Every cyclist who starts training more seriously probably has a plan for each week. There are usually some long rides, some speed work, and some rest days in it, but is that the correct structure? Let’s take a closer look at how to set up your training week, or a micro-cycle, so that it makes sense within a mesocycle but also fits in all the right workouts.
Start with a goal
Just like with seasonal goals, and mesocycle goals, micro-cycles also need to be set up with a specific purpose in mind. It should be based on the goal of the parent mesocycle and how far from achieving it you are. Examples might be very common goals like maintaining aerobic endurance or improving threshold power. If you’re setting up your recovery week, however, the goals should be very different, for example, improving handling skills or bringing down acute fatigue from the past training load.
Choose the right workouts
It’s very helpful to have a collection of workouts categorized by their purpose. Nothing makes people give up faster than having to build a training week from scratch every time. You can put together all workouts you did in the past and design new ones to fill in the holes. It can also be helpful to use Strava to search for suitable sessions. Just make sure your workout collection is organized well and named properly so it’s easy to use.
Don’t repeat the same workout too often
Every goal you have can be achieved through a variety of workouts. This is a good thing because if you only did 4-minute intervals whenever you want to improve your VO2max, you’d get burnt out on that workout. Repeating workouts too often brings about physical issues, not just psychological. If you do one workout repeatedly, your body gets more comfortable performing it and it loses a lot of its ability to cause stress and therefore won’t be as effective at producing training adaptations.
Two intensity sessions a week
High-intensity training, or anything at or above the lactate threshold, has the potential to raise fitness quickly, that’s why it is very popular and why it can be very tempting to include too many intensity sessions in a week. The problem is too much intensity also makes you plateau fast. So, including more intensity in a taper before a race makes sense because you use the rapid increase in fitness to your advantage. But too much intensity further out of competition is usually doing more harm than good. Two high-quality intensity sessions per week is generally enough under normal conditions.
Start with a 90-10 split
The organisational approach that most pros use is called polarised training, or the 90-10 split. This means that around 90% of the weekly training time is spent below the lactate threshold, “low intensity”, and around 10% of the training time above it, “high intensity”. This distribution appears to offer the optimal balance between low and high intensity that allows for long-term fitness improvement.
Organise your week
A training week is not only made up of training days. Alongside the 1-2 high-intensity sessions and 3-4 longer, lower-intensity workouts, you should plan 1-2 recovery days too. Organising all of these training sessions into your week schedule can be a big challenge, especially if you have a full-time job, family, and other social obligations. Planning is the only way to stand a chance.
In the next article we will go into more detail about individual cycling workouts, how to draft them, set durations and intensities, and establish a helpful naming system.