There is the old cyclist's saying that your slow long winter legs are the foundation of your summer racing topform is for many of us true to a large extent. This is What we forget as forty year olds "just out of nappies" and with kids being older we are just back on bike or skis.
We clear forget the number of hours we put in as kids and young adults and the years to get to our personal top form, for me age 20-21 for many sportive types at age 24-26, and for very serious or pro racers in any sport usually a higher peaking aged 28 - 32.
Also we forget the " lampost by lampost " build up when doing intervals or hill climbing, and the mile on mile or minute less minute as we pushed harder or picked up benefit from different rides. Also our bodies were better at recovering in resting while our minds could carry on pretty much normally or even at a higher level of attention and cognition! N.ow we need a nap! Ole Einar BjØrndalen takes a nap in his camper after some sessions.
What we know now is that people respond differently to different regimes and genetics plays a big role in that. Soon everyone will be matching their genetic profile to their base fitness level, tied into their biometrics - the phenotybe - to then build a training and testing programme which will be academically correct for them at least..
For now it is more ethically comfortable to take some advice and also to try some new approaches.
Start low and slow: i struggle with this, and really it is walking after you can run - it is te old cyclist adage: extending the duration to over one hour immediately and going up to three hours midweek and more at the weekend. Starting with about four hours in three sessions and going up to eight. This is for the first three weeks of a rebuild for a fairly athletiuc person and up to a year for people with weight problems.
The intensity is low and it is worth taking a heart rate monitor with a max alarä set to 80% max and while trying to stay over 65% as a base minimum.
Very few non athletic people train this way and that is one reason so many people are fat and faddy: they never build a cardiovascular foundation which has appetite stabilising and blood glucose- insulin response benefits. Instead they dabble in new diets and quick fix exercise regimes punted by the gymns and tv personalities trying to appease the belief in the modern busy lifestyle needing short bits of this and that.
For other people more varied training of one hour core session duration plus warm up warm down of ten minutes has an equally good effect as duration low intensity. This is dooable in the gymn without going stir crazy and the variation in intensity, intervals or machines makes it more interesting. However i do not respond so well to this and so decided to up to longer sessions with natural intervals on up hill sections, good feeling minutes and sprint lines to drink breaks.
Prolonging intensity and recovery from peak bursts/sprints , for duration sports are the real goals for the amateur as much as for the professional racer. This is built upon a vascular base in the muscles, a stronger heart and a body ready to use its energy stores effectively and those three elements for most people probably need to be laid down with longer sessions in the early "season" .
Some people are though able to train up based purely on intensity training for shorter duration events like 10km distance in skiing and running. Others like the Oslo Nordmarka type, get most benefit from weekday multiple intense sessions and medium hard bike or running commuting followed by a very long day on skis or the bike in the woods upto an eight hour day at the weekend.
Given though you are starting from a low base from the previous two years lacking activity or indeed you have never trained, then the long low intensity 4 to 8 weeks will only be highly beneficial to you and may uncover any health weaknesses whicb could be dangerous if you went max-out interval training from day one. Until genetic testing is accurate and comprehensive across relevant factors then this is the best bet.
The other two training factors can be the HIT "switch" and strenght training.
High intensity interval training is super short duration with near max heart rate for just bursts of 30 seconds in a really small session. The total duration including a comfortable warm up and down would be 12 mins or so, but the Nottingham Uni researchers are basing research on a super short burst to prove that there is a switch in some people for upgrading VO2 max and a general improvement in insulin response.
So my advice for anyone like me, former fabby now flabby , is to
1) recall your own training patterns and build up as sporty young you. What benefited you most?
2) cut out a huge amount of sugar and starchy products with low fibre including of course beer but also cutting down on fruit outside training refreshment.
3) try longer very slow sessions early season so to speak. Get over the hour and up to two and three hours out a session.
4) do not pre-eat or compensation eat at this point. Take a banana or a small sports bar with you and eat half way through if you are feeling weak. Otherwise reduce your ijntensity s you tire and then try a bit of stretching and meditative breathing after you stop, avoid refuelling as this becomes a top up and shuts down your fat metabolism.
5) Eat a dinner earlier after exercise not a snack with a later dinner. Avoid eating after training in the mid to late evening and do not train hard after 8:30pm, wind down and be in the shower before news-at-ten. For long slow exercise you can begin sooner after dinner , breakfast or lunch than for harder exercise anyway.
6) introduce shorter runs where you have some "lampost by lampost" goal setting or push yourself by training with others in a club or social setting. Fall back an.d take rests. Do this after your body's own feedback to begin with using visual queus like lamposts or hilltops or road junctions to measure your endurance at this higher intensity.
7) Later you can use the watch alarm to do fixed intervals based on challenging your body after its initial self limiting approach as above.
8) pick up a training buddy who is around the same level as you or prepared to slow a little to train with you.
9) pick some sportive event to do in a social context or arrange your own ride/run/ski with office folk or the club or whatever.
10) get advice on your technical shortcomings and find new technical challenges. This applies to running and cycling but more to swimming and xc skiing. Use this for setting another set of goals for the season
11) once you have chosen a highpoint and set of goals then train towards that in a more focused way. For shorter faster racing move that way, for a longer endurance race or sportive combine duration with gymn and home based stregnth exercises. In the season of races or events, include them in your target training hours as if they were just more hours logged and take rest days after them. First in after that use a long slow intensity session of around one and a half hours and see how you feel. If you are very stiff and tight in muscles you may need to call it a day and spend tijme stretching out and rehydrating. If you feel good then add some intervals or a hard climb for half an hour, followed by a slow half hour warm down and 5- 10mins stretching.
12) as you get say 8 weeks into your programme challenge yourself by improving times on known runs or by going out with people of better fitness than you in a group. See how long you can keep up!
14) if you get a cold or a small injury then cut out the long and the intense sessions. Train indoors and take time to do more well instructed, relevant strength work. With a fever or bronchitis stop everything, get a sick line and stay in bed. Training will make it worse.