Sunday, September 27, 2009

Annual Training Plan (ATP)

Why do you race/train/ride? Is it because it's fun and you love: the competition, to be outdoors, to keep (or get) in shape, to travel, the social aspect, etc? Regardless of your motive, I'm sure there is one thing in common with all cyclists and that is: they want to have fun and that EVERYONE wants to ride stronger/faster/better.

I'm pretty sure of another thing, and that is MOST cyclists (both recreational riders and racers) don't have a clue of what it takes to ride stronger/faster/better. Sure, if you don't know ANYTHING you can't go wrong by just going out and doing what you feel like doing and putting some miles in the saddle on your own or with a group. After all, you'll see "some" improvement.

But, the road to success (riding the best you can) is understanding where you are (identifying strengths/weaknesses), where you are headed (goals/objectives) and the best way get there (a plan). And, selecting the CORRECT Annual Training Plan, based on the concept of periodization, has a BIG BIG part in the best way to get there. When I say "CORRECT" I say this because there are all kinds of 'canned' Annual Training Plans that you can purchase online that claim they will improve your performance and help you achieve your goals/objectives. No disrespect to the people that sell these programs (after all there are some qualified folks that are trying to help you find that 'road to success- in addition to making $$ which I'm sure is the primary purpose) but how do these canned Annual Training Plans know:
a. what your work/travel/family committments are?
b. what your current fitness level is?
c. what to recommend when you get sick/injured?
d. what your goals/objectives are?
e. what your strengths, and more importantly, weaknesses are? (After all, you race your strengths and train your weaknesses)
f. which workouts are better for you than others?
g. when you want to peak? i.e. your 'A' races vs. 'B' races
h. if you're going to be racing Criteriums, Road Races or Time Trials?
i. when you want to start/ well as start/finish after your first peak?
j. what your nutrition requirements are during each phase?
k. whether you respond better to 2 back-to-back hard workouts or 1 every other day?
l. whether you train by RPE, Heart Rate or Power?

The answer is: THEY DON'T! So what do you do? Well, you have two choices you either: a) buy a book (like Friel's Training Bible) and develop your own annual training plan or b) pay someone (preferably a certified USA Cycling Coach) to do it for you. That's if you want to maximize the available training time you have and you want to achieve your goals/objectives for 2010. If you need any help/advice I can help you develop your own annual training plan, or (for a small fee) I can develop one for you.

Train/Race Smart! Power On! Coach Rob

Friday, September 25, 2009

Why Should you X-Train?

If you're a road rider and you followed an Annual Training Plan for the 2009 season, and you started this training plan in December of 2008- you should be ready for a rest. If you're not, you either didn't race/train much in 2009 or your riding volume and/or intensity was not that high. If you are ready for a rest, you're probably not thinking much about the bike but are thinking about other activities to maintain your current fitness level. The idea behind off-season training is to integrate OTHER activities with your cycling skills- activities that will increase your Endurance, Speed and Power. What are some good x-training exercises? These exercises come readily to mind: weight training, mountain biking, running, x-country skiing (if/when we get snow), inline skating, etc. Why? Because they work the same muscles that riding a road bike do...albeit in a slightly different way..and they also condition the cardio-respiratory system.

But, what about specificity of training? You know, the concept that implies that sport movements and training are specific to one sport and do NOT improve performance in another sport. Well that's true (the concept), but a lot of the x-training exercises that I mentioned above will actually work the same muscles that road cycling does. For example, inline skating will develop the Quads, Hamstrings and Glutes just like cycling..granted, not in an identical way..but close enough. And, although the demands of mountain biking may NOT be similar to the demands of century ride on a road bike..mountain biking will improve your handling skills on the road bike.

Also, when weight training for cycling strength, the weight training program that I prescribe (for the athletes I coach) uses independent leg action on EVERY excercise to simulate the pedal stroke of the bike- as much as possible And, as I already told you in a former blog, mountain biking is a's a great workout..and isn't that what it's all about- getting in shape and having fun? I think so.

If you want to join me this Fall/Winter (in the Doylestown area) for a little x-training, I'll be mountain biking, inline skating (used to do this with my dog) and x-country skiing (snow required- may have to drive to the pocono mtns.) Here's a great article on the benefits of inline skating by Dr. Carl Foster:

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Interval Workouts...are you doing them?

If you're one of the athletes that I coach, you are no stranger to interval workouts. Why? Because they work! Even if you're an Ironman Triathlete and ride at a steady Tempo pace (for 5-6 hrs. during an event)..studies have shown that interval workouts improve race times.
Conversely, I believe that the road racer/cyclist (who normally enters races lasting 2-3 hrs.) would benefit from periodic long endurance rides.

