Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Tracking stress... and the graphic representation of a training block

Okay... so time to show off some of the work that I've been doing for the past 4.5 months. I've been using myself as the primary subject and have recently added a few others to the complete training tracking as well. For those interested I also have coaching plans that do not involve the data tracking as discussed below.

First up... year long tracking...

If you don't care about the minutiae of all this than skip to the next paragraph! :)

The scores on the left side of the chart are ATL (acute training load- i.e. near term) and CTL (chronic training load- i.e. long term) scores. Basically this represents your fatigue (red) and your fitness (blue). The relationship between the two is expressed with the TSB (yellow line). Less fatigue and more fit? Then the yellow line goes way up! This score is represented by the ruler on the right side of the graph.

So.... what does this all mean?

Well... by utilizing the underlying spreadsheet it allows for one to be able to forecast out training stress and the corresponding workout and thus predict the desired response over a given training period from an athlete. Over the course of a year you can set up a preliminary schedule that can show how an athlete will have a run or swim focus, then a big cycling block and then pull it all together and start the build for the key event. In the chart above you can see how during critical build points I was able to boost my fitness. It is important to follow up these blocks of training with recovery or taper periods where the athlete is then allowed absorb the work that they have done. As the final, or key event of the season, approaches, you begin to slowly taper off the overall stress while still keeping the focus of the workouts intense so as to leave the althlete still feeling sharp. By charting out the graph you are able to show how fitness is built and maintained as well as display the focused weeks and rest weeks. After which, and as the season progresses, you can build the proper workouts into the plan that will most completely optimize the build.

Now it can get kind of difficult when looking at the whole year to see the more focused details of any given training period. The graph here represents 8 weeks out from Kona. As you can see I put in a BIG block of training for the first two weeks before falling ill, due in part to the high volume of work I was doing. I can now look back and surmise that trying to dig a stress hole that deep will lead to nothing but excessive fatigue and illness.

Also by looking at the micro cycle you are better able to see the effect of the rest and recovery weeks on your fitness. Even though I was sick I was still going out and getting in little bits of workouts so that I could continue to feel snappy. Race day was great and then I took an easy week to recover from the effort as well as repair the physical damage (which cannot be shown here). Once sufficiently recovered, both aerobically and physically, from the race I then launch into one last final big week before then starting a slowly rising three week taper.

What stress tracking can do is allow you to see how the athlete is responding to the work prescribed. Like Dave Harris said, "The body is like a swiss watch. You just have to know how to wind it." But the technique used to wind it is a completely different story. I'll leave that one for my next write up.

Just think about it this way. How high you build your fitness is not necessarily more important then what you built it with.

See ya!