Sunday, 4 November 2012

Winter Training - Guest Post from @bodybullet

From time to time I invite someone that I rate to write a guest blog.  I'm pleased to welcome back Simon Vincent from to talk about winter training.  I can wholly endorse the points that Simon is making, having used one of his programmes to prepare for London to Paris earlier this year.


As many people’s attention begins to turn to winter base training and how they are going to fit in all those anticipated ‘extra’ miles around their other “non-cycling” commitments, it is worth pointing out that base training is not all about the miles, and indeed more progress could be made with less focus on the miles and more focus on addressing the rest of the physiological components that make up “total cycling performance”.   We are only ever as strong as our weakest link and for many of my clients “cardiovascular fitness” is not an issue, yet they have been stuck on pretty much the same cycling speed for years.

Many would have ended the 2012 season with a fairly large amount of miles under their belts (alongside a high level of cardiovascular fitness) so after a well-deserved few weeks away from the bike, the time has now come to turn one’s attention to a type of ‘winter base training’ that will offer the most return on investment in respect of the time one is able to put into training.

The most important aspect of any that any plan should address if you are going to become a faster cyclist in 2013 is gaining ‘strength’ through the use of weights, and no before anyone thinks out loud “but weights will make you bulky and slow” trust me, bodybuilders look like they do because they eat many thousands of calories a day of protein and carbohydrate, whilst training each body part in isolation through vast amounts of sets/reps to the point of complete muscle breakdown.

When this practice is deployed and muscles given enough calories and time to recover, part of the healing process involves laying down additional muscle fibres to cope with the increased stress, hence the wacky pumped up appearance occurs.

To give an example of how strength training and not “bodybuilding” use of weights improves ones endurance performance, I would like to draw your attention to Mo Farrah’s performances during this year’s Olympics. Mo had spent several months in America working with a top coach who is very big on sprint finishes and strength training, and the last time I saw Mo run on television, he did not strike a pose that resembled anything Arnie would have put out in his hey-day. He was however able to put in a performance with an apparent ease not previously witnessed in a lot of his former winning performances.

Another fairly old school view of strength training is that it takes too long to do as it needs to be done nearly 3 – 4 times per week to be effective. This again is wrong and very successful strength progression can be achieved with just two 30 – 45 minute sessions per week, as part of a structured “progressive overload” training plan.

The most important aspect is that this overload is small but frequent. I have worked with clients who prior to consulting my services had used the gym for years and had never really increased the weights they lifted for the very fear of “getting bulky”.

 When explained to them about the myth and how difficult it is for men to put on lean muscle bulk, they quickly realised the error of their ways and with a bespoke training plan created for them, many have gone onto to double their leg strength during the first 8 weeks and, have been shocked to have lost inches around their waste despite the scales telling them that they had not lost any weight. Has this had any positive impact on their cycling speed? Well I will let you read the testimonies on my website for you to find out for yourself.

Muscle weighs more than fat but takes up considerably less space, hence the reason many are shocked once they realise the truth. Whilst there will always be cyclists out there who make great annual gains in cycling speed, strength and endurance through cycling alone, these are few and far between, and those that do make such gains tend to have the luxury of not having to juggle a 50 hour working week, alongside family and other commitments away from cycling.

Alongside strength training it is important to not let all that previously amassed cardiovascular fitness go to waste. However in this respect many cyclists make the mistake of trying too hard to often. The most important aspect in developing greater speed and efficiency as a cyclist is the ability to stay out of the “grey zone” whilst developing MAE (maximum aerobic efficiency)

The grey zone is present in the vast majority of “frustrated riders” training, when they are riding too hard to develop MAE, yet not hard enough to increase their blood lactate threshold, hence the reason, despite increasing their weekly mileage, increases in anticipated cycling speed simply fail to materialise.

This problem is made worse as riders begin to clock this speed stagnation and think the way to overcome this issue is by pushing harder or longer than before, alas they are not going to get any faster.

Quite the opposite is true and by spending more time in this “grey zone” many riders risk illness, burnout and frustration, as they fail to get any faster, despite attempting to put in more miles in order to compensate, which leads to further performance stagnation and frustration.

It is not the amount of miles that one puts into the saddle, but the quality of those miles that count, and many of my clients have made more progress during the 1st 8 weeks of their bespoke training plans than years previously, despite in some cases having the amount of miles they spend out on the bike cut in half.

The professional riders although very talented are still mere human beings and are able to ride like they do because more than anything else they train, rest and eat correctly.

With a bespoke training plan tailored around addressing all weaknesses present in your current performance, you too could enjoy considerable gains in cycling speed, strength and endurance. Whilst I can’t promise you will go onto to be the next Tour de France winner, I can promise a level of personal performance like you never imagined possible in less time each week than most old school coaches would tell you is just not feasible.

For a no obligation chat about your performance issues and goals for 2013 and beyond, please do not hesitate to contact me via or you can find me on Twitter @bodybullet.

Good luck and remember is #smarterNOTlonger training that will make you a better rider than you ever gave yourself credit for in 2013 and beyond.

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