Training Principles Part 4: Cardiovascular


Training Principles Part 4: Cardiovascular

Anytime I move, my heart starts raising its rate to keep up with my workload. Virtually, all of my training has a cardiovascular component to it. A couple of times a week, I do some pure cardio work to train my heart and lungs. When I am on the ice, I can consider it a strength and cardio workout. Even skating slow laps requires a great deal of strength, and my heart rate increases to a high level before long.

I do two types of cardio work, mostly on a stationary bike sometimes on the ice or slideboard . One type of workout is interval training. The other is extensive tempo. The difference is that interval training is of a higher intensity but with rest between the efforts. The extensive tempo training is doing something at a lower intensity but continuously for a longer time frame. An example of an interval workout would be running 400 meters pretty hard so that you are breathing heavily at the end, then resting by jogging 200 meters, then repeating. This was the workout we did when I was in high school as a freshman running cross country, and we repeated this cycle about 12 times or more in a workout. It takes about an hour to do this part of the workout. An extensive tempo workout would be running for the same hour or longer but at a slower pace continuously.

Both types of workouts have benefits for your heart and lungs. To get the full benefits of cardio training, you should use both methods each week. Many times, my coach schedules an extensive tempo bike workout in the evening after an intense morning workout on the ice to help flush out the byproducts that built up earlier. This way I get the benefit of the flush as well as the cardio training for my heart. Swimming is also a great non-weight-bearing exercise that can help with heart and lung capacity. I can do tempo, intervals, or recovery work by swimming.

Next week I will talk about the concept of periodization.

Here is a video of the end of an interval workout on my stationary bike that I sent to my coach Nancy Swider-Peltz, Sr who was in Germany at the time.

 

 

 

 

Training Principles Part 3 : Strength Training


Training Principles Part 3 : Strength Training

Strength training is essential. Many books have been written and studies have been done on the benefits. For a speed skater, strength is essential. The benefits are numerous. I train very hard at developing my strength, which produces huge benefits. As a young man, I did weight training, but not as much as I do now. Strength training enhances and improves everything. One benefit is that I am a better runner because I am stronger; I run with better economy and efficiency, I play tennis better, swing a golf club better, etc.

Because of strength, I am able to apply my leg strength to the ice through a very strong core without compromising my lower back or being prone to injury. Strength and weight training has also helped me develop stronger connective tissue and bones. This helps to prevent injuries.

My strength work is one weight workout per week. I do about a dozen different exercises. I do three for my legs. Leg press, squeeze (adduction) and hamstrings for my legs and that is a leg press machine. The rest is for core and upper body. I no longer use free weights. The chance of injury is high, and the benefit from free weights is negligible. I use machines that have a cam system that distributes constant stress through the full range of motion of the joint I am working. I do one set of 6 reps to failure. For example, on the leg press, I will extend up from the starting position of a 90-degree knee bend to almost straight in 10 seconds, then 10 seconds back down to 90 degrees again. I never fully extend or rest the weight so I am constantly under load. It takes 2 minutes to do 6 repetitions. Then I do three jumps to a bench about knee height two times and walk around for a couple of minutes before going onto the next machine. This exhausts the slow, medium, medium fast and fast twitch muscle fibers all at the same time. It takes about a week to recover. I keep track of what I have done and increase the next week. I make progress every week and I am stronger than ever.

Next week I will cover cardiovascular work.

Photo by Jerry Search

Photo by Jerry Search

Training Principles Part 2


Training Principles Part 2.

To recap my training regimen has eight parts.

Practicing the sport
Warm-up, cool-down, volume, and intensity
Strength work
Cardiovascular work
Periodization
Stretching
Mental training
Rest

The first part is to practice my craft—in this case, speed skating. I can skate on the ice (when available), rollerblade, do imitation skating on dry land, or use a slide-board. The second part is the related principles of warm-up, cool-down, volume, and intensity. The third part is to build strength by weight training. The fourth part is building the cardiovascular component to supply my muscles with oxygen and nutrients. I can build my heart and lung capacity by running, cycling, swimming, etc. The fifth part is the principle of periodization in managing the training load through the training season. The sixth part is stretching. I can do yoga or any type of dynamic and static stretching. I like to use yoga as a separate workout to promote flexibility and mind-fullness. The seventh part is the mental training aspect, which is a separate exercise using visualization and rehearsal as well as an active application during my training. The last part is rest, active as well as passive. Active rest is necessary to promote recovery. Passive is just like it sounds, stopping and doing nothing, physically and mentally.

By applying the general principles of athletic training to anything that requires commitment, dedication, perseverance, and discipline, you can achieve extraordinary results.

