The topics we have been talking about in the past two weeks have all been centered around:
1) The heat and how to deal with it.
2) Pacing during events and workouts in the heat.
3) Supplements: What are depleted in the heat and what can be used to enhance performance.
This summer has been hotter than ever and riding and racing in the heat is a challenge for nearly everyone. Some athletes tolerate heat well, and others hate the heat and perform better in cooler temperatures. Masters nationals here in the US is coming up in 3 weeks and is one of the hottest places in August, and promises to be a huge factor in who makes the podium. We have been employing multiple tactics with our athletes
Training as early as possible. Go early as you can in the morning to beat the heat.
Pre-load water into your body for a better workout. Chugging a bottle of water before you go out on your workout can help to ensure you stay hydrated enough in the heat.
Electrolytes! Sodium is the king of the electrolytes and you will need more of it during your longer workouts. Most athletes lose around 1000mg of sodium per hour during a hot day when riding intensely. Most of the name brand sports drinks have less than 300mg in them and it’s just not enough. Make sure you choose a sports drink with more sodium or use The Right Stuff to add into your bottle. We have all of our athletes using The Right Stuff. It’s also important to have extra Potassium and Magnesium. Bananas are high in potassium and dried fruits and nuts are high in Magnesium.
How to acclimate to the heat. It takes roughly 10-14 days to acclimate to increased heat and humidity. Most of us live in our air-conditioned homes, drive in our air-conditioned cars, work in our air-conditioned offices and then ride for a few hours in the heat and humidity and wonder why we are not used to it! If you are preparing for a race in the heat and humidity, then you need to turn off the AC at home, in the car and if possible at the office. This is going to be tough, but you need some fans. Move the wind over you at night, at the office, etc and that will help it be more tolerable. Here’s a quote from Bill Simmons, one of our riders that just won Master’s nationals in the MTB. “Hunter, I just want you to know I took to heart your good advice for Heat acclimatization at Nationals. It worked. Thank you! I had no problem with 85+ degree heat and 80% humidity by the end. I couldn’t believe that. From two and a half weeks out, I tried to use heat/humidity whenever I could, to build tolerance. I used our county rec ctr steam room. I followed your advice for the 3 day drive to PA, with no air conditioning. That involved major suffering, with car cabin temps well over 100. In my Airbnb 4 days out, no air conditioning. That was very kind of you to help! I felt great on race day.”
Pacing is our next topic and this centers around events in the heat and also workouts. When it’s hot, you will definitely need to dial back the intensity, especially for any event over 2 hours. Reducing your pace by 5-15% will be normal and expected. This can be during intervals, weekend rides or events. Your heart is going to have to pump faster to produce the same power as it might during a cooler workout. So, heart rate can be very deceiving during hot weather. You may see some higher heart rates with lower power output, but that’s normal. Use your power meter to pace yourself and let the heart rate do what it’s going to do. For events over 5 hours, you will most likely need to reduce your power by 20% in order to be able to finish strong and achieve your goal.
Supplements is the last topic that we have been talking about this summer. We have been chatting a lot about taking extra iron and vitamin c. Iron is depleted during exercise through it’s use in binding the oxygen molecules to the red blood cells and also through your sweat. If you are not a red meat eater, it’s very difficult to obtain enough bio-available (heme-iron) in your diet. Even red-meat eaters in a very hot and humid environment that are intensely training for an event can become low in iron. It’s important that you have your “serum ferritin” levels checked at least twice a year and ensure that you have enough iron for optimal performance. The recommended daily allowance is 18mg per day, but keep in mind, that’s for a normal person just to function on. You are an endurance athlete so you will need 3-5x this amount daily. If you are low in iron, depending on how low, you might even consider asking for an iron shot, otherwise, you could spend 6 months trying to raise it through diet. We have also been speaking about the effects of beet juice with our athletes. This is a well-known performance enhancing veggie! We have seen such large increases in power output, we jokingly call using it, “beet doping”. We recommend the Beet Elite (just re-branded to Super Beets) from HumanN. You can get it here.
We hope this has helped in explaining some of the great topics of conversation we have been having with our athletes this month! Let us know if you’d like to see if you are a fit for our coaching programs. Schedule a time with a coach right now.
So often we train for longer races and endurance events lasting many hours and even days, but it’s rare when we train or do short races like a prologue or an uphill time trial. These essential competitions seem to be in short supply throughout the good ol’ USA and I wish each of us had more opportunities to prove our mettle in these unique events as they demand something different than a road race or a criterium. The aspects of your fitness that these incredibly intense short fights demand are special. Riders that excel in them are even called specialists. Someone who has incredible handling skills in order to navigate sharp turns at light speed, combined with an unnatural desire to push themselves to the white foam producing, lung heaving state of suffering that so many of us avoid at all costs might have the ability to become such a “specialist”. What about the rest of us? Those of us that have trained for 100 -mile road races, for 40-mile crits and for the dreaded district 40km time trial, how should we prepare, strategize and pace ourselves in these other worldy sufferfests?
One of the best ways to learn how to excel in any discipline you choose is through mimickry. Watch the best and then do exactly what they do in the hopes that you’ll be able to duplicate their winning set of skills and effort. Let’s examine a couple of these intense efforts by those few winners and see what we can learn. However, before we even examine those gut busters, I need to discuss the proper warm-up for a short time trial. In general, the longer the time trial or effort, the less intense the warm-up you want to do. For a 24 hour race, some light stretching would do. For a 40km TT, you’ll want at least 30-45minutes of fairly vigorous efforts including intervals done at your FTP. For an event, that could only be 3-4 minutes long up to 15 minutes, you are going to want to really push it in your warm-up with intense intervals over your threshold and get in at least 30-45 minutes of warming up. The goal of these warm-ups, are to: increase the blood flow to the working muscles so that the muscles literally begin to heat up and therefore loosen giving you a faster response to your internal drive. Secondly, it is important to get over the “fight or flight” response by getting your heart pumping near its maximum rate to assure the rest of your mind and body you are not being chased by a bear and are only at a bike race. By doing multiple efforts “ramping” your heart rate to your threshold or even higher to your max, you’ll ensure that you get over this “fight or flight” response.
Here’s my recommended warm-up for your short game:
15 minutes at endurance pace (Level 2: 56-75% of FTP) 90-100rpm
3 x 1minute fast pedaling intervals at 110 rpm with 1 minute at 80 rpm between each. Focus on the speed and not the watts in this segment.
5 minutes at Tempo pace (Level 3: 76-90% of FTP) 90-100rpm
(2) “ramps”, each 5 minutes long and ramping up to your FTP(Level 4: 100% of FTP) in minute 4 to 5.
Ride easy for 5minutes between each at endurance pace (Level 2: 56-75% of FTP)
Finish the warm-up with 15-20 more minutes at endurance pace (Level 2: 56-75% of FTP).
Then roll to the start line.
*An important thing you should always take into consideration when the effort is short and that is your anaerobic capacity. Your Anaerobic energy system works at its maximum when you are fully rested, so if your warm-up is too intense, you risk using up a good bit of this system and reducing your wattage in the first few minutes of the effort. With this in mind, stay away from doing “ALL-OUT” type efforts in your warm-up when preparing for a short time trial. In a longer time trial (greater than 15minutes), you should be able to do some all-out efforts if you like and not hurt your chances. *
O.k, now that is out of the way, let’s examine a hard prologue race. Riding over your FTP will be the norm for very short events, so the numbers you will read about and see in your own training and racing will be higher than your traditional ride-at-threshold-by-the-book time trial. In figure 1, You’ll see this rider started out strong and pushed over his FTP by 36% by averaging 572 watts in the first 45 seconds. He then settled in to a rhythm for the next two minutes averaging 546 watts (still 30% over his FTP). After 2 minutes and 45 seconds into the effort, his anaerobic capacity was clearly exhausted and his power started dropping off to the finish. In the final 57 seconds, he averaged 483 watts (15% over FTP) as he struggled to the finish line in a winning time of 3:42. One thing is clear from just reading the numbers, a winner in short prologues must have an incredible anaerobic capacity and also an ability to suffer to the deepest dark of dark places.
