What's Cool In Road Cycling

ToolBox: Refining the Plan

As we continue to peer over Brian Walton’s shoulder in our Real Rider series, we begin to see the importance of the coach-athlete interaction when it comes to refining and honing the training program. This time, we take a look at both the feedback loop and the first stages of adding some intensity into the mix.

By Brian Walton

We are now into the second month of Stephen Cheung’s Real Rider season and I must say Stephen has really made some nice progress. Check out our Real Rider article from January forthe broad outline of Stephen’s plan and his initial workload levels to fully appreciate where we are heading with this month’s program. I’ll now answer the guidelines I set up as we transition forward into February.

Guideline: Start with your goal date(s) and work backwards.
Question: Are we on track? With a successful January under our belt and almost all the exercises (training days) completed, how we go about creating the program to meet Stephen’s goals has not changed during the month of February. Our sights are set on late May early June and we are right on target for a successful start to the season.

As a side note, sickness, crashes, family or work obligations will derail every athlete’s program in the course of the year, but a good coach and dedicated athlete will always find a way to adjust, reevaluate, and move forward in a positive manner.

Guideline: Have a general annual or semi-annual training plan.
Question: What is the goal of the training plan for February? The focus for the month of February will be to build on the positive gains in January and progress into intermediate exercises (combining technique with strength and/or speed) to improve leg speed and muscular strength. The intensity level of exercises will also increase to gradually simulate the specific demands of racing.

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 feedback that Stephen has given me and how his concise notes will lead me to ask a few questions to better his training program.

Example One: On 1/26/2006 Stephen wrote: “ACDC. 4×5 min of cadence pyramids. Feeling more comfortable at 115 rpm and able to sustain it for longer periods of time than yesterday. Working on getting up to 120 rpm. Pyramids of 110, 115, 120, 115, 120, 115 rpm for 1 min each. Legs feeling a bit fatigued in afternoon, more that they have had a good workout than shattered sensation. Still have the damned tickle in back of throat.”

This is nice, honest, concise details explaining the difficulty Stephen has with leg speed, one of his weaknesses. The actual numbers allow me to track his improvement over the course of the next month. Add in the comment about looming sickness and I’ll remind him to look after himself and err on the side of caution.

Example Two: On 1/31/2006 Stephen wrote: “OG workout with PC (Power Cranks). 5×5 min at 60 rpm and 145 HR. Definitely a hard effort with the PCs but did the whole 70 min ride no problems, riding at 92-96 rpm when not on the intervals. Legs definitely feeling the effort from a very hard day with the tough squash match in morning.”

We decided to combine the OG exercise and power cranks into the same workout and transition this exercise into February to combine the One Legged Drills (technique) and Strength into one exercise to free us up for another day of leg speed exercises.

Guideline: Set baselines number and establish testing dates.
Question: When was the last time we evaluated our performance? It has been over three months since Stephen tested; therefore I will have Stephen complete a field test to provide us with new heart rate and power zones for the coming months.

Guideline: Lay out the weekly training programs.
Question: How did the training program fit into his daily schedule? Originally, I proposed a double workout on Sundays to build extra endurance, consisting of an endurance ride in the morning and then some squash later in the day for cross-training.

Below is an excerpt from his training log. This comment initiated a phone call, not to give him a scolding but to open a dialogue between the two of us and attempt to find a solution to balance his training with family obligations.

Athlete Comments: ”Family commitment means that this is simply not possible to go somewhere for an additional workout on Sundays. We’ll have to add workout on Saturday on the bike and I can get in Xtraining Mondays if needed instead. As the weather improves I can get out for longer road rides too.”

In the course of our conversation, we mutually decided that, given Stephen’s work schedule, Sunday is important family time, but also that the double workout day is important. Given work and family schedules, we looked at scheduling the double on Tuesdays and/or Thursdays instead.

And now the revised training program for the month of February…

Monday: Off the bike, rest day. Relax and get the necessary evils completed today. Make sure you are not burning the candles at both ends and you are getting enough sleep. There’s a big difference between a professional and non-professional cyclist’s recovery day, but still look after yourself! These recovery days must be closely tracked over the long term to avoid putting you in a state of being over trained. (Today is Stephen’s catch-up-at-work-day.)

Tuesday: 30min-1hour of squash and 1.5hours of ascending-descending (AC/DC) exercises on the trainer, 4 sets of 5min with 5min recovery between efforts. The purpose of this workout is to continue to work on Stephen’s leg speed.

Wednesday: 1.5 hours of SubLT-LT intervals. 3 x 6 min (2 min SubLT, 2 min LT, 2 min SubLT- 4 min recovery). Having put in a solid foundation of aerobic training mainly at endurance levels, this is our first introduction into pushing the aerobic capacity upwards.

Thursday: 40min rollers. Tuesday’s and today’s workouts are designed to help Stephen with his leg speed, one of his relative weaknesses found during testing. If time permits, add some squash for extra cross-training and variety.

Friday: 1.25 – 1.5 hours Hill Reps. We are mixing both muscular strength and higher aerobic training.

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

Sunday: 2 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.

Below is a brief explanation of some of our Cadence workouts that are new this month.

Ascending/Descending (AC/DC): A variation on the Fast Cadence workout, but instead of holding one cadence throughout, your cadence will increase and decrease throughout the effort. Focus on staying relaxed and keeping good form during the intervals. Your butt should not bounce and your hips/shoulders should not rock. Concentrate on having a smooth and efficient pedal stroke. 2 x 5 (5) min. Cadence changes each minute (110, 120, 130, 120, 130 rpm with a max. rpm sprint in the last 15 seconds.)

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. This interval will help increase your power at your lactate threshold. They allow your body to become more efficient at clearing the 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.

Hill Repeats (HREP): Climb a hill in the Super-LT wattage/HR zone (zone 4b) for a duration of 3-20 minutes (will be specified by your coach). The interval begins when you start the climb, not when your HR reaches zone 4b. Cadence should be 70-90, but the gradient of the climb will play a significant factor. These intervals can also be performed on an indoor trainer by raising the front wheel six inches or more off the ground. PE should be 8.0 out of 10.0. Hill repeats increase your power at your individual climbing lactate threshold.

See you again next month!

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 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 at [email protected].

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