Well, since the last time of writing, things have been a bit more interesting than my typical, “train/ work/ train” schedule. My last week at home was rather eventful. With my sister getting married, friends and family were all in town, which was great. I was able to have a fantastic week of training during my last week at home, and I have now been back up in AK for 3 weeks. Once I returned, I went straight on the road with my buddy Hunter in search of caribou. We didn’t manage to find any, but spent a few mellow days in the Alaskan tundra, found some caribou sheds (antlers), and in general, we unplugged. Since getting back into Anchorage, I’ve been able to settle back into my place and get trucking along with training. It’s been fantastic to be back with the APU crew as we start our next phase of training for the season. Having spent my summer up at altitude, I will take the next couple of training blocks to take advantage of all the oxygen and push the power, and work the muscles. By now I’ve gone up and down, and down and up, to and from sea level and high altitudes many times. One thing that stood out to me this year was the importance of various metrics, and why they can be beneficial to pay attention to.
Paying attention to variables.:
Throughout the history of sports, athletes have always been looking for ways to help read/ analyze training/ racing in order to get the most out of themselves. Some examples include; keeping track of time, weight, oxygen saturation, morning heart rate, HRV, power, etc. In my estimation, a lot of the continuous research and development of most things related to sports performance are carried out to try and find the “magic bullet.” However, given that there is no magic bullet, any one of these metrics can be a useful means of keeping tabs on trends occurring in your body, which might help in various forms of decision making.
Here are some personal accounts that I have found interesting as of late.
Over the last many years, I’ve gone up and down in altitude many times, from sea level in Anchorage AK, to 8,000+ ft at Gunnison CO. Because I have kept notes and metrics in my log, I’ve noticed several correlations, and trends that occur upon arriving back to either of these locations. For example, the last 2 years of coming back to CO in the summer, the training is usually slower because of the altitude and my lack of adaptation to it. Then I get acclimatized within a couple weeks, and after a summer of training, I feel quite “altitude fit.” Despite feeling fit at altitude I’m still not able to hit the same kind of power as I would at sea level, yet the heart rate comes up easier. Then when I get back to AK, I can feel the boost from altitude and it feels like I’m absolutely flying for the first week. Yet my heart rate is quite low for the power output, so the biggest training stress is in the muscles.
This year however, there were some subtle changes. When I got to CO, I still had to acclimatize as per usual, but after that, there was a shift. As the summer went on, the speeds and power outputs I was training at continued to rise, and it was the first time I felt like I was moving like I was at sea level whilst being at altitude. More notably however, was the fact that my heart rate while training at these increased speeds and power outputs was going down. Then when I got back to AK, I felt like I just went right back into what I was doing in CO. Unlike previous years, my heart rate went up easier and I didn’t feel like there was much of a power gap. Of course, there are other factors that can contribute to changes like fatigue or low fuel, but in this case there weren’t any stand out variables. These gains can likely be attributed to a number of things, but by keeping a detailed training log and paying attention to changes in variables, I can optimize decision making for my training. At the time that I was noticing these changes this summer, I was more taking note, and thinking, “well, we’ll just have to see what this translates into.” Now, having been in AK for a number of weeks, I can say that it has translated into improved efficiency, power, fitness, and now I have an updated database to be able to use going forward.
There’s never a “one size fits all” solution for athletes. The more we pay attention to our individual changes and nuances, the better opportunity of application we have toward success. Whether you’re looking to win the Olympics, or just make the most efficient use of your time to train, utilizing training logs, note taking, and paying attention to variables in general can start you down the path of optimization and getting the most bang for your buck. This is a prime reason why I pay attention to various metrics and markers.
In conclusion, learn from the past, and be aware of the present, in order to make the most informed decisions for the future.