The New Season, Part 2

In Part 1 we discussed a shifting calendar of national championship events. This shift undoubtedly affects any elite level athlete (U23, Masters, or amateur) with aspirations of winning the most prestigious event in cycling in the United States. So how can a 25% shift in the timetable be executed effectively? On the surface, it appears simple, just shift in the training calendar is needed. However, moving fitness to an earlier date on is much more complex than changing the dates of workouts. There are very few, if any, competitive events in December and January nor are there athletes ready to begin competing then. Therefore, the athlete must be at mid-season form in March, but without the advantage of having numerous competitive events to push them to that level of fitness.  

On the other hand, the only thing changing is the date. With a comprehensive understanding of the fundamentals of exercise physiology, a coach can apply a periodization model to an athlete’s training provided he/she knows what performance markers need to be reached and when. Source Endurance has accumulated enough complete data sets over years of consistent work with multiple elite level clients to build a reliable picture of general fitness and form conditions needed for exceptional performance. This integration of research- based evidence, coaching experience and expertise, and client input and perspective is referred to as Evidence Based Practice.

Using Some of the stock charts along with some our own custom charts in WKO4 from Training Peaks, we were able to create a reliable method of accurately observing when an athlete is on peak form and is more likely to turn in an exceptional performance.

First, observe the 1 minute, 20 minute and 60 minute peak outputs (orange and red dots) for the competitive season. When these peak numbers are grouped and stacked (pictured), it indicates an exceptional performance in that general time span. This is why competition data and training data are so very important and having only one tends to nullify the other. The fundamentals of physiology dictate that in order to reach a state of advanced fitness, there must be a large training load applied to the athlete; the next steps will work at uncovering those details.  
The next observation is the relationship of volume, duration and intensity.  Chronic Training Load (CTL) is based primarily on TSS which is primarily influenced by volume, whereas Chronic Intensity Load (CIL) uses intensity as its primary driver.  Both are incredibly important when observing and predicting exceptional performance.  

Duration and volume tend to be directly correlated to each other and an athlete’s exceptional performances; thus, we can examine the interaction between the three. It appears that a necessary condition for an exceptional performance is a CTL over 100 TSS/day. It also appears that CTL >100 TSS/ day must be maintained for a significant, yet varying amount of time for any athlete. Also, we note that 300 hours appears to be a threshold for establishing fitness conditions necessary for an exceptional performance. During that time, an athlete should be able to accumulate in excess of 10,000 Training Stress Points. There are other benchmarks as well and we encourage you to use those in addition to these in this article.

After establishing the relationship with duration and volume is made, the next important piece is to begin to understand the influence of intensity on the performance status of the athlete. One way to see this relationship is to look for groupings of high Intensity Factor (IF) stimuli with respect to the the grouped season peaks (outlined).  This will give you a very general understanding of how to CIL needs to move in order to enable an exceptional performance. Further investigation is required to ascertain exactly how to make CIL move in a way that benefits both the chart and the athlete. Moving CIL is a very delicate matter and for many athletes, prescribing volume of high intensity work is like using a jackhammer to create a delicate ice sculpture. Often times, a little bit of focused work will go a long way.

Finally, examine the Training Stress Balance (TSB) and the Acute Training Load (ATL) of the athlete. Trends are important to recognize and analyze in this step.  Be sure to answer the following: What are the characteristics of each in the 14 days, 28 days, 12 weeks leading up to an exceptional performance?  Too much of one can stress the athlete too much and too little will not be enough stress to elicit an exceptional performance.  
Once you have built this knowledge of the athlete, work can begin by applying the results of this comprehensive analysis to a peaking date or time window. In this case, late June is the target. The focus now shifts to creating an off-season and pre-season training plan that will place the athlete in a position to reach his/her exceptional performance earlier in the season than usual. As we discussed before, you should know the target points and the benchmarks the athlete will need to reach and the ramp rate should also be a known entity as well, either directly via WKO4 or indirectly given each athlete’s feedback.   

Finally comes the creative part as a coach. Maintaining the focus of the athlete in what should be the off-season is just one of the many challenges. Depending on the area, weather and conditions will vary dramatically and the training plan must be fluid in order to accommodate those variables. In December, Southern California could have wildfires, rendering training in the mountains away from traffic and stoplights unsafe, while simultaneously Kansas could be blanketed with six inches of snow. However, athletes in both areas must still stay on track to meet the performance benchmarks necessary as they progress towards their respective performance peaks. To meet this challenge will no doubt require new disciplines and modalities of training including: strength training, cross training, indoor training studios, cold outdoor riding and other training activities that arise which are unique to an individual area.

By: Adam Mills with contributions from Zack Allison and Matt Hill
About the Author: Adam is currently the Performance Director of the Elevate- KHS Pro Cycling Team. He has raced at the elite level since 2002 and graduated with a Masters in Exercise Physiology from the University of Kansas in 2005. His true talent comes with his ability to combine his vast experience with his knowledge of sport. He is indeed a student of science, sport, athletic performance, strategy, and tactics. He continuously educates himself by keeping up to date with current trends and methods in sport and his clients have reaped the benefits from this work with over 13 national championships in 8 disciplines on two continents. Adam is able to incorporate these attributes on a daily basis to help his clients reach and exceed their goals whether they are a beginner or a seasoned professional. Learn more about Adam and Source Endurance here.