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Training Bible studies: XC skiing, keeping cool in base

Joe Friel is the author of “The Cyclist’s Training Bible.” Dirk Friel is the chief evangelist at Peaksware and TrainingPeaks.com.

Cross-training on snow

Dear Joe and Dirk,
I am in the Base 1 period currently and will heading into the Base2 period in two weeks. I live in the cold wintry mountains at 8,000 feet.I utilize back-country and cross-country skiing as a cross training piece for the Base 1 period. Unfortunately, the roads and cold prohibit muchoutside bike time.

My question is, can cross-country ski time be considered a viable option,along with rollers, as I head through Base 2

Cross-country skiing is a wonderful activity for cyclists during the base periods. You will certainly have your aerobic work taken care of come spring. There are plenty of cyclists that win bike races after having skied hundreds of miles during the winter. The downfall though to skiing (or any other X-training activity) is when it is a large portion of your training hours as the season approaches. The closer you are to your next race, the more important cycling becomes.

Try to incorporate more bike time as the weather improves and the season approaches. You may want to adapt a mountain bike to handle cold and wetconditions. Adding fenders and snow tires can give you the opportunity to ride more outdoors. Mountain biking on trails and dirt roads will also be an easy way to get in your muscular endurance and force work. If youcan’t get outside consider adding more time indoors on the trainer.

Consider adding a fluid trainer or Computrainer to your list of options as well. Rollers are great for your spin and skills work, but it can be difficult to do low cadence force efforts on rollers.

Hope some of this helps and great job keeping the endurance work up.Your hard work will pay off.
—Joe and Dirk Friel

Too much fun?

Dear Joe and Dirk,
First off, I want to thank you for the excellent book and insightsyou have given both on-line and in print! After a successful 2004 season I decided I wanted to step it up a notch.The request for my Semi-Pro license was approved, I ordered up a copy of “The Mountain Biker’s Training Bible” and have been following it closely with three others in my area. I live in Southern Minnesota, and want to be a more competitive mountain biker both in the State Series where I was a distant third overall last year and in the national arena. We will startout the season with the first NCS in Phoenix mid-March. We started the prep in early November and just finished the recovery week after Base 1. Our hope is to be well prepared for Phoenix and nearing top shape by Big Bear in mid-May. The group we have is great (three guys and a girl), the motivation is always there to ride and there has only one day when we had to ride the trainer (-10 F with 30 mile per hour winds).

First thing I’m worried about is that we go out and have so much fun that we find ourselves working too hard or not following the structured intervals. Like the other day we were riding a hilly route and I found myself hovering above 190 during hard efforts (my average HR for that two-hour ride was 170). Basically we are racing each other up the hills taking a little breather and push on at a good tempo till the next hill.

I’m wondering what your opinions are on the fun versus structure, and also what negatives will come of our inter-group competition. Could these unpredicted non-structured efforts cause us to over-train? The bottom line is, I’m looking forward to this coming season, I have never been more motivated or dedicated to biking before, so I’d really like to maximize my training. The group we have rocks! The riding is more fun than I have ever had on a bike. It’s fast and hard and never the same. We are all so closely matched that its always a gamble going off the front to sprint for the city limit sign or to the top of the hill. I hope this intensity isn’t harmful this early in the year. I am tempted to ride more alone so that I can follow the schedule better, but at the same time I don’t want to lose this great motivator I have now. Besides, these people and I have fun! Any help or suggestions on our group’s current training “plan” would be appreciated.

This is great that you have such a good group to ride with during thelong winter months in Minnesota. This can certainly be a great resourcefor you and your personal training needs. Hopefully you can make the mostof the group dynamics at the right times.

First off you are right. It is early and you are only now in Base 2. Base 2 is still devoted towards ramping up volume and continuing to transferforce built within the prep phase to bike specific muscular endurance,and bit by bit add in threshold/Zone 4 time. Skills (especially for mountain bikers) and economy workouts are still present as well. The majority of your ride time time will still be within heart rate zones 1 and 2, but your time spent within zones 2 and 3 should be ramped up as compared to the Base 1 period. If your group is well-disciplined,try doing your long endurance rides where each rider takes 5-minute pullson the front in HR Zone 3 (riding two abreast is great for this if the laws of the road allow). This allows the other group members to sit on and recover in zones 1/2. Any members whose strength and fitness is quite at the same level as the others may simply sit on more than the rest of thegroup. Riders’ individual intensity zones should be their guidelines.

When it comes to doing structured Zone 3 and 4 intervals on hills tryto stagger the start so each member can ride at their specific pace to maintain the objective of the workout. This works quite well within endurance rides where you just start at one-minute intervals to stay separated. Ifyour group is really disciplined and egos are not much of an issue (very hard to find this type of group) you can all start the interval at the same time and then naturally spread out as individual paces dictate. You might also entertain the idea of having one or two members conduct intervals in a sort of team time trial fashion where they rotate and take turns onthe front. You might have two members doing a lengthy interval set, while the other members are sitting on drafting and riding with high cadence (those sitting on get a motorpacing session).

Your group competitiveness can be very good for race simulation days within late Base 3, and build periods. This is the time to unleash th eegos and rip it up. But don’t do this yet, except on short power/sprint workouts. Be careful that you are not “selling yourself short.” This means don’t let the intensity within the early Base training creep up into lots of time spent within zones 4 and 5. This will slowly cause a fitness plateau to begin (earlier than you’d like) and cut your endurance and muscular endurance development short. Another issue to be aware of is your diet. Nutrition has a direct affect when it comes to recovery. Recovery will suffer greatly if you are consistently depleting your muscle glycogen stores (by way of training and/or diet) and not properly replacing them, along with, sufficient protein and the “good” fats. A less than optimal diet will directly affect the quality of your workouts, the quality of your recovery, may lead to sickness (upper respiratory ailments, colds, etc.) and loss of muscle.

The old saying that “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” isn’t actually correct. No, not at all. What doesn’t kill you today may havea long term affect and kill you later in the season, or next year. Always end intervals knowing you could have done more. Consistent and moderate improvement is the key.

In the end, I sense your group will have a great season based on the fact that you have very high motivation and you usually start training in April. Again just keep things in check for a while and analyze how muchintensity has really occurred to date.

Good luck this season.
—Joe and Dirk Friel

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