The Ultimate Guide to Time Trial Training

Tony Martin has perform many hours of specific time trial training.

IT SOUNDS fairly straightforward. You, your bike and the clock, riding in splendid isolation as quickly as you can, away from the rough and tumble of the peloton.

In theory a time trial should be a simple test of your ability to ride your bike as fast as possible over a set distance.

But if only it was as easy as that…

In many ways a time trial is the ultimate challenge for a rider. There is nowhere to hide, no bunching pack to drag you along. And it hurts: in fact the pain will usually last from start to finish.

But whether you achieve a personal best (or a personal worst) you will always be left with the same feeling when you cross the line: you will want to go faster next time. Time trials have that glorious habit of leaving riders hungry for more.

If you’re serious about getting faster, beating your quickest time over a particular course and completing the perfect time trial, getting every little detail right is absolutely crucial, especially with regards to pacing, aerodynamics, preparation and technique.

So before you saddle up, here is my own ”time trial bible” to give you a kick-start…

Time Trials: Getting the pace right

The first five minutes
Pacing is everything when it comes to time trials. Getting the initial speed correct is the key to achieving your goal time. But the easy trap to fall into – and so many riders do this – is to go out too hard so your pace slowly but surely slackens off during the course of the ride.

The end result? You finish meekly when you should be aiming to finish with a flourish.

Patience is the key
Starting at breakneck speed will NOT lead to a better overall time. If you blast out at full pelt you risk blowing up well before the end of the trial, which will lead to you running out of energy and finishing poorly.

So with this in mind, the first five minutes of a time trial are crucial and will almost certainly dictate if you succeed or fail in achieving your goal time.

In addition, your cardiovascular system takes a few minutes to react before it delivers optimally for your desired intensity.

Even if you’ve performed a solid warm-up, you will be at risk of going anaerobic if you try to maintain your target pace right from the beginning of the time trial.

While I strongly recommend the use of power meters to help with your pacing strategy, it is possible to learn how to pace yourself sensibly without using one.

Ups and downs of pace control

The traditional view among the majority of coaches and riders is that a time trial should be tackled by adopting a strong but even pace throughout the whole race. But I beg to differ slightly. I strongly believe that a few judicious and subtle changes to your pacing strategy will yield a faster overall time.

I stress again… it is so vital not to start too fast. Try staying SLIGHTLY BELOW your planned target power for the first five minutes of the time trial. Then after five minutes make sure you ride as close as possible to your target power.

Now here’s one difference to the ”ride-at-an-even-pace throughout” mantra: Try pushing a tiny bit harder uphill, and then ease off slightly on the descents. Do this and you will achieve an overall quicker time.

Try it: it works!

About 20 watts more power riding uphill will save you more time than you will lose by reducing 20 watts going downhill. This is because there is a stronger aerodynamic drag at higher velocities.

When it comes to pacing, one great training tactic is to practise completing the distance you will be tackling at a flat-out pace. If you find that your speed slackens off towards the end, then you have clearly gone out too hard.

However if you feel fresh at the end then you probably haven’t paced it fast enough. Practice makes perfect, so it’s worth practising until you know for certain what a challenging but sustainable effort over a given distance feels like.


Action plan:

So when it comes to judging the right pace try the following tips:

  • Analyse your last time trial (heart rate, power outputs).
  • Develop a new pacing strategy for your next time trial.
  • Perform specific time trial training with your new pacing strategy.

*Obviously if you are taking part in a track pursuit then you will have to use a different pacing strategy.

Advanced Time Trial Training – Aerodynamics

Bradley Wiggins. Silver medal at World Championships in Time Trialling 2011. Image by Training4cyclists.com

Aerodynamics are pivotal to completing a successful time trial. But riders shouldn’t get too hung up on aeros: keep in mind that it is just one part of the overall performance equation.

Yes, aerodynamics play a big role, but they are not the deal breaker when it comes to achieving a goal time.

However some facts are indisputable: one big fact is that 90% of a rider’s power output is used to break wind resistance. In fact wind resistance is the biggest enemy when competing in a time trial.

So to counter the elements finding the optimal body position is crucial as it minimises the aerodynamic drag, so requiring fewer watts to ride quickly.

Pole Position

The position of the body is also where riders can make the biggest improvement to overall aerodynamics.

And if your bank balance won’t stretch to purchasing a dedicated time trial bike ‒ and all the expensive accessories built for brilliant aerodynamics ‒ then nurturing a good body position is even more important.

There is even a growing view among some experts that the most aerodynamic position for a rider can actually lead to a decrease in pedalling efficiency, and a rise in the metabolic rate of effort. Subsequently, this can lead to a cut in the average power output of the cyclist.This reduction in power can be between 10-20%, say some experts.

The body position can also become so extreme that it actually limits your performance even though it is more aerodynamic. However I believe that with targeted uphill training while maintaining the aerodynamic position it is possible to cut down on this loss of power caused by aerodynamic body position.

Aero Test

Wind-gallery tests are also extremely useful but are expensive. However there is one simple test to gauge the aerodynamic advantage of different bike positions.

All that’s required is a 300m descent, with a gradient to allow a 50 km/h speed without effort on the pedals, followed by an ascent to slow down and stop the cyclist within a fairly short time: the further the cyclist goes up the hill, the more aerodynamically efficient the body position.

This can take a few attempts to eradicate statistical errors, and conditions such as wind speed/air temperature have to be taken into account but, in the end, you will find the results are reliable.

In terms of body position the frontal area is the most vital aspect.

Most coaches agree that riders should try to minimise their chest’s bagginess and keep their arms and shoulders as closed as possible. Other strong aerodynamics tips include:

  • Make your aero extensions as long as the rules allow
  • Handlebar height is not as vital as reach
  • Wear an aero helmet

Get Your Kit On
The last point above is a good one. An aero helmet (app. $150) is a good place to start if you have some spare cash to splurge. There is no doubt that an aero helmet will make you significantly faster so it’s a solid investment. Experts estimate that an aero helmet alone saves a rider 10-15 watts of power at time trial speeds.

You could also try lowering the front of the bike, which could be as simple as flipping the stem, and fitting some tri-bars, which cost as little as $50. After an aero helmet, you could start thinking about adding aero drinks bottles, overshoes, skin suits, deep-section wheels. But it is wise to spend any money you have on making sure you get into a good body position first.

And while all this expensive equipment is useful, pricey kit won’t make you go faster if your body acts like a huge air brake.

So if your budget is limited, keep in mind that body position should be your main priority. Focus on improving your body position on your current bike and invest time and energy on the areas where you can make the biggest gains.

Remember: cut wind resistance and you’ll go faster.

Take action:

  • Perform aerodynamic tests with your current bike.
  • Reduce your frontal area. Make a “longer” position on your bike.
  • Perform an aerodynamic test with optimised set-up.
  • Repeat above steps until you see gradual improvements.

Interval training for time trials: No pain no gain

In cycling your training should always be targeted to your goal. So for time trials you will have to train at a very high intensity if you want to improve your time over a given distance.

To sustain a strong pace for the duration of a time trial, your training sessions need to be explosive. So interval training is the key, with a combination of sub-threshold, threshold power and VO2 max intervals.

Professional riders target their time trial training towards improving their threshold power. But developing a large aerobic engine will not happen overnight. It demands a huge amount of training and effort, and the adoption of the highest quality training principles over several years.

But one thing is certain: time trial riders (just like sprinters and climbers) do need a fantastic threshold power as a strong performance at threshold power is obligatory for winning any race. And another thing is certain: training with a very high intensity will boost your ability to continue riding without accumulating lactic acid.

