How to Measure Your Training

shutterstock_1726631721Technology is evolving at a great pace. Heart Rate (HR) monitors are getting more features and are linking in with other training tools that can pick up GPS signals, foot pods that count the number of foot strikes and a whole range of other items. With this ever expanding range of training tools, comes the software to analyse the training conducted and plan future training.

What should we look at with our periodisation plans? Hours per week? Time in HR zones? Volume or intensity? What if you had a metric that could measure both?

Let me introduce to you a metric that quantifies the stressfulness of a training session known as Training Stress Score (TSS) (McGregor & Fitzgerald, 2010). The higher the TSS, the greater the training stimulus received. The more of these sessions conducted back to back the greater the chance of over-training. Although this article is about running, the concept still applies for any exercise although the technology may not yet be ready to measure it in real time on your wrist!

Each run will see a variety of intensities used for different durations. Some runs may be longer at lower intensity whilst others may be shorter at higher intensity or even intermittent in nature at higher intensities inter-spaced with lower intensity work between (intervals).

To use TSS everything is measured relative to the individual’s Functional Threshold Pace: that is the pace that the athlete can maintain for 60min. This keeps the TSS accurate based on the athlete’s current ability. It will also take into account that a hilly 40min run at an 5:00 per kilometre pace will be more stressful than a flat 40min run at the same pace; as well as any given pace is physiological stressful the longer the pace is sustained.

The calculation for TSS is relatively simple:

TSS = t x IF x IF x 100

t = Time (in hours)

IF = Intensity Factor

The trickiest part of the calculation is determining the run’s IF. This is the normalised graded pace for the run divided by the Functional Threshold Pace. To do this you need software that normalises the pace ran at. What this means is that the software converts the real pace (including hills/undulations) into a flat pace (by taking into account what the pace would have been if there were no hills/undulations). It will then grade the normalised average by dividing the run into 30sec segments.  Each 30sec segment is then weighted based on the pace for that segment (taking into account the fact that the physiological stress of running increases exponentially as speed increases). Trying to work out the IF and then consequently the TSS is a nightmare on your Casio calculator.  To do this you will need specific software.

The capability is there to compare the work of an athlete compared to their ‘Functional Threshold’ level in a number of sports and activities. The ability to determine the length of time spent at any intensity within a workout to indicate how much training stimulus an athlete has received, is changing how periodisation occurs in a range of sports.

Although this article is more focused towards utilising the metrics in relation to running, it can also be conducted with both swimming and cycling. With cycling utilising your Power data the TSS is more reliable than with running or swimming where you are only utilising the pace ran at.

If you would like further advice feel free to contact Coach Ray.

Coach Ray is the Head Coach & Director of Qwik Kiwi – Endurance Sports Consultant.

Coach Ray specialises in assisting first timers and recreational athletes to achieve their sporting goals. He can be contacted at www.qwik.kiwi, ray@qwikkiwi.com and 021 348 729. Make sure you sign up to his monthly informative newsletter.

 

Reference

McGregor, S., & Fitzgerald, M. (2010). The Runner’s Edge – High-Tech Training for Peak Performance. Champaign: Human Kinetics.

Friday Fartlek Run: Ross Creek Intervals

Fartlek Run
Tri Training NZ
Photo: Chris Sullivan/Seen in Dunedin

Each week I will be posting the Friday Fartlek Run Sessions that you can do in under 60 minutes to enhance your running. Fartlek is a Swedish term that is often used by runners and it means speed-play. See the previous post about training intensity to know how hard to work. If you are working directly with Coach Ray he will in most cases prescribe either a Pace Zone or Heart Rate Zone to work within if you are training with these tools.

This session I did a number of times when I was living in Dunedin and running the fastest I have ever run (sub 34 minutes for 10km). I used to do this session running in one of my favourite locations around the Ross Creek Reservoir. Although the layout of the location worked well for me you can replicate the session anywhere (Ross Creek just had some hills right when you don’t want them).

Ross Creek Intervals

  • 10min Warm Up Level II;

Main set:

  • 3,000m Level VI, recovery jog back to the start point (~5 minutes);
  • 3x 1,000m Level V, recovery jog back to the start point (~5 minutes); followed by:
  • 10min Cool Down Level I-II;
  • 10min Stretching

The warm up should be done at an intensity that is steady but not over consuming at Level II. This would take me from the flat to the start of the trail.

Tri Training NZFor the main set run all the hard efforts reasonably solidly.

The 3,000m first up is a good wee challenge.   The Ross Creek Reservoir has a steep but short climb to get up to the reservoir just prior to the 1km mark.  The route then turns right sharply making an anti-clockwise circuit of the reservoir returning to the summit of the hill.  For recovery, jog back to the start point.  It would take me take approximately 5 minutes to get back to the start of the trail.

