Monday, February 11, 2013

Reddit training series entry 2

So here is my interpretation of the standard cycling training plan.  It is not new; most books offer variations on the same thing.  What i've done is to try to condense it into an understandable forum post, rather than a 100+ page book.

Every ride should be broken into intervals.  Every interval should be as intense as you can continuously sustain for the given time period.  As the season progresses from the beginning to end, intervals should get progressively shorter (and therefore more intense).

That's it.  There's no magic, no special tricks.  Devote as much time as possible to training (as opposed to riding), and follow the plan.

Ok, so let's now get specific.  We will break the season up into 7 main periods.  Base1, Base2, Base3, Build 1, Build 2, Peak/Race, and Rest.  With the exception of the last two, there is no clear distinction between periods, just a steady progression.

Base1: (ALL Z2 ALL THE TIME!!)Start with as many hours as possible in zone 2.  20 hours/week or more is preferable, and 15ish is sort of a minimum for this plan to work.  This is not easy.  You should be exhausted at the end of a long ride, but exhausted because you did 4 hard hours at a constant pace, not because you blasted up the hills.  If you go on standard group rides, you'll get dropped anytime the pace picks up, but you'll drop them when they all slow down to talk or be lazy.

Base 2: (Z2/Z3)  Keep the Z2 stuff up on your longer days, but on shorter days, work in some Z3 stuff.   Work some   2(or 3)x30 at or 1x60 into your week.  On your long weekend ride, see keep it well under Z4, but do as much Z2 and Z3 as you can.

Base 3:  (Z3/Z4)  Start working one or 2 Z4 workouts in per week.   Options include 1x15, 2x20, or 3x10. Do Z2 the other days of the week and try not to go so crazy over the weekend that you're tired when you get back.

Build 1:  Z4.  3 (or more)  LT workouts per week plus one ridiculous group ride. (destroy/get destroyed by your friends)

Build 2: (more Z4/less Z5) Work in 1 or 2 Z5 workouts (3x5, 4x4, 5x3, etc.) while keeping the Z4 going strong.  Group rides should start to feel like long races.

Build 3: (less Z4, more Z5):  Just what it sounds like.  Continue the progression.  You're only working on top end here, so count on 1 fun group ride or race per week to keep your endurance on the radar.

Peak/Race.  This is personal, but I prefer to do 2 weeks of intense Z5 with lots of rest in between.  On the race week I'll take it easy and just do some hours of recovery.  Some people like openers.  I don't.  YMMV.

Some things to keep in mind:  You obviously can't do this for every race.  Pick the most important race of the season, set it as your "race", and work backwards to build your training plan.  As a Cat 3, I did this and won 2 major (to me) races on back to back weekends.  If you have an important race relatively early in the season, take a week of rest and start over at Build 1 (or 2, whatever you have time for).
Each period should last about a month, but this means 3 weeks on and 1 week of easy rest.  As the season progresses you'll notice that you have much less interval time (3x5 is only 15 minutes of actual hard riding).  The rest of your riding hours that week should be spent in recovery.  You can't ride too easy during this period, since you really should be wasted from the harder intervals.

This post got super long and I haven't said nearly enough yet.   I skipped the 'why' and just talked about (some of) the 'how.'  If you want to know why this plan works so well, feel free to ask.  If enough people care, I'll throw it into a different post.  Otherwise, I'll ask any questions you'd like and I'll get more specific in the next post.

Credentials:  I started cycling seriously at 25.  Upgraded from Cat 5-Cat 1 in 5 years.  I spent 1 complete season as a 3, but upgraded once/season otherwise.  All of my points came from wins or podiums in RR's and stage races.  All of my good race results came from small group or solo breakaways.  I was decent at TT's, but hated crits and any RR that finished in a pack sprint.  I stopped racing last year to finish my PhD in physics, and now I work a full time job that doesn't permit the sort of hours necessary to race against 1s and Pro's.  I'm not interested in being mediocre at racing, so I now ride for fun and enjoy sharing what I've learned on the internet.

Disclaimer:  You should read The Cyclists Training Bible, by Joe Friel.  Every training book I've read follows the same basic guidelines, this book just happens to lay it out most effectively.  Everything I'll have to say here is a combination of what I've read in this book, what I've picked up by critically reading stuff online, and the experiences of myself and my teammates.  If you think I"m ripping off Friel, I probably am, but he wasn't the first or the only person to have published what I'll be referring to as 'the plan.'  His book also has a lot of what (in my opinion) is just filler designed to kill time and fill pages.  No matter how effective, you can't sell a training plan if it's only a few pages long.  Also, if you have 1 hr of intervals to do on a particular day, but need to do a 2 hour ride, you need to fill the rest with something.  The solution to both of these is the filler that doesn't really make you faster on the bike:  Spin ups, cadence drills, one legged pedaling, all of these sound more interesting than "ride around for an hour but don't go too hard," which is really what they accomplish.

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