Check out our contribution to BICYCLING magazine which is all about learning the signs and symptoms of dehydration, and more importantly, what you can do about them. This is especially important as we make our transition to training indoors for the Winter.
Functional Threshold Power (FTP) has been the standard to measure a myriad of metrics with, and the majority of the software utilized by athletes is reliant on this number being as accurate as possible. Getting an accurate measurement is harder said than done however, especially if you are new to structured training. The following article will serve to provide the more common ways to measure FTP, their pros and cons, and where the future of testing is headed (hint: it doesn’t involve much testing), in the author’s opinion.
Why FTP Anyways?
Functional threshold power (FTP) is the maximum power output an athlete can maintain in a quasi-steady state without fatiguing for 1 hour (1). Remember though, FTP is not the same as lactate threshold (LT). FTP has been used by American coaches for years to track and prescribe workloads, and was first popularized by Andy Coggan, Joe Friel, Stephen McGregor, and Hunter Allen in their respective books and other contributions to the scientific literature. Since FTP was cheap to test (free with a power meter), repeatable, relatively accurate, and marketed well, it took over and is still widely utilized today.
A good analogy for FTP is to think of a car’s tachometer…
The red line represents your FTP. You can push up to the red line and hold this output for approximately an hour (if your fitness is high, fatigue is low, and you are extremely motivated mentally), but push just a little bit over the red line and you run the risk of fatiguing early, and “blowing up” the car’s motor in this analogy.
Pitfalls with FTP + Deep Dive
Issue #1: Length of common testing protocols – In a little bit, we’ll get to the methods to test FTP. You’ll notice that the most common ways are all less than a 1 hour testing effort, BUT your FTP is what you can hold for 1 hour without fatiguing. This leads us to issue #2…
Issue #2: Athletes with high anaerobic capacity – Your FTP is a measure of how “strong” your aerobic (oxidative) system is. To unpack that statement a bit more, aerobic capacity is how much energy you can produce via aerobic metabolism, how well you can combust lactate after a hard effort, and how economical (efficient) you are at a certain intensity, i.e. how good are you at doing the most work possible with the least amount of energy, both metabolic and mechanical, used.
*DEEP DIVE WARNING* Athletes with higher anaerobic capacities, i.e. increased energy being delivered via glycolysis, typically have a higher lactate tolerance and can push further “into the red” compared to their aerobically dominant counterparts. Since FTP is an aerobic system measurement, these athletes’ tests can be overly inflated if the test is under 1 hour. Why? Here’s an example:
Joe Athlete has an FTP of 300w. After doing a block of HIIT at Zones 5 + 6, his 20 minute FTP test improved by 30w and his FTP is now 315w. He heads out to his local 40k TT, and uses his power meter to pin his output steady at 315w. After 40 minutes, his output starts to drop dramatically and he winds up only being able to turn the gear over at 290w for the last 10k.
What happened in this example? Joe’s last block improved his VLa Max (anaerobic capacity) which increased his glycolytic energy delivery rate to the working muscles, and subsequent mechanical force to the pedals, i.e. more watts. However, the anaerobic system relies on carbohydrates, and especially stored glycogen, and has a finite amount of energy it can deliver compared to the aerobic system. This increase in VLa Max made him feel like he was flying, until he exhausted his glycogen stores, and his aerobic system couldn’t keep up with the energy demands. This, as we just read, lead to his power dropping dramatically and him finishing the race at 290w which is, in my opinion, a more accurate representation of his FTP.
Another way to look at this is the level of lactate accumulation in his system over the course of the 40k TT. If his true FTP is closer to 290w, and he sets a pace of 315w he will accumulate (I am using arbitrary numbers here since I don’t have his actual lab data) .33 mmol of lactate / minute. If we extrapolate this out to 40 minutes, he would have accumulated ~13 mmol of lactate in his legs (ouch!). That is going to REALLY burn, and as we know, higher levels of lactate in the bloodstream lead to an increase of hydrogen ions as your body combusts the excess lactate. This increase in hydrogen ions leads to a lower blood pH (more acidic) and decreases the work rate of your muscles as it increases (you become fatigued). (2)
In a nutshell, even though Joe’s FTP “improved”, his time to exhaustion (TTE) did not, thus, he blew up at the 40 minute mark.
