As a cyclist progresses through years of intense training, sometimes motivation can lack. Many cyclists will continue to drag themselves through a few more months of training, hoping that their motivation will come back.
The problem isn't motivation though. These athletes are seriously burnt out from the tedious efforts of repeating their cycling workout over and over week in and week out.
This lack of energy and drive to cycle doesn't come for no reason though - it is not just "in your head," it is not just a mental block. This is the body's way of telling a cyclist that they are lacking something! They are lacking variation! Constant endurance training does produce results, of course, but there are other variables that affect performance in the road as well.
Many athletes will start off the spring and summer ready to go and full of motivation to succeed after taking some time off. They start off a little slower than before but after getting past the initial DOMS (delayed onset of muscle soreness), they find themselves shattering old records.
Then the cycle (no pun intended) repeats itself and the athletes lose motivation. They are bored again!
This is where periodization comes in.
It is now becoming more common knowledge to the contemporary athlete that the body can not perform at a peak level of stress all year and continue to make progress. This is because of various adaptive processes that take place in the body and it is the reason why cyclists stop shattering records after their peak months in the summer.
By cycling their training (yes that was a pun) cyclists can improve their progression in speed, strength, coordination and even endurance.
What's more is that they can do this while hardly touching a bicycle!
Let's Use An Example ///
Let's take an example season where a cyclist is trying to peak for the hottest weeks of August. We'll make their goal to be at peak performance by August 22nd.
They have just come out of their big race and taken a week or two off to give their bodies time to recover. Or was that a month or two? Either way, cycling just doesn't seem too fun after the big competition. The weather is now what they would call dreary and a little chilly.
At this point in the middle of September or beginning of October a dedicated cyclist can begin to train once again.
Training Variables ///
There are a few variables that are important in any athletic activity- just to give them a name we will call them speed, strength and endurance. Coordination is another variable but it is not necessary to train for coordination by itself.
The chart found in Joe Friel's The Cyclist Training Bible depicts how these variables are interrelated. This is called the Training Pyramid. Sound complicated? Don't worry about it. It is actually simple and this article will lay out a way to use these variables to your advantage.
With this visualization to improve your understanding of periodization, we can now look at how to organize these variables.
Many cyclists prefer to hit the gym in the cold and dreary months instead of hitting the road to cycle. Doesn't it seem obvious that heavy weight training and high time under tension efforts such as cycling do not go well together? This is because they don't.
Organizing Your Training Blocks
In order to get maximum results to improve one of these variables, an athlete should focus on just one at a time. This doesn't just go for strength versus endurance; it means that any one corner of the triangle should be the focus for one "training block" and not more than one.
"De-Loading" Period ///
It is just as important to plan time off in between training blocks as it is to plan the training blocks themselves. This can be referred to as the "de-loading" period. Each training block involves the initial weeks for the body to de load from a previous phase and get acclimated to the next one.
Goal Training Phase ///
After this, the athlete trains towards a goal (such as improving strength, speed, or endurance). Then there are a few weeks given to transition into the next phase.
Later on the athlete can start to integrate all variables into their training to bring them all up to an optimal level. This is beneficial because after taking time to focus on (for example) strength by itself, the athlete's endurance and speed will suffer a "de training" effect - in other words, they temporarily lose endurance and speed.
"Tie It Together" & "Peaking" ///
Once the athlete brings it all together in this final phase they are ready to peak for a season. The "tie it together" phase lasts about the same amount of time as the "peaking" phase. During the peaking phase, the cyclist tries to really push their limits to meet their goals. The main competition usually falls around this peak phase.
Remember in the beginning when we mentioned the cyclist taking time off after the competition? Well this is where the article comes full cycle. Another rest phase is in order. The body loses some strength, speed and endurance but it also becomes fully rested up for upcoming phases.
History Of Periodization
Periodization has its foundations in the Eastern Bloc Olympic Training which produced many successful athletes in the 1970's and 1980's. This training system used many of the principles outlined in this article.
Hopefully all athletes will come to use this training system, not just cyclists or Olympic weightlifters. Periodization can be much more involved than this article reveals, but the reader should now have a good idea of how to break up their training and peak for a competition for cycling.
One book about cycling training is Joe Friel's The Cyclist Training Bible. Another is Chris Carmichael and Lance Armstrong's The Lance Armstrong Performance Program. Both go into periodization and ways to improve cycling performance.
This section will provide some ideas for training blocks.
Strength program ///
Speed Program ///
Note: At maximum speed with 50% of 1 rep max
Note: At maximum speed with 50% of 1 rep max
Endurance program ///
"Tie It Together" Program ///
This program should involve many of the repetition ranges mixed in and also should include the speed techniques outlined in the speed phase.
Like many things, the body works best in cycles and after a while needs variation. The successful cyclist will not only take this knowledge but expand on it through experience and other readings and learn what they respond best to.