Be Your Own Coach: The Race Season
Having a coach is a terrific way to self-improvement, but it’s not the only way. Whether you work with a coach or not, it’s essential that you have a basic understanding of coaching theory to facilitate communication and so you don’t become a mindless robot. In this segment, we take a look at some of the things to consider during the race season.
So now that you have a basic understanding of the way a training program works, it’s time to get into the nitty gritty. What types of intervals should be done at different times of they year? How long should each phase of the training season last? How do I work it all into my busy schedule? Once again, I’ll answer all those questions in as general a manner as possible so that you can take that information and apply it to your own personal situation no matter how unique it may be.
The season should be broken up into at least 4 Sections, Complete Rest, Transition, Base and Strength Building and Race Training. First up in the heat o summer here in the Northern Hemisphere is the “race” season. In the coming months, we’ll take a look at the other segments of your season.
The Race Season
Now for the fun stuff. You’ve done your base miles and the racing season is upon us. I like to start my Intensity phase at least 4 weeks before the first race. This way, you have a base of intensity under your belt that can be built on with the intensity you get from racing.
Once again, I’m going to have to go into some more generalities here. These guidelines will work for most riders most of the time, but you will probably have to adapt them to your own personal body type and experience to get the most out of your training. Most importantly, I’m going to make it very simple and easy to follow. This might be a good time to refer back to the first article which deals with setting up training and recovery cycles.
Month 1 means threshold work. First, you must find your threshold, (I won’t get into the debate about anaerobic threshold lactic threshold and whether either of them even exists) which for our purposes I will define as the effort level that you can sustain for a 20 minute all out time trial. Based on the results of that 20 minute test (which you can do repeatedly throughout the season to measure progress), you will do 15 minute intervals right at your threshold power or heart rate or slightly below. You can do these on the flats or a mild grade depending on what you are training for and what your strengths and weaknesses are.
You can do 2 to 3 intervals per workout and 2 to 3 workouts per week. Although racing season is coming up, I recommend continuing with a cadence of 70 to 75 for this first month of intervals. The only difference is you will be adding in one day a week of high spin intervals or “no load revving”. This means 10 to 30 minutes on a flat uninterrupted road at a cadence of around 120 rpm. This will seem difficult at first, but your body will adapt quickly.
Month 2 means anaerobic intervals. It will be tempting to continue with the threshold work since most likely you’ve seen some pretty good gains over the last few weeks, but the body has an incredible ability to adapt and usually after 3 weeks, it has adjusted enough so that the same kind of work won’t put the needed stress on your body to cause adaptation. This is why it is important to vary your training at least slightly once per month whether it is weightlifting, intervals or cross training.
For this second month, I recommend 3 minute intervals at the hardest possible pace that you can hold for the length of the interval. Start with sessions of 2 to 4 intervals twice a week and build to 4 to 6 intervals 3 times per week. During this first month of anaerobic work, I still recommend keeping your cadence below 80. Keep in mind that with the lower cadence, your muscles will be doing more of the work so your heart rate might not go up as high as it would at a higher cadence. Also, it may take up to 2 minutes (of a 3 minute interval) to get your heart rate into zone 5 so if you have a power meter, use that but if not, you will have to do these mostly on Perceived Exertion. The most important thing with these intervals is that your effort remain consistent from start to finish and that your last interval be as good as your first.
Month 3 gets a little more confusing. You’ll want to go back and do some more threshold work, but you’ll also want to continue with the anaerobic intervals. This is where you must use a little intuition to figure out not just what works for your body, but also what type of intervals will be most beneficial not just for the races or rides that are coming up, but your overall plan for the season as well. Generally, as you progress, your threshold intervals will get longer (up to an hour for more experienced riders) and your anaerobic intervals will get shorter (as short as :45 seconds), depending on what you are training for.
From there on, you will continue to mix up the intervals based on all the factors I mentioned above. Make sure to throw in a high spin interval once a week but also try to find time to do the occasional low cadence interval to keep your leg strength up. I tend to shy away from the zone 3 intervals during the race season because they are not particularly race specific, but it doesn’t hurt to throw one in once a month. Most importantly, get creative, think, analyze your training log and use intuition, common sense and logic to create the program that works best for you.
Next month, we’ll answer some of the most common coaching questions I get on a daily basis. Feel free to write me at [email protected] if you have questions of your own that you would like to see answered in the next article.
Josh Horowitz is a USCF Certified coach and an active Category 1 racer. For more information about his coaching services and any coaching questions you may have, check out his website at LiquidFitness.com