Tag: cycling

What Strength Training Exercises Do I Need For a Full-Body Workout?

To reap the benefits of strength training for cyclists, how do you know what exercises to do?

We know that strength training at least once a week will help build a stronger foundation for your on-the-bike work.

Strength training helps you ride faster, with more endurance, and more power.

But what do you do, and how do you fit it into your regular training?

If you understand the structure of the body’s six movements, they become an easy and effective structure for your strength training 

What are Different Strength Training Exercises? Use the Six Movements!

There are six main movements in our human bodies. Sometimes they are broken down into just four categories.

  • Push Movements (Chest and Shoulder)
  • Pull Movements (Chest and Shoulder)
  • Hip Hinge
  • Squat (bending hips and knees)

If you use these six movements as the structure of your workouts, you will have a workout that takes less time, is more focused, and works all the major muscle groups in your body.

Our goal as cyclists is not to build muscle mass – although I admit that adding a little bulk to my stick arms is nice – but to increase the capacity of the muscles to do work.

Plus I always add core work to the six movements, just to make sure I’m building torso strength.

Your workout, then, can include six or seven exercises: squat or deadlift movements; hip hinge like Romanian Deadlift; a chest press, a row, shoulder press, or pullup or pull down with shoulders.

Getting the Benefits of Strength Training for Cyclists Does Not Mean Hours in the Gym

I’ve seen some trainers alternate with Push and Pull days.

That’s fine if you want to spend more time in the gym.

But if your goal is to build strength for cycling, the more time you can spend on your bike, the better.

So I do all six movements in one workout that takes 30 to 45 minutes, two to three times a week in the off or pre-season.

For the deadlifts and Romanian deadlifts, I’ll do three sets to build maximum fatigue.

To get the benefits of strength training for cyclists, you only need to do two sets: one to find the right weight for the day, and the second to build fatigue.

Six Movement Structure Works With Different Weight Lifting Exercises

The beauty and simplicity of the Six Movements are that when you go to the gym, you can pick any exercise for a particular movement.

For example, a chest push might be a bench press, dumbbell press, seated cable press, machine chest press, or even TRX bands. 

And a chest pull might be seated rows, cable rows, bent-over rows, reverse push up on barbell, etc. 

As long as you do at least one exercise for each of these movements, you’ll get a full-body strength workout. 

A functional program with different strength training exercises helps bring about the benefits of strength training for cyclists.
Photo by Victor Freitas on Unsplash

Less Stable Equals More Strength

When you consider the different strength training exercises that provide the most benefit for cyclists, you should consider “unstable” loads.

The less stable the exercise, the more of your body will have to work. 

For example, if you do a one-arm dumbbell chest press, you utilize not only your chest and arm but your whole side to keep you from rolling off the bench!

Holding a dumbbell is very unstable, and you have to use more stabilizer muscles to keep the dumbbell stable. 

Alternatively, if you do a machine chest press, you primarily use just your chest and arm muscles in isolation. Those stabilizer muscles aren’t as required. 

That said, sometimes you just want to focus on one body part, or you have limitations that require more stability.

So if possible, I recommend using dumbbells, barbells, TRX, and/or kettlebells for the majority of your work.

There’s been research to suggest that single-leg or unilateral work provides the most bang for the buck in the weight room.

Doing Bulgarian split squats with one foot on a bench is a sure way to build fatigue in your hips and thighs!

What to Consider for Full-Body Strength Training

Consider these when you create your program:

  • One way to save time is to lternate movements, such as hinge and chest pull. Avoid doing the shoulder pull and press at the same time, though!
  • Do six to eight repetitions of heavy weight for each exercise for two or three sets each. If you get to 12 repetitions, move up in weight.
  • The goal is to fatigue the muscles, not jack up your heart rate. So if you’re breathing hard after a set, take a few moments to let the HR come back down. 
  • You can do multiple exercises for the same movement. For example, you can do a traditional squat, Bulgarian split squat, and pistol squats with the TRX to deeply fatigue your legs and hips. 
  • The older you are, the longer it takes to recover from strength work. I make sure I do intervals the same day as lifting. That way all the hard work is done in one day.
  • Doing a negative, or slowly releasing the lift, is a solid way to fatigue the muscles.
A functional program with different strength training exercises helps bring about the benefits of strength training for cyclists.

Strength Training Provides Significant Boost in Performance, Speed, Stability

Research suggests that cyclists should be doing strength training all year long, particularly people over 40.

The pre-season or off-season is the time to hit the strength training hard. You can still do one day a week during the season to maintain your strength gains.

Strength training throughout the year keeps your core stable and your hips and legs strong..

Let’s talk about how Simple Endurance can help you build a strength training program that works for your individual needs.

