Work hard now — then enjoy a well-deserved break. – By Chris Carmichael
The holidays are looming on the horizon, and with them come gatherings, packed airports and the annual conversation with Aunt Harriet about why you shave your legs. The celebrating also invariably interrupts training, but rather than getting frustrated, think of it this way: Time away from your home and your job will most likely be good for A) your mental health, as well as B) your relationships with your spouse (“Howdy, stranger…”) and kids (“Since when does Johnny have a girlfriend?”). If you’re not able to take your bike along on your trip, you can pre-load your training plan the week before your trip and leave your bike at home.
I rarely recommend that athletes complete interval workouts on four consecutive days. Even cyclists who train six days a week typically take a recovery day after three days of workouts. But when you can use holiday time — four days, minimum — as an extended recovery period, it’s okay to increase your workload before you leave.
There’s one crucial principle behind the four-day training block described below: The hardest work comes first. Intervals are effective only when you’re able to maintain power outputs that meet the goals of the workout, so it’s important to do the hardest efforts when you’re freshest. First, you’ll do power intervals, maximum efforts that develop power at VO2 max. Over-unders hit outputs between lactate threshold and VO2 max, and the block wraps up with steady-states, done at or just below your lactate threshold power.
At the end of the four days, you’ll be tired and ready for a break, but you’ll go into your time off knowing that your body will be busy adapting to that training while you’re sitting on a beach … or helping Aunt Harriet with her Christmas shopping.
When you return, you should feel rested and ready to ride again. On your first day back, you may feel a bit stiff, so give yourself a long warm-up and include some high-cadence, low-resistance pedaling drills — two to four minutes each — to get your spin back.
Pre-trip Training Countdown
Do each workout during a 60-to 90-minute ride, outdoors or on an indoor trainer. If you have more time, you can extend the rides to two hours.
Four Days to Departure
Power Intervals: One set of six two-minute efforts at maximum intensity. Ramp up your effort level over the first 15 to 20 seconds and hold that maximum effort for the rest of the interval. Keep your cadence above 90 rpm. Take two minutes of easy-spinning recovery between intervals.
Three Days to Departure
Power Intervals, Part II: Two sets of three two-minute efforts at maximum intensity. Spin easy for two minutes between efforts, and take five minutes of recovery between sets. This is almost identical to yesterday’s session, but splitting it into two sets should allow you to complete the final three efforts at higher outputs.
Two Days to Departure
Over-Under Intervals: Train your body to handle mid-ride surges by riding at LT power/heart rate for one minute, then accelerating so you’re riding above threshold power (or, for advanced athletes, at VO2 max) for one minute. Repeat the sequence twice without stopping, for a total of six minutes. Take five minutes of recovery, then do another six-minute effort. Your cadence should be 90-plus if the interval is done on flat or rolling terrain, 80 to 90 rpm on a climb.
One Day to Departure
Steady-State Intervals: Do two six-minute intervals at or just below your lactate threshold power output/heart rate. If your pace, power and heart rate are below normal but your perceived exertion is way above normal, back off and go for an endurance ride. If your heart rate is five to 10 beats lower than usual but your perceived exertion and pace are normal for a lactate-threshold effort, you’re slightly fatigued, but you should continue with the workout.