VO2 Max Intervals

VO2 max intervals are a brilliant stimulus for your aerobic system. They also provide a great boost to your threshold power. VO2 max may not be the most crucial power output but the advantages of learning this skill are immense because the physiological adaptations to VO2 max training are the same as the ones you achieve when training at lower intensities.

Also bear in mind that threshold power is only a percentage of your VO2 max. The physiological skills you train with during threshold power intervals are also stimulated at VO2 max intensity.


Threshold Power Intervals


These are the most popular way to boost threshold power. The key is to know your power output or heart rate at threshold power and then use these to pace yourself throughout intervals at the same intensity. The best tactic is to tackle a time trial as a yardstick or reference.

The toughest part of these intervals is to stay at the right intensity throughout. Setting off a tiny bit too fast will make it impossible to maintain the right intensity. Starting too slowly, and you won’t benefit from the adaptations you are training for.

Threshold power intervals are extremely tough but really effective in creating a better aerobic capacity and they are brilliant for any rider want to become a better time trial rider.

Sub-Threshold Intervals


High intensity interval training is only beneficial if you complete them. So while VO2 max and threshold power intervals are the most effective ways of training for a time trial, they will be rendered ineffective and meaningless if you don’t complete the actual intervals at the required speed/intensity.

So physically and mentally you will undoubtedly achieve a better training result for a time trial if you opt for an intensity with a higher success rate. This is where sub-threshold power intervals come into their own as they can offer major improvements.

Some experts also argue that there is a physiological sweet spot as you can train at a high oxygen consumption without going anaerobic, with a positive knock-on effect on your aerobic system. So for time-trialling, they are excellent for training.

I would strongly recommend that you track your training progress using a series of physical performance tests. For example if you train for a 25km time trial then measure your average power output for such a distance in training.

But do remember that the beauty of hard interval sessions is that as you begin to increase the size of your aerobic capacity, you will also boost your power output for that distance. This will allow you to monitor your physical performance and, more importantly, separate these improvements from other improvements caused by improved aerodynamics.

One thing is for sure: the magic formula is out there waiting for you.

Take action:

  • Sub-threshold intervals, e.g. 2x20min.
  • Threshold power intervals e.g. 3x12min.
  • VO2 Max intervals e.g. 3x(3+3min).

Other top time trial tips


Food

Many cyclists with a race or time trial on the horizon see it as a perfect excuse to gorge on a mountain of food. But while carb-loading is recommended to a degree, moderation is advised when it comes to time trials. For an event like a 10 or 25-mile time trial, a meal rich in carbs, such as pasta or rice, the night before the race is probably sufficient. There is no reason to eat food high in fat.

On race morning focus on carbs again. Jam on toast is a good choice while if you prefer cereal ensure it’s low in fat and fibres. En route to the time trial, it is worth sipping an energy drink while a dose of caffeine (up to 200mg) may also be advisable. Stay euhydrated during warm up.

For a short time trial of 10 or 25 miles don’t bother with a drinking bottle as time lost sipping the fluid will outweigh the benefits of taking on mid-race fluid. After the event make sure you have a recovery drink ready.

Warm up

Failing to warm up properly will mean you won’t benefit from all those tough hours of training. One warm-up strategy is to ride comfortably for 10-15 minutes and then perform three 10-15 second bursts (not all-out sprints) with a couple of minutes of recovery in between. Slightly increase the intensity so you raise your oxygen consumption in small steps. This protects you from going anaerobic.

Aim to warm up for at least 20 minutes and there is rarely no reason to spend longer than 45 minutes. If you’re in a hurry, check out this quick warm up.

Mental preparation

While psyching yourself up may seem the obvious thing to do, staying calm is probably more important. Get too worked up and you may be tempted to go off too hard. Stay calm and stay in control of your effort. Remember if you go off too fast, there is no chance to recover.

Ride the course

Familiarise yourself with the course if possible. This really helps and makes sure there are no nasty surprises on the day. It is better to know where any killer hills (or potholes) are lying in wait. And even on well-marshalled courses, cyclists can still take a wrong turn in the heat of battle.

So do you feel motivated? Are you now ready to complete the perfect time trial?

If you have enjoyed reading this post why not share it with your friends on Facebook 
or Twitter?

Here is the link: http://www.training4cyclists.com/time-trialling/

Best of luck!

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Cycling Races Are Not Always The Best Training

Races are highly effective to improve performance. Races are done at high intensity with jumps, sprints and pursuits. Secondly you get tactical and technical experience.

Thus, cycling races train all the skills you need for racing. It is often said that a cycling race is the best kind of training you can actually get. I would rather say that cycling races might be the easiest way to improve performance.

When you go for a race you don´t have to speculate about doing specific intervals or concentrating on heart rate target zones. You just follow the pack and try your best to make a good result. During the race you will, passively, get plenty of different intervals.

Races train a wide range of skills, but maybe you should some times be more focused on specific physical qualities. E.g. if your goal is to improve your anaerobic endurance you can train it more precisely with intervals instead of unpredictably road races.

The big advantage is that you get exactly the kind (and amount) of training you are interested in.

But you have to be very dedicated to your training to push yourself hard enough to get the desired results. It is much easier to go fast when there are other riders who are trying to beat you. I guess that is one of the main reasons that races often are preferred instead of regular interval training. When people get a start number on they are able to go fast and get their intense training.

Training with power meters like SRM og Powertap

If you use a heart rate monitor or even better a power meter like SRM or Powertap, you have a great opportunity to train specific skills e.g. time trial training.

That’s why I advice my riders to use a power meter because it gives me precise description of what they are actually doing on the road. Heart rate monitoring only tells me how the body reacts (with some delay) and hides some of the most interesting improvements.

E.g. if a rider is able to push avg. 320W in a 40km time trial it is possible to compare with previous results. If he rides the course in 52 minutes, it is possible to say that it is fast, but it is difficult to compare with previous results, since the result is inflected by both weather and materials.

Did he go faster because of his new aero wheels, the good weather or a higher anaerobic threshold? Well, the pulse monitor won´t tell him. The power meter would.

A Power meter is a bike’s black box
An easy way to discover the physical demands of a course is to look at the registered data from a race on the course. Power meters are not always useful in a road race but after the race the power data becomes a very important weapon.

Like the planes “black box” a power meter register every single move you make. It can tell you how much power you used to catch up with the early break, how long you could maintain 350W when you were struggling to close a gap or show the toughest part of the course. In a time trial a power meter becomes more useful, since you can use it for pacing.

Important to focus your training

Before you skip the next midweek race think about what your training goal is.

If you want to improve your aerobic performance then make a training schedule that fits exactly to your goal.

If your goal is to improve your aerobic performance you can avoid most of the anaerobic part that happens in races (sprints, jumps, hills). That will give you a big advantage since you can train more intense and focused on your primary training goal. If you can´t find a specific goal to train for then it is probably best for you to go racing.

If you have several physical goals for your training, then races might also be the best opportunity.

One of the basic principles in training is to make training as specific as possible to the demands in the specific competition.

If you choose to use races in preparation, then go for races that are similar in distance and profile to your primary goal.

Your body adapt to what you challenge it with and the more the challenges in training look like the challenges in the competition you are preparing for, the better you will perform. If the course has a lot of steep hills, then you have to prepare your body for a lot of short anaerobic bursts during the race. It´s likely that such hills can be the breaking point in the race.

How to Use Cycling Races to Your Advantage

Don’t get me wrong. Races are really great training opportunities and make many cyclists so much better. Sometimes races can be the only way to keep an acceptable high intensity for several hours.

Also you will sharpen your technical skills because everything happens at a faster speed. So what can you do to achieve better results with cycling races as an integral part of your cycling training plan?

