Coaching – progression and cycles

There are two general principles that should underpin any training plan – progression and cycles. It’s worth looking at these two principles first, before looking at some specific training sessions. They’ll help you understand how training works, and how to get the most out of it. And if you are considering some other training sessions in the future, it is worth checking them against these principles to see how they measure up.

First up is progression. If you do the same thing in every training session, then you’ll reach a certain level and stagnate. To improve, training sessions have to get harder – either by making the sessions more intense (e.g. more sprints in a period of time), or longer. General advice is not to increase both intensity and length at the same time. Indeed, part of the skill of drawing up a training plan is to get the rate of progression right. Too slow, and you won’t be challenged and won’t improve as quickly as you could. But if you try to progress too quickly, the results are unlikely to be sustainable and you are at risk of over training and burnout.

Second is cycles – the pattern of training across a period of time. Cycles work at many levels –

  • Within a particular training session there will be a pattern – maybe 20¬†minutes warmup, 5 efforts of 2 minutes with 2 minutes of rest in between, and then 20 minutes warm down.
  • Within a week there will be a pattern, maybe a race on Saturday, club run on Sunday, rest¬†on Monday, training sessions or a club race on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and a recovery ride on Friday.
  • Within a period of 4 to 6 weeks there will be a pattern – maybe build up the intensity of the sessions steadily for the first 5 weeks, and then ease off and rest on the 6th week.
  • Over a period of months, they will be a build up to a race or series of races, with tapering in the final run up to the events, and maybe a period of recovery after them.
  • Over a year, there will be a period in the winter where you work on core fitness, then more specific speed training in Spring and Summer in the build up to your main goals, and then a period of more social activity in Autumn, before starting the whole cycle again.
  • And finally, many top riders are likely to build a 4 year plan around the Olympics….

It’s important to take these two general principles into account when setting your goals and drawing up your training plan.

In the next article we’ll look at building a base – the core fitness and technical skills that will under pin any plan.