Saturday, August 5, 2017

1:00am ramble on potentiation, my two taper workouts and I'm not sure what day it is.

Yesterday I really wanted to get out and loosen up and see how my legs felt. They feel really good but walking around and sitting in a car is so far removed from my goal that it's impossible to say for sure. I have a fairly good sense of fatigue ingrained from years of hard training so I think they feel good. The central nervous system is tricky though and when the expectation of performance is maximal speed I don't think it's a matter of sensing the fatigue in a restful state. With the CNS and working in the maximal speed range even a slight compromise, which you can't necessarily sense, might be the difference between failing and success. If I were going to do easier, longer volume then I would be confident my legs were ready to go. I need to relearn this idea although I'm not 100% sure you can actually sense a slight compromise in nervous system without some form of speed or neural test. Getting out today and doing drills, plyos, and some fast strides certainly would help in finding out if I am ready to go again tomorrow (although I am writing this at 1:45am so I should say today). That is potentiation and it's sort of a big deal in the circles that are up on CNS physiology, of which I am currently working towards joining. For many years I lifted heavy on my key intense bike session days. I'd generally swim and then lift and then get on the bike immediately after and I found that my legs felt amazing. This is because I had (accidentally) utilized the idea of potentiation and had activated or woken up my nervous system. Heavy, near maximal lifting is one way to do this. I had no idea what potentiation was at the time, I was just trying to get in my daily 5-6 hours of training. There are a few ways to use potentiation and each person is different and the sport does matter. Jumpers may find that maximal lifting is excellent while a more endurance focused runner might find that plyometrics are better. Sprinters and power athletes will respond better with some form of maximal load and speed. I think it also comes down more to what form or level of stress you are already adapted to. In other words you want to stick closer to what you know. If you never lift weights then of course lifting a max load is not going to help you or if you never do plyos then it's a foreign stress and it's more of a shock, not as much a benefit. And in a way the tried and true shake out or recovery jog is a form of potentiation but I'd guess that is less potentiation of nervous system and has more to do with muscle and metabolic recovery. Jogging easy is not a good neural stimulation. But again it goes back to sport specificity. A runner who did a 20 mile run yesterday probably doesn't need potentiation but rather a more gentle form of stimulus. You have to also consider that if you ran 20 yesterday you probably aren't going to be on the track doing speed work today... although that sounds like something I have probably tried doing. Anyway,  I'll see in tomorrow's (today's) workout!
    I'm in the final weeks of training before my "A' race on the 26th September 3rd (the race has been moved and I'm not complaining as it gives me an extra 7 days) and I've narrowed my training down to essentially two workouts that I'll repeat over the next 4 weeks with a gradual reduction in volume within the session. Yesterday's Sanya session is the exception, I threw that in just for fun and I may do it again, but as you'll see in the following paragraph it isn't so far removed from my plan that it's a true deviation. I'm just learning all this sprint stuff and am guiding myself through it and I've really tried to simplify the structure and goals. It gets really confusing when you start reading what's out there. You have a gazillion different methods with twice that number of workouts to choose from. I could very easily overthink this process but I think with any form of running, when you're just starting out or learning, it's better to stick to basic concepts. I generally start by eliminating those workouts that I don't enjoy and those that aren't specific to the training goal. Then I pick the sessions that address my weakness but I also keep the sessions that target my strengths. You must never allow your strength to slip or become weaker because your strength is what makes you unique and sets you apart. This idea of maintain your strength and work on the weakness is most applicable in the latter stages of a training cycle or season. The time to really work on your weaknesses is further out from your goal race. In my case I've never truly had that time. I started training for the 400 in mid April, only 16 weeks ago and really everything was my weakness.
So the two sessions I've narrowed it down to are:

Speed/ endurance:
     These are called "split 400's" and are easily the toughest workout I do. Tough from a pure workload aspect. I consider this a strength of mine because I love to work hard. I'm not necessarily fast on this session but It's one that I crave and want to do over and over. Anytime an athlete loves a certain workout they will thrive. The mental side of training is very much underrated (because it's not nearly as understood as the physiology) and any positive cue from our brain should be pounced on and exploited.
 3 X (300 meters/ rest 1:00/ 100 meters) rest 5:00.
     The Sanya session I did the day before yesterday is a more gnarly S/E session with a similar focus. It's a little more blunt though and something that fits better earlier in the cycle. The 300/100 split is sharper and designed more for final specific race prep. This is very much in part because of the 100 meter interval that follows the 1:00 rest. This comes very close to mimicking the last 100 meters of a 400 (in speed that is) and the rule of specificity comes into play.
     Speed (my weakness): something like 2 X (3 X 50 meters flying starts) on 3:00 and 8:00. So that's 3:00 rest after each 50, and 8:00 between the two sets. This session is pure speed and central nervous system and I think is going to be my biggest challenge. I have two major factors going against me here and they're tied in together. My actual age and my athletic or sprinting age. Not only is this something I've never really trained but I'm picking it up and starting at an age where my nervous system is on the decline. Had I been a sprinter in a previous stage of life that would help, but this is all new to me. So I'm starting from zero with an already declining nervous system.

     So, this morning I'll get through the warmup and see what my legs are telling me is appropriate on the day. One training concept I'm reading more about, and like a lot, is "the Bondarchuk method". This is old school which is partly why I like it but I also feel like it's how I coach and train myself already. Bondarchuk is a Russian hammer thrower (Olympic champion himself and the coach of many champions) who changed the way coaches think of periodization. At first, on the surface, it looks fairly complex but once you begin to understand it it's actually the opposite. It's simple and relies entirely on the response of the athlete on the day and also the athlete's development over time to guide the training. If there's a downside to it for me its that it is very data driven and my own opinion on data is that it can hurt as much as help, but I think that applies much more to endurance running than anything else. That's a whole blog post in itself so I won't go there. For sprinting and power based or explosive sports however, data becomes more relevant because of the aforementioned unique qualities of nervous system fatigue. It's harder to sense or feel CNS compromise without actually testing it and seeing a result. If the goal is to log 10 miles easy (a metabolic and muscular aspect) then CNS plays a very small role in that and it being compromised won't compromise the goal. Bondarchuk also eliminates the complexity of exercises used. The idea is that you choose just a few exercises that target your goals and you simply repeat them over and over until you see a decline in performance. Once that decline hits -10% (this number is widely varied, some coaches feel that 3% is enough while others will push that much higher or deeper) then you change the stimulus. In a way this resembles in concept the Maffetone method which may be why it appeals to me? It's been 22 years now since I started using MAF!? With Maffetone you do one thing until you're fully adapted and see a plateau, then you change the stimulus. When it comes to adaptation, at a certain point change is king. There's much more to the Bondarchuk method but that's a couple of the basic ideas. One more that is applicable to me right now is response time to a training stimulus. It's applicable because I have only 4 weeks until my "A" race and that is not enough time to significantly change or enhance my weakness. So is it better to cut those losses and focus more on my strength which I have been developing for a longer period of time? I feel that my strength will be reducing my drop off in speed, or maintaining the crappy the speed I have. Slow less in the last 100 of my race. Lots of little concepts in this idea like being able to hold a higher percentage of my top end for longer and aspects of genetic muscle composition, type II versus type I dominance and so on.
     If you've read to this point I commend you. Time to go run.        



GZ said...

I really love how you have gone full on OCD with this.

Lucho said...

I really have. And I love it too.