Tuesday, 26 March 2013

5km challenge: Weeks 7-10

Despite a blogging break, I've not not stopped rowing....well not entirely. On reflection things had gone well during the first 6 weeks, but trouble was ahead. I heard from Jeremy that his row had been postponed to next year, somewhat removing a large part of the rationale for the challenge. Nonetheless, we decided to carry on. Jay continues to take more of a cross-training approach (i.e. rowing irregularly and mostly working out with his PT, and myself, following the Pete Plan and actually rowing- boring as it may be!!)

The Pete Plan for weeks 7-10

Week 7 (w/c 25th Feb)

For this block (weeks 7, 8, 9) I had decided to head out for all reps sub 1.51/500m. In week 7 I managed to hit all the reps just fine. The change I had made to my approach from earlier in the programme was to just get the session done, and not really go for the kill in every workout. So whereas before on the last rep of each session I had gone for a near max effort, I just went for a bit more control. As such, my 3 x 2km (with the middle 2km a sub maximal effort and the other two on 1.59/500m) wasn't the fastest it could have been, but it left more in the tank for the next weeks workout.

I also did my usual 2 weight sessions (full body 5 x 5 workouts) and ran for about 50 mins on Thursday and for 90 mins on Saturday. Although it didn't feel like it, I was only just past half way, and didn't want to compromise further sessions, either in the programme, or my other training.  Especially since it was starting to feel like the 1 second drop in splits each 3 weeks was getting a little tougher.  To look at my programme as a whole, it has quite a lot of intensity in it, and so this is why I am probably starting to find it difficult. That said, I've been keeping a close eye on my recovery with both restwise and Ithlete, and just about holding things together! I am always ready to take a rest day as required to keep things on the straight and narrow. Below is a summary of week 7 sessions.

Week 8 (w/c 4th March)

Again I got through this week ok. Hitting all the sessions. With an ultra coming up on the 23rd March, I wanted to start to get a bit more regularity in my running, and so ran easy for 50 mins not letting my HR go above 150 the morning before 8 x 750 and 4 x 1500m sessions. On the weekend I ran with lotte for 3 hours 20. Also did the usual 2 sessions at the gym (Tues and Fri), which goes roughly as follows:

5 sets of 5 repetitions with approx 1 min rest between sets. The aim is to lift a weight with good form, as heavy as you can manage for 5 reps. If you successfully complete all 5 sets, the next session, you add weight. The links aren't necessarily the best form so please get some instruction from someone who knows what they are doing, but just to give you an example (no idea why most of these guys can't afford t-shirts!)

Standing arnold press (25kg) 

Dumbell bent over row (60kg)
Axle-Deadlift (115kg)
Swiss ball dumbell chest press (35kg)
Safety bar squat (75kg)
Ab-work - various

Week 9 (w/c 11th March) & 10 (w/c 18th March)

These two weeks for me were Jury duty!!! Although I had a relatively interesting case, the times I had to be in court were pretty unpredictable, being sent home early one day, then staying in most of the day the next. As can be seen from my timetable for March, from the 11th onwards, the workouts were starting to look sparse. In fact these two weeks, I only managed 2 of my 3 sessions!

I still managed a couple of runs, my long run (2.5 hours) at the weekend and a gym session. Worse still in week 9 I missed my first intervals of the entire programme. On tuesday, I was doing the 6 x 1km with 1 min rest (a toughie if ever there was one) and on the penultimate rep, I just lost it. My mind faltered for a few strokes, and with the fatigue from the session up to that point, there was no bringing it back. So for that rep and the final one, I called it a day and coasted in on 1.59/500m. I went for a short 2 mile easy run after.  I went for the 5500m straight hard effort row as my other workout on Friday and just completed it by feel, not absolutely killing myself in order to try to claw back some recovery for my ultra the following week. This worked well and I kept my hr down to peak at 177 (about 185 is about as hard as I seem to have gone on any of the intervals). 

