events and a few nordic events when the temperatures have cooperated, a little cold at the moment.
Having said that, overall I haven't been happy with how the body has been feeling so while I have really enjoyed the USRPT format of training I have decided to take a more aerobic approach to training with the MAF Method leading into the Master Indoor Nationals.
I enjoy trying a variety of ideas with my own training and seeing how the body responds and the ideas of Phil Maffetone have always fascinated me and now is a good time to give them a go.
All things progressing well, but something not quite right.
Back in November when I came down with the flu it certainly put a hamper on my training but symptoms still seem to linger. The strength training and easy distance work seems unaffected but intervals and racing I seem to be experiencing chest congestion and breathing issues and reduced gears.
Hopefully with some adjustments things will come around.
Some big events on the horizon with the two western NorAm events taking place this weekend in Vernon and next weekend in Canmore due to the lack of snow in Whistler.
I'll head out to Vernon this weekend and take part in the sprint and mid distance event and then next weekend I'll drive down to Canmore for the sprint event on Thursday and then do the distance event on Sunday, most likely skipping the Saturday event so I can be here at the shop.
With the good snow here in Edmonton the training has been progressing quite well providing some well needed ski specific training. That combined with twice daily strength sessions I feel well prepared, well, as well prepared as a 51 year old can feel going into a NorAm event:-)
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.
Passionate runner and nordic skier who happens to own a run & ski shop!