Progressing your training deliberately is the best way to ensure you meet your goals without sliding back downhill due to avoidable setbacks like injury, fatigue, or overtraining syndrome. This is done by systematically exposing your body to stresses, then backing off to allow the body to adapt and prepare for the next challenge.
by Kristina Pattison, DPT, CSCS
Cycling training in this manner allows for consistent gains over time. (Remember that consistency is one of the most important principles of training.) When designing a program like this its advantageous to look at blocks of time within which stresses to your system will be varied. These blocks are generally divided into three main categories: macrocycles, mesocycles, and microcycles.
MACROCYCLE: Looking at the entire 52 weeks of the year, you may choose one or two main events when you’d like to be in peak fitness. For example your goal race for the season may be in July, and you’d like to start training in January, giving you 6 months for a progression up to the race. During that six months your seasonal build may be divided into phases somewhat like this: BASE, PRE-COMPETITION, EARLY-COMPETITION, RACE, RECOVERY. In the example above if you have 24 weeks to train before race, you could spend 2 months building base, 2 months working more specifically on speed and power before competing, and 2 more months in competition refining your skills prior to the main event. Then after the event, some time is necessary to recover and restructure your goals before building back up the aerobic base.
MESOCYCLE: Each of the macrocycles is associated with specific goals such as building aerobic base and muscular endurance during your BASE phase. Within each of those phases, training can again be split into smaller cycles called mesocycles. For example, during your PRECOMPETITION phase when volume generally decreases and intensity starts to increase, you may use a 3 week build to emphasize power development with short hill sprints, followed by a recovery week, and the anther three week build.
MICROCYCLE: The smallest variations in training usually occur over the course of the week. Constant hard training is not as effective as alternating intense workouts with easy recovery days. Why? Because the human body adapts to stress during these rest days, allowing it to push further, faster or harder on the next effort. For example, the FIRST system for training advocates using three main quality workouts during the week: intervals, tempo, and long run. Every other day is spent at an easy aerobic effort.
Much debate and many books have been fueled by the discussion on the best way to structure your training to maximize your athletic progression. The most important thing to remember, however, is that if you can’t run because of a setback, you can’t progress. Conservative builds of frequency, volume, and intensity, no matter what the specific formula, will work better than a couple months hammering followed by a couple months in physical therapy.