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  1. #1
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    Offseason training question -- aerobic base vs speedwork

    Looks like a lot of good training discussion in this forum and I’m struggling with putting together a solid off-season plan, so thought I’d give this a shot.

    Short version of my question: Is it better in the off season to just focus only on aerobic endurance or should you also try to maintain LT and VO2Max fitness levels with some speedwork?

    I just read Friel’s MTB Training Bible and thought it was helpful overall, but wonder if the off-season training needs to include more speedwork than he recommends. Without maintaining LT and V02Max in the offseason, wouldn’t you be starting over each year re-training these areas? I’d think that if you maintained your “speed base” in the offseason, you would start each season from a higher fitness level and achieve a higher peak fitness level at the end of the season.

    My thought is to keep my offseason focus mostly on aerobic conditioning, but add some L4 and L5 level speed work like 10-20 min L4 sessions in my longer rides, as well as a few spin classes to maintain a “speed base”. Later on in the build phase, I’ll transition to a higher volume of L4-5 training.

    Does that approach make sense and how do you figure out how much speedwork is “too much” in the offseason? I know burnout is a concern from too much speed training too early, but think some offseason speedwork may help prevent burnout from too much distance training. It’s also more interesting to do speedwork on trainer than steady Zone 2 training.

    Are there any good books or websites that lay out a more speed-intensive annual training plan?

    Goals are to get top third in 2hr Sport Class MTB races next summer. I have 4-5hrs per week to train and am 38yrs old.

    Thanks for any guidance on the off-season plan!

  2. #2
    Senior Member Smallguy's Avatar
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    I'm currently reading his hear rate training book and in that he does recommend one day a week of speed work during your base phase.

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    Ditto. If you're wasting your time during your off season doing mostly speedwork, you won't last long. The most important thing you can work on is your aerobic base (cardiovascular wise, that is). If you have a crap base, you will be able to do speedwork, but you won't last long!

    Follow Friel. He knows what he's talking about, and he's certainly more knowledgeable than anyone else here on the forums that might tell you otherwise! (no offense to anyone, of course!)

    koffee

  4. #4
    Pat
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    Well, I wonder about slavishly following any training regimine.

    Those things can be good for guides. But I always do better doing what I feel like as long as I get a decent blend of different training in.

    Some people do best following plans very closely and others do better with a bit more flexibility. It depends on how you are mentally wired, I guess.

    With aerobic base vs speedwork, I believe that it is important to get the aerobic base. But there is room for speedwork. I think this is especially true if you enjoy the speedwork. If doing some speedwork keeps you focused and motivated then it is probably not smart to drop it. Any training plan that you follow is going to be a whole bunch better than the ideal plan that you can not get motivated to follow.

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    I agree with the Friel method and am currently embarking on a winter of L1/L2 training.

    It involves a great deal of patience and a re-alignment of your expectations during this time. If your season was particularly hard, I find a long stretch of L1/L2 to be rather therapeutic, actually. Contrary to popular belief, there's a great deal of mental engagement involved in base training. You should be focusing on efficiency (i.e. pedal stroke), maintaining a high cadence, achieving balance on a bike... these things aren't easily developed over the course of a season. Not to mention a good dose of cross training, flexibility, core strengthening, weight loss, etc. is IMO critical to supporting a good season.

    It takes YEARS to build a good aerobic base (ever heard of the expression "it takes 5 years to build a champion"? or how generally speaking, it's too late to become a world class competitor when a cyclist gets into the sport in their twenties?).

    You'll get your gains by mixing in speedwork and going hard but what Friel et al. argues is you'll be leaving a good deal of potential on the table if you dip into >L2 too often

  6. #6
    Senior Member Richard Cranium's Avatar
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    It helps if you know where you're at - if you want to figure out what to do to either maintain your fitness or take time off to prepare for next year.

    There's little use in guessing what's best for you. The intensity, length and frequency of any "LT work" or some other (near VO2 max) hard efforts is determined by your current fitness and whatever maintenance work outs you continue to perform.

    The typical advice is to learn to strike a balance between purely aerobic and LT/VO2 work.

    Some sort of ratio is involved. Like three-to-one for aerobic/LT work and something like six or seven-to-one for aerobic/VO2 work.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Cranium View Post
    The typical advice is to learn to strike a balance between purely aerobic and LT/VO2 work.
    Striking a balance between all the major modalities at all times is making more and more sense. I can see focusing each training period on one specific modality but still do the others in a maintenance mode.

