Eliminate the Unnecessary

A quick time trial is a very time effective training method.

I often recommend VO2 max and threshold power interval training as the most effective training methods.

Though, it would be too extreme to devise the ultimate time effective training program including nothing but intervals and race days.

A more realistic approach to the 80/20 rule would be to eliminate some of the 80% that have the least impact on your performance.

In simple terms, you should try to reduce time spent on training activities that add the least value to your performance.

Examples of Time Ineffective Cycling Training

➔ Recovery rides
➔ Social rides
➔ Long slow distance training (LSD)

The above mentioned rides are categorized as time ineffective. This is not because they do not add value, but because you have to spend a lot of time on these activities compared to the outcome. For example, recovery rides can potentially help you recover better from hard training sessions, but you are also spending quite some time on a low-intensity activity.

From a strict time effective perspective, you would be better off eliminating the recovery ride. You will save more time for your other priorities in life.
Many cyclists will argue that they cannot skip their recovery rides because they are so crucial. If you have the same opinion, ask yourself the following question:

From a strict performance perspective, if you take a day off, which day would hurt your performance most? The recovery day or the high intensity session with interval training?

Recovery rides, social rides or long slow distance training have other positive effects and if you eliminate these sessions you will miss out on these benefits. But you cannot have it all.

When you analyze your training in the mirror of time effectiveness, high intensity workouts are going to be the core training sessions that should never be reduced in volume. In fact, you might be able to increase your high intensity training because your overall training volume is significantly lower.

A positive side effect to eliminating low-intensity workouts

➔ You get more focus and quality into your remaining training sessions

It might sound obvious but you will become a better and more competitive athlete simply by spending more hours riding at a high and competitive intensity.

If you do more training at a competitive intensity, you will begin to ride your bike faster, feel more comfortable in the peloton, sit in a more aerodynamic position and gain vital experience to handle your bike in more stressful situations.

There is also a positive psychological side effect to riding fast; you teach your brain to ride fast and maintain full concentration when you ride your bike. Imagine what adaptations your brain makes when the majority of your training is low or moderate intensity?

Your success ratio increases when you perform fewer and shorter training sessions. It is a good feeling to know that you have followed the scheduled plan and that is much easier when you do not train a huge amount. It might sound obvious, but many riders are actually pretty stressed up struggling to follow a longer, over-ambitious training plan.

4 comments… add one

  • Jason Keck

    I am a huge proponent of time effective training for cycling and other sports. I have found cycle sprint intervals to be the most effective training for this. Many studies have shown that the best way to train for endurance sports is to do small amounts of very high intensity exercise. I have even met professional triathalon and marathon runners who train primarily by running sprints to exhaustion and do not run more than 5km in preparation for races. It seems counterintuitive but i think diminishing returns are huge in endurance training. Definitely going to check out this book.

  • Michael I

    I totally agree with Jesper B. M. in that the above mentioned rides are not effective in a time perspective. And the less you exercise the more the volume-based training, you should exclude. Personally I train no more than 5-6 hours a week, so I work for an approx 50/50 rule – and with great success. This means that 2 ½ -3 ½ hours of training is in the zone just below and right on FTP and VO2-max. Almost all training sessions and the ideas behind are inspired by Jesper Bondo Medhus work. Two weeks ago I participated in the National Masters TT Championships, where I used an adapted version of the VO2-max booster program up to competition, which worked so well that I will do it again. That being said, it is still interesting that many coaches prefer a lot of LSD training because this kind of training in the long run, is said to be the most rewarding. Not the most “effective”, but most “rewarding”. I found this article from SPORTSSCIENCE 13, 32-53, 2009.

    http://sportsci.org/2009/ss.htm

    The most interesting part is the case study of former pro soccer Knut Anders Fostervold (page 47-48). Fostervold had over a period of 2 ½ years trained approx. 8 ½ hours per week of which 45 minutes was on VO2-max-level. Then… “Fostervold initiated cooperation with the Norwegian Olympic Center and his training program was radically reorganized. Weekly training volume was doubled from 8-10 h to 18-20. Training volume in Zone 2 was reduced dramatically and replaced with a larger volume of training in Zone 1. Training in Zone 5 was replaced with Zones 3 and 4, such that total training volume at intensities at or above lactate threshold was roughly doubled without overstressing the athlete.” After only 18 weeks of training his LT went from 4,5 w/kg to 5,2 w/kg. I know that a case study is not a scientific model of evidence, but it is still interesting 

  • Les

    I have to take exception with this idea of training only with HIIT. When you train this way, you basically develop your anaerobic systems at the expense of your aerobic system. LSD training has a very specific purpose of building your aerobic base from which you can begin speed training. LSD training, combined with proper low-carbohydrate dieting, trains your body to be fat burning; a much more efficient mode of metabolism. By only using HIIT training, your performance can only occur at anaerobic levels and must be fueled by carbohydrates (read sugar). In the long term this is not sustainable and will lead to injury and burn-out.

    This is why the traditional methods work. Spending those winter and early spring weeks training at LSD develop your aerobic system so that you are capable of good speed at a manageable, fat-burning, low stress heart rate.

    The HIIT methodology does have its place and is very valuable for putting the final touches on racing condition. But more than 2 sessions a week is risking injury and stress on the body and promoting a sugar-burning metabolism.

    My main sources for this style of training are the Maffetone Method (Dr. Phil Maffetone), Dr Joel Freil, and Drs. Phinney and Volek.

    I would be interested in reading your comments. Thanks.

  • @Les – Please notice that I do not mention HIIT in this article and my views on being time effective is not referring to HIIT. Doing intervals safely below threshold power, e.g. 15-20 min sub-threshold intervals, boost your aerobic endurance and in a faster way than LSD or recovery rides. Or you could ride a few intervals close to threshold power or simply take a time trial to get a decent training. That is time effective cycling training in a nut shell. But it isn’t HIIT.

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