Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Morris musings

One of my favorite commenter, anonymous, left a comment in yesterday's post. This is a must read for anyone self coaching themselves with the Morris plan. It brings up a lot of questions and concerns that I've encountered over the last few years and things that I still think about and analyze.

I'm going to address some of the questions/comments from my perspective of having been on the program for several years. These are just my opinions as a zealot convert of the plan.

  • I am actually in my 2nd week of SMSP intervals - and I feel gassed. You know the feeling - that blank stare at the wall as the day goes on at work. My heart feels pooped - although the legs feel pretty good and I am enjoying the benefits of a reset metabolism from the effort with some fat being burned off (3 pounds in week one).

Not including dehydration issues or have a lot of excess weight to begin with, I think a loss of 3lbs a week during this phase is a bad idea. As my partner in pain says: Feed the machine. During the endurance phase, or during taper (rest) weeks than yeah cut weight. But not right now in the SMSP phase. I am eating a lot. Like 2-3 plates at the buffet a lot. And my weight is stable. Not talking junk here, but eat a lot of healthful foods. Eat often. This stuff is so hard right now that in order to properly recover you've got to replenish your carbs.

  • A lot of things I have read with regard to cycling on other sites and books say to limit interval workout days to 1x or 2x per week. Some say one of those interval days should be devoted to the 30-90 second interval and the other day (with at least 48 hours rest between interval sessions) should be devoted to the 2-4 minute variety. That's kind of what I have used in the past with some variations.

One of the tenants of the Morris method is block training. Back to back hard days. His research and my experience shows it to be an efficient way of eliciting super-compensation. Not to say that the old school method does not do that as well. I just think that the block training methods do it much more time efficiently. His plan follows a philosophy of working on high power for short intensities first (SMSP phase 1-4 minutes) and then working on your sustainable power (8-20mins) intervals. There are also leadouts and sprint intervals thrown in there too. The book (which you can't find right now) explains his reasoning in detail.

  • Having read everything I can possibly find on Morris, my first week (7 days) included 4 days of interval training and one day of a 1 hour Zone 2 recovery ride. Day 1 was 2 sets of 7 x 1 on x 1 off (300 watts). Day 2 was 2 sets of 7 x 1 on x 1 off (337 watts). Day 3 was stare at the wall recovery. Day 4 was stare at the wall just a little bit less than the day before type of recovery. Day 5 was 1 hour at Zone 2. Day 6 was 2 sets of 6 x 2 on x 2 off at 280 watts. Day 7 was 2 sets of 7 x 1 on x 1 off at 320 watts

Dave's research has shown that athletes can successfully complete back to back (even 3-4days in a row) of hard work when sufficiently motivated. Often times my plan calls for intervals one day then a race the next. In these races results are secondary to the quality training you get because nothing is as motivating as race. These consecutive days of training force you to work hard when fatigued. I'd call it overreaching. After adequate rest, the super-compensation you create after overreaching is called getting stronger.

Also find some good songs for your SMSP intervals. The song makes all the difference in being able to complete them sometimes.

The main idea here is to keep the intensity at the same high level over consecutive days. In order to do this, the duration of the work is typically reduced on the second (and third, or maybe 4th for high level studs). Or you give yourself more rest. For example:

Day 1: 2 sets of 7x1 on 1 off

Day2: 2 sets of 5x 1 on 1 off, or maybe better 2 sets of 5x1 on 2 off.

  • And I am feeling gassed and can't imagine how I am going to start pumping up the power as the month unfolds. Maybe after 2 days of recovery before I head into a block of 3 consecutive days of interval sessions starting this Friday I will feel better than I do today. I don't know

Ah! Yes. I know this feeling well. A couple of thoughts. This is some hard sh*t. It's a shock to a system that isn't used to it. Every year I get surprised though. Several times a year actually. In the strength phase and SMSP phase and later in the year as well. I'm astounded by how my body adapts and gets stronger.

Also 3 weeks of ON might be too much for you to start with. Instead of 3 weeks on 7 days recovery period, maybe 2weeks on and 5 day recovery might be better. As hard as these intervals are it's often times harder to just be smart and take some rest. Just yesterday I started to fall into this trap and my friend had to remind me to chill.

Regular life is hard. Everybody has stress in their lives and it affects our ability to recover. With this training you're treading a fine line between blowing up and getting stronger. Honestly. This is the first year in the past 3 years where I'm not falling over dead in this phase.

Also you need to set up a progression of these intervals that look something like this:

smsp 2007

Make sure you're not biting off too much to start with in your enthusiasm. DO NOT SKIMP ON THE REST WEEK BETWEEN SMSP AND MSP PHASES.

One of the criticisms of this type of training is the mental and physical fatigue that these blocks of intervals impart on the rider. My view is that right now it's ok to work myself into the ground. It's February, the weather is for crap and I'm going to have plenty of time to rest and super-compensate before racing. Riding hard under fatigue is what tears you up. But after you rest you come back stronger.