To make that even more complicated, your VO2 Max (aerobic capacity) and VLa Max (anaerobic capacity) work against one another, so as 1 system improves, the other decreases, and vice versa. This is why adopting a periodized plan, and truly “peaking” for only 1 or 2 events per year is important to properly optimize both systems to work in tangent. The system you optimize should also be dictated by your event’s demands.
A high VO2 Max gets you to the hill, a high VLa Max gets you over first.
Common Tests to Estimate FTP
You’ll notice I keep using the word “estimate” when I refer to FTP. This hopefully makes a little more sense after reading above, and these tests are exactly that, estimates of your 1 hour power…
Old Faithful – The 20 Minute Test
Warm up for 10-15 minutes.
Ride ALL OUT for 20 minutes.
Record what your average power was for the 20 minutes.
Multiply that number by .95.
Voila! You have your FTP.
This is the most common test used currently, and probably the one you’ll see during your workout plans. Remember though, if you have a strong anaerobic capacity, or are a new rider, you can have an inflated result. I suggest going hard and over-pacing the test for the first 3 minutes to exhaust your creatine phosphate system, and to decrease the anaerobic system energy contribution, to hopefully see your power drop and eventually plateau to your true FTP. Ideally you’ll see a gradually increasing heart rate and subsequent power drop for the first 3-5 minutes, then a plateau for the final 15 minutes at your actual FTP.
2x 8 Minutes Test
Warm up for 10-15 minutes.
Ride ALL OUT for 8 minutes.
Rest for 10 minutes.
Ride ALL OUT for 8 minutes.
Record what your average power was for both 8 minute tests.
Add both of the averages together, and divide by 2.
Multiply that number by .90.
Voila! You have your FTP.
This testing protocol is the least accurate, in my experience.
The Ramp Test (Max Aerobic Power, MAP).
Warm up for 10-15 minutes.
Having a smart trainer makes life much easier here.
I start my athletes off at 60% of their FTP, and increase by 8% every minute or 2 (based on athlete fitness), until failure is reached.
Once you settle into a cadence of your choice you must maintain that cadence, or pedal faster, throughout the rest of the test. For instance, if you ride at 90 RPM for the test you can’t then have your cadence fall off to 85, 80 and even 75 RPM in the final stages. Once you can’t maintain your cadence the test is over, but you must push to the point of failure and not give up!
You are looking for a heart rate inflection point for this test. The inflection point signals the lactate threshold (FTP) and can be very hard to see in my experience. Another way is to take the last COMPLETED step of the test, and multiply this by .75. This test is also called a Conconi Test.
The New Kid on the Block – Modeled FTP
Modeling isn’t really “new”, it has just become more available to the masses recently. I have had great success with using modeled FTP with my athletes, and the software is becoming more accurate and robust every year.
WKO software is the OG is this arena. It’s been around since I can remember with its latest iteration being WKO4. I use this software on a daily basis, but it can be VERY daunting to the newcomer and sometimes there can be analysis paralysis with the amount of charts and data. Fortunately, they have many educational resources, and a stand out development team
INSCYD software has recently just become available to the masses being only available to World Tour teams previously. I like INSCYD and use it with a handful of the athletes I work with. They claim to be the most accurate way to measure anaerobic threshold (AT), with power data and blood sampling. Yes, yet another acronym describing kind of the same thing as FTP. What separates them is the ability to use only power data to achieve lab quality measurements, but the testing costs are expensive.
I have been using XERT for a little over a year now, and have found it to be excellent. They posses another stand out development team, and it gets better with each update. Their modeling has also been the most accurate, in my experiences, and the value they provide is exceptional.
FTP isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. However, like anything, there are pros and cons to using it, and the myriad of tests and software utilized to derive it can all provide different numbers. Whatever test you decide to go with, do yourself a favor and keep the testing protocol consistent. A result is only as good and accurate as the metrics you place into the equation.
And remember the old saying: FTP = AT = OBLA = LT = AeT = MLSS = AnT = LOL 😜
We are excited to announce that Coach Shayne has been selected to be an affiliate Coach for US Military Endurance Sports (USMES).
We are honored and feel privileged to be able to give back and help those who have given so much for us all.
USMES’s Mission is:
–To educate military members and advocate cycling and triathlon as excellent methods to gain/regain/maintain fitness as part of an active healthy lifestyle.
