Training effect and quality of workouts
Its that time of the year where athletes are coming out of hibernation. You are probably coming out of the Out Season plan and starting your builds for your early season half or full ironman races. This usually means your weekend rides are getting longer. An athletes asked me recently, in reference to this, why the weekend long rides with lower power output feel so much harder than the threshold work they do during the week. They said they would rather do the hard workouts instead of the easier ones. The answer is multifaceted, as there are many variables that can weight in on how you feel during a particular workout. We will try to keep it simple and narrow it down to training for the sake of this article.
Genetics- For the most part we are all very similar. Approximately 85% of the population has the same percentage of fast twitch to slow twitch muscles fibers. The other 15% fall at either end of the spectrum with predominately more fast twitch or slow twitch fibers. These are your world class athletes that you see at the Olympics. If you fall towards one of these extremes you handle the workouts better and/or recover better. This allows you to handle the longer rides better. Fortunately for triathletes, endurance is the most trainable characteristic of the human body. Although it is still debatable whether or not we can change muscle fiber types, we know we can change all the other physiological characteristics surrounding and supporting the muscles ability to perform work. A coach that is knowledgeable and educated in this area can identify markers during key workouts and further design a program that emphasizes work on your limiters and enhances your strengths.
Fatigue- The more likely answer for the perceived exertion during your longer ride is that the stress of the threshold work during the week loaded your body and still has residual fatigue and has yet to clear out all the lactate that has been building up during the week. This is a good thing. This stress creates the physiological stimulus the body needs to create a response. Over time this repeated response to stimulus will cause a physiological adaptation. This adaptation is what makes you a faster athlete. Keep in mind that more is not always better. Too much load without the proper amount of recovery can cause injury or put you in a training hole too deep to climb out of in time without loosing fitness. It is always a balancing act of pushing your body and the right amount of recovery. This is the reason your workouts are designed the way they are and the reason your longer rides with lower output can feel harder.
Stay tuned for our next article where the topic will be recovery.