Recently I had some minor surgery and was only given the green light to train a week ago. That meant missing two weeks proper training. This post is about how to deal with unwanted mid-season breaks.
What I did in this period was gentle walks in the first week, mainly to get over the claustrophobia I was suffering from having my nose stuffed with bandages. The second week I started gentle cycling, really easy stuff, but with some strength work t keep muscle tone and keep tendons and ligaments primed. In the third week I would pick up the pace, and ‘go through the gear’ so to speak: 20′ at 36kph, 20′ 39kph, 10′ at 41kph, this is quite easy in a short session.
After week three I got back into training proper, but even that wasn’t straight forward… Volume and ‘lactic power’ (anaerobic glycolitic power) was what I was missing and these aspect are tricky to fine tune. I found training very well (3-4 hours, mostly tempo, with a lot lactic tolerance training (just bellow threshold) over one to three days and frequent rest days involving some nasty 1′ intervals on a tough hill I know (it’s ~300m, 30m ascent and takes me a minute more or less).
Controling what you eat during any period without training is key. Even paying attention to this aspect I gained a kilo in the three weeks I was away from the bike. Weight is the worse thing for performance and takes a lot of effort to shift: avoid this problem mid season.
I feel it’s coming back together, but just the amount of work to get my form back up where it was is terrifying… It’s all the difficult aspects I need to train.
Read some complimentary advive (it’s more aimed at people who’ve been away a long time)
Cycling racing has a huge component of rest & recovery in it. It’s a factor that few sports include; how well someone can perform day after day.
My TV has terrible coverage of the Giro d’Italia, which is a shame (it’s without a doubt the best Grand Tour). I keep an eye on in mainly following my former team mate Ricardo Mestre, who’s busy working hard for his team. He’s done a fantastic job, that never gets enough mention or credit: controlling the breaks, getting the breaks, helping his leader.
Yesterday was the first rest day in the race. And it got me thinking, you might be curious to know what happens on a rest day? I’ve never ridden a grand tour… hopefully some day, but I’ve ridden the Volta a Portugal, which is the only race outside the Grand tours to include a rest day.
When you’re doing these long races, they feel like an eternity, a life time. On the rest day, most people just want to get straight back to racing ‘get it over and done with’. Most cyclist train on the rest day, the reason being that they don’t want retain a whole lot of fluids that will make racing the next day difficult. Also training allows them to keep the enzymatic activity within the muscles elevated and primed for action; so on a typical rest day, cyclists will generally do a few sprints, maybe one sustained effort. It sounds torturous, it doesn’t feel that bad.
I’ve only done two ‘Voltas’ and in both cases I was near Serra da Estrela on the rest day. I love Serra da Estrela, it’s one huge play ground for cyclists! The first Volta I did I wanted to get away from the team -I get cabin fever over long races, and went up to the ‘oldest’ village in Portugal, right up a mountain and in the middle of nowhere, the place was amazing, tiny stone building and incredible cobbled streets that I ‘mountain biked’ around. The place was called ‘Linhares da Beira’. That little escape from the pressures of the race allowed me to reset and return to the race reinvigorated.
What does this mean for recovery in training? The most important part of recovery in training is actually recovery fully enough so that you’re better that better, this takes longer than a day, but shouldn’t take longer than three, unless you’ve ‘overreached’ in which case it can take a bit longer and recovery has to be carefully managed so as not to result in a loss of fitness.
Training specifically, very simply is training that’s takes into account a number of variables and pursues a certain outcome. Put simply, it’s training with a purpose:
Imagine a cyclist that’s: very light, has a high power to weight ratio, not good at sprinting, has a poor recovery. This cyclist tells me they want to win a certain stage race, say the ‘Tour of Normandy’ (the Tour of Normandy is usually very cold, no long climb, many short drags and suites for ‘baroudeurs’. ‘puncheurs’, or ‘rouleurs’ and sprinters, or cyclists that go well on the flat). What can I do as a coach?
Tour du Normadie
Firstly get some idea of ‘engine size’, i.e. the athlete’s capabilities across a range of training zones then choose which one to improve (I believe in training to our strengths personally, with the bare minimum training of out weaknesses to be viable in other race setting). Measure that capability and train it.
I’d tell the cyclist he’d have a better chance in some one day climbing race (not man of those!) like Vuelta a Rioja, Klassica Primavra, Subida ao Naranco. And hopefully he’d agree and I’d coach him according to his strengths.
video of Subida ao Naranco… a very different race.
How does it all come together?
Our athlete in the first paragraph will get a schedule with the precise values and sensations to train for in order to go well in those hilly one day races. In his case he he’ll be working most lactic tolerance, with some lactic power in the weeks coming up to the races, and with rest periods obviously. Time is important and the training will be developed in such a manner that he will only start fine tuning his capabilities on that terrain close to the time, so as to ensure he doesn’t over do it and arrive there stale.
Hopefully the cyclist will be right up there in those hilly races doing his best and with a chance to win!
Sport is generally seen as something healthy. This isn’t quite true. Sport done with any seriousness can have a negative effect on your health and it’s important to watch out and learn how to train healthily. Here are some tips:
Find a doctor that understands sport. There are many peculiarities to athletes that mean that a normal doctor might fail to understand certain problems. A sports doctor is also best placed to advice you on how to train healthily for your specific case (e.g. if you have any particular condition).
Have your sports doctor conduct regular test that include ECG and blood test, a ramp test and whatever else deemed necessary. These must be done at least once a year.
VO2max test -ramp test
Sport is just as much about rest as it is about training. While training is good fun and practically and addiction for many athletes it’s important to train in a sustainable manner.
Over use problems wont occur with correct technique and equipment set up. In this situation you need a mixture of science and common sense.
For example: with bare foot running: if you’re using minimal footwear or are bare foot you should not slam your heel into the ground as you would in a pair of running shoes.
I would suggest seeking a professional bike or shoe fit if possible.
Pre-conditioning is tricky, it’s a tough one to explain as a coach. Pre-conditioning is the process of preparing your body for exercise. Ambulatory sports (walking, running), gym and even some contact sports (with due care) are all great ways to prepare for proper training. As with everything: Start easy and build up.
fads and quackery
There is a lot of quackery about training and sport, like ‘balance bracelets’, training with loads of clothing in hot weather, extreme diets, overloading on supplements. If you’re in doubt about something just don’t do it. Beyond genetics, training, lifestyle and diet there’s not much to be improved.
listing to your body.
One very important point: You do the training, you know what’s best. What a coach is doing is advising. Even a full training program might have some error in it (e.g. training zones that don’t add up perfectly) and it’s important for you to recognise when you are over doing it or training incorrectly.
Food is the first thing people get peculiar about when they start a fitness routine… Don’t cut food down, don’t go hungry, you’ll be depriving your body of important nutrients for recovery and fuel for training.
if in doubt…
Find someone that has a better idea of your situation and can advice you or tell you who can advice you.