Specific Programming for Effective Training

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Q: I’ve read different training books, my focus being mountain running. What I miss from most material is specific instruction on how to get better. Take Zone 1 heart rate training, for example. There’s a big difference between doing work in the upper part of Zone 1 compared to the lower part. At least that’s what I’ve observed based on my experience. But I haven’t seen that covered except in Joe Friels “Total Heart Rate Training” and even there it’s only touched upon. What I’m looking for is specific programming, not “2 hours in zone 1” or “30 min total in Z3”, but rather “5-6 cruise intervals of 6min/1min first week followed by 3 cruise intervals of 10min/2min next week” etc. For me that is common sense now, but it took a while for it to really sink in as a beginner…

A: The reason you are struggling to find specificity in the literature is because specific training instructions are specific only to the individual they are meant for, and are not easily generalized to a broad population other than as very general guidelines. That’s why you see the more general recommendations such as two hours in Zone One. Anyone who tells you that there is a universally applicable, formulaic, approach to training is fooling you. Scott has coached at all levels right up to Olympic athletes and one thing you can be absolutely sure of is the individual nature of the training response. You can give ten athletes the exact same workout and you will see ten different responses based on their training history, genetics and recovery state.

There is an enormous individual component to proper planning. When we wrote our book we had space limitations, and we directed the material to climbers (most of whom have no experience with endurance training or any training for that matter). Hence we tried to explain the ‘WHY’ behind general training concepts, and aimed to steer clear of blanket prescriptions that might be appropriate for someone of your abilities, but would destroy a less well-trained person. On the website we will have the opportunity to delve more deeply into the ‘HOW’ of designing specific training plans, using the same methods we use with the athletes we coach.

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