[Photo by Mike Kim]
The philosophy of training proposed in The Cyclist’s Training Bible may seem unusual. I have found, however, that if it is followed, serious athletes improve. Here is my training philosophy:
“An athlete should do the least amount of the most specific training that brings continual improvement.”
The idea of limiting training is a scary thought for some. Many cyclists have become so used to overtraining that it seems a normal state. These racers are no less addicted than drug users. As is the case with a drug addict, the chronically overtrained athlete is not getting any better, but still can’t convince himself or herself to change.
Read the philosophy statement again. Notice that it doesn’t say “train with the least amount of miles.” Another way of stating it might be “use your training time wisely.” For those of us with full-time jobs, spouses, children, a home to maintain and other responsibilities, using training time wisely is more than a philosophy–it’s a necessity.
To help you better understand this philosophy I’d like to explain it using the Ten Commandments of Training. By incorporating each of these guidelines into your thinking and training, you’ll be following this philosophy and getting a better return on your time invested. Your results will also improve regardless of your age or experience.
I – TRAIN MODERATELY
Your body has limits when it comes to endurance, speed and strength. Don’t try too often to find them. Instead, train within those limits most of the time. Finish most workouts feeling like you could have done more. It may mean stopping a session earlier than planned. That’s OK. Do not always try to finish exhausted.
The biggest mistake of most athletes is making their easy days too hard, so when it comes time for a hard training day, they’re unable to go hard enough. This leads to mediocre fitness and performance. The higher your fitness level, the greater the difference between the intensities of hard and easy days.
Many cyclists also think that pushing hard all the time will make them tough. They believe that willpower and strength of character can overcome nature and speed up their body’s cellular changes. Don’t try it–more hard training is seldom the answer. An organism adapts best when stresses are slightly increased. That’s why you’ve often heard the admonition to increase training volume by no more than 10 percent from week to week. Even this may be too high for some.
By progressing carefully, especially with intensity, you’ll gradually get stronger and there will be time and energy for other pursuits in life. An athlete who enjoys training will get far more benefits from it than one who is always on the edge of overtraining. When in doubt -– leave it out.
[Photo by Devon]
II – TRAIN CONSISTENTLY
The human body thrives on routine. Develop a training pattern that stays mostly the same from week to week — regular activity brings positive change. This does not mean do the same workout every day, week after week. Variety also promotes growth. Later in this book you’ll see that there are actually slight changes being made throughout the training year. Some of the changes are seemingly minor. You may not even be aware of them, as when an extra hour is added to the training week during the basebuilding period.
Breaks in consistency usually result from not following the Moderation Commandment. Overdoing a workout or week of training is likely to cause excessive fatigue, illness, burnout or injury. Fitness is not stagnant–you’re either getting better or getting worse all the time. Frequently missing workouts mean a loss of fitness. This doesn’t mean, however, you should work out when ill. There are times when breaks are necessary.
III – GET ADEQUATE REST
It’s during rest that the body adapt to the stresses of training and grows stronger. Without rest there’s no improvement. As the stress of training increases, the need for rest also accumulates. Most cyclists pay lip service to this Commandment; they understand it intellectually, but not emotionally. It is the most widely violated guideline. You will not improve without adequate rest. Most athletes need seven to 10 hours of sleep daily. Professionals, with few other demands on their time than training, usually include naps to get their daily dose. The rest of us need to get to bed early every night. The younger you are, the more rest you need. Junior riders should be sleeping nine to 10 hours daily.
IV – TRAIN WITH A PLAN
This is fundamental to improvement in almost any endeavor of life, yet few selftrained athletes do it. Sometimes I find riders who use a sound plan from a magazine, but as soon as a new issue comes out, they abandon the old plan and take up a new one. Most people will improve if they follow a plan–any plan. It can be of poor design, yet still work. Just don’t change it.