San Dimas is an early spring race that many riders do on the west coast and includes a hill climb time trial for its first stage. It’s a tough little stage, not too long and not too steep, and it’s a hill climb time trial, so by its very nature it’s a sufferfest. In Figure 2, we see a rider who placed in the Top 10, do a good job of pacing himself through the time trial. In a time trial that is longer than 10 minutes, pacing becomes more a part of the strategy and it’s important that you don’t start too hard. If you start too hard then you’ll blow up half-way through the TT and have nothing left for the final half. However, if you hold back too much, then you’ll under-perform and your slower time will reflect that sub-optimal performance. The rider in Figure 2 knows this very well and I gave him an upper and lower limit to his wattage for the time trial. This can be a useful tool in a short (and long TT), especially if there are undulations to the course. I told him to keep his watts over 365, but under 420 as much as his could and that would give him some goals to shoot for when he got tired. The first 15 seconds he gets himself up to speed averaging 484watts, but then settling into his limits and averaging 391 watts for the next 12 minutes. Keeping himself within these limits allows him to ride right on ‘the edge’ and have an extra push for the last minute. In that last minute, he is able to dig deep and push to 109% of his FTP, which is 415 watts giving him precious speed that keeps him in the Top 10 for the stage. The profile of this power file is the classic “double peak” profile that indicates a personal best effort has been done and this is something that I look for in time trials and also in training when an athlete needs to do their best.
The training for a prologue or shorter time trial must consist of four main components. The first component is plenty of threshold training in order to have the highest threshold power you hold. This means plenty of 2×20, 4 x 15 and 6 x 10 minute intervals done between 100-105% of your FTP. The higher your FTP, the faster you’ll go. Period. Secondly, you’ll need to address your Vo2 max and Anaerobic Capacity in order to be prepared for the prologues and short hard bursts of efforts above your FTP during the time trial itself. I would suggest doing 7 x 3, 8 x 2, and 10 x 1 minutes on a regular basis(Do 1 Vo2 max and 1 AC per week) in the final 4 weeks leading up to your event. For the 3 minute Vo2max intervals, they should be at 115% or greater of your FTP, whereas you have to push even harder in the 1-2 minute efforts striving for 135% or greater. The third component you must do is to come up with and master your pacing strategy. By carefully analyzing the event itself, you’ll be able to figure how many watts you should hold for the event. From that initial number you can dig deeper into the course and apply specific tactics along the way, like pedaling harder on the steepest sections. Pacing is an art and it takes practice. I highly recommend that you do some practice time trials using your power meter for accurate effort measurement and then download later for analysis. The key things you are looking for are: 1) Sustaining power with an increase towards the end of the effort, 2) Did you start too hard? Evidence of this would be in a pre-mature decline in power before the finish, and 3) Were you able to push harder on the steeper/headwind sections? The fourth and final component that you need to master is the easiest. Rest. When you are doing a very short time trial, you need to make sure your glycogen stores are packed full! The shorter the time trial, the more important your anaerobic capacity will be for success. If you are coming into a stand-alone race on the weekend, you are best off just resting and riding very easy in the entire week before. If you are doing a stage race and the first stage is short, then I would suggest to taper more than normal, so that the first time trial stage serves as your ‘blow-out’ or tune-up effort to open up the legs for the rest of the race. Resist the desire to go hard the day before or in the week before, as your anaerobic capacity can be used up easily and quickly.
Short time trials have special demands that can be trained for and the races themselves are great tests of truth. With an special discipline within cycling there are keys for success and if you are getting ready for a big event this spring that contains a short time trial, then make sure you adhere to many of the suggestions in this article for a top performance. Remember that all of the best physical training will get you nowhere without the proper mental attitude as well, so when preparing for your event, stay focused, prepare to suffer and dig deeper than before in order to win.
Come to one of Hunter’s Fall training camps or sign up for personal coaching at his website, www.PeaksCoachingGroup.com Hunter has a monthly power newsletter in which you can subscribe to so that you will quickly learn the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of power training and also some great insights into the best riders in the world. Hunter Allen is a USA Cycling Level 1 coach and former Professional Cyclist. He is the co-author of “Training and Racing with a Power Meter, co-developer of TrainingPeaks WKO+ Software, and is the CEO and Founder of the Peaks Coaching Group. He has online training programs available at www.shoppeaks.com and you can contact Hunter directly www.PeaksCoachingGroup.com
In your quest for success in cycling, one of the first things you learn is that bike racing is not easy. There is a large amount of amazing riders out there better than you and in order to win you are going to have to improve your fitness and your race tactics. After a while (sometimes a long while), you learn that each step up in success comes from one improvement at a time, with each small step contributing to a bigger step. Let’s examine this process with a few examples using power files, so that you can see the clear step by step progressive nature of success.
Let’s start with a hard workout and tearing apart a power file. The goal in training is threefold: 1) create training stress for the body to adapt and get stronger. 2) Develop mental toughness. 3) Build self-confidence. Because if you can do it in training, you can certainly do it in racing. I call this the “triangle of success”.
This third reason is very important in your steps to success because if you can’t do it in training, why would you expect to do it in racing? These three goals, when accomplished make a huge difference in the athletes’ success rate because they make up the first component in winning and that is ‘believing you can win’. Once you learn and prove to yourself that you can indeed win, your chances of success become more and more certain with every race.
“Belief” is a fickle thing and the level of belief you have in yourself comes and goes with the confidence you have in your abilities. The only way that I know how to increase your level of belief is through hard training that demands you do more in training than you would do in your race. Most mediocre racers believe that they never have to train harder or longer than their longest race, but this way of thinking is why they are mediocre. If you want to succeed, then you need to push harder and longer then the rest of the riders and certainly be able to go “deeper” into your “well of courage”. If, after going to a race, racing well and surprising yourself with a top result, you think to yourself, “Wow, that was easier than many of my training rides”, then you are ready to win. When this awareness takes place , you really bolster your confidence in your current fitness and that is critical to you believing that you can do it. In figure 1, we see a very difficult workout designed to enhance the “Triangle of Success”.
“Do the Work” Workout:
6 hours- Go. “Do the Work”. Use Wattages as guidelines, but do not stop or cut any intervals short. DO all the intervals no matter if the wattages are at 70% of FTP watts. “Do the work”.
Warm-up for 30 minutes, then do 10 x 1 minute fast pedals- 1 minute at 120rpm, LOW watts. 1 minute easy at 80rpm, low watts.
2nd hour- Do 2 x 20 minutes at 100% of FTP watts. REST for 5 minutes between. Can be done on a climb or on the flats. You Choose.
3rd hour- Just ride and enjoy the sun. Nothing Special. Keep watts under 85% of FTP.
4th hour- Ride at 88-93% of FTP watts and do (10) attacks(one every 6th minute). Each attack is a SPRINT out of the saddle for 15 seconds, then back in the saddle and DRILL it for 3 minutes. Go into TT mode and just drill it. Do your best here. Don’t worry about watts, but just do your best. REST for 5minutes between each.
5th hour- Just ride and enjoy the sun. Nothing Special. Keep watts under 85% of FTP. AFTER, STOP at a café, drink a TRIPLE expresso and have some food- get some sweet thing, but also get something with protein.
