In most of the training literature it is well documented that the benefits of training are not realised without appropriate rest and recovery (R&R). Not getting enough R&R leads to overtraining – the bodies way of saying it has had enough and that it wants to stop. If you don’t listen the body invariably shuts down usually by way of a cold or some other minor illness. This is what happened in my case last week – I had been training regularly and with intensity. I did a couple of fantastic strong rides and then pow I got a cold. At the time I was kind of bemused as to why it had happened as I had been riding so strong but on reflection I realise I was doing too much too soon and by ‘too much’ I mean too much intensity.
I kept asking myself questions about what had led to the overtraining and this led me to a book, ‘The Cyclist’s Training Bible’, by an eminent cycling coach Joe Friel. The book lays out the science behind training and how it can be applied into developing more effective training plans. So, what did I learn?
- Joe stresses the need to establish a ‘base’ level of fitness as an absolute prerequisite to more intense and specific training. He sets out a test that can be completed to validate when an athlete has established a base level of fitness.
- Base training is essentially composed of endurance training coupled to strength or weight training.
- He repeatedly stresses the importance of recovery as a means of realising the benefits of training.
- Base training for established athletes is typically done early season and lasts about 12 weeks. For non athletes or people new to training, base training can take longer than this.
- Joe reinforces the need to get the base fitness established before moving on to the next period of training which he refers to as ‘build’.
- Joe advocates the need for athletes over 40 to factor in more recovery time to their training. 1 week of recovery typically follows 3 weeks of training for athletes under 40, however, this is reduced to 2 weeks training followed by 1 week of R&R for the over-40’s or ‘masters’ as referred to in the book
- The strongest fittest athletes are those that recover the quickest from training. Getting recovery right is the key to optimising fitness progress
- Joe advocates cyclical training – periods of applied training followed by adequate periods of R&R
- Joe is a big fan of cycling training using power meters
As a result of what I have learned I will be doing the following:
- I now take my HRV reading every morning using iThlete – this provides more accurate data on my bodies response to training
- I am paying more attention to signs of overtraining such as irritability, erratic appetite, disturbed or low quality sleep, etc, etc
- I am recording as much data as I can in a ‘training’ spreadsheet. I will use this to monitor progress and to anticipate overtraining
- I have decided to adopt Joe’s ‘periodisation’ method of training starting with base training (12 weeks). My base training is split into 3 phases; base 1 (3 weeks), base 2 (3 weeks) and base 3 (6 weeks)
- I have set out a training plan for the rest of the year which culminates at the end of July when I reach 50 and when I do the RideLondon sportive
- The training plan will serve as the starting point for plans in future years. Towards July I will start to draft out a training plan for 2014 – my goals for 2014 will depend on the level of fitness I achieve over the next 5 months
- My base 1 training starts at the beginning of March – it focuses on endurance riding and weight training (3 hours per week). The emphasis is on riding more hours (typically 15-18 hours per week) and less intensity (ie., training more in HRZ 2 or endurance zone). More intensive training will be introduced as I progress through base 1 into base 2 and then base 3
- I may need to adjust the endurance cycling hours based on my rate of recovery
- I will introduce more testing as a means of monitoring progress
- I will focus on losing as much weights as possible during my base training phase. Shedding weight is much harder when intensity of training ramps later in the year – therefore, best to shed the pounds now and it just so happens that endurance training is the most effective exercise in burning fat. Weight training will aid this process by building muscle mass and therefore elevating my metabolic rate which in turn will burn fat
I think the key for me is to build build build my base endurance – this means many more cycling hours at HRZ 2. The fact that I also need to focus on weight training is great because part of my overall goal is to have a much leaner muscular body. I will keep an eye on R&R – I need to be sure that my body is recovering from the increase in cycling hours – in effect, it is doubling from 7.5/8 hours a week to 16-18 hours per week. This may need to be adjusted down. I will complete the base fitness test at the end of each of the three base periods. If I have not established the required level of base fitness I will return to base training and I will continue base training until I get it.