Next are three 1,000m reps.  I would start at the beginning of the trail.  The 1,000m would take me up the sharp climb, turning right and continuing on for a short distance around the reservoir.  I would then return back to the start point at a recovery jog pace before repeating two more times.

The effort of the 1,000m reps was a lot higher than the 3,000m effort to start with.

The cool down is at a low intensity, returning home to complete the run.

Finish with 10 minutes stretching to assist with the recovery.  This isn’t necessarily included in the 60 minute workout and can be conducted whilst showering post workout.

If you would like further advice feel free to contact me.

I am the Head Coach & Director of Qwik Kiwi – Endurance Sports Consultant.

I specialise in assisting first timers and recreational athletes to achieve their sporting goals. I can be contacted at coachray@coachray.nz and 021 348 729. Make sure you sign up to my informative newsletter.

Share this post so your friends can benefit as well.

If you enjoyed this workout, here is a similar session I published 12 months ago.

Friday Fartlek Run: 5x 1,200m VO2 Max

For more great workouts see my eBook: ‘Top 10 Workouts from Coach Ray – The Ten Most Popular Training Sessions from www.CoachRay.nz”.  Use the workouts within the eBook to enhance you.

 

Exercise Associated Muscle Cramp (EAMC)

Muscle-CrampsThere are a number of causes of cramp, but the most likely that we as runners, cyclist and swimmers are going to be dealing with is the phenomenon known as Exercise Associated Muscle Cramp (EAMC). There is often assumed to be a link between dehydration and electrolyte imbalance with any cramp that occurs in association with exercise. There is building evidence that this is not as likely as we used to believe.

Research conducted by a group in Cape Town collected data from 210 competitors in the Ironman South Africa triathlon (Schwellnus, Drew, & Collins, 2010). They all completed a questionnaire, were all weighed before and after the event and blood samples were also taken before and after the race.  After the race the athletes were allocated into two groups: those who cramped or those who didn’t cramp.

Sports science has taught us that for each 1kg of weight lost during exercise that this is ~1kg of fluid loss. Both groups (those who cramped and those who didn’t) all lost the same weight (~2.3kg) during the race. Based on this we can conclude that level of hydration (and consequently dehydration) isn’t the cause of the EAMC experienced by those athletes (Schwellnus, Drew, & Collins, 2010).

Electrolyte imbalance can be a common reason for people to experience cramp. With the blood samples taken by the researchers, the levels of plasma sodium, potassium and chloride were analysed. From these results they found that there was no difference between the group of athletes who cramped and the group who didn’t cramp (Schwellnus, Drew, & Collins, 2010).

Analysis of the questionnaires found two significant factors which contributed to some athletes experiencing cramp, when others did not. They were:

  • Athletes who have suffered from cramp previously are more likely to suffer from cramp again in the future, and
  • The finishing time. Athletes who pushed themselves on to faster times were more likely to suffer from cramp.

As an athlete these results can point to a couple of things to avoid. If there is a mismatch between previous training and what you are expecting your body to do in your session (either in intensity, duration or specificity) this will increase the potential for EAMC to occur. You need to ensure that you progress your workouts appropriately building on the intensity, duration and specificity of your previous sessions. This will not only get the most out of your body each session, but by avoiding cramp you will enjoy the workout more.

If hydration and electrolyte levels don’t have any influence on cramp what do we need to do to get over the cramp?  The current procedure would be to have something to drink preferably with electrolytes in it. This is still worthwhile doing as, although it won’t impact the EAMC, it will prevent other problems brought on by dehydration and for a long, continuous activity over 10hrs will decrease the risk of hyponatremia.  Better still,  if you consume a high GI product this will lift your blood glucose and you will have some energy to continue on with the activity. Taking the time to pause and to stretch has been proven to have a cramp relieving effect. Although there is a current theory that stretching itself has no effect on stopping the cramp, the act of stopping (regardless of whether stretching occurs) is what halts the cramping.  This is yet to be proven by scientific research.

If you are conducting a workout that leads to cramping,  use this good feedback mechanism as an indication that you have pushed past your ability to maintain that intensity or duration. When it occurs you need to be smart with what you do next and how you do it.

If you would like further advice feel free to contact Coach Ray.

Coach Ray is the Head Coach & Director of Qwik Kiwi – Endurance Sports Consultant.

Coach Ray specialises in assisting first timers and recreational athletes to achieve their sporting goals. He can be contacted at www.qwik.kiwi, ray@qwikkiwi.com and 021 348 729. Make sure you sign up to his monthly informative newsletter.