6th hour- After digesting your food, I want you to ride at 85-95% of FTP watts in the last 45minutes. I want you to dig deep and push here. If your watts are at 80%, I don’t care, just push hard in these last 45minutes. You better be tired by here, so I am not expecting you to have crazy watts. The goal is to “Do the work”.
2nd component: Smart racing.
Even though you feel stronger and faster than before doesn’t mean you are going to win, you still have to pedal your bike, make the winning breakaway and then figure out how to win from the breakaway. In my world, the perfect race contains two attacks. One attack to make the winning breakaway and one attack to drop them and solo to the finish line, getting the win. While ideal, this certainly isn’t the norm, so your training and preparation has to be adequate (see previous component above). There are many tactics that you can employ in your race, and I have discussed them at length in previous articles, so I won’t delve into them here, but in reviewing Figure 2, we see some fairly common ones that are used almost universally. First off, the goal of conserving energy is important especially early in the race. Why? Well, the finish line isn’t until the end and no one cares who was the strongest in the first half of the race, so while your ego might feel better after you make the peloton suffer in the first half of the race, it’s all about who finishes first at the end of the race. In figure 2, it’s easy to see that this rider spent most of the time not pedaling in the first half of the race.
The second thing that this winning racer did was that he attacked multiple times, even getting in an unsuccessful breakaway at one point, before finally succeeding. Being willing to try again and again, over and over is critical. Not every attack is going to become the winning attack, and this is why you do tons of intervals in your training and if you do 18 intervals in your training, then you’ll easily be able to 6 in a race. The other common mistake that I see many athletes make is that they become “attached” to the breakaway and then put all their effort into a doomed breakaway. Instead, recognizing that a breakaway won’t succeed early on in the formation of the break, will allow you to save precious energy, get caught by the peloton, “re-shuffle the deck” and get in the next move that contains the right ingredients for success. What are the right ingredients for a successful breakaway? 1) There has to be representative riders from the major teams in the area. This will ensure that none of the dominant teams put in a chase and also actively discourage a chase by lesser teams and individual riders. 2) The breakaway has to be comprised of riders in which 75% of the group is of relatively equal strength AND willing to work. You might have plenty of strong riders in the breakaway, but if there aren’t enough riders willing to work to keep it away, that will kill the breakaway soon enough. Or you might have the opposite combination, only a few guys willing to work and those riders are much stronger than the rest of the riders in the breakaway. If that’s the case, then those couple of strong riders will burn themselves out quickly as they just don’t have enough help to keep the breakaway from holding off a big peloton.
Being willing to “give up” on the breakaway and allow you to “re-shuffle the deck” is a useful tactic and the sign of a mature racer that has the confidence to know that instead of working in an obviously failed breakaway, they are willing take a chance on getting in another breakaway or even missing the next one instead of wasting precious energy.
3rd component: The Finish. Now, that you are getting closer and closer to the finish, whether you are in the winning breakaway or a group sprint, you have to have a plan to win. The best riders are always thinking to themselves, “How am I going to win this?” and then creating an A, B and C scenarios in their mind. If you don’t have a plan to win, then you are planning to fail, so it’s critical you know your particular abilities that will best help you to win. If you are not a great sprinter, then by all means, don’t let the breakaway come down to a sprint if you can help it. Attacking solo as many times as possible will be better than just waiting and unleashing your smoking 900 watt max sprint upon the unsuspecting breakaway… Or maybe you are really hurting in the break and aren’t even sure you’ll be able to get to the line without getting dropped out of the breakaway. In this case, you need to stop working in the breakaway and conserve as much energy as possible, but never ever think that you can’t win. There have been many, many cases when the eventual winner has been dropped out of the breakaway multiple times only to come back and win it. This result only occurs with the most mentally strong riders as it requires an absolute dedication to never quitting. Death will come first before you quit racing to the finish line.
This brings about the final point of the finish that is key to success. Who wants it? Who really, really wants to win? Is it you? Because in the end, if you take away all the scientific training, all the super wahzoo aero gadgets, all the secret diet foods, it always comes down to who wants more. The rider that wants it the most is the one that is going to win in 99 out of 100 races. That is the ultimate delineator in the final few miles, who wants it the most and is willing to suffer more than anyone else to get it. This can’t be trained, but it can be focused. Desire to win is something that is internal most of the time, but it originates from two things: 1) A clear understanding of your “Why?” Why are you a bike racer? Why do you want to win? Why are you out every day doing intervals? When you have a very clear and strong “why”, you will have more desire. 2) Goals drive desire, and you need clearly defined goals that you can think about over and over and visualize on a daily basis in order to create more and more desire. 3) Desire can come from that need to prove something to yourself or someone else. Generally, wanting to prove something to yourself is a much healthier form of desire, but sometimes if you want to just kick that m%&*f@# guy’s butt, then that can be a powerful elixir of desire.
Winning is not easy, but if it was, everyone would do it. Learning to win is a lesson that each of us can learn and then take that throughout our life into other area’s and also into the future. Once you learn the ingredients for success, then you will be able to apply them to your work, family, business and in other sports. The principles for success and winning bike races are universal and it’s time to get started. Go do some hill repeats!
Hunter Allen leads Peaks Coaching Group and is a leading edge coach, that has written many books on cycling, including the water-shed book, “Training and Racing with a Power Meter”.You can contact Hunter directly www.PeaksCoachingGroup.com for personal coaching and camps.
Weight loss is somewhat of a math problem. 3500calories equals 1 lb. of fat. Divide 3500 by seven days and that’s 500 calories a day you need to reduce in order to lose a lb. a week. Or you could burn 500 more calories a day and maintain your guiltless glutton at each meal. Or maybe you could do a bit of both? Reduce your calories by 250calories a day and increase your burn by 250 calories by increasing your exercise volume, intensity or both. Follow the plan below in increase your metabolism in just two short weeks. A final note: whatever your current exercise level is now, in order to increase your metabolism, you’ll have to increase that by riding more intensely or longer. With that in mind, I have devised “additions” to your current workouts to help you. Add them in each day for improved fitness and calorie burn.
Day 1: Lengthen your ride by 30 minutes and add in (3) intervals, each last 10 minutes each and close to your threshold power or heart rate. Rest for 5 minutes between each, pedaling lightly. (Threshold power or heart rate is the average power or heart rate you can maintain in a 20 minute test)
Day 2: Add in (5) intervals for 3 minutes each, and do these as hard as you can maintain a steady pace. Don’t go so hard that your pace slows after a minute, but go as hard as you can to maintain the highest possible power or heart rate for the entire 3 minutes. Rest only 3minutes between each, pedaling lightly.
Day 3: Lengthen your ride by 45 minutes and add in a short sprint (8-10 seconds) every 2 minutes in these 45 minutes. Make them only about 80% of your normal sprint. The rest of the time, just ride at a moderately fast pace or what is called tempo pace.
Day 4: Add in (10) short one minute intervals today. Do these really aggressively and attack them so that you’ll be fading in the final 15 seconds, but push to the end. Rest for 2minutes between each. These will help improve your anaerobic capacity along with stimulating your metabolism with short, high intensity efforts.
Fitness and Weight Loss
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Day 5: Do your normal ride here or take a rest day. Watch food intake though!
Day 6: Do your normal ride here. Start your ride today without eating anything for breakfast and only drink black coffee. So, start on an empty stomach. Take plenty of food with you, and begin eating at the two hour mark so you don’t bonk.
Day 7: Start your ride today without eating anything for breakfast and only drink black coffee. So, start on an empty stomach. Take plenty of food with you, and begin eating at the two hour mark so you don’t bonk. If possible also increase your duration by one hour today. Just ride longer.
