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Posted in: High Performance Coaching

What is the point of training within your comfort zone?

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  • iwynne

    I’m having a discussion with some coaches and athletes regarding training intensity,duration and specificity. The discussion centres around what is the point of doing any training within your comfort zone. Where would the drive for adaption arise if you stay within current limits 

    note this is applicable for any speed/intensity/duration so your comfort zone for a long steady effort is anywhere below what you are normally capable of attaining on a long slow effort. I am not defining comfort zone as anything less than maximal intensity

     

    your thoughts would be appreciated  

  • cesanctuary
    On 01/02/19 3:00 AM, Ian Wynne said:

    I’m having a discussion with some coaches and athletes regarding training intensity,duration and specificity. The discussion centres around what is the point of doing any training within your comfort zone. Where would the drive for adaption arise if you stay within current limits 

    note this is applicable for any speed/intensity/duration so your comfort zone for a long steady effort is anywhere below what you are normally capable of attaining on a long slow effort. I am not defining comfort zone as anything less than maximal intensity

     

    your thoughts would be appreciated  

    Dear Ian,

    It would depend on what sport you are discussing and then subsequently the physical, technical and tactical demands of that sport.

    When you say:

    “...so your comfort zone for a long steady effort is anywhere below what you are normally capable of attaining on a long slow effort. I am not defining comfort zone as anything less than maximal intensity”

    In this instance there is a difference between what might be an individuals ‘comfort zone’ and ‘maximal intensity’. How are you quantifying maximal intensity? How is this identified and measured?

    When planning sessions around duration and intensity it is important to understand how game/grid sizes can be manipulated to facilitate appropriate levels of intensity within technical and tactical aspects of work. In these instances it is also worth exploring work around MAS and how the distances and percentages of work can be regressed and progress in a quantifiable way.

     

    On 01/02/19 3:00 AM, Ian Wynne said:

    I’m having a discussion with some coaches and athletes regarding training intensity,duration and specificity. The discussion centres around what is the point of doing any training within your comfort zone. Where would the drive for adaption arise if you stay within current limits 

    note this is applicable for any speed/intensity/duration so your comfort zone for a long steady effort is anywhere below what you are normally capable of attaining on a long slow effort. I am not defining comfort zone as anything less than maximal intensity

     

    your thoughts would be appreciated  

     

  • iwynne

    Colin, Thank you for taking the time to consider my question.  

    Let me elaborate; I think the concept is universal across all sports,    

    Hopefully, if I have uploaded it correctly below is a diagram depicting the concept, (sorry for the poor quality hand drawing)  It is an exaggerated conceptual model to help explain the idea, not a specific example.  

    The graph shows an intensity - duration relationship

    The black curve line is your current 'best' Speed, intensity, cadence, intent on the vertical axis (any of these terms can be used interchangeably for the given sport) for any given duration on the horizontal axis.  The intensity declines with an increase in duration.  

    Anytime you are not operating within a margin close to this ideal, represented by the thin grey zone, there is no requirement for physiological adaption. 

    Every time you exceed this line, represented by the red zone, you are primed for adaptation (given the requisite recovery/resources) 

    Repeated exposures of a speed within the green zone are required to move the athlete into the adaptation zone thereby increasing the duration exposure- interval training. 

    I think many coaches and athletes fail to understand the relationship depicted below, they miss judge effortful training (which is still within the comfort zone) with adaptive training.  

    for any training session, you could plot the graph and use this in conjunction with your known objectives to direct reps/sets and/or rest periods to ensure the athlete moves into the adaption zone, 

  • nigelweare

    Dear Ian, 

    If the black line represents current capacity, then it should not be possible to go for longer at a given intensity as a one off. Your red zone would therefore represent a total time of repeated efforts.

    Your grey area would represent a submaximal effort that is still hard enough to elicit a training response.

    The green area that you call the comfort zone is insufficient to produce overload. 

  • cesanctuary

    Dear Ian

    Thank you for sharing your insights and also providing the graph to highlight the point.

    Within a session you require an awareness of the overall outcome aim. This might relate to a description or a numerical metric (RPE; Total Distance; etc...). When working with a coach, once you know the desired outcome (and how it fits into your overall/monthly/weekly plan) you can then plan the ‘intensity’ of each aspect of the session. This goes from the initial warm up, to progression into the session, into the individual skills/drills and games. In this way you are able to identify an overall balance within the session and also identify the specific aspects which relate to actual physical adaptation be that aerobic, anaerobic, speed, power or strength based.

    As you mention, you cannot work all these aspects to the maximum all of the time. The key point is knowing/planning which aspects are been developed and when. This needs to be related to their place in the session, the weekly plan, the monthly plan and the Players overall development plan.

  • Lucas

    From a physiological standpoint, fitness improves because a particular physiological stress is placed on the body. Ian, your idea and model aren't too far off, but they are missing a few details. Physiological stress is created by a combination of duration, frequency, and intensity. The model above looks at duration and intensity only, not the frequency. And the above model doesn't really distinguish between single efforts and repeated efforts, which are important because repeated efforts apply to both accumulating duration and frequency of the stress (sometimes referred to as "time in zone"). 

    Below is an image showing power data from cyclists that displays power and time essentially the same as how you've represented it. In the top half of the image the chart's thin yellow dotted line (MMP) represents the athlete's max power at each duration over the last 90 days (a composite of one-off bests). The red line (PD Curve) is a mathematical model of that person's performance over that full range of durations. Notice that the red line does not always match the peaks of the MMP line but provides a "smoothed" version of it. The focus here is on representing an expected performance level not to simply trace the peaks of one-off bests as the thick dashed green line does. 

    When it comes to training to improve a particular energy system—endurance, max aerobic, anaerobic, max power, etc.—aiming for a max effort every training session is not often an effective way to stress an athlete's physiological systems. 

    For new or youth athletes, a single maximal effort my provide enough stress to prompt adaptation. But for many athletes this is not enough to induce adaptation, but it is enough to induce fatigue and degrade performance in subsequent efforts, thereby limiting the training volume (duration and frequency) the athlete is capable of completing. So often a better approach is to aim for a higher volume of training stress near but below the targeted duration. This allows many more repetitions of the exercise and actually allows for a much higher volume of stress to be placed on the body. 

    The bottom half of my attached image shows a few "Interval Targeting…" tabs, each highlighting a particular physiological system (and associated time frame). Each system has its respective upper and lower limits to target during intervals based on a percentage of the red line (PD Curve), but these targets come out to around 90% of the red line. It's hard to see but this zone is represented as dashed purple lines just below the red line. 

    To Ian's point, I present specific data because defining "comfort zone" is another key detail. The targeted intensity as calculated from these graphs does not yield a comfortable workout. One effort at the targeted intensity won't feel terribly intense because it is, by definition, below what the athlete should be reasonably expected to do at their current fitness level. But this sub-max effort does allow the athlete to accumulate a lot of time in zone over an entire session, putting a large stress on the targeted system. 

    Where both my example and Ian's model break down on the "comfort zone" test is when looking at long endurance work. The intensity and duration of training for endurance can, in fact, feel pretty comfortable. However, a high volume of this training over weeks and months can make significant gains in both sub-max and maximal aerobic intensity. But the volume of this activity needs to be quite high, and this is specific to aerobic fitness, not maximal force or anaerobic capacity. 

  • This paper may be of interest. The summary says it all really.

    " Summarizing, in order to improve running or cycling performances, high-volume training programs are highly recommended"


    https://journals.humankinetics.com/doi/abs/10.1123/ijspp.2018-0359

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