So after my 2014 season which you can read about here, and broadly a month off, it’s time to hit the shed again and start training for next year.
This isn’t just about putting the bike on the turbo, jumping back on it again and riding as hard as I can three times a week. I’m by no means an expert, but I know enough to know that an approach like that will, ultimately, lead to a plateau, rather than an increase in speed. And going places faster is kinda the point! Behind it is the principle of overloading and adaptation. Your body adapts to the demands placed on it and if you don’t continue to overload it, it won’t adapt further. So keep doing what you’ve been doing, at the intensity you’ve always been doing it, and you won’t make any progress. That’s a simple fact. Beyond that it gets a whole lot more complex, and different approaches will reap different rewards. I am living proof that you can change your physiology through training. A few years back I was an incredibly efficient (in the burning fat sense) long distance rider – at a slow pace. My training more recently has been about speed coupled with endurance and consequently I’ve gotten faster. But I’m way less efficient now – burning carbs much earlier than I used to. Okay for racing – no so good for longer distances. So, if, like most amateurs, you have limited time, then you probably want the best bang for your training buck. For example, in the lead up to this season I averaged a couple of hours training on the turbo per week, and probably four or five hours on the bike. That led to me having a relatively successful (for me) season, especially in relation to 2013. I want to make more progress next year, so I figure I need to up the training duration AND the intensity this winter. With that in mind, there are a number of stages I’ve been through/will go through
- I’ve written down a set of goals for next season. These consist of short-term, medium-term and long-term objectives. On top of that I will be doing less racing but more targeted. To quote Adam Topham in his highly recommended book – A races, B races and C races.
- I’ve taken my regular sports science test to reset my training zones. This year I intend to use power as opposed to HR to guide my training efforts
- I’ve started to work with a coach who, based on my physiology, my available training time and my goals, will develop training plans for me and monitor my progress through the winter and into the start of next season
- At a suitable point before the start of the season I will look to make improvements to my position. My coach has already identified issues with my hip flexibility that may be impeding the power I put out
If you are one of the few regular readers of this blog you will know that I set myself targets in most things I do and look to measure my performance against them. In my view, goal setting is one of the most important things to do if you are intending to try to improve at something. How can you know you are improving if you don’t measure your progress? The answer is you can’t. I’m not going to share my specific goals yet – I may do just before the season starts – but I will share the process I have been through to arrive at them.
First are my short-term goals. These will be goals that I have to meet in order to get to my medium or long–term targets. Think of them as stepping stones. They are there to give me something that is tangible, achievable and I can use to keep my motivation levels high when things get tough, as they invariably will do. When I achieve them (when, not if – positive thinking!) I will set some more. If I’ve made them too difficult I will reset them slightly – remember they are meant to help motivate me, not discourage me.
Second are my medium-term goals. These are based around the season as a whole. They are realistic based on an analysis of my results in 2014, but challenging in that they will need a considerable step up in performance.
Finally my long-term goals are more subjective, although still measurable. I can still achieve this goal even if I don’t achieve my medium-term goals. In truth, I’m not sure if I might change these – time will tell.
My whole training plan will be based around zones so it’s important I have the latest information to base it on. Remember what I said about adaptation – your zones will change over time depending on what you do (or don’t do!). I’ve written about sports science tests before. They are invaluable. I’ve had a much better season in 2014 than 2013 but my results are “worse”. They aren’t really – this is down to the specificity of what I’ve been doing. These tests give you data that will enable you to focus your training on specific areas of weakness or improvement – remember what I said about bang for your buck. If you are time-pressed then focus on the areas that need most attention. If you are embarking on any type of structured training I’d recommend this to you.
New to my training this year will be working with a coach. I hope to report back on how successful it’s been but only time will tell. I have high hopes that he will provide me with the level of specificity, focus and feedback I need to improve to the levels I want to be at. I was certainly very encouraged after my initial meeting with him.
So that’s it – time to retire to the shed and start the hard work again. Roll on spring!