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  • What is crash training? How can you use it to your advantage?

    (Click on image to enlarge.) 

    Crash training is a term that I believe has cycling roots, though I can’t trace the origin. I prefer the phrase “big-block training,” but crash training is more common. Traditionally, a big-block training week is one that is high volume, relative to the athlete’s current training schedule. Training is some 50- to 100-percent above the athlete’s normal weekly volume. Often, cycling teams will have a spring training camp to focus on riding, team building exercises (formal and informal), distribute new kits and begin to plan strategy for the season.

    Cycling teams intend for this big-volume training week to spring-board the fitness of every team member, and very often that is indeed the result. Unfortunately, while some athletes respond very well, others leave the week of training ill or injured.

    Two- or three-day big-block training

    Big-block training doesn’t have to be a week long. I often use two or three days in close succession, that are bigger than normal. Examples include big volume, climbing totals or a combination of volume and climbing or volume and intensity. The last example must be handled very carefully.

    Crash weeks for other sports?

    You can do big-block training for swimming, running, triathlon or nearly any other sport. A big-block for running carries more injury risk than cycling, in my opinion. Be very careful with a running-only big-blocks.

    You can combine running and cycling to yield running results from a big training block.

    A big-block in swimming is not as risky as running, but depending on your sport history, be aware of any shoulder pains.

    This training strategy can be used by anyone

    I used big-block training in one form or another for nearly all of my athletes for one reason. It works.

    Give the proper rest before, planning how much intensity to include and proper rest following the big block, the strategy works for literally everyone.

    A graphic view

    It is easy to use my training as an example. The photograph at the beginning of the column shows my cycling (no other sports) fitness from in 2016 and is fairly representative of the past 12 years or so. I want peak fitness in August, for the Leadville Trail 100 Bike Race. Those familiar with TrainingPeaks graphics will understand the meaning of the colored lines. For those unfamiliar with the graphics:

    • Pink line: Fatigue. You will notice my cycling fatigue is low in the early part of every year because I’m doing more swimming, running and skiing.
    • Blue line: Fitness: Cycling fitness builds throughout the year as I add more cycling to my program and less cross-training. I want peak fitness at just the right time(s) of the season.
    • Yellow line: Form: This line balances yesterday’s training fatigue with increases in fitness.

    Notice that fatigue takes a big jump at the end of June. That was the result of the end of a big week of cycling - a big block. In 2016 this block was an organized bike tour. This year it was a self-and-buddy-designed bike tour. (More on that later.) Notice that at the same point fatigue is really high, form is low. In short, I’m not recovered enough from the training stress to have good performances at the immediate end of big-block training weeks.

    However, with the right combination of recovery and intensity, I was able to achieve two peak fitness points. The first was the third week in July and the second at the second week of August (Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Race.)

    2017 Details

    For this year, I’m doing three training blocks that are similar to 2016. The first block was a week-long road riding endurance block at the end of June. Summary numbers are below. Know that my endurance weeks are usually six days of riding, generally around the 22- to 24-hours of total riding mark. This year I rode 8 days, with a mountain bike race on the front end. I have not done that in past years, so full benefits are yet to be determined. 

    Bike Tour au Del 2017

    Miles

    Elevation (ft)

    Ride Time Hours

    Feet Per Mile

    6/24/2017

    Four Seasons of Horsetooth Summer Stage

    20.32

    2,805

    2.50

    138

    6/24/2017

    Cool down

    0.93

    62

    0.12

    67

    6/25/2017

    Loveland to Grand Lake

    80.8

    8,832

    6.45

    109

    6/26/2017

    Grand Lake to slit tire (late computer start + 3 mi)

    18.65

    164

    1.07

    9

    6/26/2017

    Del took me back to Ron and Linda

    35.25

    1,988

    2.52

    56

    6/26/2017

    Deraillier Fix

    0.53

    20

    0.07

    38

    6/27/2017

    Frisco, Vail Pass, East Vail, Frisco

    50.04

    4,436

    4.00

    89

    6/28/2017

    Frisco, Copper Triangle, Vail Pass loops, Frisco

    101.71

    6,959

    7.13

    68

    6/29/2017

    Dillon Reservoir Recovery

    19.88

    1,125

    1.75

    57

    6/30/2017

    Frisco, Ute Pass, Heeney, Green Mountain Dam, Frisco

    76

    4,124

    5.00

    54

    7/1/2017

    Frisco, Swan Mountain, Loveland Pass, Idaho Springs

    51.47

    3,743

    3.75

    73

    Totals

    455.58

    34,258

    34

    75

    Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Race

    103.3

    11,325

    10.00

    110

     

    I included the Leadville 100 stats for comparison. You can see that there is a hefty amount of climbing in the race. One of the metrics I use for training design is feet-per-mile of climbing, over the distance of a ride. It is one of my measures for course difficulty.

    After recovering for nearly two weeks, I did a second big block, this time a climbing block. The goal of this block was to achieve a three-day total of ride time and elevation that was some 80- to 100-percent of the Leadville 100 Race time and elevation. I like to begin with two tough climb days on the mountain bike, followed by a third day of climbing on the road bike. As you can see, the mountain bike days are more difficult, in terms of feet-per-mile of riding, than Leadville. These rides build strength and confidence.

     

    Big-Block Climbing

    Miles

    Elevation (ft)

    Ride Time Hours

    Feet Per Mile

    Bike

    7/14/2017

    13.1

    2,549

    2.20

    195

    Mountain

    7/15/2017

    16.9

    3,271

    3.90

    194

    Mountain

    7/16/2017

    64.7

    4236

    3.83

    65

    Road

    Totals

    94.7

    10,056

    9.93

    106

     

    I do many variations of this overall scheme for my own training and racing, as well as for those I coach. Big-block training is built into many of my training plans.

    The big question is, how can this help you?

    10 Tips for using big-block training

    • If your big blocks includes riding six or seven days, pick no more than three days to be “hard.” “Hard” can be fast, hilly, extra-long or long mixed with fast or hilly. Make the remaining days lower intensity, mostly aerobic (Zone 1 to 2.)
    • For a week of riding, make the total volume 25- to 100-percent greater than your current weekly training volume.
    • How much intensity you can tolerate in a big block is individual. Don’t get greedy.
    • If you use a two or three day block, make the total training time 50- to 150-percent of your total predicted finish time. For long, ultra-endurance events (100-mile bike races, Ironman, 70.3 as examples), keep volume in the 50- to 80-percent of predicted finish time range. For shorter events that take some 30 to 180 minutes, 50- to 150-percent of predicted finish time will work, depending on your individual sport history.
    • You MUST be rested before doing the big-block training.
    • You MUST recover after the big block.
    • Excellent nutrition, hydration and sleep habits are critical to be able to absorb the benefits of the training block.
    • If you do the training block from your home base, you must manage your work, family and social obligations or the training can leave you overtrained, ill or injured.
    • There are big advantages to taking a trip away from home to do the training. (Minimizing distractions, minimizing other chores, maximizing rest and recovery.)
    • You may need to rest more than someone else doing the same crash training week. Pay attention to your own body and individual needs.

    PR performance

    Done correctly, big-block training can contribute to a personal best (record) performance. At minimum, you’ll be in the best shape of the year.

    Questions?

    Let me know about your big block experiences. And drop me a note if you have more questions.

     Be sure to see if I have an easy-to-use training plan for you on my site to help you reach your goals. And, there are more options on the TrainingPeaks site.

     

     

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