Prokit 10: Training

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In this week’s Prokit 10 we collected insights and advice on training from pro runners, cyclists, triathletes and experts across endurance sports. For more details and context, check out our deep-dive podcasts and expert interviews.

  1. “What we try to emphasize with the athletes we coach, anyone from top level professional trail runners to people who are just starting out with running, is that roadblocks are common across the board. If you push your body hard enough in training, you will have roadblocks, whether that’s injury, burnout, or feeling mentally fatigued. Normalizing that for athletes is part of what’s going to help them grow as runners. It’s also one of those amazing things about running that transfers to life.” — Full interview: Megan Roche, trail and ultra runner and coach or follow Megan on Prokit @meganroche.
  2. “One of the two biggest pieces that jump out to me is overall consistency. If you want to be good at something, you’ve got to be at it for a long time. There are people who’ll run for 10 or 12 weeks at a time, and then for whatever reason, things sort of fall off the rails for a while. Then, when they try to get back into it, it’s a lot harder. I’m a huge believer in consistency, which doesn’t mean you need to train at the same level throughout the year, but you need to develop those habits…. The second thing—and I’m sure this goes for other endurance athletes as well—is that many runners are running too hard most of the time. Generally, about 20% to 25% of your overall week should be at an intensity that I would consider hard. And that can be varying degrees of hard, and the rest of it should be fairly easy to moderate. For a lot of people, half their week is really hard and the other half is moderately hard. They’re in this gray zone all the time, which you can get away with for a while—especially when you’re new to a sport. But eventually, you plateau, and you’re just not going to go anywhere.” — Full interview: Mario Fraioli, Running Coach and host of The Morning Shakeout Podcast or follow @mariofraioli.
  3. “Almost all running should be easy, and actually understanding what easy means for you is key. Once you start going beyond that, most athletes should have things like strides throughout a typical week. What that means in practice are short accelerations, usually 30 seconds or less, on a flat or on hills. A good example in the context of a one-hour easy run is doing four-by-20 seconds fast, like the fastest effort you can go comfortably. It’s not a sprint. It’s like a long distance form. Then do a minute or two of easy running for recovery. Doing that one or two times a week can actually unlock these really big running economy games at longer distances.” — David Roche, trail and ultra runner and coach (@davidroche)
  4. “Everyone has a different approach. I’m a numbers gal. I love it. I love training with power, and it’s really motivating to me. I think for some people, it’s like they’re chained to their power meter, and it’s a limiter. They would go harder or go faster without it. Whereas my coach and I are both very numbers oriented. We have an approach that works for me, and a way to use those numbers to get the most out of my training, and to make it as specific and optimal as possible…. With training, it’s important to have concrete goals, have an approach. There’s a million different ways you can approach it, a million different ways you can structure training, but just pick one you think will work for you and if it doesn’t, you can always change long-term. I would say stick with it, give it a fair shot, and see how your fitness changes month-to-month, year-to-year, and then you can tweak it from there.” — Kate Courtney, World Champion Mountain Biker (@katecourtney)
  5. “I don’t train with power. I’ve started using heart rate, just to make sure I’m not overcooking it, but I’m never looking at any of that during a race. If you asked me about zones, I wouldn’t know what to tell you. I’m someone who just goes off a feeling. I think there are pluses and minuses to that. Maybe I’m overdoing it in some ways and not pushing in other ways. I’m so much a mental racer. If I see someone in front of me, I’m going to try and get them. It doesn’t matter how high my heart rate is or what my power is doing that day like…. I don’t want to encourage people to not use power. It’s all relative. Do whatever minimizes stress for yourself or makes you feel good about yourself. If you are a data-driven person, it makes sense. A lot of people at Specialized who I’ve met use that information.… I don’t want to do power testing and know my numbers and associate that number with how fast I can go. For me, that is limiting. I would just fixate on it, and that’s why I’ve never done it.” — Sarah Sturm, Professional Cyclist (@sarahzsturm)
  6. “I train a little unconventionally. Because I live in Canada, I do my structured training in the winter indoors on the trainer. The summer is for going out and having fun on my bike. If I feel like going hard, I’ll go hard, and if there’s something I need to work on, I’ll work on it. I take away the hard structure in the summer and just try to stay in love with my bike. That’s how I’ve been able to race for so long.” — Sonya Looney, pro mountain biker and entrepreneur (@sonyalooney)
  7. “Many people show up on Zwift because of the training plans. They want to improve their performance, or they have a goal and want structured training. The community aspect on Zwift is super strong for those who are into that. Some people show up to Zwift just to race…. The amount of time you save by being on Zwift versus having to go outside is enormous. For me, I can get an incredible workout in one hour. Once you try it, you realize the value of the convenience and the effectiveness that you get from indoor training because you’re not coasting. One hour on Zwift is like an hour and a half outdoors because there’s no soft pedalling.” — Eric Min, Founder and CEO of Swift
  8. “The one thing I probably noticed the most when I made the transition from working in a corporate environment to training and racing full time was the recovery component. When I was in the corporate world, I would work 16-20 hours a day and then get on my trainer at two o’clock in the morning so I could get my workout in. I was never getting enough sleep, and I was constantly getting sick and injured.” —  Sarah Piampiano, Professional Triathlete and Ironman 70.3 champion (@spiampiano)
  9. “Our human body is this intricate interplay of physiologic responses occurring simultaneously at a subconscious level. Our conscious acts move the body, often in extraordinary ways. How far our body can be pushed depends on numerous factors, including fitness, baseline physiologic health(i.e.,are you sick? injured?), mental/emotional health, sleep, and nutrition…. I wish our research was more robust to provide set guidelines for mileage, intensity, and duration in the endurance sports world, because I see athletes regularly fly scarily close to the sun in their training. Sometimes it leads to the desired goal/outcome, but more often than not, they lose weeks or even months of training while recovering from an injury or burnout. Some athletes need motivation to do more, while others are plenty motivated and need guidance on when and why it’s important to do less. A good coach can recognize that critical difference, but many recreational athletes don’t have a coach and are trying to figure this out on their own.” — Emily Kraus, Stanford Sports Med Physician (@ekraus)
  10. “Back-to-back days with heavy legs is a good thing. Your legs feeling tired is different from over-training. Over-training for a day or two is a good thing. How does your body adapt unless you’re pushing beyond where it’s supposed to be, beyond homeostasis. I still think the hard-easy prescription is helpful, so go really hard one day. There’s this thing called the black hole that’s just doing the same routine at the same intensity every day. You get into this black hole; you don’t improve. It’s better to go really hard short one day and then maybe long and slow the next. A lot of athletes don’t have the discipline to do that, and I was like that before. Every time I went running, I wanted to push myself as hard as I could. To hold back and give a couple of days of light running and then really killing yourself, I think is a good thing.” — Dean Karnazes, Ultramarathon Man and best-selling author (@deankarnazes)
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