Kinetic Cycle Base Training! Like No Other!
You have probably read in the plethora of cycling magazines and on-line articles about building your aerobic fitness during winter – your ‘base fitness’ as some experts like to put it. You probably get excited to read that this involves slower training than the chewing your bars sessions following the wheels in club rides or sweating all over the carpet chasing down some virtual rider on your laptop!
Well let me throw a torque wrench into your wishful dreaming. As an amateur, you are always fighting against the clock. The time you spend training is pre-set around those unavoidable things like work, family, putting the bins out…… you get the drift. So sitting down on a Sunday night and planning to increase your training hours from 8 to 15 a week is not going to happen! Yes, I am sure you can find more time but your body is already accustomed to the duration parameters you have set so unless you lose your job or get divorced or leave the bins in the street then the time you have is the time you have!
So, cutting through the chase. What I am telling you is that, so called traditional base training is a waste of time for you! I have harped on about this to many of my riders for years so at this time of year I want to spread the message more.
Without boring you to sleep (although sleep is a fantastic means of recovery so if it works then read it again later!) The idea of aerobic base training is that via a large volume of work at a low to moderate intensity you will get an increased capillary density (more pathways for oxygenated blood into muscles) and greater mitochondrial density. These mitochondria are the ‘power plants’ of the cells and increase your capacity to break down carbohydrate and fat into usable energy more quickly. Processing more fat and carbohydrate per minute through mitochondria increases maximum sustainable power or pace. It also means you can operate at a lower percentage of your VO2 max at your “all day going for a coffee and cake” pace, which may help you rely on a higher percentage of fat for energy and conserve stored carbohydrate. Sounds ok eh? So why am I telling you it’s a waste of time!
Less + More = Less
As I mentioned, as an endurance athlete you have already pre-programmed your body to a certain volume of weekly training hours. Using this time to go slower means you reduce your total weekly workload. Hold on a minute, aren’t you training? Aren’t you aiming to progress all aspects of your fitness and performance? So by reducing the total workload than you have already adapted to you are therefore reducing the training stress placed on your aerobic system and thus reducing any positive adaptation! So you are going backwards! So you pride yourself on your intelligence with you cycling? You can easily deceive loved ones about the price paid for cycling ‘essential’ goods, you can create Jason Bourne tales of heroic acts to help stricken friends that adds hours to ride and you can even convince yourself that you need that flapjack!! However, you haven’t yet worked out what makes you go faster, harder and longer (on the bike!)
Why Many Amateurs Don’t Progress
Let me enlighten you with this nugget of information. The reason many amateurs don’t progress is that they return to the same old formulae every year and don’t actually appreciate what ARE the limiting factors to their fitness and hence their performance. I can assure you that aerobic fitness is not holding you back in your 10 mile TT times, or your 60 min crit times or your 90 min road race performances!
When base training actually works, it does so because increased training volume contributes to greater total workload (or at least greater focused workload) despite reduced intensity. A professional actually has more time for training out of race season so they can afford to reduce speed and ride longer. However they still ride intervals during long steady rides at a HARD intensity. These are controlled due to the relationship between duration and intensity, however, not many amateurs are riding 6-8 hours a day! So when volume is held basically constant by your training availability, reduced intensity only results in reduced workload, and therefore reduced training stimulus. Less adaptation less less less…..You follow! Train slow to go slower!
So What Limits Your Fitness
Yes of course time is an issue, so if you can find 4 more weekly hours and use it wisely then you will progress. Your limiting ‘physiological’ factors are your power at lactate threshold, your power at VO2 max, and how long you can maintain those intensity levels. All three can be improved with a lower volume (6 to 10 hours a week) and higher intensity program that includes a mixture of 8 to 20 minute lactate threshold intervals and 1 to 4 minute maximum-intensity power intervals, along with some endurance and recovery rides, of course. Based over a 3:1 or 2:1 progression:recovery weekly scale with monthly sub max testing then you WILL improve your fitness!