Building the Perfect Beast
In my last article, Brian Walton from Cadence Performance Cycling Center and I went through a complete “clean slate” bike fit to set me up on a new ride. Over the coming months, I will be spending a lot of time on the indoor trainer and rollers to gain familiarity with the position and possibly refine it.
At the same time, the other main thing to do at the end of a competitive or riding season is to assess where you are at physically and technically, thereby permitting you to plan your goals and training objectives for the coming season. It’s all part of creating a road map and plan. You’re currently at Point A, in 2006 you want to get to Point B. Is the journey do-able and what do you need to do to get there?
In this article, we’ll plot out the Point A (2005) and B (2006) from the self-assessment perspective. In a follow-up article, we will then look at how testing and evaluation can be used to establish your training and planning objectives over the off-season.
The philosophy we have created at Cadence is all about the individual. Cycling and triathlon is a lifestyle choice and it is ingrained into the core of our athlete, whether it is the weekend enthusiast trying to get back in shape to where they competed as a youth (or as close as possible!) or the young professional competing on the NRC. It is all about the individual’s goals and how to get there.
Each athlete will need individual, personalized workouts to help strengthen their weaknesses and make their strengths even stronger. Along the way, realistic schedules must be adhered to so the coach may create the perfect training plan to prepare the athlete for their event. The training program must also have balance since almost all of our athletes have families and hectic work schedules. Balance is a key component because if we do not have outside support it will be difficult to achieve. No one wants to set out on a journey alone. To cultivate the support necessary to achieve goals, an athlete must have a balanced training plan to allow for proper attention to life’s other demands (e.g. family, work, etc.)
Every workout has a purpose and it can range from recovery, to structured intervals or simply fun. For example, almost all cyclists hit the group rides and long endurance miles early in the preseason (Nov-Dec) and forget about their goals for the next season. If the Master cyclist tells me that they are building base miles for the 80 km Master Nat’s Road race in July I usually come back with a response, “WHY?” If they tell me that they love the group atmosphere and have fun on these rides then I tell them “Go for it! Good answer! We’ll tackle the tough stuff later!”
So Where Was I Again? (Stephen)
We have written previously in Toolbox on the value of keeping and analyzing training diaries. Not only do they give you simple numbers, they give you valuable clues to your unique situation and physiology. If you have never systematically recorded your training before, I can’t urge you enough to make doing so one of your primary off-season goals. There are so many excellent training monitoring software out there now that there’s pretty much no excuse for not doing so.
Here are some of the basic numbers from my 2005 season, along with new things I have learned about myself in the process:
• Rode PowerCranks exclusively for 7 months (~6000 km).
• Total ~8000 km cycling and ~300 h training time total. Squash was my main off-season activity. Minimal resistance or core training.
• MAP of 285 W, VO2max 57.5 ml/kg/min in August prior to the accident.
• Pedaling smoothness greatly improved due to PowerCranks, with CompuTrainer SpinScan Number (a measure of pedaling smoothness calculated as average torque / maximum torque) going from ~55 pre-PC to a whopping improvement up to 75 during a field test done as part of my fitness.
• Racing was chaotic and scattered due to sabbatical travels: 1 race (New Zealand), 3 Gran Fondo rides in Europe. All of the local races occurred during my absence, so zero races locally against my peer group of Masters A racers here in Atlantic Canada.
• With the above in mind, I didn’t have specific fitness or racing goals too much, and most of my rides consisted of long solo rides to explore as much of NZ and Slovenia as possible. Therefore, very little specific training or high-end work.
Of course, the other major event was my accident at the end of August. This resulted in me taking an early end to my season. Though I was on the indoor bike fairly soon afterwards as part of my rehab, it was mainly 30 min of spinning against minimal resistance to keep some circulation going and my sanity intact. Never thought I would be so happy to ride indoors in September! I have recently ventured out on the road again, just in time for the onset of winter in Halifax!
New Year Resolutions (Stephen)
2006 is going to be quite different cycling-wise for a number of reasons. I won’t be traveling nearly as much, and certainly not for months at a time unless I want to court death again, this time at home! I intend to return to racing here in Atlantic Canada in the Masters A category, one where I have been competitive in the past.
