This past weekend, I went with a few friends to a training camp. Most of the folks on the new team I joined were there (www.twowheelfixation.com). That got me to thinking a little bit about the purpose of training camp and how to get the most out of it.
#1. Have a primary purpose. There are a lot of reasons to do a training camp and one of the most common reasons athletes choose to go to a training camp is to get better/stronger/faster/fitter. However, take a few moments to really think about your objectives and be specific in what you want to accomplish. If the idea is to get a lot of duration in, then you probably shouldn’t plan to work on your sprint. Conversely, if your focus for the upcoming season is track racing, maybe long distance road rights don’t fit with your plan. Having a primary purpose (your #1 objective) will help you choose the right training camp (if that’s an option) or choose the right activities to do and those that you can pass on.
#2. Assess supporting objectives. Lots of racing clubs hold a training camp. One of the supporting objectives is to create a sense of camaraderie among the team members. Other supporting objectives might be to work on specific skills. Keep these items in mind when planning out your specific activities. Speaking of which…
#3. Plan out your specific activities. It’s great to go on a camp with your teammates and other folks who are taking care of everything. It’s your responsibility though to know what the daily activities are and make sure they are aligned with your purpose and objectives. If you have the chance to influence things, great. If not, then consider why you are going to camp and maybe reconsider your primary purpose. If you’re not getting paid to ride a bike, your primary purpose could just be to have a fun time and socialize with your teammates doing healthy activities. Or you could have some specific training goals in mind that you need to achieve.
#4. Make sure you’re with the right people. When you go to a training camp, you’ll be spending a few days with a specific group of folks. Make sure these are the folks you want to spend this time with — they have similar goals, are compatible in terms of style and timeliness, are willing to ride in the same weather conditions you, and have the eating habits that are also somewhat aligned.
There are naturally other things to consider, but these are the thoughts that went through my head. I had a great time at my training camp. We stayed at the Stokesville Lodge and rode through that area on road bikes and mountain bikes.
I enjoy reading various cycling related website. One of the regular stops on my reading list is “In the Crosshairs” at www.cxhairs.com. Bill does a great job providing some good coverage of cyclocross racing and providing some analysis as well.
One of Bill’s recent posts was looking at the Belgian national championships for this year. The post wasn’t following the top elite riders (he did that in another video) but rather the ‘race within the race’ for the top non-contract riders. For those riders that can’t win the race, what about their goals and how does a good race put that in perspective?
The perspective here is that one good ride can make a season. Watch and enjoy.
In the last post, I described the high level steps you should take when establishing your season training plan. There are lots of ways to go about it and you could follow a specific method, such as Joe Friel’s “Training Bible” method or an automated plan built into TrainingPeaks.com.
These methods give you a good structure for your plan. However, you will still have to customize it to fit your needs. Here is a high level calendar for 2014:
This Excel file is designed as a one page view of the year that you divide into your training phases and the focus for the phase, such as “build”, “threshold”, “VO2”, etc. The devil is in the details because you then have to go about building your training weeks and the specific workouts you will do. If you have any questions on this, drop me a note.
With 2013 just about done (or perhaps done by the time you read this), it’s time to start planning for 2014 if you haven’t already done so.
Step #1: Decide on your key events
It seems kind of obvious that you should figure out what you want to do first, but this helps establish how you should train. Look through last year’s training log and review the events you did, as well as look at the upcoming events for the year. Decide what evens you’d like to do and which events will be your priority “A” races (for more on that, read here).
Step #2: Analyze your calendar
Once you’ve decided what you want to do, lay it all out on the calendar. Figure out the time you have until your first real event and the time between your events. Is there a natural grouping of events? If so, that’s a great time to be peaking. Are your events spread out over a couple of months? Then you will have to decide how you will build for the events and then perhaps incorporate some block training to stay sharp over a relatively long period.
Step #3: Determine the demands of the target events
Look at the events you’ve chosen and try and determine the physiological demands. Will you be needing more threshold – and who doesn’t, but is it the key? Will the events be punchy events like crits or certain mountain bike races? Or will it all come down to the shorter efforts and the ability to sprint?
Step #4: Choose a periodization plan and lay out your training phases
Once you’ve determined the demands of the events, you can start to lay out the training phases. The classical periodization is to go from lower intensity training to higher intensity training, but that’s not the only way to do it. Also keep in mind that you’ll “use it or lose it”, so you may want to throw in some varied levels of intensity no matter which route you go.
Pretty general stuff so next up, I’ll show some examples of annual training plans broken into phases.
I’ll be helping to lead a new program that The Bike Lane is kicking off this year. It’s a program geared towards the Shenandoah Mountain 100 mountain bike race in the George Washington Forest. It’s an epic race, with some amazing climbs and descents, including some very technical sections. The program includes a weekly training schedule, clinics, and group sessions (including some pre-riding of the course). You can find out more details here. It’s a steal at $300 for a 6-month program.
One aspect to goal setting for the new year is to decide on the races you want to do. There are races that you want to do well in and others that are simply fun races that you enjoy doing. There are lots of reasons why we all race and generally they include doing well and being competitive.
In cycling, we often prioritize our races as A, B, or C races. Generally, the priority refers to how competitive and fresh we want to be for the race. It’s important to prioritize your races so you (or your coach) knows how to manage your training schedule for the season.
