February is the time in most peoples Annual Training Plan (ATP) to start ramping up the intensity and performing harder interval workouts. When I say "harder" I'm talking physically and mentally harder. Have you ever started a 2x20 L4 (Lactate Threshold) Interval Workout and 10 minutes into your first 20 minute interval you're feeling like 100% dogsh$t? I have recently...and I know a few of the athletes I coach have felt the same. Lets face it, 2x20s at L4 are tough workouts...and if you don't think so..chances are you're doing them at less than your "actual" LT Power. (That's why you should continue to have yourself tested throughout the year so you can adjust your power zones accordingly)
Question is: What do you do when you feel like crap and you just can't seem to physically or mentally go on? Do you:
a. stop/quit your workout and resume another day?
b. lower your power and continue the 2x20s at L3 instead?
c. discount power altogether and finish the intervals based on HR?
d. reduce the duration of the intervals to say 2x10s at L4 instead of reducing power?
The more important question is NOT WHAT YOU DO..but WHAT SHOULD YOU DO? For me, I've done all of the above...but always wondered which of the 4 options was/is the best for my training. I'll give you the response I get from every Exercise Physiologist (PhD) I normally ask such questions: IT DEPENDS! It depends on why you can't finish the workout. Is it because you didn't get a good nights sleep, stressed out, poor nutrition, too much too soon, etc? (BTW, I recently emailed Velonews to ask the same question of their EX FIZ gurus to see what they would say. I'll let you know what they say when they get back to me).
There are times when I think it's BEST to opt for a). and stop/quit a workout..specifically if you're sick, getting sick, didn't sleep well, poor nutrition that particular day, dehydrated, hot, etc. I see no need to run your immune system down more than probably what it already is by trying to "stick it out". Besides, a few lost workouts isn't going to make/break you. Of the four options, I think b). is probably the one I opt for most often when I feel like crap. Granted, you're not getting the full benefit of the harder/higher L4 power physiological adaptation...but 75% is not so bad in my opinion. It's not a total loss of time and energy. Option c). is probably my second choice...because when you're feeling like crap your HR is usually higher/elevated than what it normally is. Therefore, it's almost the same as option b). That is, your HR is at LTHR but your power output is probably only at L3. Option d). is probably the one I'd least opt for. Why? Because when you start changing the durations of your interval workouts you start changing the energy systems/physiological adaptation your trying to develop/improve.
There is NOTHING wrong with quitting a workout. You won't get mentally weaker if you do. (However, make it a habit and you will.) That is why during the Feb/Mar timeframe I try to start doing all of my harder L4/L5 workouts with friends. It's a LOT tougher to bail on a hard workout when you're doing them with friends..and you see that same grimace of pain on their faces. (Misery breeds company) So, start doing your harder workouts this Feb/Mar with your buds...and push/motivate each other to complete these tough workouts. You will definitey reap the benefits when the racing season begins. Power ON! Coach Rob