STRONGER / FASTER: How to make your own personalised training plan

STRONGER/FASTER is our guide to making you a better rider, using the expert skills of Ben at MTBStrengthfactory.

Last time we talked about training with your road bike. This time, we’re going to teach you how to make a solid training plan that will help you to achieve your goals.

Will this be your best year ever?

Photos by Trev Worsey

It is that time of year when we start to think about next season. Whether that means a summer of racing or a summer of long rides with your mates… you want it to be your best ever.

Whilst a winter spent riding your bike as much as you want may be fun and may get you fitter, you’ll never really reap the rewards without a little bit of planning. I want to explain in plain English, and free of jargon how to go about making your own training plan this winter.

Look back to look forward

So, before we can look forwards and make a plan, we need to look back at where you are coming from.  You need to review your previous training plan (if you had one) and look at your previous performance and results.  If you haven’t done that already then check out this article about doing your post-season assessment.

What do you want to do?

Ask yourself…

What are your goals?

What races and events do you want to do?

This will help you identify the type of training you should be doing.  Do you want to prepare for a week in Morzine with your mates or a whole season of racing downhill all over the UK or Europe or the World?

If you are racing you will need to identify which races will be your most important. You will adjust your training to peak for those races giving you the best chance of success.

These are usually known as priority “A” races.  You may also have priority “B” races that are quite important and priority “C” races that you basically train through and use as experience or to practice your race-craft and race day routines etc.

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Making your plan

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Once you have decided on your ‘A’ and ‘B’ plans you can finally time to start preparing your training plan!

Step 1 – Be realistic.

How much time do you have available to train and when?

This is usually the first thing that people mess up as they are full of good intentions and all keen for next season. So they plan to train and ride for 12 hours per week, when for the last 4 years, they have only managed about 5 hours.  Be realistic!  Look at your work, family, social and other commitments and then figure out how much actual time you have.  There is no point writing a monster programme that you can only stick to for a few weeks. 

Step 2 –  Breaking the cycle

Break the time between the start of your training plan and the race season down into ‘cycles’ of training usually lasting 1 to 6 weeks.  You will need a calendar in order to work around Christmas, family occasions and so on.

Each of these training cycles will have a specific purpose and the goals of that cycle will vary throughout the year.  One of the over-riding principles is that the closer you get to the race, the more race-like the training should be.  So, before Christmas the training can be more general, like lots of gym work, and long endurance rides, and as you get into spring the training will be more specific, for instance doing intervals that mimic race conditions.

Typically the training cycles are:

Base – high mileage at low intensities usually accompanied by strength work.  The goal is to prepare the mind and body for the more intense training that will come.

Build – a period of increasing training intensity with sessions getting more specific.  The goal is to build race fitness and preparedness.

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Peak – the final preparations before an “A” race.  Making sure that you strike the balance between being fresh and still sharp and ready to race.

Race – the week of the race (or the event, trip, holiday or ride) or a couple of races in close succession.

The length of these training cycles will vary and they will repeat, so you may have 3 Base cycles, 2 Build and then a sequence of Peak and Race cycles over the summer allowing you to be best prepared for 2 or 3 “A” priority races.

Step 3 – Your plan.

Now that you know what you need to achieve and when, it is time to start filling in your plan by slotting sessions into your available time from Step 1.

For instance at this time of year you are probably in a Base period and will have to balance strength training in the gym with long, endurance rides to build your aerobic fitness.

You may have 3 evenings per week and one day on the weekend available to train, so you could do 2 strength sessions, 1 evening XC or road ride and a long ride on the weekend.

The other thing to consider when planning which sessions to do is that you need to make gradual progress, so week on week you should increase either the volume of training (distance for example) or the intensity of training (heavier weights in gym for example).

In order to allow this to continue long-term you will also need to plan recovery weeks during the Base and Build cycles and possibly during the race season depending on your schedule.

During a recovery week you will reduce both volume and intensity and will focus more on looking after your body, and allowing it to grow and recover after several consecutive weeks of hard work.  This is also a great time to do more stretching, have a massage or go for a swim as you will be on the bike less.

Below is a basic graph showing 4 week cycles of increasing workload followed by a recovery week.  

training plan

Last but not least … remember the old army saying “No Plan Survives Contact With The Enemy.”

In this case the ‘enemy’ is real life, illness, a broken or stolen bike, work commitments and so on.  At some point you will have to make concessions to these things no matter how well you plan but the key is not to panic and to resume where you left off.  The fact that you have a plan in the first place already puts you ahead of most of the field and remember that all of your competitors will be missing sessions at some point as well.

The final thing to bear in mind is that you may not get it right first time.  Regularly test yourself, and evaluate your training.  If you are not making progress then adjust your training so that you do or get the help of a professional.

I hope that this will help you to have a great summer of riding and racing next year, and remember the most important thing is to believe in your plan and believe in yourself!

If you need any help, give me a shout at mtbstrengthfactory.com or ask me a question in the comments below.

Stay Strong,

Ben

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 Thanks to Ian Lean for the images used in this story.

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