Training in the AM

Training in the AM.

Almost all of our clients have limited time available to train, for most it is 1-2 hours a day during the week. A large amount of our clients slot this hour into their evenings, hopping on the bike when they are home from work, or after dinner. This is not an ideal situation, as they are tired from a day in work, it is harder to find the motivation to train, and training too late in the day can disrupt sleeping patterns. Why not train in the morning before work? You are at peak physical freshness, and it lets you start the day on a high note, and gets the endorphins flowing, putting you in a good mood for the rest of the day.

Late Nights

“But I’m tired in the mornings!” I hear you say. Well why is that? Do you go to bed too late? For most people the ideal time to fall asleep is around 10-11pm, this is based off of our circadian rhythm. The hours between 10pm and 2am are the peak times for sleeping, with recovery hormone release peaking during these hours. The earlier you are asleep, the more effective your recovery will be, leaving you wake up fresh and ready for the next day. Do you really need to spend those extra hours every night watching Netflix?

Benefits

If you get to sleep earlier, waking up earlier will come naturally. If you get to sleep around 10-11pm, waking up at 7 or even 6am (Yes 6am! People actually wake up at this ungodly hour!) becomes easier. Suddenly you have an hour to train each morning pre breakfast, and you are no longer tired from a hard day in work, you are fresh, motivated and ready to train! You may think that this routine is not for you, but after a few weeks of doing this you will never want to go back. Your mood is elevated throughout the day, your sleep quality improves, and training becomes easier. What’s not to like? You too can become that annoying “morning person” that people love to hate!

 

I know this approach may not be suitable for everyone, those that work before 9am or have an early school run it may be difficult. However if your circumstances allow for t this is an excellent approach to take, and can have make a huge positive impact, not only on your training, but also on your life outside of cycling

 

Know Your Numbers And Set Threshold

How to begin setting up your personal training zones

You’ve probably heard people talking about ‘the numbers’, from the club rider at the local time trial, to Bradley Wiggins’ hour record, or the release of Chris Froome’s performance data.

What are these numbers? In basic terms, they’re simply a means of describing physiological performance, which can be measured in a standardised way.

Here I’m going to explain what your most important number is – your ‘threshold’ – and describe a key performance test you can do to find that number. Based on that data, I will then explain how to set up your unique training zones.

This series is about getting more speed with less training and in the previous #2 post of the series I explained the need to embrace this new knowledge and method. Therefore, taking the time to get a grasp of these strategies is a key step in your development as an athlete and the gateway to structured, time-efficient, smart training.

As a first step on this journey I’ve described the three basic physiological systems which have to be targeted, and summarised the main training zones. By getting to know your threshold and setting training zones as I’ll describe here, you can begin tailoring training to your precise fitness levels, monitor your fitness progression, and begin getting more speed from less time.

Threshold: the key number

“What’s your threshold?” This is the type of question riders in the know ask each other, rather than “what is your average speed” – they are aware of the importance of intensity and training zones. Threshold is the key variable in this.

Threshold is a shorthand for ‘functional threshold power’, or FTP for short (other similar terminology is also used: lactate threshold, anaerobic threshold and so on, but they all essentially mean the same thing to the everyday rider).

In previous post I explained threshold, or FTP, as the maximum effort you can maintain over an extended period (usually measured over one hour). It’s the ‘threshold’ of effort beyond which the body can no longer process accumulating lactate in the muscles and you begin slowing down. This is a key indicator of your fitness level.

Your protocol for measuring threshold

A word of warning before we begin: some principles and methods I’m introducing here may seem daunting. But the time spent getting to grips with them will be minimal compared with the overall time you spend training. It’s worth sticking with – in my experience, the biggest boost riders get is through adherence to zonal training and, with a little perseverance, you’ll be talking to friends in your new language in no time.

