hill training

The road isn't segmented into definable sections... it flows along as one continuous, undulating strip of asphalt. Your cyclists may appreciate your class more if it flows like the road they ride. Here's why & how...

Common practice for many of us is to construct a class profile out of a playlist of songs:

  • Warmup songs followed by
  • Songs that communicate Flats
  • Songs the communicate Climbs
  • Interval songs
  • Recovery songs
  • Cooldown songs
  • etc...

The end of each song signals a transition. We'll use that brief change to cue the next segment "now we're going up!" or "nice flat road ahead" or something similar. A gap follows the end of each track - before a new section of road begins.

But the road really doesn't work that way, especially when it comes to random rollers or out-right climbs. Everything is connected. Flats flow into climbs, the downhills back to flats and the flats are broken up by rollers. Your; speed, heart rate, power and even your ability to recover once over the summit, was determined long before you needed to shift down with the increase in grade.

I wish I was wearing a recording Heart Rate monitor this past Tuesday night, because a graph that showed the 2 1/2 hours of my HR would have told the tale much better than I can describe here in words.

Everything on the road is connected... there are few, if any, gaps... I'm realizing now that I had been training my class (and myself) like there were.  

It was the first Tuesday night Life Time Fitness outdoor group ride. Me and my very fast VeloVie Vitesse showed up with a just a little bit of anxiety.  "Which group are you riding with, John... the "B's" or will you being going out with the "A" group?" Great question and at that point I hadn't really decided. Of the 40 or so riders in attendance, I recognised almost everyone as either other Instructors or past participants. Maybe it was just me, but I got the sense that some of my regulars were watching to see what I was going to do.

These are well organized rides, with designated "Ride Leaders" who are paid LTF employees. After a brief welcome and introduction of the A, B and C leaders it was time to roll out. "A' group goes first. "Riding with us John?"  Of course I was. My pride and ego didn't leave me with any other choice 🙁

The LTF "A" group has a well deserved reputation as an ego driven, hammer fest. Even though this was night #1 you wouldn't have known it. They start out fast and only get faster. The first 30 minutes are spent working our way out of town, to some very nice rural country roads. Here's where the fun begins and the reality of how everything on the road is connected came front & center to me.

If I can slot in tight behind a big guy, hanging with a paceline @ 26mph is a near threshold, continuous effort. Challenging, but doable. CoRd 6, as it winds west of the cities, flows through a series of rollers. Each change in grade required a substantial increase in power to maintain my sheltered place in the group.

The downhills that follow aren't for recovery. Nope. They're for building back your average speed. Well that's my theory anyway because once I crossed each summit I was forced to shift up to keep with the acceleration that followed each short climb.

I found myself trying to do two things at once (well three if you count staying focussed on my chosen wheel);

  1. Fight to recover from the previous effort...
  2. While mentally preparing for would come next

I've described this as "recovering on the run" to my class. How your group doesn't slow/stop at the top of a climb to give you a chance to rest. They keep going. If you're committed to stay with them, you need to accept whatever reduction in effort you're offered and use it to recover as best you can. Over time, with a slight reduction on power output, your HR will come down. You just need to wait for it - or slip off the back and soft pedal until the "B" group catches you.

I told this story to my class this morning. How out on the road everything is connected. There are no "gaps" between segments. Only small changes in effort. And while I talked about my ride... we rode a class without gaps. Flats flowed into rollers and we accelerated down the back. Slight reductions in effort on the flats, followed by more of the same.

Over and over, just like the road.

Originally posted 2013-05-02 09:56:10.

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