The second block of my off-season Base Build consumed the month of December. As we all know, the window of time between Thanksgiving and New Years is always a challenge. End of year business deadlines, family time, social activities, training time, and weather are all pieces in the “Life Puzzle” that must be assembled in this month of the year. I’m pleased to report that most of my pieces were large and few in numbers, so my puzzle went together with relative ease and success.
On the training front, I’m continuing to make some solid progress and I’m loving every minute of it.
As mentioned before, in my Block 1 Recap, Strength Training is going to be large part of my annual training program throughout my entire season. I’m turning 40 this year and I can really feel the effects of not strength training compared to the overall health and “feeling good” that comes with strength training. I don’t have any evidence to back it up, but I truly believe there are positive chemical/hormonal effects in the body when you lift heavy weights. I feel this is particularly valuable to take advantage of as we age. Kind of an “anti-aging” type thing: keep the muscles and hormones firing on all cylinders and we resist the degradation and slow the effects of getting older.
Use It or Lose It!
That said, Block 2 Strength Training consisted of continued strength building. Where Block 1 established a foundation of movement strength and got me passed the feeling of post-workout soreness with relative light loads, Block 2 began to pile on some weight. Over the 3 weeks I progressively increased the loads in my primary movements: the back squat & deadlift for the lower body; reaching a “peak set” set of reps in the last week at 95% of my one rep max. For my “push-pull” upper body movements in this block I focused on the bench press and pull-up combo; also achieving some solid gains with a 160 lbs bench press and 5 sets of 10 strict pull ups.
For Block 2 I kept the same pattern of Strength Day, Trainer Day, Endurance Day as described in my Block 1 Recap. On the bike the focus moved from basic Aerobic Threshold (AeT) work I did in Block 1 to “Aerobic-Strength” work as a progression towards increased loads. The progression here is layering in the big-gear low-cadence component for the strength aspect, while maintaining aerobic HRs.
The goal was to train the heart in Block 1, followed by the muscles in Block 2, for maximum aerobic-strength development.
Trainer sessions included extended single-leg ILT work which also focused on large muscle recruitment with bigger gears at 60 rpm and increasing average power outputs over the 3 weeks. After the single-leg work, came the longer Aerobic-Strength intervals that consisted of standing up in nearly my largest gear, pedaling at around 55 rpm. Beginning with 4×5:00 in the first week and progressing to 3×8:00, 2×12:00, 2×15:00 and finally 1×30:00 in the final week to maximize muscular endurance. In week 3 we also added in some short surges at the end of the long intervals to introduce some higher power work (and make the time go by faster) by surging to 70 rpm for 15-seconds each minute. Good times!
My outdoor endurance rides progressed along nicely in the first couple weeks of Block 2 while the Denver winter was slow to arrive. By mid-month however the temps finally dropped, we got a little snow, and the outdoor riding options decreased significantly in the final 10 days of so of my training block. This happens, and it happens nearly like clockwork every late December in Denver, so I was ready with a Plan B: more trainer time!
When things get unappealing outside, I bring them inside. For intended longer endurance rides, I trim the quantity and boost the quality just a bit to achieve the desired training stress (TSS) for the day.
For example: if the plan calls for a 4-hour ride at low intensity and 175 TSS, and it is snowing outside…
I take my ride indoors and do 2-hours with 2×30:00 at Aerobic Threshold HR/power as the main set. This alteration, along with a warm-up spin, a few sets of ILTs on both sides of the mainset, and a warm-down spin, and I still get my aerobic training and hit around that 175 TSS target for the day. Not too bad. Other options can also include subbing other activities like running or xc-skiing, but since I’m not running this year and skiing is a bit of a time suck, the trainer is my preferred method. If snow-day trainer rides were to become the norm, I would certainly seek the other alternatives out for more variation.
The trainer session example above is exactly what Kathy and I did on Christmas Eve when it was too cold and sloppy to get outside. Similarly, the day after Christmas we doubled up on the two trainer sessions we offered at the S:6 Wahoo Kickr Studio as part of Week 7 of the 2018 Off-Season Base Builder Program that day.
Then came the big day of the “Quad-Trainer” session that Will Foley, a 20-year-old athlete I coach, and I did on December 28th. On this day we decided to smash ourselves with all four trainer sessions in the studio!
Each sessions was the same and consisted of spin-ups to warm-up, ILT strength work, 30 minutes aerobic-strength climb with 10 surges in last 10 minutes (to 175% FTP), and a 5:00 spin to finish it off. Here’s a brief rundown of that day…
6:30 AM – Early rise, slow to warm-up, but not so bad.
12:00 PM – After a big breakfast and a nap, feeling solid.
4:30 PM – Power numbers are up and feeling strong!
6:15 PM – Barely held on through the surges as muscular strength was fading fast and fast twitch fibers were nearly exhausted.
Despite relatively low-intensity training (HR only exceeded 150 bpm briefly with the surging), this was a monster muscular endurance day, and I felt the fatigue for the next few days. Totals on the day amounted to:
Five hours of total riding time
Two hours of big gear, low cadence, standing “climbing”
Forty 15-second surges over 175% FTP
Sixty minutes of pedaling w/ one leg
Thirty minutes of pedaling over 120 rpm
approx. 80 miles
10,000 feet climbing equivalent
This big day capped off my Block 2 Build with a nice exclamation point and I was now ready to recover for a few days before performing our Testing Protocol at week 8 of the off-season Build Program.
Week 8 Testing
After three easy days of recovery it was time for our second test of the my off-season base build. Our testing protocol consists of a 20-minute sub-max aerobic test, followed by three short duration anaerobic power intervals to see where the top-end is at and determine my new Fatigue Rate, track progress, and re-set training zones for blocks 3 & 4 of the program.
My last test (first test of the 2018 off-season training season) was back in late October. As mentioned, in previous post, the results were quite dismal due to the extended break from/low-level of training I did through the end of summer and early fall. So progress was anticipated simply from the boosted training volume, effort and structure…and gains we seen. Here’s the recap…
- 20:00 Aerobic Threshold Power @ 148 bpm
- Pre-Test 2017: 238w
- Week 8: 256w
- Recent “Best” from Summer 2015: 274w
- 1:00 Max Power
- Fall 2017: 499w
- Week 8: 505w
- Summer 2015: 529w
- 2:00 Max Power
- Fall 2017: 380w
- Week 8: 403w
- Summer 2015: 454w
- 4:00 Max Power
- Fall 2017: 324w
- Week 8: 340w
- Summer 2015: 382w
- Fatigue Rate
- Fall 2017: 8.7%
- Week 8: 8.17%
- Summer 2015: 6.9%
- This calculates an FTP of
- Fall 2017: 247w (3.70 w/kg)
- Week 8: 263w (3.89 w/kg)
- Summer 2015: 308w (4.71 w/kg)
My first 8 weeks of my off-season Base Build program has been very consistent and successful. I’ve increased my movement strength via increased loads in weight training, and I’ve improved my power on the bike, aerobic power and FTP, by roughly 8%. A solid start to the training season and progress that I intend to continue to make over the coming months.
A steady and consistent build is the key to creating a solid off-season base from which you can further build your race specific fitness later in the year.
My coming blocks of training include continued strength work, building towards peak movement strength in another 3-4 weeks; continued progressions on the bike in terms of duration of long rides and intensity of structured sessions. Simply said, long rides will get longer, while intervals will get a little shorter and more powerful as I begin to train my Anaerobic Threshold energy system.
Now on to Block 3!
Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed the insights and follow along for the 2018 season!
Cody Waite, Professional Off-Road Endurance Athlete & Coach
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