There are various ways of measuring threshold. You can go into a sports lab and get it done accurately through blood analysis. But this is expensive and, if you want to establish whether your threshold is raised after six weeks’ training, you have to go back and get it done again. And so on.

On the other hand, the test protocol I’m describing here is easy to do and adequate for most amateur riders. By ‘protocol’ I mean a way of doing it the same way all the time. Consistency is important. While there are various protocols described by different coaches and authors, the most important thing is that you stick to one method, or protocol, all the time. 

When and where?

When you do the test is an important part of the protocol. If you do one test after a very heavy training block, and another after a recovery or rest period, the results will be inconsistent in relation to each other because you are not following the protocol.

The time preferred by most for the test is towards the end of a recovery period, when you are pretty fresh and you can give your best effort.

Similarly, you should repeat the test on the same route. It should have no interruptions such as traffic lights or roundabouts. Many riders like a slight uphill gradient.

Heart rate (HR) and power differences

While threshold is the maximum effort you can sustain for an hour, the all-out part of the test doesn’t actually last for an hour. The basic reason is that it would be so hard that most people just wouldn’t be motivated enough to do it. So, we have a shorter method which will give an equally accurate result and the all-out effort lasts for just 30 minutes if you are using heart rate (HR) and 20 minutes if you are using power.

The reason you need to do 30 minutes if using HR is because it takes some time for your HR to pick up to match your effort – so-called ‘heart-rate lag’. The first 10 minutes are for your heart rate to get up to threshold HR, and you then only record the final 20 minutes average.

The protocol – finding your threshold

The following is a basic protocol for measuring your threshold – it begins with a preparatory phase:

  • Warm up in your usual way, for at least 15 minutes.
  • Do an all-out three-minute effort that’s evenly paced – this helps get the body ready for the effort ahead.
  • Follow this with a five-minute easy recovery.
  • Next comes that actual test, which varies slightly with heart rate or power. For power, do a 20-minute, all-out effort similar to a time trial – your effort is the maximum that you can sustain for that period. Get your average output in watts for the 20 minutes either by starting and stopping your computer, or inserting laps. For heart rate, do a 30-minute effort similar to above, but only get your average heart rate for the final 20 minutes.
  • Follow with a cool-down.
  • The final stage is to calculate your threshold from the data you collected. This is the power or heart rate figure recorded, minus 5%. This deduction estimates what the figure would have been for the full hour.
  • For example, if your average power was 270 watts, then your threshold (or FTP) is 256.5 watts (270 x .95 = 256.5).
  • Or, if your heart rate was 170 beats per minute, then your threshold heart rate is 161.5 beats per minute (170 x .95 = 161.5).
  • Now you have a key number – your threshold or zone 4 – and you can begin to calculate your other training zones.

How often?

If you’re using power I recommend repeating the test every six weeks. This allows your body enough time to adapt to your training programme – and you will need to recalculate your zones if you are improving.

On the other hand, if you are using HR, your threshold heart rate does not change significantly once you are reasonably fit and there is no point in repeating the test, other than to confirm or refine the figure. Also, unlike power, a high threshold heart rate is not an indicator of more performance.

There is a learning curve involved in doing the test satisfactorily and it may take a little practice to do it consistently, and especially to measure the effort evenly. Remember, follow the protocol!

Setting your zones

Now you have your key number – your threshold – it’s simple to set your zones by doing some basic calculations based on the table below.

In this table I have included ‘the rate of perceived exertion’ (RPE) for each zone – this is what it feels like. With a little practice you will be able to judge which zone you are in reasonably accurately just from feel and it’s important as, in time, you should get to know your body and not be dependent on ‘the numbers’ all the time.

I have also included the physiological system that’s being most developed in each zone but, as I pointed out, it is vitally important that training in the higher intensities will also bring you gains in endurance.

While this table brings together much of what I wrote about in this and the previous blog, you can simplify it into just one column – the zones with the calculated figure based on either your power or HR data.

