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The First Rule of Fight Club

Rules of Intensity

Tue, Oct  10, 2006 - By Pete Vordenberg -

The First Rule of Fight Club: Rules of Intensity.

Rule number one – know what you are doing, why you are doing it and how it should be done.

Before each workout you should understand explicitly what you are going to be doing out there and exactly how it should be done. The why will help you buy in to the what and the how. If you understand and believe in the reasons why then you are more likely to stick to the plan.

The plan revolves around your goals. The long-term goal is connected to the year-goal, which is connected to the month-goal, which is connected to the week-goal all of which is connected to the goal of each specific workout.

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Rule number two – do it right. The goal of “this” specific workout presents your first opportunity to succeed at the long-term goal.

The reason why this site and this organization is called team today is because every day gives us our opportunity to succeed. Today, everyday, is our day.

As stated in the previous posting (Index take 2) 99.7% (mathematically calculated by scientists… twice) of your time in this sport will be spent preparing – not only must you succeed on a daily basis in doing the workouts correctly and to the best of your ability in order to win on race day, but you must attempt to succeed in each workout if you are to look back with pride and satisfaction at all the work you've done.

Prior to each workout spend a few minutes visualizing yourself doing the workout just right. Ideally you would spend a longer period of time the evening before and then touch on the main goals for the workout the morning of.

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Rule number three – do it right. Warm up should only be long enough to prepare the engine to run smoothly. That means starting slow, building up in intensity and doing some efforts at interval pace prior to starting the intervals – and/or using the first interval as a part of the warm up. Warm down should be long enough to cool the engine down. In some cases we have been able to get away with a warm down of 10 minutes and have the lactate levels fall below 1.5mmol (that is low). In other instances we do some level 2 skiing, some sprints and some easy skiing to warm down.

Longer warm ups or warm downs are a specialized training tool and for most should not be used to add training volume to the workout. The point to the workout is the intervals – not the collection of training volume.  

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Rule number four – do it right. The intervals must be done at the prescribed intensity. This is the most oft broken rule. Generally skiers do their intervals too hard. As stated above there are a lot of theories on what sort of intervals are good to do. We use a variety of intervals – some specialized for our sprint team, some more general, some specialized for our distance skiers. These intervals are described in detail when it comes to the pace or intensity at which they should be carried out. We describe pace and intensity by lactate, corresponding heart rate and perceived exertion (how it feels).

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Rule number five – do it right. Don’t race unless it’s a race. If you are supposed to do a workout at a specific pace then your buddies pace may or may not be correct for you.

Racing in intervals or mindless hammering is not wining the workout even if you finish first. Win the workout by doing it right.

A note on this –The more control over the pace you have in intensity sessions the more intensity sessions you can do. Keeping each interval in each session under control enables us to do up to 17 intensity sessions in 13 days, whereas some can fry themselves doing just 2 hard sessions in a week.  

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Rule number six – do it right. Coaches should be present as much as possible and be able to keep an eye on each athlete as closely as possible. The coach must know what to look for in these workouts and how to guide their athletes to accomplishing it. The goals do not have to involve lactates or complex or expensive tools. Just know what you want to get done, how to do it and why.

We often try to guess what the lactate is going to be at the end of the interval and the more experienced athletes are almost always very close.  Being able to feel the intensity is more important than having a bunch of fancy tools.

In training and in general you know when you’re doing the right thing…and when you’re doing the wrong thing. We are often just quite cleaver at justifying doing the wrong thing.

Ideally the team size should allow for a coach to work with each athlete closely. Another solution: work with different (well matched) groups on different days. For example: the more advanced skiers need the most attention on interval days while the less advanced skiers need to work on more general things (general fitness, strength, balance, etc) than a very specific intensity even on interval days.

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Rule number seven – recover right. Eat, drink, rest. Recovery is vital. You will not only be able to perform again sooner but you will get a lot more from the workout if you eat (protein and carbs) right after training and if you hydrate before, during and after training. Not doing this is a huge cause of illness, overtraining symptoms and general foul-mood. Don’t get symptomatic. Eat good food 3 meals a day, a protein/carbo snack after each workout and for everyone who is training hard a healthy snack in the evening as well. Eating and hydrating well makes such a difference.


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Rule number eight – consistency. If you are just now firing it up for the ski season…ummmm… you are too late. Training must be done year round, including weekly intensity training. But don’t let that keep you from starting now, just don’t stop again. Consistency is key.

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 and...if this is your first night at fight club, you have to fight.

(Vordenberg images - all from fall here in Utah - except the first one which was taken by Rick Kappala in Lake Placid)

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