1) Go 100% or go home. If you want to learn how to handle your bike better at extreme situations, you have to ride 100% when you race. Riding with comfort and safety margin won’t make you faster. So if you develop to many excuses about what you are willing to do in training races because ‘it’s just training’ then it might be better for you to stay at home for regular, aerobic training.

Though, I have to emphasize that 100% doesn’t mean you should do stupid things or take risks to make you ride faster. It means that your aim should be to ride as fast as possible and that your ride the race as a race.

2) Do experiments. A training race is a huge opportunity for you to test and optimize a broad range of skills and tactical strategies in race situations. For example you can try a different tactic that might get you better results in the long run. Also you can test new bike equipment, nutritional strategies etc.

3) Schedule Cycling Races as a part of your Training Plan. Cycling races are often the toughest training sessions so it is mandatory to plan these races carefully, so you keep a balanced and structured training plan.

What do you do to succeed with cycling races as a part of your cycling training plan?

(Leave a comment below)

2 comments

The Forgotten Way To Win More Cycling Races

One of the most common questions people ask me, is how they can strengthen their weaknesses. It’s tempting to just serve them some practical training advice to help them improve hopeless climbing skills. It’s tempting to optimize their weak time trials with a specific time trial training plan. And it would be easy for me to show them some highly effective exercises that would improve their poor sprinting performance.
But I won’t do that. I think it is better to re-think why they ask me how to improve skills that will never be their speciality.

Let’s take a look at an example: Mike races in Category B in his national league. Mike is among the best five riders uphill but with mediocre sprinting and time trial skills. Most races, though, finish with mass sprints and typically he makes a top 15 position, but rarely in the top 10. And that’s why Mike wants to improve his sprinting performance.

It’s a fair question, but let’s face it: Mike will never win that bunch sprint. Never. Even in a lower category it would be unrealistic to see him as the fastest guy in a bunch sprint. And that is why I believe, it is important to realize why he wants to sprint faster.

I think Mike’s question is a symptom of wrong focus. He is focusing on fixing his weaknesses instead of fine tuning his excellent climbing performance. It might be a lack of confidence, because he is already among the best climbers in his category. “I’m already a good climber, so there is no need train that…”

But if he paid more attention to his best weapon, climbing, I think it seems reasonable that he could make it to the top of the podium. Not every week, but maybe a few times during the season.

Now, if Mike had asked me how to win more races, I wouldn’t make his poor sprinting skills a topic. Instead, I would focus on improving his watts to kilogram and carefully select the hilly events where he should peak. In these races Mike is a potential winner and that’s where I would like him to use his best weapon to the maximum. That’s a winner’s strategy.

If you are a competitive cyclist, you should aim to build a physiological profile that can help you to actually win races. Sometimes it makes sense to focus on improving your best skills and don’t be afraid that you will sacrifize your mediocre skills.

Why? Because it’s funnier to actually win (or at least have a chance to win) a few races during the season than finishing top 10 week after week without ever having a real chance to win.

Remember, it’s far more lucrative and enjoyable to emphasize your strength than fixing weaknesses that will never be highly competitive.

How to Pick the Perfect Cycling Race for Winning

Basically there are different physiological profiles for sprinters, finisseurs, time trialists, climbers, stage race specialists etc. You might already have an idea of where you fit in. If not, try to think of what kind of races you will have the best chances of winning. It’s worth remembering that if you don’t compete on international level then most of your competitors are not specialists. And then it’s not impossible to beat them.

Though, I advocate specializing, we must keep in mind that most road cycling races fit several kind of rider styles and after all, that’s great. There are small hills, technical parts, cross wind sections and many of the races end up with a sprint in a smaller or bigger group.

So it is still necessary to train a wide repertoire of physiological skills, but it certainly makes sense to point out where it can be possible for you to make the difference that will make you a winner. Find out where you can make the winning move and train the skills that will help you to succeed.

It’s pretty obvious that if you are sprinter then you can wait for the last 150 metres before you show your superiority. Often the best sprinters are the most successful riders with the most wins during a season. Maybe that is why so many riders wait for the sprint as their sole tactic.

Typically 5 to 10 riders rely on their sprinting skills as their chance to win the party. At lower category events even more riders will wait for the sprint, because they are inexperienced and hope they will become the new Marc Cavendish. But most riders are not sprinters. Far from.

That’s why so many different riders dream of winning every time they enter a race.

It’s questionable if it is a reasonable tactic to count yourself as a sprinter with a chance to win a race if you know you are not the fastest sprinter. Instead, why not realize that you have to attack the race differently to have a realistic chance to win?

As I have said before: If you already know that the sprinters are faster than you, then you have 3 options: Attack, attack, attack… Does it sound reasonable?

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Interview with Chris Aarons from Cycle-Faster.com

A few months ago one of my readers, Chris Aarons, started his own cycling blog called Cycle-Faster.com. So far it has been a pleasure to follow his blog because Chris continues to find great cycling training videos and tips all over the internet. So, I decided to ask Chris to share his experience about blogging and cycling training.

Congratulations with your new blog. What have you learned from this process so far?

Chris: “There is a lot of good and not so good information on the web about how to train better and cycle faster. For every great site, like training4cyclists.com, there is another one that masquerades as a helpful site, but it actually has poor information or it only exists to sell you endless amounts of their supplements, training aids or “get fast quick schemes.”

Like most of my readers, I want quick, actionable information that helps us get more out of training and racing. I started the site because I read a ton of stuff on cycling every day, and my friends loved the fact I did all the work and they just got to sit back and listen.”

What is your main cycling training philosophy (if you have one)?

Chris: “I am pretty sure it’s the same as yours. I want get better and faster in the most efficient way/time possible and, if you look at the pros and Olympians and how they train, nothing is wasted – there are no junk miles. I think this approach, and what they have learned at the highest levels, are things from which every avid cyclist can benefit.

I’ve learned a lot of great things via my reading and looking for items for my blog. For example: how cycling guru Alan Lim taught pro teams to use ice socks to keep cool and the value of drinking liquids with equal parts water/sports drink and crushed ice to lower core temperatures during hot weather.

I have no desire to be a pro racer (plus, at 43, that time has long since passed). But without a doubt, I am getting faster and learning more about improving performance and handling the stress that cycling inflicts on our bodies. These lessons, tips and tricks not only make us faster when combined with solid training from books like yours, but also make the sport more enjoyable. I truly believe they improve your quality of life on and off the bike.

What can we expect to find on Cycle Faster in the future?

Chris: “I am going to keep focusing on the training and racing tips and tricks and try to take complex information and boil it down to something anyone can use. That is what my readers seem to enjoy the most. I tend to see a lot of technical articles on study results focused on cycling. Very often there is good information in there or at least something cyclists should think about, but it is buried under the technical format. So, I will continue to try and find these types of nuggets and present them in an easy to digest format.

Also, I will be doing more product reviews. We all see a lot of products making claims about performance or other benefits, but I think it is always helpful to see how someone has used the product and help them decide if it is worth the money.”

It’s a while since you purchased and downloaded my e-book. What have you learned from Time Effective Cycling Training so far?

Chris: “More than I could tell you in this interview. Your e-book showed me how important a power meter is to truly making meaningful and quantifiable gains.

Also, your e-book showed me the benefit and value of VO2 Max intervals. I love your VO2 MAX Booster program. I have seen a gain of 55+ watts in using it for just over three and a half months.

In addition, I have been using your suggestion to incorporate Fartlek VO2 Max intervals during my group rides to get more out of them.”

Results that I largely credit to you and your training are:

  • My power is up considerably and I see more upside potential
  • I am now able to clearly see where I am weak and need improvement
  • I am dropping people like I used to be dropped
  • I have won several races within my group, including a King of the Mountains event and began moving up in Cat. 4/5 races

Would you recommend Time Effective Cycling Training to other riders? Why?