Week 10 was the week of the ultra. In the end, with the terrible conditions in general lotte and I bailed after 1 lap of the revised route, and so only ran 13 miles. Still this took 3 hours. So although my conservative 2 of only 3 sessions approach wasn't necessary. However, on the upside,  this means I can hit the final 2 weeks of the programme with wreckless abandon!! 

Although I did miss the intervals and an entire session in week 9, week 10 signalled a new 'block' with the splits decreasing once again. I decided to aim for 1.50.5 (only taking 0.5s off the previous split) and just seeing how it went. During the first session, I did feel like I needed to really get my head back into it, so went full bore the last rep. I really feel like these shorter harder efforts really suit me. Either way, I easily managed the 1.50.5 target, coming in on sub 1.50 on all reps.  

As a 'key' session in the programme, (and knowing I was only going to get time to really do 2 sessions before the race in this week) I went with the 3 x 2km session again as opposed to the 4 x 1500m. This went pretty well as I came in on 7.15 for the middle rep with I reckon another 10% to give across the rep easily.

So I am now into week 11 and I've decided to stick with sub 1.50s for the final two weeks. Next up I've got my nemesis - the 6 x 1km with 1 min rest - I WILL COMPLETE YOU! I'm going to sink everything into this, and hopefully that will really give me the confidence to go for it for the remaining sessions.

I am still yet to decide upon a strategy for my final 5km attempt. If any rowers have any insight into this, it would be greatly appreciated. Hopefully I will get together with Jay to attempt it, and we can do some filming. At the moment I want to at least set out for a 1.52.5 or 1.52.0 split for the piece, and will happily go down in a blaze of glory should it start to fall apart! ;-)

The sessions so far have given me a lot more to think about in terms of my mental approach to training, which hopefully I can go into a little more in my final blog. The next two weeks, rowing is my focus, and I am going to take it easy on the weights (just 1 session a week) and easy intensity running.

Wish me luck. Neale - you are GOING DOWN!!!!

Sunday, 24 February 2013

5km challenge: Week 5 and 6

So I thought it best to leave it a couple of weeks before my next update. The weekly trudge was getting dull.

Things have been going well, but still lots to learn. Weeks 5 and 6 were supposed to look like this:

However, because I transferred all these sessions to my handwritten notebook (incorrectly!) several weeks ago, last week I started out and did the first two sessions of week 6 instead of week 5! I did these on Monday and Friday, and perhaps because I jumped ahead a week in the programme, or perhaps the change to a 5 x 5 protocol in the gym which I did on Tuesday and Thursday - by Saturday I was wiped, and I couldn't bring myself to doing the 5km 'hard' session.

I took a day of rest and went to run for 3 hours on the sunday (it was pre-organised and after a day rest I felt good) but by Monday I was starting to feel it. By this point I still hadn't noticed that I was performing the wrong sessions, so went ahead with the 10 x 600m of week seven. Gym on Tuesday and put the missed 5km 'hard' session in on Wednesday. I wanted to do this session as the longer stuff seems an integral feature to the programme. However, I set out to do this on 1.54, and in my rather fatigued state, it was 'v.hard', as opposed to just 'hard'! I held the split and made the set in 19 mins dead (already 10 seconds off my baseline time), but come Thursday, I was exhausted. My 5 x 5 in the gym started BADLY, and I cut the session relatively short.

Lotte somehow managed to make it into work with my HR monitor and so the day after the 5km I had no Ithlete score which would have been interesting, but my restwise was telling me I was down to 60%. I took Friday and Saturday completely off as m Ithlete score was significantly down. But today it was back to normal I felt rested. I managed the 3 x 2km today, but to continue my catalogue of errors I did this with a 4 min rest interval not 3.

So lessons learned?

