Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Do enough .... not too much

Vern Gambetta had an excellent post today on his blog, which I am going to reprint below, because I think it is worth a bit of reflection.

This is related to something that I was thinking about in response to some of the (anonymous) comments on the post the other day about interval training. If you can get the same effects from intervals as from long duration exercise (and that is how I read this reseach ) then why spend the extra time on the endurance training?

You need to do enough, but not more. More means more chance of injury. More means more recovery time.

Stimulus Threshold

It seems we all preach more is not better but then when it comes down to it we end doing more. As my good friend and colleague Gary Winckler so succinctly states “volume is not a biomotor quality.” I think there must be some comfort in doing more. What we need to focus on instead is the concept of the stimulus threshold. I define that as is the threshold amount of work that is the optimum amount to elicit a training response. If I can continually train at the threshold and push that threshold then I should be able to make continual adaptation. What good does it do to exceed the stimulus threshold and not be able to recover to do a subsequent session? Another way to describe this is to determine a training target in the context of the whole training plan and hit the target. I think part of the problem is that many people are unsure how to determine the target so they do more to cover themselves. We should be able to workout the stimulus thresholds for various qualities based on the training age of the athlete and their competition objectives. It is certainly not an arbitrary figure like 100 miles a week for a runner or x number of thousand yards for a swimmer; rather it is the actual breakdown and composition of the sessions with a distribution among the performance factors in the context of the training plan. Certainly it is necessary to overload, but remember that it is possible to overload by manipulating volume, intensity and density. Manipulating the means of overload will insure a positive adaptive response.

Perhaps another way to express this concept is to seek optimum training loads rather than maximum training loads.

What do you think?


Anonymous said...

I think this is the most important point in this field that can be made:


Sometimes I read about workouts that are like some kind of BDSM accounts written so salaciously that you can pretty easily forget they are talking about a workout-a means of progressive improvement.

I think the key IMO is observation and knowing your athlete more than any sort of formula...(+7 duh factor)

I follow what he's saying but I think the only way to pull this off is by playing statistics with cycling and simply experimenting to find out what proportions work and when. Playing intelligent probablilities the best you can with what you have.

The last cycle around may not be what you need this time. You're gonna miss alot of the time, otherwise we'd all be infinitely strong and that would be even more disturbing than the BDSM thing.

If we could answer the question he speaks of with any precision on every workout, there would be nothing left to talk about...we could all go home.

I am home, but you get the point.


Anonymous said...

Short workouts are fine if you're training for basic fitness or "short duration" activities (2 or 3 hours). But short intervals won't cut it for events that push you for 6 hours or more such as a long day of climbing, a backcountry ski tour, or cycling a century. There is no research that suggests interval training alone is anywhere near adequate for these kinds of activities. You can replace endurance training only if you don't need endurance.

Anonymous said...

Or in sports where its "bi-level" so to say like grappling. You have a base level that you are always going at, and then a peak level also which can happen at random times.

There are places to find rest in wrestling particularly if you know what you are doing but not if your opponent knows what you are doing ;-) and it's not exactly "rest".

Like the guy above I still think the "best fit" concept is it.

Another thing that occured to me about the quote is how nice it would be to just open some panel on your athlete, read about five guages and figure the workout for the day based on that and some kind of trend chart you've made. Maybe like those laptop telemetry systems they have for racing cars.

Something like this can happen if your guy or girl-This is all they do and they have a doctor handling the pharma stuff, but for people training without all that in garages, you just aim for the best batting average you can.


Chris said...

Cheers Bryce.

Yeah I think that is what I am after anyway - the best fit. For most of us, it is also about what fits in with our lives too. Most of us aren't elite and we need to find the best return on the time we have.

Anon - this wasn't really about intervals - but have you read Mark Twight here on how he used short 15 minute workouts to build endurance for endurance ski mountaineering races? Granted he is now training differently for his long bike races, but the short workouts worked well enough for him.

Anonymous said...

"Perhaps another way to express this concept is to seek optimum training loads rather than maximum training loads."

Yes, but how? I'm assuming he has some way to come closer (without guages on the forehead) than we have before.


billmcphersoniii said...

Sounds like the Russian mind set on training. Do mostly submaximal work at a fresher state more frequently. I think it really comes down to quality vs quantity. When a more intense session for a longer bout is preformed you suffer in the quality of work. Biomechanics breakdown and you must endure a longer recovery period. Not that training at very high intensities for longer periods is not good now and again, but I think for good gains and health reasons it should be the exception not the rule. Constantly training to smoke yourself in any form is known to lead to "overtraining". Most people think of this word in the context of training to often or to hard, but "overtraining" is really a far more complex issue. Any decline (or back pedaling) in your bodies health, strength, endurance, sleeping patterns, hormonal levels, etc. suggests overtraining.

Shorter more intense sessions are easier to recover from, provide less stress to the bodies systems, and tend to make you quit just at the right time (while you’re still fresh). We must also keep in mind that energy efficiency is the gold nugget of endurance events not conditioning. Conditioning can only be taken so far before receiving diminishing returns. Learning to move more efficiently, while expending less energy goes a long way in endurance events. It is more than just pacing the event, but moving with a biomechinacal correctness. It is using only the muscles needed to complete the task. Learning how to time your breathing and getting the proper amount of air. Training your body to burn fat fuels at a higher intensity level vs the short lived sugar burn.

Better training may be more sessions, longer sessions, and harder sessions if you are just dumb conditioning. Unfortunately, there are better methods out there and training for anything must be looked at from a complete point of view. Focusing on energy output alone is just stupidity. You could never build up the kind of physical stamina needed for all these long endurance events without destroying your body in the process. Why do you think so many have injuries and health conditions. You may not agree with this view and that is fine, but when you have “overdone” things to the point where your health begins to suffer you will know why. This research is presented in the context of health and longevity. Agree with it or not for optimal training, it is much more healthy than other methods.

Chris said...

Thanks for all the comments. you have all thought about this in a lot more depth than I did and that is good. What I was taking from it really is that optimal isn't about maximum volume. I think that puts average people off training sometimes - thinking that they'll have to spend hours on it.

Of couse optimal depends on your goals and if it is just keeping fit / functional/healthy you can get by with less.