Sign up below and receive regular blog posts about training science, strength training, and yoga to boost performance.

Yoga has so many benefits for runners and cyclists.

  1. When you use yoga for recovery, it’s a great tool for creating some movement to counter tight hip flexors, shoulders, and neck.
  2. Yoga is great for building strength and mobility. We spend a lot of time moving forward in one plane. Yoga strengthens twisting and lateral muscles and movement.
  3. Finally, practicing yoga breathing improves performance on the bike and on the trail.

Yoga for Recovery from Cycling or Running

I did a very short yoga for recovery routine for immediately after a run or ride. You can do the whole routine or break out some of the parts.

I created this in the garage studio to help cyclists and runners be able to improve mobility and recovery for the next day’s workout.

I usually always do the hip mobility work with the low lunge to half split and runner’s lunge to Dragon Fly twist since my hip flexors are what is usually tight after a ride.

Here are the poses:

  • Mountain Pose/ Back Bend/ Rag Doll
  • Low Lunge/ Half-Split
  • Runner’s Lunge/ Dragon Fly
  • Sphinx/ Baby Cobra/ Cobra
  • Bow/ Half-Frog
  • Full Pigeon
  • Supine Twist
A very short yoga for recovery routine for immediately after a run or ride  to help cyclists and runners be able to improve mobility.

Yoga for Recovery Means Active Movement

The key to doing yoga is to NOT hold the pose as a static stretch. Passive stretching – or holding a single position – has been shown by some research to be harmful to performance in running and cycling.

Instead, be more active in your movement.

For a twist pose, lengthen your spine or relax slightly on the inhale and on the exhale, twist a little deeper.

With other poses, relax the position a little on the inhale, and move a little more deeply into the pose on the exhale.

For example, when you’re in the Low Lunge pose with your hands on your knees, rise up a bit on the inhale and push forward a little on the exhale. Come up on the inhale, and push back into the half-split on the exhale.

Do this very slowly and purposefully.

Foundation Yoga Provides Individual and Group Yoga Sessions

I conduct online classes for individuals and small groups, plus do classes outdoors until the snow flies.

Hopefully, we’ll be doing classes in a studio soon!

Want to find out more, find out where I’m teaching next?

Do you have questions about how yoga fits into your endurance training?

Railroad Tracks, Prickly Bushes, Mosquitoes, and Mud Make for a Little Too Much Challenge

I love creating my own cycling adventure by finding fire roads or old logging roads.

This particular cycling adventure, though, turned out to be a bit more than I bargained for.

Amazing Gravel Roads for a Cycling Adventure in Sawyer County, WI

I was at my mom’s cabin in Stone Lake, Wisconsin, near Hayward. There are some amazing gravel and dirt roads that never cease to provide spectacular scenery and challenging terrain. The perfect combination!

I plotted the route between Google Maps, Strava, and Garmin. Each of them showed some sort of road extending from Ortwig Lane.

I love creating cycling adventure by finding fire or old logging roads. This adventure, though, was a bit more than I bargained for.
Those dotted lines seemed like a great adventure!

There Should be a Road Here, Somewhere

You can clearly see a dotted line extending from the end of the road.

When I came to the end of the road, I found a fairly open double-track that may have been an old logging road.

It certainly hadn’t been used for a long time!

I love creating cycling adventure by finding fire or old logging roads. This adventure, though, was a bit more than I bargained for.
Seems nice, right? I may have been a bit worried about bears, but this looked like fun.

It looked perfect for a cyclocross bike.

Soon, though, the path – since I can’t really call it a road – started to be more overgrown, more filled with logs and other obstacles like raspberry bushes and thistles.

The ruts also filled up with water and mud from a heavy rain several days earlier.

When You Can’t See What’s Coming

One of the more terrifying, then joyful moments came on a steep downhill.

I couldn’t really see the bottom of the path since there was so much overgrowth. So sometimes I ended up in mud that I didn’t see until I was in it.

But at the bottom of this particular downhill was a wide and deep puddle that I could not avoid.

Instinctively, I stuck my butt back as far as I could and plowed through the 10-inch deep puddle.

I was so surprised I made it, I laughed out loud going up the short hill on the other side.

I love creating cycling adventure by finding fire or old logging roads. This adventure, though, was a bit more than I bargained for.
You can see the ruts are disappearing.

There were fewer photos of the amazing scenery for one big reason: mosquitoes.

I swear I thought they might carry me off if I stopped.

I was worried that if I crashed or had a mechanical, I’d never get out, and rescuers would only find a broken shell of a man, whose blood had all been sucked out by Wisconsin mosquitoes.

Cross Practice During the Cycling Adventure!

There was also plenty of chances to practice cross dismounts and remounts.

