designing training is like preparing a good stew
In the last 3 blogs I have talked about the first 3 tenets of my training philosophy: consistency, capacity, and frequency. So today I want to finish off with the 4th and last tenet: mixture. Mixture is the most commonly talked about aspect of training, with countless books and articles written about the various stress workouts we do and about how to use them.
In my philosophy mixture is about making sure we get in all aspects of training on a regular basis. These means that we touch base on all 3 categories of stress workouts: speed, stamina and endurance in a systematic manner in our training. I discussed the various workouts we use to do this in an earlier blog (here). While we will phase our training, the phases just determine how often we work on a certain category, not whether or not we work on it. All aspects of training are included in each phase (Fundamental and Specific), just with varying frequency depending on what we are trying to achieve.
In a Fundamental Phase of training our mixture is relatively even, as we work in all categories and sub-categories on a regular basis. In a 3 base unit micro-cycle (usually 7 or 9 days in length), we will work on each of the 3 categories once. In a Specific Phase we focus in more on the category or categories that are the emphasis for our goal race distance and as such those categories will get workout more in our training. But we still periodically touch base on the other category(s) so that they don’t become weaknesses that hold us back.
Similar to the tenet of consistency, one of the reasons we do this is so that we can keep our fitness level increasing as much and often as possible without back-sliding. By keeping all aspects in our training, we never develop weaknesses that could hold back our progression in fitness. This become especially important in a sport such as road racing where the athlete races much of the year without a typical off-season.
Some people find it helpful to look at this tenet as cooking. You never make a good stew with just one ingredient, you have to add multiple ingredients in the right proportion in order for the end product to come out perfect. Too much stock or not enough salt or too many carrots and the end product isn’t quite what you intended. Just like in cooking, part of being a good chef, (or coach in this case) is the art of knowing how much of what to add and when. So a large part of designing a successful training program is knowing the athlete, where they are in each aspect of their fitness, and where they want to go, and then being able to put together the right mixture of the right workouts to get them there.