However, with Masters racing, there’s always “young” blood coming up every season, and I know that the group has gotten both bigger and faster over the past couple of years. At the same time, with a young family and a busy life, I will be very lucky to approach 300 h of total training time over the coming season, with 250 h more realistic. Therefore, prioritizing targets and efficient training will become even more critical to achieve my racing goals.
Goals – Recipe for Success (Brian)
Goals are the your mission statement and the foundation of success. If you have a goal, write it down right now. Now you are committed, as without goals written down it’s all just empty talk. Probably the most famous example of goal-setting was the one Greg LeMond wrote on a sheet of legal paper when he was just a 14-year old starting in cycling. Among the goals:
• 1980 Olympic team (check except for boycott).
• World champion by age 23 (Check!).
• Tour de France winner by age 25 (Check!)
With goals and assessment (subjective-athlete questionnaire or quantifiable-testing data) in hand, the coach and athlete can plan the season.
In our talks, Stephen has laid it on the line and has given me his goals for next year as well as being realistic about his limitations (time) to achieving those goals. His first goal in 2006 will be getting back on the bike and competing in his first races in over a year. First up will be two Master’s criteriums in May and June followed by his main goal of breaking 1hour 5min for a 40km Time trial late June. His fastest, done with “Eddy Merckx” rules (i.e., no aero stuff!) so far is 1:02 back in the early 90’s when he was racing full time.
Stephen would also like to round out the year and compete in a two day stage race that includes a road race, time trial and criterium in early September. Stay tuned here in upcoming articles to watch Stephen’s progress and how we go about preparing him for the upcoming season.
What About that Accident (Brian)?
Stephen has been out of action for a good two plus months with a very serious accident so in Stephen’s case we need to take it easy and begin his training program cautiously. Initially I want Stephen to simply log in easy to steady miles outdoors (maximum 2 hours) for as long into December as possible to break up the long Nova Scotian winter from January through March. He will ride in his Endurance Zone (Zone 2) to help rebuild an aerobic base and foundation. We are also going to work on technique during this phase of his training program emphasizing one legged pedaling drills (OLD) and Fast Cadence (FC) to work on leg speed at easy aerobic power and heart rate levels.
If it is too cold to get outside then he will be breaking a sweat indoors on the trainer. Earlier, Stephen mentioned indoor trainers and rollers. These two tools are valuable AND they are very different. Rollers may be used for either recovery rides, technique exercises or working on high cadence and leg speed with minimal resistance. Add a belt and yes they can be used for increased resistance interval training but I have found this not to be the same level of resistance as an indoor trainer such as a Fluid Trainer or Computrainer provide.
To round out Stephen’s early winter training plan I want Stephen to continue cross-training two hours a week (and he does like squash but other examples could be running, soccer, basketball, inline skating, hockey or cross country skiing) and working on his core strength (3-4 x week). Examples of core training include pilates, resistance ball and yoga. These sessions may last anywhere from 20minutes to one hour. The main reasons for cross training include working on muscle balance, injury prevention and simply mental relief but Stephen will also use the cross training as rehabilitation from his crash. If he had more hours to train I would add weight training to the mix but training is about sports specificity and we will make up for no gym time with strength training on the bike. (Next month’s article.)
In our next article in this series, we will go through the baseline tests that we did to get the process rolling, and look through both the hard numbers and the observational data through this process. Stay tuned!
About Stephen and Brian:
Brian Walton has a uniquely well-rounded perspective on training and coaching. He was one of the top Canadian riders of the 80s and 90s, riding as a pro with 7-Eleven, Motorola, and Saturn, and winning the 1989 Milk Race and silver in the 1996 Olympic Points Race. He then became the DS and coach for Team Snow Valley, turning it into the top Elite Men’s team in the USA. He is currently the Director of Performance for Cadence Cycling in Philadelphia, and can be reached for comments or coaching inquiries at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stephen Cheung is an Associate Professor of Kinesiology at Dalhousie University, with a research specialty in the effects of thermal stress on human physiology and performance. Stephen’s company, Podium Performance, also provides elite sport science and training support to provincial and national-level athletes in a number of sports. He can be reached for comments or coaching inquiries at Stephen@pezcyclingnews.com.