Chris: “Yes. It is a simple and straightforward e-book that is full of easy to follow information that helps you become a better cyclist. Of all the books I have, it is easily the most concise as well as the best reading on how to get the most bang for your limited training time.”

If you could give one piece of advice about cycling training to all the readers on Training4cyclists.com, what would it be?

Chris: “First, I would say buy and read your e-book, as I am sure many of your readers have already done. Finding your site and e-book has helped me focus tremendously on what matters most in training.

Second, I think that every cyclist should become a master at the technical aspects of cycling. Things like pedal stroke, drafting, fit and body position, flexibility and the like pay such great dividends. In fact, I would argue these are worth far more than expensive parts in helping you enjoy riding and cycling faster.”

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Bronze Medal at 3K Pursuit World Championships With Only 10 Hours Training Per Week

Case Story: Peter Ettles, 3K Pursuit.
Last year I received an email from Peter Ettles from Scotland asking me for help towards the World Track Championships. Peter had 3K pursuit as his main discipline and scratch race and points race as secondary events.

That email had the perfect timing because I at the same time was working intensively testing and optimizing the principles for my e-book, Time Effective Cycling Training.

After a few emails I understood that Peter was a very busy person who was very limited in training time and also limited in training time on the track.

So it was not an easy job, but I thought it could be a really good way to see if my high intensity training principles would work on ‘older’ cyclists. And just to emphasize the power of this test, Peter was actually preparing for the World Championships in his age group. So it couldn’t be a better scene to show how my training concept worked.

Since Peter had the 3K pursuit as his primary goal, I decided to make his 3,5min maximum power output the value we would track his performance progress with.

Getting started with the training towards 3K pursuit

In the first week of the training program he performed 396W with a body weight of only 76,0kg. Riders who have experience with power meter training will know that these numbers are highly respectable. And please remember that this guy was competing in age group 45 to 49.

So it was clear that Peter was already performing really well, but nevertheless, he wanted to do even better.

That was some kind of a challenge for me!

I decided to make a full training plan of 13 weeks with an average training time of 10hours per week (range: 6 to 15hours per week). His training was targeted the physiological skills required for an optimal performance at the track events he was participating in. Though, there was a primary focus on the 3K pursuit, because that was his personal favorite.

When it comes to track cycling, specificity of the training sessions becomes extremely important. So, Peter did a lot of anaerobic and VO2 max intervals in different combinations because it was both time effective training and also very specific towards the challenges he was preparing for.

I would have wished Peter had more time on the velodrome in Manchester, but with a travelling time of app. 6hours it was clear that we had to accept that he wouldn’t get the most optimal training for track cycling.

Here is a snapshot from the training program:

Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
21⁄2hrs

8x(35+25s)

400/200W

2 1/2hrs

3K time trial

+ 1x20min 260W, high cadence. rpm>100

2hrs

5x1000m, ~95%

10min recovery between 1K’s

2hrs

10x
(20s+4.40m )

600/120W

After 12 weeks Peter entered the velodrome in Portugal shortly after performing his best 3,5min test ever. Peter won the bronze final in World Championships 3K Pursuit, Age Group 45 to 49.

Here is the testimonial from Peter Ettles:

“In 2010 I decided to try to get in shape for the world masters track champs. The pursuit was going to be my main aim. It was not going to be a easy task  as I also work full time running my own forestry business. I got a 13 week training programme from training4cyclists.com. First I did  a 3.5 min max test to see what sort of power I was producing. I did 396W.
.
The bulk of the programme consisted of very high intensity intervals varying from 10second sprints up to 5min repeats. The intervals, although being very hard, were a great challenge and really made to look forward to the training as you could actually feel yourself getting better and stronger with every session. At the end of my 13 weeks including a proper taper, I was amazed to find my power over 3.5 mins was now up to 424W. That’s 28W increase! I had also lost a couple of kilos which was an added bonus.
.
I must say that almost all my training was done on the road or on the turbo as I dont live anywhere near a track,so you can imagine my delight when I went to the Worlds and won bronze. I’m going to give it another go this year (2011) and will be sticking with what I have learnt from Jesper’s interval training. With a few tweaks, maybe I can get gold!!”

So this was a success story of how time effective training principles can be used to compete at international level. Peter did a really great job and I was very glad when he won his bronze medal. That result gave me the final confidence to launch my e-book one month later.

If you want to use some of the principles mentioned above, please make sure to get your own copy of Time Effective Cycling Training.

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The Blood Passport Program… For or Against?

Our sport was shaken to the core recently by the leak of the International Cycling Union’s (UCI) now infamous “suspicious list”. The list, which was leaked to French sports newspaper L’Equipe, ranked all 198 riders from last year’s Tour de France on a scale of doping suspicion, from zero to 10. The ratings, with 10 the highest level and zero the lowest, were based on readings from each rider’s biological blood passport profile before the Tour started. They included the latest blood tests two days before the start of the 2010 race.

The tests are carried out on all riders before every major tour, with the results and biological profiles used to determine the testing plans during the race.
UCI President Pat McQuaid has spoken of his regret at the leak and subsequent publication of the “index of suspicion”. But he has defended how the list was compiled and insisted that the blood passport program is an essential tool in the fight to kick out cheats from the sport.

So is he right?

Background: The Blood Passport Program

Blood passport profiling was introduced for professional cyclists in January 2008 to great fanfare. It was hailed as the answer to cycling’s doping problems because it was centred on long-term blood and steroid profiling. The thinking was that having such information to hand would allow the authorities to take action against riders whose natural values highlighted suspicious fluctuations, even if they did not test positive for a specific banned substance. The sporting community as a whole applauded this innovative new approach and the extraordinary possibilities it offered.

The results have been evolutionary rather than revolutionary, but the UCI is finally beginning to reap the benefits of its programme. Only last month Slovenian cyclist Tadej Valjavec was given a two-year ban for doping. The Court of Arbitration for Sport found that Valjavec’s “anti-doping tests performed in April and August 2009 revealed abnormalities in the context of the athlete’s biological passport to a degree which was entirely consistent with blood manipulation”.

It was a third successive legal victory for the UCI at sport’s highest court in cases involving its flagship anti-doping blood program.

The Way Forward

While I think it is sad that this confidential information was leaked to a newspaper, I firmly support the cycling blood passport program.
Prioritizing which riders should be given more attention definitely makes a lot of common sense to me. The probability of a positive test is a lot higher when you test the riders who are the most suspicious. That is the fundamental concept of the blood passport scheme.

Last year I was at the Scandinavian Congress of Sports Medicine, where I visited a session about anti-doping. It included a talk by Anne Gripper, who was manager of the UCI’s 
anti-doping team when the blood passport was introduced back in 2008. She highlighted several cases involving both clean and suspicious riders and these examples illustrated to me why the blood passport makes perfect sense.

As a medical doctor I am well used to prioritizing which blood samples should be used on which patients. From a cost and benefits point of view this system of prioritization does not differ too much from what the UCI is trying to achieve.

I think that the blood passport scheme is a great tool to get more value for the limited resources available for anti-doping. The information about this program should never have ended up at the offices of the media and I have no words for that. I also feel extremely sorry for all the riders and teams named on this list.

But while the UCI should clearly be sorry for the way this information was leaked to the press, it should not apologise for the way the data is compiled or interpreted. The list is a vital working document that establishes an order of priority for carrying out doping tests.

This prioritization is crucial: it is established based upon a number of solid indications and not upon mere coincidence or conjecture.

So there is no doubt in my mind that the blood passport scheme could be the tool needed to eventually wipe away the scourge of doping from our wonderful sport.

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Age Is No Barrier to Cycling Training

Getting older… it happens to us all.

