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What is Quality?

March 28, 2011 Fitness 2 Comments

I trudged through the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance when I first picked it up several years ago. It was my first post-college philosophy reading and my head wasn’t in the right place. Like the book’s character Phaedrus, I thought I might go crazy trying to figure out “What is quality?” — and why I need to figure it out in the first place.

When I read a blog post from Joe Friel last week, this idea presented itself again. I will summarize a few key points:

Training quantity is simple. It’s just how many miles, kilometers, hours, meters, yards, TSS or kilojoules done in a week. Your volume. All you need is an adding machine. This is the focus of the Base period – accumulating general fitness by doing lots of non-specific training. “Non-specific” means the workouts aren’t necessarily like the events for which you are training. For example, you may be lifting weights. At no point in your races this summer will you have to stop and pound out a few squats. Weight lifting is non-specific. Drills to improve technique are non-specific since you don’t do them during a race.

While the purpose of the Base period was general fitness, the purpose of the Build period is specific fitness. This involves individual workouts that simulate the intensity and the duration of your next A-priority race. You can stop being concerned with volume at this point. If you did a good job of raising volume during the Base period then you can maintain it quite easily now.

Quantity is not the key to performance; quality is.

So that brings us back to where we started: What is quality training? You should have a pretty good idea of how to answer this now. Quality training involves doing workouts that simulate the intensity and the duration of your goal race (and other unique variables such as race terrain). Some of the Build period workouts will focus on the specific intensity. Others will focus on the specific duration. The highest quality workouts will include both specific intensity and specific duration.

This training philosophy struck a chord with me. I did a good job of raising my volume during my Base period this winter. (Perhaps I did too well, considering my burn-out…) Now I’m training in the Build period. I am one month out from my first race. Going out there and shuffling through my workouts just to check them off the list is not going to serve me on race day. I need to be focusing on quality workouts: rides at the average speed I expect to achieve, runs at race pace over hilly terrain, and I need to get my ass into some open water sooner rather than later.

After weeks of rotten weather in the Bay Area and a couple of weekends in Tahoe, I was really getting concerned with how the race would go. I was even threatening to drop out of the 70.3 in July. I know I could physically complete it, but the mental race is even more important. Yesterday, the clouds parted (literally) and I can see the light again. My 40-mile ride was great, followed immediately by a reasonably quick 3-mile run in my Vibram Five Fingers shoes. It was quality training — both in intensity and duration. I am so relieved!

Weekly Workout Wrap-up: March 20

Sunday: Bodyrock.tv workout + 45 mins StairMaster

Monday: 1900-yard swim + 20-mile bike ride

Tuesday: 60 minutes yoga + 6-mile Track Attack

Wednesday: 20-mile bike ride

Thursday: 20-minute sauna + 30-minute swim

Friday: 9-mile run + 90 minute massage

Saturday: 75-minute yoga + 30 mins StairMaster


Currently there are "2 comments" on this Article:

  1. caryn says:

    You are committed to Barb’s!! Unless I back out of course. :-)

    I think we have physical part down. It’s the mental part that will be the next challenge.

  2. I’m so relieved for you! Thrilled you’re back in the game.

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