Training the Joe Friel Way

4:59 AM

I will admit that I was more sheep than athlete for several years.  Having a coach will do that to you, and it isn’t all a bad thing.  The coach puts together the plan based on their (hopefully) extensive knowledge of training principles and current research.  A season is mapped out with an eye to major competitions and peak races.  Workouts are planned to accommodate the needs of the athlete.  All of this puts the athlete in the position of executing the plan, which I did for several years.  If the coach said to do 8 progressive 400s with 2 minutes of recovery between the first four, and a full recovery between repeat 4 and 5, that is what I did.  Throughout the season I never paid attention to the fact that the distances and intensities of our workouts changed – it was all just running to me.

This shifted a bit in college, where I had a coach that was more collaborative in his approach.  It was awkward at first, because I just wanted him to tell me what to do, while he wanted detailed training logs that included masses of data like resting heart rate, sleep hours, and rate of perceived exertion.  This was not a sort of “set it and forget it” training plan.  You could see it on the days we ran organized practices, as runners with different needs were grouped for different workouts.  Basic training principles also became more familiar through the kinesiology classes I took at college for a coaching license.

In my twenties and early thirties, though I didn’t always follow a formalized training plan, when motivated I would fall back on the concepts of Jack Daniels (could there be a better name for a running coach?).  His approach is very scientific, based on your VDOT (a pseudo VO2) number, you completed workouts at different intensities.  Oh, how I hated those I(nterval) and R(epetition) paced workouts!  Six weeks on the Daniels plan would invariably find me incredibly fit, but it was always difficult to maintain that intensity, particularly when I wasn’t on a team anymore.  Why did I care about getting faster, anyway?  Running in college had pretty much wrung out any competitive desire I had, and while Daniels gave my training structure, I struggled to find the point of it.

This year's plan...
All of this changed with cycling.  After a couple of years of just enjoying life on the bike, the spouse and I were ready for some sport-specific training, which we found through Joe Friel’s The Cyclist’s Training Bible (he runs a great blog HERE).  All of the concepts I was familiar with from running (periodization, different intensities at different parts of the season, etc.) were there but just in cycling language.  Last year was the first time I planned out a two-peak season (one for road, one for cyclocross) of training and stuck to it.  Without a doubt, I saw the benefits as my cyclocross season came to a close – I felt strong, and actually came to have some confidence in my ability to attack. 

This year I have a newly formulated plan, with a change in focus.  Since discovering mountain biking, I’ve dropped any plans for a formal road race season in favor of the Minnesota Mountain Bike Series.  I’ve also left open the possibility of extending my cyclocross season into next January for a possible race at Nationals.  I find that Friel gives me a good balance of structure and flexibility.  In any given week I can adjust my workouts to meet my hours, but I never find myself doing the same thing over and over.  Though I am still no fan of the intense pain that Anaerobic Endurance workouts bring, at least I know that they will have a (nearly) immediate and measureable effect on my performance.

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