Sprinter Periodization for Newbies
So you want to be a track sprinter. Chris Hoy over Lance Armstrong, Marty Nothstein over Greg LeMond, Theo Bos over Mark Cavendish. I get it. That’s all well and good, but let’s get back to basics. Becoming a track sprinter requires a bunch of training. Everyone knows about the squats, the leg presses, and the rollers workouts. That’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about training your mind.
There are lots of ways to work your way into track sprinting. Whichever way you choose, you’ll want to stick to some sort of Periodization model. As touted by the top coaches in the world, Periodization is a descriptor of the most effective way to get to the top of your game. Essentially, there are two primary classifications of a Periodization schedule: Classical and Reverse. Briefly, Classical Periodization works like the famous pyramid models. One starts with a big base, and sharpens the efforts as one builds on the fitness already set in place. Reverse Periodization tends to focus on the result desired, and work out from there.
Here is a little more detail on each model and how it relates to your becoming the sprinter you never knew you’ve always been:
The first, classical periodization, is by far the most popular. You’re a tiring road rider. The endurance miles aren’t getting you where you want to be, you already have a hard time finding bibs that fit both your waist and your legs, and you’re tired of hiding your cake-eating habit. You’ll try the track, like the quick racing, and so begins the downward spiral into shorter and shorter workouts and races.
You’ll start by doing every race on offer. You love them all, but those Chariot races and Win-N-Outs are tops on your list. You’ll naturally progress to the gym, because “it’s got to help”. You’re well on your way. There’ll be a brief period where you spend more time in the gym than on the bike. When you come back, you’ll find you “no longer have the lungs”, and will resign yourself to the shorter events. . . which you’ll love. Soon you’ll stop signing up for those 20 lap scratch races. You’ll re-familiarize yourself with how it feels to drink more than three (3) beers in a single sitting without guilt. You’ll spend your workouts sitting on your ass between 20-second bouts of explosive pedaling. Speed will no longer refers to the bike’s velocity- it means whether or not your legs appear simply as a blur on video. FTP will have become irrelevant. Oh ****: you’re a sprinter.
On the other hand, there’s reverse periodization. In this model, we work out from the endpoint. In other words, you’re a caveman. You like picking up heavy ****. You like winning competitions whatever the cost. You like going as fast as possible- distance is for skinny suckas. You also like to sit on your ass and ridicule others, guffaw loudly at sexist jokes, and pretend you know a lot more than you really do about just about everything under the sun. If something looks tasty, you eat it. If something looks small, you smash it. You haven’t ever been interested in endurance competition. Working really hard for a really short time is your bag. Perfect.
You’ll get into this sport by pedaling your ass off for 10 seconds, resting for 10 minutes, and repeating. The highlight of your training is when you bend a chainring in a standing start. Eventually, you’ll see the need to extend your efforts to something really really long; maybe 45 seconds. Aside from your warmup, you’ll never be on the track for more than 10 consecutive laps. You’ll complain mightily about races more than 4 laps long- except when you magically make your legs pedal the distance in a Keirin. Some bastard will eventually talk you into doing a Kilo, which you’ll detest even though you consistently place top-5 in it. Congrats: you’re a sprinter.
One way or the other, folks, you’re on a one-way street to Crazy Town. Once you’re there, expect to be the butt of jokes. Also expect those jokes to be delivered very politely, as you’ll be not unlikely to eat the little enduro delivering the punchline.
Get used to the impossible explanation to friends and relatives that you have absolutely no interest whatsoever in joining them on their Metric Century disease ride. Sure you spend 15 hours a week training and 60% of your salary on wheels, helmets, and lace-up shoes, but there’s no way in Hell you’d make the distance.
Get used to people cringing when you do a “stiffness test” on their bike. In fact, you should probably just stop doing it. Assume no bike is stiff enough.
It’s a lifestyle. Embrace it.