Are You Running or Riding in Circles?

With every workout that our Science of Speed coaches post in an athlete’s training schedule, there is either a workout distance and/or a time designated for the workout.  Typically, we prescribe a length of time with intensity as a variable, but the reason for that is an entirely different article in itself. These workouts are set up with a specific goal in mind and are designed to create create stress on the body to result in optimal performance gains.

As we are analyzing training files, we sometimes see athletes who are more particular about reaching those specific times within very narrow margins.  In some cases, it is as severe as doing laps around a parking lot to get to the 2:00.00 hour mark or .00 of a mile. Is this you?

I recently completed a ride that I ended at 1:56.17 and 56.3km (34.98miles) and posted it to Facebook asking if my friends and followers would feel compelled to keep going towards that round number of time or distance. It was more common for athletes to end up riding or running to get to the next even/whole number.  

So, I pose to you this question.  Is it compulsion or methodology that is leading you to do this?  If there is a method to your madness that is great and you may keep going, but if it is obsession or anxiety that motivates this then I implore you to take a moment, with an open mind, and consider the following points.

Physiology – Our bodies are very responsive to training but we need to keep in mind that they are not so incredibly malleable that running circles in a parking lot to finish out an endurance workout is going to improve overall fitness.  A 5-10% buffer is perfectly acceptable and will not have significant impacts on your overall fitness.

Methodology – As we are designing training plans, we factor in three key variables: time, intensity and frequency.  These work synergistically to create a desired overload with increased fitness, strength and performance as the overall goal.  Much of our training plan design goes into interval training– a higher, focused intensity or effort with bouts of recovery in between.  These intervals are the primary part of the workout and what we see as the most important part. If you push the “recovery” phase of the interval too much, you negatively impact the quality of your intervals and, once you are done with the final interval, the meat and potatoes of that workout is done. Unless otherwise stated, a cooldown is sufficient enough to be completed for the day.

One experienced cyclist and ultra runner made a very valid point.  Paraphrasing, they said, “If my training plan said 2:00.00 and I got to that time on my ride, but still had 4 minutes of riding to get home, would I call my wife?”  Upon reading this, it only solidified my pre-existing view point that you might as well end several minutes early if you won’t be calling for a ride.

Understanding why your workouts are designed a certain way can be tricky — especially if you’re dealing with a one-size-fits-all training plan where the workouts weren’t designed for you. If you’re interested in having a resource to not only build, but also explain the purpose of your workouts and what is most important, I encourage you to reach out to Science of Speed about customized coaching to get the expert guidance that will lead to both knowledge and success.

Coach Brady

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