[Photo by Yours Truly]
V –TRAIN WITH GROUPS INFREQUENTLY
There’s a real advantage to working out with others — sometimes. Pack riding develops handling skills, provides experience with race dynamics, and makes the time go faster. But all too often, the group will cause you to ride fast when you would be best served by a slow, easy recovery ride. At other times, you’ll need to go longer or shorter than what the group decides to ride. Group workouts too often degenerate into unstructured races at the most inopportune times.
For the winter base-building period, find a group that rides at a comfortable pace. During the spring intensity-building period, ride with a group that will challenge you to ride fast, just as when racing. Smart and structured group rides are hard to find. You may need to create your own. Stay away from big packs that take over the road and are unsafe. You want to get faster, not get killed.
Use groups when they can help you. Otherwise, avoid them.
VI – PLAN TO PEAK
Your season plan should bring you to your peak for the most important events. I call these “A” races. The “B” races are important too, but you won’t taper and peak for these, just rest for three to four days before. “C” races are tune-ups to get you ready for the A’s and B’s. A smart rider will use these low-priority races for experience, or to practice pacing, or as a time trial to gauge fitness. If all races are equal, don’t expect much.
This book will show you how to peak for “A” races two or more times in a season. Each peak may last for up to six weeks. You will still race between peaks, but the emphasis will be on re-establishing endurance, strength and speed to prepare for the next peak.
VII – IMPROVE WEAKNESSES
What do riders with great endurance, but not much speed, do the most of? You guessed it — endurance work. What do good climbers like to do? Why of course — they like to train in the hills. Most cyclists spend too much time working on what they’re already good at. What’s your weakest area? Ask your training partners if you don’t know. I’ll bet they do. Then spend more time on that area. The Cyclist’s Training Bible will help identify your weaknesses and teach you how to improve them.
[Photo by Matt Maceda]
VIII –TRUST YOUR TRAINING
Few of us trust our training when it comes time to race. There’s a great fear as the big race approaches that we haven’t done enough, so we train right up to race day. I’ve seen people the day before an important race go out for a long ride because they think it will help. It takes 10 to 21 days of reduced work load for the human body to be fully ready to race, depending on how long and hard the training has been. Cut back before the big races, and you’ll do better. Trust me.
IX – LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
A few years ago after the fall of the Berlin Wall, I attended a talk by the former head of the East German Sports Institute. After conceding that East German athletes had indeed used illegal drugs, which he felt was a minor aspect of their remarkable success, he went on to explain what he saw as the real reason for their great number of Olympic medals. He described how elite athletes lived regulated lives in dormitories. Every morning on awakening, each athlete met with a group of experts — an event coach, a physiologist, a doctor or nurse and a sports psychologist, for example. The group checked the athlete’s readiness to train that day and made adjustments as necessary to the schedule. In effect, they were listening to what the athlete’s body was saying. The athlete trained only to the level they could tolerate that day. Nothing more. It would be nice if each of us could afford such attention. We can’t, so we must learn to listen to our bodies for ourselves. If you listen to what the body is saying, you’ll train smarter and get faster. Cyclists who train smart always beat athletes who train hard. The Cyclist’s Training Bible will teach you how to hear what your body is saying every day.
X – COMMIT TO GOALS
Talk is cheap. If you want to race farther, faster and stronger this season you need to train differently and may even need to make changes in your lifestyle. What could be holding you back? Is it too little sleep? Maybe you need to go to bed earlier. Or perhaps you eat too much carbohydrate and not enough protein. You may benefit from putting more time in the weight room in the winter to build greater force. Maybe your training partners are holding you back.
After you set your goals in a later chapter, take a look at them and determine how they relate to your lifestyle and training. Determine that if change is needed, you can do it. Only you can control how well you race. It’s time to put up.
[Photo by Beaver Beavs]
XI - HAVE FUN
Okay this isn’t one of Friel’s commandments, I added it in myself. I think it’s pretty important to keep in mind. That’s the reason why we’re all riding bicycles in the first place, right?
The Cyclist’s Training Bible is available for purchase from VeloGear.