Friday, February 1, 2013

I'm back, sort of... training advice from a has been!

I am starting a series of posts related to training over on Reddit.  Pretty much, I'm sad that I'm no longer relevant to my cycling friends because I don't do it anymore.  I have all of this knowledge and experience that mean absolutely nothing to most people   So in an effort to get people (even imaginary internet ones) to be impressed by me, I'm writing a series of posts about training.  They'll pretty much look like this blog, but should be a little more directed, and possibly more serious.  Since only the coolest of cool kids care about reddit, I'm going to CC all of the posts here too.  The first one isn't very interesting, but I wanted to make sure I could use the language we're all so familiar using without having to explain myself.  Here goes.....

So that we're all on the same page on what we're talking about, here is a list of terms.  Not much advice quite yet, just a framework for us to discuss fitness training in the future.

First let's talk about training zones.  First I'll give a name, and a time interval associated with that intensity.  If you can hold a particular intensity for longer than the max time, your zones are low and you need to increase them.  Percentages are all given in terms of LT power.  You don't need a power meter to play along, however if you can afford it, a power meter (and the correct training plan to go with it) is the best money you can spend in cycling, outside of a simple bike and healthy food.  You use roughly the same percentages for HR or rate of perceived exertion (RPE)

Zone 1: Recovery (0-50%)(all day):  The hard part about Z1 is forcing yourself to ride easy enough in it.  It's very common to creep up into Z2, and then you aren't accomplishing your goal of active recovery.  If you are too tired because you haven't fully recovered or you rode too hard on your easy day, then you won't be strong enough to hit the right numbers later when it gets hard.

Zone 2: Base.(50-75%)(all day)  The biggest misconception about base is that it should be easy.  It shouldn't.  Base rides are very long; and at the end of a 4 hour day, you should be exhausted.  The only difference between base and other types of training is that the intensity is kept as constant as possible.  Instead of the ups and downs of a standard group ride or race, you ride at 75% of your LT the entire time.  This means going super easy up hills and pedaling down them.  You should be getting dropped by groups whenever they go hard, but you should be dropping them when they stop to chat afterwards.

Most people just use base as an excuse to ride easy in the early season.  There is a time for riding easy, but it isn't during base rides.  Also, most people don't have the time required to devote to properly training base.  If you can't throw at least 15 or more hours per week into training, base should be swapped out for endurance and LT work.

Zone 3:  Endurance(75-85%) (30 mins - 1 hour)  This is the point where you first start to notice pain.  Endurance intervals aren't as intense as LT ones, but they seem to hurt just about as much.

Zone 4: LT(86-105%) (10-30 mins);  Lactate Threshold.  Also called anaerobic threshold (AT), functional threshold power (FTP), and Carmaichel might call it CP30 or something.  All of these are slightly different in terms of their definition, and what is going on in your body

LT is the holy grail of cycling.  Of course other things are important, but if you can have 1 thing in cycling, it's a high LT.  LT is the point where the lactic acid produced by your muscles is just barely capable of being cleared out be the rest of your system.  It's what you can steadily sustain for 20-30 minutes.  It hurts.  A lot.  The end of a LT interval leave you gasping and drooling and both physically and mentally exhausted.  Note that all of the other zones are based as percentages of LT.  If your LT goes up, the power at which you can recover goes up, so at a certain speed in the race while others are working a little, you are recovering.  Similarly, when others are dipping into their V02MAX reserves during a surge or hard effort, if you can hold the same speed but stay in your LT zone, you can ride for twice as long as they can before giving out.  Everything done in terms of fitness training is about raising your power produced at LT.

Zone 5: V02Max(106-140%) (10 mins - 1 min)  This is the power associated with a surge or an attack in a race.  It's not an all-out sprint, but it hurts, and you'll need to dip below LT for some time after the effort is over.  VO2 max training is important for 2 reasons:

1.  Surges tend to be when people get dropped in races.  Attacks are how you get away.  You can have LT for days, but if you don't have enough V02Max to get away, then you'll just finish in the pack.  This happens to triathletes in road races ALL THE TIME.  They can drag the pack along all day, but they can't get away or sprint, so they finish 20th or whatever.

2.  Training V02MAX intervals can increase your LT.   I was hesitant to believe this because I don't like the short, searing pain of these intervals compared to the longer, slightly duller pain of LT intervals.  The year I got serious about V02MAX intervals corresponded to a sizeable jump in both V02Max power and LT power.

Zone 6+:(150%+) (0-1 min.)  Anaerobic/Sprint.  What it sounds like.  If you get to the end of a race and you aren't alone, you're going to have to sprint.  Sprint power has little to do with breathing and LT and lots to do with muscle strength.  Track sprinters care about this and almost nothing else, which is why they tend to have huge legs compared to road cyclists, and the majority of their training isn't even on the bike, it's weight training and plyometric stuff.  I'm a horrible sprinter and won't be giving much advice on how to sprint in groups larger than 5.  I'm sure a pure pack sprinter can give you all the advice you need if you're willing to ask.

Intervals:  An interval is simply a stretch of time where you're doing a single effort.  It doesn't have to mean 2 minutes of pain.  It could be a 20 minute LT interval, or a 30 second rest interval.

Intensity:  Intensity refers to how hard you are riding.

Volume:   Volume refers to the duration of your ride.  Most people will measure volume in hours, not miles.  You can tell a newbie to training, because they'll tell you how many miles they rode last week.  A 20+ hour week is impressive.  A 500 mile week (as some bike shop kid claimed to me recently) means you're lying.  Anyone who can actually train 500 mile weeks is measuring their volume in hours.

2x20, 3x10, 4x5x8 etc.  This nomenclature refers to the number & duration of intervals in a given workout.  The first number is the number of intervals done.  The second one is the time duration in minutes.  The third number is often omitted, but represents the rest between intervals in that set.  If I go out and do 3x10's that means I'm riding for 10 minutes, resting, and repeating for a total of 3 intervals.  5x2x2 means 5 intervals, 2 minutes long, with 2 minutes of rest in between.

Power/weight.  (measured in watts/kilo) is a popular metric people on the internet use to compare against each other.  It's often called the eWang, and there's an eWang chart that says which category you should be in based on your W/kg for different time periods.  There a lots of ways to cheat and lie about this number, but if you are honest with yourself, it's a great way to track progress and take into account weight loss or gain when gaining or losing power.  The value commonly accepted as the maximum human capacity at LT is 6 W/kg.  This is the number guys like Schleck, Contador, and Cuddles are capable of in recent years.  Lance (and most of his team) regularly did 7 back in the day....

Please let me know if this was useful or not, and if there's anything in particular you'd like to hear about and/or discuss.  Thanks for reading...

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