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THE CONDITIONING CONSULTANT

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PERFORMANCE ADVANTAGE PODCAST

I caught up with Will O’Connor and Matt Miller on the ‘Performance Advantage’ Podcast.

Amongst other things we chat about the following conditioning related topics:

    • Critical Power & functional threshold power
    • Velocity at VO2max
    • Maximal aerobic speed
    • Application of conditioning concepts to team sport athletes
    • The importance of aerobic fitness for team sport athletes

Have a listen via the link below if you’re keen to learn more about any of the abovementioned topics.

TCC & Performance Advantage (Spotify)

PRACTICAL APPLICATION OF POLARISED TRAINING – A CYCLING CASE STUDY

This blog article was written about five years ago when I was an avid cyclist and clearly hadn’t entered fatherhood. Unfortunately, the days of a 4-5 hour ride seem nothing but a distant memory, but alas the information below highlights just how different TID models can be implemented in the real world. These concepts and case study findings have relevance beyond cycling and can be applied across a multitude of endurance activities. 

Stemming from Stephen Seiler’s and Craig Neale’s work investigating the effectiveness of the polarised training concept, I made a concerted effort to try and “polarise” my own cycling training. I knew this would be difficult to implement, as unlike most of the studies which have investigated the efficacy of the polarised model, the vast majority of my riding consists of bunch rides completed outdoors. When compared to very controlled laboratory based &/or ergo HIIT sessions, outdoor bunch rides are a far more difficult proposition to control as there are so many external factors which influence your power output and acute physiological response to the ride (i.e. temperature, wind, terrain and strength of the other rides in the bunch etc). However, given that I cycle as a hobby and do not possess the talent nor the aspiration to race at a high level, I really value the social side of cycling and as a result, will always opt for a group ride over solo ergo sessions.

For every single ride over the past 5 months (21 weeks to be exact) I have concurrently collected both power (via Stages power meter) and heart rate data to see whether a polarised model is practically feasible given the abovementioned limitations. If you have read the Seiler article review you would know that VT1 / LT1 (~80% HRmax) and VT2 / LT2 (~90% HRmax) are the two physiological turn points which distinguish low, moderate (threshold) and high intensity activity.

The first step in the process was to set-up my 3 training zones to distinguish exercise intensity. The percentage heart rate values for VT1 / LT1 and VT1 and LT2 were obtained from the Seiler & Kjerland (2010) and Neale et al (2012) papers.

The figure above should be fairly self-explanatory and gives you an insight into the heart rate and power values that constitute an easy, moderate or hard session. For example, for my regular bunch ride on Beach Rd which for 20km is categorised as a “high intensity” session, I aim to spend as much time with my heart rate above 163 bpm and achieve a normalised power of greater than 338 watts. Conversely, if I was to complete an “easy” session I would aim to keep my heart rate below 144 bpm and normalised power below 274 watts.

Unlike the vast majority of training intensity distribution studies utilising cycling, I have concurrently collected both heart rate and power to identify which measure is more sensitive and accurate for quantifying training intensity distribution. Most of Seiler’s work has utilised heart rate to assess training intensity distribution, which obviously makes it easier to investigate different exercise modes. So, what does the training intensity distribution for my heart rate and power data look like over the 21 weeks?

It is apparent from the graphs that I spend more time in zone 1 and zone 2 when looking at the heart rate data, whereas I spend more time in zone 3 when looking at the power data. However, it isn’t clear whether I have been successful in polarising my training utilising these graphs, rather I would need to look at the average time spent in each zone across the 21 weeks.

As you can see there is a disconnect between the heart rate and power data. If you just utilise the power data, it appears that I have been successful in implementing a polarised training approach, however, this polarised approach isn’t evident when looking at the heart rate data with 8% more time spent in zone 2 than the high intensity zone.

So which measure if more accurate? Over the next few weeks I will endeavour to add more context to this article utilising data from specific rides on varying terrains to highlight how this impacts heart rate, power and the training intensity distribution. Also, as I haven’t been able to source any other literature which has concurrently quantified training intensity distribution utilising both heart rate and power, I will discuss which measure is more valid and reliable when looking at quantifying training intensity.

As always, if you have any questions &/or feedback, please do not hesitate to contact me.

METS PERFORMANCE PODCAST

I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Luke McIlroy from METS Performance on his ‘The Physiology Secrets Podcast’.

Amongst other things we chat about the following conditioning related topics:

    • Training for a marathon
    • Tempo and threshold training
    • Training intensity distribution
    • Maximal aerobic speed
    • Fartlek training
    • Oxygen and heart rate kinetics
    • Time at VO2max

Have a listen via the links below if you’re keen to learn more about any of the abovementioned topics.

TCC & METS Performance (Podbean)

TCC & METS Performance (Apple Podcast)

MELBOURNE PODIATRY CLINIC WEBINAR

I was invited by Andrew Maitland from Melbourne Podiatry Clinic to present on their ‘Run Faster, Run Stronger’ webinar which was held on the 16th June 2021. The presentation was aimed at endurance runners as this type of athlete is MPC’s primary client base.

The presentation was expansive, but centred around some key content which is relevant for endurance runners.

    • What type of running do most people complete?
    • Common training mistakes
    • Training intensity distribution
    • Training polarisation
    • Why high intensity interval training

If you are a runner, or more broadly an endurance athlete that is interested in optimising your performance and mitigating injury risk and fatigue, make sure you watch the webinar via the link below. The link below takes you to the webinar which is housed on TCC’s YouTube channel.

