The bike rider within each and every one of us would like to become fitter and faster. There is no better way to achieve this than to train intelligently. One of the easiest ways to train intelligently is to structure your training. However, simply having structure and training regularly is not the most effective way of becoming fitter and faster. To optimize your personal performance, a form of periodization is essential
What is periodization?
Periodisation refers to the systematic planning of a training program though progressive periods of training. Specific periods of training or mesocycles (also referred to as blocks) of training typically have a focus on a specific objective or goal. The most common mesocycles of a cyclists’ periodized plan are (1) General preparation and strength, (2) Base or Fitness, (3) Intermediate intensity or lactate threshold development (precompetition phase), and (4) High Intensity or power development (competition and peaking phase).
How do I apply periodization to my riding / training?
The simplest way to devise your own periodized plan is to calculate the number of weeks prior to your big goal race. Once you know how many weeks you have remaining to your goal race, subtract 4 weeks and divide that number by 4. This number will be the number of weeks you should spend in each of the 4 mesocycles. For example if you have 20 weeks remaining to you’re your race, subtract 4 and divide by 4. This therefore gives you 4 weeks of focussed training in each of the 4 mesocycles. The reason I recommend dividing by 4 is so that you are able to include a rest week between each of the specific phases. The structure of your plan will therefore look like the following:
What is the objective and features of each mesocycle?
General Preparation and Strength
During this phase the emphasis is to build strength in the leg muscles. Strength on the bike is most effectively increased through doing specific high torque sessions on the bike. High torque training involves training at a very low cadence most effectively performed on a steep climb. Riding at a very low cadence (30-50 rpm) and moderate intensity allows for maximal force (or torque) through the pedals. This is an excellent form of strength training for cyclists. During this mesocycle both intensity and volume may be progressively increased.
The objective of this mesocycle is to build your fitness (aerobic capacity). During this period it is advised to slowly and progressively increase the volume (weekly hours). Less emphasis should be placed on high intensity training during this stage. During the last week of this mesocycle you should complete your biggest longest training week.
The objective of this mesocycle is to increase your lactate threshold. The intensity required to increase your lactate threshold equates to the maximal intensity you can maintain for 1 hour. The key sessions in this training block therefore includes 1 hour tempo rides, as well as repeated longer efforts such as 10 to 15 minute intervals. During this mesocycle the intensity should be progressively increased while the duration is progressively decreased.
The objective of this mesocycle is to improve your maximal power. This period is the “cherry on top” of your preparation for a specific goal event and is the last phase of training you should complete before you goal race. The key sessions in this training block includes shorter intervals (<=4 minutes) of maximal effort and maximal sprints (15-30 seconds). Similarly to the previous mesocycle, during this mesocycle the intensity should be progressively increased while the volume is progressively decreased.
Last, but certainly not least, a taper is very important before a goal race. The biggest mistake people make is to either not taper, or to simply completely rest. The most effective method of tapering is to reduce the volume, while maintaining a moderate level of intensity.