What's Cool In Road Cycling

Real Rider: Balancing Travel and Hectic Lifestyles

As we continue to peer over Brian Walton’s shoulder in our Real Rider series, we see one of the biggest day-to-day challenges of putting the rubber onto the road as a coach – fitting reality into the theoretical ideal. February has been an excellent month of solid and regular training, but March will be putting lots of travel into the equation…

By Brian Walton

Traveling, Training and Balancing the Hectic Lifestyle
A term heard often in training is “frequency”. Frequency can mean overall or acute training volume (hours on the bike), number of training sessions or number of intervals. Although all of these factors play a role, many coaches and athletes focus too much on volume alone. Over time, this may lead to over-training, a feeling of staleness or perhaps even injury or illness.

Inevitably, all athletes have to deal with uncontrollable factors such as work, family, travel, weather, illness, etc. That is OK. That is just a part of living in the real world. And that is precisely where a good coach can help guide an athlete to make adjustments and overcome these obstacles. The most important, and often the most difficult, thing is to maintain consistency in your training despite not always being able to follow the training plan perfectly. In Stephen’s case, this has become an issue in March, his third month of training. Good progress has been made, but with work and travel, we are performing quite the balancing act. Let’s follow the guidelines to answer our progress report.

Moving In The Right Direction
GUIDELINE: Start with your goal date(s) and work backwards.
QUESTION: How are we progressing? Well it might not be “Full Steam Ahead” as it was last month but Stephen has completed 90+% of the work that was set out before him. More importantly he completed the prescribed intervals such as the lactate intervals and ascending-descending efforts to help his overall preparation for the racing season which focused on developing his strengths and weaknesses. Our sights are still set on our late May start to the race season. Check off February as mission accomplished!

Transition Time
GUIDELINE: Have a general annual or semi-annual training plan.
QUESTION: What is the goal of the training plan for March? As we build on the training over the past two months, early spring is a critical time for the road racer. At this time we look to increase volume and the intensity of the exercises. Exercises will be altered and refined by adding volume to a workout, increasing the amount of intervals or moving the intervals to the end of the workout to increase the difficulty and begin to simulate race efforts.

As you will see in Stephen’s weekly layout, there is not a significant change in the workouts overall this month, but we have added a little more volume (8-10 h/wk) and the intensity is increasing with the Lactate Intervals. As the coach, now is a very important time for me to monitor Stephen’s subjective feedback and how he is “feeling” after he has completed the workouts as well as how he feels during the week. Keeping an eye on morning resting heart rate, overall stress score or sleep quality and other recovery parameters is important to the long term success of his training program.

Piece Of Cake
GUIDELINE: Identify the athlete’s strengths and weaknesses and how and when you will implement different workouts to improve these areas.
QUESTION: How is Stephen progressing with the exercises I have prescribed? Below are two examples of the positive descriptions Stephen has given me over the last month. Although I can only give the reader a few examples of Stephen’s comments I can tell you that most of the comments are positive in nature. This tells me many things but most importantly I use this as a personal subjective gauge in regards to his ability to handle the volume and intensity of the current training program. In short Stephen is progressing well and I can increase the intensity and continue following the master plan.

NOTE: If the feedback is negative, it may be a sign that the athlete may be over-reaching heading into the over-trained “zone” or simply not having fun, which is critical at all levels of racing.

Example One: Prescribed Workout: 3x5min seated indoor seated hill repeats-5min recovery between efforts.

On 2/18/2006 Stephen wrote: Athlete Comments: HREP. Early morning ride on the Giant. 230 W and 150 bpm in 39×19 and 85 rpm. Definitely a good workout! Felt good despite left hip being a bit sore from squash still and right shoulder feeling all stiff.

Example Two: Prescribed Workout: 2 x 10min – 5min recovery between efforts.
3min SubLT, 4min SuperLT, 3min SubLT x 2

On 2/21/2006 Stephen wrote: Athlete Comments: Good solid workout with Stuart for company. Felt good and strong and able to keep 100 rpm in 52×19 for intervals. Good taxing workout but felt comfortable and in control. 215-235-215 W and 145 W recovery.

Seeing Is Believing
GUIDELINE: Set baselines number and establish testing dates.
QUESTION: When was the last time we evaluated Stephen’s performance? It has been three months since our last field test and below are the results of the new power zones. In addition to the positive subjective comments, this result really quantifies how Stephen is progressing.

The difference between his LT Power in early October and Feb 25, 2006 is 15 watts at the exact same heart rate of 147 bpm. NOTE: I’ll leave the theory of the testing procedures alone at this time but we used a 20 minute indoor flat time trial effort to calculate Stephen’s new lactate threshold (LT).

Stephen’s Indoor Field Test October 2005

Stephen’s Indoor Field Test Feb 25, 2006

Money In The Bank
GUIDELINE: Lay out the weekly training programs.
QUESTION: How did the training program fit into his daily schedule? The program fit well into Stephen’s February schedule and only a few minor daily changes needed to be made but early March is another story. Stephen had a conference in Arizona the first week of March and we increased the volume on some days to allow him to take advantage of the warm weather before the 15 hour conference days over the weekend. Travel also plays into the schedule and these “off days” really eat into the overall volume of training. This is when we really need to start talking about frequency and recovery.

