Saturday, June 06, 2009

My Training Plan is Going Well, So Now...

Yep, you got it. After I just posted a lengthy description of all the evidence that my current training program has been working... I'm about to change it up. Before you begin berating me for messing with a good thing, do note a couple of things:
  • Changes in training are relatively minor adjustments - fine tuning, if you will
  • Changes in names and labels of zones are a bit more significant

Why change things? Well, I just finished Total Heart Rate Training, by Joe Friel. It, like another book I have (which was a too-technical monster I just could not bring myself to finish), pushes training zones by Lactate Threshold (LT) rather than maximum heart rate (MHR).

Let me back up a moment. I noticed quite some time ago that the standard percentages of MHR just never worked for me. My HR would shoot up and stay relatively high, even when I wasn't feeling very taxed. Although it would drop back quickly, my HR even during "recovery" or even walking periods was "too high" according to those charts. Seriously, if I followed the standard MHR percentages, I don't believe I'd ever have gained any fitness; I'd still be walking slowly, frustrated, and wondering why I can't keep my HR down. I don't think it's because I was that out of shape; I believe it was because the MHR percentage guidelines are bunk. Don't get me wrong; I'm sure they work for some people. They just don't work for all people.

When I discovered how to calculate training zones by the heart rate reserve (HRR) using the Karvonen formula, I was relieved. This made much more sense for me. The zones fit much better with my rating of perceived exertion (RPE) levels. Not perfectly, but better.

But even sites which explained the HRR kept mentioning that LT training was superior. Fine, I'm sold. But first. there was the problem of the book I couldn't finish. And then, even after finishing Friel's easier-to-read book, I couldn't bring myself to go through any of the tests "necessary" to approximate my LT. (Yeah, yeah, it's simple enough. But whatever.) Nor could I bring myself to pay the money for a real LT test. Come on, now.

But then, Friel mentioned the correlation between an RPE of 7 and LT. Additionally, there's a switch in breathing (ventilatory threshold (VT)) which strongly correlates as well. I thought back to my runs, particularly my end-of-the-run sprints, and it clicked: I can really approximate my LT now. I used today's sprint to confirm/adjust my approximation.

So here it is: 171, give or take one bpm. If I follow the table down and look at the purposes and descriptions of the various zones, it all clicks exceptionally well. Some adjustments may have to be made, but I think I've got a good starting point here for training by LT.

So, yes, I am changing the game plan mid-stride. But I was just about to add in interval training anyway, and I'm sure the benefits outweigh any costs/risks of messing with a good thing. I'll post updates when appropriate. (That's a good thing, right? Right? Don't answer that.)

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