I love creating cycling adventure by finding fire or old logging roads. This adventure, though, was a bit more than I bargained for.
I had a chance to practice cyclocross remounts and dismounts with trees like this.

After 30-minutes of this kind of riding, the trail came to an end in some kind of circle area. No way to go forward.

I turned around and headed back to another path-ish kind of opening I had noticed along the way.

This path was even less of a path.

And it got worse. I couldn’t imagine turning around and trying to bushwhack back to the main path-ish trail.

So I kept going.

Until I couldn’t.

End of the Road – Or Path-Ish Trail

All that was in front of me was a swamp.

To my joy, I heard a vehicle near me!

But around the corner of the swamp, though, was a steep hill of rock.

At the top of the hill, though, was a railroad bed.

And railroad tracks.

Not a road.

I love creating cycling adventure by finding fire or old logging roads. This adventure, though, was a bit more than I bargained for.
Those are railroad tracks. The only road I had.

Riding the Railroad on a Bike?

You know, railroad tracks are not great for a bike.

I’m not talented enough to ride on the rail. So I let a bit of air out of my tires and started riding down the middle.

It was amazing to see how much steel is left around the tracks: spikes, braces, anchors.

I should have collected it all and sold it all for scrap.

As it was, I could barely ride on the ties.

After a time, I just got off the bike and walked, hoping for a road soon.

Eventually, I came onto a road. It looked oddly familiar, though.

The road ended up being the same one I started on! I did a big loop.

I love creating cycling adventure by finding fire or old logging roads. This adventure, though, was a bit more than I bargained for.
Here is my actual route from Strava. The straight line is obviously the railroad.

What’s odd about the Strava map, which I have no reason to doubt, is that the path turned a bit north, when the road on the map clearly went straight west.

There were no other options, unless I somehow missed a path because of the overgrowth.

I didn’t/couldn’t pay attention to the direction on my Garmin because taking my eyes off the path might have resulted in disaster.

Gravel and Dirt Roads are Better Than Overgrown Paths

I did get a chance to ride some of my favorite gravel and dirt roads, though.

I love creating cycling adventure by finding fire or old logging roads. This adventure, though, was a bit more than I bargained for.
This is enough adventure for me!

I’m grateful that no bears ate me, nor did the mosquitoes carry me away.

I learned that some of the roads should be left for other equipment, like tanks. Or maybe in the spring, when there are fewer raspberry bushes.

I love creating cycling adventure by finding fire or old logging roads. This adventure, though, was a bit more than I bargained for.
Post-ride raspberry scratches

I’m going to stick with gravel and dirt roads or fairly well-defined double-track from now on.

Bears, hordes of mosquitoes, raspberries and thistles, muddy paths were just a bit much for me this time.

My next cycling adventure will be a bit tamer!

Time For Your Own Cycling Adventure or Epic Run!

Want to create your own cycling adventure? Want to do an epic run? Need training advice to prepare?

Contact me!

Cycling Workouts to Improve Endurance, Aerobic Capacity, Strength, and Speed

One of the biggest debates among cycling coaches is how to increase cycling endurance.

If you are not a pro, or not someone who can dedicate more than 10-12 hours a week to training, time is an issue.

And for those of us with a minimal amount of time, is it better to do more intensity or more endurance?

Tempo, Sweet Spot, and Threshold intervals work to develop fitness.

That’s clearly backed by the research.

However, the challenge in doing the hard intervals is the toll those workouts take on your body.

They require more recovery than endurance miles, precisely because of the intensity.

It’s easy to cook yourself and over reach with your training.

How to increase cycling endurance? Use a polarized training model.

Even with limited time, you are able to combine endurance miles with intensity for the perfect blend of training stimulus without building too much fatigue.

Polarized training can provide best of both worlds

With the polarized training, the model that Simple Endurance Coaching uses, cyclists spend roughly 90 percent of training time in the endurance zone. The other 10 percent is intensity that’s done really intensely.

We can put endurance days back to back to back without building too much fatigue.

The cycling workouts to improve endurance are either a good steady pace or full-on go!

Then, when we do intensity, we are able to do more intensity at a higher output, which is more effective in building fitness.

A cycling endurance training plan improves the quality and quantity of mitochondria, which creates more endurance capacity, strength, and speed.
A cycling endurance training plan improves the quality and quantity of mitochondria, which creates more endurance capacity, strength, and speed.

A cycling endurance training plan brings big benefits down the road

Endurance riding is not recovery or coffee shop rides.

An endurance ride means you’re able to talk with a friend, but probably not about religion or politics. (That means you can talk but not yell or speak loudly!)

A greater base of endurance means an increase in

  • the capacity to ride further and faster.
  • the aerobic engine to do longer and harder intensity work, especially during racing.
  • FTP or lactate threshold levels
  • consistent and consecutive training without building too much fatigue.
  • the accumulated levels of adaptation.

Mitochondria are the fuel of endurance

The increased aerobic capacity comes from increased mitochondria density as well as an increase in capillary production and other physical/ biological markers.

Very simply put, the more endurance miles we ride, the more mitochondria, fuel cells for the muscles, we build in our muscle.

The more we have, the more fuel we can send to the muscles, enabling them to work more efficiently and for longer periods.

And these endurance rides also allow us to go faster and harder when the time comes.

Plus the more time we spend at an endurance pace, the more we use fat as fuel!

A cycling endurance training plan improves the quality and quantity of mitochondria, which creates more endurance capacity, strength, and speed.

This is how to increase cycling endurance.

Here’s some background information on the discovery of how more exercise meant more mitochondria, which, in turn, meant more speed and endurance.

Not just miles but lifting heavy things and intervals

Recent research is suggesting that in addition to putting the time in on the bike, lifting heavy things and doing intervals also builds endurance.

Building strength by lifting heavy things also increases the muscle’s capacity to do more by creating more mitochondria AND making them more efficient at producing energy.

And HIIT sessions kicks up the endurance adaption to exercise even more.

The downside of both strength training and HIIT is that you can’t do them every day. Your body can’t recover.

You can, though, do low-intensity miles nearly every day, if you plan your recovery right.

Lots of endurance miles, HIIT sessions, strength training, and recovery are the key elements of polarized training at Simple Endurance.

Only recovery makes the adaptations possible

There is an adage for training: gains are made when you sleep.

That’s truth.

Recovery days, yoga, proper and adequate fueling , and hydration are all key elements to rebuild our muscles and make them stronger that before.

Start off slowly and build your mileage up gradually.

Imagine that your body is a house, and training and other stressors are the weather and elements. You begin with a house made of straw, and your first bout of training is like a gust of wind. It knocks out a few walls and so you build them back up. If you have the means, you’ll probably build the new walls from brick. When the next bout of exercise comes along, your walls are more resilient, and this time nothing crumbles. You keep training, and as you do, you increase your training load, or stress, by lifting more weights, running more miles, or throwing more pitches.

Christie Aschwander, Good to Go

How do I create a cycling endurance training plan?

Sometimes you need to go slow to get fast.

A good training plan includes at least one long slow day, one or two interval days, some strength training, yoga and/or mobility work, and recovery/ rest.

How that kind of schedule works together to build up to your target event or adventure goal is what I do.

I build your program focused on the goals, building your fitness so that you’re ready to go by event day.

Do you have questions? Want to talk more about how a program might look for you? Fill out the form below and let’s talk!

Figuring out how to create a cycling adventure gave me purpose and structure for my riding.

Laurens Ten Dam, a Dutch former professional cyclist, had planned to come to the States to do several gravel races this year, including the famous Dirty Kanza in Kansas.

Since all the gravel events were cancelled, Ten Dam created his own adventure called #DirtyKanzelled and put it out on the social medias to get other cyclists to do their own adventure.

Use Strava, Map My Ride, and Google Map to figure out how to create a cycling adventure: in my case a 100-mile loop with miles of limestone bike trails.
The bike trail along Hwy. 36

The Burlington-Elkhorn Loop

So I figured out how to create a cycling adventure: 100-mile loop that utilized the limestone bike trails in southeastern Wisconsin.

I went on Strava, Map My Ride, and Google Maps to look for gravel roads. Finding none, I looked for the bike trails. I had ridden everything except the White River Trail from Burlington to Elkhorn.

Use Strava, Map My Ride, and Google Map to figure out how to create a cycling adventure: in my case a 100-mile loop with miles of limestone bike trails.
The bike trail along Hwy. 36

Ten Dam’s guidelines were 100 or 200 miles, with as much gravel as possible, and with just two rest stops for 100 and three for 200.

I left home at 7 am, rode the gravel trail along Hwy. 36 to just south of Rochester, WI. It’s a route I’ve taken hundreds of times before.

The section starts at North Cape Road and to Wind Lake, where you have to get on roads through town and get back on the trail.

Use Strava, Map My Ride, and Google Map to figure out how to create a cycling adventure: in my case a 100-mile loop with miles of limestone bike trails.

The White River State Trail is Awesome

My route took me through Waterford and onto English Settlement Road through Racine County. I came to the White River State Trail east of Burlington.

This trail is amazing. Crush limestone, wide, lots of beautiful scenery.

I stopped at Casey’s in Burlington. In hindsight, I wish I had kept going until I reached the Pedal and Cup in Springfield. It’s a great little coffee shop that caters to people using the trail.

I reached Elkhorn on the White River Trail, and turn to head west. Somehow, the wind that had been in my face on the way to Burlington, had shifted and was now also a headwind.

Use Strava, Map My Ride, and Google Map to figure out how to create a cycling adventure: in my case a 100-mile loop with miles of limestone bike trails.

I was beginning to get a bit tired at this point, plus the roads were beautifully rolling. The route went along part of the old state road championship course! Good memories there!

The GPS took me on some detours but I made it to Waterford, where my bike said hello to its manufacturers at Waterford Precision Cycles. I stopped at another Casey’s for a break and more water.

Once in Big Bend, I picked up the Muskego trail. Finally, I felt a bit rejuvenated by getting on looser gravel. There’s something about pushing a big gear and rolling along in the gravel.

The entire route took me a bit over 6:15, which is not bad considering I was on a steel cyclocross bike on gravel trails.

Create Your Own Adventure!

Most of our events have been cancelled or postponed. It’s likely USA Cycling will cancel the summer races, and we’re holding out breath about cyclocross this fall.

So we need to figure out how to create a cycling adventure.

Friends have done marathons around their blocks, my wife and I did a virtual 5k through Map My Ride, and others have done virtual running races, bike races on Zwift, or time trials.

There’s no excuse not to create your own adventure or challenge!

Let me know what you come up with, and, if I can, I’ll join you!

And let’s talk: I want to hear about your training through the pandemic.

Prepare for the 2020 2021 cyclocross season by having fun and continuing your training

Most racers are thinking about how to prepare for the 20202021 cyclocross season.

In just four months, cyclocross season will be here.

And in seven months, Chicago will host for the 2020 U.S. Cyclocross National Championships.

Or not.

In an ordinary year, cross racers in the Midwest and around the country would be in full cyclocross training mode.

Obviously, this is no ordinary year.

So how do we prepare for the 2020 cyclocross season and nationals in December when there may be no training races this summer to prepare?

And the big races like Trek and Fayette Cross have already been cancelled.

Regardless of where you are in your cyclocross career, the consensus from different riders is to keep training while we wait for the cyclocross season, get creative, put in your endurance miles, and have fun.

“I, of course, am unsure if these races will happen, but I love to ride my bike regardless. So I will stay focused on them in hopes that we can compete this fall. If the races don’t happen, the riding I did in preparation will not be a waste. Not only will the riding be enjoyable, the training I do each year carries into the next and at some point racing will return.”

Isaac Neff, former masters and single-speed national champion

Feldhausen: Keep yourself accountable

For cross racer Erin Feldhausen, safer-at-home has meant two big changes: No Boston Marathon, for which she had qualified for 2020, and no social workouts.

“I’m VERY much a social workout person,” she says. “I love doing group runs from the running store, group rides at lunch, weekend group rides, etc. So much of my social training is now either solo or just with my husband.”

How to prepare for the 2020 cyclocross season? Keep training, get creative, put in your endurance miles, and have fun with your riding.
© Z. Schuster / Cyclocross Magazine

Feldhausen, a multiple Wisconsin state cyclocross champion, with a second place at the 2019 master’s nationals, says that without the social element of training, motivation has been a bit of a challenge. “I love working out, so this is usually not a difficult thing for me to do,” she says, “but lately it’s been that initial step out the door that has been more of a struggle.”

To keep herself focused, Feldhausen, who won 24 of the 39 cross races she entered in 2019, including 11 in a row in October, has still been using accountability buddies. And while she has her husband Matt to ride and run with, she is also grateful for “friends I communicate with regularly about what our workout plans are, mostly, I think, just to verbalize and then hold ourselves accountable that day or that week and I think that’s helpful.”

Feldhausen and her husband have been trying to come up with new routes outside of their home in Madison, WI as well as laying out training plans for the next week. “As much as I don’t follow a training plan, I think laying out your plans each week for what you’d like to do (often based on the weather) and trying to hold yourself to that is important,” she says.

Neff: More time allows for more focused training

Isaac Neff, a former national cyclocross 30 plus and single-speed champion, says that without mountain bike racing, riding to prepare for the 2020 cyclocross season includes more time and energy endurance training.

“To be honest, not racing this spring has allowed me to train probably better and more focused than I ever have during this time of the year,” Neff, who has won numerous Wisconsin and Illinois state championships, says. “I was able to fit in three full (4 week) endurance blocks and now am moving towards more interval training and efforts.”

How to prepare for the 2020 cyclocross season? Keep training, get creative, put in your endurance miles, and have fun with your riding.
Isaac Neff: “If the races don’t happen, the riding I did in preparation will not be a waste.”

Neff crashed hard at the Snake Alley Crit in 2018 and had to take several months off the bike to recover from broken bones and an injured head. He used 2019 to train and race himself back into fitness.

In 2020, Neff is targeting the 35 plus category at both Pan-American and National Championship races.

“I’m just focused on fall racing in hopes that it will happen,” he says. “I imagine I will complete an entire training cycle this spring and early summer without any racing, take my short break from training in July and then start to focus my training on fall cross racing.”

While he’d love to be racing now, Neff says he’s training a lot, chasing some Strava segments, and doing more skill building.

“I, of course, am unsure if these races will happen, but I love to ride my bike regardless,” he says. “So I will stay focused on them in hopes that we can compete this fall. If the races don’t happen, the riding I did in preparation will not be a waste. Not only will the riding be enjoyable, the training I do each year carries into the next and at some point racing will return.”

Anderson: More quality time on the trainer

Greg Anderson, who has won numerous Illinois state and overall Chicago Cross Cup championships while racing for his shop team (Spin Doctors Cyclewerks CX Team), says while he’s hopeful for the cx season, he wouldn’t be surprised if “things were altered drastically. What that would look like I have no idea.”

To prepare for the 2020 cyclocross season, Anderson uses Trainer Road, a coaching software platform, to guide his training. “I’m still training with the expectation of a full season,” he says.

How to prepare for the 2020 cyclocross season? Keep training, get creative, put in your endurance miles, and have fun with your riding.
Anderson: “I’m still training with the expectation of a full season.”  © Eric Goodwin

But while he used to do his Saturday morning hard rides and commuted to his bike shop, he’s been using the indoor trainer more. “I decided to cut back on (commuting) a little and put that effort into a little more quality time on the trainer.”

And while his Spin Doctors shop outside of Chicago is slammed, he’s not getting out on the mountain bike as much either.

While many riders are getting on Zwift for social rides, Anderson says that’s not his usual strategy. “I’m not really into it, seems too busy for me,” he says. “I prefer the structure, and anonymity, of TrainerRoad.”

Kuhn: Won’t take long to ramp up For cross

Lou Kuhn is another bike shop owner (Pony Shop in Evanston, IL) and a highly successful cyclocross racer as well. He is also responsible for starting the massively successful and growing Pony Shop junior cyclocross program.

To prepare for the 2020 cyclocross season, he doing more trail riding and more mountain biking.

“You can ramp up for the season in a relatively short amount of time,” he says “It will require more focus because not having the group mentality or summer road and mountain bike racing, we’ll need more intensity to replace that.”

How to prepare for the 2020 cyclocross season? Keep training, get creative, put in your endurance miles, and have fun with your riding.
Lou Kuhn: “You can ramp up for the season in a relatively short amount of time.”

Kuhn says he’s optimistic cyclocross can happen, but he’s concerned a lot of what we relate to the cross scene will be different with no team tents or hanging out. And if you’ve ever seen the Pony Shop compound at CCC races, you’ll understand this is a big deal.

“Cyclocross is a tough subject for me right now,” Kuhn says. “Frankly I wish they would just go one way or the other, cancel it completely, or just let us race.  The fact that different states have different rules is tough, and Illinois is so much more conservative right now then Wisconsin.”

Phelps: Take the cross bike out on the trails!

Nathan Phelps, a long-time cyclocross racer and editor of Midwest Bike Racer, was also optimistic about a 2020 cyclocross season when the Wisconsin Cycling Association announced the fall season and the UCI published its revised road schedule. (No word yet on rescheduled or altered UCI or USA Cycling cyclocross races.)

How to prepare for the 2020 cyclocross season? Keep training, get creative, put in your endurance miles, and have fun with your riding.
Phelps: “I rode 13-miles of MTB single track yesterday on my SS CX and plan to keep on doing
that all summer.”

“I hope we get to race, but if we don’t, well, there’s nothing any of us can do about it,” Phelps, who also runs the Gryphon Velo Cycling Team, says. “I’m not quite sure what we’ll fill the fall with if we don’t have CX races.”

Phelps says he’s been getting out on mountain bike trails with his cross bike to prepare for the 2020 cyclocross season. “I rode 13-miles of MTB single track yesterday on my SS CX and plan to keep on doing that all summer,” he says. “It builds skills and gets the heart rate up in the race zone – and it was fun as hell!”

While Phelps and the Gryphon racers plan to start traditional cyclocross practice sessions in August (given the season hasn’t been cancelled), he says riders should keep training as if the cross season is coming and get creative with what is available.

“I’m using an empty parking lot to ride my crits – yep, 45-60 minutes of riding in a circle by myself,” he says. “But it keeps the cornering skills up and makes me feel like I’m doing something.”

