From The Coaches: Prioritizing Your Training for Maximal Benefit

Prioritizing Your Training for Maximal Benefit

In the past several months, we have all entered uncharted territory and a landscape that was once dotted with focus points on our racing/training calendars is now a barren landscape. It is inherent in our nature as athletes to not be idle, to keep moving and pushing forward and now here you are, with the lines between work and home blurred and for many, the loss of a commute means extra time to train for the foreseeable future. How often, as athletes, do you get to have a free calendar and extra unexpected time to train and focus on weaknesses that need shoring up? That time is now and it is up to you to make the most of it. The key is to make this time period a benefit rather than a hindrance for your overall fitness. Extra time does not mean extra training but rather purposed training. Our goal should always be to become the healthiest athlete we can be inside and out.

Mental Training

Each day as we are encompassed with the swirling monsoon of information, press conferences and endless opinions on social media it is up to us to make the choice of when enough is enough and limit the exposure and depth of saturation. I know this time has brought unforeseen circumstances, stress, schedule changes and even financial uncertainty into your lives and it is a choice in how we will sift through and handle these stressors. The ability to handle adversity and stress while remaining adaptable is a huge asset to an athlete.

Mental focus and strength are what will take you farther than your competitors. This time period gives you not only an opportunity to practice positive self-talk, will power and true determination but also gives you the opportunity to help others or teach these attributes to loved ones. Limit the saturation, replace every negative thought with 2 positive thoughts and embrace the stress and anxiety as a growth and opportunity to stretch to new heights. I know this sounds cliché and oversimplified, but these simple ideas can completely change your mindset on race/testing day and the outcome. Let the unexpected ignite your creativity and adaptability. We have all been at a race or during a race and had something totally unexpected happen and our reaction will directly impact the outcome or result. Outcomes are 90% of the time not based on externals but our internal response. Remember you are in control, so focus on the things you can control and let the rest go. Mental health is just as important to strengthen as your physical health and training.

Physical Training

With many of us working from home and having more flexibility with our schedules, you undoubtedly want to make the most of it. That said, it does not mean that you switch out your 1-hour recovery spin for a 5-hour ride due to the increased time you have on your schedule. The tendency to over train and overreach with the additional time is tempting but will not give you a positive outcome. Smart training, purposed training not duration, will see you reach higher ground. We have touched a bit about the need for recovery and the signs that recovery is needed so now let’s take next steps and look at what recovery does for the body.

Recovery weeks are likely the most important week in your training cycle. Recovery aids in bolstering the immune system, which is something we have all had on the forefront of our minds the past few months. A healthy immune system will aid in our overall health and the prevention of lost training days. In order to trigger the body to start protein synthesis and mitochondrial biogenesis the body must acknowledge a significant decrease in training load and intensity. The initial process takes 3 days and a bit longer as you age. The total protein channeling and biogenesis process for growth takes at least a week. Cutting your recovery week short means cutting your recovery and maximum gains short. If your training is not decreased enough the process is not initiated. Hard days need to be hard and easy days need to be truly EASY! Just as you would not put your car in park and rev the engine on high for days until the oil and fluids are dry you should not rev your “engine” on high all the time until your body is drained not giving it the chance to recover and properly use all the “gears” in training. Training over time without giving your body the chance to go through mitochondrial biogenesis will not give you the gains you desire but rather stress your body out further resulting in a plateau or decrease in power. The hours you have trained will be lost, and your training has become a negative rather than a positive. Make recovery a priority in your training and do not short cut the recovery process just because you have extra time to train.

Having more time on your schedule is also a great time to invest in weaknesses on and off the bike such as, getting comfortable in those aero bars, focusing on technique with pedaling efficiency and cadence drills, yoga and adding additional stretching for flexibility on the bike. No day or workout is a filler or wasted. Most injuries occur due to muscle imbalances so following a consistent strength program will help bolster your overall training.

How have you been creative with your training during this time? In what ways have you grown or strengthened? With planning and focus, you can have a personal training camp that makes all the difference and you can come out of this time period a rested and stronger cyclist mentally and physically.

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Great reminder, especially as many(including myself) are logging outdoor miles.

I’ve bumped up my volume a bit with the summer weather. I’m finding the gravel grinder plans are a decent one to follow now with ability to ride outdoors.

Based on the Suf plans, it looks like recovery generally comes in at 4 weeks with 50% intensity. Is that a good rule of thumb?

I’m looking at a week long holiday with the family as a good time to recover.

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Great to hear the post was a benefit to you. The temptation to overreach during this time is familiar but it seems like you are handling the time staying balanced. The SUF gravel plans are a great tool to use to guide your training.

