The precise training program you will follow depends upon your unique background, experience level, age, goals, time available for training, occupational stress, family commitments, and a variety of other factors that make you who you are as an individual. Yet despite the various permutations of how training can be customized to the unique situation of individual athletes, all those permutations rest upon some basic ideas from exercise science.
This chapter provides a concise overview of some of those key ideas. My aim here is to present concepts in a concise and accessible manner rather than to provide an exhaustive explanation. If you are interested in learning more, I encourage you to consult any of the textbooks out there on exercise physiology. Conversely, if you are more interested in creating your training program and less interested in the scientific principles that underlie it; then you can safely skip to chapter 3 and return to this chapter as your curiosity dictates.
As anyone planning to do an endurance event knows, it requires “training.” But what is training? And what does this do for you exactly? Why does training make you better able to handle the rigors of an endurance event? After all, training is not simply a type of “practice” as in practicing a skill such as piano playing. Although there is skill involved in any endurance event, you are obviously interested in much more than simply acquiring skills. Through endurance training, you are looking to improve your fitness, or your ability to go faster and farther without getting tired. You are therefore interested in enhancing your body’s ability to pump blood, deliver oxygen, and contract muscles.
Hans Selye, a Hungarian biologist who worked around the middle of the twentieth century, outlined a model that underlies the training process. When you train, you introduce a stimulus, or “stress” to your body. This is followed by a “response” from the body which leads to a physiological “adaptation.” Selye called this stress-response-adaptation process the general adaptation syndrome (GAS).
In discussing the importance of recovery in the introduction, I noted that the work you do during a training session breaks down the body, followed by a recovery phase during which the body rebuilds stronger than before. This is another way of describing the general adaptation syndrome. As a result of the process, you gain fitness, or the ability to perform faster and longer than before.
Many athletes take the ideas of the GAS and reason, “If training makes me stronger and faster, more training should make me even stronger and even faster.” This is true as long as you are adequately recovering in between those training sessions. You can run into trouble, however, if you are comparing your training load with other athletes and simply trying to match the volume and intensity of their training programs. Crucially, it is not the absolute training load that matters, but the training load that your body can handle.
TRAINING GUIDE CONTENTS
– Train with a Purpose
– The ABCs of Systematic Training
– The R&R of Training
– Begin with the End in Mind
2. Exercise Science Concepts
– Overreaching and Overtraining
– Energy Systems
– Aerobic Capacity
– Lactate Threshold
– Aerobic Threshold
– Muscle Fiber Types
3. Monitor Your Training Intensity
– What is Training Intensity?
– Key Indicators of Intensity
– Using Training Zones
– Training by Feel, or Perceived Exertion
– Training with Pace
– Training with Heart Rate
– Running with Power
4. Create Your Training Plan
– Prioritizing Your Events
– Overview of the Training Phases
– Choosing Your Periodization Schedule
– Filling in the Details of the Overall Plan
5. Create Your Weekly Workouts
– Creating Weekly Schedules
– Establishing and Developing Your Base
– Building Upon Your Base
– Peaking for Your Target Event
– Race Week and Race Day Warmup
6. Functional Strength
7. Recovery and Nutrition
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