Most people are content to pick up their pipe and slippers, and enjoy a more relaxing, sedentary lifestyle in their twilight years.

Pottering about in the garden might be the sum total of their exercise regime.

But if you are passionate about sport, keeping fit and challenging yourself to greater heights then hitting the age of 50 is probably the perfect time to set yourself a new goal.

Cycling is a fantastic activity for the over 50s age group and reaching 50 is a fabulous opportunity to challenge yourself and your body. There is absolutely no need to think that just because you have hit the half century, you suddenly have to consign all sport and training to the history books.

Of course, your body might not feel as fit or as supple as when you were in your 20s or 30s, but if you are realistic and sensible in your approach you will be surprised at the heights you can reach.

There is nothing wrong in simply saddling up and cycling for pleasure. But, equally, there is absolutely nothing to stop you being more ambitious with your goals, aiming to boost your performance and competing with yourself by taking part in higher intensity training sessions…

Fight the Fear Factor

Half the battle for older cyclists is feeling scared or over-awed by the thought of pushing their bodies to the limit. They might be frightened of failure or the possible disappointment of not being to cycle as quick or as hard as they could when they were younger. But if they can conquer these fears then older people can enjoy intensive cycling training sessions just as much as younger riders – maybe even more so.

You can achieve great results whatever your age.

You just need the self-belief and confidence to get over any fears or misconceptions. Imagine the thrill of knowing that you can improve your times and performance – even at the age of 55 or 60? The confidence boost and kudos you will gain from this will be great for your mind and body.

Health Checks: They’re Vital for Your Age Group

Here’s the sensible bit… Yes, you are older, and more susceptible to illness and disease.

So if you ARE seriously thinking of stepping up your training sessions and want to challenge yourself to ride harder and faster, then you must seek medical advice beforehand.

Go and see your doctor and talk to him about your intention to train hard. He will probably agree that it is an excellent idea as long as you are sensible and have a common sense approach. But it is advisable to at least get your blood pressure checked out.

Once you have seen your doctor and he has given you the thumbs-up, it will also provide the final confirmation and confidence boost that you need to take the plunge and saddle up.

High Intensity: The Human Body Loves a Challenge

You don’t have to have a rippling torso or a six-pack to train hard. You also don’t have to be in your teens, 20s, 30s or 40s to improve your cycling performance.

The great news for older cyclists is that strong training principles work for ALL ages. The cardiovascular system is extremely flexible and can adapt to changes and challenges when you get older. You will receive both peripheral and central adaptations that will help you perform better.

The heart can adapt specifically to the physical demands met during a training session. Like any other muscle, the heart needs regular training to maintain its fitness. The ventricle becomes more compliant, meaning less resistance during filling. This enables stroke volume to increase and less work for the heart. Crucially, it also allows the heart to maintain an increased stroke volume during tough exercise.

Never underestimate what the human body can achieve. Biologically and physiologically, the improvements you make to your body if you train hard will almost be the equivalent of when you’re younger.

When you train, your heart will develop a higher stroke volume due to an increase in the cardiac chamber size and an expanded total blood volume. This will enable your heart to deliver more oxygen to your muscles with fewer beats.

In turn, this will help you to ride faster. But this improved cardiovascular fitness will also bring benefits in other parts of your life. You will feel physically stronger, have more energy to do other vigorous activities and will also feel sharper.

Most older people develop a slightly higher fat percentage and it becomes more difficult to maintain muscle mass. But you can slow down the onset of a “thicker” body and fat production with a structured training plan.

Both endurance and strength training can have a wonderful knock-on effect on your lifestyle and generally boost your quality of life.

Strength Training

Strength training is a thorny topic among the cycling fraternity and there is an ongoing debate as to whether it improves performance. But cyclists can definitely gain a better quality of life by using strength training to maintain muscle mass. This may not necessarily make you perform better on the bike but it will contribute to a healthier lifestyle.

However if you are intent on boosting your performance, you should consider doing strength training in the off-season only, when the weather is colder. Completing just two strength training sessions a week as part of your training schedule should be enough to enhance your fitness and general quality of life.

It is also probably worth bearing in mind that strength training should never have a negative impact on your overall training regime, so sessions on the bike should always come first.

Plan Your Training So It Has a Purpose

You will achieve more if you have a structured training plan and if each session has a real purpose to it. If you are on a rest day, work on some technical skills that do not require physical power. Make sure every session has a real focus. You could enter a local race and tailor your training plan accordingly so you peak on race day. That will focus your mind and give you added motivation to get out of bed and saddle up when it might be cold or wet outside.

In essence: use your time effectively and make the most of every minute’s training.

Recovery Time and Rest is Vital for Your Age Group

OK, maybe you once thought you were Superman and you could conquer the world!

Well, the harsh reality is that whereas once you may have needed little or no recovery time after a training session, now you certainly need to recharge the batteries after a session and allow the body to recover properly. If you give yourself more recovery time between sessions, it will improve the quality of the next session.

Not recovering properly will only enhance the risk of injury.

In addition, make sure you get enough sleep as this is a vital part of the recovery process. A lack of sleep can cause fatigue and affect performance. Diet and nutrition are also important. And for post-exercise nutrition, always have a recovery drink immediately before consuming 1g of carbohydrate per kg and 1/3g protein per kg of body weight within 30 minutes of finishing moderate to high intensity training sessions.

Conclusion

If you are consistent and serious about your training, then you will certainly become faster and stronger, despite your age.

Imagine the satisfaction of comparing your performance and times with your friends, both older and younger: if you train hard and effectively you will become so much stronger than your peers in no time.

So if you are among the over-50s, don’t write off high intensity training. It can give you a new lease of life – both on and off the bike.

The performance improvements will be tangible and real and offer great satisfaction. And your general quality of life will improve as a result. Age is no barrier to the very best training practices. And high intensity workouts will help you to achieve better results in less time.

So to sum up, before you embark on high intensity cycling training, make sure you:

  • Seek the thumbs-up from your doctor.
  • Stick to a training plan which contains solid training principles.
  • Ensure enough recovery time, rest and good nutrition
  • Include some high intensity sessions
  • Be consistent. Work out all year round
  • Do strength training.

27 comments

Time Effective Cycling Training = Success

When I launched Time Effective Cycling Training after four years of blogging, I was curious to see how people would respond to it. I know that an e-book is different from a physical book, yet it offers some advantages that you don’t get from physical books (e.g. instant delivery and no shipping costs).

Also people have the chance to get free e-mail support to maximize their performance with the training programs included. That’s a great service and a perfect option for me to develop my skills as a cycling coach.

Since this was my very first product, I wanted people to be happy. So, I decided to offer a 100% money back guarantee within the first 30 days after purchase. Many of my friends and family members warned me about offering that guarantee, because there was a potential risk that someone would just ‘steal’ my e-book. They were wrong.

So far, less than 1% had asked for a refund. That is an extremely low return percentage on a digital product and that indicates to me that people are quite satisfied. It’s more than likely that there is a cheater among the refunds, but I don’t care.

A low refund percentage is great, but what is much more interesting to me is how well the training programs work. I have had a good feeling from several e-mails during the past months. Still, I wanted to hear more stories, because that is an important part of my learning process.

So I decided to simply ask my customers what results they have achieved with Time Effective Cycling Training. Most people have implemented several of my training techniques. They have used the very popular and extremely effective VO2 Max Booster Program and/or started on the 16 week training program.

Here are some of the great comments I received:

“I have realized that it is possible to use less time on and at the same time keep up the fitness level.”

“I have improved my Vo2max test result by more than 40 watts in just 2 months with only approx 6 hours weekly traning.”

“VO2 threshold improved from 290W to 354W after 3 rounds of the 14 day VO2 Max program.”

