General/Base Phase for MTB XCO/MARATHON (Power-Based): 16 Weeks; 8-14 Hrs/Week (Adjustable)

Author

Tom Bell

All plans by this Coach

Length

16 Weeks

Typical Week

1 Day Off, 2 MTB, 1 Other, 4 Bike

Longest Workout

2:30 hrs

Plan Specs

cycling mountain biking

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Summary

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A MTB-SPECIFIC PLAN FOR THE GENERAL/BASE PREPARATION PHASE, DESIGNED TO ESTABLISH EXCEPTIONAL FOUNDATIONAL FITNESS DURING THE IMPORTANT EARLY STAGES OF THE TRAINING CYCLE


This MTB plan is designed specifically for both cross-country and marathon athletes, where the primary aim of the phase is to establish a sound endurance base, largely gained through prolonged, moderate intensity workouts [1] whilst also using a significant amount of extensive higher-intensity training to achieve necessary adaptations in aerobic capacity and the fractional utilisation of VO2max at the lactate threshold.

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE GENERAL PHASE/BASE TRAINING


“Base” refers to the underlying idea that there are pre-requisite abilities that should be built before focusing more exclusively on advanced abilities, implying an ordered step-by-step process.

It's an important preparation period, laying a foundation of aerobic fitness for the MTB race-specific abilities to be built on top of, and a widely-accepted and successful approach used by world-class performers across endurance sports [2]. Instead of using confusing terms like Base 1, Base 2, Built 1 etc, we find simplifying training periodisation (the idea that the nature of the training should be adjusted in an logical and ordered fashion depending on the period of the training cycle and proximity to competition) to a “General Phase” (like this plan), a “Specific Phase” and a “Peak/Taper Phase” helpful and more practical.

Comparisons are often made (quite aptly) to building a house - where there is an implicit and practical order in which steps should be taken in order to construct a solid and necessarily tall structure.

COMPOSITION OF THE PLAN


The plan is laid out over a 16-week period, using four mesocycles, each featuring a 3-week ramp in training load, which is then followed up by a week aimed at recovering and adapting to the load. This ramp rate from week to week is "functionally conservative"; enough to result in a meaningful training stress yet gradual enough to avoid 'non-functional overreaching' or overtraining.

In pursuit of greater adaptations, a more fulfilling training experience and to avoid mental and physical burnout, the plan features a large variety of MTB-specific workout designs and intensities, balanced with what's known as a 'polarised training intensity distribution'; a planning and sequencing approach shown in the literature and in our own experience coaching 100s of athletes to be a successful framework for significant fitness improvement for both time-rich and time-crunched athletes [3].

NOTE: The plan's volume is totally adaptable from the default 7-12 hrs/week, where guidance on doing so is provided in our detailed user guide supplied with each plan.


PLAN OBJECTIVES



  • Develop greater stamina, fatigue resistance, and time-to-exhaustion;
  • Enhance substrate utilisation to improve ability to oxidise more fat at higher intensities, sparing limited glycogen stores;
  • Build greater mitochondrial density in skeletal muscle to improve a multitude of endurance-based abilities;
  • Improve cycling economy and gross efficiency by enhancing and building greater % of Type I (slow twitch) muscle fibres, delaying the recruitment of less-efficient Type II (fast twitch) muscle fibres.


REFERENCES


[1] Hawley, John A. "State-of-the-art training guidelines for endurance performance." South African Journal of Sports Medicine 2.4 (1995): 7-12.

[2] Tønnessen, Espen, et al. "The road to gold: training and peaking characteristics in the year prior to a gold medal endurance performance." PloS one 9.7 (2014): e101796.

[3] Seiler, Stephen, and Espen Tønnessen. "Intervals, thresholds, and long slow distance: the role of intensity and duration in endurance training." Sportscience 13.13 (2009): 32-53.

