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Old 03-09-07, 05:24 PM   #1
ratebeer
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Training to peak: always true?

I often hear people talk about peaking on an annual basis. It seems to me that in order to have a view of training wherein you peak out like this, you have to have a few assumptions.

1) An athlete can attain maximal fitness for performance only for a short period of time
2) One's performance will decline after reaching this "peak"

It seems that an accompanying assumption might be that overtraining results in peak fitness, which would explain the seemingly unsustainable gains.

One related idea is that many cyclists live in a place where they can't ride year round. Some riders however, do live in livable winter environments and ride year round without extended periods out of the saddle.

Questions

1. In your own experience, do you believe in "peaking" regardless of the scientific literature?
2. Do you live in a place where you can ride year round?
3. Are you aware of any scientific data that suggests humans make unsustainable gains in cycling performance?
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Old 03-09-07, 05:45 PM   #2
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1. Yes
2. Yes
3. No. But there's darned little "scientific data" about cycling. Everyone is different, thank god, and we all have different goals and histories.

Personally, I believe in the Decline of the Great Dark. My fitness falls off in winter and there doesn't seem to be a darn thing I can do about it.

Peak fitness does not result from overtraining, however overtraining can result from futilely attempting to maintain peak fitness. All those pros are probably not wrong. It's a glandular thing, IMHO. High glandular output is unsustainable.
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Old 03-09-07, 07:13 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy
All those pros are probably not wrong.
I'm fairly certain not all pros believe in unsustainable gains, so some must be right and some must be wrong.
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It's a glandular thing, IMHO. High glandular output is unsustainable.
Unless of course you believe in training.

There are several ordinary reasons for slower winters. The first is greater wind resistance. At just 15° difference, a rider is appreciably slower. The second is greater mechanical resistance. Both are the result of cold weather.
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Old 03-09-07, 10:21 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ratebeer
I often hear people talk about peaking on an annual basis. It seems to me that in order to have a view of training wherein you peak out like this, you have to have a few assumptions.

1) An athlete can attain maximal fitness for performance only for a short period of time
2) One's performance will decline after reaching this "peak"

It seems that an accompanying assumption might be that overtraining results in peak fitness, which would explain the seemingly unsustainable gains.

One related idea is that many cyclists live in a place where they can't ride year round. Some riders however, do live in livable winter environments and ride year round without extended periods out of the saddle.

Questions

1. In your own experience, do you believe in "peaking" regardless of the scientific literature?
2. Do you live in a place where you can ride year round?
3. Are you aware of any scientific data that suggests humans make unsustainable gains in cycling performance?
AFAIK, the periodicalized approach has pretty much taken over as the most common approach to training for high-end athletes. I think that's a good indication that it works.

Bringing in two assumptions, it makes sense to me that you can't hold onto a peak. First, to reach that high peak you are going to have to work very hard, and that sort of work level can't be sustained on either a physical or mental level. Second, the high-intensity training means that you are likely ignoring the aerobic base, and over time, you would expect it to degrade.

There isn't much scientific data in this area. It's hard to get good controls in this area, and not a lot of grant money.
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Old 03-10-07, 01:24 PM   #5
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peaks are also different for different cycling disiplines. a track rider who is peaking for a track event is very different from a road racer. a cyclist who is working toward one day races has a different concept of peak than one whose goal is a stage race. sprinters are different than climbers, etc. each requires a different mix of strength and endurance.

so, when you say "peak" what do you mean?
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Old 03-10-07, 02:25 PM   #6
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To address some points, it's long been known that a training regimen that is quick-to-peak is also quick to descent. The converse is that slow-to-peak training is more sustainable.

The general model of training is that adaptations are made to greater work loads and, over time, even pro riders will continue to upward adapt. Declines in performance after unsustainable gains can also reasonably be expressed as the result of overtraining. Any overtraining would result in an increase in time to improved performance levels as improvements would be put on hold for extended rest and recuperation.

The age of year-round cycling and the ability to make slow, constant, sustainable gains is somewhat incompatible with the idea of seasonal peaking in road riders. Given the lack of scientific proof in this area, despite the millions of dollars in competitive cycling and the heavy research in other areas of cycling and training, Occam's Razor suggests the simpler idea of sustainable gains, and not seasonal peaking, is probably more true.
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Old 03-10-07, 04:44 PM   #7
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Coggan's Performance Manager is his way of planning for and predicting training peaks.

