Recovery Taking Longer Than Planned

It’s now over two weeks since I completed the Old Roads 300k (200 miles) and my HRV readings have still not rebounded which indicates that I still haven’t fully recovered from that ride and preceding training.

  • Week 11 (4/5-10/5) Old Roads 300k Audax – planned 818 Tss, actual 835
  • Week 12 (11/5-17/5) planned 842 Tss, actual 383 Tss
  • Week 13 (18/5-24/5) 497 Tss recovery week, actual 295 Tss

Planned Tss per week for the last 3 weeks = 2157 (719/wk), actual = 1513 (504/wk), ie 30% lower than planned. So, what do I do moving forward? Do I stick to my original plan and Tss scores or do I revise it down? I’m not too sure what to do. It would be useful to do the FTP test and then decide what to do. If it is taking over two weeks to recover from training then that would suggest my Tss scores need to revised down. Having said that and looking ahead, the Dartmoor Classic is in 4 weeks time so I need to get in some hard training to prepare for that. If I find that I need more time to recover from weeks 14 & 15 then I will still have two weeks in which to fully recover.

  • Week 14 (25/5-31/5) 870 Tss  FTP TEST
  • Week 15 (1/6-7/6) 856 Tss
  • Week 16 (8/6-14/6) 505 Tss recovery week
  • Week 17 (15/6-21/6) 852 Tss Dartmoor Classic
  • Week 18 (22/6-28/6) 887 Tss

There are a couple of issues I need to address, the first is relating to diet and nutrition and the second is sleep. My sleep over recent months has been disturbed primarily because of Benjamin. Yemi and I have to share the responsibility of looking after Benjamin so this means that neither one of us gets the uninterrupted sleep we used to get. Now, the issue with heavy training is that sleep plays a critical role in aiding recovery, in fact, I would go so far as to say that it is the most important ‘activity’ one can do to ensure full recovery. So, looking ahead I am going to have to schedule in some quality sleep time. In week 17 Yemi is away in Rome so I should at least get some decent sleep that week. In weeks 14-16 I need to schedule nights were I go to bed alone and early in order to get sufficient rest.

As for nutrition and diet, over the past few weeks I have really just eaten what I wanted and I have not been disciplined about what I have been eating. My weight has risen to 71.7kg and body fat 8.2%. I will now focus on reducing my body fat to 7.2% and and my weight to 69.7kg in preparation for the Dartmoor Classic.

I start working at B&Q Monday 8th June so I need to make sure I get some solid training in over the next two weeks.

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Sleep & Its Importance To Recovery

Sleep plays a pivotal role in recovery and therefore any disruption to sleep or reduction in the quality of sleep will delay recovery and therefore impede overall progress in training.

Sleep is extremely important for numerous biological functions and sleep deprivation can have significant effects on athletic performance, especially sub-maximal, prolonged exercise. From the available evidence it appears that athletes may be obtaining less than 8 h of sleep per night and that increasing sleep (sleep extension) or napping may be useful to increase the total number of hours of sleep and thereby enhance performance.

In normal sleep, the stages follow a structured sequence starting with wake, then light sleep with stages 1 and 2, followed by deep sleep (slow wave sleep) with stages 3 and 4, and then followed by REM sleep. Such a sequence is called a sleep cycle which has a typical duration of 90–110 min. A normal night consists of six sleep cycles where the proportion of deep sleep decreases from the beginning to the end of the night and the proportion of REM sleep increases at the same time. In summary, about 50–60% of time is spent in light sleep, 15–20% of time is spent in deep sleep, 20–25% is spent in REM sleep, and 5% or less is spent in wakefulness.

