Exercise Physiology Triangle

Here is a simple lesson in exercise physiology:

small zendurance cycling logoAs an endurance athlete, you train three physiological systems. They are:

  1. Muscular System
  2. Metabolic/Aerobic System (Energy System)
  3. Neurological System

Q: Of these three physiological systems, which one do you think responds to and improves the least from your training?

A: Your muscles respond to and improve the least from your training.

Q: Of the three physiological systems, which one do you think responds to and improves the most from your training?

A: Your neurological system responds to and improves the most from your training.

Q: How much of your training is focused on developing your neurological system – the system that benefits most from your training?

You don't need a degree in exercise physiology to recognize that these three physiological systems are integral to one another. When you focus on training one of them, you are – to some extent – training the other two as well.

small zendurance cycling logoYou must train your neurological and muscular systems together if you want to execute each stroke and each stride perfectly.

small zendurance cycling logoMetabolic first:

Exercise physiology recognizes that in the early stages of endurance athletic training, the first thing you notice – beyond those very sore muscles – is big gains in your metabolic system. Consistent and tempered training improves your ability to use energy for forward motion more efficiently. It's like an increase in fuel efficiency. You can go farther and go faster.

small zendurance cycling logoThen... the inevitable:

Eventually that metabolic improvement begins to slow down. The gains are more subtle and it takes a lot more work to improve just a little. Your aerobic capacity reaches a plateau. As you train over the years, the best you can do is to slow down the inevitable – the aging process.

And then, one day, your aerobic capacity begins to diminish. While that is an inevitable truth of exercise physiology, it that does not mean that - as you age - you have to call it a day and watch the sun set. Your neurological system can continue to improve well beyond your aerobic peak.

small zendurance cycling logoDevelop Kinetic Intelligence:

Professional Ironman triathletes reach their peak in their mid – and sometimes late – thirties. But that’s at least ten years past aerobic prime! How can that be?

In that decade since aerobic prime, they have developed greater kinetic intelligence. This intelligence trumps a decade of decreasing aerobic capacity. There’s more to exercise physiology and training than heart rates!

Are you using a training program, or employing a coach to assist you in your endurance goals? Can you identify any specific neuromuscular-focus in your training program? The most obvious clue is any activity devoted to improving your technique.

small zendurance cycling logoWhat advantages do you gain by improving your technique?

  1. You gain efficiency – you use less energy and effort. That means you can go farther and faster by refining the way you move.
  2. You decrease your risk of injury.
  3. You must engage your mind. This engagement enhances the quality of your experience. You actually enjoy training more.
  4. As you integrate neuromuscular training with metabolic training, your investment yields greater dividends.
  5. You begin to cultivate and develop kinetic intelligence. And this intelligence does not have to diminish with age – it can accumulate!
  6. You increase your ability to execute each stroke, each stride perfectly – for longer distances, at higher speeds.

small zendurance cycling logoDrills and Beyond:

Usually technique training involves doing drills. If you swim, you may be painfully familiar with drills. As a Total Immersion Swim Master Coach, people pay me a lot of money to help them improve their swim technique. Many of them have been doing swimming drills for years – but with little improvement.

small zendurance cycling logoIf you don't understand the “why” of practicing drills, they may not improve your technique.

There is more to neuromuscular training than doing lots of drills – although the drills are essential. Total Immersion Swim, Chi Running and Zendurance Cycling – all offer valuable guidance for neuromuscular training in their respective disciplines. We give you the tools to pursue perfection in each stroke, each stride.

small zendurance cycling logoAdvance to:

Focus on grace and efficiency to improve your endurance, strength and speed. Pursue Kinetic Intelligence.


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