Shayne Dowling caught up once again with regular columnist and top coach, Mike Posthumus to find out why the training program he completed was specifically tailored to his needs.
Mike there are certain parts of the training program you gave me that I would like to understand. The long rides in Zone Two at a high cadence was something I hadn’t done before (the high cadence that is) – why such a high cadence and for such long rides? What is the aim of these rides and what long term effect will they have?
I follow a polarised approach, the Zone Two rides are meant to be very easy, and fill the space between harder training sessions. To further lessen the strain on the muscles of these Zone Two rides, I try to prevent the athlete from grinding their gears by recommending a cadence of 90rpm. We are seeing more and more middle aged men starting to mountain bike. They had not developed a natural pedal stroke at a young age and therefore often you see them relying on brute strength to turn the pedals. 90rpm feels like a very high cadence for these men. However, if I had to take someone who grew up racing on the road, their natural cadence may be as high as 100rpm. So, prescribing rides at a higher cadence is ensuring that you give your legs a chance to recover, while at the same time trying to force you to develop your pedal stroke so that you learn to not only push on your pedals using your thigh muscles.
I then had to do LSD (Long Slow Distance) rides in Zone Two only. I inevitably did these rides on the road and on relatively flat terrain. What are we achieving with these rides? They can be quite boring; how can you “spice” these rides up? I was quite conscientious about keeping in the low zone but would have liked to have done long rides on the mountain – the heart rate then became an issue – what are your suggestions?
I often have to remind athletes that they shouldn’t stop having fun because of their training program. I don’t want someone to feel limited with where they can ride. If the fun is removed, the program is not going to be sustainable. I would rather have you still training in four years’ time, than stop after four months because it was too boring trying to avoid slipping into Zone Three. I would certainly not want you to avoid riding on the mountain, and to the contrary, I would actually recommend this as a strategy to remain stimulated. My advice would be to simply try and climb as easy as you possibly can when you get to steep climbs on the mountain. The reason we try and avoid Zone Three is because there is not much additional training benefit over what is already achieved in Zone Two. However, there is a significant increase in the amount of fatigue which can be accumulated in Zone Three.
I then did two hours’ fasted rides. Normally with only a high caffeine drink before setting off. What’s this all about? Again, it is only in a low heart rate zone but I am not sure what we are achieving here?
Recent research studies have shown that including fasted rides, or rides where you are already carbohydrate depleted from the start, may have additional endurance benefits. During these rides, you will use more fat for energy (increased fat oxidation), while at the same time, signalling for the switches which increase the amount of mitochondria (energy manufacturers in your cells) to be turned on. Due to this increased signalling, a fasted ride is able to achieve what a much longer long slow distance ride (i.e. a five hour LSD ride) may achieve. The strong coffee is recommended for two reasons. Caffeine assists the signalling process mentioned above, and also decreases your rate of perceived exertion during the training session and thereby makes the ride, which is normally quite challenging, much more bearable.