How to Peak at the Right Time – Training Status Helps You to Get into the Best Shape of Your Life

By Riikka Lamminen, Marketing Communication Manager, Firstbeat

Do you want to get most out of your training? In this blog series, we help you understand the physiological background of Firstbeat features on select Garmin smartwatches and how to use them to improve your fitness and achieve your performance goals.

You can’t have the same fitness all year round, at least not if you want to be in top form and get the most out of your performance. There’s a short window when your body can perform at its highest level. So you need to plan and schedule your training, especially if you have a race or challenge coming up where you want to do your best.

It is essential to monitor your training and make changes when needed. Rest more if you are in a danger of overreaching; push harder if you are detraining and your fitness level is decreasing. Realize that sometimes it’s hard to know what’s really going on in your body.

Are you stuck in a rut because your body is accustomed to the current level? Are you eager to be in top performance mode for race day?

Then peaking is the key. It is that special and brief time when you are able to take your foot off the gas, but your fitness level (your VO2 max) continues to improve. It doesn’t last long and requires some smart work to achieve.

Luckily, training status helps you out. By analyzing your long-term training and considering changes in your fitness level, it helps you optimize your workout.

Training status offers you the big picture

Training status is based on three key elements: changes in your VO2 max fitness level, your current training load and changes to your long-term training load.

To be able to measure your VO2 max, your heart rate and movement speed (GPS) is needed. And to be able to monitor changes in your aerobic fitness, your VO2 max value should be updated often. This means that you should run outside (at least 15 minutes) or cycle with a power meter at least twice within each two-week span; otherwise, your training status can’t keep up with your VO2 max trend. The more often your VO2 max is updated, the more reliable your training status calculations become.

Your training status can’t be determined before you have exercised regularly for at least one week with the device. And to be able to continuously track your training load, you need to exercise at least once every week with your heart rate monitor enabled.

If your data – VO2 max or training load – gets outdated, no reliable training status can be shown … so keep on running!

Six tips to peak at right time:

Peaking at the right time isn’t easy. Everybody and every body is unique.

A method that works for your buddy won’t necessarily work for you. And even an approach that worked for you few years back won’t necessarily work for you now.

Here are few tips that you can follow and maximize your performance:

  1. Determine your goal. It’s impossible to peak every week. Decide the goals you want to achieve and focus on them.
  2. Make a training plan – but don’t necessarily stick to it. Training is affected by many things and some you can’t control. Illness, injuries, work stress, personal relationships and weather all affect your life and your performance. Be ready to adapt your training program according to circumstances.
  3. Monitor your body. Similar workouts can produce different results depending on circumstances, so keep an eye on your aerobic training effect, which reveals the physiological impact of a single exercise, and training load, which reports how hard you have been working over the past seven days. You benefit from the insight of training status by including some outdoor runs in your weekly training program, enough to keep your VO2 max up to date.
  4. Train productively. The process of peaking starts months before the race day by building a proper endurance base and boosting your VO2 max. To train productively, you need enough hard and intense exercises but also low-intensity training and rest and recovery. Otherwise you are in danger of overtraining phenomenon and your fitness level will decrease. When your training status is productive, your VO2 max is improving and your training load is high.
  5. Taper before your goal. After scoring a productive training status, you can peak by significantly decreasing your training load with light exercise. If your training has been effective, your VO2 max trend continues to increase although your training load diminishes. This is called tapering, and it lets your body recover and maximizes your performance. However, you don’t need to stop exercising totally. If you make a dramatic change to your activity level, your body might feel flat and sluggish on race day. Some short but intense activities might be just right to turn on your body.
  6. Be patient. You might not master peaking the first time, but don’t fret. Every time you complete a training cycle and try to reach the peak, you learn more about how your body responds to different stimuli.