I’ve gotten a few emails this week from athletes whose A-priority race was re-scheduled for later in the spring or summer. One of them didn’t even know when the race would be held. All had the same question: What should I do in the meantime?
First, I’m sorry to hear this is happening, but there is certainly good reason for it. We all need to do our part to limit the possibilities of spreading the disease. The sooner we get this under control the sooner we get back to normal living – and racing.
So let’s get into what to do about race delays. From what I’ve seen so far it appears that the rescheduled races are 12 weeks or more in the future. If that’s the case for yours then the best option is to immediately return to base fitness training as described in my Training Bibles. This involves four training abilities: aerobic endurance, muscular force, speed skills, and muscular endurance. You can check the details of the workouts for each of these in the appendixes of the books. But to help you get started, here are quick summaries of what these ability workouts call for:
Aerobic Endurance (AE)
These are low intensity, steadily paced workouts that are done at an intensity at the aerobic threshold or below. In other words, they are relatively easy. If you aren’t sure what your aerobic threshold is one easy way to roughly estimate it is to subtract 30 from your functional threshold heart rate (or anaerobic or lactate threshold heart rate). So if your FTHR is 160bpm your estimated aerobic threshold is 130bpm. These AE workouts can be either short and easy recovery sessions or longer workouts intended to develop aerobic fitness. This is the most important of the base abilities since the endurance races we do are, at the most basic level, highly aerobic. Most of your training now should be AE sessions.
Muscular Force (MF)
MF workouts are intended to improve the force you apply to the water (swimming), pedal (cycling), ground (running), oars (rowing), or whatever your sport may be. Every endurance sport involves using your muscles to create a force that propels you. A common way of developing this strength is lifting weights using high-load, low-rep exercises that focus on the propulsion muscles of your sport. If you haven’t been lifting for a few weeks (or ever) then it’s best to start with low-load, high-rep exercises and gradually shift toward HLLR over several weeks. Be cautious with doing such training as it is likely to leave you tired or sore when it’s time for a sport-specific session such as running. The risk of injury is also high if you’ve not been to the gym in quite a while so in that case it’s probably best not to start lifting weights now. One or two sessions per week is adequate in this seasonal-pause situation. A good alternative is to do workouts that are specific to your sport but are similar to the stress of a weightlifting session. These are described in some detail, along with timing within the week, in the most recent editions of my Training Bibles.
Speed Skills (SS)
These are sessions intended to improve your sport’s movement skills. Some sports such as swimming require a very high level of skill. But all sports require some level of skill so that energy isn’t wasted. You can tell who highly skilled athletes are in their sports by how easily and fluidly they move. This is one of the reasons they are so fast – very little energy is lost to poor technique. There are drills that can be done for every sport that I highly recommend you focus on in the base period. Again, these are described in detail my Training Bibles.
Muscular Endurance (ME)
You may already have this well developed if you were in the last weeks of the build period just prior to the race. If that’s the case then very little of this may be needed now. These are intervals done at or slightly below your functional threshold power (FTPo), pace (FTPa), or heart rate (FTHR). A common example would be 4 x 8 minutes at this intensity with 2-minute recoveries. Again, note that these are notabove your functional threshold. On a 0-10, easy-hard scale they would be about a 6. This is a basic workout that is the hardest of the types described here in your return to the base period. Don’t go overboard with them. One session per week is adequate. If you’re not ready for 4 x 8 minutes start with something such as 3 x 5 minutes with 75-second recoveries.
When you get to about 12 weeks to go until your race return to the build training you were (hopefully) using before the interruption in your training.
I hope this helps somewhat in deciding how you’ll return to race readiness when the time is right. If we all do our part now by limiting social contacts that will sooner rather than later.