Build cycling strength by stressing, resting your body with a plan |

Build cycling strength by stressing, resting your body with a plan

Editorand#8217;s note: This weekand#8217;s Fit to be Tried column is the second installment of a three-part series focusing on cycling training for the XTERRA Nevada triathlon.

Now that we have dialed in the bike position, and spent time in the saddle honing an efficient pedal stroke and building the endurance base, it is time to progressively challenge the body with a structured systematic training plan.

By systematically stressing and resting the body, it adapts, recovers and builds strength. It is important that individuals understand the purpose of each workout and how it relates to achieving their individual performance goal. Attacking each and every workout with understanding and intention is an essential step toward success.

A successful training plan includes a range of workouts that train specific physiological systems, balanced with dedicated rest days. The training plan and specific workouts are formulated based on the individual athleteand#8217;s past training, present fitness and future goal. Workouts include speed skills, tempo and sub-lactate and lactate threshold intervals, specific strength, and endurance.

Speed skills are short, sharp 100 percent efforts. In terms of rate of perceived exertion (rpe) and#8212; which is based on a scale of 1-10 and#8212; it is a 9-10. These short efforts hone economy of movement, neuromuscular response (efficiently adapting to changes in pace), and improve pedal technique.

Tempo intervals boost muscular endurance while building the aerobic engine, and rpe is 5-6.

Sub lactate (SubLT) and lactate threshold (LT) intervals range from an rpe of 6-7. Lactate threshold is the exercise intensity at which lactic acid starts to accumulate in the blood stream and#8212; the heaviness we feel in our legs when we up the intensity. Sub LT intervals are performed 6-8 heartbeats below LT and provide similar benefits to pure LT intervals, yet do not severely tax the system, resulting in less recovery time.

Sub LT intervals further improve muscular endurance and increase lactate threshold power and pace. LT intervals improve the athleteand#8217;s ability to process lactic build-up around the working muscles, improving tolerance for accumulating acid. This interval training also extends a valuable mental benefit and#8212; an ability to maintain focus on pedaling form while riding through discomfort.

Specific strength workouts, also known as slow frequency repetitions, are performed on a 4-6 percent gradient and in a big gear to create low cadence, 40-60 rpm and high resistance. The goal is pedal strength and technique. It is not a max cardio effort. This workout focuses on efficient pedaling, engaging the quads when pushing over the top, hamstrings and glutes when scraping back on the bottom of pedal stroke, and hip flexors while actively unloading the pedal.

Long endurance can be performed on a mountain bike to sharpen handling skills or a road bike. This workout demands discipline to stay in an rpe of 3-4. The tendency of recreational athletes is to do all workouts at middle intensities and#8212; long endurance and rest days are performed at too hard of a pace, and interval days are not performed with sufficient intensity and#8212; resulting in fitness plateaus. Long endurance maintains basic endurance, while training the body to efficiently use fuels and#8212; sticking with fat stores before prematurely jumping over to finite carbohydrate stores.

Active recovery, rpe of 1-2, is light activity that helps flushing blood flow, nutrients and oxygen, thus improving recovery after intense workouts. Complete rest days are mentally and physically invaluable for total regeneration and recuperation, and allow the body to rebuild and make strength gains.

Part III of XTERRA cycling prep will provide a sample training plan, which explains the method to the why and how to systematically schedule the elements of the weekly workout in order to maximize your workout investment.

and#8212; Julie Young is a Truckee resident and owner of o2fitness. She is a former U.S. National Team member and pro cyclist who currently competes in triathlons and trail runs. Contact her at

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