The autonomous nervous system changes with sleep. Heart rate, blood pressure, and respiratory rate are lowered to adapt to the reduced metabolic needs during normal sleep. Consequently, the mean heart-rate values drop from wakefulness to light sleep and further to deep sleep. During REM sleep heart rate increases again showing a high variability, which may exceed the variability observed during quiet wakefulness

The internal structure of sleep shows clear dynamics that follow a physiological imprinted pattern. This pattern can be described successfully by sleep stages ranging from light sleep to deep sleep and REM sleep. The dynamics of sleep stages can be investigated as such by analyzing the duration of sleep stages in the course of the night. The statistical analysis of sleep-stage durations revealed completely different patterns for the regulation of sleep stages and wakefulness episodes during sleep. This indicates that sleep and wakefulness are not just two parts of a sleep–wakefulness control, but that there exist entirely different mechanisms for their regulation in the brain. This fundamental mechanism is not altered in principle by sleep disorders that have a large impact on sleep fragmentation. Only the parameters of the distributions change.

The analysis of the autonomic nervous system during sleep by the investigation of heart-rate variability gives further insight into the regulation of sleep. We found that when the brain is very active as in the ‘dream’—REM stage, heart rate has long-time correlations, like in the wake phase. In contrast, in deep sleep correlations of the heart rate vanish after a small number of beats. In light sleep finally, the heart rate seems to become uncorrelated as well, but only after an increased number of beats. We also compared the altered autonomic nervous system function in obstructive sleep apnea with the results for normal subjects. We found that the differences between the sleep stages are much clearer than the differences between healthy and sleep apnea subjects. This means that the basic heart-rate control in the different sleep stages is very dominant. Obstructive sleep apnea introduces an additional variation on heart rate with a typical bradycardia/tachycardia pattern corresponding to the apnea events, but leaves the basic autonomous nervous system regulation untouched.

The autonomous nervous system changes with sleep. Heart rate, blood pressure, and respiratory rate are lowered to adapt to the reduced metabolic needs during normal sleep. Consequently, the mean heart-rate values drop from wakefulness to light sleep and further to deep sleep. During REM sleep heart rate increases again showing a high variability, which may exceed the variability observed during quiet wakefulness

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The differences between healthy and sleep apnea subjects were much smaller than the differences between sleep stages. This indicates that the basic mechanisms for heart-rate control on an interbeat level did not change very much with sleep apnea. We assume that this basic mechanism is strongly controlled by sleep stages. It seems likely that the long-range correlations during wakefulness and REM sleep are caused by the enhanced influence of the brain on the autonomous nervous system. When this influence is strongly reduced, as is the case during light sleep and deep sleep, the heartbeat intervals behave in a more random fashion. Our studies support the view that there is a strong interaction between the central nervous sleep regulation and the autonomous nervous system regulation. Both systems interact and the measurable parameters cannot be interpreted without the knowledge about the current state of the other system.

The internal structure of sleep shows clear dynamics that follow a physiological imprinted pattern. This pattern can be described successfully by sleep stages ranging from light sleep to deep sleep and REM sleep. The dynamics of sleep stages can be investigated as such by analyzing the duration of sleep stages in the course of the night. The statistical analysis of sleep-stage durations revealed completely different patterns for the regulation of sleep stages and wakefulness episodes during sleep. This indicates that sleep and wakefulness are not just two parts of a sleep–wakefulness control, but that there exist entirely different mechanisms for their regulation in the brain. This fundamental mechanism is not altered in principle by sleep disorders that have a large impact on sleep fragmentation. Only the parameters of the distributions change.

The analysis of the autonomic nervous system during sleep by the investigation of heart-rate variability gives further insight into the regulation of sleep. We found that when the brain is very active as in the ‘dream’—REM stage, heart rate has long-time correlations, like in the wake phase. In contrast, in deep sleep correlations of the heart rate vanish after a small number of beats. In light sleep finally, the heart rate seems to become uncorrelated as well, but only after an increased number of beats. We also compared the altered autonomic nervous system function in obstructive sleep apnea with the results for normal subjects. We found that the differences between the sleep stages are much clearer than the differences between healthy and sleep apnea subjects. This means that the basic heart-rate control in the different sleep stages is very dominant. Obstructive sleep apnea introduces an additional variation on heart rate with a typical bradycardia/tachycardia pattern corresponding to the apnea events, but leaves the basic autonomous nervous system regulation untouched.

