• Mono-speed, mono-volume and group workouts are the enemies of optimal performance

    A cyclist hired me to review his training plan. What I saw in his plan were several common errors made by many self-coached cyclists. (Triathletes and mountain bikers make the same errors.) Perhaps my advice to him can help you too.

    1.       Change intensity. Often, self-coached athletes make the mistake of doing every workout at a mono-speed (really intensity) that is not fast and not slow. New athletes get lured into this trap because at the beginning of developing fitness, mono-speed doesn’t appear to hamper performance improvement. This is primarily because new endurance athletes have no fitness so as long as they can stay healthy, improvement is on a steep, upward curve.

    As you become more fit, keeping speed constant no longer leads to improved performance and performance either plateaus or begins to decline.

                    Solution: There must be a distinct difference in intensity (speed, heart rate  and/or power) from workout to workout. How much intensity and how much volume of various intensities depends on current fitness and the event distance(s) you’re aiming to race.

    2.       Change volume. The cyclist I referred to had a routine that never changed and included two weekday spin classes or rides with friends. Saturday was a three-hour group ride, Sunday was a three- to four-hour group ride. Spin classes were always “hard” so he felt going to the class was “worth it”. If he rode with his buddies rather than the spin class, they constantly tested each other to see who was strongest that day. Both weekend group rides always turned into loosely organized races.

                    Solution: Change training volume on occasion. This might mean making one of the weekend rides five hours and cut the other one down. Consider adding one more ride of 30 to 60 minutes on another day of the week.  Since the days are getting longer, an option is commuting to and from work (a 45-minute one-way trip). Every three to five weeks, cut training volume down but keep intensity in some workouts.

    3.       Group ride discipline. Group workouts, per se, aren’t the enemies of optimal performance – it’s your self control. Now that you know you need to make some rides easy and some rides fast, along with varying training volume – it is up to you to make it happen.

            Solution: Before you go on any ride, decide what you want from the ride and stick to it. Don’t allow others to use you as their personal training whipping boy or girl. If you don’t have the self control to ride easy when your plan calls for it, don’t show up to a group ride. On the other    hand, group rides can be a significant improvement to performance because chasing a wheel (or being chased) is a great motivator to ride faster than you thought possible.

    By making a few subtle changes to his training, the cyclist has already seen improvements in his ability to stay with the lead group on Sunday rides and it’s only been about three weeks.

    If you’re not improving, take a hard look at your training log to see if you are stuck in a rut of riding (running or swimming) at the same speed, for the same duration over and over again. If you want to improve, you need the self discipline to change.

    Anyone can ride “hard” – not everyone rides fast.

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