Day 8: Do your normal ride here or take a rest day. Watch food intake though
Day 9: Add in (4) intervals of 10 minutes each today and do these at threshold power or heart rate. Push yourself in the last two minutes. Rest for 5 minutes between each.
Day 10: Do (10) hard sprints today and make these very intense as if you are Mark Cavendish sprinting for the finish line. Rest for 4 minutes between each. Do both small ring and big ring sprints.
Day 11: Do one of my favorite workouts emphasizing your anaerobic capacity. The recovery intervals are short and the intervals are very intense. Do (3) x 2 minutes striving for 135% of your threshold power with 2 minute rest between each, then 5 minutes easy, then 3 x 1 minute, striving for 150% of your threshold with 1 minute rest, then 5 minutes easy and finish with 3x 30 seconds ALL out with 1 minute rest.
Day 12: Lengthen your ride by 45minutes today and pick up your pace in that last 45minutes to nearly your time trial pace, or what is called upper tempo pace.
Day 13: Start your ride today without eating anything for breakfast and only drink black coffee. So, start on an empty stomach. Take plenty of food with you, and begin eating at the two hour mark so you don’t bonk. If possible also increase your duration by one hour today. Just ride longer.
Day 14: Start your ride today without eating anything for breakfast and only drink black coffee. So, start on an empty stomach. Take plenty of food with you and begin eating at the two-hour mark so you don’t bonk. If possible, also increase your duration by one hour today. Just ride longer.
This is a starter two weeks! It’s made to help you “teach” your body how to burn more fat than carbs and extend your cycling “range”. This will allow you to use your muscle glycogen stores in the final part of your ride or race, so you can really put out the higher wattages when needed.
Peaking is a delicate matter. To create a peak takes hours and hours of hard work, hundreds of intervals, long rides, buckets of sweat and tears and gallons of electrolyte drinks. When you finally get your FTP to the highest that it will be, you are both excited that you are “flying” and also in denial because you it’s hard to accept that this will probably be the fittest you are this year. In other words, it could be all downhill from here for the rest of the season. When you are on form, you have to have both the highest level of fitness for the year and also just the right amount of freshness, as form in its simplest, mathematical definition is Fitness+Freshness.
That very first race you do when you come into your peak or form, is magical as you generally know you are riding well and feel strong, but all of the sudden you are in the breakaway (that you might have never made before) and you are also one of the strongest guys in the breakaway which might be a surprise (a very pleasant one!). After your first successful race on form, you feel confident, exhilarated and happy. This feeling of strength is a great feeling and one that you want to last for the rest of the season. All those doubts you had about not being good enough to ever win a big race or be in a strong breakaway with the best riders has been erased forever. You are now ready to show the world that you are the winner that you have always known that you could be. This incredible realization and breakthrough and will most certainly “change your world”. If you have just read this and aren’t quite sure you have ever been “on form”, then you haven’t. Give it some time though and with enough persistence, proper planning, you’ll achieve the magical “no chain” days. When you are on form, it is a time when your legs don’t hurt as much, your heart rate can go higher than normal at threshold, you pull through harder, and you look at the riders around you and wonder why they are all hurting so much because to you it doesn’t feel like this pace is that hard. Like, I wrote earlier, it’s a feeling you want to last forever, but in reality, you “might” be able to maintain for a maximum of 8 weeks, but more likely for 4 weeks. In this article, you will learn some of the rules you need to follow in order to maintain that peak. There are many critical things you need to do correctly to stay on form, there are things to avoid doing when on form and what absolutely cannot happen when you are on form as well.
Rule # 1. You will only have 10-12 days of just “AWESOME” legs in the roughly 4-8 week period of peak fitness. Use them wisely. Most athletes will use 6 of these in training, throw away 2 because of flat tires in races or some other calamity that doesn’t allow them to use their good legs, which leaves only 2-4 days of perfect legs on the weekends that you want them. So, the trick here is to prevent yourself from using ALL 6 days in training. You will need to use 2, maybe 3 for sure in order to build confidence and also keep your FTP high, but be very careful in planning too long and intense workouts during this period. You know you are doing it correctly, when you come back from nearly every ride and say to yourself, “Wow, that wasn’t that hard, I could have easily done another hour”. You can’t allow yourself to “Dig Deep” in training, if you are doing intervals when on form, always do one less interval than you would normally do. Leave energy in the “bank” and leave that for the races. It is very hard to resist going out to the Tuesday night world championships and just crushing everyone, but you have to preserve your “AWESOME” legs from training too hard during the week. A typical week of training when on form would look like:
Monday- Complete Rest- Yoga or massage
Tuesday- Easy ride, even though the legs feel amazing, light and strong, just ride for 1.5hours at less than 56% of your FTP.
Wednesday- This is your work day. Get in a ride in which you address ALL energy systems, so some Endurance/Tempo, Threshold, Vo2Max, Anaerobic Capacity and even Neuromuscular Power(sprinting). The trick here is to UNDER do the workout. Instead of 2x 20 at FTP, do 2 x15. Instead of 10 hill repeats at Anaerobic Capacity, do 3. Instead of 6 big ring sprints, do 2. You get the picture. Reduce your interval work by at least 20-30%.
Thursday- Go for an endurance ride of at least 2-3hours but resist, absolutely resist the temptation to go hard. You’ll feel strong.
Friday- Tune-ups and sprints, readying for the weekend.
Saturday- RACE- Make sure you race smart and don’t lose your head. You’ll be strong and want to chase anything that moves. Race like you don’t have form. Then you’ll be in the winning move. Make sure you do everything to recover afterwards: Recovery shake, cold bath, massage, whatever you can do to help recovery.
Sunday – RACE- Again, race smart and its O.K. to dig deep today!
Rule #2. Immune system is key here. You HAVE to stay healthy. If you are on form and you get sick? Well, that’s pretty much it, game over (especially if you have to take anti-biotics) so do everything you can to keep yourself healthy. Wash hands obsessively, stay away from people who are sick, carry a bottle of anti-bacterial gel around and wash your hands if you even think you might have touched something with germs on it. Don’t share ANY water bottles or food and generally become a germ-o-phobe. It is super critical you stay healthy, and I would go as far as avoiding people to a certain extent if you can. You can also take steps to boost your immune system during this time and this means eating lots of colorful fruits and veggies along with taking vitamins that help to boost your immune system. I highly encourage the use of vitamins/minerals and some herbs to enhance the immune system. Echinacea has been proven to help boost the immune system and also increase red blood cells, so definitely use that. I am also a big believer in the 4life products that include the Transfer Factor immune booster. This has made a difference in many of my clients’ immune systems. Email me and I’ll let you know which specific ones if you are interested.
Rule # 3. Form is incredibly fragile, especially in the last few weeks, so make sure that you balance the right amount of training in the “Middle” of the period of form. This “middle period”, generally weeks 3-4 have to have 1 big long ride in order to maintain endurance and 1 intense ride in order to keep the FTP up. This is different than the sample week above, as your form will be starting to wane at this point and you’ll need to do a little more training in order to maintain it. I would make sure you go back to your 2×20 intervals at threshold for these two weeks, but don’t try to knock the wattages out of the park. Right at threshold or at 95% of threshold is perfect to elicit a training response and also not use an “Awesome” Leg day either. The problem with being on form is that you are gradually losing FTP because you are not training enough, and therefore in weeks 3-4, you need to help boost this back up a bit with a couple of longer and harder rides. Your CTL should be generally “FLAT” during this period or gently downward sloping. That’s an indicator of more freshness and something that you have to balance throughout this 6 weeks. See Figure 1 to understand how an athletes’ CTL (chronic training load) begins to plateau and slide when on form. This slide leads to too much freshness (TSB-Training Stress Balance) and not enough fitness to keep you on form.
