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5 tips for designing your own cycling training plan

-By: Tomas Swift-Metcalfe

Last modified: April 16, 2014

Errors to avoid making while designing your own cycling training plan

However there are some pitfalls even very experienced athletes and coaches fall into when coaching themselves. These errors are based on my own experience as a cyclist and coach… You might not necessarily make them, or already be aware of these errors.

1.) Understand what you are training.

A problem I’ve seen often is people not appreciating what specific training zones ‘do’ and considering everything around threshold as ‘threshold’ work and not appreciating that small changes in intensity mean a huge change in training effect. I’ve had problems prescribing training at one level and people pushing through in to the next due to over enthusiasm.

How to establish basic training level

A very simple, effective way of establishing training levels is a 20′ test where you go flat out (best done on a large climb with a gradient of 5% or higher). This will give you an estimation of lactic threshold and ‘FTP’. FTP is a proprietary buzzword belonging to the folks at Training Peaks LLC, what it means is the highest effort you can sustain for an hour. I call this zone ‘lactic tolerance’, other call it ‘MSPO’ (maximum sustainable power output. You train just bellow threshold if you want to raise it, train just above it if you want to increase anaerobic power. These two work antagonistically and how much you train each one depends on your muscle make up and goals.

There is obviously skill involved in choosing the correct the training levels and more specifically how much time an individual can work at each level, recovery etc.

In summary:
Learn about what your trying to achieve through training.

2.) Be objective

When planning training for myself, I find it hard to stay objective. This leads to switching training objectives on a whim and not following a coherent long term plan with specific objectives at each phase.

How to choose realistic objectives

Fitness objectives and target events (in my opinion) are the best objectives. We have goals (events) and objectives (getting better). The result in the event is the product of the objective, rather than an objective in its own right. I am sure you know how frustrating it can be when an event doesn’t go well due to sickness or something. On going monitoring and testing is good to keep enthusiastic.

In summary:
Choose your objective for each phase of the plan. E.g. build an aerobic base, develop power, consolidate, perform.

3.)Don’t do Too much too soon

When coaching myself I find I tend to ask too much of myself too soon. The problem here is using reference speed and times that I’d hit when fully fit…

Pick a strategy that suits you and your sport and stick to it

Evaluate your performance after a period of 4 weeks preconditioning. Whether you choose to ‘build an aerobic base’ or choose to start with strength work, you need to be ready to train (pre-conditioned to it!) and you need to know what your training. While we can loose form rapidly it takes weeks to build.

In summary:
Re-assess your fitness regularly through the beginning of a plan

4.) Temper enthusiasm

I find enthusiasm leads to the over reaching at the early stages of a program.

how to temper enthusiasm

Personally, I find this very difficult. Training with other people usually works well, as things need to remain controlled for a group to stick together, yet people motivate each other just enough to push the limit when necessary. Things should not degenerate into a race! Another way is to be disciplined enough to recognise the ‘good days’ on the bike and not over do it on these days. Pushing through on not so good days is important. The skill here is choosing the amount of work to do at a particular intensity. Generally you can do a lot bellow threshold, where as in lactic power, above it you are giving your body a lot of extra problems in recovery.

In summary:
It’s about listening to your body today, and thinking whether you can recover from the effort.

5.) More isn’t more with training.

Training isn’t about how much you do, but how well you do it. Huge volumes of training don’t illicit a great training effect. Also, it’s my guess that if you can sustain huge volumes of training in your plan, that your training too easily to illicit a significant training effect.

What’s the right amount to train?

This depends on the following factor: Age, state of fitness, chosen sport, life constraints. Generally a cyclist can get very fit on as little as 12 hour a week. Even people with busy schedules can manage to get very fit.

In summary:
Quality over quantity

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