Is riding the trainer fun? Compared to trail rides maybe not. But here' my reality. Family. jobs, kids, house, etc. And I don't have Lance's genes. Right now I want to be the best that I can and 'training' is required. This type of training fits into my available time.

How long will I last? Dunno. I know of several people that stopped this type of training after several years because mentally they just didn't have the desire to go this hard with this volume. No one I've talked to has said that it didn't work to increase their power. It works, it's just hard. All still incorporate several of Dave's philosophies into their training though.

My inseason work is much different and easier in some ways. My weeks are set up to where I'm usually rested to ride strongly on the weekends and there isn't as much cumulative fatigue as in the SMSP and MSP phases during the off season. I'm making an investment now that will pay off later.

You need to listen to your body and mind and develop a program that works for you. If you find that this volume of intervals kills your enthusiasm in races than do something different. If you find that 3 weeks on 1 week off is too much volume of work at one time, than change to 2 weeks on 1 off. Or some other varient. Every part of the plan needs to be tweaked for you and your life.

  • After reading some of your posts and prior posts in archives from previous years, I guess I am not alone in the feeling gassed department. I wonder if you have found any information to support the frequency of these interval sessions under Morris as compared to only doing 2 sessions per week and what it translates to in terms of on the bike performance come race season? Hard to get a handle on the physiology of block training like this compared to previous years for me where I was doing intervals, but not block training versions of them. So the question is, with consecutive day blocks is more harm being done than good? In other words, isn't there a law of diminishing returns with regard to these intense interval sessions? Not having the book, I wonder what Dave says about the value of day 2 or even day 3 when doing consecutive intense sessions.

Later in the year I might only ride hard 2 or 3 days in a week. But you can bet that at least 2 of those days will be back to back. There is no doubt in my mind that back to back days create excellent adaptation. More importantly to me is that the adaptation is more time efficient. Meaning that I can ride less volume and get the same adaptation as if I'd ridden more volume but not including consecutive days.

And yes there is a fine line between doing more harm than good. It's all individual and if you work hard you have to rest harder. That is why you see 2 days on 1 day off 2 days on 2 days off or 3 days on 3 days off.

Also don't be surprised at all if after 3 days rest period that your legs feel like crap. Often times it's not until 3-4 days AFTER a rest period that my legs feel strong. Also never take the day before a race totally off the bike. Always do some short high intensity work. Not enough to do harm, but enough to prime the legs.

I've said this before and I'll say it again. Some of the best money I ever spent was to have Dave put together a 4 month training calendar for me. I've used it as a template for the past 2 years now. In a sense, I put my faith in him and it. And just said to myself: follow the plan as best I can. Plain and simple. No second guessing it.

This, of course, requires some faith. But I've found that if you don't believe in what your doing 100% than it takes away from your training significantly. More importantly, though is that having someone experienced put together your first plan could potentially save you several seasons of trial/error.

There are lots of coaches out there too and you need to find someone that works with your personality. Some coaches are more into the fitness physiology while others are more hand holding nurtering types. Know yourself and try to figure out how you tick.



At 1:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great response. I really do appreciate it - and your entire Blog.

I have found out that part of my "gassed" problem seems to be stemming from an antibiotic I was taking for 7 days for a UT infection called Levaquin. The stuff is a very nasty drug with all sorts of side effects once I consulted my Doctor and read some things online about the drug (mine happen to be dizziness, anxiousness, heart palpitations, tingling in the arms, muscle fatigue, panic feelings, insomnia, etc...). I've finished taking it and the infection is gone, but some residual effects of the drug are still in my system and need to be flushed out. So, I am hoping that things improve. I don't feel any of that while on the trainer doing the workouts. Usually it is while at rest in bed or in the office.

Bad timing as far as taking the antibiotic right in the middle of a SMSP block, but that is what happened. I only had to skip one day (the 2nd day of a a 2 day block) as I thought I was having heart attack symptoms (didn't know it was drug related). I'm still keeping an eye on it and hope the symptoms from the side effects subside.

Another question for you. I've been experimenting with the RPM's during various sessons. For instance, rather than doing all the intervals at a set 90 RPMS (or whatever #), I will do a day at 80 RPM's, maybe next time at 70 RPM's, maybe the next time at 85 RPM's and even a set of intervals out of the saddle at 60 RPM's with a big gear - all the while making sure I make my wattage and sustain it for each interval and the entire day. Is this okay to be doing? I know when I am out on the singletrack I use various cadences and gears - be it in the saddle or out of the saddle. I don't use an onboard computer that shows my cadence while racing, nor do I have anything to show heart rate.

Thanks for the chart. I just finished day 1 of a 3 consecutive day block this morning and will have the weekend to do the 2nd and 3rd days.


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