Yesterday I attended a BASES workshop focusing on critical power. Essentially it is a performance measure that gives a level of training intensity that is maintainable for somewhere between 20-40 mins. Theoretically it should be the same as your maximum lactate steady state (MLSS) but it tends to sit a little higher in the severe intensity domain. However, those utilising it tend use a further zone classification between the heavy and severe zones, imaginatively titled the ‘very heavy’ zone.
The test itself requires three maximum effort tests of varying lengths between 3 and 15 minutes long (3, 7 and 12 minutes seem to be the most common). These tests usually take place on the same day with 3 hours recovery between each one. With the average power data you can plot a graph against time and get a measure of critical power.
The measure lends itself particularly well to cycling given the familiarity with wattage as a measure of training intensity, however it is possible to take the tests using a set distance or time that is more applicable to runners and swimmers where taking of MLSS is very difficult to achieve. The information is very communicable to athletes given the graph produced and units are simple to understand. The value is also great to use for prescription of intensities when designing training sessions.
A certain amount of familiarity needs to be developed with the test in terms of pacing strategy which can skew early tests (those who’ve used the cooper test will be familiar with this) and the large recovery periods and requirement for full day to test could make the test inconvenient compared to a MLSS test which essentially gives a similar measure. It was mentioned that it had been trialled within an hour with similar results to the full day testing. If this proves reliable then I think the test becomes much more usable, primarily in cycling and swimming.
I spent last week in Italy with the British Development ski team. Initially there was a plan, I should have arrived just after their first races of the season with a view of spending the week on snow and getting some dryland work in wherever possible. Instead, those races were cancelled and a lack of snow meant the first 4 days were given over to strength and conditioning sessions. Great, a rare in season chance to get a solid few days training in before some on snow days later in the week and the first races of the season.
For me, one of the best parts of being a Strength and Conditioning coach is having to think on your feet and be adaptive with your session design. Our weights were in a dusty garage with no squat rack, no mats and limited number of plates. Our bikes and turbos weren’t accessible, there was snow/ice on the ground, it was drizzling rain and the temperature barely got above freezing during the day. This meant some new sessions for the guys and what ended up being four days of real quality training.
After this we headed to Champorcher. The hill wasn’t open to the public yet but they opened the lifts and a giant slalom course just for the team. The guys had zero distractions around resulting in some excellent technical training and video analysis throughout. For me it meant some more adaptation; warm ups in the car park, stretching sessions on a rug in the hotel lobby and a few inquisitive stares from other hotel guests…an excellent week.
This week has been spent in Italy working with the British Alpine Development Ski team. After a couple of weeks on the glacier in Saas Fee on the skis, we’ve had an opportunity to get a really good bout of dryland training in. Some of the great things about the job are the enormous variety present and the adaptation and thought often required in order to set training programs that achieve your required goals but also meet logistical needs.
This week, and more so planning for the rest of the season, has thrown up a number of issues. For example, the garage space that was set aside as a lifting area has had to accommodate a tonne of ski kit as the other space isn’t yet ready. Once the space was cleared we’ve ended up with a really good facility, a little rough and ready, but quality nonetheless. We were also able to make the most of our surroundings. We’re based right by the 2006 Turin Olympic park and the paved area surrounding the buildings turned out to be ideal for intervals…the guys weren’t as happy as me to find out about that!
The weeks succeeding this involve more travelling and a heavy ski period ending in the start of the race programs in December. Again, issues arise, this time in terms of kit and recovery meaning some fairly innovative circuits will come to the fore as our lifting kit will have to stay behind. After this the main area to focus on is race preparation and conditioning takes place largely in maintenance doses. These are issues coaches involved in tour based sports have to overcome and while having your own training base can be nice, I think everyone enjoys a challenge!!