We're now into December and, if you accept the information of
factsheet, you should now have a fair idea of what you want from the
forthcoming season. This month we'll
discuss how can you
maximise your chances of achieving next seasons SMART goals?
Train, don't ride
It's a fact that to fully
realise your potential you have to undertake training, not just go for a ride. If you
have accepted that fact then you'll need to apply a little
structure and planning to your cycle sessions between now and
your main objective. When
you apply these simple attributes to your time on the bike, riding ceases
to be a random collection of roads and routes, it becomes structured training.
A small mindset change that brings a disproportionate gain in
For now we'll concentrate on
helping you plan your own training and explain why plans should be
important to you. If you don't think they are then just enjoy your rides as normal but read on anyway
as there may be just one thing that can help structure your rides. Just because a cycle ride is
structured or planned doesn't mean it can't be fun, enjoyable and most
of all, rewarding.
To keep you motivated towards
achieving them, the goals, you've identified for yourself,
have to meet the goal setting criteria explained in previous factsheets.
A goal, without discipline and motivation, is little more than a dream.
A dream requires nothing more than an imagination. A goal requires
focus, discipline, motivation, dedication, sacrifice and a structured
How much are you willing to sacrifice to achieve your goal? In the
early days of your plan, your sacrifice will be time; long, cold, winter endurance
hours in the saddle. The closer you move towards the peak of your
goal, the less time you need to dedicate but the more pain you have to
As you near your goal, time gives way to pain and suffering.
If you think a 20 minute interval hurts wait until you try 20 second ones.
There's a business
tool that fits so many decision making models it's ridiculous in it's
simplicity. Once you learn to apply it in business, life becomes so much more
simple. What's more ridiculous is how it applies to competitive
cycling and training. The Pareto Principle is also
known as the 80/20 rule. In work 80% of your problems are caused by 20% of
your contacts. In business 80% of your profits come from 20% of your
clients. In cycling 80% of the races are won by 20% of the riders.
training, 80% of the performance gains are made through 20% of the
sessions you undertake. So you can get 80% towards your stated
objective with only 20% preparation.
If your objective is
the tip of the lighter pyramid, the effort required to meet it is measured
upwards from the bottom of the red kite. The higher up the
objective pyramid you go, the greater the red kite focus, discipline, motivation, dedication and
sacrifice you have to make. You can also think of the light pyramid
as time and the red kite as pain; an inversely proportional but ultimately rewarding relationship.
Pareto in practice
A typical example would be training for a 25 mile time trial. Say you
ride your first ever 25 in 1:15. To ride a 25 TT in seventy-five
minutes requires a certain level of fitness. To knock 10% off that
time and get it to a 1:07:30 will require a fair degree of commitment and
hard training; say an extra 20%?
To knock a further 10% off, and get
down to an hour, will require a further 50% of structured training and
dedication. To drop below the hour you may need to double your
previous efforts as the training effort, duration and intensity required becomes exponential to the speed
increase and time decrease you're trying to achieve.
Are you prepared
to sacrifice a 100% increase in training effort for a 20% increase in
performance? Because that's what champions do. However, most of the
time the 80% gain for 20% of effort is acceptable and sustainable for most of us.
statistics and percentages can be twisted or misinterpreted to tell almost
anything. But what I'm trying to get across is the concept of
returns on training investment; please don't take the above figures
Undertaking a focused, structured, individualized training
program can increase your VO2max
threshold wattages by 15 to 30% over a 3 month period and
up to 50% over 2 years!
Obviously the later figure is based
on someone new to the sport. Experienced athletes cannot be
expected to increase their VO2max wattage by 50% but they wouldn't sniff at
a 10% increase.
Imagine by how much local races are won and lost? A wheel at the
Now imagine if you
had a 10% bigger engine. Imagine riding at the same race pace but
using 10% less effort or imagine riding 10% faster for the same effort.
Imagine being able to sprint 10% faster or longer.
Or even both! Now, you've taken notice!
How does it work?
