If you are interested in racing whether it be running or cycling, it is very important to have a plan and goals for the year. Let me use my last year’s plan as an example.
For 2008, my goals were to win the USCF time trial and road race championships which were to be contested over a period of two weeks around the first half of June. My second goal was to win the Florida State Senior Games time trial and road race championships to be contested the second week of December.
My racing goals dictated that I reach peak form twice in the year. Typically, reaching two peaks in a year is the most that one can hope to achieve without risking injury, burnout or getting sick. After reaching a peak, 6 weeks is about the maximum time one can hope to maintain peak form.
I divided the year into two 6 month segments, and each of those segments were divided into three two month segments, 1) Rest/Recovery, 2) Base & Strength Building, and finally, 3) Peaking.
The first phase, Rest and Recovery was necessary in that I was coming off a peak from the previous December. During that phase of my training, I kept my mileage basically the same, which for me is around 300-350 miles a week with an occasional foray over 400 miles. I simply rode my bike and had fun. I would engage in about one fast club ride per week, but I was mostly spinning the rest of the time. After two months of that routine, I moved into the base and strength building phase of my training with the feeling that my “battery” was fully charged.
As an aside, I believe that Masters Athletes should weight train 12 months out of the year. The only time I weight train my legs in a serious manner however, is during my strength building segment where I incorporate 20 repetition squats adding 5 pounds of weight every week. During this period, I continue to build my base taking occasional rides of up to 100 miles. I also do two fast rides per week as I continue to prepare for the difficult two months to come – peaking! When you have built a substantial base, the peaking process is much more readily accomplished. Without a substantial base, peaking would be analogous to trying to hone a fine edge on a very thin piece of steel.
Finally, the last two months leading up to the important race(s) are spent peaking. During the peaking period, I start my interval training and also incorporate hill training and/or bridge repeats. During this phase, I work up to three to four hard rides a week. During this time I engage in local races as much as possible in that no training can possibly replicate an actual race situation. Racing is a great way to attain peak form.
When I completed my goal races, I started the next 6 month segment – a repeat of the first one.
If your racing plans call for only one peak per year, then simply spend more time in the base/strength building portion of your schedule. The peaking process will still be two months.
As I mentioned in my first blog, we are each an experiment of one. I missed no days of training in 2008. Rather than take actual rest days, I have found that “active rest” works best for me. My typical rest day is 35 easy miles just enjoying riding my bicycle. I typically do that with a training partner. I feel much better the next day than I do if I don’t ride at all.
Finally, I train with athletes who have incredibly complicated programs that they pay substantial amounts of money for. Candidly, I sometimes wonder if the complications are simply a way for the provider of the training plan to justify the hundreds of dollars per month spent to receive the coaching.
Training is not complicated, you simply stress the body and it adapts when you rest it. If you train it harder, it adapts to a higher level. When I was taking golf lessons, I would over think and complicate everything. The best advice I ever had was when one pro told me, “Golf is just hitting a stick with a ball.” Here for example is a simplistic description of the tapering process prior to a major race – I call it “Tapering for Dummies:
Boy ride hard.
Boy ride really hard.
Boy ride really, really hard.
Boy get tired.
Boy ride easy.
Boy ride easy again.
Boy ride even easier.
Boy eat good dinner, have good bowel movement, get good night’s sleep.
Boy kick butt in race in morning.
That was 8 days of training and a day of racing!! Not terribly complicated. Having said that with tongue firmly planted in cheek, I will deal with the tapering process a bit more seriously in a future article.
In future articles, I will write more in depth about the peaking process, interval training, racing techniques and equipment for racing.