Zone   Based ‘rate of perceived exertions’ (RPE) – how it ‘feels’ Based on power* Based on heart rate**
 1 Aerobic endurance (AE) ‘Recovery pace’ – this feels very easy and you might find it difficult to go this slow as you’ll think you are wasting your time. Less than 55% Less than 81% of LTHR
 2  Aerobic endurance (AE) Steady endurance – a pace you would ride steady at for two to four hours without putting yourself under pressure; conversation is easy.  55% to 74%  81% to 89% of LTHR
 3  AE/LT  Moderately hard but sustainable; some limited conversation.  75% to 89%  90% to 93% of LTHR
 4a  Lactate threshold (LT) Sometimes described as the ‘sweet spot’ – quite difficult; conversation in short sentences only.  85% to 93%  92% to 95%
 4  Lactate threshold (LT) Time trial pace – the maximum output you can hold for around 30 minutes or more; it hurts; definitely no conversation. 90% to 104%  94% to 99% of LTHR
 5  VO2 max  Short, all-out efforts from 10 seconds to five minutes. 105% to 120% Measurement by HR is not reliable as HR may have not fully responded before effort is completed.
 6   VO2 max Extremely short, maximal efforts of a few seconds (not relevant to running). More than 120%  See above.

A little additional time spent now, understanding these methods and how your body works and gets fitter, will save you countless time with ineffective training methods. Adopting the principles I’m advocating will mean you can implement training prescriptions, monitor progress, compare yourself with peers, and tax the specific physiological systems necessary for your target events.

Now you’re able to set your zones, in my next blog I will explain what a typical training week looks like based on this reasoning.

Cycling and Alcohol over Christmas – the Hard Facts

‘The facts about the relationship between alcohol and fitness may help to make sensible choices over Christmas’


By Tom Daly

Alcohol and Christmas seem to go together – ‘The Christmas Cheer’. Alcohol and fitness, however, aren’t a good combination and juggling these opposites can be tricky for some at this time of year.

The Christmas holiday offers the prospect of some extra precious daylight hours for training and more time for recovery. This combination is a great opportunity for entering the New Year with a significant bump in fitness levels.

On the other hand, with the wrong choices about alcohol, we can exit the holiday period feeling sluggish, bloated and guilty, and struggling to get back to the levels we were at before the festivities began.

Hard training even offers us a psychological excuse for alcohol excess: we persuade ourselves that we deserve a break; we will ‘work it off’ or ‘sweat it out’ during the next training session; those extra calories will disappear in no time with training in the New Year!

The temptations of work parties, meeting with friends and family, and the general festive atmosphere, can also lower our defences and shatter our normal discipline and routine.

Here, we offer you some of the facts about the relationship between alcohol and fitness and these may help to make sensible choices about alcohol use in the coming weeks.

 

Impaired Metabolism and Fitness Gain

Alcohol interferes with the way energy is metabolised and how muscle is developed through protein synthesis.

The liver is busy dealing with the alcohol toxins and struggles with the normal metabolic process of energy production and muscle replenishment.

In short, the metabolic interference reduces the training effect and fitness gain.

 

Poor Recovery and Illness

Alcohol impairs recovery significantly and increases the risk of illness. It increases the levels of cortisol – the stress hormone – and interferes with the sleep cycle which is crucial for recovery and healing.

This combination can result in a reduction in growth hormone by up to 70 per cent. This combination lowers our illness defences and hinders recovery.

 

Weight Gain

The ‘empty calories’ of alcohol obviously produce weight gain – its seven calories per gram is almost as much as pure fat.

But it isn’t just the alcohol – we are usually tempted to eat more high-calorific food with drink and the combination will undo a lot of our weight loss efforts.

 

Dehydration

Alcohol is a powerful diuretic and this promotes the production of urine. This can lead to severe dehydration, sometimes for many days depending on how much we drink.

