The inherent flaw in all training zone training plans comes as a result of the assumption that must be made to use them: you have to assume that there is one single solitary variable that accounts for such a predominant portion of performance in the sport, that all other variables of both training and racing can be essentially disregarded.
Think on that for a moment…
The assumption being made is that performance in a sport can be distilled (or as I prefer ‘dumbed-down’) to one and only one key data point… just one.
Let’s use the sport of Formula One car racing to assess the viability of a concept where just one variable is targeted with the end goal of competing in the sport of delivering consistent peak performance.
Well, how is this going to work?
I suppose we can fire the entire pit crew, because if we are going to focus on only one data point – say we choose the power output of the car (since so many triathlon coaches love their power data it seems fitting) – then what do we need a pit crew? We aren’t going to be changing tires, we aren’t going to be adjusting spoilers on the car, and we definitely won’t be needing a pit crew to perform any repairs… not even replacing a wing that rips off as a result of contact with another car during the race.
I suppose we can also fire at least three of the engineers because what do we need all four for if we are just going to be monitoring one variable? In fact, if all we are doing is monitoring one variable, not sure we even need one engineer because the driver can monitor power directly on their steering wheel.
And I suppose we can eliminate the fully kitted out Formula One steering wheel that has adjustments for all aspects of the engine and car performance because what’s the point if all we are going to monitor is just one variable? All the other adjustments are simply irrelevant knobs and lights that the driver can do without because… if sport can be dumbed-down to just one variable, and only one variable… all that other stuff is irrelevant gibberish.
This is not just how many triathlon coaches think, this is how most if not all triathlon coaches, and for that matter coaches from many other sports think! They lack the education, the experience, the skill to handle more than one variable so their ‘solution’ is to dumb-down training to what they can handle… one variable and only one variable at a time (i.e. power for triathlon & cycling coaches; pace times or split times for swim & running coaches).
Meanwhile, back in reality amongst those who seek true peak performance… the understanding is that there isn’t just one but dozens & dozens of variables that determine which team & athlete consistently finish the race taking the checkered flag and standing in the winners circle.
RedBull Pit Crew
RedBull Team of Engineers
Formula One Car Steering Wheel
CLICK HERE to link to Youtube for a video detailing functions on the 2012 Renault F1 steering wheel (shown above).
CLICK HERE to link to Youtube for a video detailing functions on the 2019 Mercedes F1 steering wheel of Valtteri Bottas
How many variables does a Formula One driver have to monitor besides engine power output? To name just a few, there is: engine temperature, oil temperature, tire temperature, tire pressure, tire circumference (differs between slick and rain tires and engine adjustments must be made to accommodate), gas-air mixture, differential adjustments and now with Formula One cars having hybrid systems with power regeneration possible from both braking and engine heat means that the driver has to monitor the electrical function of the car as well (e.g. battery charge). This is not a comprehensive list, but it should give you pause to think about how many variables a true peak performer is monitoring at any given time and no… peak performance can never be dumbed-down to one single solitary variable, ever.
Long story short… if your coach is one of those who uses one and only one variable (e.g. Heart Rate, FTP, or Critical Power is now trending as ‘the’ key variable) then realize that you don’t have a coach, you have a hack, a hobbyist, likely a former athlete who wants to think that they have the skill level and understanding to take on the task of coaching yet fails to realize that in order to actually train an athlete they have to dumb-down training to just one variable… because that’s the extent of their education and experience when it comes to human physiology, anatomy, biomechanics, psychology, and so on.
If you want to train to experience your potential, to deliver consistent peak performance, then you have to work with a coach who like a Formula One race team can monitor and adjust on the fly every variable that is relevant to peak performance. Find such a coach and the results you will post will be Formula One quality.
In case you are interested, a Formula One (F1) driver not only has to be acutely aware of the mechanical and electrical function of their car, they are also driving at speeds which exceed 300kph and thus have to be on the top of their game when it comes to reaction time and to making appropriate driving decisions in split seconds. With the typical F1 car costing over $10 million dollars… its not a toy that can be trashed race after race; its a piece of the finest engineering available, hence only the finest drivers ever sit behind the wheel of a F1 racing machine.
In case you think that’s already overwhelming, don’t forget that F1 drivers can experience G-forces (as in gravitational forces) similar to those of a fighter pilot: 5 g while braking, 2 g while accelerating, and 4 to 6 g while cornering and with races lasting up to 2hours, F1 is no sprint… its an endurance event where drivers are as much expert drivers as they are peak performance athletes.
So you have one of two options…
You can work with a dumb-ass coach who wants you to believe that your peak performance can be achieved by dumbing-down your training to their level of ignorance, or you can work with a coach who has studied, tested, experienced, and now delivers consistent results (that do not come at the cost of an athlete’s physical, mental or emotional health and well-being to achieve) because they are capable of managing multiple variables simultaneously no different than an entire F1 race team.
So what’ll it be… crash test dummy coaching with dummy results or Formula One level coaching and consistent peak performance?