What's Cool In Road Cycling

“Being John Crowley” Part 2: Get Back To Basics

Welcome back to the latest installment of “Being John Crowley,” (you can insert your own name here) the game we can all play at home as we build a trainig program for a real rdier with a real life. When we last left our hero…

We first met our “Real Rider” hero John Crowley , we discussed some of his major goals and his background in the sport to get an idea of his strengths and limiters on the bike. Equally important, we got an idea of his real-life challenges as he tries to fit training into a hectic job as a vice-principal at a high school (one that regularly invited my high school basketball team to their tournaments so everybody else would have someone to beat up on and ultimately leading me to take up cycling!).

Now, as a scientist and coach myself, what do I think about John’s setup so far? Two major inter-related points spring to mind. Remember – the point of this series is to demonstrate how to apply training theory to real-life, so think through how some of these concepts may apply to your own situation. See if you agree or disagree with me, and feel free to email me with any comments or questions [email protected].

Vancouver has a great cycling scene because there are so many great group rides and training races. This includes group rides on so many different types of terrain throughout the year and the Tuesday night world championship crit series, making it very easy to take the “race into shape” route. A pattern of making up for limited time by focusing on hammer sessions is evident from JC’s description, and is somewhat difficult to avoid avoid given his work schedule. Why is this a concern?

First – Joe Friel makes a nice analogy that endurance is the base and high-intensity work is the tip of your fitness pyramid. Physiologically, a strong base of endurance is an absolute necessity to maximize the benefits from high-intensity work. Without it, your body does not have the ability to absorb the stress from high-intensity work, and it becomes not just ineffective but very easy to overtrain. This is offset somewhat by John’s long history in the sport, but I remain concerned that JC focuses too much on group hammer rides and not enough on building endurance.

Second – One of JC’s training priorities is weight maintenance or decrease while maintaining power output to improve climbing abilities. Constant high-intensity rides will not aid in this goal, because they rely primarily on carbohydrates for fuel and not on fats, and burning fat is the major objective in weight loss.

Let’s take a real-life example from a completely dissimilar sport to cycling. One athlete I worked with was among the top squash players in Canada but had never broken through to the top. Worse, she was in danger of being leapfrogged in the rankings by a number of competitors. Squash is all about repeated high-intensity bursts over 60-90 min, and most of her training consisted of sprinting intervals. When we hooked up, I started her on a steady diet of long aerobic runs before I would allow her back into doing intervals. As a result, not only did her aerobic fitness measured on a treadmill increase, her weight dropped and allowed her to move around the court better. Her improved fitness also gave her a huge psychological boost because she became absolutely confident that she could outlast her opponent. She ended up with her best season ever, winning an international tournament and also the Canadian Nationals for the first time ever. Interestingly, the previous top-ranked player was also a marathon runner.

So my advice to JC is that, while tempting and easy, he should forgo at least one of his group rides in favour of a long aerobic ride either solo or with like-minded buddies. Given his long history, he probably won’t need much more endurance work. This will aid in both weight control and also give him much better return for the “pain train” sessions.

Next article, we’ll get JC’s comments on this suggestion, and also periodize his season to target his major races. Keep the comments coming!

About Stephen:
Stephen Cheung is an Associate Professor of Kinesiology at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, with a research specialty in the effects of thermal stress on human physiology and performance. He has been an avid roadie since beginning university in the mid-eighties, and still has non-indexed downtube shifters on his winter bike and wool jerseys hanging in his closet. He can be reached for advice or comments at [email protected]

Like PEZ? Why not subscribe to our weekly newsletter to receive updates and reminders on what's cool in road cycling?

Comments are closed.