When dehydrated, we are much more vulnerable to injuries such as muscle pulls and strains, and it has an overall detrimental effect on training and recovery.

 

Abnormal Heart Rhythm

There is strong evidence that alcohol may trigger cardiac arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm) and atrial fibrillation in those who have a propensity for it.

In this case, using a hard training session to clear the system after alcohol excess is not a good idea.

 

Injury

The risk of being injured on the road is increased the day after drinking. Alcohol residue continues to affect our co-ordination and dexterity.

Concentration suffers and reactions are slower. We all have those lucky escapes on the road from time to time, but we will be less ‘lucky’ after alcohol and the season can be wiped out from just one delayed reaction.

 

The Facts and the Choices

By presenting these facts we are not suggesting that alcohol shouldn’t be part of the holiday relaxation and celebration.

A lucky few abstain totally without any loss of enjoyment or sociability. Some are happy with an odd bottle of beer or glass of wine. More of us struggle with temptation!

We hope these facts will help in making good choices about alcohol during Christmas, and to hit January feeling fitter and stronger, without any feelings of guilt or regret.

Happy Christmas!

Three Key Areas it’s Never too Early to Work Hard on in Winter – #6 of Series

‘No longer should our racing category be determined by available training hours’


By Anthony Walsh, Head Coach at A1 Coaching

Traditional training philosophies dictated that we should ride for endless hours in the winter in order to develop an aerobic base and improve our aerobic efficiency. However, for those of us based in this part of the world, this is particularly problematic – the time we are being asked to log the highest volume is a time when the weather is at its worst.

In recent years there has been a break from traditional practices, with more and more top riders and sports scientists advocating a reverse periodization structure.

This system turns conventional wisdom on its head – taxing the upper training zones early in the training cycle. This is great news for us time-crunched athletes living in Norht-Western Europe, who don’t like to ride endless kilometres on cold, dark evenings.

By focusing on physiological systems from the top down we can ‘pull’ each system up and elicit a greater training adaptation than the traditional bottom up structure.

A1 Coaching’s 12-week winter training plan is built around emerging research, which can have profound effects for working or full-time student athletes who need to get the most out of limited training time.

No longer should our racing category be determined by available training hours. Adherence to a top-down training structure can mean riders who train fewer hours are able to excel where previously they were passengers in races.

This training philosophy is a marked divergence from traditional ‘old school’ training principles. During the 12-week vase period, riders will work with a specific focus on developing:

 

Threshold Power

We can increase ‘threshold power’ by working just below threshold (pushing it up) or just above threshold (pulling it up). Over the course of the 12-week ‘base period’, we’ll use both strategies to increase your ability to clear lactate.

 

VO2 Max Power

Traditional logic wouldn’t encourage the implementation of V02 efforts until late in the ‘build-phase’. However, we’ll utilise efforts ranging from 1-5 minutes throughout the Build-Phase to increase weekly ‘training stress scores’.

 

Maximum Sprint

Regardless of our targets for next season, there exists a body of literature to back up the use of lactate base sprints during our base phase. A welcome bonus from ‘training your sprint all year around’ is that the next time you come to the line sprinting for prizes, you can be confident this is a skill you’ve practiced over and over again.

By taxing these systems early in our macro training cycle, we can take advantage of increased freshness to deliver maximum adaptations.

Embrace the intensity revolution.

Using our Working Day to Improve as Bike Riders – #5 of Series

‘You can turn the mundane parts of your work schedule into a positive by re-labelling work time as ‘recovery time’


By Anthony Walsh, Head Coach at A1 Coaching

Often the major influence on a rider’s performance is not talent, but available training hours. If your training time is limited and you can’t get 10 hours or more per week training logged, there is a solution.

You can turn the mundane parts of your work schedule into a positive by re-labelling work time as ‘recovery time’. Training hours allow for the possibility of increased fitness levels. But that improvement is only realised when accompanied with proper recovery.