Stats

Training Load By Week
Average Weekly Breakdown
Average Weekly Training Hours: 10:19
Training Load By Week
Average Weekly Training Hours: 10:19
Average Weekly Breakdown

Tom Bell

tombell.co

Individualised, data-driven performance coaching and training programs for MTB XCO, MTB Marathon and Cyclocross athletes. We combine our real-world, elite-level experience at national team, UCI MTB World Cup and World Championship-level with leading science and expert data analysis skills to provide effective and actionable programs for our athletes, all whilst offering the educational and motivational support needed for true potential to be reached.

Back to Plan Details

Sample Day 1

1:00:00
59.2TSS
Muscular Endurance: 3x10M

15M warm-up, building up from 50-65% FTP as outlined above/below.

3x 10M @ 85-90% FTP, riding at a relatively low cadence (70-80 rpm). Take 3M easy riding @ 50-55% FTP (at your usual self-selected cadence) between each block.

Feel free to elongate the warm up and cool down if you have more time to train than this

Cool down for ~10M @ 50-60% FTP until ~1H is complete.

PURPOSE: To develop greater fatigue resistance or muscular endurance through sustained work that places higher force demand on the muscle fibres. In doing so, you train the muscle fibres to become more resistance to micro tears and general damage. When muscle fibres (especially slow twitch or Type I fibres) become damaged because of a relatively high sustained workloads, they have to call upon the far less aerobically-efficient Type II fibres to help maintain a consistent power output an carry the load. This has the effect of reducing what's called your 'exercise economy/efficiency', which essentially means you need to supply more oxygen (and fuel) for the same power output (very similar to the fuel efficiency of a car). This is one of the reasons you can see heart rate drift for a given power as you become fatigued in a race or long training session, since the heart is required to pump more oxygen to sustain the workload once the muscles become fatigued. By improving your exercise economy via greater resistance to fatigue/damage, you're able to improve your endurance at a broad range of intensities.

Sample Day 2

1:00:00
25TSS
Recovery: Easy Ride (Road or MTB)

1H recovery ride @ 40-60% FTP.

If riding MTB, try to include some technical skills practice, such as cornering practice, line choice, off-camber sections, roots etc.

PURPOSE: Allow for adaptations from previously challenging workouts, whilst maintaining rhythm of training without adding any further stress to the body. Also helps to circulate oxygenated blood around the body and remove any metabolic waste products that may be lingering in the muscles from these previous workouts, since lactate is combusted as a fuel in the aerobic energy process better at a lower power output than it is when completely resting.

Sample Day 3

1:15:00
79.2TSS
Muscular Endurance: 2x20M

15M building up to 55-70% FTP to warm up.

2x 20M @ 85-92% of FTP @ a lower cadence of 60-75RPM, unless this results in knee issues arising, in which case raise cadence slightly. 4M easy spinning in between two intervals for active recovery.

Remaining time up to 1H15M @ 60-70% FTP.

PURPOSE: To develop greater fatigue resistance or muscular endurance through sustained work that places higher force demand on the muscle fibres. In doing so, you train the muscle fibres to become more resistance to micro tears and general damage. When muscle fibres (especially slow twitch or Type I fibres) become damaged because of a relatively high sustained workloads, they have to call upon the far less aerobically-efficient Type II fibres to help maintain a consistent power output an carry the load. This has the effect of reducing what's called your 'exercise economy/efficiency', which essentially means you need to supply more oxygen (and fuel) for the same power output (very similar to the fuel efficiency of a car). This is one of the reasons you can see heart rate drift for a given power as you become fatigued in a race or long training session, since the heart is required to pump more oxygen to sustain the workload once the muscles become fatigued. By improving your exercise economy via greater resistance to fatigue/damage, you're able to improve your endurance at a broad range of intensities.

Sample Day 4

1:00:00
25TSS
Recovery: Easy Ride (Road or MTB)

1H recovery ride @ 40-60% FTP.

If riding MTB, try to include some technical skills practice, such as cornering practice, line choice, off-camber sections, roots etc.

