With just the recovery week left of my 4-week training in September it is useful to review progress against objectives. The main objectives are outlined below alongside what was actually achieved:
- Increase CP20 to 280W – increased to 274w (98%)
- Increase CP5 to 330w – increased to 333w
- Reduce weight to 72kg – last reading 72.5kg
- Average 700 Tss for weeks 1-3 – actual 676 (97%)
Overall, it is been a highly successful training period. It has been quite tough especially switching to 3 weeks training and one weeks recovery. I certainly felt the accumulated fatigue in week 3. I didn’t manage all the sessions, especially the last 2 gym sessions although this was down to social engagements. I also missed a Saturday session in week 2 because I had a sore calf picked up during a session that week. The biggest improvements came from the VO2 Max hill repeats. These have proved hugely beneficial and have led to a significant improvement in my climbing. I would also argue that they have led to a reduction in my HR for the same power output. I have noticed that my HR is much lower now even though I am putting out more power.
In most of my sessions I have reduced my cadence. When hill climbing it varies between 60-75 rpm and when on the flat it is around 80 rpm. I have reduced my cadence in order to build strength and muscular endurance. Spinning a high gear does not fire up all the muscle fibres, especially the fast-twitch types. Engaging the fast-twitch muscles is leading to an increase in power output.
During this training period I switched from 6 meals a day to 3 or 4 meals per day to allow my body to burn fat between meals. This switch has gone well and I am hoping that by the end of next week that my weight will be at or close to my target weight of 72kg. I continue to closely monitor my meals using myfitnesspal.com. This allows me to record and evaluate my meal and food choices.
My HRV readings have risen to new all-time highs. My readings are now in the high 60’s were before they were in the high 50’s to low 60’s so there has been a very pronounced and positive impact on my HRV. Again, I would argue that the VO2 Max workouts are behind this.
Looking ahead to the next training period I need to consider the following:
- Introducing a new strength programme as the current one has been running now without too much change for three months
- Introduce anaerobic training sessions
- Add a recovery ride midweek following a hard session
- Maintaining the VO2 Max sessions – not possible as doing anaerobic capacity hill repeats
- Using long intervals to improve muscular endurance
- Maintaining long endurance rides
- Completing two sessions in one day – a recovery ride in the morning and strength training in the afternoon
- Targets: increase CP1 to 600w, CP5 to 350w, CP20 to 280w on the flat, 290w when climbing, Tss 736/week
- Reduce to 2 training weeks so a 3-week cycle. 2nd 3-week cycle to focus on CP60 rather than CP20
- Begin breathing exercises in final recovery week of September and continue through October
Following on from my success at quashing my night hunger demons I have now reduced the number of meals I eat each day. I was taking 6 meals a day and I have switched to 3 a day. So, why have I done this and what benefits do I expect to get from a lower meal frequency?
My main reason for switching to 3 meals a day is to get my body to burn fat between meals. Previously, I was eating every three hours and although this did stabilise my blood sugar through the day it didn’t give my body the opportunity to burn fat in between meals. I am now eating at 7.30am, 12.30pm and 6.45pm leaving big chunks of time between meals for my body to burn fat. The meals I have are double the size I was eating and I do feel more satiated than I was before when eating smaller meals. So far, it appears to be going OK. I am getting hunger pangs but I am working through these and I am managing to get through to the next meal without too many problems. So, why have I opted for this meal frequency:
- My view is that the body has evolved to manage both times of plenty and times of scarcity. In other words it is used to going hungry and has evolved to manage these periods by switching metabolism to burning fat.
- Having 3 meals a day will decrease the pressure on my bodily functions, that is, my body will have to work less and there will be less strain.
- My body will need to produce a lot less insulin. Insulin can be produced three times a day to clear the 3 meals
- I can schedule training to coincide better with meals and I will have prepared myself better for sessions because of the larger intake of calories per meal
- Better time management as I’ll spend less time preparing meals
- Italians do not snack between meals and as a population they are generally slim and not overweight
- In countries where snacking is commonplace, obesity is also high
I am also packing the most calories into the first part of the day so based on 1800 calories (BMR), the calories are distributed as follows: breakfast 850, lunch 550, supper 400. The majority of carbohydrates are partitioned the first half of the day whilst protein figures more later in the day. Because of my training volume I need to consume an average of 2700 calories per day.
I can finally and with a good deal of satisfaction record the fact that I am now much less a slave to my body’s night-time hunger pangs!! Yippee. Previously, I was suffering from all sorts of body heat fluctuations (thermoregulation?).
I’ve been doing some VO2 Max Hill Repeats over the past couple of weeks and I have noticed an improvement in my cycling, especially my climbing. Last week I went to watch the Tour of Britain up on Haytor. On the way back there was a big group of competent cyclists heading back to Exeter along the Teign Valley and Longdown. When we got to the start of the Longdown climb I was up the front with a Uni Exeter rider (Jack Holman) who is quite high up on quite a few of Strava’s KOM’s. Anyway, I paced myself up the climb keeping to about 320w. As we approached the 3/4 mark there were just two riders ahead of me, Jack Holman and a chinese looking bloke from the ‘Bad Lodgers’ club. I could see that they were slowing down and I was gaining on them. Just before the last corner near the top I went passed them both. I then got out of the saddle and sprinted a little bit before sitting down and completing the climb first!! Wey hey, monumental, well that is how I felt. My average power for the climb was 337w and this resulted in my best ever CP50 moving me into Cat 3 territory. Well chuffed.