Although recovery is important for all athletes, full time workers need to place an increased emphasis on it. The training system we are advocating (low volume, high intensity) is predicated upon good recovery. This is one of the ways we’ll make huge gains on those who are attempting to pack high volume into an already busy life schedule.

There are a number of recovery strategies, which we’ll look, to utilise – stretching, foam rolling, and massage. Try to incorporate these simple exercises into your daily routine – we have hand outs and material to download on all these as part of this series we are running.

Another important area, which should be to the forefront of any riders mind, is nutrition. This is also something we can focus on while working. Cortisol is a hormone produced by the body in response to stress. Our brain is unable to distinguish between different forms of stress.

Physical stress (training), mental stress (work) and dietary stress (nutrition) combine to form our weekly stress allowance. If we exceed this allowance our bodies react to slow us down through sickness and injury. The goal for any athlete is to effectively manage this weekly stress volume.

Nutritional stress compromises our recovery by affecting sleep quality. For optimum recovery, a deep sleep known as the ‘delta phase’ must be achieved. When our cortisol level is elevated, delta is more difficult to accomplish.

Some stresses are necessary – positive stressors. We need physical stress in order to progress our fitness levels and we need to work (mental stress) to provide for ourselves and our families. However, other stressors can be labelled as ‘negative’. They bring us closer to our weekly stress allowance without any appreciable benefit – nutritional stress is one of these.

Refined, processed foods are high in calories but nutritionally void. This is the reason why after we eat at McDonalds we are hungry only a couple of hours later despite ingesting our daily caloric intake.

Weight gain is common when eating low net-gain foods. It’s important to be mindful of what we are putting into our bodies. A glance at the label of any commercial recovery drink or sports bar reveals a list you will hardly be able to pronounce. These are not real foods.

It’s possible to get all the benefits associated with these products for a fraction of the cost and without ingesting an array of unknown substances into our bodies.  Look to utilise home-made fruit smoothies with nuts and hemp as a recovery drink. And substitute sports bars with dates, bananas or similar high glycemic index fruits while on the bike.

We should be cautious not to get lost pursuing ‘marginal gains’ and ignore the huge performance benefits attainable through recovery. By focusing on including stretching and foam rolling in our daily routines and adding more fresh fruit and veg into our diet we will lower our weekly nutritional stress.

This will give us greater scope to train harder and recover faster.

Even if your hours are full during weekdays with work or college, we can be focussed on nutrition and recovery during that period and become better riders as meet our other commitments in life.

Embrace the intensity revolution.

Five Biggest Winter Training Mistakes I See Repeatedly – #4 of Series

‘I don’t like to see cyclists making the same basic mistakes that I made when I started out because of lack of information’


By Anthony Walsh, Head Coach at A1 Coaching

When I started out cycling, I basically engaged in a really long and drawn out game of ‘trial and error’. As an absolute newbie, I had no source of good advice and had no idea about what kit to wear, what to eat while out training, or what sort of training to do.

The early days threw up some pretty bizarre experiments. One noteworthy experiment on nutrition resulted in a friend and I riding through the Dublin Mountains in a four hour ride. In our wisdom, we decided if we rode without food or water we’d be supercharged with energy when we got into the race at the weekend. To cut a long story short, this proved to be very wrong – but we learned from the experiment!

I don’t like to see cyclists making the same basic mistakes that I made when I started out because of lack of information.

This was one of my big motivations to get involved in coaching.

From my personal experience, and from what we have learned working with the many clients who have come to A1 Coaching for help, I can identify 5 top mistakes that riders make – I hope you will avoid them.

 

1. Not training in zones

Some guys have Heart Rate Monitors and Power Meters but don’t know how use them properly. Others have prioritized other cycling-related purchases before adopting this technology.

Having this kit and, and learning how to use it effectively, is the single most effective investment you’ll make in your cycling development.