Milo of Croton was a Greek
peasant who had ambitions of being an Olympic Champion. To become
stronger he realised he needed to have a structure to his
A challenge was laid down to
him that he couldn't lift a full
grown bull. He knew he couldn't at the time but he also knew it was
possible if he applied a structure to his challenge.
He acquired a new born calf
which he picked up with relative ease. Each day the calf grew and each
day Milo picked it up off the ground. With each passing day the calf
grew more, as did Milo's strength.
Within a year the calf was fully
grown and Milo was still lifting it! What could you do if you apply
this principle to your training?
In 540 BC Milo won his first
Olympic Championship. He went on to be a six-time consecutive
Olympic Champion. Alright, it wasn't in cycling but you get my
point. You see it's not all bull!
How does it help me?
Okay, back to
normal stuff. A well structured training plan can lead to metabolic adaptations
which enable you to produce one or all of the following:
an increased VO2max index
an increased lactate threshold
an increased maximum power output
▼ an increased endurance power output
Which basically means you can ride stronger, for longer, with increased
economy. In effect, getting more output for less input through
increases in efficiency and effectiveness. The fact that you have a
plan means you know when you're going to get better and by how much.
Without a structured plan... I hope you get lucky.
A structure to
your training allows the planning and development of
lactic acid processing
and removal, mitochondria production,
lipid metabolism and the building of vital capillaries which feed the
muscles with oxygen during training and competition.
Lipid metabolism, or fat-burning, enables the fat in your
body to be used as fuel. Fat calories supplement those from
glycogen and glucose, at specific VO2max levels, supporting longer
durations of exercise to fatigue. That's why the first part of
your training season needs to be the long slow miles, with bursts of
activity to raise metabolism and keep everything ticking over.
training results in physiological changes in an organised and
coordinated way. Adding structure to your training improves your
muscles tolerance for the stresses of prolonged exertion, especially the
strengthening of the connective tissue between muscle fibres. This
translates into less micro trauma, or post exercise leg discomfort to
give it its less scary term, when you start your high-end training as the
Most of my clients are aiming to be as powerful at the start of next
season as they were during the middle of last. This will give them a
platform on which to build and become stronger for their stated objectives
Progression is measurable through regular testing, analysis and feedback. At the start and end of each training period, clients are
tested and compared to their previous session and their previous peak.
We then structure a personalised plan around their objectives and current
levels of fitness. Tests are reasonably simple and inexpensive.
For less than the price of a tyre, and an hour
of time, constant, sustainable progression can be measured and maintained.
Every pedal stroke of training can be made to count towards the specified
objective. If not, then why do it?
Designing a plan
Your structured training programme should revolve around
manipulating the three principles of Frequency, Intensity & Time to gain the
with the minimum of effort.
Think FIT! Which we'll cover shortly, once we have
established a planning process.
Get yourself a diary, with a month to a page,
and start planning. I won't get all "coachy" and go in to micro,
meso and macro cycles here that's for another day. If you think of
week, month, season, you're almost there.
So, where do you want to be next season?
You've already decided on your stated goals. So, let's say your goal
is next June. We'll not go in to too much detail here, we don't have
the space but you need a plan that looks like this.
You can see from the far left that we
peaked in August and carried some fitness in to September.
Take a test
To move up a level in whatever discipline you enjoy, ideally,
we should be aiming to be at last August's peak for April the
following season. If you know how much wattage you were
putting out in August or September (having taken a test), then it's a
relatively easy process to work backwards from. This is your first sub-goal.
Target a sub-goal
If you could knock out 300 watts for six minutes in August you
need to be at say, 300 watts again in April, which should be a major
sub-goal target. Each month previous you should set other minor
sub-goals of 280 in March and 260 in February and 240 watts in January.
Springboard to your target
Once you've hit your first major
sub-goal it makes it easier to maintain momentum to the next. If,
however you miss any of your sub-goals then you have a month in which to
take corrective measures or re-adjust your main objective.
