Intermediate to Advanced: The Different Types of Training

In my interactions with my coach M2, I have learned that there are 6 types of training. These are:
1. Neuro-muscular – training of the nervous system to do something either differently, better, or to some form which maximizes efficiency and minimizes effort. Example: super short high speed treadmill intervals for 15-30 seconds per interval, form focus workouts for swimming.
2. Speed – training that results in being faster. Examples: swimming speed sets, sprinting track workouts for running.
3. Strength – training that results in you being stronger, and to put out more energy at the same effort. Examples: hill climbing in running, hill climbing or more watts on the computrainer in cycling.
4. Endurance – training for the ability to race or produce energy output for some length of time. Example: gradually lengthening the duration of a long run over a period of weeks.
4b. Stamina – I make this a sub-section to endurance, which is the ability to maintain a level of speed/strength for a long period of time. Example: gradually increasing the time of your intervals and reducing your rest periods while maintaining the same wattages during Computrainer bike interval workouts.
5. Recovery – stimulation of blood flow by raising heart rate and circulation but not raising effort to flush the body of exercise by-products and promote healing. Example: cycling on a computrainer at negligible watts, but high RPMs for about 20-30min.
It is somewhat obvious that whenever you go out to train, you’re most likely training more than one of these areas simultaneously. However, I wanted to point out:
1. You can train to focus on only one of these areas.
2. It’s good to have a mix of all 6 areas as you’re building for a race. The mix depends on where you are in your training schedule.
3. You have to be aware that potentially you could be detracting other areas if you’re not focusing on these areas.
Let’s talk about the first point.
Focusing on one thing is possible and many times desirable. Of the 6 training types, I’ve focused on mostly neuro-muscular, strength, and recovery. It’s all based on what you individually need.
For example, over the winter, I did a lot of treadmill training where I’d warmup with track drills, ie. kick backs, skipping, and then started doing 30 min intervals at super high speed, building from 6 MPH to as much as 11 MPH (where the interval drops to 15-20 seconds due to the fact that the treadmill takes too long to accelerate to that speed). By the way, I have not found a gym treadmill that goes faster than 11 MPH, although I have heard that you can actually get treadmills that go that fast. What this achieved for me, is not necessarily the ability to maintain an 11 MPH/5:27 min/mile pace over a race. It does help train my neuromuscular system to fire my muscles quicker so that I get used to running at a higher turnover rate, at paces I can maintain. This results in me being faster simply because my body is accustomed to moving my legs faster.
For strength training, over the last 2 years I started climbing and doing laps on Old La Honda and Kings Mountain. These laps have built up my leg strength considerably and increased their resilience on hill climbs, where I was defeated utterly at Ironman Austria a few years back.
I am also a big user of recovery workouts. I figure out if, for a given workout, I need to back off. If I do need to back off severely, often I’ll do a recovery workout. An example of this is a pedaling efficiency workout involving a lot of high RPM one-legged pedaling drills at minimal wattage. It doesn’t stress my muscles from a power standpoint, but it raises my heart rate and circulation so that blood is flowing through my muscles and the flushing effect helps my recovery so that the next day I’ll be able to perform a normal workout.
Second point: The mix.
Training all in one type means that you’re not gaining the full benefits or reaching your potential for a race. If all you’re doing is sprinting workouts on the bike, you may not be able to last an entire century. If all you’re doing is running at endurance pace every workout, you may find that you aren’t increasing your speed, or you don’t have enough strength to pass someone when you want to.
You need to mix it up and include all types and improve on them all. You can figure out, as I have, where my deficiencies are, and do some focus on improving some areas. But overall, you need to train all 6 types as you build through your season to the big race.
I tend to focus on neuromuscular workouts during the offseason, as they don’t stress my aerobic system and are great for recovery workouts. Then I move from neuromuscular focus as my training season starts to building speed and strength with a lesser endurance emphasis. This is because endurance is easiest to build, but speed and strength take lot more time. As I hit mid-season, I am adding more endurance and stamina into the mix as I try to extend the speed and strength I’ve built up to longer times.
Third point, watch out for what you’re not focusing on and don’t let it slide.
As you’re focusing on certain aspects of training, you have to watch out that you don’t reduce other aspects. An easy example is that as you build endurance, you may find that your form (neuromuscular aspect) gets really messy as you get tired. This is very bad! The trick is to maintain form even when you’re butt tired, and as you focus on building endurance. Otherwise, you could injure yourself through poor form, as your muscles are tiring and you engage other weaker muscles to compensate.
Another example is when you’re supposed to be doing a recovery workout, but yet you feel energized and so you try to push harder and do something with more energy. But then all of a sudden, half way through the workout, you find that you burn through that initial burst of energy which fails you later because you weren’t fully recovered and you don’t have enough stamina to continue. Recovery when you have to and don’t force yourself to do something your body just isn’t OK for.
Yet another example is not gradually increasing your workout intervals to improve stamina. You mentally don’t feel like doing fast intervals beyond a certain point, and thus your stamina never improves. You hit race day and you find that as you try to maintain speed, you can’t and you’re slowing down as you move through the miles.
While training typically involves the simultaneous training of all 6 types of training, I think that there is a lot of benefit to identifying where your personal needs are, and coupled with where you are in your training season, you can focus on specific areas which need improvement and advance them greatly. Categorizing the different types of training really helps in thinking about training and how to race faster.