Practicing my sport

When I started skating as a youngster, what attracted me was the sport itself and the joy of doing it. We must all remember our roots and our early motivation to get us through the hard work of training. When I skate and race, I put everything together: strength, endurance, technique, cardio work, mental training, everything. This is my toughest test as well as my best barometer of progress. Here is where the skate meets the ice.

There is nothing natural about speed skating. It is a purely learned activity that requires a fair amount of strength. Because of the strength required, skaters do not have the luxury of a lot of repetition. In order to skate technically well, a skater cannot be too tired. When I get tired, my technique suffers and thereby my speed.

In the United States, we have long track ice at two indoor 400-meter ovals about six months of the year from September through March. In Olympic years, we might have ice a month or so longer. It is important to skate, but it is also important to do off-ice imitation skating in the form of inline skating, dry-land training, and slide-board. I am constantly refining my technique to get the maximum speed. When I skate, I have several types of workouts. One workout is endurance skating: many laps at low intensity concentrating on technique and efficiency. Another workout is at race pace for short distances, typically 400 to 600 meters. We have several types of interval workouts as well, which intersperse hard skating with periodic rests. Then we have sprint workouts where we go all out hard for very short distances, interspersed with long rests. The goal is to refine our technique on the ice, since there is no true substitute, while simulating the different parts of racing. My coach is usually on hand for these sessions to direct and modify training as I go, as well as help to refine technique.

In whatever sport you are engaged in, you must learn to apply some amount of technique. Even something as seemingly simple as cycling can benefit because you can learn more efficient ways of pedaling. In speed skating, technique is extremely important. The faster I want to go, the better I must skate technically. This means striving for great body positioning and the most efficient way to push into the ice. If I have poor technique, I will skate slowly. When I improve my ability to apply my motor to the ice, I go faster and longer with the same effort.

 

Training Principles Part 1


Training Priciples Part 1

One of my early memories of growing up is doing crazy things. Little did I know that this kind of play was the beginning of my training. Bart and I were probably about 6 and 8 years old at the time. We had skateboards, the kind that were about 2 feet long with metal roller skating wheels bolted to the bottom. Our driveway from the house to the sidewalk was sloped slightly, so we could get a little speed rolling downhill, maybe a fast walking speed. After mastering the skateboard on the driveway, we tried some other stuff. Bart liked hanging upside down on the monkey bars across the street in the park. When we started to go down the driveway on the skateboard in a handstand, it seemed like a logical progression from our other activities. This helped both of us to develop strength and balance early. Certainly, it helped Bart in his gymnastics career, and it also helped me in my balance for skating.

Making time to put in the work can be hard. I was asked the other day about how I find the time to train at this level. My answer was that I don’t find the time, I make the time. This goes back to setting goals and priorities. Following through with a training plan is easier when I make the time. It has taken years to put myself into a job that allows blocks of time off to pursue my other passions. By carefully looking at our schedules, we can figure out ways to make time to pursue our goals and keep our priorities straight. We all have unexpected things come up in our lives that require us to put us off our training schedules. Adaptation with balance is the key to making progress.

Athletic training, in general, has two major parts: building the motor (strength, endurance, cardio), and then developing the technique to apply it. My knowledge and expertise has been developed by trial and error and by talking to other athletes on similar paths. The lessons I’ve learned in training may be actively applied to other parts of life. My training regimen has eight parts.

Practicing the sport
Warm-up, cool-down, volume, and intensity
Strength work
Cardiovascular work
Periodization
Stretching
Mental training
Rest

Next week I will expand on general training principles and start taliking about the eight parts above.

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The Zen of Intense Training


The Zen of Intense Training.  To be zen, enlightened, in a state of total focus where mind and body are together.  This is my journey.

Having trained for many years I can recall many times I have reached this state of zen.  A long run in the forest on a trail, a hard stair workout by a waterfall, a leisurely bike ride after the end of a hard skate.

This is what I strive for.  It is the joy of the work itself.  My head, body and heart are one.

When the intensity is cranked up, I feel it.  Being totally focused on the task, this is when it works.  When racing, I am totally focused.  By training this way I am preparing for the intense race conditions.  Train to race, race like I train.  This is the connection of all of me and the Zen of intense work.

Keeping my priorities straight for this intense work is the key.  When I train, I train hard.  I work up to it gradually within each workout as well as over the course of my season and years.

The payoff is incredible.  Making progress is very rewarding.  The way I feel during and after make the work a joy.

Having trouble with being able to train hard?  If you need to prioritize, take out the volume and put in the intensity.  Work up to it gradually, and enjoy the zen of intense training.