    I spent the last 2 months focusing solely on aerobic gains and learned the hard way in a group ride yesterday that I've lost my lactate threshhold and ability to go deeply anearobic that I had before I started this training cycle.

    So, I think my offseason plan is to continue putting in the same amount of overall riding time to ensure some aerobic fitness, but to also include 1-2x per week of short, medium and long intervals at the start. With only 4-5hrs/wek, I'm not doing a large overall volume anyway, so think I can safely add in some intensity with this approach. My longest race next summer will be 2hrs, so I don't think the opportunity cost of missing some additional minutes at L2 will make much difference.

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    If you really pushed yourself over the year, your need a break both physically and emotionally. That's the purpose of rebuilding the aerobic base. If you are just starting into training, you can do more speedwork.
    You're just trying to start an argument to show how smart you are.

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    Quote Originally Posted by StanSeven View Post
    If you really pushed yourself over the year, your need a break both physically and emotionally. That's the purpose of rebuilding the aerobic base. If you are just starting into training, you can do more speedwork.
    That makes a lot sense, thanks.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Richard Cranium's Avatar
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    With only 4-5hrs/wek, I'm not doing a large overall volume anyway, so think I can safely add in some intensity with this approach.
    Assuming an intent to exercise 5 hours per week, such a schedule would support one to 1.5 hours of work at, near or above LT. This could support 30 to 40 minutes of VO2 max work.

    I've been doing something about like that during winter for years. I still end up losing a little endurance and hill climbing ability, but at least I start the Spring with some snap.

  11. #11
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    Check out "training and racing with a power meter" for a more higher intensity approach at base training.

    I feel that if you have less than 10 hours a week to train you are better off spending a lot of time just under your lactate threshold. A bit of 15 second sprints won't hurt either. As you get a month away from your goal event you can include some 1-5 minute efforts over threshold.
    pdxfixed.com - portland fixed gear and singlespeed

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by MrIndy View Post
    With only 4-5hrs/wek, I'm not doing a large overall volume anyway, so think I can safely add in some intensity with this approach. My longest race next summer will be 2hrs, so I don't think the opportunity cost of missing some additional minutes at L2 will make much difference.
    With 5 hours a week of training I would recommend 3, 1 hour rides in Zone 4, with a longer 2 hour ride in Zone 3
    pdxfixed.com - portland fixed gear and singlespeed

  13. #13
    gMoneyYo :)
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    Being that I can't handle the cold, I'm going to be stuck on the trainer all winter.
    Most lack the ability to watch the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, or something like that, and ride at the same time for hours on end inside.. So most can only tolerate intervals, very short intervals.

    It's worked out for me, I think. I can definitely see an improvement already.. now the question is: quality over quantity? and what kind of quality? Would I be faster if I rode 4 easy hours everyday?

    I've probably taken it to an extreme though, no intervals below 350W. 20 x 2 mins at 380-400 w/ 1 min rest.. and 20 x 1 min at ~450 with 1 min rest seem to work well.

    So, I've improved on about an hour a day; just LT and V02max stuff.

    If it were me I'd chose quality with a lot of rest, over quantity everyday, every time.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by gMoneyYo :) View Post
    If it were me I'd chose quality with a lot of rest, over quantity everyday, every time.
    Thanks for all the feedback. I'm sold on continuing interval training through the rest of the offseason. In addition to the responses here, I found some good information on a program design linked to trainer David Morris (http://ashwinearl.blogspot.com/2005/...index-and.html) that advocates a reverse periodization approach. This makes sense for my situation with only 4-5 training hours per week. I added back interval work last week and with just 2 days of it, already noticed significantly more snap and ability to go deep multiple times in my 2hr Sunday ride yesterday.

    My concern now is how to schedule 2-3 days of bike interval of training with 2 days of strength training so I don't overdo it. I've found squats and deadlifts to be incredibly helpful for climbing power, and strength training in general to be indispensible for overall fitness, so plan to continue lifting year around.

    Current plan is:
    Sun - 2-3 hr group ride: Mix of Zone 2, hills, and tempo
    Mon - Strength: Max effort (3-5rep) Bench, Rows, Overhead + Explosive squats or deadlifts
    Tues - Intervals + 10-15 min low cadence effort for neuromuscular endurance within a 1hr total ride
    Weds - Same as Tues with slightly less intensity
    Thurs - Off
    Fri - Strength: Max effort (3-5 rep) Squats or Deadlifts + High rep (10-15rep) bench, overhead press, rows + pullups
    Sat - Off or Zone 2 ride

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