1) CHECK THE PLAN! I will do week 7 as intended, even though there will be some repetition. I have no intention of squeezing in the missed session now. Although I did think of doing 4 sessions this week (come on - we all know its wrong, but who doesnt think about getting that missed session in somehow!) Obviously it better to do the remaining ones correctly though,  than compromise the general quality of the programme, so I'm glad I've come to my senses!

2) ENSURE THE QUALITY OF THE SESSIONS! This means, not doing the wrong amount of time for a rest interval, and not putting in too much intensity. The last two 3 x 2km sessions I have done have had a near maximal middle piece. This should be sub-maximal. I'm not doing myself any favours and just need to trust the programme. I've already taken 7 seconds off my 2km time from the session at the end of week 3, so the improvements are coming, I just need to hold it together. Likewise, the 5km session was too 'hard'. I will carefully evaluate the aims of each session, and enforce strict HR caps going forward if needs be!

So there we go. Still clocking along, despite a minor wobble in terms of consistency and execution. 6 weeks to go....its all downhill from here! :-)

Week 5 - 5 x 1km at 1.52/500 with 1 min rest
Week 5 - 4 x 1550m at 1.52/500 with 4 min rest

Week 6 - 10 x 600m at 1.52/500 with 1 min rest
Week 6 - 5km on 1.54 - too 'hard'
Week 6 - 3 x 2km - 4 min rest - 1st and 3rd on 1.59/500 and 2nd all out (7.02.9)

Not sure where to take the next 3 weeks....I think I'll of for 1.51/500m, the 2 second jump between week 3 and 4 was hard work. If its too conservative, I can always go harder in week 8! However with the progressive nature of the 5 x 5, recovery is becoming the limiting factor. I have a feeling it will make or break how I get on from here on in!

Saturday, 9 February 2013

5km challenge: Week 4 update

So, before this week, I was somewhat lacking in motivation. I knew this would happen. This week has really just been about getting on with it. But thats one of the great thing about goals - they're great at increasing persistence.

Taking 2 seconds off the splits I used for the first 3 weeks was guided by my final splits from sessions I have done so far. I feel that if I can complete the 1st week of sessions on that split, I can get through the next 2 weeks of each phase (they are only a little longer, and its more of a psychological barrier than physical one).

10 x 500m on 1.52 - 1 min rest

4 x 1250m on 1.52 - 4 mins rest
Initially the 10 x 500m on 1.52 felt too easy and I thought I'd undersold myself. That feeling soon dissipated towards the end of the session though ;-) Again the 4 x 1250m were suitably challenging, but its important to feel that. Its hard to describe, but in subjective terms, working around your threshold (which these sessions are designed to do) should feel something between 'comfortably uncomfortable' and 'quite uncomfortable'. Generally painful is probably a little bit too far above threshold, not in the sense that it won't force a desired adaptation, but spend too long there and you pay for it in increased recovery time.

4500m 'hard' on 1.54

I was considering only doing the 4500m straight session on 1.55 but decided to extend the 2 second decrease in split and go for 1.54.  I'd managed a 1.55.1 split for 5km in my baseline test and know I've been improving so thought it should be ok. Conversely I didn't want it to be too hard, as being in a state to complete the next session of the programme is vital. It was just about right.

Peak Training Effect of all sessions so far - I'm aiming for between 3-4.

It was good to confirm this with my suunto training effect score which I think is a really valuable tool. Every session from the Pete Plan lite 2007 has given me a peak training effect score of between 3 and 4 for every session. Which is 'just about right'. Enough work to create continued physiological change, but not too much to leave extended recovery. If I had kept the splits the same as the first three weeks, it is likely that I wouldn't be doing quite enough work to continue improving. You can see below a bit more precisely what the scores mean.

Suunto Training Effect guide
So onwards I row. Not missed a session yet, and I'm a third of the way there. Consistency is key for me - and as an update - if I extended the 4.5km split I completed today, I'd have taken 15seconds off my 5km time already. Its hugely unlikely I can keep the gains constant, but I'm just going to try to focus on each session and see where it takes me.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

5km challenge update: Week 3

So its the end of the first 3 week block and it certainly ended well. I found out that when I started to push on the final rep of each set and especially on the paced 2km set I did on Friday, that I had a lot more in the tank than I thought.