PURPOSE: Allow for adaptations from previously challenging workouts, whilst maintaining rhythm of training without adding any further stress to the body. Also helps to circulate oxygenated blood around the body and remove any metabolic waste products that may be lingering in the muscles from these previous workouts, since lactate is combusted as a fuel in the aerobic energy process better at a lower power output than it is when completely resting.

Sample Day 5

2:15:00
89.3TSS
Endurance: Steady MTB Ride

2H15M @ 55-70% FTP.

Feel free to stray into Zone 1 on descents and Zone 3 on steeper climbs, but try to choose as flat or rolling course as possible to maximise time in target zone.

Can be done on the road or indoors on turbo trainer if off-road riding is impractical. If you can ride first thing in the morning, try to perform this training with low carbohydrate ability to enhance the adaptations of greater fat combustion and contribution to overall energy production (sparing of limited glycogen stores)

PURPOSE: Build the aerobic capacity (VO2max) in an extensive and largely low fatigue-producing manner. This lower intensity riding for longer durations is the best way to sustainably see key adaptations such as greater mitochondrial biogenesis in the muscle cells (the sites of aerobic energy production, where the more sites. the more energy can be produced), enhanced capillarization in the muscles (blood vessels that carry oxygenated blood to the exercising muscles and allow for the removal of byproducts of energy production), strength of the slow-twitch muscle fibres and as a positive consequence of enhanced aerobic capability, will train the body to combust more fat as fuel for this process at greater power outputs, thereby sparing the body's limited glycogen stores, which are needed for higher power efforts.

Sample Day 6

1:45:00
75.2TSS
Endurance: Undulating Aerobic Ride

1H45M alternating between 7.5M @ 55-65% FTP and 65-75% FTP. 

Feel free to change up cadence throughout ride from a lower level of ~75-85RPM and upper level of 95-105RPM.

PURPOSE: Build the aerobic capacity (VO2max) in an extensive and largely low fatigue-producing manner. This lower intensity riding for longer durations is the best way to sustainably see key adaptations such as greater mitochondrial biogenesis in the muscle cells (the sites of aerobic energy production, where the more sites. the more energy can be produced), enhanced capillarization in the muscles (blood vessels that carry oxygenated blood to the exercising muscles and allow for the removal of byproducts of energy production), strength of the slow-twitch muscle fibres and as a positive consequence of enhanced aerobic capability, will train the body to combust more fat as fuel for this process at greater power outputs, thereby sparing the body's limited glycogen stores, which are needed for higher power efforts.

Sample Day 8

1:15:00
79.1TSS
Muscular Endurance: 3x15M

15M warm-up, building up from 50-65% FTP as outlined above/below.

3x 15M @ 85-90% FTP, riding at a relatively low cadence (70-80 rpm). Take 3M easy riding @ 50-55% FTP (at your usual self-selected cadence) between each block.

Feel free to elongate the warm up and cool down if you have more time to train than this

Cool down for ~10M @ 50-60% FTP until ~1H15M is complete.

PURPOSE: To develop greater fatigue resistance or muscular endurance through sustained work that places higher force demand on the muscle fibres. In doing so, you train the muscle fibres to become more resistance to micro tears and general damage. When muscle fibres (especially slow twitch or Type I fibres) become damaged because of a relatively high sustained workloads, they have to call upon the far less aerobically-efficient Type II fibres to help maintain a consistent power output an carry the load. This has the effect of reducing what's called your 'exercise economy/efficiency', which essentially means you need to supply more oxygen (and fuel) for the same power output (very similar to the fuel efficiency of a car). This is one of the reasons you can see heart rate drift for a given power as you become fatigued in a race or long training session, since the heart is required to pump more oxygen to sustain the workload once the muscles become fatigued. By improving your exercise economy via greater resistance to fatigue/damage, you're able to improve your endurance at a broad range of intensities.

General/Base Phase for MTB XCO/MARATHON (Power-Based): 16 Weeks; 8-14 Hrs/Week (Adjustable)

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