“Concise, practical, balanced approach to training. I Especially liked the focus on shorter workouts to develop vo2 max and anaerobic capacity.”

“The range of workouts for the intensity levels and the explanations of their effect in your training made things crystal clear. It was organized so you can select a training effort level and have reasonable expectations of power gains. Reading the book has given me the drive to try and take my training to the next level.”

“The organization, descriptions, and clarity of the presented material was outstanding. Like I said before, I couldn’t put it down and just kept reading. I think it would have a positive influence on anyone to go out there and train hard.”

“While you are training, you feel that you are doing really hard work, which is a good feeling. The program is also varied enough not to become boring i.e. short intervals, long intervals etc.”

“I did a modified version of the vo2 max booster. Over 14 days I did roughly 12 of the intervals (i was doing a lot of teaching at that point in time) and increased my 5 minute power from 377 to 404 watts at 185 pounds.”

Overall, I conclude that my first e-book has been a huge success and I’m very motivated now. I look forward to develop future products or services for you. Also I look forward to hearing from the readers when they have finished the entire 16week training plan, because that training program uses the best principles about cycling training I have learned the past 10 years.

If you want to achieve better results with less training, click here to read more about Time Effective Cycling Training.

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Be Proactive On The Road To Cycling Success

There is nothing more empowering than being in control. Regardless of what you are doing in life, whether it be professional or personal, being the architect of your own destiny can make a world of difference.

And nowhere is that philosophy more relevant than if you’re ambitious to become a top cyclist…

Taking the bull by the horns

Being proactive and being the master of your own universe can have a huge impact on your cycling training. Controlling your own environment, rather than allowing it to control you, can be the difference between being a good cyclist and being a fantastic cyclist.

Inner strength, self determination and the power to choose how you respond to the environment, weather conditions and general circumstances can give you a crucial edge, both mentally and physically.

For example, imagine this familiar scenario… You are busy with work and may not have enough time as you would like to train. You only have an hour or so free. What is the best response? Well, you could do what the majority would do and think: “It’s not worth it, I’ll train tomorrow.” Or you could be positive and proactive and think: “How can I use this hour to get the maximum possible benefit? Maybe a one-hour time trial? Or an intensive interval session?”

Either of those would be better than doing nothing. But to get there you need to motivate yourself and, yes, take the bull by the horns.

Work towards a specific goal

Give yourself a target. Training is harder if you don’t have anything tangible to train for. So enter a race and give yourself plenty of time to get into optimum shape. If you simply do this, then you are being more proactive. Plus it will focus your mind and make every training session appear more important and precious, even if on a given day you only have a little time.

In his excellent book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Stephen Covey alludes to personal leadership. He explains this is the art of leading oneself towards what you believe to be your goals by focusing on relevant activities to build a platform to avoid distractions. This can be successfully applied to cyclists. Riders who deploy a high level of personal leadership will be more productive and, ultimately, successful.

If it’s cold and raining outside and you have a training session pencilled in, then it would be easier not to train or have a rest day. You might think that a cross-training session in a nice warm gym is an adequate compromise. Well, for some it might be. But if you want to succeed, you will need to motivate yourself to get out on the road and do the session. Your coach may not be available to give you a push, so it will have to come from within. And don’t forget, as is always the case of training in bad weather, you will feel a higher sense of achievement afterwards.

Be organised

This may sound like common sense but if you have a specific goal or aim in life, it is crucial to organise and implement your activities in line with achieving your goal. Imagine that deciding on your goal is the mental creation. Well, how are you going to get there? Unless you have a coach or a mentor who is with you 100% of the time to motivate you, your motivation will have to come from inside YOU. This process can be referred to as the physical creation: giving yourself the tools and strength to achieve your goal.

So, as a cyclist, if you decide your goal is to try to finish in the top 20 of a specific race, you need to organise your training program and manage your diet, nutrition and rest to ensure you arrive at the start in the best possible shape to give you the best chance of achieving your aim.

So be organised, manage your time efficiently and be proactive. Draw up a training schedule and stick to it. Don’t be distracted. If you do get distracted then make time elsewhere to do the training.

Teamwork and collaboration

If you have the necessary personal leadership and the self-determination to succeed, then you should also be mindful of interpersonal leadership, or teamwork. This is vital because all achievements are largely dependent on a co-operative effort with others. Success tends to follow a co-operative approach more naturally than the simple confrontation of win or lose.

Creative co-operation is the principle that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, which suggests we should recognize the good points and potential in other people’s contributions. So in terms of cycling be prepared to listen to advice, appreciate the help you get from your coach, be thankful for any support you receive from your family and friends and be willing to accept assistance. Yes, the main effort has to come from you, but don’t deliberately fly solo all the time: listen to the input of others.

Proactive Pedal Power

So thinking positive and being proactive is crucial if you want to be taken seriously as a cyclist.

If you “walk the walk” and not just “talk the talk” then you are far likelier to achieve more in the saddle. But you need to think positive, make sure you have a specific goal, organise yourself and manage your time to make sure you achieve your goal, and take advantage of any collaborative help that you have at your disposal.

Don’t just sit there and wait for something to happen.

YOU make it happen…

4 comments

Cycling Pedalling Frequency – Fast or Slow?

When Lance Armstrong won the Tour de France back in 1999, he showed us a pedalling style with a very high pedalling rate, even in the mountains. Many experts have referred to this technique as one of the main reasons that Armstrong could beat his opponents so easily. With a high frequency it is easier to remove lactate from the legs, but it requires a high degree of special training to be able to maintain a high pedalling frequency.

What is the best cycling cadence?

For me, cycling pedalling rate has always been some kind of a controversial topic. I am not sure that is possible to change riding style significantly.

Nevertheless, I have tried to adapt some of my riders pedalling frequency to a faster one, believing that this would help them to save energy for the final parts of the races.

My conclusion until now is that it is not possible to make big changes, probably in the area of on average 0-5 rpm higher pedalling frequency. So special training at high frequencies can probably not explain why some riders are able to do it and others are not.

It is also worth to remember that a couple of riders who prefer slow frequencies also perform at world class level (e.g. Serguei Gonchar). Thus, a high pedalling rate per se is not predicting performance even among the best riders in the world. Take a closer look at the riders in the Tour de France and watch the differences.

Slow pedal rate might be a better choice

Ernst Albin Hansen, PostDoc, who is a scientist and previous elite cyclist, has been studying choice of cycling pedalling rate for more than 10 years now. In a study from 2006 he included 9 trained cyclists who rode two rides of 2½ hours at 180W followed by a 5-min all-out trial. Results: There were no significant differences, but trends showing that choosing a slower pedalling rate might be attractive.

Test setup:
• 180W, freely chosen pedalling rate (avg. 95rpm) followed by 5min all-out.
• 180W, calculated pedalling rate (which averaged 73rpm) followed by 5min all-out.

The calculated pedal rate was supposed to result in a minimum oxygen uptake.

Results
When comparing the two setups, some interesting results were found:
• Peak VO2 was lower after riding with freely chosen pedal rate
• Perceived exertion were higher with freely chosen pedal rate (7-9%)

These results indicate that riding like Armstrong might not be the answer for optimal cycling pedalling rate. If some of you think this study is interesting, you could consider trying the tests mentioned above in the gym during the winter. It is guaranteed a good workout for you.

Tell us about your experiences – Post a comment below!

Source:
1: Hansen EA, Jensen K, Pedersen PK. Performance following prolonged sub-maximal cycling at optimal versus freely
chosen pedal rate. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2006 Oct;98(3):227-33. Epub 2006 Aug 12.

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10 Steps for Better Cycling Performance in 2011

10 Steps for Better Cycling Performance in 2011

The New Year has arrived and this is the perfect time to set new goals and targets. So why don’t you challenge yourself to improve your overall cycling skills and performance?