A Race. An A race is a race you want to focus your season on. You will be managing your workouts to bring you to a peak for this race and to have a pretty big taper to get your fresh as well. This generally means that after the event, you will have compromised some fitness for this event, but since it’s your A race, that’s the point. A good example for an A race might be national championships. However, you may actually not have an A race, which is perfectly fine.
B Race. Your B races are ones that you want to be competitive in but are not necessarily season goals. This could be important races that you want to get upgrade points in or otherwise do well, but you don’t want to sacrifice too much fitness for this type of race. This will be the bulk of the races for the season typically.
C Race. A C race is a participation event where you don’t need to be competitive. This could be a training race or a race where you’ll do some work for the team. Another example might be a second race in the same day in which your strategy is to focus on the first race and merely complete this second race. It’s fine to have some C races in your plan, but you probably don’t want to have too many of these either or you won’t really be having fun in your races.
So make sure you give some thought on why you’re doing a particular race and set some goals for the event itself, including prioritizing the race as an A, B, or C race.
Winter is still in full effect, throughout my area at least. I know that I’m a little tired of cold weather riding and yearn for those warmer days that will come with spring-time riding.
Hang in there! The key to remember is that those who persist, continue to put in the efforts required, are the ones who will make progress and have the best results during the upcoming season. The “off season” is the the ideal time to build upon last seasons results and set yourself up for a great year this year.
Whether you’re grinding through another trainer session or enduring frozen fingers and toes during a long outdoor endurance ride, continue to persevere. Those folks who give in and short cut their workouts now will be steps behind you while you are continuing to make progress. Keep it up and have a great season this year!
Focus is the ability to put aside distractions and put attention and effort into a specific objective. Focus is often considered a positive attribute. Many times today, we hear the term “in the moment”. I consider someone who is focused to be in the moment.
Focus in terms of cycling means several things. In the narrowest sense, it means being able to hit the objectives of the specific workout for the day. Or, if we are in a race, it means keeping the objectives of the race in the forefront of our consciousness and doing what we can to achieve them. A good periodized training plan has objectives for the week/month and includes goals for the year. Focus allows us to keep those longer term goals in mind.
So as you go about your training, stayed focused. Attain the objectives for each workout and continue to make progression on your goals/objectives for the year.
This past Monday, I hosted a workshop in Northern Virginia at the local Tyson’s-Pimmit library. A small but enthusiastic crowd attended. I’m often asked questions about interval training, including how to do it, what types of intervals, and which ones will give the best benefit.
Of course, “it depends” is often applicable. The first thing an athlete needs to determine is what it is they are trying to improve. Naturally, greater threshold power is (or should be) one of the type priorities for any endurance cyclist. Lots of ways to accomplish that but this time of year (early Spring), lots of tempo work, longer endurance rides, and some threshold intervals (e.g., 2 x 20) are a pretty traditional way to ramp up for the season.
I have a handout in the Resources section of my website. Of course, the ideas were described originally (perhaps better too?) by others and I’ve hopefully credited everyone properly. Check it out and let me know what you think. If you have favorite intervals or questions, drop me a note and I’ll see if I can answer.
Here in the mid-Atlantic over the last week or so, it’s really starting to feel like Spring is on its way. Anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere, though, the days are getting longer. Warm days are not too far in the future. Early season races are starting to show up on the calendar (and even being raced). The enthusiasm for racing is building and so are the thoughts of getting out there and going for epic rides, especially when a warmer day (or not so cold day) comes through.
I want to ride until my legs falls off. Depending on your training to date, that might be a short ride or a long one. Remember that training load is:
Duration x Intensity x Frequency
How often you ride, how long you ride (miles or hours), and how hard you ride, all determine your “base fitness”. Duration and frequency are the easy ones to track. Intensity becomes somewhat harder unless you use a power meter on your bike (and then it’s relatively easy).
The rule of thumb. Since this is a cycling blog, let’s use the rule of legs. A pretty common training concept is to increase weekly mileage or duration no more than about 10%. If you have a good base in your legs, that works fine to help manage fatigue and prevent injuries that might occur from ramping up too quickly. If you’ve got nothing else to go on, then use that as a guide.
More rules. Okay, not rules but more like guidelines.
- Keep track of your morning weight. Do this to track hydration status more than anything else. Some folks are better than others at replenishing after a ride and if you’re not as good as you can be, this is something that might help you. If you have weight loss as a goal, you can see the longer term trends by gathering more data points.
- Use morning heart rate. I’m not a big fan of heart rate in general because of the myriad external (non-performance) factors that influence it, but here is a good example of how heart rate can provide some insights. An elevated morning heart rate might just indicate that you have not fully recovered from your previous workout and that you may need to go a little easy or take a day off.
- Learn to listen better. Get in tune with how you feel and use that as a guide for when you might need rest. Your body is talking to you; it’s up to you to listen closely. However, don’t let poor motivation be an excuse to skip your workout.
- Eat better and sleep more. You’ve heard it before. Good nutrition can have a significant impact on your health, energy levels, and recovery. Sleep is critical to recovery as well. Plan these as much as you plan your workouts because you only get better with good recovery. Don’t waste your workouts by not recovering properly.
Sometimes it’s okay to break the rules. Just know the consequences (fatigue, soreness, etc.). Now get out there and ride until your legs fall off!