Rule # 4. Everything has to go right in order for the “form” to stick around for 6-8 weeks. I mean everything. You can’t get sick. You can’t crash, you can’t have their girlfriend/wife issues. There cannot be any major emotional traumas (death in family, break up with your girlfriend, etc.) and life in general has to be very smooth and positive. Some of these things you have no control over, but they one thing you can do is wash your hands obsessively like a crazed compulsive disorder fruit cake and absolutely avoid anyone that could be considered sick. Avoid risks (other than cycling of course) and absolutely stay away from doing any type of cross-training for a while. If someone wants to take you on a hike up a mountain, politely refuse and become hermit. Oh, and be really nice to everyone also so you don’t create a bunch of unneeded drama.
Rule #5. What happens when the “form” goes away? It’s like a faucet turning off. One weekend you are off front and in the winning breakaway. The very next weekend, you are dropped. Seriously. It turns off and instantly you suck. Bad. It’s incredibly depressing. You have to be ready for this mental state of being as it can put you in a tailspin for a long time. The way to prevent a tailspin is with a plan to re-build and awareness that you are now “OFF-form”. That starts with a FULL rest week, then a “mini-year” periodization cycle, so that you can gently re-build the aerobic fitness and then bring back up the level to a nice higher FTP. I suggest starting with two weeks of endurance riding, 1 week of tempo riding, 1 week of SweetSpot, 1 week of FTP and then 1 week of intensity above FTP. That should bring you back around to decent and normal fitness, but not back to peak form. That is more complicated and it will take at least 3-4 months of well-planned training to get back to your peak. What to do after your peak is over is the subject of another article as re-building that fitness takes some finesse and careful training to bring yourself back to another peak. Many riders think they can peak soon after their first peak, but this is nearly impossible. Even the fastest recovering athletes need a solid 3 months between peaks and for most of us, it’s 4-5 months. If you want to peak twice in a season, then plan for a peak early on and then later in the year.
As you have realized, being on form is like being on the razor’s edge. If just one thing goes wrong you get cut and fall off of your peak. It’s an incredibly fine balance and why maintaining form for longer than 4 weeks is an accomplishment in and of itself. Make sure that you are tracking your Training Stress with your power meter and that will make a big difference in extending your peak so that you don’t lose fitness nor gain too much freshness.
Come to one of Hunter’s spring training camps or sign up for personal coaching at his website, www.PeaksCoachingGroup.com Hunter has a monthly power newsletter in which you can subscribe to so that you will quickly learn the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of power training and also some great insights into the best riders in the world. Hunter Allen is a USA Cycling Level 1 coach and former Professional Cyclist. He is the co-author of “Training and Racing with a Power Meter, co-developer of TrainingPeaks WKO+ Software, and is the CEO and Founder of the Peaks Coaching Group. He has online training programs available at www.shoppeaks.com and you can contact Hunter directly www.PeaksCoachingGroup.com
Maximizing your speed is the outcome of your ability to produce power, the economy of the bicycle, along with the efficiency of the bicycle. Ultimately as we all know, the goal is to go faster. The easiest way to do that is to produce more power or watts on our bike. You should also make sure that you have an aerodynamic bike with aero wheels and that your bike is as light as possible at the same time making sure it’s stiff enough to maximize energy transfer from you to the rear wheel, which is where efficiency comes in(along with lubing your chain!) Since we are all trying to go faster, and once you have the most economical and efficient bike your wallet can afford, then you have to focus on creating more watts and unfortunately that’s the harder side of the equation, since this involves work, which is expressed in kilojoules (kJ) or more commonly known as sweat. As a coach, my job focuses on making sure that your hard work is efficient and effective in moving forward to achieving your goal (more speed!). Let’s look at a couple of ways that you can directly increase your speed on the bicycle through smart training using wattage as the measuring stick by which you are improving.
I was chatting with some newer coaches at a seminar that I taught earlier this year, and one of them asked me a question, “What is the most important thing we should train our beginner/lower category racers in order to go faster?” FTP, functional Threshold Power is the most important single factor that can be improved to make an athlete faster. As Dr. Andrew Coggan always states at our seminars together, “It’s an aerobic sport, dammit”, which he means that since nearly 90% of our success is based on our aerobic capacity (the ability to uptake oxygen , combine it with fuel and get it to our muscles to create force-we are essentially big air and water pumps!), then it makes the most sense to improve your ability to pump air and water. Before you do anything else, you have to increase your FTP and in order to do that, you need to work close at your threshold and create stress which your body will absorb and adapt to become stronger which in turn allows you to produce more watts and go faster. First, you need to know what your FTP is, so you’ll have to do a FTP test, which is either a flat-out 60minute time trial or a 20minute time trial. If you choose to “man up” and do the 60minute test, your average watts from that will be your FTP. If you choose the easy way out, then take your average watts in the 20minute test and subtract 5% in order to get a close approximation of your FTP. Once you know your FTP, then you can begin designing workouts around this in order to improve it. Think of your FTP has the height of a tabletop above the floor. When you first start in cycling, your table will be low to the floor, but as you train more and more, the legs get longer on your table and the height of the tabletop increases above the floor, till eventually you reach the ceiling. Now, what is the easiest way to pick up a table in your room and move it? You get a buddy on one end of the table and you on the other, you put your hands just UNDER the table top and you lift it up! Right? You can’t walk up to the table pretending you are Spiderman with sticker fingers and sticking your fingers to the top of the table to lift it up from the top, although that would be handy. If we transfer this analogy to your training, then I would suggest doing workouts just below your threshold in order to lift the threshold up. One of my favorite workouts is actually where you pick the table up and put it back down again, so to speak. This is called, “FTP Criss-cross intervals” and I recommend doing this at least twice a week in the early season and then once a week later in the season. This workout addresses your FTP in the first hour and then in the second hour addresses both your FTP and also your muscular strength, finally giving your neuromuscular power a shot in the leg with a few sprints.
Warm-Up:15minute warm-up with (1) 3 minute effort at 100% of your FTP watts in order to shock the system and prepare you for the next hour. Ride easy for 5 minutes, and then begin your main set of work. Nail it at 88-95% of FTP for 60 minutes, with 20 bursts (every 3 minutes!) to 150% of FTP watts hold for 10 seconds, and return back to 88-95%. After completing the hours, ride EASY 10 minutes at less than 56% of your FTP. Begin the second block of sub threshold work by riding for 20-30 minutes at 88-95% of your FTP, but this time do big gear intervals- 53:13 – 50 rpm from 12 mph to 31 mph every 2minutes, so 10-15 total…so slow down, stick it in the 53:12, stay seated and then use strength to turn the big gear over until you reach 85-90rpm or 30seconds, whichever is first and then return to your previous sub-threshold pace. Ride easy to recover for 10minutes at less than 56% of your FTP. Finish the workout with 5 hard sprints – your gearing should be around 53:16 for these and starting from 20mph and sprinting for 250 meters each. Make sure to rest for about 5 minutes between each sprint. Cool-Down: 10 minutes easy spinning at less than 56% of FTP.
The next workout you can do to improve your FTP, would be to ride right at your Threshold. These are a little more difficult, but also very effective. I suggest doing these about 4 weeks before your first race of the year and then at least once during the week during your racing season, thereby giving you two days of threshold work a week. Hey, this is the number one thing that is going to make you better, but you’d ought to accept it and get on with the work! I suggest that you start out with 15 minute intervals at your FTP in the beginning and progressing toward longer efforts until you reach 45-60minutes straight at FTP.
