All I want for Christmas is the Garmin 735XT/Polar V800/Ironman Sleek150 and three days to read the manual and learn how to work it. How many triathletes have something like that on their Christmas wish list. Don't get me wrong I'm a gadget guy with watches, power meters and a smart trainer but sometimes we need to disconnect. In this world of instant gratification we have lost the sense of self-awareness.
Before we get to far into this discussion let me first explain what is meant by the term metrics. Metrics are the means by which we determine output or performance. Various metrics include heart rate, power, pace, interval times, etc. From these metric multiple advanced metrics are determined such as TSS, training stress score, CTL, chronic stress load, etc. Many of us obsess on these number thinking they are the end all, be all of training and performance.
We all have an innate sense of pace, exertion, output but a lot of the time it is pushed aside, ignored, because of what that gizmo on your wrist says. I have to hit 8 minute/mile pace for this workout because thats what my coach said in the session description. While doing that you fail to acknowledge the extra glass of wine and the pigs in a blanket you ate at last nights office party or that you went to bed a 1 am rather than your usual 10pm. Or maybe its the kids were so giving when they passed along the cold that is rampaging thru the school. Irregardless of the cause, you are not firing on all cylinders but you are asking your body to ignore that fact and just muscle thru the prescribed session. This is wrought with nothing but risks and dangers leading one down a path to disaster.
There are multiple means to measure our output in any given circumstance. It could be pace, power, heart rate or the old school concept RPE(rate of perceived exertion). So on that day where you are muscling along after an evening of overindulgence your pace may be 8 minute mile but your are operating at an RPE of 9 rather than the recommended 6. Here in lies the problem, to continue on that path means you will be shot for the afternoon session, probably tomorrow's and maybe the next day's session too. Not a good thing. What is a person to do. Say hi to RPE. This is the perfect time of year to start to re-educate yourself with RPE. While it may be old school it is still one of the best tools to determine exertion, once you learn how to properly grade yourself.
Here is what I recommend for my clients to do. During the Post and Prep(Preseason) do a few session without looking at your watch but still have it on to record the session. During the session take mental notes, trying to accurately grade your level of exertion from a 1, a walk with Grandma to a 10, trying to keep up with the Angry Bird or Frodo at Kona. After your session is done write down your perceived levels for any given set or interval, download your session to Training Peaks, Garmin, which ever system you use and compare your perceived efforts to the appropriate metric for that session, again power, pace, HR, etc. How did you do, was your RPE of 6 consistent with a Zone 2 pace or was your HR at Zone 4. There will be days where you feel like your cruising along with an RPE of 6 and your HR is Zone 2, a good day and then there are those days where pace is a Zone 2, HR a zone 4 and RPE is a 9, a bad day. As you progress through this exercise you will become better and more accurate at judging your exertion to your true output, gaining insight to your body and how to accommodate those good days/bad days.
The goal here is two fold. One, it is to help us learn to be present throughout our workouts, improving not only our physical stamina but also our mental stamina. And two, to learn to listen to our body and be a better judge of how hard we are working. Be patient, learn, be honest, this is one exercise which pays massive dividends throughout your season and on race day.
With that I bid you adieu, I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and Santa brings you all the gizmos and gadgets your asked for in your letter keeping in mind, we are all blessed to able to participate in a sport we love and to do so each and every day.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,