Training Blocks for 2004-2005
Are Intensity Blocks Bad For Your Health?
November 14, 2004 - By Mike Muha
"Supercharged!" That's how I felt when I last wrote on September 11. I went on to complete that intensity block, but I wasn't feeling supercharged at the end - I was pretty dead. I traveled to Tucson on business a couple days later and had nothing in the engine. I tried to run two mornings but could barely get going -an interval session where as hard as I tried, I couldn't get over 85% of my max heart rate, and another interval session that I didn't even attempt because the legs said "NO" during the warm up.
October and November were similar - by the end of each block I was toasted. Both months had VO2 intervals at 90-95% of max heart rate. October's intensity block felt HARD - I didn't really enjoy it. I had four relatively easy days after the block, but woke up the fifth day feeling pretty tired. That was our Team's second Fall Duathlon run/rollerski race. Dam Motowski and I set up the course, but I decided I'd better sit out the race - I just wasn't feeling that great. The next day I had bad headaches - I even left work an hour early. I was tired for the next couple of days.
November's planned nine-day intensity block started out fine then got really hard half way through. Ryan Robinson, Tem Feldkamp and I were doing 6 x 3:30 rollerski-skate intervals (90-95% of max heart rate) up a gentle hill - the fourth set of intervals in the last five days. Ryan said that at the end of the fourth interval, he thought I was going to end it, based on how much pain was in my face. Nope. I kept on going - and those last two intervals were REALLY HARD! I was very happy that I finished the session - and did not slow down during the session. I also went straight home and took a nap.
I had an "easy" distance day next, a rest day, then the continuation of the intensity block. The next interval session was one of my best ever! 4 x 4:00 classic intervals over varied terrain at 90-95% of max. I kept thinking I wasn't working hard enough, but my heart monitor was showing me close to 95%! The workout seemed easy: I could have done longer intervals or more of them.
Then I got sick. I stayed up a bit late that night. My wife came home from tutoring Detroit school kids, and WHAM! I caught something. I knew it the instance it happened. By the time I woke up the next morning, I was sniffling, sneezing, had a running nose, drainage. I skipped the last interval session in the block. The next day, I was in the doctors office getting drugs for a sinus infection, missed two days of work, and decide not to race in the Team's third 3rd run/rollerski duathlon...
Hmmm. Do an intensity block in September, feel off the following week. Do an intensity block in October, have to skip the team's Duathlon,and get a bad headache. Do an intensity block in November, get a sinus infection.
Are intensity blocks bad for your health?
I don't think so. Perhaps a better question is: What have a learned from the past three months? I discovered that I can't do two "quality" high intensity sessions in one day - I can't recover in time. I've also found that intensity blocks work best for me if I follow a pattern of two days of hard sessions followed by a rest day over the course of a block. Torbjorn has had many of our block with three days before a rest day, and I haven't felt my later interval sessions were as good.
And some session in my intensity blocks have been "star" sessions - the ones where you feel really great even though you're working very hard. I've had more "star" sessions this year than last.
I think my problem is two-fold: First, I tend to go out to fast early in the interval instead of building up. I've been working on fixing this. Second, I need to take rest more seriously during an intensity block in other parts of my life. I need to back off working on the web site, get to bed early, try to keep pressure at work down, stop worrying about racing suits for the team.
(Ya, that'll happen.)
Maybe I'm allergic to my cat...
Core, upper body, and leg strength
I just read the Kris Freeman spends 4 hours a week just on core strength on FasterSkier.com. When asked about what advice he'd give Masters skiers, Kris said,
I was really good about doing core strength earlier this summer, but have backed off to about once a week, usually at our Team NordicSkiRacer's Thursday night strength session. I need to get back to doing it three times a week.
Torbjorn has more upper body strength sessions planned than I've been able to do. Doublepole intervals. Doublepole distance sessions. Core and abs strength. 3-5 sets of 3-6 reps of a "pull-down" type max-strength session. We've been hammering the upper body. If it's really true that 60-70 percent of your uphill speed comes from your upper body, then this is still an area that I need to give more focus to.
I've been lucky to get to the gym or use my rollerboard or to use my Armit. Still, I don't think my upper body is any weaker than last year. I'd just rather it be even stronger.
Legs? I've been doing much more bounding and leg work than last year. All the bounding we do on Thursday night's has certainly helped here. And in the gym I'm even with last year for the amount of weight I can squat. In fact, I think the mix of bound we're doing and the weight room work has made my lower body stronger overall.
Mentally? The most frustrating thing is that I seem to get sick easily (I have in other years as well). But I try to take it all in stride: everyone is getting sick this fall (teammates Ryan, Doug, Dan, and others have all taken days off), so it's just not me. We just have to depend on our earlier training to get us through the weak periods.
I also think being a member of a team that occasionally trains together is a great motivator! You don't feel like going out in the cold, but you know everyone else will miss your presence, so you go out anyways and get in a good training session. Or you decide to be macho and head back down the hill for one more intense bounding-strength interval when everyone else is done - and the others get guilted into joining you. Camaraderie is a great training tool!
It's all about adapting
During one of our Thursday night sessions, Steve Kuhl said, "Just when you think you know everything, they change the rules and you have to learn everything all over again." That's cross country skiing. It's a never ending learning experience. Every year, there's new gear, new waxes, and new training techniques. Every year, you must adapt your training to new life circumstances like new jobs, moving, and getting married.
I think I'm adapting well...