Weekend Reading: Are you Prepared for the Springtime Tipping Point?

For the first few months of the year, it’s not too difficult for athletes to make and see significant progress with their fitness. After losing fitness through the fall and winter, simply increasing weekly training hours is enough to re-establish a moderate level of fitness. But now it’s May, and many athletes are reaching what I call the Springtime Tipping Point.

What’s the STP? It’s the point at which generalized training stops producing measurable results. It’s the point where you go from getting steadily faster, stronger, and leaner to sitting on a frustrating plateau. To tip your season in the direction of continued success, now is the time when you need to get smart about your training.

Tip #1: Increase “Time-at-Intensity”

What happens to a lot of time-crunched athletes is that once you establish your “summer” schedule for training times (mornings, after-work, etc.), your weekly training workload may become stagnant. For many people that stagnation manifests itself as a steady routine of a Tuesday night group ride/training crit, a Thursday interval workout, and then weekend long rides or races. Triathletes, too, tend to settle into a very predictable weekly schedule for the summer. While consistency is good, stagnation is not.

In order to keep pushing forward, you either have to increase training stress so your body has something to adapt to. Most likely you can’t add more hours, and turning every ride into an all-out time trial is just an indiscriminant and wasteful use of energy. Apply more precision and look at increasing your “time-at-intensity” for lactate threshold work and VO2 max intervals. If you accumulated 60minute at LT across a week of your generalized rides and interval workouts, aim to increase that to 70. If you spent 30minutes at VO2 max intensities, aim to get to 35minutes.


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Tip #2: Focus on Speed

Whether you’re a racer or not, incorporating some speedwork into your training is a good way to break out of a plateau – or avoid one in the first place. Athletes sometimes get stuck in a rut where they focus so intently on energy system development that they overlook the workouts that help with the application of that fitness! One workout that I like to use to liven up a training program and develop great power for accelerations is SpeedIntervals:

How to do a SpeedInterval Workout: 30-second sprint, 30-seconds recovery, times four. In other words, start by rolling at around 15mph in the big chainring and a moderate gear on the cassette. Sprint for 30 seconds, then ease up and spin lightly as you gradually slow down over 30 seconds. Then sprint again. Spin down. Sprint. Spin down. Sprint one final time. Spin easy for 5 minutes and then repeat the 4x30sec/30sec SpeedInterval set. For a moderately fit rider I like to incorporate 3 sets into a workout. Advanced riders can do 4 or 5 sets in a workout. When will you feel the benefit of this workout? When you have to pop out of a corner, or close a gap in the paceline, or accelerate onto someone’s wheel and then sprint around them.

Tip #3: Make sure you’re not over-doing it

The first two tips deal with increasing your training stimulus, but athletes also have to consider the option that their workload is high but their recovery is not adequate. As the spring/summer season heats up, some athletes have so much weekend workload from races and/or big workouts that there’s really not that much need for a lot of training stimulus during the week. In fact, repeatedly shoe-horning intensity and volume into the weeks between big weekends can start to work against you.

For racers, you should consider whether you’re in or going into a “race-and-recover” period, where your weekend races are also the primary training stimulus for the week. This is something that racers can sometimes maintain for 4-6 weeks at a time by incorporating a mid-week training crit or interval session (or motorpacing if you have the skill and opportunity) and a short Friday ride with “openers”. It’s not that you need to take all the other days as complete rest days; but it may be advantageous to go from two hard interval workouts during the week to just one.

Even if you’re not racing, you’re big weekend adventures could also be providing enough training stress and stimulus that you could benefit from two recovery days (Monday and Tuesday), one good interval day on Wednesday, an endurance ride or group ride on Thursday, and then a recovery day on Friday so you’re rested for another big weekend.

Getting out the door and working out consistently is commendable and puts you leaps and bounds ahead of the majority of the population. But generalized training will only take you so far, and for endurance athletes in the Northern Hemisphere we’ve reached the time of year when your progress is likely to stall out. Don’t let that happen, kick it up a notch and tip the scale toward continued progress!

Have a great weekend!

Chris Carmichael

CEO/Head Coach

Carmichael Training Systems

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