Why that set Coach?

February 8, 2018


this is a great question actually and i get asked it occasionally…. but funnily enough not as much as you’d think.
here are the two major methods for creating training sets :
“the training outcome method”
the first thing i look when setting a session is the training outcome – and then i choose a tool to achieve it.
a good example was a set i gave last week. the outcome i was chasing was trying to build back end run strength. it was “4x1miles tempo to threshold switch” – to be done as 800 T3 / 800 T4. really pushing you to be able to control the first half and have the strength to lift in the second half. a few other ways to do that would be:
  • a descending run of k’s …..starting at high T3 and finishing at high T4
  • a build run… which would be a continuous 8km just building it as you go
  • neg split run ….with the second half quicker than the first.
another example of looking for a specific outcome would be building strength on the bike.
  • hill reps – 4x5min hills medium grade, alternate seated and standing. seated ay 60 cad, standing at open cadence
  • low cadence reps – 4x4min at 60cadence / 4min easy
in the pool – we might look to be developing swim technique under fatigue. here’s a couple of options :
  • 400 T3 with pull and paddles to create fatigue, the 8×50 on long rest to focus on technique
  • 1000 Time Trial checking stroke count in 2nd 50 and last 50
so as you can see, the coaching process is this: firstly we establish our preferred training outcome. then we design a set that will develop that.
“the incremental improvement method”
a less used method of setting sessions is the “incremental improvement method”. in this – we might set a session based around incrementally moving the athlete towards a desired racing outcome. a famous example of this is the kieran perkins session based around breaking 15min for the 1500m. his coach basically had him swim 15×100 – in on 1min with a rest of 30sec. he then incrementally brought him down towards doing it without rest. hence the 15min barrier being broken.
sometimes we also do this with power on the bike. we might start with 8x3min at 195watts/ 2min rest and move the desired wattage upwards each week by 5 watts. this certainly works also but i tend to find its a little less giving in that you are working with differing levels of fatigue and as such you might not be able to achieve what we are looking for.
So in summary i tend to personally use the training outcome method as a first stop, but im not entirely averse to the incremental improvement level if i feel the athlete is a little stuck.
next time you have a look at your session, have a think at what we may be trying to develop then ask the coach if you are right. its a great process in the education of the athlete.