–To train and prepare able-bodied and reintegrating military cyclists and triathletes for regional, national, and international competition.
–To provide an enduring framework and inclusive team structure for all current and former military members who are serious about endurance sports, remaining one of the most visible and successful amateur sports organizations in the United States.
We look forward to working with these brave men and women!
For more information about USMES, please visit: http://usmes.org/
We are pleased to announce our partnership with World Bicycle Relief (WBR) for this year’s Ride On for WBR event. The event will be held on Zwift from 11/26 to 12/1 and will feature many different events and races.
For this year’s event, we have created 3, 4 week training plans focused on; the 6 or 12 hour Ride On event (the long haul); the Alpe du Zwift TT; and the 1 lap of Watopia TT. You can find the plans for download from our friends Whats on Zwift? below.
There is also a closed Facebook Group where you can chat with fellow athletes participating in the plans, ask a coach questions, and foster further excitement around the event! To join the group, click here.
Finally, to register to fundraise, or donate to the event, click here.
We all know that cycling is great for a myriad of things, but the bike keeps your body in a fixed position, sometimes for hours on end. This can wreak havoc on the neck, middle back, hip, and lower extremity muscles causing them to become shortened, painful, and lose their ability to produce power. This, of course, is unacceptable and the exact opposite effect we want after spending time training outdoors, or in the pain cave! So, do yourself a favor and spend a few minutes stretching your legs out after you beat them up, your body will thank you, and it will give you some precious time to think about life (i.e. more cycling) for a while.
The following stretching routine is designed for athletes who are time-crunched and need to really maximize any time dedicated to their fitness.
Ideal best time to stretch statically is POST WORKOUT. Bacurau et al. (1) found static stretching actually impairs lower limb force production, which is obviously not ideal before a ride. Instead, a dynamic stretching routine should be performed, like this one to help promote neuromuscular activation.
Stretches should be held for 30 seconds minimum for best results (2). It takes your muscle sarcomere time to relax enough to make static stretching beneficial and allow the muscle to lengthen. If you have the time to hold them for longer, go for it!
Stretches should be performed in a comfortable range of motion, so no crying because it hurts so much, but you also want to feel like you are doing something too.
Alternate each side with each consecutive stretch, so as 1 side is resting, the other side is being stretched.
Perform the stretches 2-3 times each.
The “Couch” Stretch
Set up in front of a couch / chair / bench, with one foot on the couch and the other knee on the floor in a half kneeling position. From here, bring your hips forward and lean your body backwards until you feel a comfortable stretch in the front of your hip as well as thigh. Repeat on the other side.
Hamstring + Chest Stretch
Bring your feet wider than shoulder width apart and lace your fingers behind your back. Then, lean your body forward and reach your arms backwards until a comfortable stretch is felt in the hamstrings, as well as chest / front of the shoulders.
Inner Thigh + Middle Back Stretch
From a sitting position – bend your knees, place your feet together, and let your legs fall out to the side until a comfortable stretch is felt in your inner thighs. While holding this position, lace your fingers together, bring your arms up, then reach forward trying to open your shoulder blades, and drop your head down until a comfortable stretch is felt in between the shoulder blades and the back of your neck.
The Pigeon Pose
Start off in quadriped position. From here, thread one leg under you, then sit back until a deep, but comfortable, stretch is felt in the glutes. Repeat on the other side.
Bacurau, R. F., Monteiro, G. A., Ugrinowitsch, C., Tricoli, V., Cabral, L. F., & Aoki, M. S. (2009). Acute Effect of a Ballistic and a Static Stretching Exercise Bout on Flexibility and Maximal Strength. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research,23(1), 304-308. doi:10.1519/jsc.0b013e3181874d55
Bandy, W. D., & Irion, J. M. (1994). The Effect of Time on Static Stretch on the Flexibility of the Hamstring Muscles. Physical Therapy,74(9), 845-850. doi:10.1093/ptj/74.9.845
From swimming sprints to 90-minute football matches, the maximum aerobic capacity (VO2max) is the single most important performance metric that needs to be looked at.
As often misunderstood, VO2max is not restricted by only raw physical talent, but it can be trained to unknown maximums. VO2max is also a metric that responds quickly to training, so it needs to be monitored regularly.
