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Getting to the Next Level

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Getting to the Next Level

Old 03-17-23, 10:32 AM
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Getting to the Next Level

As a follow-on to the polarized training thread, I thought it would be interesting to discuss how to take a general training approach such as polarized training or any training construct or application and get to the "next level". Of course, one has to have a goal and clearly see what the next level is.

Does riding any training construct get one to the next level or just more fit?
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Old 03-17-23, 10:42 AM
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What's the difference between "next level" and "just more fit"? For me it would be about rising above a long term performance plateau.
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Old 03-17-23, 11:12 AM
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Examples could be doing a 5 hour century or going from a cat 3 to cat 2. One does hammer and nail rides and wants to become a hammer in a versus a nail. The list is endless but my premise is we are all at some level (may or not be a plateau) and want to get to the next level of performance whatever that may be. A bump in FTP is good but may not be enough. And there is always a skill component to achieving next level goals.

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Old 03-17-23, 10:01 PM
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For me, it was simply TTing hilly courses of about 4 hours ET. Riding with faster folks helped a lot. Hard to get the drive to climb every frigging hill in Z4, once every week, 50 weeks/year, without that. We used 50'-70' per mile and laid out courses specifically. for that ratio. I went from coming in 15' or so late, half bonked, to leading those rides in ~5 years of that .My fueling also evolved, which helped. These were dropper rides. The object was to drop as many people as possible, you know, the Sunday flog-fest. I am NOT talented, I just showed up every week. The rest of my week was Z2, except for some hill sprinting near the end.

I had one year where I did a 3-4 hour moderate ride on Saturday and then The Sunday Ride. That was also good, but I don't know if it was better. More volume though. This worked well for medium length and very long rides, but not crits as we did some Z5 but not short bursts, only 10'-15' very hard climbing efforts and probably only 1 of those an hour. We did lead-outs and finishing sprints though.

I also did strength training once or twice a week, depending on how tired I was. This was back when strength training was anathema here. All the cognoscenti were against it. The most successful method I used was 7-9 exercises done circuit style, 3 sets of 30 of each, all sets same weight, weight chosen so that 30 was impossible on the last set. Only cool-down between exercises was walking to the next station or I might let my HR drop below 110. I know, that's anathema now, but that worked the best. Problems: it takes more time, and the gym has to be almost empty.

It seemed to me that the key to success was completely draining myself. Tear down and build back stronger. Stimulation.

I know, you've all heard this before, but there it is. No training plan I've tried ever did as much for me. So many whats-its for however long just doesn't build the same physical and mental toughness as hours in the saddle going as hard as you can and still finish.
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Old 03-18-23, 07:05 AM
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I'm working to get on the first level. Training 10-12 hours per week is vastly improving my physical and mental health, so I know I'll pick a 'next level" when this one is finished. Level 1: gran fondo with 8,300' of climbing on May 21.

I started cycling in Nov '21 and was in terrible shape after 40 years of sloth. My CV fitness was "off the charts", but off to the lower left. In Nov '22 I started a 6 month GF plan using Training Peaks, and still amazed at how well tuned it is to my level of fitness. There's no doubt about where I'm strong and where I need to improve; strong on the 1 hour interval rides, weak on the 4 hour rides with long Z3 pulls.

After a career in technology and sales, I like how there's no BS or workarounds to get to the next level.
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Old 03-18-23, 09:59 AM
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Originally Posted by BTinNYC
I'm working to get on the first level. Training 10-12 hours per week is vastly improving my physical and mental health, so I know I'll pick a 'next level" when this one is finished. Level 1: gran fondo with 8,300' of climbing on May 21.

I started cycling in Nov '21 and was in terrible shape after 40 years of sloth. My CV fitness was "off the charts", but off to the lower left. In Nov '22 I started a 6 month GF plan using Training Peaks, and still amazed at how well tuned it is to my level of fitness. There's no doubt about where I'm strong and where I need to improve; strong on the 1 hour interval rides, weak on the 4 hour rides with long Z3 pulls.

After a career in technology and sales, I like how there's no BS or workarounds to get to the next level.
That's about where I was at ~53 after a couple years of solo riding, knowing nothing. The first time I went on a 200k group ride, I cramped so bad at lunch that I slid under the table and laid on the floor between folks' feet. I limped the last 50 miles, all alone. I was hooked! Enjoy your fondo! Ride like hell.
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Old 03-18-23, 11:13 AM
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Originally Posted by Hermes
Examples could be doing a 5 hour century or going from a cat 3 to cat 2. One does hammer and nail rides and wants to become a hammer in a versus a nail. The list is endless but my premise is we are all at some level (may or not be a plateau) and want to get to the next level of performance whatever that may be. A bump in FTP is good but may not be enough. And there is always a skill component to achieving next level goals.
Okay, for me it's the big century sportives that are my main goals. Last year I did a few national events and the L'Etape du Tour as my main focus. Beyond that I'm in it for health, fitness and fun. Mountain biking for pure fun with no performance goals. Road biking for fitness and performance. Now I think about it, I'm not really sure what my next level of performance would actually be. I just work on improving my power over the whole range, but with a focus on endurance and VO2 max.
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Old 03-18-23, 12:58 PM
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I love riding hills and doing all-out sprints as just two ways to get to the next level. However, be careful, those all-out sprints are addicting...at least for me.

