A 4-week training schedule … đź¤”

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I am on a 4 week training schedule. I begin the month with a week with more rest, and less intensity. As the weeks progress, I gradually increase the duration, and intensity of the workouts, building on the previous month’s efforts.

I have just completed week 4. This week will see more rest, and less intensity. I will still cycle, but will reduce the mileage, ride 4 days instead of 5 or 6. And, I’ll still visit the gym, but do fewer reps. This is a recovery week.  A week enabling the body to fully recover from the stresses of the past four weeks.

This is also a time to reflect on the past 4 week cycle. I track a lot of numbers. Too many numbers some think. I track my weekly sleep patterns, RHRs, average speed, and time spent in each heart rate training zone. I do this to see if my fitness is improving, or not. This way I can adjust my workout schedule accordingly.

This is what I discovered.

  1. I lost 6 pounds. One of my objectives was to get to my optimum weight by the end of July which means I need to lose 4 more pounds.
  2. My average resting heart rate (RHR) went down by 6 beats, from 47 to 41. I use my RHR to monitor recovery. I know when it is lower, I am fully recovered. And, when it is higher, I need to schedule a rest day, or lower the intensity of workouts. Last week, my RHR was a low as 34 beats / minute, the lowest I have ever recorded.
  3. Despite the unusually wet weather, I averaged 200 km / week on the bike. When it rains, I normally do not ride. And, these 800 km are training km, not recreational rides.
  4. I spent 72% of ride time in Heart Rate Training Zone 1, and 15% in the higher, more intense zones. The goal with Polarized training is to spend 80% in Zone 1, and 20% in higher zones.
  5. I averaged over 5 hours of “deep” sleep every night. This is the sleep needed to fully recover.
  6. My average cycling speed was 24 kph. Given the high winds throughout the month, this is relatively fast. Every ride I battled a westerly headwind that would reduce my speed to 15-20 kph. Otherwise, I recorded 25-35 kph speeds, sometimes higher.
  7. My average cadence was 86 rpm. I spent most of the 800 km on the small chainring, trying to maintain a cadence of 90-100. Apart from the headwinds and a few climbs, I was able to do that.
  8. And, I learned that high repetition body weight exercises has strengthened my legs and core. I wasn’t sure. I am accustomed to lifting weights in the gym. High rep squats, lunges, hamstring curls using an exercise ball, windshield wipers, sit-ups, and leg lifts have strengthened my legs and core.

So, what is next? More of the same. More distance. Higher intensity. And, more reps.

I have a century ride schedule in 3 weeks. I plan a 75-80 km this weekend to get used to the distance. And, the week before the century, I’ll taper by reducing the volume, but keeping the intensity high.

And, I’ll maintain the same low fat, vegetarian diet of cereal with unsweetened almond milk, stir fry vegetables, vegetable and tofu wraps, vegetable frittatas, veggie burgers, homemade energy gels made with dates, raisins, lemon and lime juice, and peanut butter, and homemade post-ride smoothies made with berries, banana, peanut butter, and almond milk.

I don’t do recreational … đź¤”

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I don’t do recreational.

I no longer do leisurely, recreational rides with friends, and family. Not ever. I used to. However, these days, every ride is a training ride. I like cycling fast. And, I like to climb. Not everyone does. I ride to get stronger, and faster. I’m not riding to relax.

Today, while taping updated heart rate training zones to the stem of my road bike, I realized I no longer do recreational rides. How could I with those zones staring me in the face every pedal stroke. The VDO M6 cycling computer tracks the time spent in each of 4 user-defined training zones. Coaches use a different number of zones ranging from 4-7. I tailor the M6’s zones based on the 6 zones reported by the WattBike power calculator.

Now that I have switched to a more polarized regimen, I focus on zones 1, 3, and 4. Zone 2 is the “garbage” zone where I do not want to spend much time. These workouts are not hard enough to have any training effect, and yet stress the body enough to require additional recovery time. Whereas Zone 1 workouts are easier, also have little training effect, but stress the system less, and aid recovery, particularly for the older athlete. For the next 2 months, I plan to spend 80-85% of my time in Zone 1, and 15-20% in Zones 3 & 4,  where the greatest training effect takes place.

Polarized.

One end of the scale to the other, with no time spent in between,

This is how endurance athletes train.

What does this training look like? Well,  I’ll complete 1-2 hard rides per week at my lactate threshold level, or higher. Or, in practical terms, hill repeats. I find a 3+ km hill with a 5% (or steeper) gradient, and race up it 4-6 times. 7-8 minutes up. 2-3 minutes down. Times 4.

Hill repeats are not fun. If done correctly, they hurt. But there is no better way to improve power, and stamina on the bike. This is the reason I need training zones taped to my stem. I need to see that I’m pedalling easily enough to stay in Zone 1 for extended periods. And, I need to see that I am working hard enough on the hills to get into, and stay, in Zones 3, and 4.

Like any lactate threshold workout the key to Climbing Repeats is accumulating time at intensity. If you have 3×8 minute Climbing Repeats you’re accumulating 24 minutes at CR intensity. You could also achieve those 24 minutes by doing 4x6minute intervals or 2x12minute intervals. Generally, less experienced and less fit athletes should start with more, shorter intervals (4x6minutes) so that each interval can be completed at higher quality. As you get stronger – and as the training plans progress – the individual intervals typically get longer even if the total time at intensity stays the same. Recovery between intervals is typically half the time of the interval, or 3 minutes between 6-minute efforts, and 6 minutes between 12-minute efforts.

“Why can’t you make your Zone 1 rides recreational rides with friends and family?”, you ask.

Well, I suppose I could. The problem is I use them to build a solid base, gradually increasing ride times up to 3-4 hours, working on maintaining a high cadence, keeping properly fuelled, and hydrated. This is not recreational for most.

So, I don’t do recreational.

I ride solo mostly, particularly for those Zone 1 workouts. Other cyclists I know, don’t like the easier pace. They think there is no training effect, but are they doing regular hill repeats as well … 🤔 No. They don’t like the hills either.

So, what do you think?

Are they improving their conditioning? Are they making the most effective use of their rides?

Is this how you train … 🤔