This next workout I call, Tabletop Edge Threshold efforts: 2 hours-
Warm-Up: Ride for a nice 15 minute warm-up with watts under 76% of your FTP. Now get ready for your main set of work with (1) blow out effort with watts at Threshold for 3minutes, recovering for 5 minutes at endurance pace. Now, you are ready for efforts, right at your FTP, so start out with 2 x 15 minutes at threshold watts (100-105%), and giving yourself a little rest for 5minutes rest between each. At the end of those intervals, you could do another one, or continue to improve your endurance with 90 more minutes after the 2nd effort with watts at upper end of endurance pace, which would be from 80-88% of your FTP. Cool-Down: 15minutes at less than 56% of your FTP.
The final way for you to improve your FTP or increase the height of your table is through VO2 max, or drilling holes into the top of your tabletop! Yes, you can take a self-drilling hook and screw it down into the top of your tabletop and then lift the table up from the top, but if you do it too often, you’ll leave your tabletop with holes in it and eventually it will collapse on itself. However, occasionally, like when you are in the final stages of building for a peak of fitness, or if you are in a slump, then some really focused work on your Vo2 max will bring up your FTP. Doing Vo2 max work means doing intervals at 106-115% of your FTP from the three to eight minute range. These are super hard efforts, where your respiration rate will be very high (over 50x a minute), they will be painful and you’ll have to push very hard to stick with the wattages needed to elicit a response. Improving your absolute Vo2 Max is impossible after a certain point of development, you are only born with a certain size of lungs and that can’t be changed, however improving the efficiency of moving O2 from your lungs into your heart and bloodstream can be improved along with improving your velocity at Vo2 Max. There is that speed thing again, and doing intervals at Vo2 Max, improves your speed at Vo2 Max, so that’s incredibly helpful in races. I recommend one to two Vo2 Max workouts per week during the period in which you need to be doing this intensity. Again, limit this work, as putting too many holes in the top of your tabletop will eventually make it collapse. Give this work out a shot, it is designed to increase your cadence as well as teach you to use cadence to increase your watts when you are suffering and someone attacks or when you are on form and you feel so amazing that you want to attack after doing 5 minutes at vo2 max. I call this workout the “Vo2 Max Overdrivers”
Warm Up: 15 minute easy spin and then do 30 seconds in easiest gear with the fastest cadence possible without bouncing, then do a 30 second recovery. Repeat this three more times. Now do 20 seconds at cadence 5rpm faster than before with 20 second recovery. Repeat three more times. The final part of the warm-up is now 1minute fast pedaling efforts at cadence 5 slower than first sets, with 1 minute recovery. Repeat three times. Relax for 5-10 minutes of endurance riding while mentally psyching yourself up for the “Overdrivers”. The main set begins on a hill or into the wind and each interval is five minutes long at cadence 10 slower than typical self-selected cadence. Each interval is done at 110-115% of FTP in order to guarantee you are stressing the Vo2 Max system. The “overdriver” part comes at the end of the interval where I want you to do a final 30 second hard burst changing to three gears easier(or the easiest gear you have) for 30 seconds, spinning faster and pushing harder to really fatigue the muscles and increase the respiration rate just a little higher! Do 5 intervals of 5minutes each. Recover for 5 minutes between each at your endurance pace 56-75% of FTP.
Returning back to our goal of increasing your overall speed in bicycling, we have learned that improving our FTP and Vo2 max are the foundations of increasing speed on the bicycle. While it’s great to buy new faster stuff (yes, you can buy speed!), eventually you have to work on your engine in order to go faster. Pushing that tabletop higher and higher will also eventually reach the ceiling in your room, but making sure you are approaching and close to that ceiling is the best thing you can do for more speed. Keep in mind that your training first begins on the aerobic system and the higher your FTP, the faster you’ll be period. While FTP is king, you can’t neglect the smaller contributions of the energy systems either, as they all play a role in winning. Spend most of your time on the three workouts above and then get in some shorter anaerobic intervals along with some sprinting and throw in a bunch of long endurance rides as well.
Hunter Allen has an obsession with speed and does just about everything to increase it, whether on the bicycle, in the car, on downhill skis, and even online. He has fast online training programs available at www.shoppeaks.com , which feature improving your speed through FTP and Vo2 max improvements. You can contact Hunter directly www.PeaksCoachingGroup.com for personal coaching and camps.
Barry, born in the 60’s started his endurance career as a 9-year old watching the ’72 Summer Olympics in South Eastern Wisconsin. He watched Frank Shorter win gold in the Marathon, and he was hooked. He was so hooked that he went out and ran 5-miles, all the way through high school distance running was his sport. Currently Barry resides in Fletcher, North Carolina with his Siamese cat Mowzer, he trains 10-16 hrs. per week year-round. He has a 2022 Bianchi Oltre XR3, 2021 Canyon Inflite, and a Wahoo KickrBike. Barry’s coaching focuses are road, cyclocross, and gravel cycling.
“What I love about coaching, is getting you to show the discipline and see the real athlete come out in you. Let’s figure out what you want to achieve and if you are committed, I and Peaks Coaching Group will get you there.” -Barry P. Zellmer
I got into cycling in the spring of 1982. I was 19 working as a mechanic at a Honda Motorcycle dealer, riding a Schwinn Traveler with Ambrosio black wheels. The Tour was on CBS and the big story was how Phil Andersen had taken Yellow from Hinault. Pascal Simone earlier riding with a broken Scapula and having to give up Yellow. It blue my mind how fit they were. They had style, Eric Heiden the whole deal and they shaved their legs! I was hooked. I want to look like that physically.
How did you get into coaching?
I was way nonfunctionally over reached let us just say. Partially from me and a heavy amount on not watching his naive athlete ride into a hole, my Coach. I achieved the main goal of an FTP number goal but unknowingly blew up. I Forest Gumped. On a Training Ride I blew , got off my bike and rarely rode for 2 years. When I got back at it in 2017 I had already had the knowledge of Power Training but could not simply understand the order of training. I researched it, podcasts, books, meanwhile applying these to myself. A Team Member who I knew still had the athlete in her was my first client. Total success story.
What are some of your hobbies?
I was a total committed Moto Cross fan; I raced had good equipment in the 90’s I just dig the Training. It for me is Mindfulness at its best. It sometimes can last for 6 hours on a solo ride. Or I watch GCN with a VPN.
Favorite long-ride fuel, food, snacks?
Long rides here in WNC you need to eat. Your constantly up or down. 3 HRS 2 Big Bottles. Gatorade mix 1 scoop and the other water with a ground up salt tablet. 3- 72 mg Caffeine SIS Gels. 2 100 Calorie Bars.
One of your most memorable moments with an athlete?
Best Moment Coaching have been multiple. When you can connect with a total stranger. They give you this goal they want to achieve and are willing to listen and commit. So, you and this stranger are like best friends in 2 weeks and you see many times this client transforms into a different, more confident person. That is Cool. Or that Crying phone call telling you 1st before anyone else, They Did It!
I know you have spent a lot of time this winter on the indoor trainer doing workouts watching videos of everything from Rambo to “real-life” cycling videos, to riding in Zwift. These are great tools to increase your fitness in the winter, go to the next level and also to maintain your hard-won fitness from last season. It’s always a battle in the winter with cross-training exercises, cold weather (for most of us!), indoor riding and just how much intensity to do indoors and outdoors on the good days. I prescribe a lot of tempo and “sweet-spot” work in the off-season in order to limit the upper intensities. If you ride at the higher levels in the winter, you risk peaking too soon and creating a lull in your fitness in March, right when most of the racing starts in the US. To prevent this from happening, it is important to continue this building of your power foundation.
