Training, Racing & LCHF Fueling For Skating And Endurance Sports
The clocks have gone back and Darkness has descended. It’s been over 4 weeks – FOUR FLIPPIN’ WEEKS – since that glorious season finale in Berlin. And while I’ve been true to the plan and ceased nearly all structured training, I can’t pretend that I’m actually enjoying it. I’m in the clutches of the detraining effect as the fitness that I worked like a madman to build in the last year is ebbing away with each passing day. My HRV is trending down, my MAF tests are trending up, and I’m just letting it happen…
It’s at these times where we must trust in The Masterplan if we are dispel doubt from our mind. As a man of science, I have always needed an acutely good explaination for why we do or do not do certain things, why we train one way and not another, eat one thing and not another. So why do we take an off-season? How much volume? What cross training should we be doing? And how long should we be looking at before starting back with the grind of winter training? I already had my own answers to these questions but it never hurts to do more digging.
Perhaps the best article I found was this one from Endurance Corner:
– Off-season is a period where the primary goal is to rid the body of ALL accumulated fatigue that has built up over the season
– Some fitness will still be retained; you start training for the new season with a blank slate but from a higher base
– Both fitness and fatigue decay in a non-linear which has implications for the macro cycle, tapering for a race, and the micro cycle
– Without a suitable off-season you may improve your short-term performance, but it will ultimately place a cap on your long term improvement
– Volume should be cut – anywhere from 10-40%
– Non-sport specific activity is ideal. Do something you wouldn’t normally do even as regular cross training.
– Do not neglect skills and flexibility during off-season (Yoga, off-skate, drills)
Note that they use the Joe Friel/Training Peaks metrics to calculate “Performance”, ie: Performance = Fitness-Fatigue. Fitness & Fatigue always move in the same direction, but at a differing rates on both the up and down slope. In response to exercise, fitness builds slowly but has a longer half-life, while the effects of fatigue is more immediate but also fall off quicker. Furthermore, fitness attained from exercise suffers from the law of diminishing marginal utility (a 2hrs training session is not twice as beneficial as a 1hr session), meaning that higher volume is only beneficial up until the point where fatigue does not accumulate faster than fitness is gained (over-training).
It is important to keep in mind that a degree of individualisation is important here, but the model predicts that for this particular athlete, fatigue is shed at a rate such that after 60 days there is roughly 1% of the previous seasons’ residual fatigue, while still 17% of the fitness is retained. Given than 1% is an idealistic scenario and I’m not an elite athlete, 60 days may be unnecessarily long. 6 or 7 weeks max before officially launching into winter training sounds good to me. God bless those Triathlon geeks, eh? Always putting numbers on everything and demystifying the black arts of training for us simple folk.
It should be immediately apparent that this model also has implications that can help us understand many of the common practices of a typical periodised training schedule, not just timing and duration of the off-season. We see now why a 2-3 week taper is so often recommended – it makes sense by the way accumulated fitness is retained while the accumulated fatigue is shed.
The follow on from this is that it should be immediately obvious how important your Recovery is; anything and everything you do to maximize your body’s supercompensatory effect is every single bit as important as how long or how hard you are willing to push yourself during exercise… we should always think of exercise and recovery as two sides of the same coin.
Anyway, more on that – much more on that – for future posts, I think. For another few weeks I will be relaxing, contemplating war & peace, growth and recession, ying and yang, and other ill suited metaphors. Science must also be balanced with Art, and I believe the Byrds summed it up more eloquently that I ever when they sung: