article by Chris Baldwin of DayByDay Training (first appeared in Bike Radar)
Training for our beloved sport of cycling has become more complex at a staggering rate. Watts per kilogram, chronic training load, micro intervals, fat utilization crossover point, vertical ascension rate… it can get overwhelming quickly. These metrics add texture and accountability to the training process and are stepping stones to maximizing human athletic potential, but aren’t what’s most important.
Former pro Chris Baldwin of DayByDay Coaching says it’s easy to lose focus on what really matters. In such cases, he likes to revisit the basics – “the umbrella under which all training should fall”. Below are his top tips for simplifying you cycling training.
1. Follow basic principles of progression
Gradually increase your training load in a challenging, but reasonable way. Consistency is paramount, a massive day followed by a physical and mental void is not the way to go. Fatigue is not static, it should slowly accumulate as a training block goes on.
Ideally, during a three week cycle, you’ll feel good the first week, OK the second and tired the third. Then after a rest period, you should fully absorb the training, super compensate, and feel fitter than before. The same should apply for each week – fatigue will gradually build, and be unloaded on the rest days.
2. Work on your aerobic system first
Aerobic training lays the foundation that the remainder of your work rests upon. Without adequate work here, fitness peaks will be short lived and rate of recovery lessened. These adaptations take much longer than anaerobic ones to develop, so use available training time early in the training year to build endurance, strength and leg speed.
Baldwin says: “first we build a V-12, then we add a turbo”. This no longer means super slow miles, but work mostly under lactate threshold. If you don’t know your threshold, hone in on your breathing and make sure it’s a nice rhythm, and not excessive or gasping. Sometimes it’s better to pass on the fast bunch rides or early season races if you still need work in this department.
3. When you begin intensity and racing, make sure to increase rest and reduce volume
Intense training is difficult, and you need fresh muscles to execute the sessions properly. If you are doubting your recovery, err on the side of caution with that extra easy day or day off. The key to that aforementioned ‘turbo’ is hammering out quality interval sets, this requires sharp sensations and good energy levels.
4. Mid season: reset and start the process over again
Plan on splitting the season in two, and make sure to have a mental and physical break between them. This can be a week without riding, a mountain bike get-away, some cross training or just a nice easy week. When you begin again, start with endurance and then later add intensity. Going about your year this way will facilitate an upward spiral of fitness throughout the year.
5. When things go wrong, stick with low intensity work
We’re all human, and things can go wrong. Sickness, family life, work stress and other things can affect our energy levels and training.
When adversity strikes, Baldwin likes to get back to basics for a few days with simple zone two endurance rides. High end work can exacerbate sickness or excessive fatigue.
When the dust settles, it’s back to intervals and the like. Not only is this approach conducive mentally, it’s effective physically. Training always works best when it’s built around your life, not the other way around.
To me, coaching others towards their objectives and personal bests is just as fun, challenging and fulfilling as it was striving for my own goals throughout my cycling career. The process of guiding an athlete towards improvement and sharing the knowledge I’ve absorbed is a real thrill. My goal for clients is always the same, to help them become the best version of themselves possible!
We all work out in search of that amazing feeling of strength, speed and top form, the zone where we can “do no wrong” and velocity is effortless. When I began cycling I craved this level of fitness. Now, after a twenty year education in the trenches of pro racing, I want to help others achieve it for themselves.
Our “special sauce” at DBD lies in our ability to blend the latest science and research with hands on experience acquired in our 40+ combined years in elite cycling. I have always been a training and data “nut”, staying abreast of the latest research, physiology, wattage and heart rate based training techniques. But my application of this knowledge to the real world is what shaped me as a coach. The day to day nuances within the program are what make the difference between average and extraordinary. Simply put, some things are best learned by doing!
If you or anyone you know is interested in working with me, please contact us at DaybyDay Coaching!
USAC Level 2 Cycling Coach (USA Cycling)
TrainingPeaks University Certified Coach
I am Ben Day – an experienced and seasoned cycling professional since 2002 and a successful cycling coach. In my time as an elite athlete, I have worked with various coaches from Australia, Germany, Spain, Portugal, England and the USA. I have also had the privilege to have collaborated and learn from many great physiologists, strength and conditioning trainers, sports medicine doctors, sport psychologists and career advisors with the Queensland Academy of Sport and the Australian Institute of Sport, an internationally renowned sporting revolution, facilitating Australia’s great successes in cycling in the past 20 years.
My experience racing and training across the globe has equipped me beyond most coaches as I am not only current with ideas and methodologies, I am also understanding of what makes a cyclist good in this modern world of cycling. I have had some incredibly knowledgeable people all in my corner throughout this time, teaching me many things that contribute to making an athlete the best possible athlete he or she can be.
Already during my professional cycling career, I have had some incredible moments such as representing my country at World Championships and Commonwealth Games level with success, which has enabled me to learn about what makes a cyclist perform to the best of their abilities.
I am able to draw upon all of these experiences and knowledge in my coaching to make a better cyclist – day by day. Based in Boulder, Colorado, USA, I work with athletes throughout the US, Europe, Australia and the World
USAC Level 2 Cycling Coach (USA Cycling) with distinction
USAT Level 1 Triathlon Coach (USA Triathlon)
TrainingPeaks University Certified Coach
TRX Certified Trainer
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