Stay patient to prepare for the 2020 cyclocross season

It’s definitely a challenge to build fitness without a definite goal.

#crossiscoming but maybe not until 2021.

To keep sane and put on good miles, I’m often pointing the bike in one direction until it’s time to head home, then simply turn on the bike computer screen so I know I’m which direction I’m riding. Then I just find a way home.

I’ve ended up on some really narrow busy roads, which I exit as quickly as possible. And I’ve found some roads I’ve never ridden on before.

I’m treating this as a training adventure, where I get a lot of quality miles in.

So the consensus advice from these experienced cyclocross racers to prepare for the 2020 cyclocross season is to keep pedaling. Put the endurance miles in, have fun with keeping your cross skills up, maintain a schedule.

If you need help creating a training schedule, let’s talk! Contact me and we’ll figure out a way to get together.

There has been a growing body of research shows that polarized training increases:

  • VO2 max, your ability to use oxygen to fuel your efforts;
  • time to exhaustion;
  • adaptation to training stress;
  • velocity and power.

With polarized training, endurance athletes do a majority of long, slow distance work at their base aerobic level. And they do a surprisingly small amount high-intensity intervals at a challenging level. 

Dr. Stephen Seiler, who has largely been responsible for the popularization of polarized training, studied elite endurance sport athletes (cross-country skiers, runners, cyclists). He and his colleagues found that these athletes spend the majority of the training time (90 percent) simply putting in the time and only 10 percent doing huge effort intervals. 

This results in greater systemic adaptation (aerobic capacity) as well as greater muscle efficiency. 

This is the essence of Simple Endurance Coaching. Training should not be complicated or overly difficult all the time. The growing body of research suggests that what works is simplicity: run/ ride/ swim/ ski for long, slow distances or go hard. 

Blood Markers are Key to Training

Essentially the research focuses on two physiological markers that occur when lactic acid builds in the blood. This is really oversimplified, but at around 2 milliMoles of blood lactic acid, your body has activated key energy systems for aerobic performance. And at around 4 milliMoles, your body does not have the ability to flush the accumulating lactic acid out of the bloodstream. 

So researchers have shown that athletes who train for long durations at around 2 mMol and for short durations around and above 4 mMol have been able to get stronger, faster, and build more adaptation to training stress. 

Seiler and others say 2 mMol is around the upper end of the traditional zone 2 – about 75 percent of maximum HR or threshold power.

Recent research shows that polarized training increases VO2 max, time to exhaustion, adaptation to training stress, and velocity and power.
Photo by Chander R on Unsplash

Seiler has been on a lot of podcasts, including Scientific Triathlete and Fast Talk

He talks about how polarized training is not sexy or complicated. Go fast or go slow. No need to do intervals that have 3 minutes of this, 2 minutes of that, then another 3 minutes of those.

Seiler advocates four, eight, or 16-minute intervals for endurance sports. All of these intervals should be done as hard as possible and as consistently as possible throughout the whole session. That consistency is the key. You need to be able to go as hard as you can for the entire interval.

According to Seiler’s research, the 16-minute interval effort correlates roughly with an athlete’s upper end of their threshold, around 88 percent of maximum heart rate. 

The eight-minute intervals will be roughly 90 percent of a maximum heart rate. And the four-minute intervals is roughly 92-93 percent. 

Seiler says the four-minute interval, though, may not be the most effective tool since the key is accumulating minutes at a slightly lower intensity. Longer hard intervals are easier to recover from as opposed to the intensity of the shorter interval. The longer intervals also provide the minutes at a high level of intensity, which has shown to be the most important metric.

Recovery for about two-minutes seems to be the good amount between intervals. You will still slowly fatigue. 

Harder is Not Necessarily Better

The key variables of intervals are the intensity, volume of the intervals to build the accumulated time. Harder is not necessarily better. 

It is true that there are other ways of training that have worked in the past for many athletes!  

For example, many athletes use tempo or sweet spot intervals to build aerobic fitness because it is shorter than multi-hour hours.

This does indeed work to build fitness; the challenge, though, is that tempo and sweet spot rides take longer recovery periods. 

I’m not in any way saying those methods are wrong. What we’ve learned in the past few years seems to indicate, though, that polarized training works better than other models. 

Recent research shows that polarized training increases VO2 max, time to exhaustion, adaptation to training stress, and velocity and power.
Photo by Josh Calabrese on Unsplash

Periodizing with Polarized Training

As we periodize a training schedule, the relative percentage of training zones doesn’t change much.

Low intensity stays low, and will even get lower as you peak, and the high intensity gets a bit higher.

Total volume will decrease as the target event nears with a lot of increased rest and recovery.