Here are ten failsafe ways to boost your performance in 2011…

1 – Take responsibility for your own training

Take the bull by the horns and be proactive. January 1 is a great time to start changing any bad habits. If you are a “reactive cyclist” then it’s time to change.

It’s always tempting to blame others when things don’t work out the way you want.

In these instances you are being reactive and that is simply a negative attitude that will hinder you from reaching your goals. Being proactive is about taking responsibility – don’t talk, just do it.

If you take responsibility, you will achieve a lot more success. Being positive has several side effects. For example, it’s better to try to make your group rides attractive instead of complaining about why so few people join them. Make sense?

2 – Apply the 80/20 principle to your cycling training

Apply the 80/20 principle to your cycling training

I always like to use the analogy of the financial world. You invest in training time and you get a strong rate of return in cycling performance.

Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto made a rule about investments: the basic principle is to focus your effort on the 20% that is responsible for 80% of your results.

But how can you apply the 80/20 principle to your cycling training in 2011?

Well, take a look at your training in the past year. Think of the days that had the most positive impact on your future performance. Examine those days in detail. Why were they the best?

It is not a difficult task to highlight the most challenging workouts but these are the most crucial to successful optimization with regards time effectiveness and successful training planning for 2011.

3 – Every ride should have a purpose

I always urge my riders to have a purpose with all their training sessions. It is not just about interval days and race days. I want to make them stronger and better cyclists every day. If they’re on a recovery day, it’s a great opportunity to practise some technical skills, which do not require physical power.

You could, for example, improve your cornering and recovery in the same ride. Bin the junk miles and give every session a real focus.

4 – Sleep more

This may sound obvious but one of the healthiest things in life is to sleep well. Most people don’t get enough sleep and their health suffers as a result.

For cyclists, lack of sleep will cause fatigue and affect performance. As a cyclist, sleeping is a crucial part of the recovery process. Try to get at least 7 to 8 hours sleep each night.

5 – Eat better and time your post-exercise meal

Good nutrition is vital to performance and recovery.

When considering post-exercise nutrition, always have a recovery drink immediately after exercise. Then you should consume 1g of carbohydrate per kg and 1/3g protein per kg of body weight within 30 minutes of finishing moderate to high intensity training sessions.

The post-exercise drink is extremely important and is an opportunity to use legal doping since you benefit from the insulin boost you get when you drink both carbohydrate and protein. Insulin is an anabolic hormone that helps you rebuild glycogen stores and muscles after training sessions.

If you don’t get energy immediately after exercise then you maintain the catabolic status and delay the recovery process.

6 – Analyze your training sessions

Analyze your training sessions
Take some time to reflect. What did you achieve in 2010 and how did you achieve it? What were the highlights and downsides?

Analyzing your performance in the past 12 months will make your workouts even stronger in 2011.

If you have access to power meter or heart rate monitor data, you should also spend some time analyzing the metrics from your key workouts, performance tests and races in 2010.

7 – Include power meter training

Power meter training is a growing phenomenon. It’s easy to do and the single most effective way to monitor progress.

There is one significant reason that I strongly recommend power meters: it makes it possible to precisely control the workload during interval training, making sure that the right physiological skills get trained. If you don’t have a power meter, make it a priority to at least experiment with one during 2011.

8 – Prioritize high intensity intervals

There is no doubt in my mind that training with high intensity is the most time effective way to improve your performance. Elite and professional riders need to train at (or very close to) VO2 max to make further progress.

When you give the highest priority to your interval training, it’s also much more likely to be successful.

Try to perform intervals as the most important part of your ride. Making interval training the most important thing will put it above achieving your planned distance, joining a social group ride or even taking part in a race.

9 – Make your training as specific as possible

What are the decisive parts of a race that you are preparing for? A hill? A sprint finish? A basic rule of solid cycling training is to focus your training on what you are aiming for during a race.

If you make your training more specific, your body will receive the optimal physiological improvements for the specific event you have in mind. So, for example, if you want to take part in a hilly race, you should train on courses that have undulating profiles.

10 – Make your 2011 cycling training plan now

The fastest way to improve as a cyclist without working harder is by adding some structure to your training. Following and sticking to a training plan is a simple but effective approach and it pays off quickly.

Riders often believe that they feel stronger because of the special combination of intervals that I devise for them but, to be honest, the more likely explanation is that they simply have some structure to their training program.

If you are a hard-working cyclist, you deserve to achieve the best possible results with the work you do.

You don’t (necessarily) have to train more or harder to achieve better results.

If you achieve the right structure with proper amounts of interval training on the right days, there is a good chance that you will improve quickly and continue doing so.

And the best part is that you won’t have to spend more time away from your family or friends to achieve this progress.

If you haven’t got a training plan for 2011, you can try one of the free cycling training programs here on Training4cyclists.com or, even better, use the detailed 16-week training program included in my recently published e-book, Time Effective Cycling Training.

11 – Do the little extra it takes to succeed

Yes, I know this is supposed to be 10 Steps for Better Cycling Performance in 2011, but I’ve included point 11 to highlight that sometimes it can pay off to go the extra mile. Sometimes you have to dig a little deeper into your reserves when you train. The saying is “no pain, no gain” and there’s no doubt a bit of suffering can go a long way if you want to beat the opposition.

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Fartlek as Interval Training

Fartlek was developed by the Swedish coach Gösta Holmer back in the 1930’s. It was originally used by runners, but a lot of other endurance sports have adapted it as a part of their training. If you read in Wikipedia, you will find a description that sounds like this:

“Fartlek, which means ‘speed play’ in Swedish, is a form of conditioning which puts stress mainly on the aerobic energy system due to the continuous nature of this exercise. The difference between this type of training and continuous training is that the intensity or speed of the exercise varies, meaning that aerobic and anaerobic systems can be put under stress. Most Fartlek sessions last a minimum of 45 minutes and can vary from aerobic walking to anaerobic sprinting.”

Fartlek is unorganized interval training

As you can see Fartlek is a combination of many different intervals with both aerobic and anaerobic events. These intervals are not organized as the intervals you know from regular interval training. Instead you use the terrain, the winds or you friends to get inspired to make attacks of various lengths. I think that the motivating factor in fartlek is the best thing about this kind of cycling training.

Actually I know many riders that do this training without knowing that there is a name for it. They do it because it is great fun, effective and similar to races.

Fartlek with a theme

There are many ways you can use fartlek. You can decide to give your sessions a tactical theme: E.g. Try to make explosive, surprising attack when the group slows down.

Or maybe you could give it a technical theme:
E.g. Ride fast in the areas with many sharp curves.
Or you can make a personal theme with something you want improve. Actually, I always recommend that riders train towards what they are aiming for. There is a high degree of specificity needed to achieve the right adaptations to your training. So, it makes sense to design Fartlek sessions that reflect your goals.

Difficult to reproduce training sessions

If you have a period where your motivation for regular interval training is low or non-existing, then try Fartlek. It is fun and often you will experience that you get a really good workout.

The only problem is that it is impossible to reproduce a good training session. Simply because the amount of aerobic and anaerobic training you get is based on how spontaneous you (or your friends) are. Thus, the outcome will vary from time to time. If you have a power meter you can compare the data files from different training sessions, but you can only use these files for analyses. It is impossible to reproduce a previous training session.

Make a finish time or line

You have to ride on feeling, just like you do in races. But as a thumb of rule, set a time for the duration of the fartlek, so you will now when it is time to make the session harder or be more passive. I have tried to ride these sessions without a defined finish time. Believe me when I say that fartlek without time or finish line is enjoyable only for the strongest rider who can punish his so-called friends. 

