Q & A: Improving Your Training Plan

Q: Hey Gale, First I want say thanks for your easy-to-use training plan. I do have a couple of questions though. First, I'd like to understand why I go faster when I use the same plan twice in a season. That's the first question: How can repeating the same plan make me faster?

Second, I haven't adjusted my training zones but if I did adjust my training and racing zones, would I go even faster? Any help you can lend to me in understanding how my body works is much appreciated.

Gratefully faster,

A: Hey A.P. -

Thanks for dropping me a note. I'm glad the training plan has worked for you. Let me try to answer your questions.

1) How can you get faster repeating the same plan? I need a little more information to give you an accurate answer; but let me make some assumptions and go from there.

If you used a 12-week plan to help you complete an event, and you came into the plan with minimal fitness, two things were going on simultaneously. First, you were building an aerobic fitness foundation. At the beginning of the plan, you were able to hold a speed of X while swimming, cycling or running in training Zones 1 and 2 from the Training Intensities free download.

Depending on what plan you used, there might have been some early lactate threshold or lactate threshold work included in the plan (Zones 3 to 5a). In that case, you could hold speed Y at your lactate threshold.

When you completed that plan, your fitness improved and you could then hold an aerobic speed of X+A for an aerobic pace and Y+B for a lactate threshold pace.

If you took a week or two to recover and repeated the plan again, this time at the beginning of the plan your aerobic speed would have been X+A or slightly less and threshold pace would have been Y+B or slightly less. You began the second round of the training plan at faster paces than you did the first time through. Because you are using heart rate to train, your speed is faster for any given heart rate zone so you are pushing faster paces to achieve a given heart rate. This gives you another bump in speed the second time through.

2) Would you go faster if you adjusted your training zones? I'm assuming you are asking if you would have conducted a repeat of the test found on the "Training Intensities" document, would that test have given you higher heart rate zones.

For example, if your heart rate the first testing time was 154 (before using the plan the first time) for your cycling threshold and the second time you tested it was 159 (before using the plan for the second time) then you would increase your training heart rate zones and presumably your speed as well.

In the example, test one's aerobic zone would be roughly 123 to 136 and test two's aerobic zone would be 127 to 140 heart rate. Be aware that heart rate can be influenced by things such as ambient temperature, humidity, hydration status and fatigue. If testing conditions were the same both times, it is a good assumption that your training and racing zones have increased due to increased fitness.

If you decide to change your training and racing zones for the second time through the plan, be aware of your rating of perceived exertion (RPE). Your RPE for the new zones should be the same as for the old zones; but now you can travel faster.

I hope this helps. Keep us posted on your successful training and racing.

Gale Bernhardt was the 2003 USA Triathlon Pan American Games and 2004 USA Triathlon Olympic coach for both the men's and women's teams. Her first Olympic experience was as a personal cycling coach at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Thousands of athletes have had successful training and racing experiences using Gale's pre-built, easy-to-follow training plans. For more information, click here. Let Gale and Active Trainer help you succeed.

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