Stair climbing at the waterfall near Inzell Germany

Stair climbing at the waterfall near Inzell Germany

Training Cycles, Macro to Micro


Training has its cycles, macro to micro.  The macro cycle starts with the 4 year Olympic cycle. The micro is the cycle within a workout.

There is a reason that the Olympics are every 4 years.  I have been through 2 complete cycles recently now and can attest to the natural flow that it takes.  After an Olympic year we all need a break from the  intense training.  There is a natural need for a less intense season.  Then the build up can continue again towards the next Olympic year.  We all need a break physically, mentally, emotionally, etc.

The speed skating competition season starts in September and ends in March.  After the season is over,  a few weeks off or just recovery work, then off ice training again in preparation for skating in the fall.   Time off consists of recovery work and fun stuff.  I do a lot of low intensity bike work, tennis , golf, swimming, etc.

When training again, increasing gradually, hard for 3 weeks and easy for 1 week. The easy week is very important for the body to have some recovery.  Without a break we are subject to over training and susceptible to injury and illness.

During the competition season I need to be able to peak at the right time.  This requires an easy week or two prior to the competition.  The longer the hard training period the longer the taper prior to the competition.  The taper is done by keeping the intensity but reducing the volume.

In a weekly cycle I train hard all week and take Sundays off.  Sometimes hard training for two days and take an easy recovery day between.  I still need to get in a certain amount of cardio training, strength, and skating in every week.

Even within a single workout there are cycles.  After the warmup and into the meat of a workout I cycle between intense work then rest and recovery.  Intervals followed by a set rest or A very hard effort followed by complete rest.  There a number of different kinds of workouts with this in mind depending on what the objective is that I am trying to obtain.  At the end of the workout I finish the cycle by cooling down and stretching.

So what to do with this information?  Set up a training plan for the 4 year cycle, yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily. Revise it accordingly to fit your needs, desires, competitions and reactions to training feedback and recovery.

Remember, work, recovery, rest, repeat.

My ithlete HRV tool helps with determining how hard to train. It helps me to measure my readiness to train hard or take an easy day.

The Native American indians have a philosophy about circles.  Respect the circles and the cycles of life.

Masters Us Single Dist Championships January 2012, photo by Steve Penland

Competition, Stress, and Anxiety


We train, so we can compete, get results and validation for what we put into our sports, and ourselves.

When it comes to competition stress is involved.  That is a fact, or we would not be human.  How we handle it can have a very big impact on the outcome of our efforts.  Stress is a normal human response to fight or flight.  Our heart rates rise, body temperature goes up, our nerves are more sensitive, a rush of adrenaline, blood sugar rises, etc.  We are ready to go!  If we think stress is bad for us, it will be.  If we believe it is normal and we use it to prepare for competition then it is good for us.  Anxiety that can accompany stress is the bad part.  That is where we tighten up and cannot perform to the level that we have trained. Our minds work in nanoseconds .  I can tighten up in the middle of my downswing to hitting a golf ball.

It takes experience for all of us to learn how to handle stress and anxiety in the competitive environment.  We all have to learn for ourselves what works and what does not.  I have failed many times in the way I handle my anxiety.   By keeping alert to my own thoughts and making adjustments, I make progress.  My goal is to make stress an asset and keep the anxiety to a minimum

By practicing thought processes in my training I will be prepared for racing.  Visualization creates confidence in the plan, its execution, and ultimately me.  Thought processes are self-fulfilling prophecies.  We create environments to be successful or to fail.  It is up to us.  Positive reinforcing statements that are repeated to ourselves helps to set up our minds for positive outcomes.

Nothing can substitute for the real competition.  It is very important to be conscious to my thoughts before and during racing, building on what works and discarding what doesn’t.

We all carry baggage into battle.  Dropping the unnecessary stuff and making use of assets are the important part of the process.

Gratitude is the first and foremost  thought when I approach the starting line.  Knowing that I have done the prep work to compete is the next.  Adjusting as I go helps me be flexible to a changing environment.  Trusting that I will get the results I am supposed to get helps me stay in the moment and focused.  Then I stop thinking, get out of my own way, and set up the best possible outcome.

Talking with my coach or a trusted advisor can help me with this process.  Honesty about what is going on in my head is essential.  The more racing I do the better I get.  Each year has new perspective, goals, and challenges.  The view is constantly changing.

500 Meters race start US Single Distance Championships January 2012, Milwaukee, Wi, Photo by Steve Penland

500 Meters race start US Single Distance Championships January 2012, Milwaukee, Wi, Photo by Steve Penland