My experience with fartlek training is that it works best when you have a group of motivated riders who understand the rules of this training type. Then you will have a great time racing with activity that will bring you all physiological benefits that you would have achieved in a criterium.

Enjoy your Fartlek training session

I can only recommend all riders to try fartlek if they haven´t tried it yet. Though it is an unorganized way to train compared to most of the other advice I give here on training4cyclists.com, it is still a very effective and inspiring way to get a good workout for your aerobic and anaerobic systems.

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Don’t Fall Into Strength Training Trap

It is the $64,000 question for cyclists aiming to boost their performance: should they make lifting weights a part of their training regime? There are many arguments for and against and few topics raise the hackles of bike fans more than this.

But, in my view, one thing is certain: when you have a busy life and time is of the essence, strength and weight training should take a back seat. If you only have a limited amount of time to dedicate to your cycling training, then forget about lifting weights and pumping iron: focus on intervals and the sessions that will bring you the maximum benefit.

Use Your Training Time Effectively

Nobody is in any doubt that in everyday life strength training is excellent exercise and can benefit everybody. From a health and wellbeing perspective, people of all ages should do some kind of strength training as part of a healthy lifestyle or exercise regime. The benefits are boundless; lifting weights can help to maintain muscle mass and core strength throughout a person’s life.

But in my area of expertise we are not talking about ordinary mortals: we are talking about serious cyclists. For riders, lifting weights CAN be a good option, let’s say, during the winter months as an alternative to road training, or if they have the luxury of incorporating lots of variety into their training programs. During quieter training periods, pumping iron can be an excellent alternative to regular endurance training. And there is a school of thought that weight training can make the tiny but crucial difference to highly-trained athletes.

Sadly, few people have all the time in the world at their disposal. Ambitious cyclists who want to boost their performance tend to have busy lives: children, families, careers, social life…. So they need to prioritise their training to get the best results possible and spending several hours a week in the gym pumping iron may not be a feasible option. When you only have so much time available, something has to give, and training on the bike will almost certainly increase your performance more than lifting weights.

The Research Is Inconclusive

The studies that have taken place so far as to whether strength training can boost a cyclist’s power and performance are inconclusive. Most riders know that they must put in heavy bursts with 1,000 watts during a race. But can these bursts be improved by strength training? The answer is unknown because we lack the statistics to back up any theories advocated by some bike coaches and riders.

One of the most burning questions is whether it is possible to convert the neuronal power from strength training to generate extra performance on the bike.

One of the most common theories is that weight training makes muscles more efficient when they recruit muscle fibers for contraction. This theory does sound sensible and feasible, but it is extremely difficult to prove in the lab.

Extra body weight derived from lifting weights will slow you down when you climb or accelerate your bike. And then there is the “power-to-weight ratio”, which refers to how many watts you can push compared to your body weight. That ratio has a huge impact when you climb or accelerate.

But during the cold winter months, strength training can be an excellent alternative to road and endurance training. One crucial question cyclists should ask themselves is whether they would enjoy doing some weight training as an alternative to regular bike riding when it is extremely cold outside.

Strength Training Should Never Have A Negative Impact

So, yes, strength training is brilliant from a health viewpoint, but for dedicated cyclists wanting to stretch themselves and make tiny improvements, it can be dropped if time is tight.

In a perfect world it would probably be the ideal scenario to have “strength training only” days. In practice this can be difficult, especially if you are tackling a fair amount of endurance training.

But while strength training is a viable alternative to regular endurance sessions, especially in the winter, it should never have a negative impact on your overall training regime, so sessions on the bike should always come first.

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How to Train for Better Sprint Performance

How to Become a Better Sprinter

Most riders enjoy a sprint once in a while with the group they train with. It can be a really good simulation of the challenges at the end of a race.

If you organize these random sprints, you have the opportunity to make your sprints a lot better – and you still have a lot of fun battling with your friends. Here are some sprint sessions which may help you to become a better sprinter:

Sprint Program for Cyclists #1

15 minutes – warm-up (increasing intensity)
8 x 10 sec group sprint. 5 min recovery between each sprint.

This program is a very simple example of solid principles that you should use in sprint training.

Please note that after each sprint you should have a long recovery before your next sprint. By having this long recovery you will be able to make maximum effort in each sprint and get a great stimulus for every single muscle fiber involved in sprinting.

It is a mistake to believe that sprint training should only be done after long rides to simulate “the real thing”.

When you are tired, dehydrated and your glycogen stores are empty, you have probably also lost your concentration and motivation. The circumstances might be psychologically comparable to race situations, but they will never represent optimum training of your physiological sprinting skills.

Sprint Program for Cyclists #2

15 minutes – warm-up (increasing intensity)
5 x 10 sec power sprint. 5 min recovery between each power sprint.

Slow down your bike and then do a maximum acceleration in a high gear (53×14-16). This exercise is probably the closest you can get to specific maximum strength training on your bike.

This workout can easily be performed a couple of times each week because the recovery needed after these power sprints is minimal. Although it should be emphasized that recovery periods between power sprints must be long enough to ensure full recovery.

Just like any other workout, it is a good idea to analyze your efforts afterwards. Group sprints are more complex to analyze because you train several different skills (technical, tactical and physiological) while power sprints are pure power training.

Again I need to mention that a power meter is a fantastic analysis tool providing objective feedback for your efforts.

Finally, don’t forget to read the real secrets of successful sprinters.

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Overreaching is not equal to overtraining

Overtraining is the result of your body’s inability to cope with the total amount of stress. Several symptoms are associated with the overtraining syndrome: Decreased performance, mood changes, weight loss, decreased appetite, muscle soreness, reduced motivation and fatigue.

I guess most cyclists have experienced at least one or more of these symptoms, but that doesn’t mean that most cyclists have been overtraining.

Understanding the term overreaching

Distinguishing overtraining from overreaching is important, because overreaching is a very natural process when we train. If you take a look at one of my training programs, you will see that it is based on three weeks with overreaching followed by one recovery week.

When you get to the third week, you will not feel stronger than you were in the first week, but after a recovery week with super compensation, you will be stronger than you were when you entered the program. Using a training program structure like this is what I call ‘controlled overtraining’.

Overtraining doesn’t happen overnight

Many riders use the term ‘overtraining’ for both overreaching and overtraining and I guess that is why many riders diagnose themselves as overtrained.

The problem is that if you are really in an overtraining situation, it can take several months before your performance is back at 100%. If you have overreached in a period, a week or two is normally enough to get you back on track.

This principle is often used in tapering protocols, where training volume is reduced the last two or three weeks before a big event. Overtraining syndrome doesn´t happen over a night or week. It takes 6 to 8 weeks or even longer to develop.

The cure is recovery

The cure for overtraining syndrome is often a significantly reduced training volume and intensity. Your body needs time to fully recover from the total accumulated stress in the past months.

When you are overtrained, you have probably forgotten about basic principles of recovery. A differential diagnosis could also be that you have reached a training plateau, which is also a very natural thing, still frustrating though. I covered that topic in two posts – Dealing with training vacuum – Part one and two.

Theories about overtraining

Our understanding of what overtraining really is relies on theories that are not yet proved. Sympathetic and parasympathetic overtraining is often discussed, referring to the autonomic nervous system. In this model the symptoms are caused by an imbalance in the autonomic nervous system. This theory was made back in 1958, but still one of the most referred theories about overtraining.

Minimize the risk

As we don’t know what overtraining exactly is, we should try to use our knowledge about basic exercise physiology to prevent development of overtraining.

A good strategy is to write a training diary. When you notice some of the symptoms mentioned above, then consider whether that is caused by an insufficient recovery from the past training. In this way it is possible to minimize the risk of overtraining, because a training diary implies you to react early.

What is your main strategy to prevent overtraining?

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