 

Reference: 

Schwellnus, M., Drew, N., & Collins, M. (2010). Increased Running Speed and Previous Cramps Rather Than Dehydration or Serum Sodium Changes Predict Exercise-Associated Muscle Cramping: A Prospective Cohort Study in 210 Ironman Athletes. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 4, 650-656.

Friday Fartlek Run: Mona Fartlek

Fartlek Workout

Each week I will be posting the Friday Fartlek Run Sessions that you can do in under 60 minutes to enhance your running. Fartlek is a Swedish term that is often used by runners and it means speed-play. See the previous post about training intensity to know how hard to work. If you are working directly with Coach Ray he will in most cases prescribe either a Pace Zone or Heart Rate Zone to work within if you are training with these tools.

This session provides you with a regular and consistent recovery period after each easily attainable effort period. It can be done on the athletics track, the road or even off road.

Mona Fartlek
tri training nz

  • 10min Warm Up Level II;

Main set:

  • 15sec Hard Level V, 15sec Easy Level II, 15sec Hard Level V, 15sec Easy Level II;
  • 30sec Hard Level V, 30sec Easy Level II, 30sec Hard Level V, 30sec Easy Level II;
  • 60sec Hard Level V, 60sec Easy Level II, 60sec Hard Level V, 60sec Easy Level II;
  • 90sec Hard Level V, 90sec Easy Level II, 90sec Hard Level V, 90sec Easy Level II;
  • 2min Hard Level V, 2min Easy Level II, 2min Hard Level V, 2min Easy Level II;
  • 90sec Hard Level V, 90sec Easy Level II, 90sec Hard Level V, 90sec Easy Level II;
  • 60sec Hard Level V, 60sec Easy Level II, 60sec Hard Level V, 60sec Easy Level II;
  • 30sec Hard Level V, 30sec Easy Level II, 30sec Hard Level V, 30sec Easy Level II;
  • 15sec Hard Level V, 15sec Easy Level II, 15sec Hard Level V, 15sec Easy Level II;
  • 10min Cool Down Level I-II;
  • 10min Stretching

The warm up should be done at an intensity that is steady but not over consuming at Level II.

For the main set run the hard efforts reasonably solidly. The easy efforts are described as a float, you should feel you are gliding over the ground during them. Two hard at 15 seconds, each followed by 15 seconds float, then two hard at 30 seconds with 30 seconds float following. Repeat as you build up to 2 minutes, then decrease down again to the 15 seconds. Try and maintain your form as you work your way down the other side of the workout.

The cool down is at a low intensity, jogging the remainder of the workout.

Finish with 10 minutes stretching to assist with the recovery.  This isn’t necessarily included in the 60 minute workout and can be conducted whilst showering post workout.

This session is credited to Steve Moneghetti, an Australian runner, who won medals at the Commonwealth Games in ’86, ’90, ’94 & ’98. His first marathon was at the Edinburgh Commonwealth Games where he won the bronze medal. He is still the record holder for Sydney’s City to Surf run which he set 25 years ago (the 2015 event was held last weekend).

He holds PBs of:

  • 5,000m – 13:25.77
  • 10,000m – 27:47.69
  • Half Marathon – 1:00:27
  • Marathon – 2:08:16

Here is a link to me doing this workout earlier in the year.

If you would like further advice feel free to contact me.

I am the Head Coach & Director of Qwik Kiwi – Endurance Sports Consultant.

I specialise in assisting first timers and recreational athletes to achieve their sporting goals. I can be contacted at coachray@coachray.nz and 021 348 729. Make sure you sign up to my informative newsletter.

Share this post so your friends can benefit as well.

For more great workouts see my eBook: ‘Top 10 Workouts from Coach Ray – The Ten Most Popular Training Sessions from www.CoachRay.nz”.  Use the workouts within the eBook to enhance your fitness.

Wellington Half Marathon

This time around this event would be part of a handful of confidence boosters in my build up to Challenge Wanaka 2016 (first ever iron-distance).

I wanted to run this event in 2.30 hrs (even-though previously I’d done it faster), feel “comfortable” and not cause any of injuries I’ve been recovering from over the last 12 months to flare up, so this was going to be a challenge.

The week beforehand I started to doubt achieving this goal so I sent Coach a text – give me a pace to run or realistic time to finish in, but really do want to go under 2.30. In Ray’s response on pace & time was also the final sentence “You can do this”.

I lined up at the start knowing that the first few kilometres could be quite congested so decided to “go with the flow” which ended up being faster than my target pace, but I felt relaxed knowing it would settle. I had also decided to try and keep slightly under pace target as I knew the northerly on the return would play its part as well as fatigue over the last 5kms.

I not only came in in 2.29.12 (officially), but best of all I felt good – comfortable, in control, injury free and importantly going forward a step up in confidence.

Yes, I can do this!

 

Helen Majorhazi