With the 2020 racing season put on hold, everyone is wondering, “What do we do now?” Hurdles to overcome include remaining focused, timing training efforts around an unknown event schedule, and maintaining the connection with the sport and your friends during this time of #gosolo. The following is an inside look at one Denver-based junior XC mountain bike team, WE Development.
We’re in uncharted territory in terms of season planning, but as coaches at WE Development, we couldn’t be more excited. The first step we took as the shut-downs escalated at the beginning of March was to restructure the training program for our riders. As they were just preparing to kick-off the racing season, we had to pump the brakes, hard. Riders were left nearing an early season peak of fitness with no races on the docket to flex their efforts. It was time for a schedule reset. Disappointed as we all were, we immediately dialed the training back. This allowed for a bit of recovery before restructuring the training plan.
After the recovery period, we designed a six-week Aerobic Threshold block of training for the team of 16 to 19-year-old riders. The plan began with a low-volume, low-intensity first week followed by four weeks of gradually building the training load. The sixth week is reserved as a recovery week. The first weeks were very easy for them in terms of load, but the program was designed to become more challenging each week. To make this increasing load strategy successful, the training came with one large caveat: riders had to ride with heart rates under 75% of max for the non-structured endurance rides; and only 75-80% of max for the structured Aerobic Threshold interval sets, performed throughout each week.
After the 6-week training block, we plan to re-evaluate the state of the world. Updated cycling event schedules will dictate the next step. Ideal programming would have riders switching over to a higher intensity training block in May with the hopes of being able to resume racing in June or July. If the containment shut-downs are to continue, the team will instead enjoy a few weeks of peak fitness surrounding Strava KOM-hunting and epic rides in the mountains. Only time will tell what’s in store.
Slow Down to Get Faster
With the aerobic heart rate restrictions in place for the riders, we really had to slow things down for the team. In some cases way down. Unfortunately, juniors are always eager to go faster and do more!
In fact, getting these kids to slow down at first was a bit comical. We had been training consistently all winter and getting faster and faster. Now all of sudden we were telling them to slow down, so we can appreciate the confusion on their part. For the first couple weeks, we had to call individual riders right after their workouts were uploaded to TrainingPeaks and say, Uhh…what happened to keeping your HR under 160 bpm? You were at 180 for over 20 minutes!
By getting riders to slow down and train aerobically, we are training them to utilize fewer sugars and more fat for fueling their effort. This, in turn, allows them to safely increase training load to higher and higher levels over the six-week block. With this strategy, the young riders are set up to super-charge their base fitness for the race season if and when it arrives.
State of Flux While Staying On Track
We spend time every winter building a limited base of fitness with these kids in our Wahoo KICKR studio—but we’re always a bit constrained working around school, lack of daylight hours, winter weather and the like. While we’re in a state of flux, we also have more time on our hands, and amazing weather to build a really solid base of aerobic fitness. This is an opportunity to build a base in a way that many of them have never had the opportunity to do. The whole team is now on track now with the aerobic plan.
With individual testing performed at the beginning of the block and the end of the block, they’ll get to qualify their gains in hard numbers: watts gained at Aerobic Threshold heart rates. Their heart rates and power outputs are already showing improvements!
The WE Development Team is now finding a solid rhythm with weekly ZOOM conference calls to keep the team connected and cover the training objectives for the week. Daily review of the workout files and follow-up phone calls keep riders on track. All said and done, these strategies are making the WE Development racing program perhaps even more effective than ever.
Interested in Applying the Aerobic Threshold Plan Yourself?
Waite Endurance has made a similar plan downloadable from the TrainingPeaks.com Plan Store and usable with your favorite training platform. Plans are a vailable in a Low-Volume indoor format and an indoor/outdoor High-Volume format.