 

2. Training in tempo zone

There is a range of training zones and each has an associated physiological adaption. We need to spend the right amount of time in each zone to develop as a rider.

This may mean slowing down at times to facilitate going faster later in the week.

 

3 Training without event-specific requirements

Sitting down and developing your goals for the season is an essential exercise. Once you have these goals, begin to look at the demands of your target event.

We need to train with the demands of the event in mind. For example, if we are an A4 rider we know most races finish in a bunch sprint.

Therefore, it’s essential we develop our sprint ability all through the off-season.

 

4. No Focus on technique

There are many areas where we can get ‘free speed’.

For example, we can incorporate pedalling drills that teach us how to apply force more effectively through the full 360 degrees around the pedal stroke.

We can also learn to position better within the bunch or corner with greater fluidity.

 

5. Not having a plan

Today’s training session should make tomorrow’s success more likely.

We won’t stumble upon success; we need to plan for it and every session should have a purpose which is part of the broader plan.

For the time-crunched athlete, we need to make sure that every minute of every session is bringing us one step closer to our ultimate season goal.

Stop wasting your own time if you are training without a plan aimed at clear goals, and start now on that plan for 2016.

Embrace the intensity revolution.

How to Improve this Winter without Sacrificing Having a Life – #3 of Series

We're having a webinar where we explain how you can make massive gains inside 6 weeks with the right training programme and arrive for your key event in peak condition by following three critical factors.

‘Cycling shouldn’t be about lifestyle re-design – this series of articles is aimed at questioning and challenging norms’


By Anthony Walsh, Head Coach at A1 Coaching

As I’ve made my way through cycling, I’ve often heard a cautionary tale of cycling folklore.

It was said you must choose any two of the following: a relationship, work/college or cycling. But under no circumstances should you attempt to balance three. This series of articles is aimed at questioning and challenging norms.

Cycling shouldn’t be about lifestyle re-design. We are amateur riders; we cycle for fun but enjoy the challenge of competition or sportives. At A1 Coaching we work with clients who want to balance three of the above and we have found a way to make that happen for them.

It is possible to be a top A1 rider who is a family man and works 40 hours a week – if you know the system.

In order for us to make a physiological adaptation we need training stress. Training stress comes from the combination of duration and intensity. Some of us who have neglected career advancement and personal development or relationships can ride 15 plus hours per week.

But for the vast majority of us weekly duration is anchored.

 

There are two ways to skin a cat

When we take duration as a fixed number, let’s say 8 hours, intensity is the variable we must utilize in order to manipulate weekly training stress score. By adding in periods of high intensity we can make up for the shortcoming in duration. Weekly Training Stress is the goal – so there are two ways to skin the cat.

Unfortunately, for decades we’ve focused only on duration as a prescription for increased fitness levels. On a club ride, anyone who shows ambition to train at an intensity above zone one is branded a Winter Racer, December Champion or similar. It has been engrained into the psyche that intensity and intervals are taboo words in the winter.

We are told that if we attempt to train hard we’ll burn out mid season. A wall of fear is built to shelter those who want to train at 150 watts all winter. The guys who champion long slow miles are the same guys who you find in the car park after a cold wet race in March discussing how they only managed to hang on for ten of the sixty mile race.

They seem amazed that they aren’t in the winning move because they’ve completed all the training they were told – they made sure to keep the intensity down all winter. So what went wrong?

As I’ve made my way in the sport I’ve been told to go slow or you won’t develop mitochondria – this is where carbohydrate, protein and fat is broken down by inter alia oxygen and energy is produced. What I was never told was that mitochondria production can be increased threefold by interspersing periods of high intensity training into my long slow miles.

If you need to balance family, work and training you need to embrace intensity this winter.

Follow this link to watch me map out my ideal routine, where I take you behind the scenes of a perfect training week.

And remember; embrace the intensity revolution.