TCC & MPC Webinar (TCC YouTube Channel)

COMMON TRAINING MISTAKES

Since beginning my career in Strength and Conditioning and Sport Science industry back in 2008, I have been in the fortuitous position to have worked with elite athletes across a wide variety of sports. These experiences alongside my academic studies, peer reviewed research and professional development have provided me with a unique skill set in the application of running conditioning for both endurance and team sport athletes.

Exactly one year ago amidst one of Melbourne’s COVID lockdowns, I decided to setup a “side business” – The Conditioning Consultant (TCC) – using the aforementioned experiences and knowledge. The primary aim of creating TCC is to make scientifically based training principles more accessible to weekend warriors and sub-elite athletes, with the aim of improving performance across wide variety of events, sports and physical qualities.

Pleasingly the engagement and uptake of TCC’s running programs has been fantastic and has provided me with terrific insight into the training habits of endurance runners. I have summarised the most common training mistakes that runners make in the infographic below for Melbourne Podiatry Clinic. This follow up blog post should provide greater clarity regarding these common mistakes.

1. Don’t use available training data

The vast majority of runners have access to insightful (and expensive) technology, most notably in the form of GPS watches. However, most runners very rarely use the technology appropriately to positively guide training sessions and maximise physiological adaptations. Both heart rate and running pace are readily available on almost every single GPS watch, however there is a lack of understanding as to how to use them to guide your running sessions.

Pace (min/km) – When completing interval type sessions, most runners do not actively use the lap function, rather they just rely on the 1km “auto lap” function that comes as the default setting on most watches. The lap function can be used manually by pressing the lap button or it can be automated via pre-programming the sessions and laps onto the watch. The major benefit of “lapping” interval sessions is that it enables runners to obtain an accurate average pace for the specified work period, which can then be cross referenced with what has been prescribed. Runners that do not lap their sessions and simply use the 1km auto function are running blind and will not be able to adjust their running speed to accommodate the program and session goals.

Heart rate (bpm) – Heart rate data is utilised even less than the lap function by most runners, and this is particularly concerning given heart rate provides runners with incredible insight into the intensity of their running sessions. Heart rate data can provide insight into whether easy runs are too hard, or whether hard runs are not hard enough by having clearly identified training zones. More on this later in the blog post.

2. Easy runs that aren’t easy

The most popular type of running that recreational runners complete is continuous or steady state running, which is characterised by running performed without any rest and generally spanning greater than 20 min. Depending on the event that you are training for, these continuous runs can go for a few hours, however for most runners these runs range from 20 to 50 min in duration.

One of the major issues I see with this type of running is that the sessions are always completed at a “moderately hard” intensity, which in itself isn’t an issue, but when this is the only type of running that people complete it does cause two primary issues.

  • Training monotony – If runners only ever complete continuous runs at a moderately hard intensity it results in high training monotony, which can prohibit long term enjoyment, satisfaction, and compliance to running programs. In short, this leads to people becoming burnt out and dissatisfied with running, and unfortunately the root cause for people stopping running entirely.
  • Performance stagnation – This type of training can provide runners with improvements in aerobic fitness and performance when they first start running, however these “newbie gains” are short lived, and continuing to train in this manner only serves to lead to a plateau in aerobic fitness and performance improvement. This stems from the fact that the intensity of these continuous runs is not sufficient to facilitate long term aerobic fitness adaptation, which is better facilitated through objectively prescribed high intensity interval training (HIIT).

Figure 1 – Example of a commonly completed continuous run, which was completed incorrectly and not as prescribed.

3. Hard runs that aren’t hard

The fact that most runners complete “easy runs that aren’t easy” is compounded by the fact that this type of training results in sub-optimal aerobic fitness adaptation and running performance improvement. This is underpinned by the fact that the intensity for the continuous runs is not high enough to meet the physiological requirements for aerobic fitness adaptation. Scientific research highlights that HIIT is the most optimal training type when targeting aerobic fitness improvement, as when prescribed accurately and effectively it enables runners to maximise time spent at high heart rates (i.e. >90% HRmax). This maximises aerobic fitness and running performance improvement.

Figure 2 – Example of a successfully complete HIIT session.

4. Inconsistent training & no training structure

Evidence suggests that a significant number of injuries sustained by runners are caused by training program and training load errors. Anecdotally, the most common training errors that I observe with recreational runners include inconsistent training, and a misapplication of the training variables that underpin effective training prescription.

Inconsistent or infrequent training results in unnecessary soreness (aka delayed onset muscle soreness), which in turn can adversely impact your ability to run due to excessive DOMS. Obviously, this has an adverse impact on physiological adaptation and running performance improvement. Running consistently is paramount when trying to mitigate DOMS and facilitate aerobic fitness and running performance improvement.

5. Reactive approach to training

Lastly, the abovementioned issues pertaining to a lack of training structure and a misapplication of training programs are a testament to the fact that most runners take a reactive approach to training. As such, they do not seek training program guidance or coaching until it is too late, and at which point they have sustained an injury which prohibits running. Rather, a more proactive approach to running programs should be taken by engaging a suitably qualified and experienced practicioner to prescribe and manage the overarching training program. This is particularly important for runners who are either currently injured, returning from injury or have previously been perennially injured.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it is worth asking the question – how many of the above training mistakes do you make? If you’re keen to discuss a running or strength training program to improve your aerobic fitness, training consistency and running performance, whilst managing and mitigating injury risk, please do not hesitate to contact us.

WHY TRAIN WITH TCC

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