Our studies support the view that there is a strong interaction between the central nervous sleep regulation and the autonomous nervous system regulation. Both systems interact and the measurable parameters cannot be interpreted without the knowledge about the current state of the other system.

So, how can sleep be optimised to aid recovery?

  1. Humans sleep in five phases which repeat themselves every 90 minutes. Five cycles equates to seven-and-a-half hours which is enough for the average adult
  2. Take naps (up to 1 hour) – ideal time after lunch between 1-3
  3. The bedroom should be cool, dark and quiet
  4. Create a good sleep routine by going to bed at the same time and waking up at the same time
  5. Avoid watching television in bed, using the computer in bed and avoid watching the clock.
  6. Avoid caffeine approximately 4-5 h prior to sleep (this may vary among individuals)
  7. Do not go to bed after consuming too much fluid as it may result in waking up to use the bathroom
  8. Caffeine and liquids high in sugar are off the menu, as are fat-laden meals, which take longer to digest and raise body temperature, which in turn slows the process of falling to sleep
  9. Begin a pre-sleep routine 90 minutes before bed – start turning off televisions, mobile phones and other electrical devices which give off bright light.
  10. Have a shower prior to sleeping. Your body temperature will cool after coming out of the shower and ease you naturally into a state of sleep.
  11. Turn your radiator down – a cool 16-18C is ideal.
  12. Drink a glass of warm milk before bed. Dairy products are rich in tryptophan, which aids the production of sleep-inducing chemicals serotonin and melatonin.

As well as conditions like sleep apnea, alcohol, work stress and intensive exercise late in the day can limit our amount of deep sleep, whereas aerobic exercise and a regular pre-bed relaxation pattern can facilitate deep sleep. In fact, as summarized in this blog post , higher HRV before bedtime seems to enable a more rapid & effective transition to good quality sleep.

 

Review Weeks 1-7 Training Plan

A summary of what I have completed so far (TSS, distance):

  • Week one – 865, 215
  • Week two – 908, 204
  • Week three – 611, 162
  • Week four – 235, 85

In the above block I completed 3 active weeks followed by 1 recovery week

  • Week five – 300, 91 Mallorca
  • Week six – 325, 92 Mallorca
  • Week seven – 456, 94

My overall activity in weeks 5,6, and 7 was significantly reduced compared to weeks 1-4. On the rides in Mallorca I felt strong, especially on the long 70 miler. In week 7, on my return to UK I felt tired and did very few activities. On the last day of week 7, I did a Sunday Club ride and felt mentally and physically tired. How can I explain this fatigue given how fresh and strong I felt in Mallorca?

  1. Perhaps it is a result of heavy training in weeks 1-3 and not giving my body sufficient time to recover. Therefore, I was still carrying over fatigue from this initial period
  2. I was following a controlled diet up until week 3 but then I was unable to maintain it and felt compelled to eat. I followed by body’s response and began to eat more than I’d planned. In weeks 5 and 6 in Mallorca I ate freely. I ate high quality food and I consumed a large number of calories on a daily basis
  3. At about week 3 my weight went below 69kg and on my return from Mallorca my weight was 71kg and body fat 8%
  4. I’ve not been able to take HRV readings since week 4 because the iPad is not working so I’ve not been able to accurately gauge my body’s response to training. I really need to get this working so I can adjust my training plan to speed up recovery and return to more challenging training
  5. I am now in week 8 which includes the Exmoor Beauty sportive on Sunday. I’ll schedule recovery rides and get the iPad working. I’ll also return to controlling my diet

Week 2 of New Training Plan 6th March 2015

I’m now into week 2 of a new training plan which I have essentially copied from Andrew Coggan’s book, ‘Training & Racing with a Power Meter’ (chapter 9, location 3645). It’s a 16-week plan geared to improving:

  • Muscular endurance @ 60 and 90 minutes
  • Improving fatigue resistance at level 4 and 5 (Lactate Threshold & Anaerobic Capacity)
  • Increasing force for better sprinting & time trialling
  • Improving FTP

I’ve adapted it slightly to include at least one long endurance ride every week. I’ll be monitoring my response to the plan using HRV readings and adjusting the sessions where required. I will also be reassessing my FTP every 6 weeks.

