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Training - It's Complicated...

One of the things I love about modern media is the availability of information in the form of podcasts or webinars. As an unconfirmed, but likely dyslexic (I was just called a slow reader at school) audible communication has meant that my consumption of research material has increased exponentially over the past few years.

One of the things about coaching that makes it so fascinating is its multifaceted nature and that fact that everything is highly nuanced. You have probably often heard a coach, when asked about some element of training, reply with the immortal two words 'it depends'. I think sometimes it sounds very evasive and non-committal, but the components that make up 'performance' are numerous, varied and sometimes unpredictable. This is one of the reasons that multi sports such as triathlon, and in track and field athletics, heptathlon and decathlon are so hard to train for and why I have the utmost respect for the coaches and athletes in these fields.

There are so many physiological variables that contribute to performance. Throw into the mix that someone is going to be slightly to greatly different from the next person, and you can see why coaching is as much an art as a science. Training is always about experimentation. Yes, there are certain elements of training that are more predictable than others, such as duration's contribution to fitness depth, or low-intensity riding, building deep aerobic fitness. But other elements of training are much less predictable and it is important that there is an understanding between coach and athlete of the experimental nature of the endeavour. This is why we love working with people over the long term because both coach and athlete build a deep understanding of what works, what is less effective and maybe, why!

One element of training that serves as a great example of how important individualisation is, is FTP testing. What type of FTP test will deliver the 'correct' result for an individual? By correct I DO NOT MEAN the highest FTP even if that is what you want!

What is an FTP test trying to identify? In my view, an FTP test should aim to identify an athlete's maximum lactate steady state or the point of maximum aerobic energy production before an increasing amount of energy is produced anaerobically and an athlete begins to fatigue. This point is physiological, not mathematical!

Take 2 athletes.

Athlete 1 has a highly developed aerobic capacity but low neuromuscular power and very little anaerobic capacity. Think Ironman triathlete.

Athlete 2 has an ok aerobic capacity but high neuromuscular power and a great anaerobic engine. Think sprinter.

One very popular FTP Test is the 2x8 minute FTP test where you ride as hard as you can for 2 bouts of 8 minutes and then take 90% of the average watts as your FTP.

How do you think each athlete will do on this test?

For athlete 1, the mathematical result from this test MIGHT be representative of her actual lactate threshold. For athlete 2, I can GUARANTEE you that her strong neuromuscular and anaerobic capabilities will result in an FTP that is WAY TOO HIGH and will result in training that is far too intensive with all the negative ramifications that brings.

Because of the individual nature of peoples' physiology AND the complexity of all the adaption variables, a one size fits all cookie cuter style training approach will only get you so far. For an untrained cycling newbie, a generic approach is likely to see some nice gains for a couple of years or so, but then performance will plateau and motivation can wane.

To extract anywhere near your POTENTIAL, and to not waste time with totally unproductive training, you need an individual approach. A training approach that takes into consideration your strengths and weaknesses, the obvious and less obvious demands of your race or event AND is also mindful of the huge complexity and uncertainty around how the human body adapts and gets stronger. It's complicated!

There are so many physiological variables that contribute to performance. Throw into the mix that someone is going to be slightly to greatly different from the next person, and you can see why coaching is as much an art as a science.
Rob Wakefield
Founder and Level 3 Coach

We work hard with all of our 1-2-1 coached athletes to unlock their potential by making sure that their training is well thought through and individually considered. All of our athletes benefit from our individual attention when we design their training plan. Their plan is adaptive and flexible and we are not afraid of changing direction if something is not working. Whilst we have a big picture view of what a training season might look like, we plan fortnightly and assess progress and adaption on a week to week basis.

If you would like to discuss how this approach might help you make the progress you are looking for, then please BOOK A CONSULTATION and take the first step. Before the call, we will review your training and cycling history, look at your goals and then talk to you about how we think you should progress. There is no obligation to use our coaching services, as we are happy to help people in whatever form that may take.

Training is a complicated endeavour which most of you work so hard at. Make sure that you are spending your time wisely and productively.

Rob Wakefield / Founder and Level 3 Coach / 07779136840