5 x 1km with 1 min rest on 1.54
4 x 1500m with 4 min rest on 1.54
3 x 2km with 4 min rest. 1st and 3rd on 1.59 and middle rep sub-maximal 2km piece
I managed to pull out a 7.10.7 middle 2km which is starting to look like a much more reasonable 1.47.6 per 500m split. I've no idea how long the improvement will keep going, or what I will eventually manage come the final test, but I'm interested to find out.

After the session on Friday I spent the weekend in Exmoor with Lotte. We did nearly a 5 hour run on Saturday and a 4 hour walk on Sunday. I rested on Monday as we travelled back, but will probably take 1 more day to recuperate before hitting the next 3 week block of sessions.

Again I may be demonstrating my naivety with regards to what I can or can't achieve, but will be aiming for a 'conservative' or perhaps 'foolhardy' 1.52 per 500m split for the baseline of these next 3 weeks of sessions. :-s

Saturday, 26 January 2013

5km Challenge update: Week 2

Well I've heard nothing from Jeremy so far, I can only assume my last couple of posts have him cowering in fear....either way, I've been plugging on with the task at hand. Still yet to see much evidence of others who have said they'd give the challenge a go. To be honest, I can't blame them. Already this week I've started to find the whole process a bit of a chore!

I've done a couple of things this week to help my training. First was clarifying with Pete (the author of the Pete Plan Lite) the exact nature of some of the sessions. He suggested for an indication of the direction of my training, pushing the last split of the multiple interval sessions. He also clarified that the 4km set I had this week was just 'hard' as opposed to an all out time trial (phew!).

Second I've taken on some advice from some fellow club members and ex-rowers. Dan suggested upping my stroke rate to better maintain power, and Martyn gave me a few hints and tips after the Tri London strength and conditioning session.

So on Monday I did the shorter interval session. 8 x 625m on 1.54 with 1 min rest. Over these shorter intervals I found it relatively easy to maintain 25 strokes per min and could definitely feel the benefit in terms of maintaining the momentum on the fan. I built the intensity over the last interval, but felt like I had a little more left.

8 x 625 on 1.54 with 1 min rest
Full body weights on Tuesday, but went out for a couple of drinks in the evening, which left me pretty lethargic on Wednesday when my second session was planned. I bailed on exercise totally on Wed, and set out to do my 4 x 1350m with 4 mins rest on Thursday. Unfortunately time got away from me so decided to sway in my 4km hard session instead. I wasn't entirely sure on how quick to go to get 'hard' but went for 1.56 (again at 25s/m). I did find it a little harder to maintain this stroke rate over a longer interval. Perhaps it was the speed I was aiming for was too low for that stroke rate. Whatever the case, there is still work to be done to really embed a slightly higher stroke rate.

500m wu and cd - 4km hard (aiming for 1.56)

With a long run planned today (Saturday), and a weights session still to do from Thursday, I planned a double session on Friday. I did weights in the morning, aiming to do the remaining 4 x 1350 session in the afternoon. Unsurprisingly I quite tired after the weights, but dragged myself back to the gym and got on with it. I hit the first 3 splits well, and surprised myself a little bit with the 4th interval. Despite my legs being quite toasted from deadlifts and squats in the morning, I felt like I was just getting into it. It ended up being one of those really feel good/confidence booster sessions, just what I needed after a bit more of an apathetic week with regards to the challenge. Only 10 more to go! uggghh.

4 x 1350m on 1.54 with 4 min rest
Next week is my final week on 1.54/500m pacing....and will then decide what to take that down two for the 2nd three week block of the programme. I hope to post a little bit about how I incorporate both music and recovery into my training over the next few weeks too, as this reads back about as dull as the sessions themselves!