At the start of the plan I completed an FTP test which came in at 231 watts. I was quite disappointed with this as it had previously been around 260w last September. I have been cycling the past few months but it has been general stuff and the intensity has dropped off quite severely. It just goes to prove how quickly you lose fitness – three times the rate at which it is gained. My long term FTP target remains 320 watts but realistically this year I’ll be doing well to just get it close to 300 watts! Well, thats my target and my overall approach will combine the ‘Coggan’ plan with long endurance rides and lowering my weight to 66-67kg (around 146-148lbs). Reaching 266w FTP will give me a power/weight ratio of 4 (Category II), so this will be my first target which equates to 280w on an FTP test.

My last weight measurement came in at 69.4kg and 7.9% body fat – over the course of the first week of the training plan I had managed to control my diet using myfitnesspal.com to get my weight under control. My muscle mass reading was coming in around 60.3kg. If I assume my muscle mass is 60kg and my bone mass is 3.2kg, then my base line weight is 63.2kg – if I can get down to 66.5kg then body fat will work out at 3.3kg or 5% of total body weight.

I’m planning on doing three weeks on and one week off, however, this is also subject to how I respond to training using HRV readings. If I’m not responding quickly enough then I will factor in some active recovery rides as a means of returning me to the training plan after appropriate rest and recovery and as a means of avoiding over-training. I will use the long endurance rides to extend my total weekly TSS in a manageable and careful way. I do believe that getting TSS up is the key to improving FTP.

Having a Plan – Feb 10th 2015

I’ve discussed plenty of objectives on this blog but over recent months it hasn’t yet translated into an actual plan so it is worth reviewing why that is and then actually putting something down on paper. Here goes….

I know I want to increase my FTP power to 320w – that is a massive jump from where I am but I got up to 274w at my peak last September which would leave me 46w to gain, an increase of 17%. Achieving this will feed into all sorts of performance improvements in other areas so this is what I’m going to focus on. So, why have I not got a plan written out? I think the main reason is mental fatigue. Sticking to a plan which also involves watching very carefully what I eat and drink and monitoring my HRV is very demanding. In the end, I think I just got mentally exhausted with it as well as being physically tired. The body clearly does need breaks both in the short-term and in the long-term and what applies to the body equally applies to the mind. So, now I’ve got my excuses out of the way what are the resources I have got to hand to help me achieve my target of 320w?

  • Intelligence
  • Time
  • Body shape
  • Determination
  • Endurance

I’ve had a couple of false-starts recently, I’ve got back into training and then overdone the intensity on a couple of rides which has left me with colds!! Duh! I need to gradually get back into my training and gradually build up volume followed by intensity. As far as training periods I am thinking of training for 2 weeks followed by 1 week of recovery training which is a 3-week training block. Each training block can focus on developing one of the main energy systems so I can start with building my endurance and work through LT, VO2 Max, Anaerobic Capacity and then Neuromuscular.

So, looking at timescales, events, etc it could work out as follows:

  • 9/2-15/2 Recovery
  • 16/2-22/2 Cottage Cornwall, recovery & endurance (500TSS)
  • 23/2-1/3 Recovery (400TSS)
  • 2/3/8/3 Endurance (550TSS)
  • 9/3-15/3 Endurance/tempo intervals (575TSS)
  • 16/3-22/3 Recovery (450TSS)
  • 23/3-29/3 Majorca – endurance/tempo intervals (625TSS)
  • 30/3-5/4 Majorca – endurance/tempo intervals (675TSS)
  • 6/4-12/4 Recovery (500TSS)
  • 13/4-19/4 Endurance/Tempo, Exmoor Beauty (675TSS)
  • 20/4-26/4 Endurance/Tempo/LT
  • 27/4-3/5 Recovery (525TSS)

OK, the good thing is I have already put this into Training Peaks. I now need to use MyFitnessPal and iThlete regularly to make sure my training is headed in the right direction. I am confident I can get down to 67.5kg so this is another goal.

