Ride bikes. Have fun. Feel good.

Putting It All Together

In earlier sections I have talked a little about how training works; about the different demands of road racing and then shared a few different training sessions. But how do you put these sessions together to build up your typical training week or month? As ever, there isn’t a black and white answer to this. However there are a couple of principles that must not be ignored.

Quality before quantity

You must do the shortest, most explosive work before the longer duration efforts. You need to be fresh and rested in order to produce your maximum efforts in your sprint training. So “Sprints” day should follow a rest day. Sprints should be completed before anaerobic efforts which in turn should be done before threshold (time trial) work which in turn should be done before endurance rides. So for example…

– Sprints before anaerobic intervals. You could do some 4 minute Hill Repeats (anaerobic intervals) the day after sprints day – but if you tried to do it the other way around, chances are that your muscles would still be tired from the anaerobic session and hence you wouldn’t get the most out of the sprints.

– Anaerobic intervals before endurance ride. Maybe you’re planning a long ride with some anaerobic intervals (or maybe some threshold time trial efforts) thrown in. If so, do these at the beginning of the ride when you are freshest to maximise the quality of the anaerobic (or threshold) efforts. If you wait until the end of the ride, you will be more tired and will struggle to match the quality.

Rest is critical

As I spelled out in the Introduction, your body builds itself back to be stronger and fitter in the rest period after your training. If you never rest, your body won’t have a chance to repair itself and you will just get weaker and weaker. Eventually you will most likely end up sick, which is your body trying to force you to rest. The learned books call this “over-training” and whatever you call it everyone agrees that it’s not good!

Most of you reading will (like me) only be able to devote a limited amount of time to your training. You’d think with such limited time to train (compared to say the Pros) that getting enough rest wasn’t going to be a problem. However, the temptation is always to try and “maximize” the training time available by doing as much as you can; riding as hard as you can and whenever you can. This can easily lead to lots of “mediocre” riding – not going easy enough to let your body recover, and yet never training with enough quality to derive the training stress that will force your body to improve.

When it’s time to train, you need to train hard. Really hard. And then when it’s time to rest, then rest. Either don’t do any exercise or do a “recovery ride” (ride so slowly that butterflies are encouraged to nest in your spokes!).

A typical training week

So taking those principles and mixing in a few of the sample sessions, a typical week during the racing season might look something like this…

Monday – Rest day/Recovery day. Sunday is often race day or the day on which we get most time to train, so you need to make sure that you recover from that session. So for me, Monday is almost always a rest day.

Tuesday – Sprints and/or Hill Sprints. You should be rested for these. If you have not recovered from the weekend – take another rest day.

Wednesday – anaerobic hill repeats or threshold intervals. Legs may ache a little from Tuesday’s sprints, but you can most likely still knock out some decent intervals.

Thursday – endurance ride. In theory it would be nice to be able to a nice long steady ride here. But what with work, that pretty much never happens for me. Plus I find after 2 hard days of training that there’s not much left in the tank, so I’ll just go ride for whatever time I can spare. Often I actually take an extra rest on Wednesday and then do intervals on the Thursday. For me Wednesday and Thursday rides get swapped about a lot depending on work schedules and how I feel)

Friday – Rest day/Recovery day. I always have at least 2 rest/recovery days a week. Friday is a good day to take it easy so that I am fresh to race or train at the weekend when I should have more time available.

Saturday – Race preparation. Assuming that I am racing on Sunday, I will ride at an easy pace but throw in a few sprints and a short anaerobic effort just to prepare my legs/lungs for the next day’s race. Not enough to produce too much fatigue, but enough so that it’s not too much of a shock to the system the next day!

Sunday – Race or longer ride. For me this is the fun bit. I love to race!

There’s no such thing as a typical week!

Having described a “typical week” I now need to confess that I pretty much never have a typical week. There’s always something that has to give. I may not feel recovered, maybe I need to work late, one of the kids is sick, there’s a parents evening at school – the list is endless. So you need to be flexible. When you do flex the schedule, remember the two principles above (quality before quantity and you MUST schedule some rest).

So for example, if I skip sprints on a Tuesday (maybe I’m still tired from a hard race on Sunday or maybe I just don’t have the time to get out), then I’ll most likely do them on Wednesday instead. This would then mean that I’ll try and do some anaerobic or threshold work on Thursday and then be back “on plan” with a rest day on Friday.

You can try and shuffle sessions up a little. But only a little. The general advice is that if you miss a session then let it go. Don’t worry about and don’t try and catch up. What I would say here is, think about which sessions in the week that YOU most need to do. If your sprinting is weak and you miss a sprints session – do the sprints the next day and drop one of the other sessions. But if you are focusing on improving your threshold power (time trial efforts) then don’t worry if you miss that sprint session. Just don’t do the sprints that week and do the anaerobic or threshold sessions that you had planned.

Building up the weeks

I build up my season in 4 week blocks. I do 3 weeks of “Typical week”, ideally trying to increase the amount of training (bit more quality, a little bit more quantity week on week). Then on the 4th week I take a “rest week”. On a rest week I will take Monday-Thursday as either rest days or really easy recovery rides. Then Friday I might do an easy ride with a few sprints thrown in (maybe just 5 or 6) just to get the legs moving again. Saturday and Sunday depend on whether it’s “the season” or not. If it’s racing season, then I’ll race one of the days. Otherwise I’ll do a few anaerobic intervals and a few sprints but nothing too much or too long.

Rest weeks help to unwind some of the training fatigue that builds up during the training weeks (even when these have rest days in them). I find that I can manage 3 training weeks before I need a rest week. You might find that that is too much. If you’re just starting out, coming back from an injury or as we get older you will find that you need to add in more rest weeks to avoid the dreaded over-training. In which case you might find that 2 training weeks and then a rest week will work better for you. As before, you need to figure out what is going to work for you.

Robin Parker