4 Key Training Components To Work On This Winter

I’m writing this blog from the university canteen in D.C.U.

I just finished a gym session and I’m milling in a few eggs before I hit my 9am biomechanics lecture.

I feel like a rag doll being pulled around at the moment with all that’s been going on so training has taken a wee bit of a hit.

That said I’ve got a few things over the hill in the last few days and I should be back to normal this week.

As a coach it’s a fundamental time of year.

Planning is key.

“Time to put away the heat-rate monitors, power meters and your poxy intervals and start building on some base miles”.

You know you’ve heard something along those lines anyway!

Traditional training philosophies dictated that we should ride for endless hours in the winter in order to develop an aerobic base and improve our aerobic efficiency.

However, for those of us based in this part of the world, this is particularly problematic – the time we are being asked to log the highest volume is a time when the days are at their shortest.

Riding aerobically and building on that week in week out will elicit extremely beneficial adaptations over time. There’s no doubting that.

But can you build on it?

If your schedule allows 10 hours then no you can’t build on it and you need to use varied intensity to elicit those adaptations and you need to do it early.

Your body uses various different energy systems when you exercise (as covered in an earlier blog by John Phelan) the energy system used depends of the intensity of exercise relevant to the individual.

If you need to improve your top end power, sprint, FTP, time to peak power, vo2 power or any of these specific factors, you have to individually train those specific factors.

Some inadvertently push others in the right direction for sure as all components are closely linked, but if you truly want to bump one up – it needs your full attention.

As with everything in life I feel these components improve best when focused on individually.

The science is changing

In recent years there has been a break from traditional practices, with more and more top riders and sports scientists advocating periodization of specific components during the winter so some really important factors are not left untouched for months on end.

This system turns conventional wisdom on its head – taxing the upper training zones early in the training cycle. This is great news for us time-crunched athletes living in North-Western Europe, who don’t like to ride endless kilometres on cold, dark evenings.

No longer should our racing category be determined by available training hours. Adherence to periodized training structure can mean riders who train fewer hours are able to excel where previously they were passengers in races.

This training philosophy is a marked divergence from traditional ‘old school’ training principles.

Strength work

Strength is often considered “the cornerstone of all athletic movements” and may be defined as the ability to exert a force. Force is one side of the formula for power! So increase force and you increase the watts you generate on the bike.

Be sure to have some of your programme devoted to making you stronger the grey area no longer exists guys.

Threshold Power

We can increase ‘threshold power’ by working just below threshold (pushing it up) or just above threshold (pulling it up). A very focused block of threshold work can really see that FTP number jump up and is not something that should be left until the summer.

VO2 Max Power

Traditional logic wouldn’t encourage the implementation of V02 efforts until late in the spring. While there should be an increase in higher intensity work nearer your racing targets there is no reason why these numbers cant be worked on over the winter. That way you have a higher starting point come spring in addition to less of a system shock with the jump up in intensity.

Maximum Sprint

Regardless of our targets for next season, there exists a body of literature to back up the use of a-lactate sprints over the winter. A welcome bonus from ‘training your sprint all year around’ is that the next time you come to the line sprinting for prizes, you can be confident this is a skill you’ve practiced over and over again.

By taxing these systems early in our macro training cycle, we can take advantage of increased freshness to deliver maximum adaptations.

If your sprint needs work don’t wait until next summer to improve it!

Will I peak too soon?

No this is an old wives tale, once your training load and stress is appropriately managed you will certainly not peak too early!

Embrace the intensity revolution.

Aaron Buggle

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