Friday, 18 January 2013

5km Challenge update: Week1 (Help me Rowers!)

So, for those that care (which will be few, if any) I've done my first week of ergo sessions, as part of the 5km challenge I've got going on with Jay and a few others. As I mentioned before I only wanted to do three sessions a week, and even squeezing one in last week, with adequate rest, I can see that it will require quite a lot of discipline to hit every session.

I managed to find a pretty simple training plan online for free called the Pete Plan blog which is 3 sessions a week for 12 weeks. As an idea its posted in below but do check out his plan! Hopefully I will be able to adhere to it pretty stringently and let you know if it works. FYI I have donated to his PayPal, even though I am a scroungy student at heart. :-) That said, the donation is not entirely selfless - being the scrounger that I am, now I've chipped in some cash - I feel like I need to make it worthwhile.

The Pete Plan Lite 2007! Thanks!
So I logged my 5km baseline test on Wednesday the 9th and using the momentum of the novelty of the challenge ahead, I got straight into my first session on the Friday. I did a full body weights session on the Thursday. I did a long 3 hour run on Sat. I'm hoping that this longer running will be the only endurance session I need each week. As much as I love a challenge, I'd much prefer to run for 3 hours than grind out 10k+ on an ergo. There are limits to my stupidity. Monday and Wednesday this week were weights and I did another ergo on Tuesday and today. I took a rest day on Thursday as after the weights, I was quite tired, woke up really groggy even after 10.5 hours sleep and my HRV IThlete score was way down. I'll do a post about how I track recovery later.

Training so far...

As an idea the programme works in 3 week cycles. As you can see, for each session (1 short, 1 medium and 1 longer interval session each week) the reps get longer each week over 3 weeks then reset. The aim is to hit a split, and maintain it for the 3 weeks. The next three weeks, you reduce the split, and repeat. Simples.

Having managed my 5km piece with an average 1.55.1 per 500m I decided to aim for anything under 1.54.0 for the first week's set of sessions. That said on reading in a bit more detail about the sessions, I don't think that the different sessions necessarily need to be the same split. So for example in Week 1, I'm not sure the 2km intervals are necessarily supposed to hit the same splits as the 500m intervals. If anyone has any advice on this it would be much appreciated. That said, I've done them all on sub 1.54 and today I did manage 3 x 2km with the 3 min rest under that too, so I feel confident I can continue to hit at least 1.54 for the sessions in weeks 2 and 3. Any rowers out there. What should I do the two shorter interval sets on, or just keep it the same?

Hopefully I can take 1 second off each 3 week cycle. But am aware of the greatly diminishing law of returns. Is this wildly optimistic? If (BIG IF) I can hold that for 5km, I'll end up with an 18.30 split which I think is reasonable. Time will tell? If I'm under 75kg by then any idea what a good time would be? Rowers out there?

Going forward the plan is to do the sessions Mon, Wed and Fri. With 3x full body weights sessions spread across the week, and a long run at the weekend. I also fully intend to keep up my POWERbreathe sessions - 30 breaths twice a day until week 8. Then I'll shift to some functional work specifically for rowing. I can already feel it helping! We will see how it goes!

So a few of you out there have hinted at taking up the challenge yourselves, which is nice to hear. Jay has been keeping his training top secret thus far. I however am aiming to mercilessly crush him with relentless consistency ;-). I want him to see me coming!

Here are the session readouts, just to prove I'm doing it. I always do a 500m warm up and 500m cool down (easy), with rollering and stretching (plus some glute activation work pre set.) I did miss the first and last split on my 8 x 500s which is annoying, as it was more due to rowing related retardedness than an inability to hit the splits!

8 x 500m - 1 min rest
4 x 1200m - 4 min rest
3 x 2000m - 3 min rest

I'd love to hear how you are all getting on! Any help or advice is welcome!

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

A New Challenge (and a really bad idea?)

