Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Mesocycles, thresholds, and other hoopla

Just got a newsletter from USA cycling with some impressive graphics and discussions relating to mesocycles and periodization. The article is entitled, "Periodization Part 4, The Mesocycle and Training/Planning Platforms and Periods."

It has such wonderful scientific-sounding phrases as "The mesocycle may be the most important aspect of the periodization process." If that doesn't impress you, then I don't know what will. The mesocycle, it seems has a lot in common with lunar (and related cycles).

Surely, the six bar graphs showing the "Classic 28 Day," or the "14-7 Platform" will convince you. Never mind the 23-5 and the 16-5 platforms, or the 28 day Overload/Block Period. If you are thinking birth control, think again. I just can't shake the image of colored birth control pills in their neat 28 day packages. Must be my background.

Finally, there is the rather timely "Crash Period" graph, showing the 21 day mesocycle and looking somewhat like the Dow these days.

If the science label or the business-like powerpoint doesn't convince you, how about some religion?

The man behind all this turns out to be none other than Joe Friel, writer of many books on training, with such semi-religious titles as "The Cyclist's Training Bible", "Cycling Past 50", "The Triathlete's Training Bible", and the "Mountain Biker's Training Bible." It appears that Joe not only has the science in his pocket, he is big on religion as well, or bibles at least.

Ironically enough, it is not my only "encounter" with Joe's wisdom this week. The Cal Triathlon emailing just happens to have a reference to lactate threshold and Joe's training "zones." If you use this method you will always know if "you are in the right zone" If such talk reminds you of Timothy Leary or another long-ago movements, you are not alone.

I am afraid I am not a believer. I realize that my irreverent talk may incur the wrath of some very important people, but so be it. After having read all this stuff and looked at the graphs, I can only scratch my head. Macro-cycles, meso-cycles, micro-cycles, it is enough to make anyone dizzy. Horoscope anyone? A Copernican revolution is needed lest we drown in epicycles.

It also reminds me of my days in clinical practice when (usually elderly) patients would show up with elaborate pill organizers filled with a myriad of colorful pills, tablets, and capsules. "She takes one of these every other day doctor, with food, and then two of these in-between meals, and then one of these three times a day, except Sunday, and Monday, " etc. etc., the helpful companions would say. 

It was a logistics challenge without equal (except the mesocycles perhaps).

Ironically enough, what we usually found was that if we (carefully and slowly) took away all those pills, the patients enjoyed a remarkable recovery from whatever foggy state was clouding their brains. The other symptoms and lab abnormalities also improved rather dramatically in the process.

I am a minimalist. Things that look complicated do not impress me, quite to the contrary. I like simplicity and elegance. I found it works best.

You eat normal food, you train hard, engage in plenty of variety and play, and when you are tired you rest. It is not very commercially stimulating, but it works wonders.

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