“Headless chicken” training and how Strava makes it worse – #2 of Series

We're having a webinar where we explain how you can make massive gains inside 6 weeks with the right training programme and arrive for your key event in peak condition by following three critical factors.

‘The biggest mistake I see repeated time and time again, is not training in pre-defined zones’


By Anthony Walsh, Head Coach at A1 Coaching

Over the past couple of years I’ve traveled all over the world, working with clubs and athletes.

The number one biggest mistake I see repeated time and time again, which is stopping athletes from maximising their available training time, is not training in pre-defined zones.

Zonal training is the key to maximizing your training hours and allowing you to peak at the right time for your target event. Zonal training is the idea that we should train at different intensities to stimulate a different physiological response. Racing and sportives have very definite (and known) demands which are placed on the body.

In order for us to effectively prepare for upcoming events we need to train the specific physiological systems associated with those demands.

A bi-product of not training in pre-defined zones is a culture that has developed around ‘average speed’; going out for a ride and determining its success by the average speed. There are a number of problems with using speed as your sole metric for judging performance.

For example, if you ride into a head-wind or up a hill your speed is likely to be lower than the converse. Therefore, you may have generated your personal best 20 minute power output into the head wind, but only averaged 25kmph, so you judge this ride to be a failure.

The main training-related problem with this emerging average speed culture (made worse by Strava) is that riders now ride around at a perceived effort of 7 out of 10 all the time.

So, whether you have one hour or three hours available, you tend to ride as hard as you can for that time.

In your mind this is the best way to make use of your available training time. In this way, unbeknown to yourself, you are just riding around in a ‘Tempo’ zone all the time and not actually making the best use of your available time. Riding around at ‘Tempo’ all the time leads to a very narrow range of physiological response in the body. That is, we get really good at riding around at this exact pace but poor at everything else.

An excess of Tempo riding is why you struggle to respond to changes of pace in your event or race, why you find it difficult to accelerate over the top of a climb and get dropped, and why you have no ‘pop’ when the final sprint is decided.

If you don’t currently train using a Heart Rate Monitor or Power Meter, go out and buy one. If you have one but are failing to use it properly it’s time to wake up and get knowledgeable.

If you have 20 plus hours per week to train you can ride around without a plan and sooner or later you’ll probably stumble on something that works. However, for those of us with busy lives, we need to embrace the science and start questioning the old-school methods.

Embrace the intensity revolution

Learning how to get more speed with less training this winter – a Series

‘Over a coming series of articles I am going to take you step by step on a transformation from the rider you are to one who is fulfilling your true potential’


By Anthony Walsh, Head Coach at A1 Coaching

I am on a mission to dispel the culture of disinformation that has built up around training principles and philosophies.

Over a coming series of articles I am going to take you step by step on a transformation from the rider that you are to one who is maximising his or her available training time to fulfil your true potential.

We are all looking for a way to get more speed with less effort; a way to get more return on our hourly training investment.

The answer isn’t to repeat the same preparatory steps from last season and hope for a different result.

 

Too many riders are riding around without asking the ‘Why?’ questions:

  • Why am I always falling short of my goals?
  • Why am I riding for 4 or 5 hours on a Sunday?
  • Why am I training so slow that I am freezing to death?
  • Why are other riders going faster?
  • Why am I listening to poor advice?

My goal is to get you to start questioning every aspect of your preparation.

If you are time crunched – balancing work, family and relationships with cycling – you need to start asking these hard questions.

Our time is valuable so it’s important that we learn to maximise the fitness return on our training investment.

Over the coming series or blog-posts and videos I’m going to reveal a step-by-step formula for success.

If you follow these steps I’ve no doubt you’ll be more likely to achieve your targets next season.

Through working with a countless number of athletes over the past few years, I’ve seen common trends in the mistakes that athletes make.

From this experience, and drawing from the most up-to-date research, I am going to teach you those strategies and techniques which will make you a better rider.

