The Training "Black Hole" and How to Avoid It
Updated: Sep 4
You can train 10 hours per-week but see drastically different results depending on your workout selection. As busy people, we want to make sure all the energy we put into cycling is paying off!
To see the biggest improvements, you need to make your hard workouts hard, and your easy workouts really easy. This is also true on a week-to-week basis, your training weeks must be hard, and your recovery weeks must be easy.
Without this approach, your fitness will stagnate. You will not be doing enough hard workouts to create “gains,” and also won’t be giving your body the time it needs to recover and adapt. There are a couple of telltale signs that indicate a stagnant “lukewarm” training approach:
1. Your training weeks are all exactly the same – every week, you do the same exact thing. The same group rides, the same number of hours, the same interval sessions. If you’re doing a lot of intensity and always pushing the limits without allowing yourself to recover, you will never truly reach peak fitness and you are at a high risk for burn-out. Your body will be under so much stress that it simply will not let you dig deep. If you’re training is always too easy, obviously you’re just losing fitness!
2. Your workouts are neither hard, nor easy –The majority of your workouts should fall into two categories: hard and/or long or easy. That’s it. The hard/long rides should be a 7-9/10 effort and the easy workouts should be a 3/10 at the most. Many athletes like to do “feel good” workouts. They get bored when riding easy or feel like they aren’t doing enough so they go harder than they should on easy rides, thus ruining their recovery. In contrast, some riders don’t want to really push their limits on training rides so they never make their workouts challenging enough. As a result, most of their rides are just sort of… there.
To break out of this stagnant pattern, you must make your hard sessions 100% focused on improving the targeted skill and pushing the limits and your easy days 100% focused on recovering. This pattern also holds true on a weekly basis with your hard training weeks being hard, and your rest weeks easy enough to give your body time to adapt.
We also must vary our focus during different training blocks and progress throughout the year through different types of intervals that target different energy systems. Programmed properly, your fitness will build on itself year to year and you will notice a big difference with this varied approach.
How hard should your hard weeks be? How long should you recover? How much intensity is enough to get stronger? When is it too much?
This is one of the most annoying answers to get, but everyone different and there is no one-size-fits-all answer or training program. It depends on a plethora of factors ranging from occupation, age, training status, time of year, rider goals… the list goes on! However, for everyone the general concept is the same:
1. Hard workouts must be hard enough to overload your body. Typically, this means a good 20-60 minutes of cumulative high intensity work on a single workout. Threshold workouts will be on the higher end of this range (30-60 minutes) and shorter, more explosive efforts will be on the lower end. As the year goes on, you can increase the duration/intensity of these workouts to continue to progress.
2. Easy workouts must be easy. Training doesn’t actually make you stronger, recovery does. This can be challenging for some riders who feel like they aren’t getting stronger by riding easy, but the reality is, that’s the only way to get stronger!
With this framework, you have a good guide on how to structure your training program. Based on what you know about yourself and what your goals are, you can learn how to further dial-in your training in terms of interval selection and recovery time. Thanks for reading!