Building A Training Plan

6 11 2008
You can train haphazardly and hope to have top form on race day or you can follow an organized training plan building up to your peak event. With a proper training plan your probability of success is far greater. The difference between these two training methods is not motivation or amount of work.  It’s all about hitting your peak form on the week of your big event. Without a coach, designing your own training plan for the entire season can be a little overwhelming. To simplify the process Linda Wallenfals has broken it down into a few easy steps (I’ve changed this slightly to make it shorter).

Set Goals: What do you want to accomplish this season? Be specific with the race date and distance. “Get strong” or “Do well at all crits this season” is not a concrete, time-specific goal. “Win club champs on April 20th” is a perfect example of a goal.  Your goal should be both challenging and realistic. The goal must be one you have passion to achieve. Once you have your goals, you have a focus for your training. Spend time and thought on this step as it establishes the foundation for everything else.

Evaluate Race Demands:
Race demands largely dictate the nature your training should take. The majority of your training plan should reflect the specific demands of your chosen goal event. Endurance events will emphasize aerobic fitness and tactical preparation. Short, fast events will require a larger volume of short, fast training.

Establish Calendar: Using a calendar, mark down your A-priority event.  Count back from that date to figure out how many weeks you have available to train. 8-12 weeks is a reasonable amount of time.  Mark on the calendar all other information you have about your schedule between now and race day such as days or weeks you cannot train and lower priority events.

Periodize: Divide the weeks you have available to train into focused periods. The best way to do this is to work backwards from your A-priority race day. Label the week of your A-priority race “race week.” Label the one to two weeks prior to that “peak week.” Continue working backwards on the calendar and divide the rest of your time up into blocks of 3 or 4 week periods. Ideally you will end up with about 4 3-4 week periods, a couple of peak weeks and a race week. Now you have a basic overview of your season.

Recovery Weeks: Every 3-4 week period should end with a rest and recovery week.  The workouts should be light and short in your recovery week. Training volume should be about half of regular training weeks.

Daily Workouts: Now you’re getting down to the important details about the training you will be doing on a daily basis. Start designing your training week by scheduling two to three key workouts for the week and then fill in the less important sessions as time allows.  This is the most complicated part of the program where paying for some good coaching advice will pay big dividends. See Crowie’s training pyramid

Follow the Plan: The best coach  in the world won’t be successful unless his/her advice is followed. Stick to your plan and you’ll get the results you desire.  Be patient. You don’t need to be flying when everyone else is.  Chances are that they’ll burn out by the time you start to peak.

Keep A Training Diary: Check back on it to make sure you are actually following your plan.  Be accountable to it. It will make you realize how many workouts you actually miss, and how far off the mark they are to the original plan.  Keep watching the data to make sure it is heading in the direction you planned.

Training randomly and doing what you are in the mood for every day can be enjoyable. There should be times of the year that are set aside for this.  If daily enjoyment is your goal then riding based on your mood may be the right plan for you. If you are goal focused and would rather strive to do well during a few parts of the season, then I highly recommend you create a training plan.





How To Pace Your Time Trial

29 10 2008

Okay, I’m the last person on earth who should be giving tips on how to ride an individual time trial. However I can still pass on the “theory” behind a successful time trial. I don’t claim to be very good at them (in fact, I HATE them). It’s more that I don’t train for them rather than not knowing the strategy behind them. “Strategy behind them” you ask? There’s slightly more to a ITT than going as hard as you can.

Next time you go out and practice your TT over a set distance, try dividing it into four parts. This is advice from Dirk Friel – former professional cyclist and coach at trainingpeaks.com

The first quarter. Ride at less than what you are capable of doing. You’ll need to hold yourself back here. The tendency is to go out too fast in this quarter and struggle at the end due to a build-up of lactate that can’t be eliminated without slowing down considerably.

The second quarter. Ride at the effort that you want to average for the entire race. You’ll begin to feel the strain in this quarter. If you find yourself struggling, back off. It’s still too early to go hard.

The third quarter. This quarter is the hardest and most important to get right. If you went out too fast in the first quarter, you’ll begin to slow down now. If you controlled quarter 1, stay focused now as it will make or break your race results. Check to make sure that you’re still aero. Ride hard. It will start to hurt. Try shifting to a harder gear to see if you can maintain cadence. If not, shift back.

The fourth quarter. This is where the very painful portion of the TT comes in. The finish line beckons and there are only a few minutes to go. Work on maintaining cadence, effort and breathing. Don’t allow any slowing. Are you still aero? Are you riding with the hardest effort you can maintain?

When you see the finish line, try to accelerate. If you can, you held back too much. The perfect pacing leaves you completely exhausted and unable to continue when you cross the line.

TIP: Going harder up hills and resting on descents will save you a lot more time than going hard on the descents and wasting the energy you could be using to go up hills.





Damage Control

21 10 2008
Landis Cracks on Stage 16

Landis Cracks on Stage 16

This past weekend proved to be a goldmine for cycling tips. Both introspectively and by observing others.

We can all ride like a pro with our friends on good days but it’s how you handle those inevitable bad days that shows your true character. Haven’t had any bad days? Well either you aren’t human or haven’t been in this sport long enough!

I had a BAD day on the bike this past Sunday. 250km of BAD.  I didn’t eat or drink enough, my legs were heavy, and I wasn’t feeling well (on the verge of a cold). On top of that, my riding mates were all on fire. Not a great day to be riding poorly…

How do you handle those bad days? Here’s what I keep in mind and try to do:

1. FORCE yourself to eat and drink. One probable reason for the poor form on the day is because you aren’t properly fueled. It’s amazing what a can of Coke can do in the short term.

