Managing and Monitoring Interval Training

What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate

Having all the tools in the world means nothing if the information is merely collected instead of being used. I've had athletes who routinely pay for my coaching and promptly fall off the planet until the next time they need a schedule. Still others have multi-thousand dollar power meters and can't seem to download the information after each ride. In essence this gives them a really expensive speedometer.

At the other end of the spectrum are the athletes who lack the "succinct gene." They ramble on and on for paragraphs at a time about their work, the weather, and other general stresses that, while contributory to my understanding of them as a whole person, don't generally move the ball forward with regard to performance.

So, what do coaches want to know? Clearly every coach is different and uses different metrics to track their athletes progress, but I think the following five elements are a good baseline.

1. Did You Do The Workout — Think of this as a simple yes/no question. If yes, provide more details later. If no, why not?

2. Do You Have Data For Me — Think of this as the Objective part of our mutual SOAP note. I want the data, I need the data, I can handle the data. Even if you can only manage to download/upload it once a week, it's better than nothing. If you don't have "pure" data it's OK to estimate—so long as your estimate is based in reality. If it is similar to another workout that you do have a file for, then send that file and let me know that it's a proxy.

3. How Did You Feel/How Did It Go — Simply dropping a power file in the (e-)mail is a simplistic approach. I want to know what you thought of the workout. Was it easy or hard? Were you able to complete the entire workout as described? This is the Subjective part of our mutual SOAP note.

4. Macro-View — You should have a grasp on where you are in your current training cycle. How does this workout fit into the big picture? For example if you are on an endurance phase and you overdo it on Tuesday, will it impact your ability to ride long the next three days?

5. Health and Wellness — Keep it simple, but let me know if your life stress is impacting your training or vice versa. Are you sleeping? Do you eat enough? Has your cough gotten worse? We want to be ahead of the curve on quality of life issues. It only helps you race better to keep your life in balance.

Conclusions

The variety of interval formats, structures, and theories is nearly unlimited. In addition to the traditional numbers-based approach, athletes should consider using perceived exertion and negative-pacing strategies in their training to try and maximize reproducibility within workouts and in future efforts.

In addition to using subjective measures like perceived exertion, athletes should consider maintaining a consistent training log. This log can be organized around the SOAP note model. This provides the athlete with a template upon which to record the subjective and objective elements of training, as well as tracking the assessment of the workout and planning for future workouts.

Athletes working with coaches should consider a minimum of five elements as fundamental to their communication: completion of assigned workout, a subjective review of said workout, any relevant training files, and macro and whole-life views of their current training and life situations.

References

  1. Howe, Charles - Integrating perceived exertion and intensity data -- a key to optimal training. Velodynamics.net - Published article
  2. McGregor, Stephen -- Intervals, The Silver Bullet To Target Specific Adaptations. Presentation: 2006 USAC Coaches Symposium.


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