What are intervals? Intervals are periods of high intensity work interspersed with periods of low intensity work (or rest intervals). Intervals are usually classified by the workload and rest period, or by the physiological fitness system that they stimulate. For example, I routinely prescribe a 3x5 or 5x3 @L5 interval workout, more commonly called VO2max interval workouts.

So, which interval training method works best? Well, it depends. It depends on how much time you have to devote to your interval workouts, your goals/objectives, your physical makeup, etc. And, to be honest with you..interval training methodology is just as much an art as it is science. If it was ALL science there would be books, articles, videos, etc. produced each year stating/claiming- do these interval workouts each year and we guarantee you'll be able to ride a sub-hour 40k Time Trial or win your local criterium. I don't think you'll see any of these claims published anytime soon.

The following are two important reasons why you should be doing Interval Workouts this Fall/Winter. I'm paraprhasing them from Arnie Baker, MDs e-book entitled, "High Intensity Training for Cyclists", which by the way is a MUST read:
a. Interval Training allows a greater volume of high quality work. (Afterall, with our busy work schedules, isn't this what we're looking for- the best bang for the buck?)
b. Interval Training allows for controlled high quality work. (It's easier to target a specific physiologic fitness system or evoke a physiological adaptation w/ a controlled stimulus)

I believe the most important reason for incorporating interval training into your weekly workouts is because interval training can simulate race-specific intensities. And, there is no substitute (in my opinion) for simulating race-specific intensities during training. You can ask any of the road racers I coach and the one thing I like to do is to look at a downloaded power file from a recent race. I'll break down the race into laps (intervals) and see where the accelerations occur (power demand), the frequency they occur, and how long they last. Then, I'll replicate the race in an interval training workout for that athlete- at a later time. When the body gets used to the stimulus (learns to adapt) it will respond more positively than before.

Remember, interval training can simulate race-specific intensities, be prescribed at appropriate frequencies to allow for adequate recovery and can be altered to progressively overload the cyclist in a manner that will result in improved performance. After all, isn't that the goal/objective- to improve performance? I think so.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Transition Period

As the racing season winds down, the "transition period" immediately follows the "race period"- that's if you follow the traditional periodization training plan.

But, what exactly is the "transition period"? The "transition period" is a time of rest and recovery. It's a time to recharge the batteries and get ready for the following racing season. For most recreational racers/weekend warriors in the Northeast it lasts approximately 6-8 weeks- traditionally during the months of October and November. After all, no serious cyclist can expect to maintain top form all year long. But what does "rest and recovery" really entail? Does it mean sitting on the couch on the weekends watching football and drinking beer instead of riding your normal group/solo ride? Does it mean reducing training volume and intensity? Is it a time to cross-train? Do I ditch the road bike and jump on my "cyclo-cross bike" or "mountain bike"? Do I stay off a bike completely?

I think the answer to all of these questions, which seems to be the standard answer, is- IT DEPENDS. It depends on a lot of things. It depends on your current training volume and intensity. It depends on your current fitness level. Are you a serious racer, a recreational racer, a weekend warrior? It depends on your current physical shape and mental state. i.e. are you burning out? It depends on your goals/aspirations for the following season.

Regardless of your fitness level, current training volume/intensity, goals/aspirations for the following season, etc. I'll give you some advice on what I think you (and I) should be doing during the "transition period", they are:

a. Reduce your training volume. Remember, the transition period is a time of rest and recovery. So, if you've been riding 10+ hours a week during the might want to scale it back down to say 6-8 hrs. a week.
b. Maintain your current fitness level. You can do this by doing at least 1-2 Lactate Threshold and VO2max workouts per week. They don't have to be longer than 30-60 minutes.
c. Stay off your road bike as much as possible and get out on your "cyclo-cross" or "mountain bike". Staying off your road bike will give you a mental break- as well as physical break.
d. Maintain your current weight. The transition period is NOT the time of year to pack on the weight. I know it's hard NOT to do with all the football games on the tube. Besides, it's hard enough to maintain weight during the late Fall and Winter months- with all the holidays.
e. This is a good time to evaluate your current years racing/training and plan for the next. What are/were your strengths/weaknesses? What do you need to do to improve your weaknesses?

Simply put, during the transition period, you want to: reduce volume, maintain fitness level, maintain weight, evaluate the current season and plan for the next, cross-train and HAVE FUN!