Welcome back to our weekly Six Weeks to Fitness series! We've teamed up with Cycle Surgery to bring you a simple-to-follow training plan to get you back to fitness for those goal events you've circled in the calendar. The training experts at Trainsharp have helped us out with the sessions, and we're now in the final week. If you're working through this plan to lead into a goal event, then that'll be looming on the horizon now. Good luck!
In past I've been a strong cyclist but at the moment I work 52 hours a week. I'm really fed up with my current unfit state, and my dream for 2017 is to ride Torino-Nice. It sounds like a long shot, but I believe that if I give my best in next 7 months it is possible. I have to dream big!
Goran Huljenic: This was maybe the hardest week in whole program to date. This week's sessions were really interesting, there were a lot of small blocks with constant changes in pace, effort or cadence. The continuous cadence changes of session 1 were as hard as they were interesting. I focused on a good pedal technique in low cadence sessions. Even though the 90 rpm, 4-minute blocks should be recovery, it is still sometimes hard for me to do fast shifts in my cadence to a higher RPM.
The split zone session was already familiar and went smoothly. I still have to concentrate on my cadence, but long high cadence blocks are getting much more sustainable.
I was really knackered after the last session of the week. It was quite a hard session, as wind was stormy and breaking branches from the trees. Nevertheless, these are also conditions that are very possible to encounter on long rides, so it is important to learn how to cope with them. I must admit that holding a steady and high cadence with such wind surges took a lot of concentration and constant play with pedal technique and position on bike.
I'm just over 100kgs, but I've been very fit in my past (I played rugby and squash at a fairly high level). My riding comprises getting on the bike and going for a ride and, predictably, my performance has plateaued. I was thinking about employing an online trainer, but will take this opportunity to see how much I could improve with a programme rather than just getting out on the bike.
Chris Hayes: Definitely an easier schedule, this one and it feels like I'm starting to feel the benefits after a couple of weeks threshold training: my legs feel stronger, and I'm able to maintain effort for longer periods. This, in turn has given me the confidence to go harder up gradients knowing that I'm not going to blow up - on the first ones at least. To mix it up a bit - and because I'm bored of hamster-wheeling it around parks, I did most of this in the Kent Weald, using Pilgrims Way and the flats around Edenbridge. It does mean that I get to choose my exit ramp, and for the most part I applied the second session's spins to Ide Hill.
I gate Crashed a couple of sportives over the weekend as they traversed my usual Sunday ride. I rode 80km which was far enough as I spent much of it in HR Zone 4, but was surprised to find myself in the top 30% of 290 riders going up Priory Lane and The Wall, and in the top 10% of flat riders. I'm not celebrating yet as these guys rode 115km from Strava, but I don't think it would have made much difference. Very happy with my progress.
After five weeks of increasingly hard effort, week six is designed as a lower-intensity set of sessions that you can either use as you taper towards a goal event, or you can work through before you compete the optional FTP test at the end of the six-week plan. If you did one at the start, it's useful to do that so that you can measure your progress. If you're going to repeat this plan at any time to gear up to a goal event, then aim to have week six immediately before your event, and aim to complete the second session the day before the event, if you can.
This session repeats some of the low-cadence work you'll have done in other weeks. It's designed to be a comfortably hard session, rather than having you working at maximum effort. The session can be completed either indoors or outdoors; if you're riding outside then you can work the session into a longer ride. You'll find the low cadence steps easier if you have a hill or a false flat to repeat them on.
This session might look quite taxing to be doing the day before a goal event, but it's important to stimulate your muscles the day before a big ride, and there isn't enough work in the session to deplete your muscle glycogen stores. It's mostly Zone 1 and Zone 2 work, with a few 'openers' thrown in to keep your legs interested. The sprints in the session aren't meant to be a maximum effort: go at about 90% and keep something in the locker for the next day.
Tacx Flux Smart: Direct power measurement from the electronic brake; great for virtual reality indoor training
There's lots of ways to measure your effort and progress when you're training, but at the top level of the sport, power is king. The reason for that is it's the most direct, objective and repeatable measure of your output. When you're riding on feel, your state of mind and your level of recovery can both quite significantly affect your perception of your effort. If you're using your heart rate, then it can also be affected by how tired you are, and also there's a lag between your effort rising and your heart rate catching up. Power is just a direct measurement of how much force you can apply to the drivetrain. If your numbers go up and all other variables stay the same, you'll go faster for the same cardiovascular effort.
It used to be the case that if you wanted to measure power then you needed to lay down a couple of grand for a high-end power-measuring system. These days the market has really opened up: manufacturers such as Stages Cycling and 4iiii are moving the price of direct measurement downwards, and if you're staying indoors then there are many trainers these days that allow you to get a virtual power reading based on the resistance curve of the trainer. That's not as accurate as measuring directly but is is a convenient and fairly cheap way of getting a repeatable figure to track your progress.
When you hear about pro riders and their fitness, you'll often hear people talking about watts per kilogram, or W/kg. Simply divide your functional threshold power (we've covered that in previous weeks and there's a session for testing it in the plan) by your weight in kilograms and you'll get your number. For most of us it'll be somewhere between 2 and 4; top riders can put out over 6W/kg on a summit finish in a Grand Tour.
Why is watts per kilo such an useful metric? In road cycling, where the ability to climb quickly is one of the key skills, it's not just about how much power you can generate but how much weight you have to drag up the hill. That's the reason for lightweight road bikes too, but for most of us there's a lot more spare weight around our middles than there is hanging up in the shed. And in terms of acting against gravity, there's really not much difference.
By this time next week we'll all be done! So tune in then and we'll look back over what we've done and get some final feedback from our guinea pigs. See you then!
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Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.