Beginner SUF training plans use a rotation of 2 weeks intensity and 1 week recovery. Most intermediate and advanced plans use 3 weeks intensity followed by 1 week recovery. The recovery schedule is based on a couple of things: lifestyle, work demands, age and daily metrics. As you age most find that 2 weeks intensity and 1 week recovery benefits them best. Hours of sleep ,resting morning heart rate and SPO2 levels while following the same pre check protocol are great training readiness indicators to establish patterns so you can easily tell when recovery is needed.

Your recovery week should see at least a 30% decrease in intensity with a decrease in volume. For your holiday with your family just be sure you are getting true recovery. Hiking, sunburn, swimming or dehydration can all see the body working overtime. Changes in schedule and sleep habits also affect the body. Just be aware to stay on top of your nutrition and hydration and limit intensity and durations.

Enjoy that family time!

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Really useful information, thanks. I wasn’t aware of recovery changes taking 3 days to initiate and a week to complete. It’s timely as I was planning on attempting one of our club Strava hill climbs at the end this recovery week. Looks like I’ll have to behave myself instead!

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Really good info on the recovery scenario - thanks for that !!

Appreciate the kind words regarding the post. We realize that everyone’s schedule may be a bit different right now and evem more complicated for some. My family and extended family are 100% in the medical community and this time has brought extra work demands and stresses, so I do understand the new challenges presented to you. You have adapted to your everyday demands and schedule changes and should give yourself credit for that creativity and growth. Adaptability is a great tool not only for everyday life but in training and racing. You have managed the hours in your day to get your training in and make it more effective, chapeau!

Not only have you been adaptable and creative but you have strengthened both physically, by finding a way to continue training, and mentally, by restructuring and prioritizing. Well done!

If you haven’t already, take advantage of the Yoga and Strength workout libraries and Training Plans on the SUF app.

Keep up the great work!

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I’m in almost the reverse situation. I have a newborn so am doing maybe 2 videos a week during the week and then a weekend ride outdoors or another video - so quite low volume simply because of training demands. Should I still be getting in a rest week? Maybe on a 3/1 pattern as my 2 weeks are high intensity but not high volume? And if so what should I do? May EoS and a cadence video but nothing else? I’m running short on sleep on a perpetual basis - kind of unavoidable for a new dad - so I don’t want too much other deficit. All I’m trying to do is keep ticking over for some physical and mental health and a break but don’t want to overdo it by skipping an easier week.

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Congrats on the new little one! Life changes and daily demands ebb and flow and adjustments are always needed to maintain balance… The change in schedule and sleep hours will certainly impact training readiness and the residual fatigue post workout. Sleep is the one component that our body can cannot “store”. In your case, you should try to limit cumulative fatigue. Do your best to do workouts with more intensity after getting a good night’s sleep… Keeping track of daily metrics such as resting morning heartrate is a great indicator of training readiness. Establishing patterns in heart rate will help you know if your rested and ready for intensity. If your heart rate is up by 4 or 6 beats you are in need of recovery. If you try to push forward on limited sleep or a higher heart rate value you would be pushing your body into an energy deficit. We do not gain positive results from stressing the body during an energy of caloric deficit. We do increase the probability of injury, sickness and need for longer recovery if we press on when recovery is needed.

When you are rested and ready to workout you would most likely benefit from using a 2 weeks of intensity and one week of recovery cycle. Be sure to spread your 2 key workouts with at least a day between them. If you have key 2 workouts at full intensity the rest of your week should be made up of strength and yoga, if you can. If you get the chance for any additional cycling it should be at foundation pace, so HHNF at 70% intensity. I suggest reducing intensity by at least 50% during recovery weeks. TSS is only one factor to consider when considering overall training stress. You must also include the intensity factor and how it takes a toll on you will depend on your strengths or weaknesses. Other major factors to consider are life stressors and daily metrics when balancing the training/recovery cycle. Doing 2 workouts at intensity should see you maintain fitness. I would suggest trying to add in strength to prepare you to add more workouts in the future and yoga to aid in having your muscles firing in the right patterns and prevent injury. I really like that with the time you have you are focusing on technique and form.

My humble advice would be to remember, this is a short season in your life and the little one will be big before you blink. Enjoy this time to stretch and grow in new ways away from the bike. Focus on the important things you can control and take care of yourself so when you do workout your ready and healthy. Never try to make up workouts just move on to the next day. Always fuel a workout and hydrate throughout the day.

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Love it - Great to see that “Maximal Benefit” is not just “Max Watts”. A huge short-term gain means nothing if it limits your longevity in the sport.

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Sorry for the delayed response, Simon - lots going on! :crazy_face:

This is such a helpful, thoughtful response. It is what I love about this programme and forum and why I recommend Suf unreservedly to many people. I really appreciate your taking the time to respond and I’ll proceed as you suggest. Cycling is far from the most important thing in my life at the moment, but it’s an important thing and it’s so easy to lose a week, then 2, then 6 - and I don’t want to do that. Thank you.

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