2. Don’t be too proud to sit in and do as little work as possible. Save your energy for getting you home. Let your riding partners know what’s going on and that you’ll be sitting in. They just may have mercy on you.

3. If you’re feeling horrible then listen to your body and don’t fight it. It’s just one bad day. Accept it and keep a positive attitude. This will make the ride easier on you and your riding mates.

4. There can be a massive difference between how you feel when you’re heart rate is at 165bpm vs 160bpm (for example). Ask your mates to slow it up a bit until you’re more comfortable and hopefully you’ll find a pace that will get you home while everyone else still has a good ride.

5. Save your legs, not your gears! Spin, spin, spin. Spinning does a lot less damage to the muscles than big gear riding. Also, every chance you get, stop pedaling, duck down into the slipstream and go for the free ride. Conserve every ounce of energy you have.

6. Break the ride into 30min pieces and don’t think about the rest. Set yourself small goals to reach. The daunting task of dragging yourself 3 more hours can be overwhelming if you’re feeling really bad.

Remember: A bad day’s riding beats a good day’s work…..





Periodization

3 10 2008

Crowie is the King. He could write this entire blog with both hands and legs tied behind his back. He’s competed and won races that we only read about in cyclingnews. Here’s a glimpse of his very own training strategy that’s worked for him and other elite athletes over the years. The thing that I love about it is that he’s adapted it to make it realistic for guys like myself to achieve who have a job and real life commitments.

There’s lots involved with creating a periodized training program that’s right for you. It depends on your strengths, weaknesses and what your goals are. The key is to work on different fitness elements in phases throughout the season. Each fitness element has different types of workouts that help build on that area. For example, the strength phase requires some big gear, low cadence work on steady gradual climbs. The speed phase requires some shorter, steady, and more intense intervals after your strength work has been done. Power requires things like bursts of speed up short hills and then recovering. When you put it all together your form will be well rounded and you will be flying. This progression towards a focus is the single most important aspect of periodization. I know we all want to be fit 100% of the time, but the reality is that you’ll probably be operating at 70-80% on your best days if you just ride day after day doing the same old stuff. You can either be at your best for a month in the season, or mediocre for the whole year.

Thanks for your contribution Rob. To find out more please visit Ridewiser.

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Here’s a sneak view of my own current program for summer racing build-up with a mixture of different intensities by color code. This is a high level view of the progression towards peak fitness.

Light Blue = Endurance intensity


Green = Strength work


Yellow = Speed/cadence training


Orange = Power training


Red = Competition Focus

There also is a nice spread of the colors throughout the week as you can see in the sample program below. However, the correct emphasis should be on one particular aspect most of the time throughout training periods. This example shows the strength phase of the training plan. The reality is you can only really contribute properly twice per week into the STRENGTH development phase (or whatever aspect you’re working on). You can see from the color codes below that Tuesday is green (which is a pure strength workout) and Thursday is torque (which is necessary to build strength). These two days in the week place the emphasis on building up STRENGTH and the rest of the days are getting the body ready for the next phases. There is not a perfect formula for the arrangements, because normal human timetables are so multifaceted, but there is a preferable order to things. First some GREEN (STRENTH), then some THRESHOLD ORANGE (TORQUE), then place YELLOW (SPEED) before RED (COMPETITION).

Let me reiterate that this is not a static weekly training program. To be done properly, this will change from month to month (possibly week to week) as your body adapts to some areas of fitness more quickly or slowly than others. After one area of fitness is trained, then you move up the pyramid to the next area.





Excel At One Thing

12 09 2008

If you’re going to do something, why try to be good at everything? For most of us, all that will happen is that we’ll end up being mediocre a wide range of things which will put us in the middle of the pack nearly all the time.

If you see some promise in one area of your cycling, I say focus on it, fine tune it and make it the best you possibly can. Then move on to working on the parts of cycling that you’re weaker on so that you can create the opportunities that let you use your strengths.

For example, a big and heavy like me is never going to win a race that has big steep climbs and hilltop finishes. The beautiful thing about cycling though is that there are equalizers that make it possible for most body types and varied abilities to excel at one thing or another. There aren’t too many true all-rounders out there. Even an all-rounder like Cadel only got second place at the TdF. He was beaten by a guy who was good at one thing and one thing only – climbing!

If you’re a good sprinter, work on your bunch sprint positioning, practice your sprint intervals, do some time on the track, and pick races that will end up in group sprints! I guarantee you that you’ll start winning.

If you have a high lactate threshold, then get in breakaways. Learn when breaks happen on a certain course, know who to follow and who to let sink out there, know when to go (you can tell when something is going to stick or not).

If you’re not good at anything in particular, then figure out what body type you have, what terrain suits your natural abilities, and concentrate on getting good at what you enjoy. If you’re 60kg and enjoy climbing then you know what you should be practicing and enter those types of events. However, if you’re 80kg, hate the thought of getting in a breakaway or don’t have the guts to play in a group sprint, you have to assess your goals and adjust your expectations. That may mean switching grades, or giving it your all out effort in order to support someone on your team. There’s a lot of satisfaction helping out a teammate achieve his goals.

Train your weaknesses, make stuff that you’re good at razor sharp, pick races that suit your strengths, and you will be successful in the sport of bike racing.