Day 47 – Training The Engine

127 days until IRONMAN 70.3 Chattanooga

Jan Olbrecht has an interesting way of training his athletes.

If you are envisioning an athlete trying to swim upstream while tethered to a john boat loaded with two coaches, I’m sorry to disappoint you. That’s more like what my coaches in this video would do. Instead, I’m talking about a very complex way to accurately describe an athlete’s physiological condition and response to training.

Dr. Olbrecht holds a Ph.D. in physiology and was once an elite swimmer. He has worked with hundreds of athletes and their coaches with great success. The basis of his methods come down to two concepts: capacity and power. Using lactate data and complex simulation models, Olbrecht determines if his athletes should train for one more than the other.

You can think of these two concepts in terms of a car engine. The capacity may be the number of cylinders or cubic displacement. Power can be thought of as anything feeding into or constraining the engine: fuel system, exhaust system, fuel quality, air flow, driver experience, etc. The example I just used on coach Sami is that of a Toyota Yaris and a Jaguar (the car, not the animal).

Could my Yaris beat the Jaguar in a race?

The real answer is, “not likely.” But hypothetically, it could. The Jag might have almost 6 times the displacement of my 1.1L engine which is a difference in capacity. But if the fuel system on that Jag is not working right and the timing is off, then compared to my perfectly tuned Yaris, that Jag may not be so hot. That’s a difference in power.

The upshot of Olbrecht’s work is that both systems need to be trained, but only one system can be trained at a time. Also, in order to know which system of yours needs training the most, you have to undergo quite a bit of lactate testing and your data has to be analyzed by complex simulation models.

Not all of this is out of reach of the age grouper. There are some lessons to be learned from Olbrecht’s work. Most of those lessons are in complete agreement with many other experts: train a lot below LT1 (aerobic threshold), train a little above LT2 (anaerobic threshold) and don’t get stuck training in between the two.

If you want to know more about Dr. Olbrecht and his philosophy, have a listen to this interview on That Triathlon Show.

Workout Summary

I blew it. I went out too fast.

Today was supposed to be an FTP test on the bike. The goal for such a test is to push the most watts for 20 minutes, but I pooped out at about 15 minutes. The legs just seized up for a split second and then there was no strength left. The blue block in the chart below is the intensity I expected to perform and the pink line is the actual watts I produced.

FTP test that didn’t end well

Pushing the watts on an indoor trainer ride by yourself is not only a test of physical condition, it is a test of mental toughness. Needless to say, Im going to have to do it again except next time I won’t be alone. I ‘ll do it in a group which may give me a psychological advantage over being alone.

I just hope I can recover enough from this workout to swim tomorrow morning.

Until tomorrow…

Stay to the right, pass on the left and keep on smiling

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LG found the triathlon lifestyle after years of calling himself soldier, cowboy, philosopher, scientist... "Triathlete" may be the last title he ever needs (after husband and father).