Training strategy for 2021

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic I look for new challenges. I like sports and I like to train. Having strategies to test and goals in mind boost my sports endeavors.

My first goal is to stay healthy, or better say cure little niggles first. So I am in a (s)low running phase only doing super easy runs (30 min x3 / wk) with no back to back runs. The goal is to be painfree the day after and really seek the root of the problem before increasing mileage again.

Second goal I have found is to eventually build technique in my swim. When I started swimming I was told to first enjoy swimming, then build fitness  and finally add technique. It ‘s debatable but I am ok with the concept. It’s a long term process. I have found many stuff to work on. (But the pools are gonna close again #emojibloodtears)

And the big chunk is that I want to improve my endurance/fatmax. I want to be able to sustain long endurance feats (24 h).

I am 173 cm and 60-64 kg. My fat mass is lower than average (Tanita BC 601 says 7,5% but I know it’s much different on DXA scan and I don’t see my veins like <5% fat cyclists). My VO2Max might be around 54-59 ml/kg with slight bumps over 60 when I am top fit. I train 500 hours a year. I think than naturally I am more built for 1-5h races. The half-marathon would be my race of choice if I had to choose something where I could have success (and no niggles). Or a 40 km TT. I think that speaking of muscular fiber types, I am a mixed person. I like some bursts of explosivity and I like endurance but I am not good at sprints (I am nothing but muscular) and I suffer on very long bike rides or runs (maybe a little bit more mentally than physically but it’s a hard question to decipher).

What about my diet ? I have always eaten a lot of bread. It’s my comfort food. Also I have been an advocate to train with carbs since we can optimize carbs burning this way and I used to refuel quickly after workouts (Jeukendrup « philosophy »). My opinion against low carb/fat burning strategies was that food was available during races and I am not highly proned to GI distress. Clearly I define myself as a natural « carb burner » if this means something. I don’t have a psychological issue with food but I had when I was a child. I think that my diet could be richer in fruits and vegs (hence fibers). Eventually I know that there is no perfect diet since everybody is different. (Anyway I see mediterranean and some asian cuisines as models). I don’t drink alcohol anymore because it messed up my sleep, recovery and early bird trainings.

So I want to improve my fat oxidation because I’d like to do ultra long endurance feats with duration between 12 and 24 hours.

Here is my starting point in last june (2020), done on a bicycle ergometer in the (hot) hospital  lab around 9:30 am in the fasted state with a pinch of caffeine (I do this to simulate race conditions and see if I get ectopic heart beats  while under medical supervision) :

Sadly, I didn’t get not more lactate measurements…

What I don’t really like is that even at a low effort I am burning a lot of carbs according to my RQ at 95 W, VCO2/VO2 = 0,82. Maybe I need more precise data points because RQ can be tricky to stabilize. On a previous test I have seen some RQ < 0,8 at the beginning of the effort. btw VO2/watts is 10,2 and I reached 305 W (it was hard doing it fasted in the hot lab, I had better CP4 and CP6 values recently buy maybe these fields tests overestimates max aerobic power with a big anaerobic component to it)

These datas are in line with an INSCYD test done in october 2019.

If I understand things well, to build endurance, volume of easy training is key. Ok. But since I am no professionnal athlete I cannot do 5h rides 3 times a week. But I will do some. The strategy for my next long sunday rides is first have a breakfast with a light amount of carbs to dampen the insulinic response to the meal. Then keep intensity smooth during the ride without during surges loading the glycolytic pathway (lactate inhibits lipolysis). I will also try to go a bit harder than I use to go. Usually with friends my average power ends up around 135 W (45% of MAP, ) and NP 150 W with average HR of 110-120. I shall rise this up a bit going more to the front pulling for others or do some long rides alone. I will not eat on the first hours (3 ?) and then take some carbs. Thinking about my intensity distribution I think I might level up the endurance side. I am too light during endurance sessions.

2019, good results in races, intensity distribution according to intervals.icu

Then, I will still do workouts like my early bird fatmax where I do one hour at 165-175 W first thing in the morning. I follow my average HR on this workout so I have a proxy for fitness with my power/HR ratio on this clamped effort.

The new thing is that I will do more « sweetspot » or « subthresholds » workouts with a pinch of low cadence work. The low cadence is to mimic climbs and to force II fibers to switch to a more aerobic machinery ? I have started last week with 3×10 min at 210 W. And this week I have done 3×15 min at 205 W. I keep a HR ceiling for these exercice of 82% of HR
max (148/180). I am wondering if this is an area where RQ should be around 0,95. Also I dream of a Lactate Pro meter to verify if I am in the right zone. I have tested the Roche Accutrend and it need to much blood, it’s crap for a sport usage.

Speaking of diet, I will try to balance carb with more proteins. I have monitored for roughly a week my food intake (it’s not fun) and I get this : carb 36%, fat 47%, proteins 17%.  255 g (4 g/kg) of carb per day (if I go 150g/day I sleep really bad), 113 g of proteins (1,8 g/kg).

In a second part of my preparation I’d like to do show bursts of intensity like 30/30s or 15×1 min at max aerobic power (and not above). This is too go toward VO2max without increasing too much VLaMax because these exercices rely on creatine P and myoglobin more than let’s say 3×4 min efforts ? At least it’s what I have understood after watching a conference from Laursen & Buchheit, the HIIT experts.

Eventually I will do 4×8 min à-la-Seiler since it was highly effective for me last year. These kinds of workouts are also good for buidling mental strength I think. This year I will keep a ceiling around 161 HR (91-92% HR) to avoir going too hard.

How to periodize this and how to do block periodization versus keeping things super simple is not clarified in my mind. I think we have to have some variations around some kind of consistency 😉

If I feel brave, I would monitor my CP6 and CP 20 sometimes during the season to see how the needles moves. The dream would be to rise the CP 20/CP6 ratio. If I can convince my doctor to do another met cart test, I would also like to get more lactate dosing to get a better picture of my metabolic profile (or I crack and buy a Lactate Pro 2). When I had good results my training distribution in the 3 zones model was roughly 76-79/16-18/6-9 so I will try to stay in this range. Being purely polarized is a good strategy to avoid overtraining because it prescribes a lot of very easy efforts and good to have some high speed for races but my goal is not a race for the period ahead.

There is a trap I will closely monitor : doing too much. I have had good results in 2018 and 2019 doing less volume than in 2017 and 2020. So volume is not a key regulator of success for me. There is some kind of glass ceiling I shall avoid. Working and having on calls requires smart choice in the training process. I cannot always do the plan sessions and that’s ok.

Of course sleep will be key. I also would like to refrain my pulsions of getting magical devices/supplements.

CP curve from the great intervals.icu web app

P.S. I think I have understood something about FATMAX. It’s a kind of confusion factor between FATMAX, the idea of burning fat, and the zone where mitochondria/TCA cycle work the most. So, it’s not than I need that much to improve fat burning capacities than training in this zone where mitochondria is highly stimulated and then hope for adaptations and growth in aerobic capacity (size, number and mitochondria machinery). And with growth of aerobic capacity comes more fat burned for same absolute effort. This is also why it’s better to clamp a workout to RPE and/or HR since when you work close to a metabolic turn point you (as an amateur) are highly likely to drift in another zone where mitochondria can’t process the lactate anymore and you fatigue much quicker both short term and long term. So it’s maybe not that much about tinkering with nutrition and fast (also I don’t see much a problem of fat availability in studies, more a challenge to get through the beta oxidation process) but more a challenge of discipline to work in the right zone. (And get a good excuse to buy a Lactate Pro Meter ;+))

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