Right now many TriForcers are in their Specific Preparation period and we’re pushing you to do more training than you’ve done all season. To be successful with this training load you need to “go with the flow’ and listen to your body. In particular you want to err on the side of caution so that you have enough juice to feel good for your long swim, long bike & long run of the week (and especially be cautious leading into one of your rehearsal workouts).
In other words, don’t push through your less important workouts if you’re tired! Dial it back, or if you’re really feeling bad, just quit. Don’t set yourself up to fail in your key workouts. (See geeky details below).
If you’re not feeling good, swim, bike & ride at “lower steady.” Our steady zone starts at our “aerobic threshold” (“AeT”) (NOT anaerobic threshold, which can be 30-40 bpm above this level!) . AeT is where we cross over from easy to steady– there’s a subtle deepening in respiration that you’ll notice if you try to breathe through your nose. When you’re above the aerobic threshold you’re getting good endurance benefits even though the effort can feel quite mild. You’re burning a large % of body fat at this level and relying largely on slow twitch muscle fibers. This is a combination that is quite gentle on the body compared to pushing a bit harder where you’re going to start recruiting more FOG / intermediate fibers, which are probably already fatigued if you are feeling tired.
Running. I find that the McMillan Calculator “Long Runs Pace” (typically :30 to 1:30 / mile slower than marathon pace) is a decent proxy for someone’s steady zone. Most TriForcers always try to run at the faster end of this zone (people seem to hate running at a pace they consider “slow”), but if you’re not feeling good you should aim for the slower end of this range. Right now my long runs pace is about is 6:30 to 7:30 per mile. If I’m feeling frisky (which is rare because I’m trying to rack up large numbers of miles / week), I run closer to 6:30 / mile. If I feel “OK” I run closer to 7:00 per mile. If I feel tired then I run at 7:30 / mile. If 7:30 / mile feels “rough” then I know I need recovery and I cut my workout short.
Just for context, 6:30 / mile will be somewhere around 160 bpm for me (Ironman run HR), 7:00 should be in 150s, 7:30 should be in the 140s or very low 150s. If I find that my HR is very high versus pace at lower steady AND that I’m feeling “rough” then I’ll cut the workout short. Sometimes I’ll feel OK for an hour or so then suddenly the workout seems to be getting harder even at my lower steady zone. Time to quit! Lower steady should feel almost easy, if it’s starting to feel almost hard then I’m deeply fatigued.
So if you feel tired starting a run, go at the slow end of your steady zone. If that feels bad, then quit!
Biking. If you haven’t figured out your AeT using breathing patterns, you can probably use 65% of your Functional Threshold Power (1 hour time trial power) as a starting point for the bottom of your steady zone (you want to find the minimum level where you feel “I’m getting a workout”– breathe through your nose to see if you’re cardio system is working a bit). Your steady zone is about 65-75% of your threshold power. For me it seems to be from 208 to the high 230s roughly. It will be BELOW the bottom of your heart rate zone 2 (the Friel HR zones are too aggressive). If I’m feeling tired I try to bike around 208 watts, if I feel “OK” I bike in the 220s, if I feel frisky I’ll do some riding in the high 230s. If 208 watts feels “rough” after I’ve warmed up, then I know I need recovery and I’ll cut the workout off. In heart rate terms, my lower steady is in the 130’s (40 beats below threshold HR). Upper steady is in the mid 140s. (Note: my Ironman average HR is typically in the mid to high 140s).
Swimming. If I’m fatigued in swimming, I’ll swim with a pull buoy at “the slowest I can go without my form becoming horrible.” If I tune into my breathing I can tell that I’m still “getting a workout” at this level. If even this minimum level is tough, then I’ll cut the workout short & call it a day.
Go with the flow and listen to your body, especially in your less important workouts. If you feel tired, train at the bottom of your steady zone. If that feels hard, call it a day!