Read about the science behind it here:

http://www.cyclingpeakssoftware.com/...gerscience.asp
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Old 03-11-07, 02:58 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ratebeer
The age of year-round cycling and the ability to make slow, constant, sustainable gains is somewhat incompatible with the idea of seasonal peaking in road riders. Given the lack of scientific proof in this area, despite the millions of dollars in competitive cycling and the heavy research in other areas of cycling and training, Occam's Razor suggests the simpler idea of sustainable gains, and not seasonal peaking, is probably more true.
i don't think seasonal peaking and sustainable gains are mutally exclusive. at least when you look at it over the long run.

take the floyd landis 8 year training idea. each year is broken up by peaks, but the overall trend of training is to increase workload over a very long period of time. if you graphed his fitness, it would generally increase over the years but fluctuate several times during a season.

a similar thing happens to amature racers. as you move from cat 5 to 4, it's pretty much a given that you'd increase your workload. the jump to cat 3 will require more training, then 2 etc. it could take years to reach cat 2 and by the time you do, you'd undoubtably have a higher degree of fitness than when you started. and most are peaking a couple of times a season.
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Old 03-11-07, 10:26 PM   #9
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It's not exact from your question, but it's close. Cyclingnews.com, Feb 13, 2007 Q&A:

Periodization versus 'always fit'

So I've been thinkin'...(and maybe this is the problem). I am a 37 year-old cat 4 racer with no aspirations other than to race and do well, have fun and be fit. I often wonder, as I plan my preseason workout, whether I will truly benefit from a periodized plan. In short, is too much made of this method of training for the 'average' racing athlete?

At the skill/age level that I and other average racers perform, would we stand to gain more 'usable' fitness by engaging an 'always fit' plan? If my goals for the season are not specific, but rather, general (show up and race well, attack, chase, maybe place top ten at most races), does training to say, peak for regionals, mean that I loose more potential opportunities to do well at other times during the year? Given that so many factors play into a 50 mile race on a given day, and there that is no time trial or hill top finish the next day to influence the overall outcome, do we as day racers actually do ourselves a disservice by periodizing our training?

If I were to quantify this idea it would be, something like: I get 'always fit' to about 80-85% of total potential vs. peaking once or twice at 95-100% of my total potential, do I gain or loose potential to do well when factoring in all the other influences on a cat 4 race?

Juan

Scott Saifer replies:

You apparently are mixing the concepts of periodization and peaking. Periodized training means focusing on different aspects of fitness at different times, working on things that take the longest to develop the longest before the season and things that develop more quickly or just need tuning close to your season. With an appropriately designed periodized training plan, one can be fairly strong for much of a season to peak for a short period.

I'll grant you your percentages (80-85% always versus 95-100% at peak and lower otherwise) and ask you a simply question that will allow you to determine whether you need a sharp peak or a broader, season long peak: Can you get the race placings you want at 80%, or do you need 95% to place? If you are happy with what you can do at 80-85% you don't need to peak.

Here's another way to think about it. If you are still making progress in your fitness and competitive results, don't mess with peaking. Just set up a periodized plan to have you ready to race when the races are available. If you are not making progress and are not satisfied with your current placing, think about doing a cycle of extra training, tapering and peaking.
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Old 03-11-07, 10:30 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ratebeer
I often hear people talk about peaking on an annual basis.
I usually aim to peak 2-3 times a season.


Quote:
Originally Posted by ratebeer
1) An athlete can attain maximal fitness for performance only for a short period of time
2) One's performance will decline after reaching this "peak"
From my experience, after a "peak", which occurs at particular events, I'm tired and so I back off the exercise level. Quite often, the next time I "peak", I'm stronger than I was the first time, so I don't think performance necessarily declines in the long term, but it does for a while.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ratebeer
It seems that an accompanying assumption might be that overtraining results in peak fitness, which would explain the seemingly unsustainable gains.
IMO most people don't even come close to overtraining.


Quote:
Originally Posted by ratebeer
One related idea is that many cyclists live in a place where they can't ride year round. Some riders however, do live in livable winter environments and ride year round without extended periods out of the saddle.
I often wonder how those who live in livable winter environments do it. I'd want to be riding at my summer level all year round.


Quote:
Originally Posted by ratebeer
Questions

1. In your own experience, do you believe in "peaking" regardless of the scientific literature?
2. Do you live in a place where you can ride year round?
3. Are you aware of any scientific data that suggests humans make unsustainable gains in cycling performance?
1. In my own experiences, I peak. This year, for example, my first peak will be the second week of April. I'll back off a bit after that event, but then build up and peak again in early June. I'll back off a bit again, and then build up and peak again at the end of August.

2. Yes ... really, anyone can if they have a trainer and a bit of tolerance for the cold. But no, not always comfortably.

3. No idea.
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Old 03-11-07, 10:44 PM   #11
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I consider my training a jagged climb. The goal isn't to peak once per season, where that's the best I can possibly get. The goal is to be @ A peak for each event I want to perform my best at.

I definitely believe that periodization works, whether you want it to or not. Over time we're bound to have "micro" and "macro" periods. Two steps forward, one step back and all.

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