Stephen has two more trips planned before the end of March and we will be hard pressed to reach our volume goal of 8-10 hours a week for month of March. Focus first on: 1) getting on the bike, and 2) getting in the quality or goal of the exercise and finally 3) the recommended volume. Don’t talk yourself out of exercising if your coach has an hour slated for you with 2 x 10min LT intervals. If you can only get in 20 minutes and one interval, go for it. THINK CONSISTENCY. THINK FREQUENCY. It’s all a little more money in the bank!

March Madness
And now the training program for the remainder of the month of March…

Monday: Off the bike, rest day. Stephen is traveling a lot this month and travel days across the country are truly not recovery days. Take this into account when jumping back on the bike for a hard days effort. Good hydration and proper nutrition must be closely monitored to help the recovery process.

Tuesday: 0.5 – 1 h of squash and 1.5 h of lactate (LT-SuperLT) intervals. 3 sets of 8min (2min LT, 2min SuperLT, 2min LT, 2min SuperLT) with 4min recovery between efforts. The purpose of this workout is to increase Stephen’s lactate threshold and of course time priority is given to time on the bike at this point in the year.

Wednesday: 30-45 min rollers. This exercise is designed to help Stephen with his leg speed, one of his relative weaknesses found during testing.

Thursday: 1:45 h with Hill Reps and OG exercises. As we transition into March we have added multiple exercises into the mix. 3x5min seated indoor seated hill repeats-5min recovery between efforts. Last one at race pace. No wattage or HR guideline – just go for it! Do OG exercises after Hill reps. After Hill reps: 3 x 5min OG (Over Gear) with 4min recovery between ints. The multiple exercises back-to-back are intended to really ramp up the intensity and get Stephen into the rhythm of racing, along with simulating some of the fatigue he’ll be experiencing in the 80-90 km races he will be in.

Friday: 1.5 hours with ACDC exercises. 5 x 4min-Fast Cadence (FC) with 3min recovery between ints. 110, 120, 130, 120rpm every minute. HR should not go above LT HR zone. Warm up 15min (Endurance Zone) before and endurance miles after FC exercises.

Saturday: Off the bike, rest and family activity day.

Sunday: 2.5 hours on the Computrainer. Endurance miles today but since you will be indoors make it as much fun as possible with a course on the Computrainer to simulate riding outside. I also have Stephen doing 2 sprints of 200m in length during the ride. Full recovery (10-15min) after sprints.

Below is a brief explanation of some of our Cadence workouts.

Rollers: Rollers are a great tool for improving technique, leg speed (ACDC) and recovery. Fast Cadence exercises are a great workout to do on rollers because most rollers have light rolling resistance and they require you to balance. Rollers can also be beneficial for recovery rides. Using the rollers late in the day after a hard morning ride or race can help speed the recovery process and relax sore muscles. Cadence, HR, and Power will vary depending on your experience and the quality and type of your rollers. If you are using the rollers for a recovery day ride adhere to the recovery ride heart rate and power limits.

Lactate Intervals (LI): Lactate Intervals are done in Zone 4a at 96-99% of LT HR (approximately 3 – 5 beats below your lactate threshold) and wattage of 96-99% of LT Power. Lactate intervals will help increase your power at your lactate threshold. They allow your body to become more efficient at clearing lactic acid as the muscles produce it. PE for Lactate Intervals should be 7.0 – 8.0 with cadence approximately 90 – 100. It’s critical to maintain the heart rate and power for these intervals – not the cadence. If you are training by HR alone make sure that you do not overshoot your zones by gradually building to Zone 4a. The interval starts when you increase power not when HR enters the proper Zone.

Consistency And Frequency
Last week Colin Sandberg, one of our Cadence coaches, concisely described the missed training workout phenomenon to me. “There are two ways people go when things start not to go as planned. One, they try to do everything exactly as planned, regardless of how busy they are, what the weather is like, how they feel, etc. and then they get sick, injured or burnt out. The other route is they miss a couple workouts and everything falls apart. I call this the “what the heck factor”, as in “I’ve already eaten one donut and broken my diet… what the heck, I might as well have 6!”. In the case of training, “I’ve already missed the prescribed 2 hours; I can only do 45 minutes, so I might as well just not do anything”. I feel like I am often telling athletes to not fall into this trap, do what they can (even if it’s a little bit), maintain consistency and keep me in the loop about what is going on so I can make adjustments to their training.

Until next month, be consistent and focus on the frequency and quality of training and recovery!

Stephen’s February training plan and guidelines

Stephen’s January training plan and guidelines

The broad outline of Stephen’s plan and his initial workload levels


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 [email protected].

Stephen Cheung is the Toolbox Editor and an Associate Professor of Kinesiology at Dalhousie University, with a research specialty in the effects of thermal stress on human physiology and performance. Cycling keeps him sane in the turmoil of being a scientist, award winning professor, husband, father to two young boys and also running his own sport science company on the side. He can be reached for comments at [email protected].

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