nonlinear periodization indoor cycling

Today was the official launch of the Life Time Fitness Performance Cycle Winter training series. These classes are hosted at many of the LTF clubs around the country and the plan is for all of us to deliver similar formats, following the same nonlinear (or is it non-linear) periodization training program.

If the concept of nonlinear periodization is new to you, join the club. I first saw the term used in some of the educational material from Coach Troy Jacobson that was provided to us. It essentially means you don't follow the rigid training periodization calendar we're all familiar with; Endurance > Strength > Speed > Anaerobic > Race.

Here's a good description of nonlinear periodization from

Lydiard-style periodization is known as linear periodization because the various major training stimuli (aerobic, anaerobic, strength, speed, etc.) are largely segregated from each other in the training process and arranged in a line in which each gives way to the next. This approach is distinct from nonlinear periodization, in which the various major training stimuli are mixed together throughout the entire cycle and only the emphasis changes from period to period.

Most of the newer periodization systems–those introduced since 1980–are nonlinear. One example is the so-called multi-pace training method developed by David Martin and Peter Coe. In their book, Better Training for Distance Runners, Martin and Coe wrote, “One sensible method for injury-free performance progress over the course of a macrocycle involves harmonious interdevelopment of strength, speed, stamina, and endurance all during the year, never eliminating any of these from the overall training plan… We tend to disagree with coaches who prescribe large volumes of solely longer-distance running over an initial period of weeks, followed by a similarly concentrated bolus of solely higher-intensity speed sessions over succeeding weeks.”

When I hear Nonlinear Periodization I think NOT BORING! Perfect for our Indoor Cycling classes where we really don't know exactly what our Athletes in class need, so let's give them a combination of; Endurance > Strength > Speed > Anaerobic.

I discussed this with Coach Troy during an Instructor call last week. His said he felt confident that our riders will see good progress, working in multiple energy zones in the same class = no mind numbing Long & Slow classes... or at least Long & Slow combined with some Strength > Speed > Anaerobic efforts to break up the monotony of a long class.

Why haven't I heard about this before?

Good question...

As this was the official Kick Off - we started with Spinervals 27.0 Threshold FTP Test .

Here's my Spotify FTP Class Playlist which tracks well with Epic RaceDay Indoor Cycling DVD — which includes a very intense 30 minute criterium race that is the perfect motivation for a 20 minute FTP assessment classes.

Instructor Tip

You can time the criterium to end right on cue with the completion of your 20 minute effort for an awesome finish - complete with the cheering crowd and ringing cow bells! At the initial start/options screen, select 60 min SFX - (no music > just the sound effects). I run the video from the beginning, not really following it until the start of the Crit. When you have 15 minutes left in the FTP assessment use the Skip >> on the DVD player remote to move forward to the next section = the final 15 minutes of the Crit. I keep the DVD sound down until the last 5 minutes. It's bicycle racing magic when they ring the Cow Bell signalling last lap / one minute to go!

Class length 75 minutes + Cool Down

Warm Up — 10 minutes. 5 minutes of gradual increases in wattage. During the second 5 mins. we”™re finding the wattage where everyone is first noticing a change in breathing; VT1 / Aerobic Threshold = the top of the Recover Zone. This establishes a rough understanding of a base wattage that we use throughout the rest of class.

3 x 30 sec. Hard / 30 sec. Easy - Openers to AT/LT. I cue these by first having everyone find the amount of load @ 70 RPM that has them feeling they should (not just could) come out of the saddle. The 30 sec. Hard is then simply accelerating to 90+ RPM which results in some pretty impressive power numbers. The 30 sec. Easy is back to 70 RPM — many will stand during the Easy portion.

1 minute rest - I encourage riders to focus on their recovery. Once they feel calm in their breathing, bring back the Base level work wattage.

3 min. Hard Effort — Here's a “Best Effort” to establish a benchmark PTP Personal Threshold Power (top of the Perform Zone) or ride at 110% of FTP if known. It”™s very helpful to riders to have that understanding of their personal upper wattage number. The “Best Effort” Threshold # + the Base Threshold # we found earlier form the three Power working zones I use in class.

2 min. Rest

3 x 1 min. Hard Effort x 1 min. Rest. These should be above the 3 minute average wattage.

3 min. Rest

20 min. TT / FTP Assessment effort - Quickly establish the average wattage at or near the 3 min. Interval. > Stage Button and then maintain. You may want to offer slight changes in cadence & load, while keeping wattage = to the initially established watts #. I was off the bike at the 10 min. to go, coaching, encouraging and then just watching them with a big smile on my face. This is a great group and they looked incredible - I'm so in my element with these classes 🙂

5 min. Rest

Base Wattage (aerobic) flat road to finish - use these time to congratulate everyone and give tell them a bit about what you have planned for them next week.

Cool Down


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