I thought this video was interesting with respect to FTP testing.

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Old 03-18-23, 01:35 PM
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Originally Posted by work4bike

I thought this video was interesting with respect to FTP testing.
I agree with the video, especially the 0.95 x 20 min power formula being over-optimistic for most. A useful metric to track, but not the holy grail for most. I track various power interval metrics, including FTP. My aim is to get a good balance across my whole power curve. Only thing I don't focus very much on is pure sprinting. My current training plan is polarised and my events tend to involve endurance, along with repeated threshold and VO2 max intervals. For me the ability to recover quickly from those punchy efforts while maintaining a strong endurance pace are the most important things. I find the longer Zwift races are a great test for that ability.
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Old 03-18-23, 02:14 PM
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I love how things keep changing. For years all we heard about was hi-cadence training, thanks in large part to Lance, but things are changing. Now there's torque training.



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Old 03-18-23, 02:19 PM
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Originally Posted by PeteHski
Okay, for me it's the big century sportives that are my main goals. Last year I did a few national events and the L'Etape du Tour as my main focus. Beyond that I'm in it for health, fitness and fun. Mountain biking for pure fun with no performance goals. Road biking for fitness and performance. Now I think about it, I'm not really sure what my next level of performance would actually be. I just work on improving my power over the whole range, but with a focus on endurance and VO2 max.
For me, health, fitness and fun are like the anti of a poker game. Then the real betting commences.

I read about the L'Etape du Tour. It sounds like a lot of fun and a challenging event - just to complete.

I am a power junkie, like most and look at my mean maximal power curve - meh. To me, the next level is about speed. Power is ones currency to buy speed but speed really matters.

For a sportive that has the same venue every year, I would think that a next level goal would be a significant increase in average speed. I pulled this out of my ass but why not 2 mph or whatever. Years ago, one of my coaches sent me out on a training ride over a course and said the goal is 20 mph average speed solo. My calculus immediately changed. I thought about terrain, riding position and etc. Where would I put in power and where could I rest. Most group rides did this course in 22 mph. I got 19.8 but thought I was dead at the end.

For me, I need a coach for next level achievement. I cannot do it on my own. In fact, I am worse than that, I cannot even conceive of it sometimes. And I am really good at believing my own BS. I do not let myself get into that thinking. Why? I know in advance, it yields mediocrity.
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Old 03-18-23, 04:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Hermes
For me, health, fitness and fun are like the anti of a poker game. Then the real betting commences.

I read about the L'Etape du Tour. It sounds like a lot of fun and a challenging event - just to complete.

I am a power junkie, like most and look at my mean maximal power curve - meh. To me, the next level is about speed. Power is ones currency to buy speed but speed really matters.

For a sportive that has the same venue every year, I would think that a next level goal would be a significant increase in average speed. I pulled this out of my ass but why not 2 mph or whatever. Years ago, one of my coaches sent me out on a training ride over a course and said the goal is 20 mph average speed solo. My calculus immediately changed. I thought about terrain, riding position and etc. Where would I put in power and where could I rest. Most group rides did this course in 22 mph. I got 19.8 but thought I was dead at the end.

For me, I need a coach for next level achievement. I cannot do it on my own. In fact, I am worse than that, I cannot even conceive of it sometimes. And I am really good at believing my own BS. I do not let myself get into that thinking. Why? I know in advance, it yields mediocrity.
The L'Etape last year was brutal. 4500m climbing in 40C heat. I cramped up on the last climb up Alpe d'Huez and lost a fair bit of time. But I certainly wasn't the only one struggling with cramp and I felt okay at the end. I'm not a natural climber at nearly 80kg, but I can hold my own in my weight category. But the competition there is fierce. I finished in the top 5000 out of 18000 and there were a lot of non-finishers. Back home in the UK I do better in punchy century sportives. I managed to win a local event last year and finished top 40 in the national Tour of Cambridge 100. My time was 4 hrs 53 mins. Winner in my category was 4 hrs 37 min. But this year I'm going to nail this one because I'm not starving myself for the L'Etape! I'm going in a bit heavier, but with about 30W more sustained power. So I guess that will be my next level to aim for.
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