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Finding Form with these Strategies

Your Base has been built. You put in the quality Race Prep training. Now you’re just a few weeks out from your A-Race. The time is now for… Finding Form.

What exactly is form?

Form is the combination of high fitness coming from a quality training block, high freshness from appropriate restoration, and race readiness from the right pre-event workouts that leave you prepared for a peak performance.

Finding Form is essentially the taper and peak process going into your A-Event. The final weeks heading into an A-Race can be the most difficult time of the training season for many athletes. At this point in the season, with two weeks to go, the training is done; “the hay is in the barn,” as is said. You worked hard for many weeks, if not months, to build fitness and prepare for a peak performance. Your last few weeks of training may have been among your hardest and/or highest volume depending on your target event demands. Regardless, you should be very fit, and likely quite fatigued from the quality work.

Freshen Up to Find Form

With your fitness at or near its highest point of the season, it is now time to recover and freshen up for a peak performance. With high fitness comes high fatigue (as both come from consistent training). While you can still race well with high fitness and accumulated fatigue, you will almost certainly race even better (ie. “peak performance”) if you can shed that fatigue and replace it with freshness; all while minimizing the loss of fitness… AKA: the taper and/or “finding form.”

Within that statement above is the tricky part of finding form… In order to gain fitness you must accumulate fatigue; meaning you may be very fit, but also a bit tired or lacking freshness. In order to gain freshness you must lose (some) fitness. It’s a balance and one that can be a difficult task to achieve to perfection. You must train hard to get fit. As you train hard you get tired. To perform your best you must train less (for a short bit) to regain freshness and achieve a peak performance. Sounds easy, right?

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In-Season Strength Maintenance

Strength Training, that is training with weights in the gym (or at home), has become more widely accepted in the endurance sport world over the last 5+ years. There are still some hold-outs on the subject, but most athletes and coaches will agree there are valuable benefits to be gained from lifting heavy weights within an endurance sport training program. Improving your strength from season-to-season only occurs if you perform Strength Maintenance sessions year-round.

The intent of this article is not to spew out the benefits of Strength Training (you can read a previous post that covers all those points); rather my intent with this article is to point out the value of YEAR-ROUND strength training. More specifically, focus on lifting weights within your competitive racing season.

Don’t Lose your Gains, Bro

If you’ve gotten this far, I’m going to assume you’re on board with Strength Training, at least as part of your off-season training program. The majority of endurance athletes do some form of strength training in their off-season. Then what seems to be very common is many athletes cease their Strength Training program once their competitive race season begins. The reasons I hear for dropping the strength training from their training programs are often:

  • Wanting to spend more time on their primary sport (“get more miles in”)
  • Lifting weights makes them slow (“legs too sore/tired”)
  • Don’t want to gain weight (“too much muscle”)
  • Getting bored with the strength training (“same old routine”)

I’m here to encourage you to not stop your Strength Training once your race season begins. In fact if you do stop, I can tell you you’re leaving performance gains on the table!

You may be thinking, “Whoa! Hold up. You want me to lift weights during my race season?!”

Yes I do! And here’s why…

When you Strength Train for 2, 3 or even 4 months of your off-season, you spend the first few weeks working through the soreness of training the muscles. Only then do you begin to make some gains in actual strength of movement. These improvements to your health & performance as an athlete include:

  • Increased muscle fiber recruitment (use more of the muscles you have)
  • Increase top-end power (raise the ceiling of your power curve)
  • Increased anabolic hormone production (balance the catabolic nature of endurance training)
  • Improve range of motion/activation (offset imbalances)
  • Improve the overall “durability” of your body
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The Waite Endurance Race Preparation Plans

With Spring around the corner it’s time to think about Race Preparation. Most athletes are putting the final touches on their off-season Base Builder training. Following our Base Builder Plan Programming, athletes have gone through an extensive strength building program in the gym combined with a progression through the six primary aerobic energy systems we utilize on the bike; from lowest intensity to highest intensity:

  1. Aerobic (all day power)
  2. Aerobic Threshold (2-4 hour power)
  3. Anaerobic Threshold (32-64 minute power)
  4. Vo2 Max (8-16 minute power)
  5. Anaerobic Power (1-4 minute power)
  6. Peak Power (5-20 second power)

Depending on when they got started with their Base Builder training and how much time available for building Base, athletes went through a 12, 18 or 24 week progression; in 2, 3 or 4 week blocks dedicated to each energy system mentioned above. Regardless of your exact base training protocol you may have followed, as you come to the end of your base phase you may be asking yourself this question:

With my Base now built and general cycling fitness established, what comes next?

Race Preparation Training

Where Base Building is general fitness development; Race Preparation is specific fitness development for your A-priority event(s) of the year.

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