January 23, 2018

Breakthrough Training

Ron Saetermoe

When was the last time you had a breakthrough training day? Have you ever had a breakthrough training day? What is a breakthrough training day?

Let me give you my perspective on the subject and why it’s important.

My definition of a breakthrough training day is one that you push beyond your previous limits and perform harder and/or than you ever have previously. When I have these kinds of days I surprise myself because I thought that my previous efforts were the best I could do.

As I’ve written before, one of my training secrets is the CompuTrainer (a trainer for your bike that measures watts, or effort). My pal Lar Dog Davidson turned me on to this tool and I used it extensively when I was working with another coach. The great thing about the CompuTrainer is that the numbers simply don’t lie.

Consider going to the gym and working out with weights but having no idea how much weight you’re lifting. Unfortunately, many people train on the bike that way. You may be working hard but without some form of measurement (besides speed or cadence, or even heartrate) you really don’t know how much work you’re actually doing.

So the benefit the CompuTrainer has is you know exactly how many watts you’re pushing. In my case I have a favorite power workout I do. Essentially I keep increasing the watts while decreasing the interval. For example, I’ll push 200 watts for five minutes, then rest two minutes. The next interval will be 210 watts for four and a half minutes, etc.

My breakthrough workout then is when I start my first interval at 210 watts instead of 200. That extra 10 watts doesn’t sound like much but consider that 10 watts is a 5% improvement. Consider that a 5% improvement on the bike is like the difference between going between 20 and 21 miles per hour. Take a look at the bike splits sometime of the top people in your age group. Chances are there’s less than a 5% difference in time.

Sometimes before and during these workouts I have no idea if I can finish. Guess what, sometimes I don’t. There are a lot of factors involved including your glycogen stores, your rest the night before and previous workouts and recovery. Breakthrough workouts don’t happen everyday . . . that’s why they’re called “breakthrough.”

Perhaps the best breakthrough workout I had this year had to do with my bricks. Like just about everyone, I struggled after a hard bike workout to run. But if you can’t run well off the bike you’re not going to do well in this sport.

One morning in February at 4:30 in the morning I got on my CompuTrainer for a hard 60-minute workout and a transition run. When I got off my bike my legs were pretty wobbly so I thought I’d limit my run to my short course (about two miles). But when I started to run I felt great, even after pushing so hard on the bike. I was surprised that my stride was so fluid and strong so I decided to do my long T-run of six miles, and I felt great!

That was a breakthrough for me. Since that day I’ve been able to duplicate my performance at least once a week.

Don’t just workout. If you really want to get better you really need to push yourself hard occasionally. Trust me, you’ll surprise even yourself.

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