Recovery – How To Recognise & Respond

I’ve been giving rest & recovery some thought over the past few days and it is an essential and key component of my training programme.  I would argue is critical in terms of making performance progress. The main questions relating to recovery are:

  1. Why is it important
  2. How can it be recognised
  3. How often should it be scheduled and how long should it it last
  4. How can the bodies response to R&R be monitored and measured

The importance of R&R 

During training the body is over-stressed and if this continues without giving the body sufficient R&R then the body’s natural response is to invoke an illness or injury that will stop training in order to prevent any further damage. It is the body’s last resort mechanism to mitigate the damage caused by additional training workload. On the other hand, if appropriate R&R is scheduled, then the body will make adaptations to better manage these stresses the next time it encounters them. My own experience backs up the theory. When I have given sufficient time to R&R I have restarted my training feeling stronger and fresher.

Recognising the signs of overtraining

How do we know when we need to take a rest? – this should be pretty simple so why do we overtrain? I think the answer relates to a mistaken belief that the harder we train the stronger and fitter we get. This belief in turn overrides our own capacity to listen to our bodies for signs of overtraining. The signs are often evident but we simply miss them or ignore them. To make steady performance gains it is absolutely critical that we recognise the value of appropriately timed R&R. This belief must replace any pretensions that continual training overload will lead to performance improvements. Once we hold to this belief, then the becomes incorporating R&R as an essential component of our training programmes. Getting the balance right between overloading the body through training and giving the body time to adapt to training is a key skill. How do employ this skill and identify and recognise the signs of overtraining? As previously referenced we need to elevate our natural ability to read signs from our body as to when we start to encroach from overtraining into overreaching our bodies. The main signs of overtraining are

  • Fatigued – pretty obvious but one we often overlook
  • Irritability and bad mood
  • Skin changes – itchiness or lack of palor
  • Increasing mental fatigue
  • Low morale and motivation
  • Disruptive sleep patterns
  • Headaches and feeling sniffly
  • Elevated resting heart rate and depressed heart rate variability
  • Irregular hunger or thirst patterns
  • Irregular toilet patterns

In addition, to the above signs we can also monitor the body’s response to training by taking resting heart rate and heart rate variability measurements. Changes in the trends of either of these can provide invaluable insights into our bodies response to overtraining. The critical element of these measurements is to have recorded them over a sufficient time period to provide a trend or pattern. One-off measurements can not be relied upon.

How often should R&R be scheduled and how long should it last

Most training programmes provisioned by coaches or training web sites include rest and recovery weeks. Typically, a R&R week follows two or three weeks of training. In addition, rest and recovery days are included within the training weeks especially after demanding or ‘breakthrough’ training sessions. Unfortunately, this is not a precise mechanism and the body doesn’t always follow prescribed timescales. My own experience supports the need to schedule R&R but not to strictly adhere to it. Some flexibility is needed and programmes needed to be adjusted to reflect the body’s need for rest or continued training. Therefore, it is advisable to schedule R&R into a training programme and then to make adjustments were required.

I have been scheduling one week recovery weeks following two or three-week training sessions. During recovery weeks I would maintain frequency of activities but at reduced volume and intensity. Essentially, these activities have allowed the body to ‘tick over’ from a training perspective whilst the lower intensity has allowed the body to recover and adapt to the training stresses applied in the previous weeks. Over recent months, I have become more aware and responsive to signs of physical and mental fatigue. This is a skill that can be developed.

I have been using recovery rides between active training sessions and also during R&R as a means of balancing rest without training adaptations. My own theory is that recovery rides provide slow-twitch muscles with a low-level workout whilst fast-twitch muscle fibres get a complete rest, provided of course it is performed correctly, that is, at power or HR less than 50% of FTP or FTHR. Therefore, recovery rides are great for maintaining training of slow-twitch muscles whilst giving fast-twitch muscles a break. During the last R&R period I also used recovery rides to gauge my body’s recovery. On successive recovery rides I would slightly increase intensity or volume or both and measure my response to the increases. If the response was positive then I would increase it again, if negative then I would maintain the same level. HRV was very useful during this period as it allowed a ‘window’ into my body’s parasympathetic system to gauge how it was responding to rest and recovery. This methodical and objective approach minimises the risk inherent in using subjective cues to determine when to get back to full training.