When you start a training program with GC Coaching , we will test your VO2max and we will plan a coaching plan tailored to increase it, but not only that. Through our performance software we will also be able to:
Compare the effect of high-intensity trainings and endurance workouts on VO2max.
Evaluate the impact of specialized nutrition regimes to further increase VO2max.
Understand the impact of VO2max on fat oxidation and carbohydrate combustion.
VLAmax // Elite Coaches secret weapon disclosed
VLAmax can be looked at from two different sides. From one side, a low VLamax would increase your anaerobic threshold, your fat combustion, and it would shorten your recovery time from hard efforts.
On the other hand, a high VLamax increases the power available for attacks, sprints, and short efforts. The anaerobic capacity can actually make the difference between winning and losing a race: the final lap, the final sprint, the final push – they are all decided by your glycolytic power.
Vlamax is the most important metric you should focus on and train according to. You may have never heard of it because up until last year it was used only by pro teams and national federations. But now its benefits are opened to everyone and you can finally start connecting all the dots that compose your performances: metrics, training adaptations, race predictions …
Don’t waste your time training the wrong way. Get tested with us, we know your VLamax – and tailor your training according to it.
Here is what Dan Lorang, coach of IRONMAN world champion Jan Frodeno says about VLamax
“You really know what to work on if you know the VLamax”
— DAN LORANG – HIGH PERFORMANCE COACH OF IRONMAN WORLD CHAMPION JAN FRODENO
We can help you to create a training program tailored to improve this precious performance metric, to optimize:
Anaerobic Threshold (FTP Power)
Ability to recover from hard efforts
It is commonly known and accepted that there is a critical intensity (or power) as the highest intensity that allows for a “steady state” in your metabolism. People call this the anaerobic threshold, critical power, or velocity. Everybody knows it exists and everybody wants to increase it.
The commonly used methods to determine the anaerobic threshold are based on empirical findings within a certain population. But this has led to a lot of misunderstanding around anaerobic threshold and has restricted its assessment to some non-specific protocols. The most significant shortfall on the empirical determination of anaerobic threshold is that it doesn’t provide any insight on the reasons why the anaerobic threshold is what it is.
By testing your AT with us, you’ll get it tested according to its main definition: the maximum intensity at which lactate combustion equals lactate production. These tests will benefit you with an improved understanding of your own performances and how they’re composed. More precisely, you’ll then get to:
Know the influence of physiological metrics on your anaerobic threshold.
Reduce the standard error of determination of the anaerobic threshold to < 3%.
Calculate the enhancement of anaerobic threshold by improving a single performance metric.
Lactate accumulation & recovery
In disciplines with a random interval-type work demand, such as cycling or football, repeated high-intensity efforts are unavoidable.
Every bout of sprinting and attacking may result in lactate accumulation. The duration and intensity that an athlete can recover from these efforts are absolutely crucial.
The ability to use lactate as a fuel and to actually use it to optimize your performance is absolutely crucial in high intensity sports. These kind of abilities are highly trainable and with ME/US you can start training them for real and see the real benefits in a very short time.
Economy // Decrypting the speed hack
We’re sure you have heard of economy. Running economy, cycling economy, swimming economy… the word is used across all disciplines. But very few actually understand it, forget about measuring it.
So, what economy really is?
Economy relates to the conversion of energy into speed or power (depending on what you measure).
Understanding economy means understanding how much energy is needed to move at a certain speed or produce a certain power.
The amount of energy available is a matter of physical ability, but how fast an athlete moves with that energy is a whole different story.
Decrypt the key to go fast
Economy is the single most important parameter in free motion sports such as running and swimming. Obtaining insight on you economy will become a competitive advantage.
Assess the impact of a prescribed training regime on changes in economy.
Monitor economy on a regular basis and tune it to your training programs.
The software we use to evaluate your is a high-precision tool that allows you to capture the effect of different equipment such as running shoes or wetsuits and their energy cost at various speeds.
Fat combustion is the bottleneck of endurance performance in sports like running and triathlon. We are also able to to measure and track this metric through our performance software – so you can create strategies to increase your energy expenditure from fat and thereby enhance your performance.
Fat combustion rates are highly individual metrics.
Accurately understanding fat combustion in is crucial in endurance sports.
Significant differences are observed both between different athletes, and between different states of training in the same athletes at different times.
