As I stare out the window into the early October mist, I am reminded as to just how frustrating it was to implement a consistent strategy for riding last winter. I design training plans for the athletes I coach based on their available hours, experience, goals, patience, and a myriad of other factors. Unfortunately I can’t control the weather, and the weather is often the most variable determinant of whether or not a training plan will yield the results we are looking for.
Last winter I taught a training plan clinic for High Performance Cycling team members:
During the clinic, I discussed how to build the classic periodization style plan for the cycling year. Later in the spring (while winter was still raging), I came to the realization that I wasn’t even close to following the plan I had laid out for myself. Given my flexible time to ride and the possession of a “rain bike” (and willingness to use it), I knew that my athletes wouldn’t have much chance implementing the plans I had written for them. What good is a plan if it can’t be completed?
Normally our winters are mild enough for year-round cycling. Even so, there is enough variability that following an outdoor riding plan is challenging. This winter I'll be developing a HIT (High Intensity Training) program for people who realistically can ride between 4-6 hours per week (expandable with nice weather) with a maximum of four rides per week. The hard intervals that are part of a HIT plan can be done outdoors, but doing the workouts indoors makes a lot of sense.
A traditional volume based plan breaks down below ten hours a week. There simply is not enough training stimulus. At eight hours per week, a volume style plan can produce moderate fitness…and keep you there. In other works, the athlete plateaus and often gets frustrated with the lack of progress.
For people willing to tough it out through the winter weather for 10+ hours per week, I'll use a traditional periodization plan. Personally, I’m going with a HIT plan. Coming from someone who has spent a total of one hour on the trainer over the last three years, this commitment to indoor riding is quite a concession. I plan on doing a lot of hiking and snowshoeing over the winter, and spending less time on the road bike. I’m not sure how I’ll account for muddy MTB rides in my plan, but I’ll work around it.
In case HIT is copyrighted, I could call it HAT (Hard Ass Training), FIT (Fervently Intense Training), FAT (Fairly Aggressive Training), WIT (Winter Intense Training), or WAT (Winning Attack Training). On second thought, I’ll use HIT and run the risk of copyright infringement.
There have been a lot of studies over the last several years that demonstrate how effective a HIT strategy can be. Will it work as well as a classic plan built around volume of 12+ hours a week? Well, no, I don’t expect it to, but I suppose if you had no idea as to what to do with those 12 hours HIT very well could be more effective. Depending on the athlete, the goal for a HIT plan could be to prepare for a spring cycling tour or big event, Cycle U Chelan Camp, or to ride strong on group rides. For information about the science of HIT, search the internet for “cycling high intensity training.”
I think the key when time or weather limits training time is to maximize the quality and value of the riding that can be accomplished. With plenty of time for recovery, I intend to make every minute on the bike count this winter. Come spring, I’ll be doing those longer rides that I used to grit my teeth through over the winter.
Hey, if we get a week of dry 65 degree weather in the middle of winter, I’ll throw HIT out the window…for a week. I’ll get back to HIT when the next tsunami of rain hits, and I bet I won’t have to wait long.