Peaking can benefit from several anaerobic capacity intervals prior to the target event, but that is kind of different level of adaptation.

It is a rapid adaptation, but short-lived. In other words, we can build a peak quickly, but it will not last – especially if you haven’t done the long, slow work.

What Does This Mean for Training?

So what does this mean for general training? Should we do nothing but long rides and eight-minute intervals? 

Yes, and no.

When I create a program, we might build up to seven intervals of five minutes or six intervals of six minutes.

For cycling, the intervals might be done on a mountain bike or on gravel or on a hilly ride to create some variety.

For runners and skiers, depending on their desired distances, the intervals would also be a mix. 

But the effort, duration, and consistency remains relatively constant. 

And the long rides/ runs/ would focus on fun, seeing the sites, talking with friends, or lots of podcast listening.

These are not “easy” rides.

These are rides done at about 70 percent of your max heart rate, so you are doing some significant work.

I listen to a lot of podcasts when I ride or run in the middle of the day when no one else is available to hang with! 

Got questions about polarized training? Concerns? 

For the price of a cup of coffee, we can sit down and talk about your goals, limits, and start creating a training plan that fits your needs.

Katerina Nash, winner of the recent cyclocross World Cup at the Trek headquarters in Waterloo, Wisconsin, says having fun and keeping a balance in life is the key to staying successful in endurance sports over decades.

Nash, 41, has won world-level races in cross-country skiing, cyclocross, and mountain biking, including appearances in the Olympics for skiing and mountain biking.

Molly Hurford, writer, cyclist, runner, and author of the amazing Shred Girls book and future series, wrote the article for Bicycling about Nash.

Molly Hurford, Bicycling Magazine

Stay Focused, Have Fun

Here are the tips she told Molly about why she’s been able to excel in endurance sports for so long:

Stay Focused on the Prize

Know your goals and keep them simple. You don’t have to be “good” every weekend or every event. Plan out your season or plan for that one event.

That way, when training gets difficult or the weather doesn’t cooperate, you still have that goal to keep you working

Embrace Those ‘Eye of the Tiger Moments’

Get after it when you need to. During the long endurance runs or rides, just move. You don’t need to go hard, nor do you really need to think. It’s a great time to listen to podcasts or music, watch a movie while on the trainer or treadmill, or have a long conversation with friends.

But when it’s time to go, whether in your event or interval training, go hard. It’s going to hurt, so push yourself through the challenging times to bring yourself to a higher level.

Accept That You’ll Make Mistakes

You’re going to crash, do something wrong in training, or get hurt. Accept it, and deal as best you can. As I’ve said so many times, we’ve made all the mistakes. From taking a bad line in a cyclocross race to tripping on a root during a trail run, or turtling an oar on the water, you’re going to make mistakes.

When you accept that these are going to happen, you probably won’t freak yourself out. You can stay calm, learn from the mistakes, and grow as a person and as an athlete.

Make Your Years Work for You

Use your experience to your advantage. Most of us are beyond those prime athletic years in our 20s. But if you’ve paid attention to the previous piece of advice about learning from your mistakes, you’ve probably gained a lot of experience. You’ve dialed in your pre-race routine, you know how or what to eat.

Seek Help

Get a coach. I know this seems self-serving, but in past years, when I was building up for nationals or another big event, I’ve hired coaches. Just the ability to not think, to trust someone else to take care of the planning is a great way to focus on your training and recovery

Focus on Health, Not ‘Race Weight’

Don’t worry if you have ice cream or an extra whiskey. Don’t worry about carrying some extra pounds. Be healthy – because it helps your overall health – but don’t give up the occasional secret pleasure!

Find Your Balance

Don’t just ride or run. Find something else to balance you. Write. Sing. Hang out with your family. Go to movies. I gave up a lot of fun nights out to race my bike. I don’t regret those nights, but I sure wish I had stayed out later!

Seek Moderation

I hope the themes here are getting clear. Nash is talking about finding a balance in all things. Don’t binge on lots of whiskey every night, but enjoy a glass. Don’t spend all your time training, but get out there and do the work.

Love Your Sport

I may love this one the best. I don’t know how many times I’ve tried to stop riding because my head got too serious or because of health problems. But I just love to ride my bike. I love to get out and run on trails.

Nash is saying that you’ve got to love your sport, whatever it is. Be passionate and have fun.

It’s All About Balance

Most of these come down to balance: stay balanced with food, drink, and training.

And have fun. Always just love what you’re doing. Endurance sports are too damn hard to not enjoy yourself.

At Simple Endurance Coaching, we have taken ourselves way too seriously, way too often. But we’re at a point where we keep training balanced and fun.

For our clients, we build in fun days, off days, hard as hell days, and always working toward your event goal.