Knowing the FatMax Zone allows you to train fat combustion most efficiently.
It is also crucial to understand precisely how much carbohydrates you burn during exercise. With this understanding, you can find the perfect level of fueling for your trainings and races, and which level will actually fatigue or enhance your performance.
Fuel to perform
Focus on carbohydrate combustion and get tailored nutrition plans.
Perfecting intake of carbohydrates is trainable, but needs to be practiced.
Adjust pacing and plan a fueling strategy to avoid running out of fuel.
Conventional assessment of carbohydrate combustion based on gas analyses has significant limitations. Not only they are lab-based test only, but they also get affected by nutrition status. Scientific research has shown that neglecting lactate measurements when assessing carbohydrate combustion from gas exchange is misleading.
Through the use of our performance software you can finally compare your lactate production and compare it to the carbohydrate combustion one. The only way to produce lactate is by breaking down carbohydrates, thus lactate production is directly linked to carbohydrate combustion.
Measure where these metrics where it matters: on the track, on the climb, and on the field.
Interested in gaining more insight about your performance? Reach out and get tested with GC Coaching!
After over 5 years of education, training, proving, and testing, GC Coaching’s owner and head Coach, Shayne Gaffney, has become 1 of 4 coaches in New England and 1 of less than 40 coaches in the United States to be a dual USA Cycling Level 1 (expert level) coach, and USA Cycling Power Based Training Certified. In order to achieve USA Cycling’s highest level of coaching certification, a coach must be a Level 2 coach, in good standing, for 5 consecutive years and attend a Level 1 Clinic, accumulate 200 CEU’s following completion of the Level 2 Clinic and attend a Level 1 Clinic. After qualification is achieved, the coach must pass the Level 1 exam, as well as submit a case study. This certification aligns with GC Coaching’s goal to utilize quality coaching techniques with evidence-based data analysis and will benefit all of the athletes coach Shayne works with.
Welcome, and thank you for your interest in the Build Me Up Flexible Training Plan! This plan is 10-12 weeks in length and utilizes a 3 phase approach. Each phase is 4 weeks long. Weeks 1 through 3 are progressive in TSS, and week 4 acts as a regeneration week to allow for supercompensation and an increase in your FTP!
Each phase will also progress in overall duration and intensity to continually overload your systems, with the end result of attaining those positive adaptations we’re after. So, expect this to be a challenge, but it should be at times!
Workouts during the week are 60 minutes or less, and weekends feature longer and more challenging workouts of 90 minutes up to 2 hours! The plan is structured in a way that everyone will have the best chances of maintaining consistency and compliance to it, no matter how busy they may be.
With Flexible Training Plans, you have a specific window of time to complete each workout – you’re not locked down to a specific day. Whenever you finish a session, the plan automatically adjusts so you stay on track. Accidentally skip one? Is your body craving a rest day? It’s all good. We’ll make sure you hit the most important workout of the week, so you don’t lose momentum. -Zwift
Week 1 begins Phase 1 which is based mostly on sub-FTP efforts. Week 1 is all about establishing accurate power training zones via the Pre-Training Plan workout, and getting your feet wet if you are new to structured training. The easiest week of the plan 🙂
Week 2: 43 TSS/D |5 hours |307 TSS | 4 workouts
Week 2 exposes you to longer intervals at close to FTP as well as more difficult over/unders during the weekend to really stress that aerobic system. Expect to notice the increase of training stress from the first week!
Week 3: 47 TSS/D |5 hours and 15 mins |329 TSS | 4 workouts
Week 3 stabilizes the TSS and volume from Week 2 to slow the ramp rate and cumulative fatigue for those who are new to structured work. If you are still feeling pretty good this week though, feel free to include an additional workout, just aim to keep it around 60-80 TSS (SST Short is perfect!).
Week 4: 27 TSS/D |3 hours and 15 mins | 192 TSS | 3 workouts
Week 4 is our first regeneration week. As such, expect the workout length and intensity to fall way off during the week, BUT don’t get too excited as you have the dreaded Purple Unicorn to get through over the weekend!
Week 5: 39 TSS/D |5 hours |274 TSS | 4 workouts
Week 5 begins Phase 2 and is where we begin our supra-FTP work, focusing mostly in Zone 5. Get ready to steadily increase the time at which you can sustain that high of a power output throughout this phase, as well as your ability to recover after a hard effort!
