When it comes to following a structured training plan, many cyclists may believe this is best left to professionals alone. The truth is, structured training plans are meant for anyone working towards a goal – a race, person best on a local route, or looking to complete a century. No matter how large or small the goal is, having a clear path makes achieving it all the easier.
The old adage goes, “a failure to plan, is a plan to fail.” When it comes to goal setting it is important that we plot a road map to success. First thing we need to do is determine our own current fitness levels / capabilities and how they lie in relation to the demands of the goal you’re working towards. Why? This is where you will learn about your strengths and weaknesses and what kind of training you will need to perform in order to reach your targets.
If you are not following a plan and find that you are just haphazardly performing random training daily, there are key pieces you may be missing. While simply riding your bike a lot may gain you a lot of fitness – it will not be specific and provide you the correct stimulus you need to achieve the goals you have in mind. When you are following a plan, you are ensuring that you will have purpose within each of your workouts that lead to the larger goal.
Work Backward to Move Forwards
How should you start to map a plan? Start backwards! Take a look at your calendar and where your large race or goal falls – mark it down. From this point, you can work backwards and plan out appropriate building weeks, rest weeks, and key sessions. Working with your target in mind is key to ensuring that you are planning appropriately. Further, the SYSTM Training App programs enable you to enter the date of your event or goal and then it will work back your training program from there.
More often than not, most of us will bury ourselves deep into training and forget the key part to increasing our abilities – rest. Using the method of working backwards allows you to plan out when you will build your fitness, and when you will rest to absorb the increased load.
In an ideal world where training was the only thing on our plates, training could be planned without regard for the normal weekly schedule. We live in the real world though, where we need to respect the normal constraints of a 7 day week. With that in mind, in respect to training schedules it is normal for us to plan sessions that are consistently performed on certain days of the week. For the majority of us who work Monday-Friday, this allows us to program longer training sessions on the weekends and then keep Monday a consistent “rest” day. When we are able to consistently plan for specific training days, this allows us to adjust our schedules and responsibilities to those days so that we are better able to execute week in and week out.
While we may figure out our weekly layout, we need to then decide our “training block” schedule. Is it best to follow a 3:1 or 2:1 schedule (weeks of increasing load : weeks of recovery)? In these situations, it is best to err on the side of less stress vs maximal stress. If we are full-time professionals where our only job is to train for a living – then yes we would be erring on the side of increasing physical stress loads in order to extract the absolute maximum out of ourselves. That being said – when we are balancing a full-time 40 hour/week job, families, and may be on the other side of 40….then we need to reconsider the stress we are taking on. For many people who fit the aforementioned description, a 2:1 week ratio is usually the best choice when it comes to training structure. This means 2 weeks of increasing load with 1 week of decreasing load or recovery.
If you are under 40, with no family responsibilities, and have time within either a part time job or full-time – then perhaps a 3:1 structured training schedule can fit your lifestyle. It is important to remember that whether it is stress from life outside of sport, or stress from sport, it is all manifesting in your body the same and all will require equal recovery.
Flexibility is Important
There will come times when life or sickness gets in the way of our plans and forces us to deviate. Fear not – you are not alone! Any plan you may follow will need to adjust to real life situations and challenges. It is perfectly normal to skip a session every few weeks – (even the pros do!) or to even take a break now and then. Being flexible in these situations is not only acceptable, but also necessarily for long term success and balance.
If you miss only a few days of training, then adjustments to your plan are not needed. You will continue to move forward with your plan as prescribed. That being said, do not try to make up any sessions that were missed. Your plan is set up the way it is for a reason, if you start to add make-up sessions to days that were meant to be easy or vice versa, you are messing with the load or recovery that was set up for you.
If you miss a week of training, you can typically come back into your plan starting with the week you missed. It is important that you dial down the sessions intensity or volume of the week by about 20-30% to help you ease back into the swing of things.
If you miss 2 or more weeks of training, you may want to repeat a 3 or 4 week block of training before moving forward with the next couple of weeks of your previously scheduled plan.
What Training Plan is Right For You?
There are many training plans out in the world for you to follow. Whether looking for: road cycling, MTB, gravel, triathlon, etc – there is a plan for you.
It is important that you use a plan that works with your schedule and allows you the freedom to make changes as necessary – but still work towards your goals. With SYSTM plans, you have the ability to create a plan that is custom to your needs. In SYSTM you are in the driver’s seat to specify your goals, disciplines, terrain, weekly volume, and your progression. Not only can you customize the time available, but you can add in supplementary training such as strength, yoga, and mental training. All of these are incorporated into your weekly volume so you don’t find yourself bogged down with 24 hour + weeks of training. SYSTM works with your current fitness and bases sessions off of power, heart rate, and pace to tailor sessions to your needs and your goals.
Regardless of your end goal – using structured training plans will help you not only reach your goals, but allow you to get the most out of your training.