Anyway, it struck me that the VO2 Max hill repeats I’d done a couple of days back had already returned an improvement in performance. The hill repeats I’d done were 3 x 5min @ 320w although I didn’t manage to complete the last of the three intervals and the average power for my final interval had only been 295w. I’d actually felt disappointed after that session because I believed that I could have given more if my glycogen stores were at 100% which I believed they weren’t because I’d been on a calorie reduction diet for about a week and had therefore depleted my glycogen stores. So, this got me thinking more about VO2 Max and I did a little research and this is what I have revealed so far:
- VO2 Max is trainable but is also partly genetic
- VO2 MAX is all about our capacity to deliver oxygen to the muscles
- At VO2 Max we breathe heavily because of the heavy demand for oxygen being made by the body’s muscles
- Muscles can process at least double the amount of oxygen they receive at VO2 Max. Therefore, it follows that if more oxygen can be delivered then the muscles can work harder and performance will subsequently improve
- Improved breathing can increase the amount of oxygen being taken into the body. I already have a breathing tool which I can start to use to improve my capacity to take in more oxygen
The main physiological adaptations connected to VO2 Max are:
- Increased stroke volume/maximal cardiac output
- Increased muscle mitochondrial enzymes
- Increased lactate threshold
- Increased plasma volume
- Increased muscle glycogen storage
- Interconversion of fast-twitch muscle fibres (type IIx to type IIa)
- Hypertrophy of slow-twitch muscle fibres
- Increased muscle capillarisation
- Increased anaerobic capacity (lactate tolerance)
There appear to be a lot of benefits accruing from training VO2 Max and my own personal evidence is that it has a had a positive impact, primarily
- Delaying the onset of muscle fatigue and allowing me to push out more power for longer periods
- I am generating more power at a lower HR which means my speed at recovery, endurance and tempo is increasing but my HR is going down
So, how can I build on what I have learnt to optimise my training?
Need to do more research on the 9 physiological adaptations noted above. Which of these has a greater influence on performance and how can they be developed to increase performance gains?
I would make the following observations from my own training sessions:
- It is taking longer for my muscles to fatigue – this could be due to increased numbers of mitochondria which are responsible for clearing lactate. The increase in mitochondria is probably related to the long period of endurance riding from January through to August, especially the once-a-week 70 or 80 mile rides. Mitochondria are developed in the slow-twich (ST) muscle fibres so it is plausible that the long base period was responsible for the increase in mitochondria and an increase in mitochondria improves the muscles ability to clear lactate.
- My muscles are receiving more oxygen than previously so given my lower HR this is probably because my heart is pumping out a higher volume of blood per beat, ie., increased stroke volume
- Anything blood related needs to take account of hydration – the more hydrated I am the more optimised the blood will be to carry oxygen to the muscles. If the blood becomes more viscous then the heart has to work harder to pump it around the body. My body water % has risen from about 64% a few months ago to around its current level of 67%. Water % may also have risen because muscle mass has increased but it is difficult to extrapolate any definitive conclusions regarding muscle mass as the data taken from the Body Mass Machine is up and down. Also, does body hydration increase with a decrease in body fat? This requires further investigation.
- The higher water % may also suggest that glycogen storage has improved. The normal storage is 500g glycogen which carries with it 1.5kg of water. Therefore, as glycogen storage increases water % also increases. Each gramme of glycogen needs 3 grammes of water.
- I am now not suffering from hunger pangs during the night which may suggest my body is less dependent on a constant supply of carbohydrate. How this specifically relates to VO2 Max I am not entirely sure but it may have some bearing following additional research so it is worth noting.
Over the past two weeks my HRV readings have plateaued around 50-55. Even when I have exercised and sometimes intensively my HRV has budged very little. So, what is happening? Could it be that my body has not completely recovered from a period of training? Well, in the absence of any other explanation I think this must be the answer. So, what is the solution to raise my HRV? The only thing I can think of doing is to slowly increase volume whilst maintaining low intensity and slowly but surely build my base endurance.
After battling with my weight for the best part of two years I can honestly say for the first time that I feel like I am getting on top of it. For the past two weeks I have been closely monitoring my calorie intake using My Fitness Pal and my weight is slowly but surely coming down, however, and equally if not more importantly I am not a prisoner to the hunger pangs I used to get at night. So, what has happened, what has changed?
- As previously posted I am spreading my reduced calories across the day far more evenly. I am typically eating smaller portions every three hours six times a day -7.30am, 10.30am, 1.30pm, 4.30pm, 7.30pm, and 10.30pm. I am going to assume that this is balancing out my blood sugar levels and minimising peaks and troughs.
- I do feel less hungry when I go to bed, however, and on occasion I still feel hungry but now I am not letting my hunger get the better of me. Over the past few nights even though it has been a bit up and down sleepwise I am not giving in to night time snacks. I have noticed a decrease in body temperature fluctuations which is really important. Perhaps, just like when coming off drugs it is necessary to retrain the body to come off late night eating.
- I have reduced my fat intake to between 25-30% of my total daily calorie intake and I have partitioned my macro-nutrients so that I eat more carbohydrates in the early part of the day and proteins later in the day.
- My diet is far more varied and micro-nutrient rich. As I am eating less I am having to think far more carefully about what I eat so I can enjoy more variety in my meals to make up for the reduced calories.
- I have been quite surprised by how little food I need to maintain a basal metabolism of around 1880 calories. There has been an enormous disconnect for many years now on how much food I thought I needed compared to what I actually need. Perhaps this fact has sunk in and registered in my brain and is making me less responsive to midnight food urges.
- I have also come to realise that exercise allows me to increase my daily calorie and enjoy a greater variety and quantity of food.
My target remains 69.5kg, my last reading was 73.5kg so I have 4kg to go. If I can lose 0.5kg per week then I will reach my weight goal in 8 weeks time, that is the end of October.