Reached that dreaded plateau? Might be time to change it up
You all know that feeling, the alarm goes off and you know you have to get up and ride...."gotta stay ahead of Wayno". But you also know that you are playing a bit of "Russian Roulette", just cannot predict how you are going to feel. "Felt awesome last Wednesday" but most days are a real struggle and it has been ages since you set that Strava PR on Springers.
So what's up? You are training hard right? Doing all the things you usually do and just 3 months ago, you were not only better than you are now, but almost every ride was great. So why are you no longer feeling the love and how can you get the mojo back?
One of the most common errors cyclists (and most endurance athletes) make is to do the same type of riding, week in / week out for long periods of time. To make things worse, this riding is almost always too hard. Now I have said this many times before, "riding at threshold is the LEAST effective way to boost threshold". In Exercise Science, the term "load cycling" is often used to explain the mysterious processes of "stimulus / stress / recovery". Essentially load cycling means that training loads (volume, frequency, intensity) are continuously varied to allow the body the best opportunity to regenerate. Too much load, not enough variation and nowhere near enough recovery will put any rider in a hole. Sound familiar?
We also know that no endurance athlete can perform at their best without a big aerobic capacity. The truth is, that riding at your limit erodes your aerobic system and the only way to build it back up (or slow the decline) is to do some riding with an aerobic load. Here is the crunch: if you almost always ride hard, you WILL reach a point where aerobic capacity is so poor that performance will actually start to decline and when this happens, there is no way back except to rest and then begin a block of pre-dominantly aerobic cycling. If your aerobic capacity has fallen to very low levels, this may mean riding VERY slowly, which most cyclists find it nearly impossible to do (especially blokes).
So we are back to load cycling (you knew we would come back) and if you are strategic about your training, you just may avoid falling into the pit. Be smart about your riding, race your buddies when it counts and pick your moments to go hard. But make sure you mix it up, cycle your loads, and you can look forward to consistent (upward trending) form. The MOJO is back!
If you would like to try some of these strategies with BBL coaching, we would love to hear from you.
Brian Bubba Cooke
Exercise Physiologist, coach & cycling tragic for 30 years. Love the freedom, reward and sense of achievement that one can only experience in our amazing sport.