Week 6: 44 TSS/D |5 hours and 30 mins |314 TSS | 5 workouts
Week 6 is where things start feeling serious. We increase the workout frequency to 5 days a week with 3 workouts during the week, and 2 over the weekend. Also be prepared to feel some residual fatigue being carried over now as each week’s TSS total will be higher than any other week so far.
Week 7: 54 TSS/D | 6 hours |384 TSS | 5 workouts
Week 7 is the first true overload week featuring a big increase of TSS from last week as well as the longest week yet in terms of duration. Back to back 90 minute workouts above a .85 IF this weekend, make sure you are staying on top of your sleep and fueling this week!
Week 8 is our second regeneration week. As such, expect the workout length and intensity to fall way off to allow for supercompensation. Continue to focus on getting quality sleep this week and give yourself the rest you earned!
Week 9 begins Phase 3…Prepare yourself to WORK these next 3 weeks! We take our supra-FTP efforts one step further this phase and start working far above FTP with very short rests between to really stimulate that aerobic system. Enjoy that extra rest day this week…You won’t be getting that again the next 2 weeks!
Week 10: 57 TSS/D | 6 hours |399 TSS | 5 workouts
Week 10…Ouch. Prepare to lengthen those supra-FTP efforts and shorten those rest breaks even more. We also now place a moderate workout BETWEEN 2 very intense workouts. Be prepared to feel pretty fatigued entering next week…
Week 11: 75 TSS/D |7 hours |464 TSS | 5 workouts
Ah, week 11, the things that nightmares are made of…Seriously though, I hope you are ready to BRING IT this week, my friend. The longest, most intense, and challenging workouts lie ahead over the next 7 days…Make it through this week, work hard, and earn that higher FTP next week!
We made it! Week 12, the easiest week of them all! This week is all about letting that fatigue plummet, maintaining your fitness, and allowing that training stress balance to come up positive for Sunday’s FTP test. Good luck during your test!
“Sweet Spot” based workouts:
Devedeset = 90 in Croation
Halvfems = 90 in Danish
Novanta = 90 in Italian
All of the intervals in these workouts are based at 90% FTP and are also alphabetically ordered in terms of easiest to hardest.
“Unicorn” workouts are based off of the visual spectrum (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet (purple)) with the same order of easiest to hardest. So, Red Unicorn features the least TSS, Orange Unicorn the second, etc.
“VO2” based workouts are all about oxygen so,
#8 = Atomic number of oxygen
15.9 = Atomic mass of oxygen
LOX = Liquid oxygen used in rocket boosters which is how your legs will feel after that workout – Rockets!
Multi-zone workouts feature a “mixture” of interval lengths, intensities, etc. so, Mishmash, Amalgam, Bricolage, Melange, Potpourri, Mosiac.
C.A. = Cadence Adjustment
HWBTWTDWH = Hard Work Beats Talent When Talent Doesn’t Work Hard – Always found inspiration in that quote.
The hardest workouts are meant to really push the athlete and test them physically and mentally: Aspire, Exigent, Tenacity, Malevolent
Ham Sandwich = Hard intervals “sandwiched” between 30/30s. aka the “Rapp Star” special 😉
Sneaky = The kind of workout that “sneaks” up on you, especially that last interval.
Tine = Intervals that gradually come to a “sharp point”.
Escalation = Intervals that “escalate” in difficulty as the workout goes on.
Method = Features lots of pedaling drills and lots of cadence work and changes to improve your pedaling “method”.
Uphill Battle = Another one of those workouts that gets harder as it goes on, making it feel like you are in an “uphill battle”.
Attack = Working on your ability to “attack” the group / peloton and hang on afterwards.
Spaded Sweetie = Starts off what a “spaded” interval set (looked like a spade shovel to me) and finishes with “sweet spot” based intervals. “Spaded Sweetie” was the cute way to say it, I thought 🙂
Kirizuma = Intervals shaped like the famous Japanese roofs.
Cucumber = Improves your ability to deal with lactate and stay cool under pressure, aka “Cool as a cucumber“.
Hang Ten = Intervals that look like a wave. Surfs up, “Hang ten, brotha!”
