It’s important to note that whilst we are looking at a triathlon training graph, this can apply to the workplace, education or any other sport. In short, it’s all about building up a good base of work or knowledge prior to the main event or events… whatever that may look like. This could be within a year, or lifetime.
We could go into the theories of grit, purposeful practice and the relatively arbritory 10,000 hours of practice that allegedly equates to being at the top of your profession… but I won’t.
Instead, I’m going to miniaturise all of this and show how the last 365 days has panned out for me, and the importance of prolonged purposeful practice … or in otherwords… consistency, especially over the winter period prior to the ‘busy season’ or ‘race season’.
What you can see here is a performance management graph taken from training peaks, a program we use to manage our training and racing. Whilst I don’t use this graph in particular throughout the year, it’s a useful tool to reflect on the year as a whole.
A quick basic guide:
Blue - fitness
Pink - fatigue
Yellow - form
Blue dots - intensity factor (how hard a particular session / day was)
Red - Training stress score (TSS) (the accumulative stress on the body).
Building on our recent newsletter about the importance of rest, recovery and being reinvigorated in order to start the year afresh, you can see on the graph where I took my ‘break’ last season. You can see how my fitness and fatigue went down and form went up, with a lot of red dots on the bottom of the graph (days off!) This is how I prepped for the season ahead, getting the mind and body ready for putting in the work to get to a good level of fitness. The same can be applied to education or the work place… you need a holiday or a break from work to get yourself ready to go again, otherwise it can become monotonous, boring, and you start to waiver from putting purpose into your practice.
This is all about building up the foundations to enable you to have a strong base before doing the hard work post Christmas. It is what allows you to put in the work without getting too fatigued and therefore injured or sick.
As you can see from the graph, there as a nice gradual / steady upwards progression of the blue line showing the build up of fitness. Again, in the workplace or education this could be seen to be the acquisition of basic skills necessary to produce the outputs come January / the exam period in June…
Unfortunately this is part of life… and whilst we attempt to mitigate these, they sometimes do happen. Mine was not illness… but an injury due to coming off of my bike… this was my disruption in the middle of my pre-Christmas block as you can see by the drop in fitness and fatigue and increase in form… I had to rest and recover… (this could be an illness in the workplace). Note the red dot’s on the floor of the graph.
Fortunately I was able to get back on the bike and run, but not swim as my thumb was broken and had to be operated on… so the increase in fitness wasn’t as much as I would have liked, but was a good opportunity to focus on the other areas.
The January training camp isn’t usually a large training stimulus as can be seen here… it’s usually more of a re-location camp for better weather and a bit of a change in scenery … kind of like a study trip.
That being said, it was on camp that I re-introduced swimming into my program and therefore got a large training stimulus, with an increase in fatigue and fitness.
The work done pre race season (period between camp and March) was only possible due to the foundations that were put down before hand. Again, you can see that steady progression upwards all the way until March where I had some European cups pencilled in and I began to taper… note the rise in form. Unfortunately, Covid19 struck and we went into lockdown which was a bit of a mental hit, as I'm sure many can relate to. I took a day or two off here to reassess and get going again.
ANOTHER TRAINING CAMP? / LOCKDOWN
Going into lockdown was a chance to double down on training. It was like having another training camp. A lot of the external stresses of life were taken away and allowed me to focus on training. Unfortunately lockdown did mean a lack of swimming, but meant that I could replace that with some bike and run volume. (Note the second spike in fitness and fatigue).
As you can see, from here, without swimming, it was a far slower acquisition of fitness. It would have taken a lot more training to get the same rate of improvement as before… and I’m not sure my body would have handled it.
The next peak was a challenge I had set myself which was the Everesting Challenge… you can see the TSS was through the roof on that day… from then on it was just about maintaining fitness and keeping mentally strong as lockdown continued and lack of races played on the mind.
Whilst there were no races, the graph actually shows roughly what a race season would look like with a couple of form peaks in between a steady decrease in fitness as you ‘sharpen up’ for races. This is in general not a period where you want to overwork yourself, but more freshen up ready to put in your best efforts. Show what you’ve been working on. This could be in a race or an exam or similar… The yellow line shows peaks in form.. this would be when you would want to race…
My two 'form' peaks were taken due to too much mental fatigue and a slight knee niggle that I picked up falling over on a run… and another when Iss and I took a staycation break when lockdown restrictions had eased.
Race season is all about trying to maintain a decent level of fitness whilst being fresh for races… It is very hard to gain fitness during a race season… unless you had a lack of fitness to begin with. This is why you will see a slight decrease in that fitness line. The better you can get pre season, the fitter you’ll be able to be and maintain throughout the races.
Finally you can see here the rest period once more… This looked different to last season… There were no races this season so mentally I didn’t feel as fatigued as I have done in previous seasons, so this time it was a case of taking September to do some ‘free’ training and get the mental rest I needed, take some time away from training if I wanted to, spend quality time doing things I enjoyed, ready to go again.
Important to remember
All of this wouldn’t have been possible without careful planning by both my coach and myself, and consideration for things going on in and around my life… The steady progression and build up of foundations is essential to put in the work necessary and should never be underestimated in order to avoid overuse injury and fatigue. Not to mention the specifics of each and every session that allowed the performance progress.
This careful planning has allowed me to be very consistent over the past year or so, with very few day’s off (red dots on the ground) if you neglect the fall off of the bike and Covid19 pandemic…
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