The beauty of this system, Train, Test,
Analyse, Plan, is you don't just ride around until the early
season and hope your doing well. You actually know you're doing well
and even better you know exactly how well you're doing and with time and
experience can predict your peak to within days.
Okay, now we have our diary, and our monthly
(or to be more accurate, four weekly) progression sub-goals. I like
to grade my training plans with a traffic light system of Green, Orange,
Red. An easy week, a medium week then a hard week. Followed by
an adaptation week which is Grey.
Then it starts again with Green,
Orange, Red. However the second green week is as hard as the first orange
week. Sounds complicated but it looks like this...
This 11 week training cycle shows the
structured progression and overload phase of each week and the grey
adaptation weeks which allow recovery and preparation for the next phase..
Training Frequency ~ How Often
Research and scientific studies support the theory that maximum aerobic conditioning (increased VO2max) occurs
with just three workout days per week.
During this phase it is
important to take two to three days recovery per week to allow your muscles and ligaments
to repair, thus decreasing the risk
of cumulative and chronic physical stress.
Interestingly, it appears that
these three recovery days maximize aerobic conditioning equally in any
combination - three days in a row with four off, alternating days, two on two off, etc.
Training Intensity ~ How Hard
Is more better? Not necessarily. Although the exact optimum
for training intensity obviously varies between
individuals, it is generally accepted that maximum aerobic improvement
occurs at 85% wVO2max (approximately 90% of your max heart rate).
Regular training above this level will increase the potential for injury
or illness without a corresponding increase in training benefit. So
why tempt fate?
However at this time of the year we
are not attempting to boost our wVO2max, we are attempting to train our
bodies to "spare glycogen" and to get used to two, three, four
or even five hours in the saddle.
we do in November and December will allow us to boost our wVO2max when the time is
right. For those new to the sport, once you understand these principles, why we do what we do,
when we do, becomes a little
Training Time ~ How Long
There is no easy answer to the optimum duration for a training session as training is an interaction between frequency, intensity and
Ten minutes of 80% maximum heart rate will be of some
benefit, but 30 minutes gives more than three times the benefit. However, 60 minutes does
not give you twice the benefit of 30 minutes. Confusing isn't it?
There is clearly a point at which the negative effects of exercising at
such a high level outweigh the benefits. That also goes for
low-intensity work. Finding what's right for you comes through experience and
self-knowledge. Keep a diary and analyse it often.
For aerobic training it makes the most sense to look at the duration of
your key event. Your training time should then be tailored to
ensure at least two months prior your main objective you can
comfortably cover at least 90% of the time or distance expected.
Once you can comfortably cover the distance, you just work on covering
To give you a pointer to how your plan
could look click here.
Having a structured training plan will allow you to predict and create your future
performance levels and allow you to peak when you want to peak, not when
your body gets round to it.
It's no accident that Lance managed to
peak each July. He didn't ride around for a bit and hope he got ready
for the big race. He may not have used one of our
structured plans but you can
bet your last energy bar he had one.
I would recommend that you
decide what you want from next season, decide if you're willing to make
the necessary sacrifices, find out when you need to do it by
and work backwards from that. Set sub-goals and performance markers
to ensure you're heading in the right direction at the right pace.
Peaking too early is much worse than peaking too late. Ask you
Manipulate your work-outs
through frequency, intensity or time to gently overload your physiological
system. For each session, make your efforts harder than before,
longer than before or just do more of them than you did before.
Don't manipulate all three at the same time, that's a recipe for
overtraining. Everything in
When devising your plan consider
this: a marathon champion doesn't run a marathon every time they pull
on their trainers, and a 100 metre sprinter doesn't just sprint a 100 metres five times a day
to win gold. Mix and match your training to go keep fresh, motivated
and maintain progression.
Spend three or four hours this
month devising yourself a structured
training plan with the specific requirements of developing your strengths
and limiting your weaknesses. It's a fantastic investment in your
training time and is far better than spending three unstructured hours riding
on the road.
Good luck and enjoy the