Circus = Micros that are seemingly random in terms of intensity. Mostly named for this definition: “a public scene of frenetic and noisily intrusive activity”, I thought that was well fitting.
Baffling Beau = I came up with this one around Valentine’s Day, and it is a very tough workout, almost baffling at times.
Serrated = Intervals that come up to a very sharp point, looking like a serrated knife upon post-workout review.
Breakfast Returns = 30/30s that an athlete once told me (who worked out early in the morning and usually right after breakfast) always caused his “breakfast to return”, lol.
Thew = A hard workout that requires a lot of “strength” both physically and mentally to accomplish.
Renewal = Active recovery based workout meant to “renew” the body and mind.
Alpha = Leg openers, who’s the “Alpha” after those past 10-12 weeks of training now? YOU!
WOOT WOOT! Memorial Day is finally here which is the unofficial “start” of the Summer for us in the Northern Hemisphere. Most businesses are closed on the Monday Holiday, which gives athletes a great opportunity to fit in a 3 day mini-training camp. So, use the weekend to get FASTER, but of course enjoy your time with friends and family too 🙂
The following 3 day plan starts off with high-intensity on Saturday (Zone 6), moderate-intensity on Sunday (Zone 3/4), and lower-intensity on Monday (Zone 3). Working this way will allow you to hit the highest intensity and quality workout when your body is fresh, and as you become fatigued, the intensity drops off accordingly. So, please don’t change the order of these workouts…There is a method to the madness (muhahaha).
Saturday’s Workout: Hickory Corners+
Duration // 90 minutes
IF // .89
TSS // 119
-13 minutes warm up, progressing from Z1 (50% FTP) to Z3 (85% FTP).
-2 minutes easy.
—4x (90 seconds @Z6 (122% FTP) @100-110 RPM + 60 seconds @Z1 (55% FTP) @80-90 RPM.
—After the 4th, 90 second interval, settle into 10 minutes @Z3 (85% FTP) @80-90 RPM.
—4 minutes rest between sets.
-3 minutes easy.
Sunday’s Workout: Decreasing Azle
Duration // 90 minutes
IF // .84
TSS // 107
-13 minutes gradually progressing from Z1 (40% FTP) to Z3 (85% FTP) .
-2 minutes easy
-Lots of sustained power today close to FTP on tap for today’s workout!.
-We start with 7x (1 minute @Z3 (75% FTP) + 2 minutes @Z4 (95% FTP) @comfortable cadence throughout the interval.
-For each successive interval, we decrease 1 rep. So, 7, 6, 5, and finally 4.
-2 minutes rest between sets here.
-3 minutes easy.
Monday’s Workout: Break Out!
Duration // 90 minutes
IF // .76
TSS // 86
-9 minutes gradually progressing from Z1 (40% FTP) to Z3 (85% FTP) .
-2 minutes easy.
The century ride, or 100 miles for the uninitiated, is a true test of endurance for cyclists. Completing one becomes a bucket list entry quickly after a cyclist swings their leg over the top tube for the first time and begins seeing just how far they can push their body. I know whenever I see my cycling computer tick over from “99” to 💯 miles, I accomplished something fantastic that day (or night on a few occasions). I have thrived during a century ride, and other times barely finished dragging my tired, dehydrated, and sun-burnt body across the mark. This blog post will serve to help you NOT make the myriad of mistakes I have made in preparing my body for a century ride.
A century ride can take anywhere from 4 hours to well over 10+ depending on the terrain, elevation, and your current fitness to name just a few factors. So, being realistic about what you are getting yourself into is paramount for preparing properly.
Difficulty is subjective and hard to quantify, BUT riding a flat century is going to be far “easier” compared to one that includes 10,000 feet of elevation gain, and an athlete training for the latter must adjust their ride duration, intensity, and overall training volume accordingly. Therefore, before you even start preparing for a century, make a conscious effort when selecting one that will be a slight overreach, but not impossible to complete.
Far too many times I have seen an athlete sign up for something way over their head, fail at it, and then blame themselves as a result. This is obviously not ideal and can easily be avoided if you take smaller bites before going after the “big one”…Be like the gentleman above and sit and contemplate your event before pulling the trigger, gazing off into the distance can really help here too 😜
Designing a Training Plan
Okay great! You’ve picked a century that is going to be a challenge, scares you a little, but you are confident in yourself and know you can complete it with some hard work, dedication, and consistency…Now what? Time to get your body (and mind) ready!