So my friend Jeremy, who I participated in Polar Challenge 2011 with, has a new challenge on the horizon - and that its to race around Britain in a boat. Check out the team and their plans here. Unsurprisingly, considering the scale of the task, and his previous rowing experience (none), he has been focused and hitting the gym with dedication and consistency. He often he posts up snapshots of the readout for 60 or 90+ minute rows. While I now think nothing really of a 60 or 90 minute run on trail as something that is difficult, the idea of spending it indoors on an ergo couldn't be more off-putting. I haven't sat on an ergo since 2003, and even then I didn't enjoy it. When I saw the tweets and posts of his efforts, envy was not something I felt.

I would consider myself a goal-oriented individual. I like having goals, I respond well to them, and I certainly enjoy achieving them. That said, the most rewarding ones are not easy. At the moment, physically speaking, although I have a few goals based on hitting certain strength standards and a few races/challenges on the trails scattered over the next year, I have been somewhat lacking in inspiration. Nothing really seems to appeal.

Taking a look at some year totals. It is relatively clear that I've managed to put in some consistent work. (I've only used Movescount since March 2011 so there is some overlap here but it gives a reasonable indication of a rolling 12 month average in March 2012 and now. Excluding the weight training, I think the averages from the year before should be similar too.)

March 2011 - March 2012

Jan 2012 - Jan 2013

Now I've pondered this for a while, and came to the conclusion that until I find something that REALLY grabs me, I should just do something. I also felt I needed to shake things up. I wanted something that was difficult, and something that would be good for me. I don't know why I thought of indoor rowing, but here goes.

So at the moment, it is me vs Jay. The challenge is a 5km ergos. We clocked one this week, and have 12 weeks to improve our times by the most. So starting next week, we have 12 weeks to boost our time. The 'winner' is the one that improves the most. At some point in the first week of April, (if I make it that far) we will both put in another 5km effort.

Now the challenge isn't perfect, Jay has been rowing for a couple of months now, and so within 12 weeks might find it harder to improve. That said, relative to me, he probably still has some gains in his general aerobic capacity to be made. Despite its imperfections, it is a challenge that matches us both.

It will push me mentally, but will also give Jay some added motivation, albeit extrinsic motivation. As we are both in it together it will boost relatedness on the task. We should improve, therefore fostering a sense of competence, and there is certainly NO ONE that is making me do this and so it ticks the autonomy box too. On top of all this, its direct relevance to Jay's circum-GB row, adds meaning (for Jay). For me, the meaning derives mostly from the sense that I can help out a friend. Its also bit of curiosity - Have I still 'got it?' - namely, is my general apathy toward tasks that once appealed a sign of a deeper change? It should also definitely add noticeable boost to my threshold fitness, so mental jiggery-pokery aside, should serve to benefit my wider athletic goals.

Jay's first attempt - 08/01/2013

My first attempt - 09/01/13

Having posted my initial 5km effort this morning, I am even more intrigued by the task ahead. As I walked to the gym I was not looking forward to the effort. My fears were quickly realised as I definitely didn't enjoy it. I also massively regretted doing no threshold/Vo2 work over the last couple of months. I think JFK had it right though when he said that we choose to do these things...

...not because they are easy, but because they are hard.

I will do no more than 3 sessions a week as I wish to work on my other goals concurrently, but won't disallow Jay from doing more should he so wish.  Hopefully I can use my training nouse and experience to 'out-improve' him, but at the end of the day, it is a challenge with an outcome that is beneficial and positive for both of us. That said,  I'll certainly be dusting off the old POWERbreathe. Game face on!!

I tweeted about the challenge before I did my session this morning and a club member commented on the task:

It reminded me of an interview I read about Morgan Spurlock who on recalling when he came up with the idea for "Super Size Me" a friend had commented:

"that sounds like a really great, bad idea!"

If this goes anything like I remember the film, it could be an interesting 12 weeks. Hopefully it won't involve vomiting, the general onset of organ failure or any other long term risks to our health!