I was listening to a Podcast today about heart rate monitored training and endurance training, and the guest speaker was a guy called Corey Cornacchio, and he said something that I have always known, and have said to a million athletes and clients over the years, but I was again struck by how important this simple statement really is.

"You cannot train fast all the time" is a statement that many endurance athletes (and athletes in general) do not particularly want to hear, because without training fast, how are you supposed to go fast?

A good case in point is a Roadie I do some work with who rides and races in a team made up of a bunch of his friends and business associates.

They are all AAA personality types (meaning more competitive, intense and obsessive than the run-of-the-mill Type A personality).

His training every week consists of 3 rides with the "crew" of between 3-5 hours, and generally it is an all out effort for nearly the entire ride (his heart rate is around 80%-90% of his maximum for most of the time).

He also dos some indoor sessions, with some resistance training to balance out his training. His "weakness" is his hill climbing, and his ability to maintain a level of Power production over the course of a whole ride.

Logic would dictate that he should go and do a bunch of Hill repeats, complete some Threshold and Power intervals, and teach himself to better mentally tolerate the discomfort associated with the accumulation of Lactic Acid in the muscles.

Well unfortunately this is not 100% correct.

There is a time and a place to train at the high intensities and high resistances with lower volumes, and a time and place to train at the lower intensities and resistances with higher volumes.

The Fall and the Winter months are the latter (Lower Intensities and lower resistances with higher volumes).

This means that as a Trainer and a Coach, I am looking forward to the Spring and Summer months of 2009. I am setting my Roadie client up with a level of conditioning that will facilitate improvements in his Power and Climbing strength.

It will require a change in his current paradigm, because the Winter months will not consist of a lot of Intensity work, in fact 10%-15% of his total weekly training volume will be committed to Intensity work, and 85%-90% of his weekly volume will be dedicated to improving his Aerobic performance.

He will complain at having to keep his heart rate low and his cadence high. He will man about how boring the rides are in Phoenix, because he cannot go "b**lls to the wall", and he will winge and complain about how he will not be prepared for the events in Europe in '09.

But when it gets to Race season, and his time is divided between 5 components of fitness, and only 20% of his weekly volume is Aerobic Endurance, and 70% is above Anaerobic Threshold, he will be smiling all the way to the finish line.

  1. He will have developed a far more balanced Cardio-Vascular system, meaning a more powerful Aerobic System can manage the demands for energy being placed on it, by muscles wanting to produce more power, and thus burn energy faster.
  2. His energy metabolism is able to remain Aerobic for longer (and utilize Fat as an energy source for longer), resulting in reduced production of Lactic Acid due to Anaerobic energy production.
  3. He will not feel fatigued mentally and physically day in and day out, as a result of the continuous high intensity riding being laid on the body.
  4. His recovery after going highly Anaerobic will be a lot faster, Lactic Acid and Hydrogen ions are more quickly shuttled away and broken down, partly due to a more Oxygen rich environment.
The benefits of cutting the training intensity down are numerous, and the Winter months are the perfect time for you to do it.

James Greenwood is a competitive tri and multisport athlete currently training for Ironman Canada 2009. A level 1 Triathlon Coach, he holds a post graduate degree in Exercise Science, and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA. James is also currently the resident health and fitness programs expert at MyPypeline.com, and has starred in a number of multisport specific fitness videos.
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