It could look something like this…
PART I // Base phase // Goals:
⬆️ aerobic fitness (the ability to transport and utilize oxygen) and ⬆️ endurance (being able to perform more “work” without fatiguing). Traditionally, this was done via progressive training loads with time mainly spent at Zone 2. However, I always argue that you need a lot of training time available to reap the benefits of Zone 2 training. Most everyone I work with currently has a full time job, a family, other hobbies, etc. that all take valuable training time away. As your training availability reduces, your overall workout intensity needs to increase accordingly to see improvements – Hence, sweet spot training.
⬆️ the amount of force you can apply to those pedals. This can be done in the gym as well as on the bike with things like force reps and muscle tension efforts. Remember, Power = FORCE x Velocity
Maintain the VELOCITY component of the equation with some pedaling drills thrown in here and there, especially at the beginning of the build phase.
⬆️ muscular endurance: This is typically accomplished by extensive (10-30 minutes) and moderately intense (Z3/Z4) intervals. I also like to add in some over/under type workouts towards the middle to end of the build phase to improve the athlete’s lactate (pain) tolerance.
Specificity is key: If you know you will be climbing some big ole mountains during your event, mimicking the duration, and goal intensity, of said climb/s is a key muscular endurance goal for you. If your longest Z3/Z4 interval is only 10 mins long in training, and you know the longest climb of your race is going to take ~60 minutes to summit, you’re not going to enjoy the day very much…
⬆️ anaerobic endurance: Think short (30 seconds to 3 minutes) and sharp (Z5/Z6) intervals. These intervals should REALLY not feel good and labored breathing is a must here. DO THE WORK!
“A rising tide lifts all boats” is something I subscribe to with the athletes I coach. A typical century ride is going to feature VERY little Z6 (anaerobic) work, BUT that doesn’t mean it’s not important for you to focus on. Having a greater anaerobic capacity will help to improve your FTP (which is the bottom line here), and will also enable you to power over the shorter and steeper climbs, close gaps in a paceline, have some fun over a Strava segment, sprint to the finish, etc.
⬆️ aerobic endurance: There are 2 ways I have found to best accomplish this…
1) Perform intervals in the 4-6 minute range at Z5 (VO2 Max) with the rest intervals decreasing as you become more fit. So, you may start off with a 1:1 ratio, and eventually achieve a 2:1, or even 3:1 ratio.
2) Steadily increase the duration of your long rides, keeping the focus on a steady effort between Z2/Z3. With specificity being key here, a great goal would be able to ride at this intensity range for as long as your event is going to take you in DURATION not MILES.
Don’t forget about recovery: Typically, the build phase comes alongside the warm weather and group riding season. This can be great for motivation, but not so great for allowing the body to regenerate and supercompensate for all the training stress featured in the build phase. Listen to what your body is telling you, and even better utilize a service like TrainingPeaks to accurately track TSS, fatigue, fitness, and form, etc.
PART III // Taper phase // Goals:
Maintain fitness while letting fatigue decrease, allowing form to rise. The amount of training depends on the length of the taper, so if you are feeling pretty darn tired take a longer taper period, and vice-versa. (1)
Week 1: ⬇️ Volume by 30% ⬇️ Frequency by 25% ⬆️ Intensity: 40/20s | 30/30s
Week 2: ⬇️ Volume by 50% ⬇️ Frequency by 33% ⬆️ Intensity: Microbursts (15/15)
Week 3: ⬇️ Volume by 70% ⬇️ Frequency by 50% ⬆️ Intensity: Tabatas (20/10)
Training for a century ride doesn’t have to be overly-complicated if you break down the aspects into manageable pieces, and dedicate time to developing each one. Of course, what works for one athlete may not work for another, so experiment, try new training approaches, mix up the intervals, etc. Just be sure to keep your training consistent, enjoy the journey, and strive to get to the ride stronger than ever before! And, if you feel like your wheels are spinning, but you’re not really going anywhere, GC Coaching is here to help 🙂
(1) Mcneely, E., & Sandler, D. (2007). Tapering for Endurance Athletes. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 29(5), 18. doi:10.1519/1533-4295(2007)29[18:tfea]2.0.co;2