“Base Training” vs. “Power Foundation”
I really don’t like the phrase, “Base Training” because it produces images of long, slow distance training where your watts are at 60% of your threshold and you just putter along in your ride. Too many athletes and coaches believe that an athlete has to do “Base training” first and before any other type of training can be started. Now, I’ll concede that if you are a Pro cyclist and training for a huge season in Europe in 2014, then yes, you should be doing some serious “Base training”. Riding your bike for 4-6 hours a day at endurance pace will help continue to develop your aerobic system and also prevent you from peaking in January. But, everyone else? Forget it. We don’t have the time to put in 4-6 hours a day at a slow pace, stopping at coffee shops along the way and enjoying the sights.
For most of us, we have only 1-2 hours a day to train and we have to make the most of those hours, optimizing our training for the highest ROI. If we took those 1-2 hours a day and rode at endurance pace, then what would really happen? We would lose fitness and get slower. For most of us, riding that slow will not be challenging enough to create any training stress and therefore adaptation (improved fitness). There is a relationship between time and intensity that must be respected and when you ride at lower intensities, you will need to ride longer in order to create enough stress for adaptation. Therefore, I like to call what most of us do in the winter and early spring, your “Power Foundation”. This is the type of riding that contains more tempo and sweet-spot work, essentially more intensity (but not too much!) than riding around at endurance pace. Building your power foundation, I believe, is critical for the coming season in improving your FTP, and also preparing for the entire season of racing, so that you are consistent throughout the year. In the late winter/early spring, you should be finishing the power foundation phase and transitioning from indoor riding to outdoor riding. This signals the time in which you need to solidify your winter fitness, especially if you have risen up a level (!) and begin adding in more and more work at your threshold and a little above.
Let’s Start with Your Sweet-Spot.
Before beginning to ride right at your FTP for extended periods of time (longer than 10minutes) I would recommend you do some final work at your sweet-spot (88-93% of FTP) and then move onto work right at your FTP and above. This is one of my favorite workouts that I use for many of my athletes regularly in February and March.
Sweet-Spot with Bursts
15minute warm-up with (1) 3-minute effort at 90% of your FTP, then 5minutes easy,
Main Set: Nail it at 88-93% of your FTP for 60 minutes, with 20 bursts (every 3 minutes!) to 120% of FTP, hold for 15 seconds, and return to previous pace (88-93% of FTP)
EASY 10 minutes riding at endurance pace 56-75% of FTP
Then do 30 minutes at 88-93% of FTP and this time do big gear intervals- every two minutes. Slow down to 12mph, put your chain in the 53:13, stay seated and then use strength to explode on that gear and push it hard for 30seconds or if you reach 90rpm, stop when you reach one of those criteria first and return to 88-93% of FTP.
In order to start transitioning into race fitness, finish with 5 hard sprints – Start in your 53:16 from 20mph and sprint for 250 meters each, 4-5 minutes rest between each.
Cool Down: 10 minutes easy spinning at less than 56% of your FTP.
To remind you of the Coggan power training levels, see figure 1.
Incorporating FTP Workouts
During February and March, along with continuing to ride at sweet spot, you need to begin incorporating riding right at your functional threshold power and also doing some forays above it to prepare for the higher intensities of racing. I recommend at least one day a week of training specifically at your FTP and then one day in which you incorporate shorter intensity as well. I like to incorporate the shorter intensity on the weekend when you are doing a longer ride, by including it in the first two hours and then using the last hour or two to focus on your overall aerobic endurance through tempo and sweet-spot work.
The one focused day of threshold work needs to be highly focused and designed to just address your FTP and nothing more. This allows you to dig deep into the “well of courage” and push yourself for maximum training effect. I recommend doing this workout for improving your FTP.
FTP “Well of courage”
Warm-Up: 20 minutes-endurance pace 56-75% of FTP
MS: 5 x 1minute fast pedal over 120 RPM to get legs opened up with 1 minute rest between each. Ride at 10 minutes easy at 56-75% of FTP after those warm-ups. Now, dig in the well of courage and do (4) x12 minutes at or just above FTP- so 100-108% of FTP – Nail these and push in the last minute up to 110% of FTP! Do NOT kill it in the first 2 minutes though, so start out and ramp up to your 100-108% of FTP. REST for 5minutes between each.
After completing the (4) x 12 FTP intervals, ride for 20-30 minutes endurance pace (56-75% of FTP).Finish with one more 12 minutes at FTP interval to completely bury yourself! Make sure you push it hard and do your best completing a total of 60minutes at FTP for the day!
Cool Down: 10 minutes at less than 56% of FTP
Don’t Forget to Have Fun!
On your weekends, make sure you are getting in at least one day of group riding as this is fun and it will also help to develop your race fitness with short, hard bursts and simulated attacks. I recommend to my clients to do a group for an hour or two and then go longer afterward if they can. This really makes a difference in your endurance and stamina for the upcoming season. On the other day during the weekend, it would be great to work on your shorter, more intense efforts. I recommend this workout:
Weekend: “A bite of it all”
Warm Up: 15minutes at 56-75% of FTP.
Main-Set: Do (3) x 1 minute fast pedaling. Then do (4) sprints- BIG RING –Put your chain in the 53:15 and start from 22mph. Only do two gear shifts in these sprints to 14, then to 13. Rest for 3-4 minutes between each and get psyched for the next sprint!
After you finish your sprints then do (2) x 12 minutes JUST BELOW threshold- so about 88-93% of FTP watts in order to get in a little more sweet-spot/FTP work. Do your best to hold it there! Rest for 5minutes between each.
Now, finish the workout with 4 x 2 minutes on a flat section of road. 2 minutes ON, 2 minutes OFF. Do your best to hold 130-140% of FTP on the effort. Lastly, ride at endurance pace for 20 minutes (56-75% of FTP)
CD: 5 minutes (<56% of FTP)
Training this early spring should be focused around making sure you have the overall power foundation developed and then building your threshold power on top of that. It’s critical that as you get closer and closer to race season, that you begin incorporating shorter, more intense intervals that stress your anaerobic capacity (30sec-2min efforts) and neuromuscular power (5-15 sec.). The transition from winter to spring training is more important than most riders think as the demands of racing are very specific you must be prepared for them along with prepared for the entire season. One important final note to discuss is the importance of entering the race season with your “battery” 100% charged. This means that you should make sure you rest between hard workouts and keep yourself relatively fresh. Digging a hole in this transitory time can be a recipe for disaster. I recommend taking a rest/easy day after every 3 hard days of training, as this will guarantee that you are well rested for the next block of training and are not getting fatigued.
The phrase, “Power Foundation” is how I prefer to talk about winter and pre-season training as it doesn’t conjure up those dreaded thoughts of LSD training, and more focuses one on the ‘power’ side of the equation, since your goal is to increase your power at threshold this season. Overall aerobic fitness improvement is always something that we all want to accomplish every season as more fitness=more fitness and you will be riding faster than previously. These workouts are for riders that don’t have 4-6 hours to ride each day and will keep your fitness higher throughout the winter than normal, but that means you don’t have that far to go in order to peak for your key event in the spring. Give these workouts a shot and you’ll be pleasantly surprised with your new higher threshold this spring!
Just as you would when you head out the door for a ride, you need to make sure you are prepared when you ride inside. But once you have your setup dialed in, it’s literally a breeze cranking out an indoor training ride. Check out my 5 Tips for Riding on Zwift, to make your next training ride a little more enjoyable.
5 Tips for Riding on Zwift
#1 Load up Zwift early! – 30 minutes before the ride starts.
Zwift does a lot of updates to keep everything going smoothly, and some of these can take several minutes. This also should give you some time to do a warmup workout that is appropriate for your event (10-15 minutes), followed by that last minute bathroom break.
