Strength, Speed, and Power Progression to PeakWritten by Matt Russ
Proper race peaking requires that you be at your best fitness level of season at precisely same time as your goal race(s). This means exact timing and performing right work outs at right time. Performing mostly high intensity work too early in season will slowly degrade your performance as season progresses and leave you burned physically and mentally. You should slowly progress towards your most intense training. It is last salvo before your peak. Conversely, performing too little high intensity work would leave you under trained and ill prepared for race intensities. Some athletes train at same intensities, yet wonder why they do not get faster. In order to get faster you must stress body in a way it is not used to. The body then compensates and acclimates to specific stress, and you can then apply still greater stress levels. Your strength and power training should follow this progression as well.
A proper training program moves from general to specific and lower intensity efforts to more high intensity efforts as season progresses. As you perform more short high speed efforts your overall training volume must be reduced to facilitate recovery from these harder work outs. Strength and especially power work should follow these guidelines.
The amount of time you spend working on strength or power will depend on your limiters as an athlete, your event type, and your level of experience. A smaller, underpowered athlete that is concentrating on sprint races will spend much time devoted to strength and power training, whereas a larger muscled athlete may need to devote more time to aerobic development. Generally, longer events require less time devoted to strength and power training.
Your strength work should start in gym after a brief transition period at seasons end. Strength training may last through entire base season and then proceed to maintenance work as more sport specific work is introduced. It is important to remember that purpose of strength training is to apply increase in strength to bike, run, or swim. Many athletes have a tough time giving up weight work even though it is degrading effectiveness of their other more specific work outs. Specificity is one of first rules of training. Performing heavy leg extensions will have little benefit to your cycling because muscles do not contract in that manner. I choose multi-joint strength exercises that mimic at least part of stride or spin. Towards end of base season I actually combine certain resistance routines with on bike and run training.
The first phase of on bike strength training involves low cadence, highly resisted intervals of 15-30 seconds, then proceeds to sustained intervals of 3-20 minutes at slightly higher cadences of 50-60 rpm. Although effort is great, there should be little heart rate reaction beyond an aerobic level which is important during base season. The next work out would be sustained efforts of 20 minutes to over 1 hour, still at an aerobic level, and at a cadence of 70-75 rpm. All these work outs train body to produce force aerobically and efficiently and acclimate body for higher intensity efforts to come.
There Is No "Off" SeasonWritten by Matt Russ
The fall and winter is a common time for athletes to wrap up their race season. It is also good to take some time off and let your body recuperate from rigors of high intensity training and racing. Some athletes take as much as four weeks off, but this does result in loss of fitness and requires making up lost ground later. Endurance especially is one of more difficult aspects of fitness to rebuild. A better approach is to enter a "transition" period in which training and intensity are reduced; perhaps greatly, but a level of fitness is maintained. It takes a relatively small amount of training volume to maintain fitness, when compared with building fitness. I recommend at least 1 full week off at end of race season. After taking a week (or more if needed) off I recommend performing some sort of general cardiovascular exercise every other day and take at least 2 consecutive days off every other week. If you feel like you need another day off- take it. This transition period can last 2-6 weeks. Your work outs do not need to be specific to your sport during this time. Shying away from impact of running with cross training is a good idea. This may mean using stair stepper, elliptical trainer, rower, or another sport such as mountain biking (I leave heart rate monitor home). If you plan on strength training introduce resistance work to acclimate yourself for heavier routine to come. The transition period should be tailored to your personal needs such as individual recovery time, age, and stress of your individual sport.
After transition period enter into base or foundation period. During this time increase volume of training, but keep intensity low and aerobic. Perform little if any work above aerobic level and let my anaerobic system atrophy. Building this aerobic base is critical for efficiency later in season. Each week increase duration slightly to build aerobic endurance. Since there are no sprints, speed work, climbing, hill repeats or other intense training your body gets a good rest and can repair itself fully. The first four weeks of base training simply perform low level aerobic work, but in next 4 week block begin to work on technique, skill, and efficiency. This is a good time to perfect your spin, stride, and stroke so that you do not reinforce bad habits. Efficiency is a huge component of becoming a faster athlete. You may want to work with a coach to assess your weaknesses. He or she can recommend a wide variety of drills to increase cadence, efficiency, leg speed, and coordination.