Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Building on your foundations

This is my 12th week of training for the 2016 season . . . well, actually my 17th week if you count the 5 weeks of "prep" I did.  The Preparation period is essentially training to train - getting your body ready for proper training after a post-season break, gradually increasing your cycling time, throwing in a bit of cross training like running, getting back to the gym and so on.

That sounds like I'm pretty far into the training plan but, in fact, it's still early days.  I follow quite a traditional periodisation approach to my training, although after reading a fantastic blog by Tom Bell on polarised training, I've started to vary it a bit more with that.  If you want to read more about building up a periodised training plan, I'd highly recommend Joe Friel's Mountain Biker's Training Bible.  There's also lots of material online, but to summarise very briefly:  periodisation involves cycles of training that become more specific to your event the closer you get.

A snapshot of my annual training plan, showing I'm about to move into the Build period.  It's also worth noting the shading on the historic bars.  Training doesn't always go to plan.  Most of the time, I hit my planned weekly hours (or thereabouts) but there are a couple of weeks where I was nowhere near.  Life sometimes has to get in the way and you need to accept that, re-plan and move on!  The A, B and C "trophies" are the priorities of each race.

So, for the past 12 weeks, I've gone through Base 1, Base 2 and Base 3 periods.  These have been focused on building my aerobic endurance, plus some higher intensity efforts based on the polarisation mentioned above and the fact that modern views on training are that you need to keep some high intensity in the winter.  I've also spent a fair bit of time in the gym working on strength, doing core work at my weekly Pilates class and cross training with skiing, both downhill and uphill!  Read more about my thoughts on skiing and cross training here.  I've also spent a fair bit of time on my turbo trainer - if you're just getting started on a turbo trainer, you can find my tips in my last blog.

So, now it's time to build on those foundations.  I'm on a rest and recovery week at the moment - my periodisation includes one every four weeks to let my body recover from three hard weeks of training.  It's also nicely timed as I was skiing for six days in Andorra last week and my legs could do with the rest!  A complete aside, but a nice coincidence was that Commencal's headquarters were opposite our hotel.  My first mountain bike was a Commencal Meta - their headquarters were really cool and they even had a pump track outside the building!

Commencal's headquarters in Andorra, complete with pump track!  You may be wondering where the snow is for the ski holiday I've just been on but there was plenty up the mountain - just not lower down in the town!

So, next week, with only six weeks to go to my first race of the season, it's onto my Build 1 period of training.  It's actually 14 weeks until my first "A" priority race of the season - the Tweedlove Glentress Seven.  The periods in my training plan all work backwards from that date so it's just a coincidence that my first race is six weeks away.  However, six weeks of Build period training before that first race (Round 1 of the Scottish XC Series at Laggan) will have me not necessarily in peak form for that race, but far sharper than I am right now.

You see, that's the point of periodisation making your training more specific to the event.  Here's what the Build Period will involve for me:

  1. My work in the gym (at Origins Fitness of course!) will reduce as my training becomes more bike specific.  I'll be doing a few more weeks of focusing on explosive power in the gym then it's onto muscular endurance work at the gym.  With my priority events this year being longer endurance races, that's key for me.  I will keep gym work with weights/etc going all year, as at my ripe old age, that really does help.
  2. I'll be introducing more VO2 Max intervals, as well Anaerobic intervals that will really push the high end intensity in my training, helping with fast starts, explosive hills, chasing down other racers, going with the pack in a road race, and so on.  All more race-specific.
  3. I'll be doing hill intervals that are more specific to my races.  Most XC races tend to have climbs of between 1 and 3 minutes, whereas endurance races can be significantly longer.  Matching your hill interval training to the duration of a typical hill in your main races will really help
  4. In the Build Period, I would typically cut down the overall weekly volume in my training from what I've been doing in the Base Period, but since my key events this year are endurance races, I'll still be ensuring there is one long endurance ride per week on my plan - road or mountain bike
  5. I'll still be doing a skills-focused mountain bike session every week, but will weave it in with hill intervals, race simulation, starts practice and so on, all to make it more race specific
  6. I'll continue to join a fast group road ride every 2 or 3 weeks, as it tends to make me work up near race intensity and is a great way to push yourself compared to riding on your own
These are just some of the things I'll now be doing as I move into the Build period, so hopefully they give you some ideas if you're working on your own training plan and starting to move towards your target races.

Although the season starts for me in just over six weeks' time, it's important not to burn out too early, so all of the above has to be built up gradually and it's vital to keep those rest and recovery weeks in there too.  I'll do another blog soon on rest and recovery, as well as nutrition.  I'll include some general nutrition tips as well as covering what I use in a race (XC and Endurance).  Also look out for a blog about bike-specific gym exercises that I've been shown by my amazing Personal Trainer, Pamela, over at my new sponsor, Origins Fitness gym.

My new Origins Fitness kit has just arrived for the season ahead and I think it looks rather cool if I do say so myself!  I can't wait to get racing in it and it feels great to now be able to promote this great local gym when I'm out training.  Do say hello if you spot me in this kit out on the road or the trails!  (although it's unlikely to be the short sleeve versions in this photo given the current weather!)

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