Performance losses occur at three times the rate of performance gains so it is critical that we don’t spend more time resting and recovering than is required. Therefore, it is equally important that we recognise the signs of when we are ready to start training again in order that we can optimise the gains generated from previous training blocks.

 

 

Body’s Adaptations To Training Stress – My Own Theories

Since 11th September I have been aware of significant positive changes in my cycling performance, namely:

  • The ability to climb without the onset of muscle fatigue
  • A lowering of my heart rate by around 20bpm for the same power output
  • An increase in my ability to cycle at elevated HR for a longer period, well into the 170bpm range
  • A reduction in hunger fluctuations, especially at night time
  • An increased capacity to handle higher training loads – ability to train 6 or 7 times per week and train twice a day where necessary

I have also been aware of positive changes in my physiology, namely:

  • Steady reduction in body fat, down from around 12% a year ago to around 8% today
  • A steady increase in body water from around 62.5% a year ago to 67.5% today
  • A steady decrease in overall body weight from 74kg a year ago to 70kg today

Currently, my main limiter to cycling performance improvement is muscle failure or more specifically the capacity of my fast-twitch muscles to handle bigger workloads.

It is useful to explore what is behind the improvements which I can summarise as follows:

  1. Planning, monitoring and reviewing training
  2. A mixture of the right kind of training sessions combined with appropriately timed rest & recovery
  3. Structured nutrition and hydration to dovetail training programme

Of the three key reasons, it is in the arena of training and R&R where I am least clear about the contribution of each of the different training components to actual physiological improvements so I am going to assess and speculate about which of them has led to the biggest gains. From the assessment I will hope to draw out some conclusions to help better inform and determine future training.

A Review of Training Approach 

The main contributors in my training can be identified as follows:

  • Gradual steady increase in training load – average TSS score of 30 (210/week) one year ago, rising steadily from around 40 (280/week) in March/April to around 70 (490/week) today. Practically, this correlates with an average of 3 activities per week one year ago to 6/7 activities per week today. One year ago, it would simply not have been possible for my body to handle the current workload of 6/7 activities per week. Training load was gradually increased through the year at an increase rate of no more than 5 TSS points per week and 15 TSS points per month
  • Training consistency – there have been no sharp increases in training and more importantly no sharp reductions either, apart from a 2-week holiday in July when only one short activity was completed. An important lesson learnt was that training gains are lost at three times the rate at which they are gained. Therefore, it is absolutely critical to apply training consistently and continue to build on previous gains and not have extended breaks. It is better to train lightly and regularly than to train heavily with big gaps in between.
  • Distinct training phases or periods – training sessions have been organised into two or three week periods followed by one week ‘recovery’ weeks. There have been three key training phases: phase 1 (March-August) – long endurance rides, phase 2 (August-September) – HIIT & power, phase 3 (October-Present) – strength & fast-twitch muscle. Each phase has clearly contributed to performance gains, however, I would argue that the biggest returns have come from the HIIT phase. The question is whether or not it is possible to embark on a HIIT phase of training without first having established a solid endurance base.
  • Appropriately timed rest & recovery and  – one week recovery weeks followed two or three-week training sessions. These recovery weeks maintained frequency of activities but at reduced volume and intensity. Essentially, the activities have allowed the body to ‘tick over’ from a training perspective whilst the lower intensity has allowed the body to recover and adapt to the training stresses applied in the previous weeks. Over recent months, I have become more aware and responsive to signs of physical and mental fatigue. I recognise the value of R&R to allow the body to make positive adaptations to training stresses. On each occasion I have recommenced training following R&R I have felt much stronger. I have used Heart Rate Variability (HRV) to monitor my body’s response during both training and recovery periods.
  • The introduction and use of recovery rides – I have been using recovery rides between active training sessions and also during R&R. Recovery rides provide slow-twitch muscles with a low-level workout whilst fast-twitch muscle fibres get a complete rest, provided of course it is performed correctly, that is, at power or HR less than 50% of FTP or FTHR. Therefore, recovery rides are great for maintaining training of slow-twitch muscles whilst giving fast-twitch muscles a break. During the last R&R period I also used recovery rides to gauge my body’s recovery. On successive recovery rides I would slightly increase intensity or volume or both and measure my response to the increases. If the response was positive then I would increase it again, if negative then I would maintain the same level. HRV was very useful during this period as it allowed a ‘window’ into my body’s parasympathetic system to gauge how it was responding to rest and recovery. This methodical and objective approach minimises the risk inherent in using subjective cues to determine when to get back to full training.
  • Increased duration and distance of aerobic training – the main change in my aerobic training has been the increase in duration and distances. Every week I was completing a 75/80 mile endurance ride, typically with a group of other riders. This was done from April right through to the beginning of August. With the start of the HIT training, the long endurance rides were maintained but at a lower frequency, once every two weeks. With repetition the longer endurance rides became a lot easier so much so that the 50-mile club rides felt short in duration and distance in comparison.
  • Increase in weight resistance training – I have been including two gym sessions per week on average since the beginning of March. To date I have completed 55 hours in the gym which works out at approximately 7 hours or 7 gym sessions per month. I’ve been doing these sessions to help build strength in my arms, chest, back and core and to work my fast-twitch muscle fibres. They are not specifically done to improve my performance on the bike, they are more related to reducing body fat and improving my appearance but I do feel they are making some positive contribution to my cycling, but I am not entirely sure what. I do know that building strength in my core and back does contribute to improvements on the bike.
  • The use of a power meter to design, monitor, and determine the length of training sessions – I started using a power meter 18/7 and it helped immensely in designing an executing HIT sessions, especially in improving VO2 Max and Anaerobic Capacity. My cycling performance went up a couple of levels during my HIT phase and it was instigated by the use of a power meter. The power meter can be used to accurately determine how many watts to use for a given exercise and more importantly to signal when enough exercise or intervals have been done. The avoidance of overtraining is critical to ensure training consistency and gradual gains. An illness will typically rob one
  • The introduction and use of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) – I have used HIT for VO2 Max and Anaerobic Capacity training sessions. This was prompted by use of a power meter which allowed me to accurately design and adhere to a VO2 Max training session. The power meter also allowed me to know precisely when to stop the session which is invaluable as a means of avoiding overtraining. The gains from the HIT sessions were immediate – improved climbing ability, improved strength, improved aerobic ability and improved anaerobic capability. The results were astounding. If the long endurance training represented the base foundation of a pyramid the HIT sessions truly represented the pinnacle. The sessions involved intervals of between 3, 5 or 10 minutes followed by 5 minutes rest and a warmup and cooldown of 20 minutes. The sessions were usually completed within 90 minutes so very efficient training in terms of benefits realised versus time invested. Normally, I did one session per week and I always followed it with a rest day. Research has revealed (Burgomaster et al. 2005, Gibala et al. 2006, Gibala 2007) big gains from HIIT training. In the Gibala et al. study (2006), one group did 2.5 hours of HIT training (630kj) and another group did 10.5 hours of endurance training (6,500kj). Surprisingly, all training measures improved with both groups to an equal extent. In fact, the power output of the HIT group increased to a higher level than the endurance group. Subsequent studies reinforce the value of HIT and HIIT training. The question I ask myself, is what is happening physiologically to elicit the performance gains? My own view is a combination of: stronger heart, increased concentration of mitochondria in slow-twitch muscles to clear lactate generated by fast-twitch muscles, increased engagement of fast-twitch muscles when climbing through lower cadence, increased stroke volume of heart, increased plasma volume, increased blood capillarization in muscles, increased ability for muscle cells to convert glycogen into energy, hypertrophy of muscle fibres, interconversion of fast-twitch muscle fibres. But, which has a greater impact than another?