Whether you have been following a training program for some time or are relatively new to the concept it is important to consider a few basic training principles that will help guide your individual training sessions. I have put together 10 basic training session principles/tips to help you on your way.
These 10 principles compliment my four key training principles outlined in a previous blog post.
- Rarely exceed the designated daily hours on a training program and if inclined to do so, consult your coach first. My general rule is no more than +10% of the scheduled training time.
- Quality matters. If you are unable to complete a high quality session on your first key training session of the week (usually the first session after your weekly rest day) then you did too much last week and you need to recover more before continuing with your training schedule. NB: There are a few exceptions to this rule (some training camps, etc.) but they should be known in advance and a suitable recovery period should already be planned in to your schedule
- When completing E1/endurance rides you should be aiming to keep your heart rate/power in the mid to upper regions of the E1 zone as much as possible.
- With Tempo/E2 sessions you should generally aim to stick to the bottom half of the zone and when ever possible try to complete your time in that zone as a continuous block. There can be a temptation to push the tempo work too hard (i.e. too close to threshold) but I find this type of work is best left to dedicated threshold training sessions. If there is one mistake to avoid on these rides it’s to go by the overall average heart rate for the session. What happens in these cases is there is too much time spent at E3 or above and then lots of time at E1 or below. This results in an average heart rate/power in the E2 band but the session was decidedly not a tempo session.
- Threshold sessions should be hard but not super hard. I prefer to complete threshold efforts at the top of the E3 zone but I also encourage my riders to extend the recovery time between efforts to ensure that any subsequent efforts hit the right targets. Don’t be afraid to play around with your recovery time between intervals and if you’re using a heart rate monitor then don’t aim to start any subsequent interval until your heart rate drops to mid to low E1. If that’s not happening then you’re either riding too hard in your recovery time or you’re starting to fatigue, in which case you may need to consider the next interval as your last for that session.
- It’s common to encounter a range of short climbs during recovery and endurance sessions. Working too hard at these points can disrupt the training session but its ok to let your heart rate or power come up a bit. My golden rule in these situations is to ensure you stay aerobic and this means ensure that your your heart rate/power output stays below your threshold. If you need to climb out of the saddle then just don’t push it. Work on your technique and then recover over the top before continuing on.
- Aerobic capacity (Vo2/E4) sessions are designed to be really hard and many people opt for a race or hard group ride when doing this work. However, it is important to remember the purpose of the session and ride accordingly. This means you will usually need to get on the front and ramp up the pace for 2-5 minutes in the appropriate spots and be determined to keep the pace high. If you get passed then look for an opportunity to pull out and then go again. The 1-2 km before a sprint point is a perfect choice as you can act as the lead out while getting in your interval work. Just make sure you’re not disrupting the normal flow of the group or race.
- Anaerobic intervals. Few riders have issues training in this area as it occurs naturally on many group rides. However, the format of intervals at this intensity is also important to get the specific fitness and performance gains. Shorter duration efforts (3-20 seconds) are better for sprint power while longer (30-120 seconds) are better for developing anaerobic power and capacity, as well as lactate tolerance. Recovery between intervals can be manipulated to change the focus of a set however in general longer recovery times between efforts will lead to an increased quality and therefore better training adaptation. It’s also worth mentioning that too much anaerobic training leads to higher levels of fatigue, extended recovery times and reduced quality of other training sessions or races.
- 'Racing to train' vs. 'Training to race'. Racing to train is about using a race as a hard training session. It is important to remember this so that you approach the race correctly and with clear objectives. The common mistake is to simply sit in and try for a result at the end. That’s OK if your focus is on bunch skills and reading a race, but if you’re after a hard workout then this approach will let you. Remember working harder in these races will give you a better chance of performing well in your target races later in the season. Training races are a great way to try different tactics and to attempt to break away. It gives you the chance to learn what works and what doesn't so that when your big race comes you know how to race it. Training to race is about training the energy systems needed for your target race. For road races this means aerobic energy systems, which are responsible for approx 98% of energy for this type of racing. It also means spending your training time in the right activities, for example if you are targeting a hilly road race then your harder sessions need to have a distinct 'hilly' focus. On the other hand if the race is on flat to undulating terrain, for example a flat time trial, then spending lots of time on hills will not be the best use of your training time.
- Before every session take a moment to consider the purpose and aims of the session. This will help you get the most out of the session and over time you will start to develop a better awareness of whether certain rides are beneficial or not.