#2 Read the actual ride description.
Ride leaders put specifics that will override a possible default Zwift power range, or ride length/duration. An example is the ‘event’ is a 1-hour workout…but after the workout we continue as a free ride group for another hour. Or maybe the event has a secret code or question in the description for a prize or two. Read those details.
#3 Grab extra towels, water, ride food, etc. Be prepared.
Make a checklist and keep it near your Zwift setup. No sense spending tons of money on that ultimate setup, only to forget that $5 water bottle full of your event calories. Have extra on hand close by. Your indoor setup should include a table or desk close enough that you can grab some extra fuel if needed. Hunter really enjoys using the Saris TD1 Trainer Desk. This desk is adjustable and sits right in front of you keeping everything right where you need it when you need it. No more struggling trying to reach for an extra energy bar, or to adjust a setting in Zwift.
#4 Prepare for your indoor workouts just like you do for outdoor workouts. Fuel, hydration, etc.
Just like you would for any other ride, make sure you prepare for your workout. Eat what you would normally eat before a ride. Stretch! It is so important to stretch out before your ride. This should also include preparing your environment. Make sure everything is ready to go before you get on your bike. Do you have your fans on? One of the most important parts and most overlooked aspect of any indoor training setup is airflow. Do you have fans close by that you can adjust to keep you cool? One thing Hunter always talks about for indoor training is to make sure you are not thermally stressing your body and overheating. Check out this video where Hunter goes over his indoor training setup.
#5 Most importantly, why did you choose today’s workout or event?
What is your goal/purpose for this decision? How does it affect the rest of the week, or your long-term goals? Stick to the plan. Stay disciplined and committed. I see way too often an athlete jumps on Zwift, sees tons of hammerfest going on, and they simply throw everything out the window and do random stuff, trashing their body again in the gray zone of plateaued training. Focus on the focus! Commit to a determined practice!
Cycling started when I was 15 or 16 years old. Just my brother and a few friends were always riding. I remember riding our bikes to school when I was in 5th or 6th grade…a whopping 4 miles each way! Somewhere along the way I got a copy of cycling magazine. I was captivated by all the cool bikes, races, etc. Somehow a seed was planted. I never looked back.
What is your role at PCG?
At PCG I am an Elite/Master Coach. I coach remote athletes online as well as in person. I come to the various PCG Camps and play mechanic and coach. Camps are great! I do mechanic work both before and after the training rides, as well as ride with the athletes. Long days, but very satisfying and fun! I also am one of the main coaches that lead the PCG Zwift Training Rides.
Other than cycling, what are some of your hobbies?
Hobbies include ham radio, flightsim, and a slew of other outdoor activities like hiking, camping, anything outside is good 🙂
Favorite coaching experience with an athlete?
It is hard to pick a favorite coaching experience. There have been so many great moments. Seeing athletes win an event or get on the podium is always a super moment. Coaching athletes in person is a blast. I was in Sint Maarten a few years ago with an athlete. She won her National Championship in the TT event. That was very happy day 🙂
There is much discussion about “Polarized” training and traditional training across all the training zones, which includes a large amount in the Tempo (76-91% of FTP) and Sweetspot (88-93% of FTP) zones. If you are below 35 years old and a Pro or a category one racer, you can stop reading here. Or if you are a Masters rider from 35-45 years old and you legitimately have a shot at winning masters nationals this year, you can stop reading here. Polarized training might be for you. HOWEVER, for the rest of us…..POLARIZED training is NOT for you.
First off, what is polarized training? Polarized training is a way of distributing your training in two polar opposite intensities. You are either riding very slowly at endurance pace for long periods of time OR you are riding very intensely at your FTP, VO2 or Anaerobic Capacity zones. There is no “in-between” riding. You go easy and slow or you go like a manic and kill every interval. This distribution is generally 70-80% at lower intensity and 20-30% at high intensity. This concept was introduced and promoted by Dr. Stephen Seiler, who is a well-known exercise physiologist. There IS a lot of good research that proves that this approach to training does work and works well.
Secondly, what’s the opposing training method? I will call this the “traditional” method of distributing intensity more evenly across all the intensities which include a big part of the training in the “in-between” intensities. This “in-between” is a “no-go zone” for the polarized training advocates. The tradition method of training includes riding at endurance pace, tempo pace and the higher intensities as well, but takes a more equalized approach to training. This distribution would look like the traditional bell curve, 10% Recovery, 25% Endurance, 35% Tempo, 15% FTP, 10% VO2, 5% Anaerobic and Neuromuscular power. Which means that the majority of your training is done in the tempo zone, which equates to 76-91% of your FTP. The “sweetspot” intensity is 88-93% of FTP and blends the upper end of Tempo and the lower end of FTP, crossing both zones. In the traditional method, you will want to spend a good portion of your training at “sweet spot” as well. There IS a lot of good research that this approach to training works and works well.
So….why do you want to avoid the “polarized” training method? Because. It’s. Not. Fun.
Yup, that’s it. It’s not much fun. Not because it doesn’t work or isn’t well thought out. It’s just not fun. Let’s face it, you do this because it’s fun. If it wasn’t fun, you’d do something else like golf or bowling or backgammon. With the polarized method, you drone along for hours (do you have 3-4 hours a day to train???) at a low intensity, and let’s say that equates to riding at 14-16mph for 3-4 hours. It’s boring. And if you are stuck inside???? Who wants to sit on their trainer and spin their legs for 3-4 hours. Plus, for most of us, we would just lose fitness as it’s not intense enough to create any meaningful training stress. When you are not being bored out of your mind, you are going to do intervals as hard as you can. All the rest of the time. ALL.THE.REST.OF.THE.TIME. So, you are suffering like a dog, legs are burning, heart rate is maxed, you are breathing at your limit and negotiating with yourself every 15 seconds to just convince yourself to finish the interval. “Come on, dammit, you can do this. One more minute. Come on…” and you have to do that for hours. So, unless you met the requirements in the first paragraph, then seriously, polarized training is not for you. For us working stiffs, it’s just too hard, not fun and sucks all the fun out of cycling after about a week of trying to do it.
What to do instead? Do the traditional method of training. Spend more time at tempo and sweet spot, which will also create enough training stress to keep you fit on your limited budget of 10-12 hours a week of training and those intensities are “do-able”. Yes, you must focus and stay in the “present” to keep the pressure on the pedals, but you will not be suffering like a shaggy dog in the swamps of Louisiana in August. You still will do some high intensity work of course because you need that, but we’ll limit it so that it doesn’t make your training life a hell of suffering. You’ll do some longer endurance rides on the weekend when you get out in good weather, but it will have peppered in some sweet spot, some tempo, some FTP, some sprints and more and you’ll come home tired and satisfied. With the traditional method, you’ll still enjoy training, with a good variety of workouts and plenty of work at your “sweet spot” to keep your FTP up and continue pushing it forward.
When you use the traditional method, you maintain your fitness at a higher level throughout the year as well. This is important and desirable. Most riders over 35 do not have time to lose fitness as it takes too long to gain that fitness back, so it’s better to maintain a higher level of fitness all the time and then punch it up to a peak when you want one. When you are 60 years young and your CTL drops from 80 down to 50, it’s a long fight for months to get it back to 80! Keeping your fitness at 90% of your absolute best is a great way to enjoy cycling, always be in the group with your friends and then with just 8 weeks of focus, you can bump up that last 10% to a peak.
Most importantly, with the traditional method of distributing the intensity, you’ll have fun. Since you’ll be having fun, you’ll stick with it longer and you’ll reach an even higher peak than doing the “polarized” method for 2-3months and quitting.