Vertical K – Plan to improve


Like in all sports, to see measurable linear improvements, at least 6 months should be dedicated to the VK, but 2 to 3 years would be a better idea. I find that complete immersion into this discipline is not that interesting as perso. I prefer utilising it as a training tool for more complex races ! Building up a trail running or skiing season while giving a couple of months to VK races and vertical high intensity exercises and workouts is a more logical way of planning. Each year once or twice I would revisit this and as the body doesn’t forget, if planned well, improvements should be still coming year after year

Some athletes cannot get into a groove of tranquility. Taking time off is very important. I do not like to detrain and loose my stride either. I hate days with no activities. When I take time off, it is about low impact, about low intensity, about mobility, about no-compromise sleep, about swimming. I find that for me personally a 15month period is great before a bigger break. Some athletes would need one every 6months and others go for 24months. This is too, individualised. You do not have to follow the general season ! understand this ! If you needed to take august off, find a big race in July or the 1st week of August ! You can ! Seasons proposed by the skiing, cross-country running or cycling, trail running, sky-running, MTB scene are only options, not obligations !

  • September OFF
  • October to January: short trail running season of 5 to 25km
  • January to April: 1 Medium Distance ultra 50km to 50mi
  • April – May – June – July: VK
  • June – July – August – Septembre – October: 1 / 2 Long Distance Ultra 50mi to upwards
  • November OFF

VK can be also a workout, not exclusively a sport in itself ! As you can see in the macrocycles I outlined, the months overlap. Athletes at the highest level of their sport, kind of professionals, will dedicate entirely their concentration to a discipline like a VK and even go on a world tour. Passionate runners will mix it up !

VK Macrocycle

  1. Endurance + Strength + Foundation
  2. Speed + Power
  3. Race Specific
  4. Taper
  5. Race

These Microcycles overlap too, like previously the seasons. Specialised focus on one facet or another doesn’t mean that you totally neglect a third or a fourth one. It depends on the athlete you are, you must revisit time to time a component as a so-called trigger session. As an endurance person with a decade of long distance experience, after the first foundation section, you might want to include one single long monthly effort to maintain muscle memory, while shorter distance athletes would be keeping the weekly long-run ! The same true for the other side, like somebody coming from short distance MTB racing or martial arts with great explosiveness. Strength, power and speed is not an issue. His focus would be on endurance, technique and self-control.

Incremental Gains

I enormously recommend to get an HR belt and watch what gives you GPS data together with a quality barometric altimeter reading. As terrain goes, unfortunately some watches just cannot cope properly with this type of movement. I am not a fan of the Suunto watches nor the Movescount platform, but the SirfStar Chipset and the altimeter in these devices makes them the most suitable for mountain sports. The Suunto Spartan Wrist HR baro paired up with the POLAR H10 HR belt ! Why not the V800 ? There is no vertical speed in it! Why not Garmin ? On the angled terrain the GPS often craps itself !

For the Suunto watches you can use the VAM, instant “Vertical ascent in meters” per hour as data, but most importantly what I would use especially for self-control on longer intervals and races is “LAP Average Vertical Speed in M/H”  ! Yes you can select this as shown live screen data ! Why ? Well you press your lap button for the next interval and it will give you your average ascent speed for that particular split. If you wanted to Finnish each lap with 1500m/h speed, you can ! Easy done ! It doesn’t jump all over the place like the instant speed, but stabilises after about 30seconds and you can micro-adjust your effort on the fly. This is what I use for flat training and for breaking strava segments too. Average lap pace ! I know that the previous record was 5:55/km pace, then I just have to maintain 5:50/km avg pace from the beginning and the KOM is mine. You can also use “Lap AVG Power on the bike” if had a powermeter !

The same true to breakthrough vertical workouts. You ascended last time with 999m/h speed, but today’s goal is to do the same climb with 1025m/h vertical speed.

Yes, a quality timepiece will help you enormously, while giving you instant and post-workout feedback ! Use it ! This will also enables you to plan in rest days, harder and easier days !
One single advice ! Use it as a very special training tool, but do not be a slave of it. You can wear it all the time, but do not forget the joy of running and the run by feel sensation. Let it guide you when have to, but give yourself the space to roam ! I upload all my workouts on strava, but analyse only the ones matter. The rest is there, with no significance in itself. As weekly and monthly fatigue goes, I however can see the cumulative effect of self-induced and watch-guided workouts !

The goal of this whole paragraph is to show you, that the best way to improve is a slow gradual progression. This can be guided by a watch, a slightly better runner companion, a coach, motivation, what ever. If you never ascended on a 25° slope with 1500m/h vertical speed for 10minutes, you don’t jump into this, as you will just tear off your calves and posterior chain ! Be smart and be gradual ! Unless you knew that you were a genetic freak ! 😀

Know your body and be your own coach

Get an app like ELITE HRV, measure your morning HR and HRV. This will give an enormous knowledge base on your recovery and readiness for each day ! A given score is already a great indicator of your fitness / fatigue ratio, but as you go ahead with your readings of HR / HRV, you can really see micro changes in your fitness and can make immediate decisions each day. Actually life and sport performance altering decisions !

To understand how to use morning HR / HRV in conjunction with training results from your watch is another topic, but to advance forward with your self-knowledge, these tools can guide you to a future tool free lifestyle. Use technology to be able to not to use it later on ! When you are at a level of self-awareness of a monk who meditates all his life, that is when you can say, yes I know myself. Okay, I am not gonna go that deep, but you got it, right ? Knowledge is power !

Categories: Personal Development, running, Sports Science, Training, UncategorizedTags: , , , , , , , , ,

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