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Ask the Coach: How to boost a mid-season cycling lull

_DSC0042005 (2)Dear Coach,

I was riding really well in April and early May, but I find that my cycling has gone downhill recently, while my running and swimming are really strong. Race season is now here. Any ideas to reinvigorate my riding?

As a triathlon coach I can totally sympathize with your dilemma. It can be a very difficult task to manage all three sports and have them all peaking at the same time during your race season for your “A” race. I assume that you have measured a quantifiable drop in your workout performance (speed and power), or racing performance.

You are approaching race season so it’s important to first look at why your cycling performance has reduced. To answer this ask yourself three questions.

1) Have you modified your training schedule to put more volume and intensity into either your swim or your run, or both?

2) Have you decreased your mileage or intensity on your bike?

3) Have you changed anything in your weekly training schedule that could negatively affect your cycling? I.e. Are your key cycling workouts in closer proximity to a hard swim or run effort?

These are all factors that should be considered before making any big changes to your overall program.

Let’s assume that you haven’t modified much in your training and you are feeling flat on the bike at the wrong time. Now it is time to crank up the wattage. During your base phase you should have spent the majority of your time cycling in intensity (heart rate or power) Zones 2 or 3 (moderate to steady effort). For race preparation push into Zone 4 and 5 for interval sets to train you at race intensity and above. Studies show that doing short bursts of high intensity cycling with longer recovery can improve VO2 max, Anaerobic Capacity and FTP. A little less volume with an increase in intensity or quality in your training can improve your performance.

With every passing year you will continue to get better at knowing how to manage these all together. This is why many triathletes are enlisting the help of a qualified coach to do their planning and programming and as a result are peaking in all three sports at the right time.

Finally, here are a couple of my favourite workouts that can help you get that bike moving like a rocket ship again.

Workout # 1 On the trainer or road

Great for increasing ability to tolerate FTP and race paced efforts.

Time to complete 90 min.

Warm Up:

10 min easy Zone 1 intensity

5 x (1 min 100-110 rpm zone 2 intensity with 1 min recovery)

5 min easy spin zone 1

Main set:

1 x (15 min zone 3 intensity 90 rpm with 5 min easy)

2 x (10 min zone 4 high intensity 90 rpm with 5 min easy recovery)

Cool Down:

10 min easy zone 1-2

Workout #2 On the trainer or road

Great for Race Week and the week before to give you a boost.

Time to complete 75 min

Warm Up:

10 min easy zone 1 intensity

10 min building zone 2-3.

Main set:

2 x (4 min zone 3 intensity 75 rpm with 1 min easy)

5 min easy

6 x (3 min zone 5 intensity 90 rpm with 3 min easy)

Cool Down:

5-10 min easy zone 1-2

Over the next couple of weeks try both workouts once a week and add in one base or recovery ride that is at a lower intensity to allow for adaptation and recovery from your more challenging workouts. During a race week do workout # 2 and during the main set only do 4 x (3 min zone 5 with 3 min easy). You will keep your fitness but have more energy in the tank for race day.


LifeSport coach Brendan Mackenzie is a certified exercise physiologist, strength and conditioning specialist and NCCP certified triathlon and cycling coach. Contact Brendan to tackle your first triathlon or to perform at a higher level. Find more tips on Twitter @LifeSportCoach