Greetings from Robbie Ventura
Most people approach their fitness at this time of year in one of three ways:
1. Increased engagement: completely gung ho and super-focused on 2015 goals
These athletes are using this great fall weather to ramp up training on all fronts.
2. Change in engagement: pulling back on endurance engagement and reducing overall training time
These athletes seek other forms of exercise, often involving more strength and coordination. This departure from longer, more steady state exercise to a focus on more athletic and strength work makes a ton of sense to me.
3. Disengagement: unfortunate stop to all training
Some are physically and mentally burnt out or are out of balance from a long season. Others have lost all their motivation because they have no fall or spring goals. And then there are those who are just on to other things.
At this time of year, VQ mostly sees the first two approaches. We have athletes who are so pumped for this year’s cross-season, as well as goals for next year, that they are training hard and loving this time. Many of the VQ veterans are taking a break from big volume training to focus more on healing and getting to fitness components like strength, stability and skill. We realize that getting stronger, more stable and balanced will help adapt to higher training loads in the spring; consequently, keeping us growing and helping to reduce the risk of injuries. To me, putting on a little muscle and increasing range of motion rounds us out and allows us to stay younger and more capable.
Now, whether you are going for it or winding your endurance training down a bit, this is a perfect time to get some reference points on your current fitness level. You can find this information in the lab or in the field.
- The lab provides a great way to quantify your fitness level. I love when athletes come in to participate in a blood lactate test. We can determine so much about how they have adapted during the year and where they stand in comparison to tests taken in the past. The lab test is nice because, through interpretation, we can determine how the lower end energy systems have adapted to the training load.
- Now, if you are short on time, you can still look at the threshold and high-end energy systems by doing field tests. Field tests are very effective in determining the higher end energy systems. You can do a field test by doing a 4-minute and 20-minute all-out test. This will give you an idea of where you are and whether you have improved the higher end systems. There is a good chance that if you have improved these systems, you probably improved the lower end systems as well.
The key is to create a consistent test that you can repeat as often as you like. At the very least you should test now, in the spring and again midsummer. This will help give some structure to your season and help you determine what is working and how your fitness changes throughout the year.
I also think these tests help determine how an athlete’s current training intensities should look. What are the current power, HR and PE zones? Believe it or not, power zones change throughout the year and recalibrating them is important. If you have never done a test, then I suggest doing one now. No matter where you are currently in your fitness quest, testing will give you valuable data to improve as efficiently as possible.
So, whether you are a VQ athlete or not, be sure to get a fitness reference point this fall. You can do a lab test that involves a lactate ramp test and will provide great data on low- and high-end energy systems to point you to your focus this off-season. If that’s not in the cards, do the 20-minute field test so we can calibrate your indoor and outdoor training intensities to maximize your training effect no matter what your engagement level is.