Coach's Column with Andy Applegate: Achieving Early Season Fitness
Question: The first couple of races of
the season always seem harder to recover from than later in the season, how can
I help make sure I bounce back quicker early season and be able to keep
training and building form for the rest of the season?
Answer: I believe we can form the basis
of the answer to this question with two words: train harder.
While there would be many questions as to
what your current training habits are leading up to your first event of the
season, it sounds like your body is not prepared for the very intense effort of
racing. It also sounds like as the season progresses your body adapts to this
race stress and you are able to recover more easily. These realities are what
lead me to believe that if you train at higher, more race-like intensities
before your first race of the season, your body will be more prepared for the
stress and it will not require as much recovery.
What kind of workouts might be
beneficial? First, look at the actual demands of your racing. If you are doing XC type races that are super high intensity threshold and above threshold
efforts for approximately 2 hours, you will want to do some threshold and
anaerobic work before the race season starts. If you are doing more endurance
oriented races you will want to not only make sure that you have completed some
very long rides, but that you have a nice big base of tempo, some climbing at
threshold and maybe even a little anaerobic work in your legs.
Remember, you still want to follow the
general guidelines of periodized training to allow you to achieve your best
form for the most important events of the year, not the first race. However,
adding some race specific intensity to the plan before you put on a number
plate for the first time of the season is a really good idea and will do
wonders to alleviate that difficulty with recovery after these races.
Below are a few workouts you might
consider adding to your training arsenal leading up to your first race:
For the XC racer:
Power intervals (VO2max efforts) - start
with 3x3 min near all out efforts. Add an effort each successive hard workout
up to 5 or 6 x 3 min (3 min recovery intervals)
15-15s - complete sets of 15 seconds near
all out followed by 15 seconds of recovery for various times. Start with 5 mins
of 15-15s and work up to 2 or 3 x 10 mins of these 15 on/15 off intervals.
Race Simulation Efforts: preferably on
trail, but could be on a road. Do 2 or 3 x 10 to 15 minutes of race intensity
efforts with 10 min recoveries. Really go hard at the start of each to simulate
an xc race start. remember to yield to all other users if out on the trail. If
you have a training partner for these you can really push each other.
For the endurance racer, power intervals
and 15-15s are good as well, but also consider adding:
Hard Start Endurance Efforts: At the beginning of
a longer endurance ride do a decreasing effort interval - Start with 3 minutes
of climbing repeat type intensity ( about 105% of threshold) , then reduce the
intensity to just below threshold for about 10-12 minutes. Next reduce intensity
again into the Tempo zone (about 90% of threshold) for 20 to 30 minutes. After this continue on your endurance ride.
Andy Applegate is a Pro level coach with Carmichael Training Systems. He has over 20 years of racing experience and has been coaching cyclists full time since 2001. His passion is endurance mountain bike racing. You can find out more about Andy and his training programs at www.trainright.com