At A1 Coaching, we know that these strategies work. The topics covered will include:

 

Setting your Training Zones and Using them Properly

Most athletes are riding around at the same speed all the time or using flawed metrics like average speed or Strava for judging improvements. You will learn how to set and use the correct zones for training.

 

Periodize your Season

Your season should be broken into different periods of training to hit your priority events in the best form. You will learn about the preparation phase, base phase, build phase, specific phase, race phase and taper phase.

 

Get the most out of your Training Time by Utilising Intensity

Our body needs training stress to make a physiological adaptation (take it up a level and get fitter). I am going to show you the best way to increase your training stress so that you can achieve the same results in 8 hour’s training as your peers who are doing 15.

 

Get Free Speed through Technique Drills.

A proportion of riders are throwing away free speed by ineffective pedal stroke. I will outline how an even application of force over 360 degrees can bring you significant increases in power.

 

Set Effective Goals

Effective goal setting is a key part of preparation and I will discuss how goal setting, incorporating visualisation, will pull you towards that goal and act as extrinsic motivation through a long season.

 

Get Faster while Doing Nothing by Adopting Cutting Edge Recovery Strategies

Hard training only allows for the possibility of increased levels of fitness. Increased fitness only happens after we ‘absorb’ the training and I will outline some of the best ways of doing this through the best recovery strategies.

Embrace the intensity revolution.

Less Training and Better Results!

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“We need to stop the culture of dis-information about winter training”



By Anthony Walsh

This season more than ever I have been struck by the number of articles warning people of the dangers of becoming a Winter champion.

On a weekend ride anyone who shows ambition to train at an intensity above Zone one is branded a Winter Racer. It has been ingrained into the psyche that intensity and intervals are taboo words in the winter. We are told that if we attempt to train hard we’ll burn out mid-season. A wall of fear is built to shelter those who want to train at 100 watts or 15kmph all winter.

The guys who champion long, slow miles are the same guys who you find in the car park after a cold and wet event discussing how they only managed to complete forty kilometers. They seem amazed that they aren’t capable of riding the entire distance. They’ve completed all the training they were told – they made sure to keep the intensity down all winter. So, what went wrong?

As I made my way in the sport I was told you need to go slow or you won’t develop mitochondria (this is where carbohydrate, protein and fat is broken down by inter alia oxygen and energy is produced). What I was never told was that mitochondria production can be increased three-fold by interspersing periods of high intensity training into my long slow miles.

Put simply, training methods have changed and some athletes are failing to adapt to new methods. We need to stop the culture of dis-information, stop branding lads who want to train hard as winter champions and start embracing intensity as a necessary part of our training programs.

If you are an athlete who is balancing cycling with work, family and social commitments, this advice is of particular relevance for you. We are all looking for more output for less input and that is exactly what adding some intensity to your training will do. You will get more fitness for less training hours. Doesn’t sound like a bad deal eh?!

To begin to prepare for your target event once a week, for the next 4 weeks, preform each of these two sessions.

Session 1

The session duration is 1.5 hours.

The session should be completed in Zone 1 (6/10 Rate of Perceived Exertion – RPE) but should include three intervals of five minutes in duration where the athlete rides in Z5 (9/10 RPE) for the entire five minutes. Five minute recovery interval between each effort. Finish out the ride with some gentle zone 1 riding.

Session 2

Duration 2 hours.
The interval portion of this session is best completed on a hill.

Zone 1 (6 out of 10 RPE) ride except for 2 x 20 minutes Zone 4 (8 out of 10 effort) riding.
Recovery interval is 20 minutes

This session is designed to work on an athlete’s threshold power. Threshold power is the limiting factor when climbing. If we had a slightly higher threshold power we could hold onto the wheel over the brow of the hill or put the hurt on our friends as we power away on a climb.

If you can begin to incorporate these simply training tips into your schedule you’ll be well on your way to your most successful season yet.

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